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January 2, 2005

We Ain’t… Go-in Nowhere…

Thus rappeth the infamous Puff Daddy:

We ain’t, go-in nowhere, we ain’t, goin nowhere
We can’t be stopped now, cause we’re bad boys for life

You’re probably thinking, uh oh, kr’s finally lost it now, he’s starting to quote rap lyrics as opening statements to a post. And it might not help to ease things out a bit if I used those lyrics to write a serious post that addresses the state of the American Muslim community. You might blame Alti for all this, write me off as insane, and not want to read this post… but… hear me out.

The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, Wisdom is the lost property of the believer. Wheresoever he finds it, he ought to take from it. Despite the personal character of Puffy or whatever he’s calling himself these days, I think there’s a certain usefulness in the above lines since I think it defines the state of the American Muslim community. Sure I could’ve found something more eloquent, but I’m going for a bit of a dramatic effect here. Therefore, since I think there’s some wisdom in these rap lyrics, I will take of it and use it to preface some thoughts I have about the state of the American Muslim community as we enter a new calendar year.

The first part of that statement is we’ve arrived. No longer can we cling to the tattered remains of the notion that we’re some sort of migrant worker community here on extended tourist visas or think we’re some sort of second-class citizens either. American Muslims, as a community, are here to stay as members of the greater American cultural landscape. The 2000 and 2004 elections proved that as American Muslims showed that they were significant communities whose points of view mattered and whose legislative power had the ability to make a difference. A month ago, we launched the first American Muslim TV network, Bridges TV–and while the benefit of this remains to be seen, we must accept that it is a milestone achievement for our community. And since we’re here to stay, it’s time to start thinking and planning for the long-term.

Nay, but you love immediacy! (75:20). Until now, we’ve clearly been concerned with dealing with immediate situations and challenges and have never really given much thought to long-term and broad-picture types of issues. Most masjids and organizations are not concerned with where they’re going to be, as an organization, 10-40 years from now–rather, they’re worried about things like how they’re going to pay next week’s electric bill. Granted, these types of problems are immediate, and if not solved would mean the masjid will be shut down, so I’m not finding fault in us paying so much attention to such issues. However, I do think that we’re at a point where we need to start thinking to invest some percentage of organizational time, resources, and personnel to start thinking about long-term issues for the betterment of the community.

The early communities certainly did this. They had the foresight and prudence to think about the long-term consequences of their actions and thus acted accordingly. One story that comes to mind on this issue is about an old scholar who was once seen by the local ruler to be planting olive trees. Now olive trees are quite unique in that it takes many years for the olive tree to give benefit in the form of fruit so the ruler was surprised and asked the old man why he was planting at such an old age since he certainly would not benefit from this tree (implying that he would pass away by the time the tree gave fruit). The old scholar replied, “Those who came before us planted so that we could benefit and eat. We plant so that those who come after us may benefit and eat.” The ruler was so impressed by the scholar’s wisdom that he rewarded him on the spot. The scholar smiled and remarked, “Has this tree then not benefited me?” Because they thought long-term, we’re currently benefiting.

mmm, olive tree…

If we start thinking long-term, there’s no telling what we can accomplish (hence the “we can’t be stopped now, we bad boys for life”). Wow, that sounds like such a cheerleader-type slogan. Let’s then discuss some practical examples.

One thing that comes to mind is that it seems everyone and their mother wants to build a masjid in every town in America today. Mashallah, I think it’s beautiful to see the exponential growth in the number of masjids in the American landscape with each year that passes. However, we need to realize that our growing communities need more than just masjids. They need community centers, just as the masjids of the past were, where the prayer area was only part of a larger complex that included schools, hospitals, orphanages, playgrounds, marketplaces, and housing. I really think that in most places, alhamdulillah, we already have enough masjids… and yet people are so gung-ho about wanting to build more. These masjids are barely filled on non-jumu’ah/non-Eid times yet we’re hardcore about building bigger and bigger masjids. And if one tries to suggest investing that time and money into other projects, one will get shot down with passionately shot down… particularly with ahadith about the reward for building a masjid…

