Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Letter To All Those Hater's Out There

Dear Fear and Hate Monger’s of the World,

 Hi. I’m writing to you because you’ve stolen my banner, and I finally want it back.

No, don’t give me that confused know exactly what I’m talking about. That banner is my faith...and you seem to have taken ahold of it, determined to hide it’s beauty from the rest of the world.

You see, I wouldn’t have minded sharing my banner with you, except you’re adamant on holding it backwards. And to make things worse, it looks like you’ve painted all over it so I can barely tell what was written on there in the first place. And yet, you claim that it’s the same banner I’ve proudly displayed my whole life.

Hmm. I’ll admit, part of me is very angry at our predicament here. I mean, that banner is one of my most prized possessions...and here you are trying to rip it apart...thread by thread. And what’s worse, myself and co-protectors of it and its message aren’t doing enough to stop you.

As I pondered what to do, an unsettling realization dawned upon me. The anger that I’m feeling is exactly what exactly what you want me to feel. You want me to feel alienated. You want me to feel robbed of my identity. You want me to feel helpless. You want to win.

You know, I’m not some overly important policy maker (yet) or an arrogant politician. I’m just your average American citizen. Born in a little suburb someplace in Florida. Spend my Sunday’s watching football. Not really a big fan of apple pie, but you get the picture...

Wait! Before you think you can step on me and get away with it, I warn you, I’m armed with something that might give you goosebumps...I follow the Qur’an. Yes, you just read the QUR’AN! :O

Woah, before you go to call the authorities and start painting me as some crazed jihadi militant, let me elaborate a little more about what I mean exactly...

The Qur’an teaches me to be tolerant of all people...regardless of faith, ethnic background, or race. It teaches me to be kind to my smile in the face of those who rather have mercy on the give charity to the give the salutations of peace to everyone...yes, everyone...even you. 

Surprised? I figured you would be. I mean, you could have known that if you hadn’t painted lies all over my banner before getting a chance to read it...

So, I write this with one message in mind: I won’t let you win. WE won’t let you win. As human beings, we can’t afford to let you take continuously drive wedges between families, neighborhoods, and nations. 
I stand here with my fellow Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic, Spiritual, Atheist and anyone else in between with understanding in their heart, united against your tactics. Only once we stand together, hand in hand, willing to learn from and educate one another, do we have a chance in countering this wave of hatred sweeping our world.

As to those out there who are doing Fear and Hatred’s bidding: I know we’re not exactly on good terms right now...and that’s okay. You might be a bit misinformed about what I stand for, and given the present state of world affairs, I forgive you for that.

But I hope to meet you one day, even for just a minute, and smile. You know, we have a lot more in common than you think. I hope to have the opportunity to get to show you that. 

For now, you see me as your enemy...However, I see you as my future friend.

And no offense to you, future friend, but you’ve been holding on to my banner for far too long. I’m taking it back now. With a little time, patience, and teamwork all the paint can be removed and the frayed edges mended...allowing its true message to finally shine through.

Don’t worry, I’m not letting you walk away empty handed. As a parting gift, here’s a short poem I read the other day:

World Peace
It’s not just an empty slogan or bumper sticker


World Peace is our struggle
A struggle to overcome our fear and prejudice of others
By reaching out to learn, understand, appreciate
To discover new friends and ancient ways 

Only then
Can we change...
Terror into Security
Hate into Love
And War into Peace.

My Sincerest Regards,

Sarah Kassem
University of Florida
Muslim Youth For Truth Co-Founder

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Everyone Has A Story: How Ungrateful Was I!

Packing my first box for the children in Afghanistan during class on Jan 24, 2011
Often times we get lost in the bubble of our hectic lifestyles, and forget that beyond the lines of this country, people do exist. These are people who dream of a better future, which they hope one day to achieve. People with families and friends who they hope will never leave. People with a desire to learn, grow, and better themselves so that one day, they could be as great as those they look up to.

So many times I have been told, “You can do anything you want to do if you just try hard enough,” but now I see how untrue that might be. How ungrateful was I before I noticed the suffering of others who did not have a pencil to write with, or paper to write on, or a book to read just for fun! How ungrateful was I before I realized the blessings of something as small as having four pencils in my bag that I rarely even use. How ungrateful was I.

