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May 23, 2005

kr’s Life Lessons #1: The Michigan Road Trip

After my trip to Michigan over the weekend, I realized that I learned a lot of interesting lessons in the course of three days from various people and events. Some of these may be profound, others might not be so deep. Nonetheless, I think sharing some of these may prove to have some benefit, especially in terms of feedback and discussion. Thus, this post marks the first in a new series of posts titled as “kr’s Life Lessons“, wherein I jot down things that I have observed along the way.

1. I’ve been to Michigan in the past, but this was perhaps the first time when I went around to various places and got a chance to see the different suburbs around Detroit. As much as I love Chicago (still the greatest city in the Western Hemisphere), the thing that impressed me the most about places like Dearborn, was each community had well developed infrastructure, at least in relative terms to Chicago. By infrastructure, I mean things like masjids, restaurants, stores, and other material constructions that are quintessential components of a community. Certainly, much of this can be attributed to the fact that Muslims have been there longer, and thus had more “time” to develop such things. I was quite impressed when I saw some of these things:

The new masjid in Dearborn, I forget the name of it. It just recently opened a few months ago and is simply beautiful mashallah. There’s also a huge banquet hall (I forgot to take a picture of it) and lots of parking.

Wow, is that the IFS chandelier? I thought they sold it to Mawlana Nazim’s new masjid… Maybe these guys called up the IFS administration and ordered an overpriced one from the same place.

Women’s prayer area is pretty big. This is a pic from the men’s area so it probably doesn’t show how big the women’s area is… there wasn’t anyone in the women’s area, I shoulda maybe gone up there and gotten a better pic…

The famous Shatila Bakery… alas, if only we had a place like this to hang out and chill in Chicago

For a few minutes, I was utterly incapaciated (Inni basurtu shay’an `ajaban) with the aesthetics of the place as well as all the choices of desserts… it took me a good 10 minutes to figure out what I wanted. That pistachio ice cream was… wow…

The gym at IAGD where some uncles were playing badminton… why can’t any of our Chicago masjids have a nice gym like that (Mosque Foundation being somewhat of an exception with their youth center… MEC’s gym doesn’t count)

As a Chicagoan, I was envious of all this infrastructure, especially the amazing restaurants. This infrastructure didn’t develop overnight; many of the Muslims living there are 3rd/4th generation Muslims, so there’s been plenty of time, foresight, and money to develop these things. There’s also plenty of land since half of Michigan is boonies. However, I hope the Chicago Muslim community can realize the necessity of having such infrastructure. Given that we have 400,000 Muslims in the Chicagoland area, it’s time to shift the paradigm from one that has been concerned with masjid building (or even worse, raising funds for new parking lots because they just didn’t build a big one in the first place) into a vision that includes the construction of other buildings that are vital to maintaining a community. In other words, it’s great to build masjids; but given that most of our time isn’t spent at the masjid, where should people go after they’re done praying at the masjid? The Michiganders have a model; the Chicagoans ought to adopt and modify this model accordingly.

2. I’m horrible with names and faces; there’s many times when people will remember me when they meet me and I feel like a total jerk because I can’t remember that person’s name or when/where I met them before. In order to remedy this, Suhaib and I came up with the generic name of “Abu Ratib”/”Umm Ratibah” to anyone whose names we didn’t know. Abu Ratib is a totally neutral term: it doesn’t imply any insult or praise to the person, but it’s great because it’s a useful term to refer to someone whom you don’t know. For example, during the Shifa’ Conference, someone got up and asked a very long question; rather than ask Suhaib, “yo, who is that guy?”, I could now lean over and ask Suhaib, “yo, who is that Abu Ratib?” Abu Ratib can be used as a pseudonym for anyone, whether or not you know them. For example, if friend A tells you something and you’re talking to friend B, instead of mentioning Friend A’s name or even “someone told me…”, one can just say, “Abu Ratib told me…” It’s a great name for jokes as well: I saw an empty, deserted and rotting farmhouse while we were driving and was like, “I think Abu Ratib lives there.”

May Allah bless and preserve all the Abu Ratibs and Umm Ratibahs out there.

