Nothing happens without God’s Will.
So it was that after a year and a half of efforts and savings, me and Hamza were able to attend Qalam Institute’s Seerah Intensive in December, 2017. In short, it is a deep dive into the life events of Prophet Muhammad (s) as well as lessons that can be derived from it. Rather than being a rough outline, we traveled back in time and saw the Prophet (s) being a human being. What an astounding human being he was! My thoughts during the entire ten days was how fortunate we are to have such detailed records about him (s) as compared to other Prophets (as). It would have been something if we had access to all of the Prophet’s life journeys. However, it is as if Allah (swt) anticipated that same desire and he captured some of the most momentous occasions during their life in the Qur’an.
The format of the intensive was simple yet very busy. Because we were traveling, we chose the complete package in which transportation, food, and residence was included. Our travel began from Yuma as we drove to Phoenix airport and then we made it into Dallas FortWorth late at night. We were picked up at 11:45 pm, taken to our hotel, and handed our materials. Unfortunately, due to our timings, we missed the orientation. The package included the book titled Revelation by Meraj Mohiuddin, some stickers, a water bottle, and a pen. Having a notebook in hand and with eyelids struggling to remain open, we headed to our first session the following morning.
It was such a relief to be inside a masjid again. Our local community is lacking in many things, one of which is developing the community spiritually and communally. So when I entered into Islamic Center of Carrolton once more, there was a wave of relief and peace that swept over me. This was going to be our home for the next ten days. A beautiful masjid that was hosting a national and international gathering of students, young and old, eager to learn about the final messenger of God (s).
Seeing Shaykh AbdulNasir Jangda (ANJ) walking towards the front reminded me of being in the heavily academic month of Quran Intensive just the previous summer. I thought of my friends during that period who were now scattered throughout the world and remembered that no gathering held in a masjid of this kind can result in anything negative. And so it was, a journey of laughter, of tears, of joy and sorrow was about to began. It was very concerning for me to see Shaykh ANJ with his illness that resulted in paralysis of half of his face. I was deeply saddened and the mortality of life, especially for our teachers and inheritors of the Prophet (s), became real. Time is limited, every minute needs to be taken advantage of, and wasting it is not an option for a believer.
A Note About the Book
Before we began our journey into the events that foretold the birth of the Prophet (s), Shaykh ANJ mentioned a bit of reservation regarding the textbook that was provided for this course. I will later learn that this book was not going to be used during the class but rather as independent reading in between sessions for additional insights and information. He told us that Qalam is working on a text specially for the intensive but until then, despite its drawbacks, this book is the best book to be found in English that can be used as a text for the topic. He shared with us his friendship with the author and mentioned the following:
This book uses a lot of contemporary scholars while the Shaykh will be sharing with us information from 10 major classical works such as Ibn-Ishaq (ra), Ibn-Hisham (ra) etc. This book relies too heavily on contemporary work which is good if you are skimming through the life of the Prophet (s) and engaging with a non-Muslim audience. However, if it is used as a teaching tool for Muslim students of knowledge, then quoting contemporary and sometimes even controversial scholars (such as Reza Aslan – who views Hadith as fiction – although we respect and admire his approach in dealing with Islamophobes, we do not ignore the fact that he strays away from islamic orthodoxy) – is not the best approach. This of course was mentioned as a philosophical disagreement more than anything else.
There is a disagreement within the quranic year timeline that this book represents. Some years are misrepresented, adding or taking away a year or two.
With these things in mind, Shaykh ANJ insisted that this book was the best book for the intensive and it has tremendous value to be offered to the English speaking audience. Hopefully, we will have access to a much better resource in the coming years that is more beautiful (look at the cover!) and as engaging as the Classical Arabic texts.
