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In the Name of God بسم الله
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A Short Biography of Imam Mahdi (AFS)

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Salati AbdulQadir

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Hazrat Imam Mahdi (aj) is the twelfth and last of the chain of the Purified Imams (as) and the divine successors. He was born at the time of dawn, on Friday the 15th of Shaban 255 A.H. in the city of Samarrah1.

His respected father is Imam Hasan al-Askari (as). His beloved mother is Janab al-Nargis Khatoon (ra). She was the descendant of the Caesar of Rome from her father's side and from her mother's side she had descended from shamoon the vicegerant of Hazrat Isa (as).2

This exalted personality has the same name and kunniyat (agnomen) as the Holy Prophet (S). His titles are Mahdi, Hujjat, Qaem, Montazer, Sahibuzzaman and Khalaf al-saleh. His most famous honourific however is Al-Mahdi (aj).3

Ibn Khallikaan writes; "His well-known title is Hujjat. The shias know him by the titles, Montazar, Qaem and Mahdi"4

The great scholar Mohaddith al-Noori has collected 182 titles of Imam Mahdi (aj) from the Islamic texts. Each of these titles signify each of his virtuous qualities.5

The tyrant Abbasid rulers were aware of the prophecies of the Holy Prophet (S). That the son of Imam Hasan al-Askari (as) by the name of Mahdi will appear to remove all kinds of corruption and tyranny; hence they planned to eliminate the child when he is bom. Due to this the birth of Imam Mahdi (aj) was kept a secret like that of Hazrat Ibrahim (as). So much so that except for the most trusted of the shias and his own family, no one knew of the existence of Hazrat (as). In spite of this whenever there was an opportunity, Imam Hasan al-Askari (as) showed his son to his trustworthy followers; that in future they may follow him. This was in order that the shias may remain firm upon the right path, and not be led astray. A servant Abu Ghanim says:

"Abu Muhammad (as) has a son whose name is Muhammad." On the third day of his birth he brought him before his companions and said:

"After me he is your Master of the affair, he is my successor, he is the same 'Qaem', who is awaited by alt When the earth will be fraught with injustice and oppression then he will reappear and fill the earth with justice and righteousness."6

The early years of his life were spent in the usual way. When he was in his fifth year, he lost his respected father.7

After this tragic event the responsibility of guiding the shias was transferred upon him. At this time, Hazrat (as) possessed all the qualities and the divine knowledge that was bestowed upon the previous Imams (as), by the Almighty. In the same way as Hazrat Yahya (as) in his childhood and Hazrat Isa (as) in his infancy was favoured with the divine office of Prophethood by Allah.8

Although all the Imams (as) were holding the divine office of wilayat, the efforts of the enemies to eliminate the twelfth Imam (as) were maximum. Hence Imam az-Zaman (as) was entrusted to ghaibat and being away from the sight of people, he had to fulfill all the duties of an Imam.

It is said that the concealed life of Hazrat Mahdi (aj) is not something extraordinary. Rather, in the life of so many Prophets (as) and even Imams (as) it is seen, that they were at some time, in concealment from the people. The Holy Quran records the concealment of various prophets (as) like Hazrat Ibrahim (as)9, Hazrat Musa (as)10 and Hazrat Isa (as)11.

The Holy Prophet (S) and the Imams (as) had pointed out to the people the imminent occultation of their last proof (Imam Mahdi-aj), so that no doubt or misunderstanding should remain, regarding this problem.

The occultation (Ghaibat) of the twelfth Imam consists of two phases: one is Ghaibat al-Sughra (The lesser occultation) and the second is Ghaibat al-Kubra (The greater occultation). Imam Ja’far as Sadiq (as) said:

'There are two occultations for Qaem. One is short and the other prolonged. In the short occultation only the special shias will know of his whereabouts. And in the longer occultation only his trustworthy servants will know where he is"12

According to the well-known reports, the lesser occultation (ghaibat al-sugra) commenced from the year of his Imamat in 260 A.H and continued for 69 years. Some of the scholars like Shaykh Mufeed and Syed Mohsin Amin Amili maintain that ghaibat al-sugra began right from the time of his birth.13

Because, even in those early years, Hazrat (aj) was concealed from the common people. According to this method, the period of ghaibat al-sugra comes to seventy four years.

