.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
م is a beloved, كثيرًا جدًّا, member of our family, and of the Muslim Ummah at large, Allah hummabārik. He is also the Under-16 UK Champion in (single-) stick-fighting, Maa Shaa Allah.
م is currently fifteen years old, and children (i.e., our little cousins) love to use him as… a human climbing frame [his defence: he’s “big for a reason“]. A human funfair ride, and he doesn’t seem to mind one bit. They sit on his shoulders, swing from him, play-fight with him, sometimes going a little overboard, thereby. But م is patient with them, Maa Shaa Allah, and the kids see him as their friend.
And م tends to smile, a lot.
Which Muslim figure in history inspires م the most?
At that moment, my nan had seen that م is at her house, and said a big “As-Salaaaaamu ‘alaikuuuuuum” to him, and gave him a big hug.
How did he get here, م’s aunt asks him. “Uber,” he replies, in an American accent.
And then, back to the historical figure question:
“I think the most obvious answer would be, the Prophet (SAW). Because, we are part of his Ummah. We follow him.” He mentions something about the Sunnah.
Then, our little (four-year-old) cousin Dawud comes up to م, and says to his older cousin, “you’re bapped.” We do not know what this means, but it seems to be an insult.
“You’re bapped as well now,” م returns. The two boys play together: م does something, ‘roars’, and then Dawud bursts out laughing.
“Catch,” says م, to Dawud, and he throws something. We had been in a busy living room, with our uncles/aunts, and cousins, and grandma; there had been quite an audience there.
And then م comes back to answering the question:
“Yeah, so, I think, yeah, it’s pretty obvious [that Muhammad (SAW) is the most inspirational historical figure, to him]. He’s an inspiration to the whole Ummah.”
Second, for him, is the prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) whom م is named after: Moosa (AS). One of his favourite stories about this prophet (AS) is when he had unintentionally killed a man [“I think one of my favourite stories is… him slapping a man dead.” In explaining the story, he uses sound effects: Putishhhh for the punch]. This had occurred by consequence of his physical strength, when he had gone to defend an Israelite man with whom an Egyptian had been fighting. He had fought to defend the one whom he had seen to have been correct, in that situation.
Human beings, and even prophets of God, make mistakes. Mistake-making is so fundamental to whom we are as beings. What matters, ultimately, is intention, and whether or not seek forgiveness afterwards, and work on changing our ways: upon realising that he had killed a man, Moosa (AS)’s heart had been filled with sorrow, and he turned to his Lord, seeking forgiveness.
قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي فَاغْفِرْ لِي فَغَفَرَ لَهُ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
“He said, ‘My Lord, indeed I have wronged myself, so forgive me,’ and He forgave him. Indeed, He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
— Qur’an, (28:16).
م admires the trait of “using his strength for good,” for protecting and defending the weak and oppressed, for example; for speaking the truth.
Throughout this interview, م would keep switching from more ‘serious interview’ mode, to ‘fun big brother’ mode, and then back again.
Current figures that inspire م:
“Khabib Nurmagomedov. [Of course. Unapologetically Muslim, steadfast, and really respect-worthy, Maa Shaa Allah, Allah hummabārik.]
I’d say, Jack [he’d forgotten his surname] as well, because he’s a very big UFC fighter. He’s a revert [all human beings are born into Islam, i.e. the natural disposition. For some, they may be raised in families that are not Muslim, but then they return (revert).]
He (Jack ________) is “teaching his kids Islam and the Way. He posted a picture recently, and I was [looking] at it, and it was him teaching his son how to pray. His son’s just older than Dawud [so maybe, five years old. Awwww.]”
“One of my most favourite videos was of Jack and Mike Tyson. Mike Tyson, I love the guy. But… the owner [of a restaurant or something] didn’t let two Muslim people pray, I think. So, you have Jack, who’s a champion. You have Mike Tyson, who has been called ‘the greatest [boxer]’ by the People’s Champion, Muhammad Ali, so he’s the greatest at boxing. You have their coach. Three big men, and they’re Muslim. They went into the middle, they started praying, and you can see the owner [of the restaurant] just watching them. But you’re not gonna say anything to them. They’re big men.
“The best time ever [was] when Khabib silenced Conor McGregor. Because Conor McGregor, he was the best trash-talker, but [he would go] a bit too far. So he would talk, obviously, bad about Islam. He would talk bad about Khabib’s dad [who has passed away, Allahu Yerhamuhu]. And Khabib was composed. All throughout the interview, he had dignity. And he was showing the way of the Prophet (SAW)”.
When people oppose you, or try to insult and belittle you, م says that we ought to show dignity, and not to succumb to whatever they do.
[My aunt points out that م was supposed to go to Qiyaam-ul-Layl today. This is when people go and spend a night at the masjid, praying together, and spending time with other Muslims. م was meant to go with my aunt’s husband.]
