We would like to wish all of our volunteers, friends, supporters, and well-wishers a RAMADAN MUBARAK! May Allah’s (swt) mercy, forgiveness, and grace be showered upon you throughout this blessed month and always. May He help you gain mastery over yourselves, build your taqwa, and grant you salvation from the Fire.
Next month, we would like to take a group of DC youth to Al-Maqasid’s “Reviving Remembrance” retreat in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, and we need your help to do so. If you are prepared to contribute toward the registration and transportation costs of 12 youth, please go to PayPal and send your donation to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Any contribution is deeply appreciated–no matter the amount. May Allah (swt) reward you immensely for your generosity, in this life and the next, and may He increase your reward during this blessed month.
As you read on, you will find that this fundraising effort is about more than making traditional Islamic knowledge accessible to youth from inner-city DC…
Youth A and Youth B participated in the trip to the SeekersGuidance Appalachian Retreat in Tennessee two years ago. Youth A recently informed me that Youth B told him, “If I didn’t go with y’all to Tennessee, I don’t think I’d still be Muslim.” Where does this comment come from? Should not the beauty of Islam be sufficient for this youth? In order to understand Youth B’s comment, one must understand the environment that he lives in.
The inner-city environment is a challenging one; one that can stifle motivation, growth, and a positive sense of purpose and vision. People that reside here are often made to feel burdened and trapped by their circumstances. Many of us know that Islam, properly understood and practiced, has the power to transform the lives of individuals and communities, no matter where they are. About 6 years ago, a glimmer of possibility shined as Islam emerged as a serious trend among young people in DC’s inner-city starting in the fall of 2007 (read more about this curious phenomenon in the article below, entitled “On the DC Shahadah Wave“). That trend reached its peak in the summer of 2009. In the past 6 years, it is no exaggeration to say that DC’s masjids saw hundreds of young people embrace Islam.
Out of that totality, there were some who became Muslim but did not demonstrate a seriousness or sincerity about their newfound faith; they were “Muslim” merely by name, but not by character or action. They showed no interest in learning. Being Muslim was actually a means of being part of a larger group through which they could afford themselves a sense of power and security, in schools and neighborhoods, inside and outside of detention centers, jails, and prisons. We have heard stories of some of these young Muslims robbing stores, stealing cars, and worse. (We are mentioning facts, but we acknowledge that there are many factors involved here.) Trends have a time limit. As such, in the past few years, many from this group have decided to “drop” their Islam (in their words, “I took back my shahadah”). However, this is not the case for all.
For some DC Muslim youth, in spite of whatever reason they initially embraced Islam (whether with a clear, sincere motive or not), and in spite of past transgressions (however serious), Islam has grown on them. It has realigned them with their innate fitrah and they have chosen it as their definite way of life. If and when life throws them big challenges, they have an Islamic framework and foundation to turn back to. This growing generation has gotten to know their Creator, Allah (swt), and come to understand the true purpose of life.
After returning from Tennessee in 2011, in the absence of youth-centered, Islamically-oriented programming in DC and its border areas, and in seeing the need of having something consistent which would keep certain youth that we were acquainted with Islamically stabilized and somewhat “afloat” over the course of the summer, we initiated weekly halaqah sessions at a local masjid. These halaqahs have continued and evolved over the past two years. We have felt the sincerity/will-to-grow of each and every youth who we have involved, and we believe it is important to nurture and further strengthen this via consistency, good company, group spirit, camaraderie, and an open and comfortable environment.
For many of these youth, outside of Jumu’ah (and their own personal reading in some cases), there is very little or no consistent Islamic engagement, and they have expressed a strong desire for this kind of engagement. All of the youth who are currently involved in our halaqahs are new Muslims from the shahadah wave that swept across DC. A basic, wholesome understanding of Islam will help set the foundation for their positive growth. We are committed to placing our youth in environments which assist in their proper spiritual, moral, and social development.
As demonstrated by Youth B’s comment at the beginning of this post, our previous retreat outings have served as landmark experiences in the lives of these youth. To get a glimpse of how penetrative and significant these experiences can be, read this blog entry. For some of these youth, getting out of their immediate environments is something that rarely happens. They have spoken very nostalgically about our past trips, and are always excited about the idea of going on a new one. Going on trips like this opens their mental taste buds to new places, new faces, new experiences, and a general healthy spirit of exploration and adventure; they also create important opportunities for self-reflection and close companionship with fellow strivers–something that has been critical for many successful re/converts to Islam.