Day 28 – Phoenix, AZ
Peace and blessings to All. This is Hamza Abdullah checking in for the Abdullah Brothers Ramadan Tour. This was an official homecoming for me. I knew it would be emotional, but I didn’t know to what extent. We started the day by treating a few patrons to lunch at Munchie’s cafe in Tempe. Every year, I try and do a get together with the people who follow me on twitter. There’s always one family I can count on to be there. Kunle and Tara Ransom. They’re the Die hard Cardinals fans, that don’t go too far. They keep it cordial, and they’re very respectful. They have the cutest kids too. I think the youngest one is straight on me though. He never wants to give me a high 5. LOL. They were accompanied by a few more regulars, Renee and Sue. They’ve been following me since I got to AZ, so I just wanted to say thanks. They were all a bit thrown off when they saw the cameras…ESPN followed us for the day. It was very exciting, and God willing, I can’t wait to see the finished product.
After lunch, the next appointment was at ICC Tempe Masjid. The on campus Mosque at Arizona State University. It’s rather large, and the crowd matched the structure. We sat and told our story, had Q & A, then took pictures. The amazing part of this site was the interaction of the ESPN crew. They had never been in a Masjid before, so I’m sure, it wasn’t what they expected. The best way to learn is through your own experience. God willing, they can now associate a positive memory with Muslims and Mosques.
For the grand finale we went to my old stomping grounds, the ICEV Chandler Masjid. As we drove up, I started to get anxious. When I stepped out of the car, there waited one of my good brothers, Saleh. A freshmen at ASU, Hafiz of Quran, and young stud who recently got engaged. If I need anything, or have a question he’s always been there. He escorted me to the front, where the Shaykh, who is also his Father, awaited our arrival. We embraced and he told me he missed me. I miss him and the community as well. He’s one of the coolest brothers you would ever meet. I once saw him walking into Wal-mart with jeans, a flannel shirt and baseball cap on. I almost fell out laughing. It was good to see him outside his usual position. He was just a regular American guy. After the Shaykh I greeted the usual suspects. Abu Bakr, Ahmed Hashem, Ibrahim, Shehab El Dean, Hamza, Nofil, Mossab, Dawud and finally Brother Ishmael.
If you love someone you should tell them. I love Brother Ishmael, simply for the sake of Allah. He is my brother. Allah placed him in my life for a reason. Let me tell you a story about this brother, so you can see why I love him. And why first impressions are the most important impressions. When I first arrived in Arizona, I looked up the nearest Mosque, and just showed up randomly. It was time for our afternoon prayer, Asr. I went inside and prayed. After we were finished, a Muslim brother of African descent, with a big beard, came to greet me. He was in his 40s and he looked like a former Soccer player. He was very cordial, and he was trying to get my scouting report. He was very respectful and humble. He made me feel right at home. When I meet people, I am hesitant to tell them I am a professional athlete. It’s funny to watch them fish, but I have been able to get by. And Brother Ishmael was like the guy in the yellow boots on the Van de Kamps fish sticks box. A deep sea fisher.
For the next week I would visit the Mosque, and Brother Ishmael was there every time. He would shake my hand, give me the greetings, embrace me, ask about my family, then send me on my way. A few days after we met, Brother Ishmael had a surprise for me. I had one Thobe (Traditional Islamic Gown for Men) that I would wear to the Masjid everyday. This special day, Brother Ishmael had a brand new thobe awaiting me. When he presented me with the thobe, I almost cried. He didn’t know who I was. He didn’t know I was a professional athlete. I was just his Muslim brother. Maybe he thought I was homeless, a new Muslim, or just not able to afford any other clothes. Outside of my family, this was the most touching thing, anyone has ever done for me. He doesn’t know how much of an influence he’s been on me, and I could never express to him, what that moment meant to me. He wanted for his brother, what he wanted for himself.
This was my first interaction with the Arizona Muslim community. I think about a “what if” scenario. What if, He would not have been courteous, eloquent and brotherly? What if I went to the Mosque and Brother Ishmael told me “you’re doing this wrong.” “or you’re doing that wrong”. When you see someone at the Masjid, that might be a little “different”, don’t say “I can’t wait to correct him”, say “At least he’s at the Mosque”. Only Allah knows where I would be if I got turned away from the Mosque, or had a bad experience at the Mosque. Imagine this, a brother comes to the Mosque, and he has on shorter shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt, tattoos, a mohawk, and piercings. And you say, “You can’t wear that in here”. So this brother leaves, and never comes back to the Mosque. Now on the Day of Judgement, he’s standing in front of The Almighty God, and God asks him “Why didn’t you visit the Mosque and worship me?”. And the man replies “Because when I tried to go and worship and praise you, _____ (your name here) told me I couldn’t be there”. Then all of creation turns and looks at you…. How humiliated would you be. How much of a loser would you feel like? Who wants this weight on their shoulders?… Not me. And I don’t want it on anyone else’s shoulders.
My dear respected brothers and sisters. Let us not judge a book by it’s cover. Let us practice Islam, as it is written in the Quran and Hadith. Let us be a Muslim at every turn. Want for our brother what we want for ourselves. And just because a person is not Muslim, or we think they’re not a Muslim, doesn’t mean we treat them any differently. If a lady needs help with her over head baggage, we don’t first ask her “Are you Muslim?”. This is Islam. Let us follow the way of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Let us follow the Deen (way of life), as is mapped out in the Quran. Let us be like my dear Brother Ishmael. I love him for the sake of Allah. And God willing, I will be able to repay him. If not with a gift, then with a duaa (prayer). I thank you for your time and consideration. Please keep us in your prayers. Peace and Be Blessed.
Make sure you read Husain’s latest blog here!