For five years now, م has been training in MMA with one of his dad’s friends, who is an MMA instructor, as well as a known community figure.
My other aunt (Dawud’s mum) tries to get م’s help in encouraging Dawud to eat his food.
“م! He’s eating rice! He’s gonna be strong like you!”
And م says to Dawud: “Come! Show me your biceps! Show me your biceps! Like this, like this.”
Another interruption: a delivery arrives at the door, and م is asked to go and get it. Pause interview.
Then: Isa, Saif, and Dawud essentially all make a pile-up on م.
م gets all of them, and he moves them (gently).
م is then taken to the naughty corner by Dawud, for doing something silly…
Some of م’s earliest memories of Islam and being Muslim include: old Nasheeds. Like, from our grandfather’s old radio. Native Deen: M-U-S, L-I-M, I’m so blessed, to be with them.
م had been very close to our grandfather, Maa Shaa Allah. He (م) used to support Chelsea, because our grandfather did. Our grandfather had been a good Muslim grandfather; prayed at the masjid, kept to his own business, listened to Nasheeds on his radio (e.g. those by Junaid Jamshed. م’s other name is Junaid, which means ‘Warrior’ in Arabic). Brought us sweets. And, our grandfather would play this fun game with us: he’d pretend to be asleep, and then we’d approach him cautiously, and then he’d suddenly wake up and start tickling us! [م lovingly, in memory, calls this game… ‘Tickle Monster’].
“It’s memories, which [we took for granted]”. And then the memories last and last.
My aunt offers me some baklava, but I say I’m okay: I had one earlier, since a sister I’d newly met had been sharing some around at the college I attend.
م says: “I think we, all of us, reflect him [our grandfather], in a way.” We are the legacy of a man who had travelled to this foreign country, at such a young age, and who had worked long hours, and who had established faith in his home, and had encouraged it in his children.
Your children are such a great legacy that you come to leave, in this world.
And then: “In Jannah, there is love without separation“. This is something I had read on a necklace, at a Muslim women’s bazaar I had gone to, on Saturday. The lady who runs this particular business told me that this particular necklace: she had designed it in honour of her son, who has passed away, Allahu Yerhamuhu (may Allah have mercy on him).
“We are his [our grandfather’s] legacy.
“Legacy, especially in fighting, it’s a really big thing. Like, legacy and honour.
“It’s a big thing, in any community.
“It’s a big deal. Although we don’t think about it [that much,] it is a big deal. The way you live: you’re honouring someone’s legacy. When your parents pass away, you’re gonna honour their legacy. Any family member passes away, anything they taught you, if they mentored you in anything, you’re honouring that legacy”.
م references a particular Hadīth, which tells us that, when a person passes away, all of his/her good deeds stop amassing, save for three sources: having righteous children who pray for him/her, continuous charity (e.g. if you have paid towards a well, or, say, an olive tree, and people benefit from them), and beneficial knowledge that you have imparted (e.g. through teaching/mentoring).
Teaching/mentoring: when there is somebody whom you respect/admire, in particular things. You connect with them; seek to emulate certain aspects of their character.
“Mentors… come from anywhere. You find mentors in the most unexpected places, you know what I’m sayin’? It’s also… their character is [now] a part of you.“
He adds that, if, say, your grandfather passes away, the way the people see him, now, is through you. He talks about, for example, respecting one’s teacher as being a part of good character; how, the people we are or have been close to… we reflect them, in how we are, and what we do.
Our aunt had been making some food, and I think she had forgotten to get carrots. So she used Getir [not sponsored] to order some. When the intercom rang again, for another food delivery, م commented: “Ay, we’re fat.“
م calls my little brother his “little baby”.
Later, while م and my little brother have a discussion about reaching manhood:
“I’m a man,” م announces. “You can hear the bass in my voice.”
He says he is also part of his MMA trainer/uncle’s legacy, now.
“He [م’s uncle and trainer]’s letting me teach now. So I’m teaching boxing: I teach the younger ones.”
My dad arrives at our grandma’s house. “As-Salaaamu-‘alaiiiikum.”
I ask م about his most favourite aspects of childhood.
“There are many. This man right here is one,” he says, talking about my dad.
Before my dad had a son of his own, he and م had been very close, and they still are, Maa Shaa Allah. My dad, for example, took م on a trip to Leicester with him when م had been very young, to get a new car (a Chrysler). And he would come along to restaurants with us, and he would come to our house quite often too.
“The philosophy of fighting: it’s a lot. I’ve picked it up [through practice]. Someone telling you this wouldn’t suffice, so you have to experience it for yourself. It’s a whole lot of learning, understanding, discipline, tactics, pushing yourself. Pushing yourself is a big thing. Motivation.”