3. While there were many great things taught during the Shifa’ Conference, I thought the most profound thing was demonstrated during Imam Zaid Shakir’s (hafizahullah) “social experiment” in the middle of sessions. He asked for 7 male volunteers and told 5 of them to make a tight circle by linking their arms together and standing as close together as possible. He then told them that Adam should not be allowed inside this circle. As for the two remaining volunteers (let’s call them Adam and Idris), he told Adam that he had 30 seconds to get inside the circle and starts counting down. Adam starts struggling, weakly at first, but then with increasing force to get inside the circle as the 5 guys are strongly resisting his advances. As the clock continues to tick, we saw that Adam was getting more and more desperate to get inside, and thus resolving to even greater force to try to get in. By the end of the 30 seconds, he hadn’t gotten in, so Imam Zaid told Adam to stand aside. Then he told Idris to try to get in and started the clock. The same exact scenario unfolded: Idris tried with more and more force to get in but the collective resistance of the interlocked arms of the five guys was too much for him and time ran out.

Imam Zaid then said that you can learn several lessons from this circle game:
a. It shows how violent people can become when there is absolutely nothing at stake.
b. It demonstrates the power of leadership and how easily common folk can be manipulated by people who abuse and misuse their power. He added that he said no one should be allowed in the circle, but what if he had said, “this is your homeland and the land of your ancestors, no one should be allowed in…”
c. Imam Zaid’s instructions to the five guys making the circle was “Don’t let Adam into the circle.” He said nothing about whether or not Idris should be allowed in. The fact that the five guys didnt let Idris in and they resisted him just as violently shows the assumptions made by those who were given instructions from leadership and how those instructions are automatically extended to others.

I would add:
a. It shows how people automatically often assume that violence or brute force is the best way to accomplish something rather than attempt to have a conversation or discussion. Neither Adam nor Idris attempted any conversation with the five guys; they were told to “try to get into the circle” and they thought that force was the only method they could use to accomplish this.
b. None of the five circle-makers asked why they had to do this or what was the purpose of all this. Instead, they blindly followed and obeyed and didn’t stop to question the authority.
c. Imam Zaid is a genius, mashallah.

I have some more lessons, but that will have to wait till Wednesday.

PS: The book below is Dr. Abd al-Hakim Jackson’s latest book… I just read the first few pages last night and it’s simply amazing so far, mashallah.


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  1. were you ‘idris’?  “…. the interlocked arms of the five guys was too much for me and time ran out. “

  2. no, i wasnt idris, that was just a typo. thanks for catching it

  3. Anonymous permalink

    post is too long…
    pictures are nice though…

  4. We all judge…
    Stanford: Before I tell you, you have to promise not to judge.Carrie: Do I judge?Stanford: We all judge. That’s our hobby. Some people do arts and crafts; we judge. ~Sex and the City

  5. Anonymous permalink

    asalaamu alaykum wrwbthanks for posting the social experiment, that’s awesome.wsalam.

  6. Anonymous permalink

    That’s a nice masjid. I have that as my background on my phone.  Its called the YMMA Masjid or something like that.  I think it was supposed to be a Sunni-Shia mosque at first, then the Sunni broke off b/c of some issues, including interest-based financing from 5/3 Bank and now its just a Shia mosque.

  7. that was a nice post

  8. i’m surprised neither of them tried the 30-second negotiation tactic.

  9. Excellent post, mA.  That “social experiment” is actually a very common demonstration in a bunch of workshops.  I was part of the inner circle in one of em.  A variation of it involved Adam and Idris joinin forces to break in.  With fraternization/negotiation b/w the outsider and circle, the peer pressure element comes into play in a bigger way.  Finally, MAJOR props on startin your way into Dr.Jackson’s book.  It is simply pivotal and an imperative read for its reevaluation, insight, and frankness (props to the Doc for takin’ on the hot shots).  Mos def this book is discussion-igniting material.  Females should see what they make of it.
    MEC is hot,IJB

  10. salam3laykum
    wow detroit looks awesome… and zaid shakir is awesome too.
    take care // wsalam

  11. Abrar632: Do you know that for a fact?

  12. Anonymous permalink

    AshabUlLail, my brother-in-law, Saqib Masood, lives there and that’s what he said.  Btw, the masjid is officially called Islamic Center of America, according to this calender I have.