If you are thinking of going to an intensive, prepare yourself for sleepless nights and lots of information. Although Sh. ANJ told us to use our discretion on whether to take notes or just to listen, there is plenty of information to be missed if you are not actively engaged. So our schedule as traveling students was the following: Fajr prayers in congregation at the hotel at 6:30am before breakfast, and then they shuttled us to the masjid at 7:15am. After that, we spent the morning and early afternoon there, praying the duhr prayers after lunch, and then we made our way back to the hotel for an afternoon siesta (for the “old ones” like myself) and social activities if scheduled for everyone else. (A side note: if you are needing of sleep, indulge in it, because it will catch up to you in just a few days). Afterwards, we prayed maghrib in the hotel at 5:30pm, and headed back to the masjid for dinner, remaining prayers, and the evening session which lasted roughly until 10-10:30pm. At night time, we headed back to the hotel for organized social activities by the Qalam staff or – again, for “old people” like me – an opportunity to jump into bed and rest up for the following day where it continues all over again.
One thing that I promised myself was that I will not miss an education and spiritual opportunity. Why would I after traveling and preparing for it as much as I did? So I did attend the optional Q&A session with the shuyookh as well as a Dua workshop with the Qalam teachers. All of these were beneficial and thanks to God, I was able to attend all but one. Unfortunately, I ate something that I later learned was not working with my diet, which caused me to have an extreme lack of energy for one day. I ended up missing one such session with Imam Mikaeel. However, you could not make me do it. I was asleep before it even started.
Food and my Hashimoto’s Diet
If you have watched any of my vLogs regarding this trip, I had been preparing food beforehand to take with me. There was a concern that I would not be eating properly and so I spent some time preparing food to stay as healthy as possible, as I shared in the blog post, during my stay in Texas for this intensive. That was a great decision on my part because the extra snacks and prepared breakfast, including the daily matcha, provided me with enough boost to stay on top of my health. And the additional immune system support became crucial while being surrounded with 150 people and the cold/flu virus. There were some hiccups in the beginning where my dietary restrictions were not met. However, the Qalam staff was very quick to fix the issue when I spoke with them, and later I received my meals separately which worked with my dietary conditions. Alhudmulillah, as stressed as I became on the first day, Allah (swt) facilitated ease and I did not have to worry about my food during the entire remaining trip. The only issue I had was that my food was a bit delayed in the dinner time, so I had to rush a bit to catch the class. But considering the quality of the experience, I was more than grateful to be able to eat accordingly. So my advice would be to write your dietary issues when you apply for the course, as well as check in with the staff should there be anything wrong with it.
The only health issue I had was all my fault when I indulged in some Korean cuisine. It looked fine on the menu! But when it arrived in the hotel and I ate, the following day my stomach was very upset and I could not help but sleep as much as possible. That is the day when I missed a Q&A session – which was truly regretful.
One of the most amazing things I loved about Seerah Intensive was getting a taste of knowledge from different angles. We were able to get an intense Seerah experience with Shaykh ANJ who is a wonderful speaker, he had us feeling like we were there during the events. He made it relatable, using current language and expressions, made it humorous when it needed to be, and somber when the situation called for it. I felt the pain of the Prophet (s) as much as I possibly can, and the pain of the companions during the early years of unbelievable torture and persecution, and then the relief and realization of the enormous responsibility during the Medinan period. He did an incredible job and relayed the message and its lessons in a beautiful way.
Two of the days, we learned from Mufti Hussein Kamani. His knowledge of the Hadith is so deep and he moved us to tears with love for Allah (swt). What I loved during his sessions were the increases emphasis on practical lessons. There were so many gems to be taken from his talk and I came back with lots of actionable steps to be a better human in my community and a better believer in spirituality.
We also had a visit from Imam Mikaeel Smith who shared with us a workshop on emotional intelligence of the Prophet (s). Through his talk, we learned to be mindful and appreciate the incredible way Prophet Muhammad (s) dealt with those around him. We focused on how much he cared, loved, and was thoughtful of everyone who entered into his presence. Shaykh Mikaeel taught us to look for that in the Hadith as well as to apply it in our relationships.
Lastly, we had a bit of a khatira (brief talk) and a Q&A session with Shaykh Muntassir who blew me away in regards to the way he spoke. I heard him and I knew that I could not miss a session with him. I understood the importance of choosing the correct words while relaying the lessons. Words are powerful and they can be misconstrued. I left with the feeling of, “I want to speak like him!” after it was over.