“Hello, people from the future! Hello! My name’s Isa! Hello!” م’s little (ten-year-old) brother, my cousin, shouts for the recording. “We are people from the past!“
The little boys ‘do too much’, so م does his countdown: 5, 4, 3, 2…
Isa went and lay down against his older brother, and م hugged him. Brotherly love. “He lives in my room,” م says. “I have no choice.”
“My room!” Isa protests.
“We’re not starting this again!” م says, jovially. “Yo, yo, yo, yo. We’re not starting this again! Whose desk, whose wardrobe, whose everything?”
“My wardrobe, my poster, my—”
“You have one section of the wardrobe. And I allow you that section.”
I ask Isa what he loves about م, his older brother. And Isa says: “Everything.”
How does م like to spend his time?
With his boyz, of course. And:
“I like learning.”
م is distracted from this conversation again, seeing if his grandma needs his assistance with her phone or something. He speaks to her, as usual, in such a gentle and lovely way.
“Right now, I’m listening to people like Mohammed Hijab. Smile2Jannah. Ali Dawah, all of them. With Mohammed Hijab, he is very… gifted, Maa Shaa Allah. The way he composes a debate.
“It’s very tactical. It’s almost like it’s a way of fighting, with words. It’s the same philosophy, but it’s the [lack of] physicality, that’s different. And I don’t mind that.”
It’s using words instead of fists, م says.
“I love debating. I debate my teachers in school. Just for the fun of it.” م is very much a people’s person, Maa Shaa Allah. Popular and beloved.
“I’ve been taken out of many classes where they’re teaching this stuff [LGBT, unbridled sexuality…].”
Once, a (Muslim) teacher of his said that the Qur’an is “outdated”.
“It really ticked me off, and to really tick me off in school, takes a lot.”
“Yeah, you can have an opinion. But that opinion: it doesn’t make sense if there’s a fact that goes against it.”
“If there’s a car, and it’s red, but I say, in my opinion, I feel like it’s blue… I can’t then say, tell everyone, I saw a blue car, when in actuality, it was red.”
He says that the Qur’an is a magnificent and amazing book, when you look into it. م mentions something about a Qur’anic feature that relates to chronology: ‘Ākhirah’. The eternal afterlife, following Yawm-ul-Qiyaamah [the Day of Judgement,] which hasn’t yet happened yet, but it will happen; how could the Qur’an be “outdated”?
In terms of chronology, the Qur’an refers to the past, the present, the future, and to how Allah is outside of time.
And: “[Even] if He [Allah] says, it’s [i.e. the Qur’an is] only relevant to the people of Muhammad (SAW), are we not them?”
“So, that was a whole debate. And, another time was when… I laughed at a picture.” The picture: a random rock picture. One of those island ‘rock heads’. “You know Night in the Museum? He calls the guy ‘Dum-Dum’“.
The picture happened to have been created by an ‘LGBTQ artist’. “I didn’t know what it was […] I just didn’t understand it. So I was like, ‘ay, look at it. It looks like one of my friends’.” His head of year (who used to be my head of year) walked in.
“Me and my boy, we just looked at each other, like ‘Ah, not again.'”
“She took us out, she started screaming at us.”
“She was like, ‘If you were in an all-Christian school, and you were the only Muslim there, and there was a picture about Islam, and they were laughing about Islam, would you still not be offended?'”
It was… a rock head.
“If it’s a funny picture, it’s a funny picture.“
But م pointed out that, Miss, if it’s a funny picture, people will laugh. He said that if it was by a Muslim, and it was funny, he’d laugh.
“She started saying, ‘Don’t get an attitude’.”
“I said, ‘It’s not ‘attitude‘. It’s just logic.’ And, obviously, that got me in more trouble.”
“Oh, 100%,” م agrees, that schools can be ideological factories.
“You’re telling me, I can wear a [poppy] because it commemorates and makes you remember millions of people who died in a World War. But the minute I walk in with a Palestinian flag… It’s a whole ‘problem’.
“That’s another thing that happened, and I had another debate about it.”
His head of year had made him take off his Palestine badge, because ‘it’s a political matter’.
“I said to my teachers, the minute I see an Israeli flag [hanging in the school], just know it’s coming down. I don’t care.”
When م was much younger, he used to frequently use the excuse, “My mum saiiiiid…” when he wanted to do something. He also used to love Spider-Man, and used to call pyjamas ‘capoot’ [‘Khafor’ in Bengali means ‘clothes’, and I think this is what he’d been trying to say.]
Once, as a young child, as م lovingly recalls, he thinks he had an accident or something, and he got into some trouble for it. His response: “My mum said I can do it.”
My nan had been a bit confused as to why I’d been having this recorded conversation with م.
م explains to my nan, using terrible Bengali grammar: “I’ve become famous.” [‘Ami famous oigiseh’: ‘I he’s become famous’].
