Can’t Have A Community If You Don’t Show Up

Alienation? Detachment? Loneliness? Sound familiar? This, and more, is what I so often hear from Muslims when I run into them (everywhere else but the center). But why are so many of us feeling like we’ve lost our sense of community? Part of the problem, in my opinion, is the way in which we often diagnose the issue to begin with.

This afternoon I happened to run into a sister at a local coffee shop with whom I’m fairly well acqainted. Upon seeing me, she lamented about feeling detached from Islam, from Allah, from community. We spoke on the importance of having a community as it relates to the well-being of one’s Deen or religious/spiritual practice. She related that so many of the masajid that she attends either (a) are unwelcoming, (b) speak in a language (this case, the khutbah being all in Arabic) she doesn’t understand or (c) in a vernacular she finds irrelevant. While I sympathized at how all of those could be frustrating I also comically pointed out that (a) I was that Imam who quit his job over some of these very issues (racism, irrelevancy, etc.) but had also, along with a group of like-minded and forward-thinking Muslims, built a place that seeks to provide the very things she claimed to long for: a welcoming environment that offered religious tutelage in an environment that (we hope!) is welcoming and relevant. My point being, we’re never going to overcome these challenges if we don’t even show up. And what’s amazing is that if we just begin with showing up, many of those maladies (loneliness, alienation, etc.) seem to slowly go away; maybe not overnight, but they do abate. Fundamentally, we must switch from an entitlement world-view (or community-view) in which we feel everything ought to be all set up and ready to go before we walk in the door. We have to show up first, and work cooperatively to make things how we (and others) would like them to be. So when I asked her why she didn’t show up she just smiled and said, “I’ll have to change that.” It all begins by just showing up.

That’s what we’re working to bring to you at Middle Ground. May Allah give us Islam, guidance, and mercy. Amin.

Religious Dispatches – Post Retreat Thoughts

It was my supreme pleasure to have attended the 2012 Ella Collins Winter Retreat. I was honored to have shared a stage with the likes of Imam Suhaib Webb, Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda, Ustadh Abdur Rahman Murphy, Shaykh Wisam Sharieff, Chaplain Omer Bajwa, Mo Sabri, Chaplain Khalid Latif, Sister Ibtihaj Muhammad, Brother Hamza Abdullah and so many others. I was also honored to have met all the wonderful folks who attended. You input and questions showed your deep commitment to Islam and this Ummah. Since returning I have received a number of Tweets and emails about, “what do we do now?” It is natural after experiencing something so elating that when one comes back home, it can often leave a feeling of isolation, boredom and even depression. So my response is mainly to keep in touch! Not just with myself, or the imams, but perhaps even more importantly, with each other. Maintain your friendships. Show care and concern for one another even if you are separated by hundreds or thousands of miles. I know this is easier said than done but, God willing, we’re up to the challenge. I pray we all can meet again in 2013 (Mayan FAIL!).