ASB Update: Nour Soubani

The MSA-ers on Spring Break in Virginia have been busy getting to know the area and working with Feeding America, but every now and then they take the time to share stories and musings about what they’ve been up to. Nour Soubani, one of the ASB-ers this year, recaps the team’s week in Virginia in this reflection for Friday, March 8th.

For the fourth day in a row, we rush to get out of bed, get dressed, make our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and load into the cars to pull into Feeding America at 9 AM.

Although it was the same routine—wiping cans, packing boxes, checking expiration dates—a certain anxiety came over us as we realized it was our last day.  After half a day of work, we drove to a nearby mosque for Friday prayer. At a masjid we’ve never been to, surrounded by people we’ve never met, we had an experience that brought us back to the universality of our rituals; the Friday prayer was for the most part what we were used to, just in a completely different community.

After prayer, we headed back to Feeding America for our final hour and half of work. We cleaned up the warehouse and met with James, who had a surprise for us. He had been on the radio that morning and talked about our group—about meeting us and befriending us and how he had seen that as a blessing from God. As we listened to the recording, it was bittersweet; it was the end of a short-lived relationship, but the relationship was one that had affected all of us and taught us about having faith and compassion, even with a group of complete strangers. Robert and Jessica, who both also work at Feeding America, joined us for a final round of pictures and thank-yous and goodbyes.

ASB

Done with our work, we went back to the church, changed, and drove downtown for dinner. It was quaint, reminiscent of the streets of Ann Arbor. We settled on Indian cuisine, and as we waited for our food in the warm and dimly lit restaurant, there was a different atmosphere this time than for our first meal together. Everyone knew each other now, and there was never a moment of silence. We were content, enjoying each other’s presence and talking about movies, food, friends, and the past week’s experiences. After dinner, we walked around, got coffee and tea, and headed back to the church to have our final reflection and get ready for Saturday’s trip. During the reflection we talked about struggles with faith, about when it’s hard to stay connected to Allah (SWT), and about striving to handle these times of weakness and make our relationships with Allah (SWT) a consistent part of our lives. At the end of a week of service, the reflection was a way to come back to the ultimate goal: pleasing Allah (SWT) and helping each other to come closer to Him.

This trip was one week, one week that—throughout the rest of the year—would go by unnoticed in the same routine of school, work, friends, family. But this week was special; it was life-changing because of the relationships we built, the generosity we experienced, the conversations we had. It was a time to leave behind the stress and worries of our everyday lives and focus on the things we usually neglect: our spirituality, serving others, talking to people and learning from them, developing goals and worldviews. It was truly a blessing to be a part of this group and learn the lessons we learned, and—returning home—I hope that we can emulate some of these lessons in order to serve our communities through our experiences this past week.

Community Reflection: Reviving Our Spirits

The Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention in Toronto, Canada draws thousands of Muslims every year, including some Michigan MSA-ers. The convention was most recently held from the 21st to the 23rd of December 2012. Nour Soubani, LSA sophomore, writes below on her experience that weekend.

As I sat outside the lecture hall waiting for the first session to start, I watched a middle-aged women, her head covered with a colorful scarf, corralling her three young children inside, all the while speaking to them in fluent French.

For me, this epitomized the experience of the 11th Annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit convention in Toronto. 25,000 people—men and women, children and teenagers, elderly and infants—from all over the world, representing all different cultures, languages, interests, and stories, gathered for those three days in what was truly a revival of the Islamic spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood for the sake of Allah (SWT).

The weekend started with a Friday sermon given by Imam Zaid Shakir. Through an analysis of the hadith describing those who will be shaded by the shade of Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgment, Imam Zaid clarified the purpose of the convention and the ultimate goal of the global Muslim community: to achieve an Ummah that promotes the seven types of people who will be shaded—just rulers, youth who grow up in the worship of Allah, men and women whose hearts are attached to the mosques, who love each other for Allah’s sake, who fear Allah in their actions, who give charity and hide it, and who shed tears in their private remembrance of the Creator.

And with this, three days of wisdom and motivation and knowledge ensued. Scholars from all over the globe—Professor Tariq Ramadan, Dr. Tawfique Chowdhury, Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, Shaykh Sulaiman Mulla, Dr. Amr Khaled—all spoke on diverse aspects of building a community based on pleasing Allah (SWT). We learned about the importance of sincerity in our intentions, about the relevance of the Quran as a light in our lives, about the essential love for our brothers and sisters in Islam, and about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as our greatest example of character.

Inside the lecture hall, our minds worked, our collective motivation skyrocketed, our passions sparked. But outside of it, our hearts opened. Whether it was after prayer, having a conversation with someone you just happened to stand next to, or exchanging smiles and friendly words with the vendors in the bazaar, or sitting and sharing a meal with complete strangers in the dining area, the connections built with other Muslims were invaluable.  It didn’t matter that we would probably never meet again or even remember each other’s names. What mattered was that we share faith; we share a love for this faith and for all those who claim it, and for its last Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him. What mattered was that although I did not talk to, or even understand, the mother speaking in French with her children on that first day, nor did I see her again throughout the convention, she holds a place in my heart, and I am certain that I hold a place in hers.

So yes, I learned a lot. Yes, I heard verses from the Quran and listened to hadith and stories from the time of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions. And yes, I took notes on great milestones in Islamic history. But my takeaway from the weekend was not facts, or quotes, or even knowledge; rather, it was energy. It was an urgent desire to devote myself in the service of this great religion and its followers, and to work towards the maintenance of a bond that is billions strong, all based on the striking acceptance of one merciful God, and to be involved in the building of a community whose members will all be shaded under the magnificent shade of Allah (SWT) on the Day of Judgment.