What kind of person is م trying to be?
“I’m trynna be a person that, first of all… reflects Islam.
His favourite subject, at school?
He jokingly expresses a bit of disgust at the subject of school: “Urgh“. But then:
“I think, Maths. I’ve started to grow [an enthusiasm for it].” Before, he says, in Year Nine, he used to look at his timetable, see Maths, English, Science, and… “I used to hate it.”
“But then: I have a [particular] Maths teacher now, and I can tell you right now, forever, (In Shaa Allah) he’ll be my favourite teacher.”
Mr. Zaydi, who is Muslim, and ethnically Pakistani.
“I talk about him highly. He used to teach in Biyya’s college. [‘Biyya’: a title of seniority and respect, in Bengali, meaning ‘big brother’].”
“Firstly, he’s a young teacher. He understands, and he’s been through all of it. He’s a really relaxed but strict guy, at the same time. I can tell you now, I’ve learnt more with him [pause, as م is called by our aunt, who wants to tell him something about what the kids are doing].
“Yeah, so… With him, it’s just like, it’s having a friend as a teacher.
“So, he’ll joke with you, you’ll joke with him, but when it’s time to get work done, it’s time to get work done.“
Teaching is a human enterprise.
“At the end of the day, we’re all human. We get tired, he gets tired.”
And م agrees that we learn best when we’re enjoying what we’re learning.
“Like, we make jokes and everything, and he’ll be like, ‘okay, you’re making jokes, do the work’. He’ll dash a pen at you, and he’s like, ‘get up and do it’. And the pressure, it’s just fun.
“And when you get it right, and when you’re correcting him as well, and you start violating him [as a joke], like, ‘oh, yeah, I’m better than you now!’ And then he’ll violate you back. It’s just that fun thing that… you know, I’m actually considering taking [A-level Maths]. I’ve put it down, on the paper. [Khayr, In Shaa Allah, with that!]
“Because he’s showed us ways to enjoy working out problems. So before, it used to be ‘x equals this, How would you find out x,’ and everything. But he’ll explain to you, everything, but he’ll also not… burden you with it.”
What makes a good role model or mentor figure?
“Someone you can relate to, I’ll be real.”
He talks about people who, maybe, don’t ‘get‘ the students they are teaching; who might try to assume a blatant attitude of superiority, looking down on whom they are seeking to teach. The absence of true, meaningful, connection. Perhaps ‘lecturing’ too much, trying to make students feel bad for being from the backgrounds that they are; being too focused on rules, negativity, prohibitions, grades.
“They try and show their lifestyles as the ‘heroic’ and the ‘ambitious’ lifestyle.”
م reckons that the difference between a ‘mentor’ and a ‘role model’ is that a mentor is a more… humanised figure. Closer to you, so you can see their (holistic, strengths-and-flaws) humanity better. No human being alive is deserving of being idolised.
Apparently, sometimes م says ‘Wagwarn‘, ‘wha you sayyin’ to his teachers… He’s able to have ‘banter’ and friendly relationships with them.
م then talks about the art of changing register: speaking in different ways, for different purposes, in different contexts. One way with people he is friendly with, and another, altogether, in his test papers, or when the situation is a bit more serious.
[My aunt had been in the room, designing little packages for some little gifts: bubble-tea key-rings. She asks for our input. “Does that make sense: may life never burst your bubbles.” I say, that’s cute, that’s nice. م says: “Always tell me the tea.” I say: “Spill the tea.” م says: “It’s tea-time!“.]
Back to role models:
“It’s about balance. Strict, but gentle, and respectful, as well.
“So, although [someone might be] older than me, it doesn’t mean you [seek to] control my life, you control the way I live.
“I show you respect, you show me respect.
“Also, you have to be nice. I can’t stress this enough.“
“I don’t want someone screaming at me, the whole time. I wanna be inspired.” He talks about how Islamic speakers like Mufti Menk, and Nouman Ali Khan, do this well. Being nice, being humorous. Relatable, also, and, still, relatively strict.
Serious about serious things. And fun and humorous when the context is right for it.
“That’s a mentor: you can relate to him, you know that you can talk to him. You know you can approach him.
“And you can’t force the bond.”
م says that it is important for we Muslims to be intelligent, because:
“Our Deen is everything. Without [Allah], we are nothing. So why shouldn’t we protect our Deen in any way we can?”
With our communities, with what we do, with our intellectual capabilities, with our physical abilities to protect the weak and oppressed…
[م has to go and deal with something to do with one of the kids again. He calls our little cousin, Siyana, “baby”. Siyana loves this guy, Maa Shaa Allah. Allah hummabārik, who doesn’t love م, in this family?]
“People forget the Golden Age of Islam, and that was the age of knowledge.“
The first word to have been revealed, of the Qur’an, had been:
اقْرَأْ, which means:
“Read, in the name of your Lord, who created…” [Qur’an (96:1)].
