Ladies’ Qur`an Class By Fatimah Murad

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

P1040696 A delighted chatter permeates the room, occasionally an effusive call of “Assalamu-alaikum,” or “Alhamdulillah,” rises above the general murmur as two sisters greet each other for the first time. The setting is the Qiyam-ul-Layl program, organized by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) sisters-wing’s Chicago-land unit.

The majority of the participants are the regular attendees of a Quran Tafseer Class, also organized by the ICNA sisters. The class takes place in the morning after fajr prayer in a conference call room, throughout the year it takes place every Saturday and focuses on select Surahs but during Ramadan it becomes a daily occurrence so as to complete the reading of the entire Quran, in English translation, within the blessed month. This is the third year that it is taking place and, where it started as a local meeting involving sisters from the Chicago metropolitan area, it has now grown to include sisters from various states including Michigan, Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina and even from as far as Bahrain. There is diversity not only of location but also of background, there are revert Muslimahs and born Muslimahs who hail from various different nations. Many are of African American or South Asian background but there are also sisters from the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and the Philippines.  

Every morning, the sisters take turns reading a few of the ayahs punctuated by brief explanations and insights into the Surahs by Huma Murad and Amina Jaffer-Mohsin, the two moderators. Roll is called every class by the ever reliable Amidah Burton, to acknowledge the nearly forty participants. Through sharing their love for the Quran and Allah, the attendees have come to know and love each other as well. One sister, Afsheen Khan summed up the shared sentiments of many participant in commenting that though she had physically attended similar classes before “…this was special because of meeting so many sisters and [feeling such] spirituality.” Sister Shahina Begg who has been a regular attendee for all three years continued in a similar vein when she commented that she felt blessed in being introduced to the class because it “brought me closer to Islam and my sisters,” she added that though she initially only met her fellow participant on phone she felt compelled to “keep in touch throughout my life and inshallah stay spiritually connected.”

It was in hopes of fostering this bond, and to reap the most benefits from the blessed odd nights of the last third of Ramadan, that the Qiyam-ul-Layl event was organized. The class participants are given a chance to meet face to face, some sisters travelling from out-of-town to take advantage of the opportunity, and share a night of spirituality and sisterhood. As sister Jameela Karim explained, “The Qiyam-ul-Layl is the glue of the class, and having the program helps us put it all together. Seeing the people you hear every morning, you are fully connected.” Many sisters said they felt it created something akin to family ties.

The program allowed the sisters to share food and each other’s company, but also to join together for congregational prayers of Taraweeh and Tahajjud, and group discussions on spirituality and remembrance of God. Revert sisters, who constituted a majority among the nearly fifty attendees, shared stories of their early struggles with their families in the way of Islam, while their companions reminded the group that the greatest struggle took place within and that we all had our own hurdles to overcome. One of the greatest examples of triumph that the sisters witnessed at the Qiyam-ul-Layl was in meeting sisters Habiba Castulo and Hina Altaf, both legally blind from birth, who regularly attend the class and diligently read the Qur’an in Braille.

Jamila Yusuf commented to great agreement how she was “inspired by Habiba and Hina’s dedication to the Quran.” It was one of many instances where the sisters felt their faith had been strengthened by their fellow Muslimahs.

Though initiated as a rather humble project in hopes of sharing the knowledge of God’s word, the Quran Tafseer Class has grown into something unique and transcendent. It is difficult for any of the participants to explain exactly why this class, among so many similar ones, feels special. Moderator Huma Murad has a theory that it is due to its timing, the Prophet (s) spoke many times on the blessings of reading Quran after fajr. The greatest factor in its success, however, is the dedication and enthusiasm of its members. Newcomer Vonzella Matin called being introduced to it the “best gift I could have been given,” by sister Amidah, but she and her fellow participants have, with the help of Allah, given this gift to each other many times over.

11-39

Interview with Two Blind Muslim Pakistani Students, Imran Ahmed, Hina Altaf…

June 18, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Adil James, MMNS

DSC_0003r Speaking on the phone with Imran Ahmed, there is no way that a person could know that he is disabled, he has the same accent one would expect, and the same manners, but perhaps there is a gentleness to him, a mercy that has come to his heart from his illness. 

Imran Ahmed and Hina Altaf are brother and sister, although perhaps you might not know it from their names.  He is named after one side of the family, she after another.  And yet although they do not share a surname they share an unfortunate disease which has caused their blindness.

“We both have been blind since birth,” Imran explains, “we both have the same disease, none of our other family members have it–we both have light sections, light and dark, and we can tell how intense light is.  But we can’t see colors or shapes.  The disease is hereditary…  It is a very rare disease, and there are 2 cases every five years.” 

The two are studying at Carroll University in Waukesha Wisconsin, close to Milwaukee. He is 24, she is 25, and they hope to graduate next year.

“We were in Pakistan,” he explains, “my father’s cousin lived in Waukesha, and he suggested Carroll College–we applied and were accepted.”  After they found sponsors to help them, they came.

Despite their studies, they maintain contact with the Muslim community although such contact is difficult since they have to depend on others to bring them to and from the mosque, and since the Muslim community at their school is extremely small.

Hina - Comp 1 Imran explains, “Unfortunately it’s a very very small college, we are the only two Muslim students from Pakistan—there is another student that she lives up campus, we don’t have any Muslim student associations on campus.”

Although there are few Muslims, several people have been very helpful to the brother and sister.

“For at least one year into our stay, we didn’t know anybody,” says Imran.  “But one of our American friends brought us to the Islamic Center in Milwaukee,”  35 minutes away from campus.

Between the US and Pakistan, Imran explains, “there is a tremendous difference… in Pakistan, people don’t understand the meaning of a white cane–travel is difficult and dangerous.  There are potholes, there is always construction on the roads.  That hinders a lot of blind people from travelling.  The layout of roads is different.  Here there is always a curb so you know you are getting close–here there is a strategy to cross roads… things are a little better planned out here.  People have been more accepting here.  Even if people are reluctant to give you an opportunity, but there is always a hope that you will have an opportunity.  A lot of people of people appreciate and give you the opportunity to do things.”

Imran has optimism about his future–he and his sister both intend to build lives for themselves, each of them intends to work and marry as circumstances permit.
The difficulties they face, of course, make a mockery of the difficulties that many Muslims and others encounter–in order to study they must either find books in braille or find audio versions of their books–something which was nearly impossible in Pakistan.

Imran explains that he hopes to find a job in tech support or web design—”if possible, I would like to eventually move on to adaptive access technology, teach blind people, or sighted people how to use adaptive technology.”

And they would like to improve conditions in Pakistan for people who are not sighted.

“We want to start a Braille library, in Urdu,” and he wants to help to create OCR software for reading into Urdu as well.

To contact Imran: iahmed@carrollu.edu, or 262-305-9709.