By Yousaf Seyal
Thursday night was a very long night, but also a very short one. It was long because I was honored to host a gathering in praise of the Prophet at my house, which ended well past midnight (after people had their share of kheer!). It was short because I only got 3 hours sleep. But, that was fine as I was looking forward to heading out to New Jersey, to once again, sit and benefit from the presence of Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. I accompanied Sidi Adil Sayyidi and his family on this road trip. May Allah reward them for their generosity in allowing me to accompany them.
Upon walking into Princeton I met Imam Suhaib Sultan and was welcomed in by his wife. Shaykh Faraz was upstairs, so I waited by the musallah to greet him. On greeting him I once again fell for the famous ‘Rabbani handshake’, not once, but twice! I think the most awkward moment I had with him later on that day is when he played it on me again, I played it right back on him (I will ensure NOT to do that one again).
Shaykh Faraz Rabbani was the speaker for the Friday sermon at Princeton. He spoke on taking the high way in all situations. He also spoke on how life was not meant to be easy, but it is only through Allah’s mercy that most of our life is lived in ease.
After Jummah prayer I accompanied a good friend, Ustadh Wasim Shiliwala, around the campus. I was living the Princeton life for a few hours by going to campus coffee shops and hanging out with other students. I learned my lesson that day – do not to buy Mango Lassi from anyone who can’t pronounce it right!
A curious find
While exploring the campus we decided to take a walk to the chapel. Before walking in, we crossed paths with Shaykh Walead Mosaad. It was a blessing to meet him and introduce myself for the first time. He seems like an extremely humble person, filled with love. I was fortunate enough to be headed to Allentown the following day to attend his event with Shaykh Yahya Rhodus. I pray I can benefit from his company some more in the near future.
I had never walked into a chapel before, but I have to say this visit was well worth it. To my surprise, inside the chapel was a stained glass portrait of Ar-Razi. The name of his book and the basmalah, in Arabic, were written right next to it! Even the caretaker wasn’t aware of this and we ended up having a good conversation with her on the basmalah itself. The caretaker said that she would try to find out more about this particular portrait.
The Main Event
It was time for the main event of the night- the Grand Mawlid- which was held at a bigger hall at Princeton. The stage was being set up, kabobs were being served, chairs and sofas were available to sit on, and the Shuyukh were starting to coming in. This ‘party’ held in respect and love for the Prophet Muhammad was about to begin! Everyone was excited and eager to start.
Imam Suhaib Sultan opened the Mawlid at around 8 pm. His gold and white shawl really made him look like a Sultan! The gathering started off with a recitation of the Quran, Qasidah Burdah, a Turkish rendition of the Salawat, and a beautiful performance in Persian.
The key note speaker for the night was Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. In this talk he focused on living up to higher aspirations and correcting your intention in everything you do. He explained how the Prophetic state was to be present with Allah in all dealings, whether in worship itself, or in your work/student life. He said in this regard, “The Prophetic teachings SHOW us how to REACH God through it,” he also said that the Prophet TAUGHT us that with anything we do, we need to SEEK God through it.” To top it off, we received two new ‘Rabbanisms’: BSA – Busy Seeking Allah and BWA – Busy With Allah (which is the Higher Degree).
The event concluded with a few more performances such as spoken word poetry, a poem by Rumi, some Urdu, and finally topping it off with a closing prayer lead by Shaykh Walead Masood.
The difficult part of ending an experience like this is that it usually ends with me departing a teacher. It was finally time to go and that meant departing from Shaykh Faraz, again. I am obviously thankful for my time spent with him, but the heart always yearns for more. Shaykh Faraz has served both as a teacher and a brotherly figure to me ever since my return from the East. His concern for others is based on mercy, embodies mercy, and manifests mercy. His final advice to me was to stay focused, committed, and consistent even if a little. May Allah bless him countless amounts of good for the countless amounts of good he does for our community. Ameen.