But how about instead of just building a masjid… we invest some resources (note: a few million to make it REALLY nice) into making a Muslim-owned athletic/community center. It could be this huge building that would be two separate centers for each gender (staffed by same gender, of course) that would have workout facilities, treadmills, running tracks, basketball courts, tennis/racketball courts, and swimming pools. Think about the potential for that: instead of Muslims like Rehan and I plunking down $80 a month for the two us at Lifetime, we could pay that money to be members at this Muslim-owned club. Sisters would have a place of their own where they can exercise, swim, and play ball (some of them prolly even ball better than Hisham…) without their hijab, and not have to worry about being exposed to males. Uncles and aunties who really need to get on treadmills (cause of attending one too many desi parties) would have a place to go without feeling ashamed cause they’d know that there’s others with stomachs just as big as theirs working out. Teens would have a place to go on the weekends to meet one another, play sports, and hang out in an Islamic setting instead of all the other forms of “weekend entertainment” that’s out there. Youth are always told not to go to “bad parties or clubbing”, but unless you give them an alternative (that’s considered somewhat fun to a 16 year old), you can’t expect them to automatically obey all the time. This athletic club would give them something else to do… and something that would be good for them on many levels. And as far as the masjid… well, you got those basketball courts right? Why not just spread some rugs over the courts when it comes time for prayer? Bam, not only do you get kids in, you develop in them the habit of praying in congregation and all that other good stuff. Nowhere does it say you have to have fancy carpet for the masjid… the Prophet’s Mosque used to leak when it rained since its roof was made of palm fibers. Instead of focusing on elaborate chandeliers and such, spend the money elsewhere and consider the bigger picture.

    +    = potential^10

Another idea, which could be combined with the first, would be to build a Muslim banquet hall. Sure, some of our masjids have “community halls” (note that I put that term in quotations since these community halls are really not that open to the community… since different people pay different prices for the same hall, depending on who you are and who you know… but I digress), but they’re not on the level of the halls that most Muslims use for their weddings and other functions. Now, those of you who have recently gotten married know what I’m talking about: it’s freakin expensive to get a banquet hall for a Muslim function. If you have 300-500 guests (and that’s small considering some of the weddings I’ve seen) and each guest is about $25-35, that’s $6-15,000 easy. Multiply that by the number of Muslim weddings you’ve attended in the past year… and shnaps, that’s some crazy amount of money that is leaving our community. Imagine instead that we constructed a classy hall with all the bells and whistles that inevitably accompany Muslim weddings and such… that money could be kept in our own community and benefit hundreds of families (through the creation of jobs and such). I’m envious that in the Chicagoland area, the Viceroy management just opened a new decked-out banquet hall (Ashyana Banquets) that I’m sure is quickly going to become the default place for desis (especially Muslims) to hold any function under the sun. Imagine if we could have a Muslim or masjid-owned banquet hall that would not only pay for itself, provide people with a communal-yet-classy venue, but also keep money within our community.

The last idea that I choose to go into at this point is to develop streams of revenue for our masajid. Is it just me or are you getting tired of our masjids relying on donations to maintain and sustain their daily activities? Mashallah it’s great that most of the time, they’re able to raise those donations and pay off the bills… but why be so dependent? Our masjids need to have steady incomes of revenue to deal with these day-to-day expenses such that the concept of fundraising can be reserved for real needs (like this tsunami relief effort, for example). Imagine that, not having a fundraising dinner to pay off the masjid heat bill! Seriously, fundraising dinners are not only a dime a dozen, but an inefficient way to develop revenue to pay for these everyday expenses. Instead, its time for masjids to invest in rental properties (either commercial like stores, strip malls, etc. or residential like apartment buildings, etc.), mutual funds, or other businesses with guaranteed and fixed rates of return. If combined with the traditional concept of the endowment (waqf)–which several masajid and organizations have started, alhamdulillah–we can have a constant inflow of money to deal with trivial expenses, freeing up time, personnel, and money for bigger projects.

I’m sure there’s a million other ideas that we can come up with to deal with the long-term challenges that face the American Muslim community… feel free to add to them in the comments part of this post.

Bottom line (since I know this is a long post… but hey, this is a state of the American Muslim community post and there was a lot to cover):  We ain’t goin no-where, we’re here to stay. But unless we begin to at least become aware of such long-term challenges that lay on the horizon and start planning and trying to develop solutions to such issues, we ain’t gonna go nowhere… we’re just gonna be stuck here dealing with the damn heat bill that’s due next week.


