Ex-Gulf War Veteran – ABDULLLAH

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True Stories of American New Muslims

Abdullah was a young man with basic high school education. He was on active duty in U.S. Army for a few years where he learnt some technical skills. At present he earns his living by repairing photocopy and fax machines.

How he accepted Islam is interesting. However it is more fascinating to know how he went through the Islamization process. During the Gulf War between the United Forces and Iraq he was posted to Saudi Arabia. Abdullah was shopping in a Saudi market. He picked up an item from the shop and agreed to pay its price to the shopkeeper. However when he was about to pay for the article the call for prayer was heard from a nearby mosque. The shopkeeper said, “That’s it,” and refused to do any business after the call for prayer. He then closed his shop and hurriedly went to the mosque. Abdullah was stunned and wondered about this incident. Why did this man not take the money when there was a mutual agreement on the price? Abdullah never knew of any one in his life who refused to take money. Usually in business everybody runs after money one way or another. What kind of person was this shopkeeper? What kind of religion was it that had so much priority in the eyes of this shopkeeper? Abdullah was very inquisitive and wanted to know more about this religion. He read more and more about it and finally decided to embrace Islam after his return to America. In New York he had some good teachers who gave him basic Islamic education and taught him how to read the Quran. Abdullah became a very strict practicing Muslim.

I came to know Abdullah only when he moved to Detroit. He decided to reside near Tawheed Center of Detroit and offered most of his prayers in this mosque. I happened to be running the affairs of this mosque voluntarily. To conduct affairs of an Islamic organization is a difficult task. Many things happened between me and brother Abdullah, which created temporary problems between us. Both of us were sincere in our own ways. Our differences totally disappeared in the course of time. It is, however, a great test of patience to have differences with someone whom you meet several times a day in the house of Allah. Let me mention a few of them here.

Since brother Abdullah was very regular in all prayers I wished to have his participation in some masjid activities. One day I requested him to call the Adhan. He said he would do it outside the mosque on the main road. I informed him that we were presently going through the licensing process of the building with the local fire department and City of Detroit. The City of Detroit was holding a public hearing about it. But, my words did not concern him. I had to tell him firmly that I had to face the public, the attorney the zoning commission and the city planning department. I said, “You guys come, pray and leave the masjid. You do not have any idea of the difficulties faced by us at City Hall. Some wisdom and caution should be observed in our Islamic practice. Why should we annoy and excite our non-Muslim neighbors? Furthermore we should concentrate on reviving faith in Muslims than creating problems with our non-Muslim neighbors.” My words did not budge him at all. He refused to make the Adhan in the mosque. I, Allah forgive me, had to ask someone else to make the Adhan.

Incidentally I know only one mosque in North America which has the permission to place its speakers outside the mosque. This is due to a court ruling in favor of the Muslims of Dearborn, Michigan, because of its mostly Muslim neighborhood.

Br. Abdullah asked me for the key of the Mosque. I told him that the masjid is open for prayers and we are limiting access to the keys for insurance purposes.

After a few weeks Br. Abdullah asked my permission to let his guest sleep in the mosque at night. I refused. I asked him, “Why don’t you take him to your house?” He said, “Because I have a wife.” I told him, “I shall take your guest to my house.” He said, “Don’t you have a wife?” I said, “Yes, but I shall find a room for your guest. Alternatively I shall keep him in a hotel and pay for it.” Br. Abdullah walked away angrily. He wanted to do it only his own way. He complained to many Muslims about me. In spite of these hard feelings he was committed to attending the congregational prayers in the masjid.

Br. Abdullah had memorized a considerable part of Quran. His recitation was very charming and effective. I requested him to lead Isha prayer daily. He was memorizing more and more Quran every day. He loved every new Surah he memorized and preferred to recite it whilst leading the Salaat. There were always some mistakes in his newly learnt Surahs. This made many Muslims uneasy.

I talked to Abdullah about it. I suggested to him that he should recite only those Surahs, which he had mastered and that he should recite them before me a few times one day in advance. He liked my suggestion. Thus he improved and understood my point of view. The mistakes in recitation totally disappeared and our teamwork and co-operative attitude helped us to reconcile.

We faced another problem with Br. Abdullah. He used to recite a long Surah followed by Surah Ikhlas in each Rakat. Thus prayers took longer. Sometimes the night prayer took twenty minutes. People did not have this kind of commitment and patience. I communicated these feelings of the people to Br. Abdullah. He said he liked to recite the way one companion of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) did. He recited Surah Ikhlas in all his offerings of Salat. I told him, “As far as I recall Surah Ikhlas was recited only in the second rakat.” Br. Abdullah said, “He read in a Hadith that it was in both rakats.” Hence nobody could stop Br. Abdullah reciting a long Surah followed by Surah Ikhlas.

