So I have been delving deeper into the Nor Cal Ummah since I graduated and moved back home and I feel like every week there is something new and interesting I stumble on to thats going on or is being planned. Alhumdualillah. One really great space I have found and cherish is the Ta’leef Collective. It reminds me of the way that historians described Baghdad and the Ottoman empire at the height of the intellectual and artistic heyday. I was reading an article on BBC – the writer saying that American’s view change,”That imperative to succeed, to see innovation as the core of the way things should be, is an American phenomenon.”(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-10665372)
Made me start thinking about Islam in America and how the American view on change is affecting Islam and vice versa. Which brings me to the TND.
One event I had not attended until two days ago was the TND (Thursday Night Discussion), held once a month. I wasn’t sure what to expect except a lecture and some food. While I did get food and a guided lecture/discussion – it was an interesting experience because it was with a segment of the Muslim population I didn’t really socialize with. Now let me say – I am not here to point fingers and state I am a better Muslim than anyone else. So in my use of generalities to describe this segment of the Muslim population – forgive me in advance. This segment of the Muslim population at this event was majority Afghani, non practicing actively and you usually only see these individuals at the masjid for a wedding, death or Ramadan.
That said – the TND is a space that allows for complete open forum for discussion about topics that are facing the tweens, teens and 20 somethings without the Haraam Police rolling in an shutting them down. This in itself is makes this place one of a kind – what also makes this one of a kind is that someone who is highly educated in Islam – comes in and talks about these topics – Usama Canon.
I think this forum is needed especially for those who are many times pushed aside and dismissed because they are not practicing or have fallen away from the Deen because they were faced by one of these issues such as a pregnancy outside of marriage or drugs, depression or tattoos etc. The list goes on and on. What this forum does is allow for this dialog and draws I hope inshaAllah many of these people back to Islam – once they realize that the Deen is personal – its between you and Allah only. InshaAllah this space encourages young people to stand up and say – I am Muslim and I am going to practice – this way because this is how I feel closest to Allah.
As someone who converted to the Deen in 2007, I can say – I come from a perhaps more conservative background when it comes to the actual rituals of practice and the way’s one could strive to increase their taqwa. I was uncomfortable at the TND not because of the forum or what was discussed but the fact I felt for the most part like I wasn’t in the same place with my Deen – these questions and challenges – many of them are not something I am facing personally. I also felt old – especially once I fell into the the over 25 crowd -when he polled the room and the majority were 18 – 24. I felt out of place also because I was one of the few hijabis and then one of the few people to make sure and pray before and then during the TND lecture as Isha had come in while Usama Canon was speaking.
Still this very much, is a space that needs to be preserved for those who are seeking and questioning about Islam. Islam is the thinking woman or man’s religion – its not for those who simply follow the leader – although we know that does happen. In providing this space we open Islam for those seeking truth and seeking a way to align Islam with the realities of today. I hope it spreads across the United States because many Muslim youth are feeling lost and unsure how to balance between American values and the Deen. So is this a new facet of American Islam? I have to wonder, if it is.. lets embrace it, nurture as a way to bridge the gap between generations as much as cultures that exist between parent, child, society and religion. Inclusion is the answer.