On our last day, we had a brief talk with Ustadh Murphy who, upon returning from Umrah, shared with us a few lessons on the importance of loving the one who struggled to deliver God’s message and who loved us more than we can imagine in the process.
Shaykh ANJ mentioned the importance of getting a rounded education and not falling into the trap of celebrity culture where one person ends up being enamored by many. We learned from different teachers and that was one of the most important lessons I got from this experience.
Knowing the Prophet (s) is crucial to our understanding of Islam. The fact that the Quran was revealed over a period of time, engaging with the happenings during the Prophet’s life, and guiding him – and us – in the process, is enough of a reason to learn the Seerah. It puts context to the verses and offers insights on how we can live our life. It also instills in us the fact that the Prophet (s) did all he could to help his Ummah. He was indeed sent as a mercy and that knowing him and loving him is crucial to our deen.
I am unable to write down everything I learned, as that would surely take hours upon hours, but I do want to share some the gems that I jotted down during the sessions. So here is a collection of some quotes and insights that demanded reflection:
- We look for guidance in how to live our lives in the Seerah but we do not take rulings only from it. We understand the seerah through the practice of the Sahabah (r). – In short, we do not derive rulings from Prophetic actions alone (as they are divinely guided) as they are taken from how the companions applied those lessons in their lives.
- “People are all destroyed except for the people of knowledge. And the people of knowledge are all destroyed except for those who practice it” – Imam Shafi (paraphrased)
- “Time is a tsunami that fights against us” Sh. Muntassir
- Why did the Prophet (s) seek forgiveness?
- As an example for us.
- He was constantly raised in ranks, so once he achieved a new rank, he sought forgiveness from what he missed during the previous rank.
- Always ask for ACCEPTANCE after doing good with SINCERITY. The dua of Ibrahim (as) after he built the ka’ba: “My Rabb, accept it from us.” (Rabbana Taqabbal Minna)
- “Seerah”: Anything and everything that is connected to Prophet Muhammad (s) in any way.
- “Tawheed (belief in the oneness of Allah) is the last thread of Humanity” – Shaykh ANJ
- Prophet (s) participated in the “Sacred Pact of Justice” when he was 20 years of age, after a tribal war of four days that resulted in indiscriminate bloodshed. It was a ridiculous war and after that, a few important tribal leaders decided that something needs to be changed. Prophet (s) was a witness to it before he received Prophethood. Years later, he spoke about it: “If a non-Muslim approached me now with a virtuous pact, I would accept and join it.”
- There is not a lot of information on the prophet during his marriage to Khadijah for 15 years, before he received prophethood, because he was busy raising a family and working in the community. So while we are seeking knowledge, we must not underestimate the importance of working on building and caring for our families and those around us.
- Memorizing the lineage of the Prophet (s) is a tradition for the seekers of knowledge. So know it so that you can know the one who loves you: Muhammad bin. Abdullah. bin. Abdul Muttalib bin. Hashim bin. Abdul Mana’af bin. Qusaay bin. Kilab bin. Murrah bin. Ka’ab bin. Lu’ay bin. Ghalib bin. Fihr bin. Malik bin. Al Nadr bin. Kinana bin. Khuzayna bin. Mudrika bin. Ilyaas bin. Mudar bin. Nidar bin. Ma’ad bin. Adnan.
- “Before you ask someone for something, think about what you have given them.” – Sh. ANJ
- The word “hikmah” in the Qur’an most of the times comes with the meaning of “Prophethood” – nubuwwa
- Allow Revelation to enter in your life.
- Being able to do something, qabiliyya, is different from it being accepted by Allah, qubuliyya. BE SINCERE. – Mufti Kamani
- Always make dua after worship.
- Stepping away for seclusion and spirituality is good. Seek it! And Reflect on yourself.
- “How long will the stone continue to sharpen the blade when it itself is dull” Brother of Imam Ghazali to Imam Ghazali. – in regards to Imam Ghazali’s reformation after a crisis of faith.
- Never stop desiring and yearning for guidance.
- “The leader of the people in reality is of service to the people.” Prophet Muhammad (s)
- Steadfastness leads to sincerity. Never give up!
- Each person was a golden member after they said the shahada. There was no one who was more important or less important. All of us are EQUAL.