One day I saw him lying on the floor of the masjid on his right side with his arm under his head between Sunnah and Fard of Fajr prayer. I got worried and approached him and asked him if there was something wrong. He said he was fine and that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to take brief rest like this, as he was doing. Abdullah would try to practice anything he read from Quran or Hadith, without being shy.

His family life was remarkable. His wife and his sister-in-law accepted Islam through his efforts. His in-laws also accepted Islam. He had many children. All were very good in recitation of the Quran. His oldest son was about seven years old and had memorized a considerable part of the Quran under his father’s supervision. His son regularly came to the mosque to offer prayer with the congregation even in Salatul Fajr. I do not know anybody who would bring his seven-year-old son regularly to Salatul Fajr even during severe cold, snow or storm. Br. Abdullah used to teach his son Quran after Salatul Fajr in the mosque. His son’s Islamic knowledge, practice and behavior were superb. His recitation of Quran was excellent like his father. He behaved like a thirty years old mature person. He would be a good Imam of masjid.

Later Br. Abdullah not only had the key to the mosque but he was also made responsible for conducting the Salat in the mosque. I thought Abdullah was now ready to deliver Juma Khutbas. He reluctantly accepted one. He did extremely well. He was, therefore, assigned one Juma Khutba at Tawheed Center of Detroit and one at Tawheed Center of Fannington Hills, Michigan each month. He is carrying out his assignments voluntarily extremely well since last few years.

Without exaggeration many people came to me from both the mosques requesting that he be the khateeb permanently. They loved to hear his recitation of the Quran as well. Truly speaking we collected more donations for each masjid whenever Br. Abdullah delivered Khutba in Salatul Juma.

One day Br. Abdullah came to the Tawheed Center of Detroit with another local Muslim brother. Salatul Fajr was over and everyone had left the mosque. I was reciting Quran when both these brothers entered the mosque. They offered their prayer. I welcomed both of them since they had just returned from Hajj. I insisted on taking them to my house for breakfast. Br. Abdullah declined, telling me he had not yet gone to his house. He was coming directly to the masjid from Haj. He told me that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to go to masjid upon his return from a journey before going home and meeting his family. I wonder how many born Muslims follow this practice.

Br. Abdullah now laughs on his past rigid behavior. He now accepts variation in Islamic practice. He even started calling Adhan inside the masjid.

After his first Juma Khutba I introduced him to the audience. While introducing him I mentioned how he accepted Islam and how his son is proud to be in Salatul Fajr daily. After the Salat he was anxious to know how his Khutba was. I told him that it was excellent so much so that he finished on time which happened to be a problem with other Khateebs. He left quietly. After Salatul Isha Br. Ham wanted to talk to me. He said, “Br. Abdullah is upset. He feels that by praising him in his presence it was like cutting his neck as mentioned in a Hadith.” I told him that you should see another Hadith also, which instructs us to give due respect and credit to whosoever deserves. The Prophet Shuayb (PBUH) also insisted that his people do not belittle the credit if it is due. It is mentioned in the Quran in many places. Some people focus only on one Hadith and draw their own conclusions. Thank God I did not exaggerate anything in the introduction. Furthermore, people should know all about the new Khateeb. I expressed my opinion to Br. Abdullah the next day. He was satisfied with my explanation.

After one month once again I introduced him for the benefit of a new audience after his second Khutba. I said, “I am not praising Br. Abdullah but I feel I should do justice in pointing out the facts and the real qualities of our new Khateeb.” After introduction I added that authority and responsibility go together.

Br. Abdullah and Br. Hani are now responsible for the masjid in my absence. Mashallah both are rendering their responsibility and authority superbly well.

Br. Abdullah joined Arabic classes in the local community college offered by Dr. Sheikh All Suleiman. He speaks Arabic, understands some grammar, recites and memorizes Surahs of Quran. He also learns new Ahadith, delivers khutba and guides many disbelievers to light. A high school graduate with sincerity and commitment can do all these wonderful things and introduce and propagate Islam amongst people of other faiths.

Br. Abdullah is the by-product of Gulf War. Many other soldiers accepted Islam after visiting Saudi Arabia.

Imtiaz Ahmad