Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Message From Brother Ashfaq

I pray that Allah’s blessings and peace be upon you and your family as we enter the year 2018.  It is a tradition, and Muslims are no exception, we make new year’s resolutions and there is nothing wrong with that.  Our resolutions, however, must go beyond the normal resolutions of physical appearances, and must not be a yearly thing for us, but a daily effort on our part to become better in our living as Muslims.

Let the year 2018 be a revolutionary one that will change our lives for years to come.  Let us make our resolution a family resolution:

  • Let’s start with making salah in congregations at home, especially Fajr and Isha.  If you can take your family to the Masjid, that is even better.
  • Recite Surah al Mulk and other prophetic Azkar (remembrance of Allah) together every evening.
  • Be involved with the Masjid activities.  Remember the saying of the Prophet, a Muslim away from the jama’a, is a target for Satan like the lone sheep is a target for a wolf.
  • Contribute to the community at large that we live in.  We are obligated to improve the quality of life for all, not just Muslims.  You do not have to this alone, we the Masjid have several opportunities to do this throughout the year

Let your resolution be reachable goals and Inshaa Allah we will see a difference in our lives for the better, both in this world and the next.

IAA Raises Funds for a Brighter Future by Yasmin El-Husari

On Saturday, December 9, the Islamic Academy of Alabama held its second biannual fundraiser at the HCIC. The turnout was low-- it had just snowed the day before, and the weather was icy, but by the end of the night, IAA had raised $107,000 of its $180,000 target. Alhamdulillah, after our gratefulness to Allah, we have the community to thank.

The fundraising program began with a beautiful dinner followed by nasheeds and skits performed by IAA students. Dunia Shuaib, a Dallas-based family counselor, author, and international speaker joined us for the night. She was highly impressed by the students’ performances, and encouraged the community to give with their akhirahs in mind.

Alhamdulillah, our community responded with nothing less than their best.  I would like to reiterate Sister Dunia’s message and ask the community to continue giving to our school. It provides a way for us to gain the reward of continuous charity, spreading beneficial knowledge, and gaining the duaa of the next generation.

I myself am an IAA graduate, and would be the first to advocate for the school’s impact on the community. After spending fourteen years at IAA, I graduated with honors from the School of Education at UAB before returning to IAA as the high school Social Studies teacher.
I have spent a lot of time in other schools as part of my training as an educator, so I know the value IAA adds to our community. In addition to offering competitive education in core subjects, IAA also gives students the gift of an Islamic foundation.

The Muslim community today is no stranger to the challenges American society presents to Islamic Aqeedah, and the problem will only continue to grow. IAA’s goal is to graduate youth with the tools they need to meet the challenge of a changing society. And in that sense, supporting IAA means supporting a successful next generation of American Muslims.

The IAA office is still collecting donations to meet its remaining $73,000 deficit for the 2017-2018 school year.

Month of Rabi ul Awwal by Ashfaq Taufique

We recently bid farewell to the month of Rabi ul Awwal, a month of great significance and importance in Islamic history.  This is the month when mankind was blessed with the birth of Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) .  

Once the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) was asked about fasting on Monday, he (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said “That is the day I was born.”  I respect the varying practices of celebrating the Prophet’s (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) birthday, but fasting on Monday is an authentic way to celebrate the birth of our beloved prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him).  Using this occasion to teach our children about our prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) is also acceptable.

More than ever, now is the time for us as Muslims to study the life of our Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) and mold our lives according to his (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) teachings. The only way to survive in this time of peril and distress is to hold tight to the rope of Allah and the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him).  Our love and respect for our Prophet must be manifested in our daily lives by learning his (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) Sunnah and implementing them in our daily lives.  Mere lip service is not part of our faith.

“And whatever the Messenger has given you - take; and what he has forbidden you - refrain from. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.” (Surah Hashr, Verse 7)

May Allah make us among those who model our lives according to the teachings of Islam. Ameen.

Distributing Coats to Children with Holy Family Cristo Rey School

In living with the spirit of BIS vision statement:

To become the unifying platform for nurturing and sustaining a vibrant Muslim community in the Greater Birmingham area, and to help improve the quality of life for society at large.

Our community responded to the call from Holy Family Cristo Rey School and distributed winter Jackets for the children.  

Choosing Faith Over Fear by Sakeena Ahmed

Sr. Dunia Shuaib, motivational speaker and author, visited us at BIS earlier this month. She was scheduled to arrive and speak on our surprise snow day. Despite the weather in Birmingham, she traveled from Dallas, TX to speak to our community. The weather made us change our original plans from a Friday night community dinner to a Saturday afternoon talk. As a result, the attendance was fairly low, but alhamdulillah her talk was well received by those who were able to be there.

Sr. Dunia spoke on an important and timely topic titled, “Choosing Faith Over Fear.” In today’s heated political climate and current events, many Muslims may feel overwhelmed with practicing their religion. They fear what others may say or do to them since we as Muslims are “different”. We have different beliefs; we appear or dress differently; we pray differently. But yet, we must still hold steadfast to our religion. How is one to uphold their religion when it can actually be quite stressful for some?