During the period of ghaibat al-sugra. Imam Mahdi (aj) himself appointed his deputies from among the righteous shias. Four of them succeeded each other and continued to fulfill the duty of intermediaries. These four personalities conveyed the questions and problems to Imam (aj) and brought back the Imam's (aj) answers for the people. The first of these deputies was Janab Abu Amroo Usman Bin Saeed Amri. Before this he was a representative of Imam Hasan al Askari (as)14

Shaykh Tusi writes: “On the fortieth day the shias were sitting in the company of Imam Hasan al-Askari (as), when Imam Askari (as) wished that they recognise his Hujyat after him..... Suddenly a handsome child was brought before them. He resembled Abu Muhammad (as).

Then Imam al-Askari (as) said: "He is your Imam after me. And my successor upon you. Obey him, and do not go astray after me (after my death), otherwise your religion shall be destroyed and you will be annihilated. Know that, after today you shall not see him, even if you spend your whole life for it. Hence, accept what Usman tells you, obey his commands and listen to what he says. Because he is the representative of your Imam and holds the responsibility.15

After the death of Usman bin Saeed, his pious son, Muhammad bin Usman succeeded his father upon the post of the deputyship of Imam az-Zaman (aj).16

Shaikh Tusi has recorded the letters sent by Imam Hasan al Askari (as) and Imam Mahdi (aj) to Usman bin Saeed and his son Abu Jafar Muhammad ibne Usman for the shias. These letters consists of commands, prohibitions and replies to the questions of the shias.17

Muhammad ibne Usman passed away from this world at the end of Jamadi-ul-Awwal in the year 304 or 305 A.H.18

During the time of his illness, as he laid on the sick-bed, the shias and their children came and surrounded him. They asked: "If something happens, whom should we consult instead of you?" He answered, "This Abul Qasim Husayn ibn Ruh ibne Bahr Nawbakhti is successor. And he is the intermediary between you and the Master affair (Imam Mahdi- aj), and his agent. He is trustworthy and reliable. Consult him, and in case of important matters, rely upon him. I have been ordered to announce this, and I have announced it"19

Husain Ibn Ruh Nawbakhti was. one of the agents of Muhammad ibn Usman in Baghdad. He had been working closely with him for a long time. These agents used to be in contact with the people and when ordered they handed over the goods to them20. Husayn ibn Ruh died in Shaban 326 A.H21

The last safir was Abul Hasan Ali Ibn Muhammad Seymoori. He became the deputy of Imam Mahdi (aj) according to the will of Husain ibn Ruh. He died after three years on the 15th of Shaban 329 A.H.22

The graves (tombs) of these four respected deputies (Nawwab al -Arba, as they are commonly known) are situated in Baghdad.23

The most sensitive and crucial period of ghaibat al-sugra was when Ali Ibn Mohammad died. Because till his death the people were is contact with Imam az-Zaman (aj) through him. After his death, it was the commencement of Ghaibat al-Kubra.

Six days before his death, Ali ibn Muhammad Seymoori received a communication from Imam az-Zaman (aj):

"...so be prepared, but appoint no one in your place, because from the day of your death, the period of my major occupation (Gaibatui Kubra) will begin. Henceforth, no one will see me, unless and until Allah makes me appear. My reappearance will take place after a very long time, when the world will be full of injustice and violence".24

Ultimately, the shining sun of the divine proof went behind the curtain of Ghaibat, completely. And the period of communication with Hazrat (through Nawab al-Arba) came to an end. In spite of this (his Ghaibat) Hazrat Mahdi (aj) is the Imam of the time and Imam of the world. He is the Divine Proof. Even though his person may be hidden from our eyes but his commands are clear.

Amirul Momineen Ali (as) announced from his pulpit at Kufa: "Even if the person of the Divine Proof is hidden while he guides the people, his knowledge and manners will be clear for them to follow"25

It is clear that the knowledge and practice of Imam Asr (as) is impeccable like the Quran. As was the sunnat of the Holy Prophet (S). It is obligatory for the people of faith (muslims) to act upon the Quran and sunnat, and to refrain from what they prohibit. The Holy Prophet (S) said:

"I leave behind two weighty things among you: The Book of Allah and my Progeny, my Ahlul Bayt If you adhere to those two you shall not go astray. And know that these two shall not separate till they meet me at Hauz (Kauthar)"26

During the period of Ghaibat al-Kubra, when it is not possible to establish communication with Imam az-Zaman (as) at will, the people have been ordered to follow the true teachings of the Quran and Ahlul Bayt (as) through the pious and religious scholars and the just jurists. The people must follow them to know what obligations they are supposed to fulfill.