- “There is no such thing as success without Sacrifice” – Shaykh ANJ What sacrifices have I made?
- “Oh Allah, don’t test me more than my limits” – make this du’a constantly. (closing verses of Surah Baqarah)
- Always spend time with PRESENCE. – Imam Mikaeel
- Every phrase of [Umar (r)] Islam was of great benefit to the Muslims. He was intuitive, the first to practice upon a verse of the Qur’an, known to keep those nearest to him who were more intelligent and knowledgeable regardless of age and status.
- “Allah never wastes the efforts of good people” – Qur’an
- If you visit the sacred sanctuary of Al-Aqsa: support the right businesses (not the oppressors) and don’t be a tourist, but rather be a slave (‘abid).
- Mercy is Allah’s Policy – Allah’s Mercy supersedes everything.
- Never underestimate the power of GOOD.
- Leadership is about GIVING.
- Prophet’s Mission: Humanity, Salvation of souls, attaching and introducing humanity to the Creator.
- Prophet (s) identified and characterized people by their potential to do good.
- Prophet(s) never wanted to mold people into something they were not but only to strengthen their already existing trait.
- “Whoever makes wudhu (ritual purity) in Madina and goes to Quba masjid and prays there, that person gets the reward of Umrah” – Prophet (s)
- “People in paradise will speak arabic” is a FABRICATED HADITH. It is NOT true. Arabic language in itself is NOT sacred. But the value of studying it to understand Qur’an and the deen can not be overstated.
- “I will practice patience. My Allah will reward me.” Safiyyah b. Abi Talib to her son before approaching Hamza b. Abi Talib’s mutilated body.
- This work (deen, Islam) is about PEOPLE.
- Where do you draw the line of forgiving someone? When you do it for Allah, then there is no line. The only exception is when the rights of others are being trampled upon.
- 3 things with which a person can judge his closeness to Allah:
- How much of the Sunnah do you follow?
- See how long you can make dua before getting tired because a friend does not tire of talking with his friend.
- Reading the Qur’an – never get tired of hearing the words of Allah.
- “Someone might lie to praise you a little and you believe them.” – Don’t succumb to praise but rather be sincere in your actions.
- “He spoke the truth, he was sincere with Allah and Allah was sincere with him.” – Prophet (s)
- RUN towards the deen.
- The way you live is how you will die. And you die is how you will be resurrected on the day of Judgement.
- Consider human sensibility. Always.
- Only introduce ‘ilm to a person when you make sure they are ready for it. And when you can, share what they can digest.
- Be a Believer: If you don’t have anything good to say, then be QUIET.
- Don’t make dua for success but make dua for Acceptance.
- Let your Islam manifest in ever aspect of your life.
- Always ask Allah for EASE (‘afiya)
- Sincerity goes a LONG way.
- The truth shall set you free.
- Our deen is NOT to be toyed with. Don’t use it to transgress and oppress others.
- “One extreme ALWAYS brings another. Remember that.” Shaykh ANJ
Those gems are just a glimpse of what we learned. There is so much to be shared and learned! This was a beginning of a lifelong journey into the Seerah and the life lessons in it in how to deal with yourself, with people of different creeds and types, are heavy reminders of how a believer should behave. I left the intensive with the desire to be more. One thing Shaykh Muntassir said was to choose one thing and do it consistently. There is a lot to be learned from the Prophet (s) and most of which, if we allow it to, can become overwhelming. So it is best to choose one thing, implement it, make it a part of your routine, and then move onto something else.
I also learned about the importance of beautiful company. Who we choose to enter into our lives will effect how we live it. Being around those who were trying actively to become better and come closer to Allah (swt) was a beneficial experience by itself. I made friends, learned from others, became inspired by others, and just enjoyed the company of everyone whom I was able to to interact with.
How fortunate then that Allah (swt) allowed me to be a part of this sharing of knowledge and to be a Muslim, to be from amongst the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad (s). There is a lot to be learned but one thing is to be sure: I left loving the Prophet (s) and knowing his humanity, and having a desire to meet him one day. May Allah (swt) make it so, ameen.