Allah has given us intellects. And bodies, to take care of. Other people, to love. Communities, to be a part of. Other ‘nations and tribes’, to get to know.
“With the Golden Age of Islam, people are forgetting that we still use [the things they discovered/pioneered] today.” He talks about algebra (from the Arabic: الجبر).
“We [Muslims] should be the light. If a person is in darkness, you should be the light that pulls them back. And with that, you’ll find many ways [to] appreciate life more.”
م talks about being there for people in their darkest times. He has a big heart, Maa Shaa Allah, and this is shown, ‘effortlessly’, in what he does.
“In this day and age, this generation will never fail to baffle me. It’s crazy: drug dealers have tried getting me to pray.
“They’ve literally said the words to me: ‘Hayya ‘alas Salaah’ [a part of the Adhaan, the call to prayer, which means ‘Hasten to the prayer’. In the Adhaan, it is followed by the line, ‘Hayya ‘alal Falaah’, translatable to, ‘Hasten to success‘.]”
“I’ve seen them do stuff. But this guy still comes to me, and he tells me, ‘Oh, it’s time for Salaah, let’s go pray.’“
“My barber: I sit on the barber chair, and we have a genuine conversation. He is from that life. And he constantly tells me: ‘Bro, you’re nothing without your Lord. You’re nothing without your Lord.“
“In this day and age, that lifestyle, that ‘roadman lifestyle’, it’s so heavily praised. Like, ‘Oh, look at his track!” Drugs, and music, and money, and easy and quick ‘intimacy’, and cars.
“In the end… I’ll talk about this stuff as many times as I need. Like, I’ve talked to my boyz about it. [Some of them] do stuff like that, and I’ve talked to them. I’m like, ‘Bro. That money you’re making now, you ain’t gonna do nuffink with it, in the future.
“There’s genuinely no Barakah [blessings] in it. Anything that you buy: yeah, you’re trynna buy your mum a new house, but that house is Harām. You can’t sugarcoat it.
That food you bought: it’s Harām. There’s nothing [no good] that will come out of it.”
م talks about how using Harām money to invest in the future, towards your family… it’s still Harām money. If you use Harām money to, say, pay for your wedding, “It’s Harām money, so there’s no Barakah in that.”
He agrees that these things tend to exhibit a ‘ripple effect’: Harām money to pay for a wedding, a lack of blessings in the wedding and ultimately, perhaps, in the marriage, “so now, yeah, there’s problems everywhere.”
Sometimes, it can be easy to be drawn by the ‘quickness’ and the ‘shininess’ of things: the way they are presented, say, on Instagram. But the truth catches up to us, and long-term, choosing the Harām over the Halāl is unquestionably deeply detrimental.
“There’s many ways to avoid it, but once you’re in that lifestyle, say you’ve made millions, and you’re living that ‘lavish’ lifestyle, but you’re living on Harām money,” he agrees that such a lifestyle, in truth (and perhaps, behind the scenes of Instagram,) is “spiritually empty”.
م talks about how, theoretically, someone could well earn that money, live that lifestyle. But if, at any given moment, they have that epiphany that… this is wrong, they ultimately have to give it all away. Start all over again, say, at the age of thirty.
Why do men seem to connect with their barbers so much?
“It’s therapeutic. It’s just, you’re sitting there for an hour, you’re not doing anything.”
Another thing: “You don’t cheat on your barber. You choose one, you stick with him. And so, you create the bond with your barber. So now you sit on his chair, and now he knows your name… It’s a loyalty thing.”
“I literally go there, I sit down, he knows what I want, and I pay him. That’s it.”
His advice to his younger brothers: “Yeah, you can see how [some] people are living. But… don’t idolise how it is. Yeah, you’re seeing all these people buy new cars daily and everything…”
I say that it really seems quite ‘image-based’. م says:
“It’s all… social media.”
[Siyana does something funny, and م laughs out loud.]
“But yeah, you see this lifestyle. Don’t idolise it. It’s one of the worst things, because then you build up that… ‘aspiration’. You wanna live ‘lavish’.”
م talks about Muslim Belal (Ashley Chin). There are people who have been ‘on road’, they’ve experienced the reality beneath those mirage-like images. And they turned back to Allah: we are nothing without Him.
“He [Muslim Belal]’s a Muslim, an inspirational [speaker], he’s a traveller now. He travels the world for charity [work].”
م talks about some people he knows of, who have been in that lifestyle. He said he’s seen, as the “life had been drained out of them, they don’t care about what they’re doing anymore. Half of the time, they’re not even themselves. You’ll destroy your life like that.”
[And what is al-Hayaatud-Dunya, except an illusion, the enjoyment of delusion?]
“It’s become a craze now. But you choose who your inspirations are.”
