I would like to begin with wishing you all a belated Ramadan Mubarak, and also an early Eid Kareem. Two-thirds of our noble guest’s time has passed us, and I hope we’re trying to satisfy it before its departure. Let it look forward to visiting us again next year. Let it return to its Lord, and say, “Yes, indeed my host honored me”.
A few weeks ago I was offered a position to teach Quran at our Islamic School’s summer camp again. I graciously took the offer, and was assigned to teach boys ages 4-15 years. Throughout our three weeks together, we covered some memorization, commentary, and a few topics within Islamic Studies. I was fascinated by their enthusiasm, abilities, questions, concerns, and potential. I even felt challenged at times, and could not respond accordingly whether the queries were on legal rulings, the afterlife or even some on spirituality. Aside from these kids being filled with physical energy, they had quite a strong intellectual one too.
Now, let me not over exaggerate as this would defeat the purpose of my writing today. Every class has a certain amount of students who require a push, extra care, or special attention. I had a student around the age of 10 who was struggling–a lot–with his memorization. In fact, it took him almost 3 weeks to memorize the first verse of Surah-Mulk (Chapter 67). One day I decided to ask him what was keeping him from memorizing. I mean, even kids who couldn’t read Arabic at all had begun to read and connect letters. He complained and said to me in simple words, “I have no confidence.” This shocked me, especially since this was not the first time I was hearing this from a student. I recall a student from my 6th grade class who randomly broke into tears in the middle of class last year. He complained of lack of organization, and felt his parents were not encouraging him enough. He felt very lonely, and would go home to sit on his electronic devices, before completing very little or none of his homework.
Before further elaboration, I would like to raise a second issue, and from there hope to connect a few dots Insha’Allah. Yes, it’s that time of the year again; Ramadan. I thought this was a month of fasting, but it only seems like religious organizations, institutes, schools, and various charities are all trying to take my money. Every other night there seems to be some fundraiser taking place. My Facebook events are filled with fundraiser invites. Not to mention the random emails from anonymous people asking for donations…let me pause here.
Over the last few weeks, I have attended fundraisers for different causes. Muslims Without Borders held their 2nd annual fundraising dinner for Syria, last night our Islamic School hosted their 27th annual fundraiser, then another Mosque in the community has been trying to collect funds to purchase a new ground for expansion. Many of you are currently donating towards the SeekersHub Global ‘Ends of the Earth’ campaign, and the list can go on and on.
These are all great causes, but do we really understand their importance? Do we sit to think about this crucial investment? Do we wonder why our institutes continue to ‘beg’ us? If not, then our false claims and questioning of our institution every year makes complete sense. I attempt to conquer this issue in the following:
1) Be they religiously or academically based, our educational institutes have a right over us. They serve the purpose of developing skills we need to live and serve in this life. They are the moral compass to our lifestyle, and character which give us direction, aim, and purpose. Both individual and communal obligations are fulfilled here. It is a point where community comes together to share ideas, and create vision. Without such institutions, education would be lost. Most importantly, this is where your child grows up. This is where he/she is shaped through teachers, knowledge, and friends, and this leads me to my second point.
2) I believe we begin to focus too much on the numbers we are asked for, or that we are giving at fundraisers. Fundraisers have become like an auction, or a game of snakes and ladders. Everyone’s excited about winning, but very little are concerned about the actual cause itself. Therefore we truly forget how important our investment is. We tend to forget that our investment is building a brighter and broader future for ourselves and our kids. The money you are donating is for none other than the benefit of yourself. It’s not going towards a wasted effort, but to a very purposeful one. This is also an ongoing charity for you till the Day of Judgement. You will receive the reward for supporting anyone seeking knowledge, teaching it, and then everyone who acts upon it. Remember, we are our own responsibility, and it is our duty to take care of our generation in its physical, mental, and spiritual needs. This is Islam, Iman and Ihsan.
3) I personally feel it is quite embarrassing that we can sometimes be very stubborn when it comes to such great investments. It is as if God Himself gave us the keys to Paradise, but we procrastinate in unlocking the door. As a child, my parents would encourage me to donate part of my money towards a good cause. In fact, I was so motivated once that I donated my favorite Chicago Bulls watch, to a fundraising appeal. I also recall having an Ansaar and Muhajirun day at school. For two days, two randomly selected students who would pair up, and each would have the duty of feeding the other for a day. Hence, this is not only the responsibility of our elders, but for us the younger folks too. I also used to donate $10-$20 to my Islamic School on a monthly basis. The mentally of, “Oh, if I donate, the money will just come around back to me” is a false claim, because this is where the blessing of brotherhood is evolved. Set aside a portion of your wealth to give on a regular basis, even if it’s just $5.
4) I believe it’s also time for our parents and teachers to take a step back to reflect. Before supporting education financially, we need to support our children emotionally. Just like those two students I had mentioned; there are many kids who have great potential, but are often discouraged and lack support from their parents. A child’s dream needs to be taken seriously in order for him to believe in himself. He needs the support, encouragement, focus, time and attention of his parents and his teachers. Firmness may be required at times, but we can overcome this firmness with mercy. Understand your child’s perspective, and support him in his cause. Instead of questioning every last activity he/she does, advise them and work on building trust. Overlook, but don’t overdue.
5) Lastly, I believe it is always important to return back to the Prophetic teachings to understand where the Prophet’s stance would be on issues we face today. The Prophet (prayers and peace be upon him) said in a tradition, “A person’s wealth does not decrease by giving in way of charity”. In other words, it increases. The blessings of giving for God’s sake will increase you in wealth, and reward. Furthermore, it’ll enlighten your path, and the path of those to come. If we don’t take our responsibilities seriously, then who will? I once heard Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah say that the concern of the earlier generations would exceed to the five upcoming generations ahead of them. This is what it means to be God’s vicegerent on earth.
May Allah enable us to be keys to good, and locks to evil. May He allow us to acknowledge the blessings He has granted us, before taking them away from us. And may He grant us action based upon sound judgement and wisdom.
Wishing you all an accepted Ramadan, and a blissful Eid.