I did not expect to be in this position two months ago when I first registered for this class nor did I expect to attain such a passion for the cause when the descriptions for the classes were first being read aloud! I heard “homeless awareness” and thought I had made my decision right off the bat! Until I heard the name, “One Pencil can help bring Peace,” a project dedicated to benefit the students of Afghanistan who did not have the simplest necessities required for education. My perception of this class suddenly turned upside down. I expected to learn from this class through the standard methods of lecturing and writing meaningless essays. However, I found myself becoming a part of something amazing, an opportunity that would give students like myself, who are yearning for knowledge, a chance to learn.

I was always taught the importance of education throughout my life and how it can make or break my future, but I have never truly appreciated that statement until now. The power of education is one that extends beyond our understanding. It has the ability to transform an entire community by allowing them to perceive and comprehend the mechanics of society as well as illustrate the crucial role they play in it. Education plays a pivotal role in showing these people that they have the capability to change the world.

Children in a classroom without walls at the Abdul Hali Mazare School in Mazar I Sharif, Afghanistan (Photo courtesy: The Stony Brook School)
When SMSgt. Rex Temple came into our class to present to us this project and the situation of the Afghan children, it brought about a sense of urgency for myself. These children want to learn but are hindered from doing so, because of the lack of schools and teachers and because many of them simply cannot afford to pursue an education. But the rebuilding of their country cannot occur without the future generation being educated and built into strong leaders of tomorrow. Progression can only occur with strong heads leading the way. The importance of education is exemplified through this need. It has the ability to create strong minds and people that can alter the future of this world, uniting it.

Some of the supplies that our class shipped to Afghanistan on Jan 24, 2011
I have slowly begun to realize the importance of everything that I have in my life and how grateful I should be of it. These people do not have a pencil to write with, while we have the luxury of owning 3-4 computers in a single family – computers that have made our lives so easy. These people – the Afghan people - are just like us. They desire the same things that we do. They have the same goals as we do. They want to learn just like we do. They want to grow and become prominent members of a society to help it grow and prosper just as we do. They are our brothers and sisters in humanity, and their suffering is our suffering. That is why I am here.

Mohammed Ali Ismail
University of South Florida
MSA @ USF President
Muslim Youth For Truth Contributer

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

So I Could Get Good Deeds...By Eating A Salad?

Crunchy, fresh lettuce; ripe, red tomatoes; dark, green cucumbers; topped with goat cheese, red onions and chopped dates; drizzled with olive oil and some…sunnah dressing? That’s how you make a scrumptious, sunnah salad. 

SubhanAllah, the deeper I study Islam, the more I realize how easy it is. The fact that I could simply set my intention and turn everyday activities into acts of worship is just amazing. We could transform our every meal into a form of worship. Ever notice all the foods mentioned in the Qur’an and sunnah? These foods definitely weren’t mentioned by accident. It requires no extra effort if you just redirect your intention, every action and every bite you take can translate into an act of worship! Olives, onions, dates; these are all foods that are incorporated within the Quran and sunnah just to name a few. If I could make my own nutrition labels for these foods, right under ‘calories from fat’, I would add ‘good deeds from sunnah.’ Why would you not want to incorporate these foods into your daily lives? Not only can you be blessed, inshaAllah, with reward for adhering to the Qur’an and practices of the Prophet (pbuh), but also with all the tremendous health benefits of these foods. 

So I’ve got my day job and my night job: civil engineer by day; health and fitness guru by night. Sometimes they overlap. Here’s the engineering nerd in me about to come out: so as civil engineers, we deal a lot with the soil that’s underneath everything we want to build. The more I learned about the characteristics of soils, clays, and sands the more I understood the human body. We were all created from clay, and I don’t want to get too nerdy here, but if we came from the earth, wouldn’t it make sense that the place to get our nourishment would be from, well… the earth. In a society where manufactured and processed foods are the norm, it has become more and more challenging to eat healthier know, the kind that grow from the earth! This stigma surrounding salads and vegetables has gotten the majority of people thinking that anything healthy can’t taste good! Wrong! How could a chemically processed, mystery meat concoction is more appealing to us that a balanced salad, filled with food items the Prophet (pbuh) himself used to eat?! 
From a larger perspective, health is a part of our deen. Allah gave our bodies to us. We are entrusted with our bodies, and only we can control what we do to them. No one is holding up french fries and candy bars and forcing us to eat them. No matter what’s served in front of us, at the end of the day, we’re the ones who control what our hand picks up to place in our mouths. We are eating way too much and our food selections, simply said, aren’t the best. It’s time to take drastic action before we further harm our bodies and teach our younger generations the same unhealthy eating habits. So what do we do?!

