Honoring Mama and a Beautiful Legacy

Greetings of Peace dear Friends,

I pray you are staying safe, healthy and well!

This week, I wanted to honor someone who we often talk about and reference in various ways for her indescribably beautiful impact on many aspects of our lives, our work and our legacy - Afaf El Nimr, or more affectionately, "Mama" - Shaykh's mother. She left this earth in 2011 but in so many ways, her legacy is imprinted in everything we do at Usuli. Hers is the Islam of beauty, reason and love that the Shaykh grew up with. Hers is the Islam of compassion, patience and strength that inspired me from my earliest days as a Muslim. And hers is the Islam of service and sacrifice, empathy, and complete faith in Allah that we teach and aspire to as elucidated in the blessed Qur'anic tafsir that we are now engaging in through Project Illumine. Her heart and soul were the Qur'an. 

I was reminded of her beauty when I was sharing this picture with a dear friend to demonstrate how quickly time passes. We were lamenting how quickly our children grow up before our eyes:

In this picture, we are seated in our Los Angeles living room (those who knew us back then, will remember that we actually had a living room before it became filled with books!). You can see the light that emanates from Mama's smile. Cherif was about 18 and little Mido on my lap was probably about two years old. Little did we know that Cherif would inspire Project Illumine - he was determined to get his Baba to finish the Qur'anic commentaries that started in the 1990's and would not rest until he got his tafsir on Surah Al Rahman! Cherif was so successful that to this day, the only surah that we have covered twice - once in the traditional line by line method and then shortly after, in the Project Illumine style - is in fact, Surah Al Rahman! And little did Mido know that he would grow up to be the other half of Mido and Baba:

It is truly head-spinning how quickly time passes. Fifteen years after that family picture in the Los Angeles living room, who would have ever believed we would be sitting in Ohio immersed in a detailed study of the Qur'an, with Shaykh sharing his lifelong journey with each chapter - much of which developed over those last 15 years! Who could have guessed that in the last year and a half (since January 2021, which feels like a blink of an eye ago) that we would have by now completed 76 surahs of the Qur'an on our way insha'Allah to completing all 114 and then ultimately publishing the whole work as a multi-volume work? Who could have imagined that in that same time, we would have launched a press and published a book like The Prophet's Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam?

I believe Mama would have been proud. She was the first woman on record to get her drivers' license in Kuwait back in the day. She built the entire social services system in Kuwait and was a legend in her time. She dedicated her life to helping others. I think she would have been proud of some of the cutting edge events we do, like this past weekend's Q&A on Spiritual and Sexual Abuse, which was excellent! 

Mama's legacy of spirit lives on in all of us. As we learned in the halaqas, you are not only rewarded for the impact you make on others in your lifetime, but also for your lasting legacy long after you are gone. It is a powerful lesson to keep in mind as we build, create and inspire goodness in our lives. May we all leave a beautiful legacy of goodness in whatever we do, long after we are gone. I pray that the work we do at Usuli will continue to be so, and that for everyone shares and spread the knowledge of the Qur'an that we are uncovering through Project Illumine, that this will become part of our collective lasting legacy in perpetuity. May God accept. Ameen! See you online soon insha'Allah!

Looking forward to seeing you online for our khutbah today and tomorrow night at 6 pm ET FOR A NEW SURAH! Please keep all of us in your prayers!! May God keep you and your loved ones safe and protected and on the most beautiful path always! Hope to see you online soon insha'Allah!

In Peace and Hope,

Grace Song
Executive Director
The Usuli Institute

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