I had the opportunity to attend Al Madina’s Pearls of the Qur’an conference last weekend. Hands down one of the most inclusive and heart-warming conferences I’ve been to. Many great gems to share inshaAllah, (and I wish everyone could have experienced the Qiyam we had with Sh. AbdelKarim!).. but what I really wanted to share are some observations I noted on a short elevator stop with Imam Zaid Shakir.
It was Saturday morning after Fajr. Aminah and I hit the elevator button to go up and a crowd started to gather around the lobby. Mostly brothers, Aminah and I stood to the side and also started looking for the stairs but couldn’t find them. Imam Zaid Shakir also came for the elevator.
– He had a copy of the Washington Post in his hand and he was reading the cover stories.
Benefit: We should be aware of current issues and trends to increase our critical thinking. We should be educated and informed about the times in which we live.
– A brother came up and wanted to say Salaam. Imam Zaid probably did not know him very well but he greeted him as though he was anticipating their meeting .. A big smile, heart-felt embrace, genuine questions about how he is doing.. :)
Benefit: Always greet people with anticipation and not with passiveness. Convey a sense of sincere brotherhood/sisterhood by means of our salaam.
– The brother asked Imam Zaid about his family and how everything is going, and his response was concise and full of hamd. He only responded with Alhumdulillah, and made shukr to Allah for everything he was asked about.
Benefit: Find any and every opportunity to make mention of Allah’s blessings. Be a good trendsetter by setting a good example for others to follow. When people hear shukr and hamd from us, it will rub off on them and they too will increase in shukr and hamd of Allah. Also, be mindful of how to respond to questions based on the timing and context. In this situation, Imam Zaid was concise in his response.
– When the elevator arrived, some people started to go in and Imam Zaid noticed Aminah and I stepped further back to let the brothers go in first, but he stopped everyone and said “sisters, you all first, you’ve been waiting longer than us”.
Benefit: We could have easily waited for the next elevator but here, the benefit is to be observant and considerate in all situations. Putting others first.
– Once on the elevator, Imam Zaid was the last person to say which floor he needed to go to. Benefit: Same as above.
– He specifically initiated the salaam to a younger brother, probably about 15 years old.
Benefit: This seemed very purposeful and intentional. What I found of benefit here was that this young brother may remember for a long time that Imam Zaid specifically said Salaam to him, shook his hand, and gave him a hug .. perhaps it’ll be a means of motivation for the brother to continue learning the deen and going in the path of Allah in the long-term inshaAllah. A positive experience can change a person in so many ways.
– On the ride up, Imam Zaid connected with the elders at their level and the younger people at their level.
Benefit: An important skill is to be able to carry conversations with people of different ages .. meeting people at their level.
– Someone had said something that I cannot recall right now, but he responded with “the hearts are willing but the feet can be unwilling” talking about the weakness of man despite all of one’s lofty aims and hopes .. something small that everyone could benefit from at some level.
Benefit: The skill of being able to normalize the shared human experience. Everyone could relate to this bit of wisdom in some way.
One of the fundamental differences I noticed in this gathering was the focus on baseerah, an internal nadhr which leads to deeper insights as opposed to simply the external nadhr. Amazing example Imam Suhaib gave was the example of Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum in Surah ‘Abasa .. his blindness prevented him from seeing, but when he saw the Prophet (salallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) with his heart, he could see. The rich men of Quraysh had sight to see with, but they were blind.