Here we are almost a month after we’ve established our new year’s resolutions. I can almost bet that if you’re a female (and perhaps the occasional guy), ‘losing weight’ or ‘working out’ were probably up there on your list. Whether you’ve lost sight of these goals or you’re still continuing strong, I hope this has rejuvenated you or opened your eyes to a new way of looking at being healthy.  

For you ladies out there, there’s an organization aimed at women’s health and fitness with an interesting incorporation of Quran and sunnah. I recommend all to check it out because it really makes eating healthy and staying fit fun and easy! Check out and get started on a healthier path in life. 

Sunnah salad for dinner anyone?

Nadine Abu-Jubara
Executive Director
Muslim Youth For Truth Contributor

P.S. Here’s some tips to help you get started:

1) Water water water. Drink lots of water before you decide you need a big huge plate full of food to satisfy yourself. The part of your brain that tells you you're hungry is conveniently the same one that tells you you're thirsty. Sometimes your body is just telling you it’s super thirsty, not super hungry! 

2) Take it slow! It takes 15-20 mins for your tummy to tell your brain that you're full. Try not pile up your plate, fully chew all your bites, and give your body time to process what's going on before you jump right into seconds.

3) Soda is NOT a staple! Try some icie cold water or FRESHLY squeezed fruit juice please. High in phosphorous and phosphoric acid, soft drinks infiltrate bodily fluids and corrode stomach linings, upset the alkaline-acid balance of the kidneys, and eat away at your liver like Hannibal Lecter. Is that really want going into the 1 body you own?

4) Vitamins- you should take a multivitamin once a day. What kind, or which brand you ask? The multivitamin of the Prophet (pbuh)! They contain natural fibres, proteins, oil, calcium, sulphur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium. Have you guessed it yet? yep dates, eat one :) Sorry Centrum, the Quran beat you to it.

5) BREAKFAST! Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast. The most neglected meal of the day. Most common excuses for not eating breakfast are “I’m not hungry” or “I have no time.” You haven’t eaten for 8 hours! How are you not hungry?! I don’t care if you’re ‘not hungry,’ after 8 hours, you need to eat! Time an issue? Try preparing something the night before. I boil my eggs the night before so in the morning all I need to do is peel, heat a little, and enjoy. I think it’s worth the extra 5 minutes in the morning! Ladies! Women who eat breakfast burn 300 calories more in a day than women who don’t…do it! 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

JUST DO IT! (....I think Nike might be onto something)

So it’s a new year! We’ve all decided that we are going to start working out and start eating healthier. This year is going to be a good one. This summer I will be the leanest, meanest, most ripped I’ve ever been in my life - even more than when I used to be a high school athlete who trained hard every single.  Why? Because I’ve made a RESOLUTION. No more playing games and joking around.

Oh, but wait. First I have to make a training plan. Ehh, but how can I start training if I’m not even eating properly? It’s just going to make my stomach hurt and I’m never going to see results with this horrible diet. So, I also first need to make a nutrition plan. Actually, you know what? I’ll first let one week of classes pass by so I can get used to the new semester.  God knows I don’t want to overdo it all at once; baby steps right? Hmm, I just thought about it, but I have an evening class every day. So, I’ll train in the morning. BUT! There’s no way that I’ll wake up on time, so first I need to get into the habit of sleeping properly. Once I’m used to waking up early, I’ll train right after Fajr. You know, now that I think about it, I can’t workout with this crick in my neck. I’ll wait for that to heal before I start working out, too.

Subhan’Allah it’s February now! And by the mercy of Allah all these conditions have been met. NOW I can start training. So, I was reading online, looking for the best workout plan, and I found about four that are really good. But I can’t pick one because they all have some good things about them. Hmm, I should create my own plan and save myself the headache.

Yes! It’s only March and I’m done creating my own workout plan! Now time to put it to the test! Ahh!!!! I have to study for midterms!!!! Okay, I promise myself that after midterms I’ll start working out every day! Oh no, but I can’t because my cousins are visiting for Spring Break. Well, after they are gone it’ll be all dedication! No social life, just training! Then when they all see me in the summer, I’m going to be a no fat machine!

So Spring Break is over, but I ate too much junk food with my cousins and we stayed up late every night. I need to realign my life first before I dive into this whole workout thing.

Crap! It’s summer time! Everyone is going to know that everything I said about getting ripped was a lie! I have no results to show! But it’s okay. Alhamdulillah, I’m going overseas this summer, so no one will have to see me in my sorry state.