م says one should aspire to have a ‘good life’: money, fun, and so on. But, as Muslims: through the correct avenues, and Allah will return you with Barakah, and with better.
“My maths teacher: he grew up in this life. Mr. Zaydi. He grew up in this life, and he’ll tell you [about his] experience. Say, if he can see we’re not doing well, and we’re not taking life seriously, […] he’ll be like, ‘Look at the life around you’. He’ll tell us about his own experiences.” م says these talks “give you a whole new outlook.”
“Don’t idolise it. You can do so much better than that life. It’s… you’re not gonna get anywhere, with it. You’ll see it now, like, ‘Yeah, I’m making money…’. It’s quick money [easy come, easy go, and a cheap/shallow form of ‘respect’ that you earn].”
“It’s quick money, it’s a quick death […] full of sin.“
“We talked about legacy. What legacy do you have? What are you remembered for?”
“The boys I’m talking about right now, [if] they die tomorrow. What do I have, to remember them with?”
“Another thing is: occupy yourself with good stuff. With meaningful [activities]. Don’t take the stuff you’ve been given, for granted.”
He talks about his mosque class, which he initially didn’t like the idea of having to attend every single day, after school. But there had been goodness therein:
“But the thing is, I have so many fun experiences while being at Fora [‘reading class’, in Bengali]. Some [memories]: we used to have wrestling matches, in the mosque. I can’t [name] any of my friends who’ve done that. They haven’t been to the mosque enough to do that.”
م says another way he likes to use his time is by going “gym”.
“That’s another thing: if you can, gym, or fighting, or exercise.” He talks about the therapeutic quality of doing so.
“I don’t even need to go with earphones, or listen to anything. I could go there with my own thoughts, and I’m just there, working out. There have been times, I’ve gone with my boyz, we haven’t talked to each other at all. We’ve just been doing our stuff. And then we chill for a bit after.”
Fighting, says م, “changes the way you think [about] life“.
“Another big inspiration that has spoken about his experiences: Cassius Clay. He is now Muhammad Ali. His bike got stolen, he went to a policeman, and the policeman told him, you should join a boxing club or something.“
Then Muhammad Ali became the People’s Champion. A role model, soul like a butterfly [sting like a bee]. “And now his grandson is carrying on that legacy. His grandson is using them same steps, them same moves that his grandad has made the world see.”
“So, occupy yourself with good. Occupy yourself with good people. Don’t… chill with the people that will pull you away from [goodness].”
We are essentially going… where our friends are going.
“[O Muhammad], tell My servants who have believed to establish prayer, and spend from what We have provided them, secretly and publicly, before a Day comes in which there will be no exchange, nor any friendships.”
— Quran, (14:31).
On the Day of Judgement, some will be ‘biting their hands in regret‘:
“Oh, woe to me! I wish I had not taken that one as a [close] friend.“
— Quran, (25:28).
م says that one thing that really affected the way he views things is the fact that, on Judgement Day, the other prophets will be concerned with “Nafsee, Nafsee” [“myself, myself”], fearful of their sins, fearful of Allah’s judgement. And Muhammad (SAW) will say: “Ummatee, Ummatee” [“my Ummah, my Ummah”]. The people that follow him… [Another interruption/distraction. م tells someone to “lock the bathroom door,” probably to keep the little kids out].
“Yeah, so, you can choose. Yeah, it’s gonna look like, ‘I’m the ‘Religious One”. Like, I get called that, all the time.
“But the thing is, in Year Seven, I didn’t like it. [Some people mock at the ‘Religious One’].”
It’s normal to want to “chill with the ‘cool people'”, to want to “become popular and everything”.
“Popularity didn’t mean nuffink. It’s so empty. It gets dropped instantly.”
To be the ‘Religious One’ means: to know that the ones who mock will not win, and you have your Lord. You will die, and they [the mockers] will die.
Sometimes, you may have to walk alone, sit alone, pray alone, be called this or that. There’s strength in that, and so. Much. Of Goodness. [Strength comes through difficulty. The most beautiful, valuable things: through struggle].
“You get a choice. Say, there’s a friend that pulls you to Jummah [congregational Friday prayer], or there’s a person that will… tell you to come to the football match [at that time, instead]. You choose. You make the choice. But that choice will reflect you.“
م talks about a hypothetical scenario: if a ‘boi’ of his were to encourage him to go to Jummah, consistently every Friday, and م keeps saying no: “There’s gonna be a week where he stops. ‘I’m not gonna tell him to come Jummah. I know it’s gonna be wasted.’ [In this hypothetical scenario,] firstly, I’ve lost respect: that person will have lost respect for me. Secondly, I’ve lost a good friend. And thirdly, I’ve just walked away from Deen. [That’s] a figure of speech, but it’s literal as well: [walking away from one’s Deen].”
