Muslim Community of Folsom Holds Third Annual Seerah Conference
By Ras H. Siddiqui
After the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, reviewing the Seerah (Biography) of the life of Prophet Muhammad- Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH) - is also an essential part of understanding the religion of Islam and millions of Muslims worldwide do just that at gatherings held around his birthday known as EidMiladul-Nabi (Mawlid ) during the Islamic month of Rabi' al-awwal.
Some Muslim groups may not commemorate or celebrate this occasion while others do, but that is not what this report is about. It is a very popular and educational occasion for many of us, and a number of events were held in the Sacramento area to herald this occasion, with possibly the last one of the season held on January 14, 2017 at the Muslim Community of Folsom (MCF), in the technology anchored town located on the outskirts of Sacramento, California. The focus of this afternoon event was themed “Muhammad (SAW) A Pillar Through Turmoil” and the basic thought process was: What can we learn from the life of the founder of Islam and apply to the worldly challenges of today?
This event was the Muslim Community of Folsom’s Third Annual Seerah Conference and its success cannot just be attributed to the large number of attendees but credit needs to go to MCF and its Imam AamirNazir for brnging together a number of prominent thinkers from the entire region to discuss the life of the Prophet (PBUH) and educate us all in the process. Included in the list of those eminent personalities were QariZakariaElmakkaoi, Imam Yousef Hussin (Masjid Annur, Sacramento), Mufti MudassirOwais (ICF, Fremont), Imam Kashif Ahmed (SALAM), Imam Tahir Anwar (MCC East Bay andZaytuna College) and Imam M.A. Azeez (Tarbiya Institute).
Needless to say, the afternoon was both informative and enlightening and one hopes (InshaAllah) that this tradition continues into the future. And to be up front here, there was so much information shared by these eminent guests that only some highlights are being shared in this article and the focus will be mainly on the presentations of Imam Tahir Anwar and Imam Azeez. But before we do that, let us start by recognizing Imam AamirNazir once again for leading this effort and for being the only South African-origin Imam who not only brings our community together but also plays a good game of Cricket too, and the MCF as a whole for continually reaching out to the American mainstream, their non-Muslim neighbors, and for being a voting station during the US elections last November.
For starters, on entrance we were amazed by a recitation in the wondrous voice of QariZakaria which was followed with its English translation. This was followed by a wonderful Naat (Naseed in Urdu) derived from the Musaddas-e-Hali delivered by Hafiz TulaibZafir. Imam AamirNazir bid everyone welcome and delved into the meaning of Seerah of the Prophet (PBUH) and its relevance into the present and future. He then proceeded to invite Imam Yousef Hussin to speak. Imam Hussin said that the Prophet (PBUM) was never hopeless and that his actual life story was also a miracle and yet he was always optimistic. He was also quite forgiving of other people, even those that once threw stones at him. Next Mufti MudassirOwais delivered a fine presentation in the Urdu language, which was translated into English by Imam Kashif so that everyone could understand it. He said that we were lucky to be here to share the Prophet’s life. He added that it is in the nature of man to run away from difficulty but we need to study how the Prophet (PBUH) converted challenges into opportunities during his life.
After a wonderful Arabic language Nasheed presented by QariZakaria, a break for snacks and prayers, Imam Tahir Anwar next delivered an inspirational talk on the founder of Islam and why he happens to be one of the most celebrated figures in human history today. Imam Tahir focused a great deal on the pre-revelation life of Muhammad (SAW) and described the many adversities that he had to face in his life. He lost his father before he was born and his mother not too long after. He was essentially very poor and had to start earning a living at a very young age (in his teens) with the first job being that of a shepherd. Imam Tahir said that his strengths were in his humble and dignified nature and that he became well-known for that in his community. He added that today in America we need to emulate such behavior and share it with our neighbors and community. He stressed the fact that the world was not coming to an end with the Trump Presidency and that Muslims need to share their food (biryani etc.), values and culture, and get involved in the political and social fabric of America. “This is about developing relationships,” he said. He said that we can no longer afford not to show up at community rallies (e.g. MLK events). He also stressed the need for American Muslims to develop and support political leadership from within their own community.
Imam Azeez was as eloquent as ever during the last presentation of the afternoon. After praising Imam Nazir for being a good friend, he spoke of the Prophet’s Seerah and how the founder of Islam acted and reacted in times of difficulty. Imam Azeez proceeded to make a “wake up” call to the community and asked why do we think that this is a time of turmoil? He said that it was a matter of perspective and the angle from where we are looking. He said that if he asked the Muslim community, he would not get honest answers. Some will say that we are concerned about the erosion of civil liberties. Do we in the Muslim community really care enough? Some advocacy groups have been asking us to support them but have we (giving the example of Br. BasimElkarra and CAIR in the audience)? Is it because we are concerned about the constitution? How many of us have even read the constitution (of the United States)? Is it that the Muslim community is worried about the religious liberties of other groups or the heightened state of racism in America? There is racism within our community, he said. Imam Azeez added that we came to America with the promise of economic gain, and that the immigrant community is afraid of losing their economic privilege. We feel scared. I have to worry about Islamophobia and hatred while driving my nice Mercedes around town. Nothing stays the same, he said. Things are going to change. He said that he was actually excited about the possibility that Muslim Americans get involved in that change. We are just newcomers, he added. Now we feel the heat which was faced by many other groups before us. He shared the Prophet’s journey back from Taif when he was given safe passage only by a non-Muslim on his return to Mecca, his own house. The Prophet (SAW) did not give up but had faith that things would change for the better. Imam Azeez more than hinted that we need to learn from that positive attitude today. Human beings are created to struggle, he said.
One can write a great deal more but I will conclude with the thought that this Seerah Conference successfully conveyed: The Prophet (PBUH) met many challenges during his life. His example can be followed today in America by Muslims who might feel insecure. This is not the time for them to sit back and watch what happens. It is a time to participate and contribute to the American landscape in a positive manner.