Imam as-Sadiq (as):

"And among jurists (Fuqaha) are those who protect their selves (from sins) guard their religion, defy their carnal desires and are obedient to their master. It is incumbent upon the people to follow them. Such characteristics are found only in a few of them (Shias) and not all"27.

The jurists issue decrees for the people and explain to them truth about faith. They endeavour to fulfill the exalted duty of preparing the grounds for the reappearance of their master, Hazrat Mahdi (aj). So that by the coming of Hazrat (as) the Islamic faith may strengthen and that he may fill the earth with justice and equity.

  • 1. Kamaaluddin vol. 2, Pg. 428, 433 424,430.
  • 2. Kamaaluddin vol.2 Pg. 420,424.
  • 3. Al Fusoolul Muhimma Pg.292, Nurul Absaar Pg. 168.
  • 4. Wafayatui Ayaan vol.4 Pg 176.
  • 5. Najm-us-saaqib Pg. 41-98.
  • 6. Kamaaluddin Vol. 2 Pg. 431.
  • 7. Al Kaft Vol. 1 pg. 503.
  • 8. Quran: Sura Maryam, Ayat 12 and 30.
  • 9. Sura Maryam: 48-49.
  • 10. Sura Qasas: 21-22.
  • 11. Sura Nisa: 157.
  • 12. Al Kafi Vol. 1 Pg.340; Ghaibat Nomani Pg. 180.
  • 13. Al Kafi Vol. 1 Pg. 340. Ayan ush shia Vol. 2 Pg. 46.
  • 14. Ghaibat al-Tusi Pg. 353
  • 15. Ghaibat al-Tusi Pg. 357.
  • 16. Ghaibat al-Tusi Pg. 362.
  • 17. Ghaibat al-Tusi Pg. 356.
  • 18. Ghaibat al-Tusi Pg.366.
  • 19. Ghaibat al-Tusi Pg. 371-372.
  • 20. Gaibat al-Tusi Pg. 369/372.
  • 21. Ghaibat al-Tusi Pg. 387.
  • 22. Ghaibat al-Tusi Pg. 394.
  • 23. Ghaibat al-Tusi Pgs. 358, 366. 376, 396.
  • 24. Kamaaluddin Vol.2 Pg.516; Ghaibat al-Tusi Pg.395.
  • 25. Kamaaluddin vol. I Pg.302.
  • 26. Yanabiul Mawaddah Pg. 35.
  • 27. Tafsir Al Imam Pg. 300.
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      This is the time when we can
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      [1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sars/
      [2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/emerging-viruses
      [3] https://www.healthline.com/health/zoonosis#list-of-diseases
      [4] https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/09/media/emily-maitlis-bbc-coronavirus-scli-intl-gbr/index.html
      [5] https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/how-Iran-became-a-new-epicenter-of-the-coronavirus-outbreak
      [6] https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/03/24/how-Iran-botched-coronavirus-pandemic-response/
      [7] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/government-support-available-for-landlords-and-renters-reflecting-the-current-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak
      [8] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/31/bailouts-coronavirus-state-aid
      [9] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/11/coronavirus-who-will-be-winners-and-losers-in-new-world-order
      [10] https://www.ft.com/content/00017d02-5f39-11ea-b0ab-339c2307bcd4
      [11] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-51706021
      [12] https://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/cheltenham-festival-defends-decision-coronavirus-a4406906.html
      [13] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/Iran-coronavirus-methanol-drink-cure-deaths-fake-a9429956.html
      [14] https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30190-0/fulltext
      [15] https://www.al-Islam.org/God-and-his-attributes-Sayyid-mujtaba-musavi-lari/lesson-19-free-will
      [16] https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/3-pronged-strategy-in-place-to-stop-virus-spread-in-dorms
      [17] https://www.ft.com/content/6e9b4fe7-b26e-45b9-acbd-2b24d182e914
      [18] https://www.shiachat.com/forum/topic/235033293-quran-social-science-natural-science/
      [19] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/bible-belt-us-coronavirus-pandemic-pastors-church-a9481226.html
      [20] https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/04/13/999313/kerala-fight-covid-19-india-coronavirus/
      [21] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-52628283
      [22] https://www.npr.org/2020/05/14/855918852/heavily-armed-protesters-gather-again-at-michigans-capitol-denouncing-home-order?t=1589550976807
    • By Haji 2003 in Stories for Sakina
         0
      This story is about a tea party, but actually it isn't about the party.
      It isn't about the party that Anna Pavlovna holds, the one that many people know about but about whose subsequent events they remain unfamiliar. In fact if I wanted to I could try really hard and remind myself of the time I attended, but as I said that's not really the purpose of this story.
      You see Sakina many people arrive at Anna Pavlovna's party with high hopes and expectations. They have a self-image of their literary prowess and they want to be able to tell everyone else that not only did they attend but that they experienced everything else that happened afterwards as well.
      I was a bit like that to be honest. The first time I went I was about your age. I'd heard a lot about Anna Pavlovna's world and I wanted to be able to casually mention to friends and associates that I'd been. And so I would try so very very hard to get to know the attendees and to be honest it was impossible. I made many attempts and never got further than the entrance to the party itself.
      So I tried a different tack.
      I'd try less hard.
      Instead of trying to get as far into this world as I could and meet as many people as I could, as quickly as I could, I would take the opposite approach.
      I would only spend so much time at the party and I would stop, no matter how engaging the characters and no matter how interesting the stories that they had to tell.
      And the next day I would come back to where I had left off and the people and the stories would still be there and slowly but surely I'd have the impetus to find out a little more about them and the following day a little bit more and so on.
      In fact their lives became a little soap opera for me that went on for over a year and that's how I finished War & Peace.
    • By GD41586 in Chasing Islam
         6
      [In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful]