“Okay, say you don’t have anyone like that. Be that person. Be that person that tells everyone, ‘Yeah, it’s Jummah time. Let’s go’.”
م talks about how, in Year Seven, Year Eight, Year Nine, sure, you might feel ‘burdened’ by being seen as ‘the Religious One’, and so on. But then: as others around you start to develop and mature… you’re left with the longer-lasting, more durable reward: real respect. [Difficult come, difficult go, perhaps.]
“It just takes a bit of time. It [might take] a couple years. But if you’ve solidified your knowledge in Islam, then I’m telling you, people will come to you, in Year Eleven. People still come to me.”
In Arabic, the word for ‘to go’ [i.e., somewhere] is: ذهب (Tha-ha-ba). The word for gold… is the same thing: ذهب. One of my teachers explained that, in Arabic, everything is connected. People might go to the man who has lots of gold. But they love not the man, but his gold.
So when the gold goes away from him, those people go, too.
However, if someone loves you for your Deen, your heart, your character: that stays, eternally.
“The ‘cool’ people that you once wanted to be with, and you once wanted to be: they’re now coming to you for help. And that’s a [great] feeling.” It’s respect that has been well-earned. And it’s having the goodness of this life, as well as the goodness of the hereafter.
م talks about how his friendship group have more mature conversations (now). But one of their friends had still been, perhaps, at an earlier stage of learning Islam. “So he was still getting to know his Deen.”
“And we were there for him. He questioned [lots of things]; we gave him an answer. But… you have to want to ask the questions.”
[Another interruption: م asks the little kids, “Who farted?!“]
م then talks about humility. There’s no place for arrogance, in Islam.
“The way of Islam is… show the Truth. Don’t scream the Truth. Show the Truth.”
[Interruption: م’s older sister calls for his attention.]
[Then: “Who farted again?! It’s you, innit?! It was you!” He accuses one of the little kids of having passed wind, and then kisses them on the cheek.
Our little four-year-old cousin then calls م for his attention:
م is loved, Allah hummabārik.]
“He does not belong to us [Muslims], who does not show mercy to our young, and honour [the right of] our old.”
— A saying attributed to Muhammad (SAW), [Sahih Abu Dawud, Ahmad, and Tirmidhi]
“I won’t be scared to say, yeah, I love Christianity. Yeah, I love Judaism. I love it. It’s part of my religious history.” He points out that some people only study the Qur’an, in looking at Islam.
“No, I can quote the Bible sometimes. I can tell you, in the Bible, where it says the ‘Trinity’ shouldn’t exist. Jesus said, ‘Worship not me, but my [Lord] who art in heaven’. So how, then, are you calling him God?”
“In the Bible, it says, ‘This [the miracles that Jesus had been made capable of carrying out] is from God‘. He [Jesus] doesn’t say, ‘This is from me‘.“
He continues by talking about the Christian concept of ‘Original Sin’, and how Jesus (AS) had presumably come to ‘absolve’ the people of this. “What about the people before Jesus ‘died for [his followers’] salvation?”
Did Jesus (AS) die to atone for Adam (AS)’s original sin? Muslims say: no.
“People don’t understand the true meaning of [Jesus (AS)’s miracles].” They were signs, pointing towards the power of God. Like how, during Muhammad (SAW)’s lifetime, the moon split. And NASA, apparently, has found the line where it did.
[م’s older sister is playing with the kids, in the background. She is making duck sounds. Quack, quack, quack. Old MacDonald had a farm…]
My uncle (apologised, asked if we’re still recording our interview, and) started talking to me about a random thing we had spoken about recently: what makes a good parent?
“And it suddenly hit me: it’s mercy.
“Because the mercy you show your child is what determines the meaning of the Du’a the child makes for you later. [That Qur’anic Du’a: My Lord, have mercy on my parents the way they had mercy on me when I was young]. So the meaning of that Du’a changes based on the mercy you showed with your child.
“My knowledge is limited, but I don’t know of another Du’a that’s predicated like that.”
About م, our uncle loves that م seems to have “an unconditional sense of satisfaction. So: it’s not relative to anybody else. His own satisfaction, and happiness, judgement, is based on his principles, his ideals. It’s a very difficult thing to teach“. Our uncle also thinks, and I agree, that م is ‘unassuming‘: he comes to people with a big and open heart and smile. Without pretence, without a need to exercise ‘superiority’.
م’s favourite things in life: Deen. Family. Friends. Having experiences.
“You’ve been put on this Earth for a reason. If you’re just gonna waste it, living the same life, being the same [exact] person, what was the point of life?”
م likes the idea of having new experiences, learning, and “changing, as well”.
“You can’t wake up every day being the [exact] same person. Every [night] you go to sleep, you’ll have to have learnt something new. Done something new. Done something good.“
“What was the point,” if we remain the same throughout these years (these experiences, and these hardships) of ours? [This idea brings me comfort. Because sometimes we cringe so much at, and really regret, things we have done/said, in the past. But that’s a good sign: we learned, and we grew and changed.]