Hmm. Does this sound familiar? ALL OF IT!?!?! If not, then Masha’Allah, you are blessed. But if you are like most people including myself, THINKING about working out is one of our greatest hobbies. We think and think and think. We plan and plan and plan. We do all the research in the world. We spend all the time making sure everything in our lives is perfectly ready to handle the training. We spend so much time reading about and watching videos about the success of others . We are so determined. We are so driven. We are so passionate. We think about it so much that we look into the mirror and without having worked out a single day, we believe we already start seeing results. We start telling others that we feel so much better. That we’ve gotten so much stronger or faster. But in reality, all we’ve done is planned and thought we were training. What we’ve done is made excuses. What we’ve done is cut our own legs from under ourselves.

Here’s the truth:  You are never going to find the perfect workout plan. The average human being does not need a special training plan to see results- movement in itself is enough. If one becomes a pro-athlete, then one needs to start worrying about tailoring your training to make it personalized. But the average person can do any decent training plan and see results IF they actually do it and if they stick with it.

Your lifestyle will never be perfect so stop saying that I’ll wait until my eating habits are good, or until my sleeping habits are good. There will always be something you can improve.

No more, I’ll start slow by first getting used to my course load then I’ll start training. Why? One hour of working out a day is going to destroy your studying? If you have cousins over, one hour of working out is too much time away from them? Okay maybe an hour is too much. You can’t do 20 push ups (on your knees if you have to)? You can’t do 20 burpees? You can’t do 10 minutes of running?  You can’t do a 8 minute Tabata workout? You can’t crank out 10 pull-ups, 20 push ups, and 50 squats?

The problem is not that you need the perfect training plan. Because all there is to know about working out is easy to learn. The problem comes when you decide you haven’t learned enough and so you sacrifice your workout so you can do more “research”. And of course that research will prompt more questions leading to more research and thinking and planning.

For those people who know me well, when asked about training advice, I usually point out the best exercises and the best routines and the best style of training for specific goals. But I intentionally am not giving any training advice now. Why? Because you all already know what to do. You might even know better than I do. Now the only thing left is to do it.

Go! Do it! Right now get out of your chair and do as many push ups as you can. Go! Now! Why are you reading this still if you haven’t done the push ups? Do them! I just finished doing mine. And you know what? It feels good! It’s humbling though. Now I just realized that I cannot do as many as I imagined I could. But at least I did them. Now I have a starting point. Now you have a starting point. Tomorrow let’s beat that number. And then next day beat that number. Very soon, those of us who did 5 push ups will do 40. Those of us who ran a 13-minute mile will run 5- minute miles. Those of us who power cleaned 50 pounds will clean 250 pounds. Insha’Allah

All it takes is the mentality that NOW I’m going to do it. There is no tomorrow! There is no “tired”. There is no too much homework! Too much homework to fit in a 10 minute workout? C’mon please! We spend more time browsing Facebook.

Sure it’s going to be hard in the beginning. But no one said it was going to be easy. Nothing worth having comes easy. What’s easy is eating until you have diabetes---- then it’s all-hard from there. But being able to run when you are 65 is hard. But it’s worth working for.

Start now! Stop making excuses! It’s already the New Year! We all already know WHAT to do. Now we have to do it. We all have a goal in our minds. Now it’s time to achieve that goal. Let’s collectively tell ourselves that we will start. Because once we start, the habit is easy to build. It’s just that the beginning step is the hardest. So why not start now? I don’t care if it’s 3:00am and you are reading this! Do as many push ups as you can! Now!! No push ups? Fine do squats! Now! The point is to get started NOW because there is no tomorrow.

If you’re reading this and haven’t already done push ups or squats, then I’m sorry to tell you that this year is going to be just like the last year for you. And you’re going to stay in your out of shape condition. You are going to continue making resolutions and telling your friends about them. But you will never show them results. In fact you’re simply going to get worse. The gut is going to grow. The spare tires are going to be joined by more. Joint pain will not be too far behind. That is IF you haven’t started yet. So start now!!! The pain is worth it! You know it is. You wouldn’t have made the resolution otherwise!

We all want a secret pill, a secret formula, some special shortcut; but the only secret formula that is battle tested and proven to work is the one we don't want to hear: HARD WORK.

Let’s get off of our lazy glutes and start busting them. A whole new you is a little elbow grease away!

By now I’m expecting you all to have finished 200 push ups……………………… (Sarcasm)

Insha’Allah, make dua’a that our path easy for us to follow so that we may reap the rewards of living healthier lives. And Insha’Allah we use our health to serve Islam and our Lord to the best of our abilities. Allah helps those who help themselves. So let’s get started.  Click here for some motivation.