      Some people may object to my embrace of Islam. "Oh, Islam is such a difficult and demanding religion" they will say "It's too difficult to be a Muslim, especially in the West". I wholeheartedly disagree.

      Islam is not difficult at all, unless you allow it to be. Submission to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) is the natural state that humans were created for, so I have not found it terribly difficult at all thus far and even if it was, that doesn't mean that it's not worth pursuing (actually, challenges are good for us because they force us to persevere and grow in the process of overcoming). Religion and faith are not toys to be played with and put away on a shelf until the next time that you have a job interview, wind up in jail, or face an illness- Religion and faith are aspects of the human experience that should fundamentally change us as people, and always for the better.

      This is the difference between a fulfilling life and a life of constant desire for the cheap thrills of this world (which never satisfy), religion is the difference between heaven & hell; as Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) sees all we do + his judgment of us will ultimately come down to how perfectly we submitted, how closely we followed his commands, and the weight of our sins of both commission & omission in this life (sins of omission would be neglecting salah, charity, or treatment of his creation, etc).

      I honestly never thought I was going to be able to embrace Islam. There are enough posts on SC where I sound apprehensive and lean in that direction. What I have noticed is that within the past week, I have thrown myself into developing my practice of Islam with a much greater sense of mindfulness than I ever did with my Christianity. I believe that this is because in Christianity, we expect God/Jesus/Holy Spirit to "work within us" and change us without having to put in much effort ourselves besides reading the bible and praying daily. If we expect someone else, even our concept of God, to do this work for us it will likely not be done. We have to put forth the effort to change ourselves and develop our religion and Insha'Allah, we will become better, more complete human beings. In just a week, I have gone from near-total ignorance of the Quran, inability to pray without reading off a sheet, and praying "when I remembered" to keeping salah, memorizing the process of offering my five daily prayers, and setting five alarms on my phone (complete with an adhan for added immersion). I've even been able to commit short surahs to memory (in Arabic nonetheless!) so that I can offer my prayers properly as they were modeled by the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم). I never in my wildest dreams even two weeks ago, imagined that I would be capable of doing this, so I am both excited and at the same time, feeling a sense of serenity- that this really is "it" and that I have found the path that I belong on in order to develop as a person.

      Today, I received my misbaha (dhikr beads) and have begun to offer dhikr, starting with the tasbih of Fatima (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) this afternoon. I have also ordered a modest prayer rug. Now I find myself wondering what my next steps are to improve my practice of Islam; namely what other parts of my religion can I begin to practice and what parts of myself I can work on improving. Although I am just a "baby Muslim", I truly feel as if I am changing for the better and that perhaps I should give myself just a bit more credit than I do for how far I have personally come in such a short period of time.

      However, as easy as practicing Islam has been for me + as natural as it feels, I realize that my experience is just that- my experience. Brothers and sisters all across the planet, many in this nation of mine (America), may not have such an easy time adhering to their faith. For some (Uyghurs in China, Bosnians), the practice of Islam comes with the very real risk of persecution & death from the unjust & tyrannical, but nonetheless they keep the faith without probably ever making blog posts like this one. I believe that all of us, including the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) can learn something about fidelity, devotion, perseverance and not least of all courage, from these brave brothers and sisters in these countries that are much more hostile to Islam.

      How do you think I can improve my religious practice from here on out?

      How can you improve yours?
    • By Hameedeh in Think Positive
         16
      Two years ago I became a minimalist. I'm not talking about music, sculpture or painting, but minimalism in my life. I read about creating a minimalist home, but I did not buy the book:
      http://zenhabits.net/a-guide-to-creating-a-minimalist-home/
      So, I am thrifty and I buy very little. Whenever I am shopping and see a dozen things I want to own, I question myself. Do I have storage space for this? Is this really necessary? Will I really love it or is it just something that I never had before and always wanted to have one? Just wanting to possess something is not a good reason to buy it. Could I take a photo of it and just look at it, without spending my money? This must be a good reason to join Pinterest, to have all the things you want to look at, but never need to buy, store or move them. 
      As you have seen, my ShiaChat blog is minimalist by nature. I usually say very little, because if there is one thing that I know, it is that I recognize great writing when I see it, but I am not a good writer. I hope to become a better writer some day, and in the meantime, I invite you to my tumblr. Please, if you can, start at the last page which shows my first post (a prayer for the safety of 12th Imam AJ) and then scroll your way up, and over to previous pages in chronological order, the way my brain was working. 
      http://hameedeh.tumblr.com/page/3
      ♥ May your days be sunny, your nights restful, and your heart satisfied with the blessings that Allah has given you. Think Positive. ♥
    • By GD41586 in Chasing Islam
         0
      There has been a lot of talk about confessing of sins in my life experience so far. I'm not going to do that here since we aren't supposed to, but allow me to give a little background on my specific situation in regard to confession. Coming from the Christian tradition, the idea of not confessing ones' sins sounds very alien & almost as some sort of a cop-out to not have to face up to the wrong you have done. Whether it is the Catholic form of confession to a priest (either face to face or hidden behind a curtain) or the protestant scene's insistence that we confess to as many members of our local church as possible-- We who were raised in Christianity had the idea of confession pounded into our heads like a post into dry, hard earth since at least the earliest we can remember. Our every moral failing, character flaw, and vice must be shared with the wider Christian community for the purposes of "accountability"-- the idea being that by talking about our sins, we will feel shame and not commit them anymore (Catholic) & that confessing these negative thoughts/behaviors can help other Christians to encourage us in our spiritual journey. Normally, this doesn't work out this way and you as the individual Christian become the object of gossip in your congregation... which we understand to be sinful in and of itself. The idea of "covering up" your sins is treated as if you were voluntarily refusing to use the toilet to eliminate waste from your body.

              While I do see some value in confessing sins, I do not now and have never seen much value in confessing them to more than your parish priest/congregational pastor & any parties who might have been directly wronged by your actions; and certainly see no benefit to confessing to the entire church. People have their own vices, failings, and flaws; thus they usually aren't in a great position to counsel others on modifying their behavior and perfecting their spiritual practice. Of course, this has been argued to me by many a well-meaning church lady as "Think of it that you aren't confessing for your own benefit, but for the benefit of others who have their own sins that they need to repent of, but feel too much fear of judgment to do so". As referenced above, this normally doesn't work out in that way. My general rule now is that if you absolutely must "come clean" about sins, that the better practice would be to confess this to your spiritual mentor/religious leader (ideally one you have a close relationship with).

             Initially, I had assumed that this Christian practice of reconciliation would also apply to Islam, so at the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I will "confess" that I have done this prior to being clued-in as to why Islam doesn't have a reconciliation ritual practice. However, the logic was something that took me a little while to make sense of, as it has to do with "honor culture". "Honor culture" is something that we do not really have as American cultural Christians. Bearing that in mind and my continuing to work through the Christian dogma of original sin, I have to remind myself frequently on SC to NOT approach others as an "open book". Think of it in the same way as oversharing on social media: not everyone needs to (or even wants to) know about my sins & failures.
            This is not for my benefit, as I do not have a concept of "honor" aside from keeping my word to others (we are taught that the actions of others have no bearing on us as individuals). I have chosen to modify the Christian motivation of "responsibility to the church" that would encourage confession, to a view that does NOT encourage it for the sake of sparing others discomfort-- to not break a taboo that may make my brothers and sisters feel awkward or "put them on the spot" with a false, pharisaic piety that may make them feel lead to open up about shameful things from their own life, as well as not propagating the concept that "sin is OK provided you confess publicly". I am a guest here and I am no longer among my own culture, after all. To borrow a term from the Gospels, I don't want to place a "stumbling block" in the path of my brothers and sisters.

              It's much better to not speak of my sins to anyone aside from Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) , as he is the ONLY one who can forgive our sins.

             I'll admit that having to completely relearn everything I was so certain of in regard to faith & spirituality can, like any training or exercising of mind or muscle, be uncomfortable at the outset. However, we take these journeys and diverge from the walk of our native culture and our parents because the peace that comes with finding truth wherever it objectively lies is greater than providing ourselves a momentary balm for our troubled souls that something that is not necessarily beneficial can bring (like using a substance when we are emotionally hurting).

             Insha'allah, this week and from here on, I will work extra hard to remain mindful and not overshare, offer forth Too Much Information, and thus protect both my honor and that of my brothers and sisters who have lived this deen from birth or at least prior to my pursuit of universal truth & perfect submission to my awesome and all-powerful creator.

       
    • By GD41586 in Chasing Islam
         0
      Have you ever been fascinated by something? I mean truly fascinated-- wherein you find yourself pondering, daydreaming, and even neglecting your hobbies to research the topic in question?

      I attended three separate high schools from 1421-1425 (2000-2004 CE), so one might think that Islam would have been very topical during this period. I'll be the first to admit that my high school didn't cover Islam at all. We had no units on Islam or Muslims in World History nor did we speak of Islam in any sort of current events units in social studies (my schools didn't even offer World Religions as an elective). Although we had Muslim students, the only information we ever received on Islam was from an Evangelical Christian Language Arts teacher that I will refer to as Mrs. B. Mrs. B did not take a very favorable view of Islam at all & would semi-regularly sneak in mean-spirited verbal barbs about the faith itself. These usually were ignored by everyone or written off as “Oh, there Mrs. B goes again!” while we pondered whether what her proclamations regarding her specific flavor of Christianity somehow violated the prohibition on public school employees promoting their religious views. We also knew nothing of Islam except what the American media (usually through right-wing pundits) was trying to pound into our heads. That is, until an incredibly well spoken and gifted classmate came along: Massomeh.

      Massomeh's came from a Muslim family and they had moved to the US from Tehran a few years prior to our sophomore year. She was a straight-A student who played on the girl's soccer team, never was so much as “shushed” by a teacher, and did her best to fit in socially while maintaining a level of integrity in her faith that not even the Southern Baptist students (who would act up outside of school), as vocal and virtue-signaling as they were, could hope to maintain during this period of American history, when the moral sentiments of previous generations began to “circle the drain”. Massey (how she preferred to be addressed by classmates) was the student that a lot of us wished we could be... until Mrs. B and a few other teachers began making their broad generalizations and giving false information about Islam, Iran, and Muslims in the wake of the attacks on New York City. As the idiom goes: “Sista don't play dat”, and we watched in awe as this peer of ours respectfully and concisely refuted, contradicted, and dismantled every claim that these faculty members made about Islam & Muslims (and occasionally Iran). She ended up becoming so popular with the students after these statements that she was voted as the head of our Student government (and also because her skill at persuading adults got us the few concessions in the cafeteria that we had wanted from the day the brand new high school opened its doors).
       