Alhamdulillah, we have been given prayers, stories and examples from the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on how to handle such fear and anxiety. The companions of the Prophet experienced much worse trials in their lives than we have or ever will in our lives (insha’Allah). Despite the daily tortures they faced, they still remained strong in their faith and believed strongly in the words of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) and the Prophet (peace be upon him). Knowing our history can help us put our lives into perspective when feeling overwhelmed with all that is taking place in the world today.

Sr. Dunia prepared a handout with daily remembrances and duas that we should be reciting. She reminded us to begin and end each with a daily set of adhkar. We have specific du’as given to us asking for Allah’s protection, what to say when and if we are afraid of a group of people, du’as for fear of oppression, what to say if we feel frightened, and prayers to say when leaving our homes.

May Allah reward Sr. Dunia for taking time out of her busy schedule to visit us. She has visited us several times in the past and has always been a community favorite, mashaAllah. May Allah bless her work and time. We pray that Allah protect the Muslims and keep us strong in our faith to allow us to choose it over any fears we may have in our lives.

If you missed this talk, you can view part of a recording of it on our Facebook page -

Dua'a Worksheet from Faith Over Fear Talk

Bham Now Comes to HCIC for Storytime

Bham Now reporter Liz Brody missed the interfaith Story Time last month with the BIS, N.E. Miles Jewish Day School and the Birmingham Jewish Federation’s PJ library, so she joined the November storytime at HCIC.  She wrote about it and it appeared, as follows, on Bham Now’s website on December 18, 2017.

BIS Story Time: Teaching Our Children Well

Back in November, Ashfaq Taufique from the Birmingham Islamic Society (BIS), told me about BIS’s Story Time at the N.E. Miles Jewish Day School and how they’d like Bham Now to do a piece about the event. I’ve written several pieces about the importance of Jewish and Muslim solidarity in Birmingham. This was the story I was born to cover.
But sometimes, you have to wait.

Sometimes you’re just not ready to do something. You might think you are, but something puts you on hold. You get a surprise, like, the only substitute available on the day of an event calls in with a family emergency and there’s no way sticking your students in another class for the day is gonna fly. You’ll let the guilt pile up, but you’ll also watch the world change, you’ll change. And when you are ready to do that something, it’s more meaningful.
This isn’t about politics. This is about simply teaching us how to get along. And about the importance of experience.

Story Time is a monthly event. December’s Story Time was held at BIS on a Wednesday night. When I walked into the room, the storyteller, Kirin Nabi, stood by a table covered in picture books and stickers. Her background as a librarian was evident in her display prowess and her ability to control a crowd of children without raising her voice. She greeted me with a hug and told me to sit anywhere. The propped up books, the fluffy red carpet, the kids sitting cross-legged in a cluster, trying to determine the best angle to turn in to see the pictures, and I was back in 2nd grade, waiting for the elementary school librarian to introduce the new Caldecott winner. It’s a warm memory, I’m sure I’m not alone in my nostalgia.
Story Time is a thematic event, each month focuses on a particular issue or life skill. This month was about problem solving. Each book was read with an appropriately dramatic flair. The kids laughed as they leaned in to get a closer look at the illustrations. After each story, Ms. Nabi lead a short discussion about the book. What was the problem to book presented? How did the protagonist handle the problem? Did it solve the problem, or just hide it? What types of problems are there?  Ms. Nabi was asking the kids these questions, but the adults nodded their heads in contemplation as well.  She is warm, she is funny, she is incredibly gifted at what she does.
I had seen pictures from Friendship Story Walk, the event at the Day School. There was a very good turn out. The story, “Do Unto Otters,” was interactive, being told via crafts and activities. Laurie Keller’s Otter series deals with the importance of communicating with those who are different from us, understanding and celebrating those differences, and the ways we can show each other respect.
The event also had snacks, and parents were encouraged to bring along non-perishable foods to donate at the door.
Mr. Taufique’s goal for future events is to pair with “churches, parochial schools, homeschooling administrators, etc, would like to follow suit and have joint storytelling with the Islamic Center.  This will go a long way in promoting understanding.”  BIS often partners with local religious groups and charities to do service projects and community building, like their recent coat drive with Holy Family Cristo Rey High School in Ensley.
I’ve written before about being a fan of Mr. Taufique. I know that leaves me with a major bias, but I say, only because it’s true, Mr. Taufique and the community he represents are unsung heroes of the city of Birmingham, doing so much good with very little publicity or recognition outside of a few Facebook posts.
When I contacted Mr. Taufique about proceeding with an article about an event that, in journalism time, had happened in the ancient past, he simply responded that he knew things would work out, that he hoped everything was okay, and that there was a spot for me on that fluffy red carpet for the next Story Time.
Goin’ on a bear hunt!

Children’s books have always played a central role in the way we interact with the world. Whether you are the one being read to, the one reading with a child on your lap, or a group of kids on the floor, trying to absorb as much of the book’s art as possible, these are the stories that put our problems, our beliefs, our prejudices, into the simplest terms and makes us exam them in ways that are sometimes difficult for us to produce on our own.
Ms. Nabi is currently working on bringing a Little Free Library to BIS. She also keeps a Pinterest board updated as her own virtual library. Her book choices range from Islamic to secular, serious to silly, and focus on diversity, identity, courage to do what’s right, and critical thinking.
Here is a list of the books from December’s Problem Solving Story Time:
There’s an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer