Leaving Denver, CO we had nine hours on our hands to talk about life. One of the most rewarding things about this trip is spending time with my older brothers. The two I’ve looked up to since I popped out the womb. They’ve had a great impact on my life whether they know it or not. My role models came from inside the home.
A passionate discussion erupted about attaining knowledge. After going back and forth, we agreed that you have to want change and seek knowledge in order to change yourself and your situation. I used myself as an example.
One year for Eid, my younger brother Shaybah, gifted me a lecture series. I made every excuse in the world NOT to listen to it. I had it in my car, but I would listen to music instead. Or, I’d ﬁnd a reason to call someone. Or, I’d even ride in silence, citing a ten minute drive as not enough time to learn from the series. Finally, after running out of excuses, I popped in the CDs and beneﬁtted from them greatly. Oh, and this was a year and a half later. I said that to say this: Knowledge is available! We live in the information age; everyone has direct access to the World Wide Web. If you want to know about something bad enough, you can ﬁnd it. There are Shaykhs, Imams, Ustadhs, Da’ees all over youtube. Traveling institutes like Al-Maghrib, Bayyinah and Qalam. The information, the knowledge, is there. We just have to seek it. I had a wealth of information right under my nose, but I refused it. I didn’t beneﬁt from the resources until I put forth the effort. There are no more excuses. Get up and seek knowledge.
We passed through Omaha in a ﬂash. We arrived for Maghrib and we were gone after Ishaa. We had the opportunity of sitting with Shaykh Muhammad who studied in Madinah, KSA for seven years. Three of his brothers studied at the same time with him, all in different ﬁelds: Fiqh, Hadith, Qur’an, etc. They have Islam covered within the family.
I got to spend extended time with Adam, a very young football player and a wrestler. He was excited to know that we both play the same position, Safety. Adam told me how much he enjoys sports and being active. He asked me to sign his wrestling picture for him, and I agreed on one condition: that he gives me an autographed picture as well. I believe I got the better of the exchange because when Adam makes it big, I’ll have something way more valuable than a Rookie card.
As we recited the Du`a’ of the traveller, I began to get goose bumps. Heading back to Minnesota for the ﬁrst time since leaving in June. I know it’s only been a few weeks, but this is where I played four years of ball, this is where Kameela was born, this is where I greatly developed as a human being, this is where I was able to reﬂect.
On draft day, I was down in the dumps. Knowing I had a good chance of being drafted as high as the 4th round I was excited. But there was a chance at being undrafted. The latter prevailed. Minnesota seemed like the best opportunity to make a team. As soon as I signed, I knew it would be three guys ﬁghting for one spot. I ﬁgured I should be able to beat out two dudes. Alhamdulillah, I earned a roster spot. I went from playing purely special teams the ﬁrst two years to being a starter the last two years. I gradually became better as a football player and as a person.
Eden Prairie, MN was voted the #1 place to live in 2010. The area is nice, quiet, and there is beautiful scenery. Everyone is family oriented. Crime rate is very low. It really is a place where you can take a deep breath and not have to worry about to many outside inﬂuences. I realized that in my adolescent years I picked up very bad habits and this was holding me back from being a good person and being good to my family. Living in Eden Prairie I was able to stop making excuses and justiﬁcations for my behavior and start working on myself. Slowly but surely I began to ﬁlter the negatives out of my life. I’m not completely clean (none of us are), but I am along way from when I arrived in 2008.
Heading to Masjid Al-Tawba I was excited to see familiar faces. As soon as I saw Jabir, I knew I was in for a rough time. He’s been making life hard for me (joking) ever since I decided to leave the city. As we settled in after the Asr prayer I began to speak about self reﬂection. Since there are not many distractions going on outside the walls of the Masjid in Eden Prairie, it is a golden opportunity to look at yourself in the mirror and go to work. This is the month of Ramadan, the month where we can’t blame Satan for our shortcomings. Whatever we do is really who we’ve become. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime because, there is no guarantee we’ll see the next one. Even if it’s just one thing we can better ourselves at, this is the month to get over the hump.
We made our way to Dar Al-Farooq in Bloomington, MN. After Maghrib prayer, we scrapped the second talk and opted for basketball instead. I believe that was far more enjoyable for the youth. I love Minnesota. I miss Minnesota. But Allah has a plan and although I do not know what it is, I’ll follow it willingly. Insha’allah.
Regrouping in Chicago, we chilled at the hotel for a little while to gather some energy. My phone rang and before you know it, my friend Ibrahim Bengali was at the room with us. A ﬁery MSA student from Northwestern University, Ibrahim has a good heart and a strong family backing. I’ve been fortunate enough to sit with his father and the knowledge he spit in thirty minutes was worthy of a semester’s worth of classes.
The Masjid was huge and the believers accompanying had huge hearts. Two NFL players in Chicago was a big hit. The Bears faithful were in attendance to take every jab they could whenever it was mentioned that I played in Minnesota. Serious talks about backbiting, wanting for your brother what you want for yourself, jokes and laughter followed as we had a ball at the Islamic Foundation.
One thing that’s important to me is family. Family should be at the forefront of everything. Cancer can and will destroy families from the inside out. The cancer I’m referring to is backbiting. When a problem arises its always easiest to talk about someone when they’re not looking. I found myself struggling with a family member. Couldn’t get through for nothing. After I walked away I was ready to start eating my brother’s ﬂesh. I had to restrain myself, bite my lip and wait until I could confront him face to face. That’s how I was raised to communicate. Not saying I’m the best, just constantly working to get better. The bickering back and forth, the destroying of someone’s character based upon suspicion is not the way to go. This was something I was dealing with, so I shared it with the attendees.
For Fajr we visited the Masjid of Hussain and Mubeen Kamani. The brothers also gifted us apparel to wear for the duration of the trip. We had the chance to meet more youth in the morning and answer every football question they could possibly ask.
As we headed for the door we ran into Eddie from “The Deen Show.” After making a quick arrangement we met up with Eddie before we left for Detroit. It was fun to sit and talk on the show.
Chicago is too big to hit all the stops we wanted. We could do a thirty-day trip in Chicago alone. I’m looking forward to coming back and having a blast.
Heading for Detroit, MI I decided to give my brother in Islam Omar Regan a call. A jokester who thrives on Halal comedy, Omar keeps me laughing. The ﬁrst time I met him he continuously made fun of me at a local event in Minnesota. It was all good fun though. His Halal Michael Jackson gets me every time I hear it. Masjid Al-Haqq is the type of Masjid that has the bare minimum for a Muslim.
The neighborhood surrounding Masjid Al-Haqq was unpleasing to the eye. No streetlights to glow in the dark of the night. Lawnmowers seemed as if they hadn’t been invented yet. Buildings, crumbling apart from the inside, like a person with weak Iman. The Muslims at the Masjid submitted their wills to Allah in Islam. People ask me of temptation and how do I restrain myself. I ask these brothers and sisters, how do they do it? There is prostitution, alcohol, drugs etc. all around them. The ratio of churches to liquor stores per block is three to one. Yet, the Noor is shining from the faces of the believers as if they had the world and everything in it. In a struggle to purify themselves, they have found contentment in what Allah (swt) has provided them. A quality I still yearn to posses.
We took our talk outside because the overﬂow of capacity. Hamza was ﬁred up to speak and went off. He spoke words that resonated in people’s hearts. “La ilaha ill Allah, Muhamad arrasul Allah,” he echoed, time and time again. With every story, every topic change, every point, every moment, every chance he was given, he enthusiastically repeated “La ilaha ill Allah, Muhamad arrasul Allah.” Urging people to change their situations and not wait for someone else to come and “save them.” Regardless of what I write it will not do that speech justice. Insha’allah it will turn up on youtube sooner or later.
Following Hamza’s rowdy speech I decided to speak from my heart as well. Lead by example. Walk the walk. Respect your elders. Guard your inner circles. These were my messages to the community. Overjoyed with love we interacted with the community on a personal level. Soon, it was time to cut.
Racing to the Islamic Center of Detroit to catch Taraweeh, I kept in contact with Farhan Abdul Azeez. He’s a brother I met in Texas. Farhan changed the way I view salah. He gave one of the most beautiful and engaging khutbahs I’ve ever attended. Luckily for you, he put out a series, Sweetness of Salah and you can watch it on his website. Farhan took us around Dearborn after Salah before heading to Fordson High.
12:30 AM and a voluntary conditioning session is underway. The tractors of Fordson practice at night because 95% of the students are Muslim who observe fasting during Ramadan. Impressed, I had to go and see it with my own eyes. It was all smiles when I saw coach Fouad. Our last encounter was at the White House for Iftar last year in Ramadan. We quickly caught up before I had the opportunity to address the team.
In short, there wasn’t enough time in the day. I have to get back to Detroit. ASAP.