“To push yourself through the hardest times: that’s true discipline. [When you are] giving up, but you still push on.”
[م’s older sister refers to him as “security. Take him [one of the kids] off.”
م talks a little about Brother Ali Banat: a Lebanese Muslim brother from Australia, who had “the cars, the clothes, ‘everything’. He had the money, ‘everything‘.” He had cancer, and he saw his illness “as a gift.”
“He saw his hardship as a gift, and if you can see the hardship[s] you’ve been given [as a gift], yeah, while you’re going through it, while you’re struggling, it’s a struggle. But after you’ve overcome it, it’s actually a gift. Because it’s giving you the opportunity to be a whole new person.” Come back to Deen, use your wealth, your time, your life, towards Allah.
م goes on to talk about the story of the People of Thāmūd: a people who had carved their giant homes in the mountains, and Allah speaks about them in His Book.
“So you can imagine the amount of power, and the sheer strength they had.
“And their houses are still there.”
“Similar situations [as yours] have passed on before you, so proceed throughout the Earth and observe how was the end of those who denied.”
— Qur’an, (3:137)
“They were massive, [and] they were dominating everything. They got ahead of themselves, and they forgot: without Allah, you aren’t anything.”
“They became arrogant, so you know what Allah did? He sent a [blast from the sky], and He killed them all.
“[They, the People of Thāmūd] have no descendants; there’s no lineage, there’s no nothing.”
Your Lord is the One who created you. Gave you your body, your wealth, your family, your blessings. He can take back these things in an instant, and to Him we return.
“In this day and age, death is very ‘weird’ to talk about. [Some] people don’t have that wisdom, about death. To them, death is… ‘That’s it, it’s the end‘. ‘YOLO, you only live once’.
“Especially in my generation: you’re living your life like there is no tomorrow. But there will be a tomorrow: after you die, there will be something else. And once you’ve learnt that, it [might be] too late. But death is something that will come. But it’s not something that [tends to be] remembered.“
Back to legacy: how our late grandfather has left behind… us, as part of his legacy. “So we have to honour it.”
م has been working on a charity project: raising funds in order to build two homes for orphans, in Bangladesh, in honour of his late maternal and paternal grandfathers. “To honour their legacy.”
[My little brother excitedly asks us if we want to play Mafia.]
Also during this interview: three-year-old Siyana punched م, and made an ‘angry’ face. م kissed Dawud on the forehead. Saif (my little brother) went and sat on م’s shoulder. Saif and Isa sat on the side, and listened attentively to their big brother م talking. Saif started singing a funny song involving a “ping-pong ball, ping-pong, ping-pong, ping-pong,” and then Dawud exclaimed, “LOUDER!”
Our aunt tried to feed م some baklava. One of the little kids called م’s older brother a “stinky girl”.
Finally, the importance of good alternatives:
“Say, if I didn’t have the gym, if I didn’t have training, if I didn’t have stuff like that… Yeah, I would’ve had mentors and figures to stop me, but ultimately, I know I would [probably] succumb to peer pressure, and I wouldn’t do something stupid-stupid like that, but I would [probably] try something stupid.
“Because it’s human nature.“
He talks about how the “discipline [he’s acquired] from gym, and training, and sports” has really helped him, in that sense, and he also relays a story:
م had witnessed someone do a ‘balloon’ (N2O, laughing gas). “And his mind went blank. He went to the floor and he started spazzing. And I jumped up [to help him].
“He slugged to the floor and he started spazzing [i.e. convulsing]. He got up, [and] he was like, ‘Give me more’.”
م thinks that, as well as mutual respect and not having a “massive social media presence” being key ingredients to having a good life:
“If you were in front of the Prophet (SAW)… obviously, everyone sins, but… if he saw you, would he be proud… of you being part of his Ummah?“
“Because if not… the Prophet (SAW) was one of the hardest people to displease. Even in the eyes of his enemies, he was warm, and he was welcoming.“
Would Muhammad (SAW) recognise you, as a member of the Muslim Ummah?
Allah had granted Moosa (AS) good health, strength, knowledge, and wisdom. The weak and oppressed had turned to him for protection and justice, and he had been favoured by Allah Himself: the greatest possible honour. And my cousin م seems to be following in his (i.e. the prophet whom he has been named after) footsteps, Maa Shaa Allah.
The haircut that م likes to get: he keeps it “long,” and then he gets a “taper”. He is also growing his beard out: “my dignity“.
About Moosa (AS), in the Qur’an, Allah says:
“And when he attained his full strength and was mature, We bestowed upon him wisdom and knowledge.
And thus do We reward the doers of Good.”
— Qur’an, (28:14).