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  1. hmm…that’s a deep quote Kamran.I think in a horizontal sense “we ain’t go-in nowhere” but in a vertical sense (i.e. spiritually) many of us are “go-in somewhere” (…namely down).  Also, I wonder how the “we’re bad boys for life” part of the quote ties into our future as Muslims here in America?? 🙂
    Thanks for the recommendations. I think you you made some great points. Insha’Allah we will take heed.  My one fear is that just how ISNA (which in essence is something good) gets a bad rap because of the actions of a few youth who take advantage of the situation, so too can a youth center (drugs, smoking, fighting, bad language, finding ways to meet the opposite gender).  One weak solution is putting cameras everywhere and allowing the parents to view the facilities from the internet with a password.  My personal advice on this potential problem is to only allow certain youth to become members.  I know this sounds unfair but hear me out, there is “wisdom” in this.  First it rewards those children who have worked hard and strived to succeed and second those that haven’t it gives them a reason to work harder.  If we let everyone join then they will be a means of making the good ones go bad, as they say “One rotten apple, spoils the whole bunch.”  Here are a few membership rules I’ve come up with. Let me know what your feelings are and feel free to add more.  To be fair I’ve made one rule for each gender so not to come across as biased:Initial Rules of Membership to the Muslim Youth Center (Drafted on January 2, 2005).
    1) To inspire more muslim boys to become the best they can be (i.e. be like Kamran):Only students in professional school (law*, medicine) who are also huffaz will be permitted to become members. (*The author is fully cognizant of the ongoing debate about law students being called “professional” students (in any sense of the word).  For the time being, due to the paucity of medical student huffaz, we will permit huffaz in law school provided that they express regret for their decision, are ashamed of their career choice, and sincerely repent for their grievous error.  They also must vow not to go into malpractice law.  Note that a brief hazing ritual henceforth referred simply as “Entrance Into The Bar” will be performed on these deficient members.)2) To inspire more muslim girls to keep themselves in shape and learn quality makeup and cooking skills (i.e. be more like Kamran’s future wife):Only sisters who are beautiful, who have turned down at least one modeling contract in the past 5 years, have impeccable grooming and makeup skills, and can make a plate of kefta kababs and a quality* permissible* mango shake in under 5 minutes will be permitted to become members. (*quality- will be defined as that which brings a strangely sinister smile to Kamran’s face within 10 seconds of consumption while he is in a fasting state.  permissible*- will be defined as not containing any prohibited or shameful ingredients such as alcohol or Rooh-Afza.  Any sister caught spiking the mango shake with alcohol will be permanently blacklisted from membership.  The punishment for spiking with Rooh-Afza will be much more severe and will be left at the discretion of the Honorable Kamran Riaz.)-Mohd 🙂

  2. hahaha, thats hilarious
    renegade huffaz who become law students… thats for you sadiq.

  3. The issue here is whether Mode123 knows anything about the law, law school, or being a lawyer. The answer to all three of these issues is one big “hell no”. This is based on concrete evidence that most people who seem to have beef with the law, law school, or lawyers continually cite cases from California, which does not represent the entire US legal system. Examples include the OJ Simpson Trial and the Scott Peterson Case, or any litigation involving botched plastic surgery. Lawyers defend the weak and unrepresented. They are the unsung heroes in this society that contributed to the desegregation of schools and who are currently fighting for the prisonors wrongfully held in Guantanamo Bay. They fight for human rights, the environment, abused children and mothers, and yes patients whose limbs don’t function anymore because of incompetant doctors. If they get paid in the process, don’t cry about it. It’s hard and tough work and they deserve every penny they get. God Bless the lawyers!

  4. thanks for the noble speech.  lawyers are so moral and righteous when they give their closing arguments, one lawyer will say “this man is nothing less than a monster” while the other will say “he is a kind, gentle human being who made a mistake, but I ask you humbly and sincerely, have none of you ever made a mistake, sure dozens of people were unfortunately killed, but let’s not get lost in numbers, we must remember that it was simply a poor decision on his part, and we are all guilty of that from time to time…” (and the speech goes on and pulls at our heart strings…)
    your message also brought a tear to my eye. You will make a great actor…er i mean lawyer.(kamran, now do you see the wisdom in implementing the hazing???)-Mohd

  5. Anonymous permalink

    yeah can anyone say cliff notes?

  6. Hey Mode, thanks for lending support to the point I made. When you can come up with something concrete, get back to me. Otherwise, continue watching Law and Order for all your knowledge about the legal system. Thank you.

  7. THE REALITY BEHIND THE CHARACTER KNOWN AS KR156 (Arent you glad that I made the Anti-Kr156 club?)
    k r 1 5 6: salaamsk r 1 5 6: this mode guy is hilarioussshariff80: walaikumsalamsshariff80: yeah what a toolk r 1 5 6: hey now, dont hate him for spekaing the truth about lawyerssshariff80: hahak r 1 5 6: and he recognizes my greatnesssshariff80: riiiiiightsshariff80: thats why u like himsshariff80: cause hes giving u propssshariff80: hahak r 1 5 6: hahahasshariff80: im posting this in ure xangasshariff80: hahak r 1 5 6: its only natural, if someone recognizes greatness, they too are somewhat greak r 1 5 6: greatk r 1 5 6: learn from modek r 1 5 6: be a nice guy to mek r 1 5 6: and perhaps you may achieve some fraction of the heights of greatness i have achievedsshariff80: haha

  8. Anonymous permalink

    that was way too long…where the hell is the -2 eProps…altho i did get a kind of shout out for givin u da lyrics to P. Diddy…am i gonna be rewarded by Allah fo tht?

  9. Don’t worry Kamran, Insha’Allah by the time somebody actually initiates the idea for a Muslim banquet hall, gets all the money for it, and actually builds it, it will be time for you to get married (that is if any sister will seriously consider marrying you)…then you can hold your wedding there =)

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