Back in 1980, when I moved to the US, it was really a great country to make and call my own. I had a well-paying job, was transferred to the US from Dubai by an employer that truly appreciated my worth, with the very prized Green Card in hand, work that I truly enjoyed and peers that accepted me with genuine warmth, even if that was sometimes tainted somewhat with amusement towards an ‘alien’ who was entertainingly different than them. I was merely 23 then and had a bigger attitude problem than I sometimes do now, so could deal with the occasional (generally well-meaning) jibes and put-downs that came my way. There was nothing to stop me from achieving my many tall dreams. Parenthood, self-afflicted marital problems, and a divorce jaded some of that shine off my nose but I could still kick a mean mule and get away with it.
I firmly believe in the institution of the madressa, or Islamic school, that my parents so forcefully made incumbent for me to attend as an adolescent, every single day. I was taught the Quraan, although I now wish I would have spent time understanding the language than just simply learning and reciting the words like a grey parrot from the Congo. In Tanga, Tanzania, the madressa was headed by Haider Rashid of the Mohammedi Cultural Group. He was, bless him, an absolute dictator, and ruled with a merciless mean staff that has many of us peeing in our white pajamas with fear of an oncoming thrashing way before the event. But I still have nothing but praise and prayers for him, for the discipline of reciting salaat and the command of duas he taught me is all credit to his unrelenting and well-meaning efforts.
If it had not been for the madressa and Haiderbhai and his comrade’s efforts in shaping me as a practicing Muslim, I would have been doomed living in the US. Mid-twenties, divorced and successful in corporate America is a deadly concoction that can, will and has ruined many imaans, and I have witnessed this phenomenon personally, with great distress. Alhamd’Allah, I was fortunate that regular and timely salaat made me return back to the right track before disaster struck, every time. Else, the career and personal success and cockiness I had acquired due to Allah’s grace towards me would have surely ruined me.
Now, I get into trouble for stating that I prefer the company of pretty women sitting next to me on long flights (read Blog here) in the last Blog, ruffling the harried feather of a respected community member here in Sanford. So, I am hurrying for salaat to the beautiful Masjid al Hayy when I am arrested by an elderly man stalking me.
Yusufali, ek minute, he rasps and closes into very uncomfortable personal space. I knew your father and his father, both of them, upright people.
I am about to thank him and hurry in but he blocks my way and comes right up to my face, faintly smelling of burnt garlic.
Why then, do you write bundu-bundu stuff in your Blogs?
The bundu-bundu makes his lips purr rapidly and I feel a drizzle of garlic tainted saliva settle on my face. Although I sense blood rush to my face because of the onslaught, my mind goes wandering. Bundu-bundu? Now, I’m sure I’ve heard this expression before, but where? I’m sure it’s Gujarati and I’ve heard it before. The man elaborates.
Why do you have to write about desiring pretty women for company? You do such good work for humanity, why do you ruin it with this bundu-bundu mumbo-jumbo? Hmm?
The saliva strikes again and I take an involuntary step backward. The desire to fish out my hanky and wipe off the dampness is intense but years of ingrained respect for my elders restrain me from the act that will surely offend. But I am mad nevertheless and throwing caution to the wind, I push back, even though it’s rapidly getting close to salaat time and I should be hurrying in.
Uncle, I say instead, isn’t it natural to want a pretty woman next to you, rather than an ugly one? Wouldn’t you rather have someone beautiful for company? What is so wrong with that? I am just being honest with saying what I think rather than thinking about it and being a hypocrite by not admitting the fact?
The man looks confused for a second, makes a face, snorts a despairing mcheee noise so common with East African Khojas, mutters astaghfiru’Allah and stomps off. I redo whudoo and hurry for magreeb.
This silly notion that I am above natural human feelings or a ‘maulaana’ just because I head a progressive and successful NGO must stop. The Blog was an attempt at satire, something to alleviate the malaise of a myriad of terrible human suffering around our world. I wish our maulanas would also read my Blogs; they need to laugh more and smile even more, me thinks. My Blogs can change that, perhaps?
On a more pertinent and serious note, Sohail Abdullah, CAI Trustee and I are bicycling from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Phnom Penh, Cambodia later this month. This 250-odd mile ride over 6 days is to satisfy a personal long sought itch, but more importantly, to raise funds for CAI’s efforts in feeding the starving and disease afflicted children of Yemen. The grave and the very distressful situation in this country increases terribly in quantum grades and we can only try our best to help out until peace and stability returns, soon insha'Allah.
CAI, in partnership with Beta Charitable Trust from the UK, are very active in helping the population with powder milk for infants, food for the rest, cholera vaccines and other medication. This aid has to continue when we consider the following details:
• 400,000 malnourished children
• 22 million need humanitarian aid
• 1.98 million Internally Displaced Persons
This is not considering the devastation to infrastructure that has been bombed to dust.
Please join us and help out if you can. Allah bless. Find out more about our escapade by clicking here.