American Muslims – Dr Najat

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American Muslims – Dr Najat

True Stories of American New Muslims

Dr. Najat was born, raised and educated in India. He came for his Post-Graduate education to Windsor, Canada. I dare not to write his original name since it is very long and hard to pronounce. All it tells me is that he belonged to a very conservative Hindu family who chose such a typical Hindu name for him. He received very sound religious education, which he practiced as much as he could during his stay in India.

At the University of Windsor campus he found a very healthy interaction of ideas and cultures. He, like many other students, was open-minded. He wanted to make his life meaningful for himself. He was not comfortable with his Hindu ideas and practices. He, therefore, started reading Christian Bible. It appealed more to his mind than his native religion. Najat accepted Christianity and practiced it sincerely for a year or so. He did not find the ultimate satisfaction that he was looking for. He, therefore, started exploring Islamic ideology. These religious conflicts were going on in his mind while he was in the middle of his education for Doctorate of Philosophy in the field of Engineering.

College campuses offer a unique freedom of choice and practices. Sometimes trilogies are arranged between Christian, Jew and Muslim scholars in a very healthy climate. This has opened doors for many who have been locked up in their own closets. Najat learnt more and more about Islam through various sources. It made much more sense to him to have one God rather than having many gods to worship. He found Islamic ideology more consistent and coherent. He, therefore, embraced Islam and chose Najat as his Muslim name. May Allah keep him on the straight path which pleases Him. Entry into Islam is very easy but growth of Islamic knowledge and practice is often gradual.

Najat realized that in order to practice Islam sincerely it was necessary to marry as soon as possible. His wish was fulfilled soon. He got married to an educated Muslim girl from a respectable family in Windsor. Marriage ceremony took place in Windsor mosque. Najat not only graduated in family life but also graduated from University as well. Now Dr. Najat was looking for a job. He had a grand offer from Ford Company in Detroit. He accepted the job and his family moved to Farmington Hills, a suburb of Detroit.

A new mosque opened in this area called Tawheed Center of Farmington Hills, Michigan. I met Dr. Najat in this mosque a few times. One day I asked him about his Quranic reading. Najat said that he could not read Quran in Arabic. I was shocked to find that a talented person like Najat could not read Quran in Arabic. The reason was obvious. Many Muslims fail to find time to help other people on Islamic matters on one to one basis. In this way many potential learners are left out or become disheartened. Without sacrifice of personal time hardly any progress could be made. Lip service or sympathy is not enough. I asked Mrs. Najat boldly, “Why did you not teach your husband the Arabic alphabets as you have been married a few years now.” She did not have a good answer for me. I said to Dr. Najat, “Let us have a deal. You give me four weekends. I guarantee that you will be able to read Quran, Inshallah.” We agreed to meet in Tawheed Center after Salatul Fajr for a few hours. To our great surprise and happiness Br. Najat was reading Quran in Arabic after these four weekends. This generated interest in many other potential learners. Many brothers started working with new students on a one to one basis. Surprisingly one American born M.D. joined the group as a fresh student as well. This morning session was often followed by a simple breakfast in the masjid.

Dr. Najat could read many Surahs from the last chapter of the Quran. He, however, needed a better teacher than me. One elderly Syrian brother, Sheikh Al-Atasy agreed to work with Br. Najat on a one to one basis. Najat started really enjoying recitation of the Quran after learning true pronunciation from an Arabic speaking seasoned teacher. Sheikh Al-Atasy and Najat both loved this activity and extended it to a daily meeting after Salatul Fajr. Najat used to leave his family at dawn and would come to masjid for Salatul Fajr. After Salat he used to spend about one and a half hour for Quranic study with his beloved teacher Sheikh Al-Atasy. Najat would then proceed direct from the masjid to his work. After work he used to bring his family to the masjid for Salatul Isha.

Sheikh Al-Atasy and Br. Najat were both very committed to their Quranic study session. Winter is very nasty in Detroit. Both hardly missed any day through snow or storm. Sheikh Atasy was very proud of his student. Sheikh Al-Atasy used to say to me, ”Najat’s pronunciation is better than yours.” Najat had not only an excellent pronunciation but, also, he could read the Quran from anywhere you opened it. Najat also started reading the meaning of the Quran in English. In this way he started appreciating Quranic verses with their full significance. Najat did not stop here. He quickly started memorizing the Quran. Last time when I met him he had memorized about half of the last chapter.

It is often very hard to find a volunteer for community work. Most of the people enjoy criticizing or they like to make a big deal of what little they happen to do. Dr. Najat volunteered himself to run community affairs without any preaching or motivation on my part. He often opened the masjid for Salatul Fajr although he lived the furthest from us. He used to remove snow from the footpath and passage leading to the main door of the masjid. He used to sprinkle salt over this area lest any body fell down and broke his bones. These services by Najat were very essential and important in that country since any injured person could easily sue the masjid for huge damages. Consequently insurance companies would refuse to provide insurance to such public places.

Dr. Najat also helped to run the weekend Islamic School in the masjid. He would again open the masjid every Sunday before Zohar and remove the snow and sprinkle salt before the arrival of any teacher or student. Collecting school fees from parents is a very unpleasant job. Najat did it without annoying anybody. He used to buy snacks and serve these to the children. He used to clean kitchen single-handedly and defrost the refrigerator periodically.

Br. Najat did not limit himself to indoor activities. The masjid was spread over about two and a half acre area. He used to fertilize all grassy area every year. He preferred to pay for the fertilizer and weed killers from his own pocket just like he did for the snow salt. He was lean and young. He helped cut down some dead trees around the mosque.

We liked his services much more during Ramadan when there used to be many community dinners every week. He helped every host in setting up dinners and serving them to men and women. He used to vacuum the masjid after nearly each dinner.

He preferred to do any job himself very quietly rather than instructing or reminding others. He used to set up and serve delicious refreshments to the audience after Eid prayers along with other volunteers. He and the community members developed a very close relationship. He used to invite many families to his house for snacks and dinners after Eid prayers. He did it year after year and the response from the community was tremendous. Hence first thing I had to do after delivering the Eid Khutba was to rush to Br. Najat’s house to entertain myself with delicious food. May Allah reward Br. Najat’s family for their consistent sincere services.

One day I asked Br. Najat, “You know Quran and Islam pretty well. What is your true feelings about Islam?” Dr. Najat said, “Honestly I feel satisfaction deep in my heart which I did not feel with Christianity and Hinduism. Quran has a very soothing effect on my mind and heart.”

Now Br. Najat even leads Salat sometimes. This clearly indicates that there is no hierarchy in Islam. Anybody with better knowledge and Taqwa (consciousness of Allah) can be a leader in performing different Islamic services. Allah (SWT) says in Quran: In the eyes of Allah (SWT) the best among you is he who possesses Taqwa the most. In Islam anybody with better Taqwa can act as a leader irrespective of color, creed, geographical origin and nationality.

Imtiaz Ahmad