By Yusuf Al-Rahman
Growing up in Queens as a young Muslim man then venturing to Senegal, West Africa helped me to foster a strong sense of Islamic and world knowledge about things that were not taught in schools back home in the United States. Most of the time, many people hear the words ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islam’ and it conjures up an image of a desert, nomads, and unfortunately now–terror. I thank Allah (s.w.a.) for my wonderful and challenging experience because I was in a sub-Saharan part of Senegal where the most terrifying things in the desert landscape were packs of dogs, occasionally, chasing us home from school. Being American Muslim kids in a strange land where nothing looks familiar to us seemed challenging but we were up to the task. This experience inspired me to write an upcoming novel, “Touba, A Prism of Ancient Timbuktu,” about my sojourn in West Africa as an ethnology and historiography based on the prospective of the founder of the Hijra program (Professor Muhammad Abd Al-Rahman) and myself as a student. It is a journey into the core of what challenged me to become the man I am today.
The hardest thing to do in life is to challenge the inner person (Nafs) and learn to become better with time. It is not important or sufficient to simply learn in this life but understand that what you’re learning and why is it important because blind faith is no faith at all. There are some people who are so focused on what happened in the past without the context of what is happening in the present or near future. The prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) said, “Whoever wakes up and does not know the condition of their neighbor is not a Muslim” (Biharul Anwar). In these trying times there are so many people that are less fortunate than others and really require more help than others. Sometimes the help is not only financial, but emotional, social, and spiritual because the edification of these other faucets are just as important for a healthy, productive, citizen in society.
Service is the cornerstone of Islam and serving someone can be as simple as mentoring a youth that may be misguided or lack the father or mother figure to help them understand what the function of life is about. It can also be as simple as giving food to the hungry, helping an elderly person with their daily needs, cleaning up trash, volunteering in the community, becoming a friend to someone who may be lonely & could use the right company, or adopting a child who is in desperate need of a good home. It is not merely enough to profess faith yet not follow it up with actions that speak louder than words. One day the lights of this life shall blow out for each and every one of us bringing the physical life to an end but the only thing that makes one eternal, in this life, is the legacy that they leave behind. Inshallah let it be a legacy of service for future generations to follow.