Enjoy and Asalamu’Alaikum.

Ashkaar Qazi
University of South Florida
Project Downtown Tampa President
Muslim Youth For Truth Contributor

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Going Green For The Deen (...Oh, And Yourself Too)

Most Muslims know what ‘deen’ is – religion, faith, way or path.  Deen is the Arabic word. Islam is a deen.  Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and other faiths are deens. 
What many Muslims may not know is that their religion encourages them to live a Green Deen.  Catchy name, right? It’s quite brilliant and author Ibrahim Abdul-Matin in his new book, Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet, has presented to Muslims and anyone interested in what Islam has to say about the environment what a green deen is.  It fosters awareness of one’s environment and surroundings in order to become a God-conscious and conscientious human being of one’s actions on the planet and thus, towards other fellow earthlings.

Abdul-Matin’s passion for being an environmentally-conscious Muslim and person of this planet is from his father telling him the hadith of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, “The Earth is a mosque.”  Hence, everything in it is sacred.  Abdul-Matin went on several nature ventures with his father throughout his childhood and when prayer time arrived, his father would take the time to pray by finding an appropriate area and brush it free of twigs and leaves.  Abdul-Matin explains how this connection to nature was instilled onto him during his youth, and has remained and continues to propel him to be better person via his actions on this planet.

Divided into four parts, “waste, watts (energy), water, and food,” Abdul-Matin’s book provides great examples of what Muslims are currently doing to be more green, while also offering ample solutions of how to build or modify mosques that are more earth-friendly.  An interesting preexisting model is the holy mosques of Mecca and Medina.  Both recycle wastewater called gray water which is treated and used for wudu’ or ablution before prayers.  The Saudi Arabian government issued a fatwa that this method of water recycling is encouraged.  

What is most remarkable about the book and a great motivator for readers, is six Islamic principles Abdul-Matin elaborates on that align Islam and the environment so closely.  They are: 1. Understanding the Oneness of God and His creation (tawhid) 2. Seeing signs of God (ayat) everywhere 3. Being a steward (khalifah) of the Earth 4. Honoring the covenant, or trust, we have with God  (amana) to be protectors of the planet 5. Moving toward justice (adl) and 6. Living in balance with nature (mizan).  

Abdul-Matin constantly draws upon these concepts and reminds the reader of them when talking about a Green Deen.  An example is water.  Allah (swt) reminds us in the Qur’an, “We made from water every living thing.” (21: 30).  Being a Muslim means taking wudu’ and let’s be honest, how many of us put the sink on full blast, wasting gallons of water and being passive in our ritual ablution before facing our Lord?  Well, you can change that.  If we keep the six principles in mind with water usage, we can be better stewards, khalifah of this Earth.  

Unfortunately, many water sources are filled with toxins.  Large corporations dump their chemicals into our water.  Thankfully, there are people whose lives are occupied with cleaning up these messes, which contaminate water.  The author introduces his sister, Tauhirah, as an example of a Muslim trying to instill the six Islamic principles into her work.  Her company cleans up these messes and Tauhirah sees firsthand how the signs, ayat, of God in nature are polluted by human action and neglect, writes Abdul-Matin.  The delicate balance, mizan, is in peril and it is Tauhirah’s job to work for justice, adl, every day to improve ecological struggle.  She is a khalifah who, as Abdul-Matin explains, takes the trust, amana, she has with God seriously and wholeheartedly.

Alhamdulillah, there are other great examples of Muslims working for a greener planet such as Tauhirah in all four areas: waste, watts, water and food.  

Abdul-Matin’s passion and enthusiasm is clear in this eye-opening book which should be a must for all Muslims and all people who want to better their home, Earth.  The author is a policy advisor in the New York City Mayor’s Office and works on issues of long-term planning and sustainability.  

The green phase that has been going on lately is something Muslims should not take lightheartedly; rather, it should not be a phase, but become a lifestyle.  Abdul-Matin provides a plethora of ways to live this lifestyle, which is essential to Islam.  It is unfortunate that Muslims forget this, do not care to recycle or at least use less, and actually contribute to the degradation of our planet.  It doesn’t matter your faith to be a greener person, but Muslims should step up to the plate.  We have the tools, Alhamdulillah.  Let’s green deen-ify our life!  Of course, we must first pray sincerely to Allah (swt) to give us the energy and care to take of this planet, which our Creator has blessed us with us.  Ameen for a Green Deen!

Nora Zaki
University of Florida
Muslim Youth For Truth Co-Founder

For more information about this book, please visit