Al salamu alaykum! I pray you are well! This week, we were blessed to begin our engagement with Surah 22: Al Hajj, which so far for me has been an eye-opening education on how far we have strayed from the Qur'an in honoring God's sacred spaces and sacred rules, specifically with relation to the sanctity of Mecca. As a convert, I was not raised with an understanding of the requisite reverence due to Mecca, the rich history of, nor the understanding of the significance of the area being God's sanctified space and what that means. It was a place of safety and refuge for all, a place where equality and piety reigned. It was not supposed to be a place where wealth, privilege, or social strata would be apparent to the eye, much less the experience of its visitors. It was not intended to be a shopping Mecca. How far we have come from that understanding, and how obscene and normalized the current status by the Qur'anic standards. May God forgive us and may we find the way back. As sad and depressing as the current state of affairs is, at the same time, the learning and awakening to the original Qur'anic injunctions on the very special status of Mecca for Muslims has been stirring and liberating. How can we even testify to the truth if we don't know it nor what was commanded by God in our Book? Alhamdulillah (thank God) for this elevated understanding.
As a convert, with this and so many other things, I have had to learn and construct my understanding of faith and Islam from not just ground zero, but often from below ground zero. Being open to and accepting a new faith and new way of living did not come from a neutral starting point. My own negative perceptions of Islam at the outset came from steady exposure to the negativity associated with Islam and Muslims through the media messaging, societal and cultural attitudes, and often straight-forward racism. All of that had to be undone or at least sufficiently mitigated, and further, replaced with true knowledge and understanding sufficient to convince an unwilling mind and heart. I believe that this is fairly typical to some degree for any religious conversion experience, but for converts to Islam in our time, it is particularly difficult and harrowing at so many levels.
It has been over thirty years of learning on this blessed journey and I am eternally grateful for God to select me for this path. As I mentioned in my last two introductions to the halaqas on Surah 22: Al Hajj, I believe that converts are not just individually blessed by being "hand-selected" by God to convert, but that they are also "chosen" because they have the potential to make a difference for the future of the Muslim community. In our work, I have had the incredible blessing of meeting many exceptional converts - beautiful human beings that have superpowers across a broad spectrum of knowledge, ability, empathy, experience, outlook and even geography. It has always been my wish to shine light on this convert experience, and this past weekend, I had the opportunity to make progress on that front with two dear convert friends, Joe and Wietske, exceptional human beings and converts, each with incredible superpowers!
Joe is the Editor in Chief of our Project Illumine tafsir publication project, and also the Editor of our new and brilliant book, The
Prophet's Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam - the physical manifestation of his superpowers. Wietske is pursuing a doctorate in law with a focus on Islam and the Environment, and as if
that was not enough of a superpower, she is also a gifted poet and musician with the voice of an angel. She performs two of her original pieces and one poem during our three-way conversation, and
blessed us with an unforgettably divine adhan (call to prayer) at the start of last week's khutbah. You can hear all three voice performances as well as the profound poem in the recording here (you can jump to the music by using the timestamps in the YouTube description for the video). I hope you will find this conversation as
engaging and interesting as we did! Insha'Allah (God willing), this will be the first of many more Exceptional Convert Conversations to come! Enjoy!
THE "SHARE WITH A FRIEND" CAMPAIGN!!
The best antidote to Islamophobia is a powerful education, and we are extremely blessed to have a very generous donor come forward to aid us in our mission. This donor was so moved by our new book, The Prophet's Pulpit: Commentaries on the State of Islam, that he has made it his cause to get a copy in the hands of every Muslim in America.
So, we are pleased to launch our "Share With A Friend" campaign! It is easy - if you have a friend who you feel will benefit from this book, send me their name, mailing address and email, and we will send them a free copy with this lovely welcome and introduction card:
And as a thank you for helping us with this campaign, we will be happy to send you your choice of an Usuli T-shirt, Usuli Mug or an eBook version of The Prophet's Pulpit (or a paperback if you don't already have one!). That's it! :)
I believe we are all connected and perhaps one or two degrees of separation from every thinking Muslim that can make a difference. Help us get The Prophet's Pulpit in everyone's hands and elevate our collective knowledge and empowerment! Feel free to write me if you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions.
Also, if you know Muslim journalists, academics, activists, politicians or influencers that would benefit, definitely let me know so we can send them a copy as well! May God bless our collective efforts!
Looking forward to our khutbah today and the continuation of our engagement with Surah 22: Al Hajj (Day 3) tomorrow!! Please keep us in your prayers! May God bless and guide you always! See you online soon insha'Allah (God willing)!
In Peace and Hope,