  13. great post man

  14. I’m going to start calling people Abu Ratib from now on as well. Lol, that name is awesome.

  15. im glad im the mother of you children.

  16. finances aside, one of the most remarkable architectural feature of that masjid (you probably noticed) was the location of the musallah.  Its not off to a corner of the masjid and the banquet hall off in another corner– rather its completely in the center of the building, while all the rooms and hall surround it from all sides.  They made the prayer area the center of the building– the psychological and spiritual implications of that are so grand.
    fyi- the women’s mezzanine upstairs engulfs the men’s prayer area downstairs, overlooking down directly upon the mimbar.

  17. good post. who’s the stud muffin in the picture? Dang yo, how do you get so many comments on your site? I am broke at in what you succeed in.peace

  18. Anonymous permalink

    ooh la la me likey da pictures.. but i’m not a fan of the profile pic.. =I

  19. Dude, your profile picture now is almost as cool as mine.
    I went to Shatila Bakery a few years back and I was hooked. Their baklawa is really good too.
    The Imam Zaid experiment was cool too

  20. Anonymous permalink

    asalaamuAalikum yo bro your profile pic is TOOOO FUNNY!

  21. AsalamuAlaikum Warahmutullahi Brother,Amazingggggggg entry! I live in New York and yeah we might be the center of night live and the essence of fun, but subhan’Allah, this Muslim Center is no where close to anything that I have ever seen. Subhan’Allah, to have a masjidd where you can go just to chill, gender seperated everything, this is the beauty of true Islam.I know insha’Allah, these establishments are not far from being built all over the U.S. but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited! NYU is building something similar, soon, insha’Allah. Muslims in New York are hugeee in numbers but at the end of the day, it isn’t quanitity, it’s quality. We are so divided amongst ourselves that our numbers mean nothing. A masjid isn’t identified as the House of Allah anymore, it’s known as the Paki Masjid or the Afghan Mosque. Losers. No, just kidding. Insha’Allah, may Allah grant us the knowledge and opportunity to realize that we are one. May He strengthen our bonds and grant us unity. Ameen.Visual presentations are so much more easier to comprehend. Subhan’Allah, that’s a great method of explaining the homeland theory. I couldn’t agree more bro, he didn’t say anything about Idris being prohibbited. I fell for that one too. First I thought you meant Iblis and I was like wait what but then, I was like no wait, it’s Idris. lol.The concept of blind following is my favorite point. One of my favorite Sheik’s, Ibn Taymiyyah said something like, “And the four Imaams forbade the people from blindly following them and this was an obligation upon them [to do].” And of course this is backed up by Qur’an and the at Abu Ratib! The Arab version of Jone Doe, very funny I’ve written tooo much, so I’ll get going. AsalamuAlaikum Warahmutullahi Wabaraktuhu.

  22. imam zaid rocks mashallah,
    a friend of mine approached him at the last MSA east zone conference and told him that he didn’t agree with a number of statements he had made, some of them concerning the ummah and its decline.
    so imam zaid actually takes the time to sit down with him for about 40 mins and talks to him and clarifies his own points and has a whole discussion with this brother and even says things like: “no brother, im sorry, this is what i meant when i said this”, etc
    subhanallah for the humility of our scholars, may Allah preserve them.
    and my god…that gym floor looks like you could eat off of it. I don’t think desis are capable of something like that.

  23. you’re a stud Abu Ratib

  24. kr at his best masha allah…..please delay your marriage for another 10 years at least so we can enjoy your posts….:)

  25. that masjid is sooo beautiful

  26. yes mawlana nazim, that is the plan
    imam nawawi and ibn taymiyyah were geniuses… not just for their writings, but for their bachelor lifestyles =).

  27. nice post mashallah,
     u got to meet imam zaid shakir, so lucky. alhamdullilah

  28. nice post kr, u got to meet imam zaid shakir, ur so lucky

  29. KR, you can’t take credit for the term Abu Ratib, so please don’t try.And for some reason, you forgot to mention that Michigan is the home of the famous Arabic Nasheed singer who’s name is really Abu Ratib.He’s a cool guy. We brought him to Chicago last year.

  30. mashAllah..Michigan…masjids…good post Kamran…good post. I hope we all learn life’s lessons mashAllah…it’s just so awesome you know….all of life’s lessons…

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