      Massey's mini-lectures on Islam had a major impact on me. I was already well into almost an obsessive interest in religions by that point, and it was refreshing to be able to hear one of my peers deliver expertise on something aside from school gossip, gangster rap, or football. I heard her elaborate on what Islam was, what Islam taught (remember that she was not an Islamic scholar), and subjects like the Hajj & what it entailed. When she inevitably gave a presentation on Islam during a current events segment of social studies, she had prepared a PowerPoint presentation complete with graphics; and that's where I saw a picture of a structure that would come to dominate my imagination and interest to this very day: a large black cube in the middle of the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

      The Kaaba. The “House of God”.

      After the presentation in which she explained to the puzzled students that this grand, black cube structure was built by the patriarch Abraham (the root from which monotheism was reestablished) & it was believed to be the first house of worship ever constructed; I began to search out whatever pictures and information about this fascinating structure that I could. Of course, I was (nominally) Christian, so it made no sense to me why I was so enamored with this ancient structure when my own (nominal) religion had sacred sites and holy places of its own. My family didn't understand, and my teachers were uneasy with this fascination for whatever reason (likely politically motivated, as this was during the first presidential term of George W. Bush). I didn't look into Islam as a religion at this time, all I knew was that there was something about this large, black granite cube that captured my attention. Whether it was the shape, the Masjid al-Haram that surrounded it, or the ritual of the Hajj itself has been forgotten to me over the years; but I began daydreaming about its significance and even put a photo of it as the wallpaper on my 1998 IBM Aptiva PC (which troubled my mom and got me in a bit of trouble, as I was clearly “only doing this to rebel & get attention”). I had even printed a picture of It and glued it to the inside of my creative writing binder. This made no sense to anyone, least of all me: After all, I was the video-gaming, Magic: the Gathering-playing, anti-authoritarian punk rocker teen who was bored in school & had no plans on going to university or college after I escaped what amounted to little more than a government funded indoctrination daycamp. Why was I so star struck by this sacred structure, particularly as I was going through a period of doubting the existence of God and a general belief that “all religions have gotten it wrong”?

      Fast forward to the present day (1441). As my life changes in so many ways, I am more fascinated than ever before with this amazing, beautiful geometric house of God. However, I still cannot give a good explanation of exactly what it is that piques my interest to the point where I dream of and draw pictures of this monument, I tear through the internet for any articles, scholarly or otherwise, that I can find (and access) that will reveal the history, purpose, and significance of the Kaaba to me. The argument will likely be made that this is another case of the “white man fetishizing a non-white culture”, but such a limited hand-wave of my interest in the Kaaba betrays a painfully ignorant view of Islam and Muslims that is almost ironic in its naivety, as Islam is a religion and a way of life (deen) for all people of earth, regardless of their native language, skin color, or national origin. After all, it was upon making the pilgrimage to this most sacred place that one of my heroes, Malcolm X, repented of his Black Supremacist views and left the Nation of Islam (which is “Islamic” in the way that White Supremacist hate groups in America claim they are “Christian”). Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad ((عليه السلام).) repudiated the idea of race in his farewell sermon:

      “O people, your Lord is One, and your father is one: all of you are from Adam, and Adam was from the ground. The noblest of you in Allah’s sight is the most godfearing: Arab has no merit over non-Arab other than godfearingness.” (from the report of Al-Jahiz (translated), forgive me if I have made an error)

      I wonder if the Kaaba and my obsessive interest in it was what drew me into pursuing Islam, or more appropriately (and truthfully), if this was the “introduction” to the Islamic way of life that Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) used to begin to undo my ignorance in regard to the perfect path that he has ordained for ALL mankind through His final prophet & messenger Muhammad ((عليه السلام).), to draw me away from the imperfect, tainted “cultural Christianity” that I was born into & subsequently was my sole religious exposure until that fateful day in class. Since this period of my life began, I have moved closer and closer to Islam like a comet being drawn toward the sun. I do not know what the future holds for me, nor can I pretend to & doing so would be both absurd & presumptuous on my part; but what I DO know is that Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) has created me for both his pleasure and to fulfill a specific destiny, no matter how insignificant it may seem to me & the world I occupy.

      Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) is THE BEST of planners & Inshallah, I will eventually be able to live a proper and functional Muslim life. It's just a matter of arriving at that point.
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