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Learning Community

Community. A simple word with so much meaning, so many possibilities. As we continue our search for a community to move to here in the States, I find myself thinking back to different places we’ve lived since beginning our journey as a family, trying to sort out and understand what is truly important, and what makes a group of people truly a community.

Perhaps the community that affected me the most in the last ten years was the one we became a part of when we lived in a small mountain village in the north of Yemen.

Most of the Americans lived in the Mezra’, across the wadi’, or seasonal watercourse, from the neighborhood we lived in, which was right next to the large masjid where most of the classes were held. We consciously chose to live near the masjid because our purpose in going to the village was to learn about our religion, and we wanted to focus on that as much as possible. Living apart from the other Americans also helped us to stretch our wings and learn to relate to the people around us on a level that transcended any nationalistic feelings, removing the patina of familiarity and forcing us to constantly step outside of our comfort zones. It was exhilarating getting to know our neighbors one by one, knowing that what we shared with them was simply our love of Islaam and our hunger for knowledge.

There were Yemenis from several different parts of the country. Umm Ayman, who became a dear friend, who came to my house on Eid and gave a beautiful talk to the sisters gathered there, and who asked my daughter to stay overnight with her when her husband was on guard duty on the mountain. She helped me to learn the power of trust and love for one another for the sake of Allaah. Umm Abdullaah al-Indoneesiyyah, who taught classes in her home for a small and select group of sisters, showed us the importance of understanding and linking our knowledge with action. During her classes she always forced us to push our limits, her gentle nature extending not only to her students but to the cats that had free run of her house. She taught me the importance of recognizing my own ignorance and the striving to overcome it by filling my mind with the light of authentic knowledge. Umm Salamah, who had been the wife of Sheikh Muqbil, the scholar who had established the center, may Allaah have mercy upon him. She taught every day of the week except for two, always on time, always encouraging us and teaching us not only the rulings of Islaam but also the reasons and revelation behind those rulings. Her patience in dealing with the people was incredible, including her patience with my shyness, as she let me sit in the class a whole month before she began calling on me to recite the hadeeth or answer questions. She taught me the importance of learning from the people of knowledge directly, in order to benefit from both their knowledge and their character. Umm Ahmad, whose little family lived in one small room, who always had enough to share with her American neighbors during Ramadhaan. We would exchange a little of anything we had for breaking the fast, making the experience one of giving and gratefully receiving. She showed me the true face of generosity of spirit. Hasnaa’, my fellow American, who, though not a neighbor, would show up on my doorstep just when I needed her, bearing a loaf of bread and peanut butter for a treat for the children, a bag of wheat, or even, on one memorable occasion, a lamb for the children to pet. One day when I was ill she came in, pushed up her sleeves, and cleaned the house, despite my embarrassment over its state. She ignored my grumpiness and put things to right, chatting happily the whole time. She helped me to see the nature of friendship and the face of sisterly love.

So many more people, so many more stories, so many more lessons learned. This is what we are searching for now, a community established upon the love of Islaam and the desire to both learn it and live it. A place where we can share the gifts that Allaah has blessed us with, while at the same time learning from and growing with our brothers and sisters. We know that we will never find the “perfect” community in this life; however, having learned the meaning of community first hand, we have hope that we can find, with the help of Allaah, a small corner of the world where we can share what we have learned from our neighbors and friends from around the world in that small mountain fastness that was our home.

See Also:

Lessons at Dawn


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Abu Humairah on September 19, 2012 3:37 am

” She taught me the importance of recognizing my own ignorance and the striving to overcome it by filling my mind with the light of authentic knowledge.”

These words pierced through my entire system and triggered a rush of nostalgia. It is as if they were taken right out of my mouth subhaanAllah! The first email I sent out to my folks after leaving home to study contained just those words and one of the brothers still mentions it each time we speak. I wrote “…we will never truly understand the depth of our ignorance until we start learning, until we sit with the real scholars…”

All I need to do is change a few names and it will be my story. I truly miss that community

Khadijah on September 19, 2012 8:30 pm

Yes, mash’Allaah. And I believe that this comes most strongly when one studies in the presence of the scholars and the people of knowledge. We SEE how their character has been affected by their knowledge and its implementation. This also should give us warning signs, when we see a person speaking as though they are in a position to be able to do so, but we don’t see the reality of their words in their lives.
It is so important for us to remember that we are walking along a road, with many branches and turnings, and that, while we do have the map of Islaam in our hands, we need to not only know how to read that map, but how to make it a part of ourselves, our own GPS system, as it were. We always have to be looking for the signs and information we need to complete the journey in the best way possible.
And with Allaah is the success.
Alhamdulillah, I too miss the people, those and so many others. But alhamdulillah, knowing such people are there helps to set my heart at ease about Mujaahid and his family still being there, mash’Allaah.

Abu Humairah on September 20, 2012 5:16 am

Abu Aneesah (he was the first Nigerian brother in Dammaaj) used to say…”when you have your family here your mind is at rest because you know they are in good hands.” May Allah preserve them and increase them in khayr!

Another amazing thing I miss about Dammaaj is the hirs and gheerah that people have for their time and I find the Indonesian brothers very good at this, they always inspire me. on September 19, 2012 7:20 pm

MashaAllah TabarakAllah simply beautiful.

May Allah reward you for your kind words about them and may He reward them for what they did ameen.

UmmAhmed on September 20, 2012 2:26 am

MashaAllah! I have always wanted to know how did the women over there make time for classes with small children? Who tended to the children while the Sheikha or Students were in class?

Khadijah on September 20, 2012 2:33 am

Usually, we all would bring our children to the masjid with us. Mine simply learned to sit still and quietly with me, or I would have one of the older ones watch them out in the open area upstairs outside the women’s masjid. Umm Salamah’s mother often watched her baby, and Umm Abdullah al Wadiyyah would bring her daughter (she was maybe 5 or 6 at the time? I’m not sure of her age) with her, but not the others. Umm AbdurRahman, Sheikh Muhammad al-Imaam’s wife, also would not bring her children with her when she was teaching. When it was possible, it was always nice to have someone else to watch the children so you wouldn’t have to worry about them, but I found it worked best simply to have them with me, and they learned the manners of the masjid and how to behave when out, at the same time, alhamdulillah. It was disturbing at times, though, as other people didn’t always worry about how their own children were behaving, which could be difficult for everyone else, mash’Allaah.

Amina bint Said on September 28, 2012 3:51 am

I can’t explain the feeling I got reading this… SubhanaAllaah! Your writing skills are beautiful, actually makes me feel like I am there, Allaahumma barik. Makes me long to experience a community like this. Inshaa’Allaah ta’ala one day. JazakiAllaahu khairan for sharing these stories with us, Alhamdulillaah.

Umm Neda on September 28, 2012 10:58 am

Assalaamu alayki wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu. Ukhti, I am truly hooked to this beautiful of yours that you are sharing with the world. You make me feel as I am right there, breathing, seeing and feeling Yemen. I was there briefly in 2008 and I was hooked. But my journey was short lived as I only came to settle my children and parents in San’aa and I was back to the west in about a months time. But that one month was enough to know that Yemen had left a great impression on me and I would one day Inshaa Allah be back for good.

My parents moved to Shihr after about two months in San’aa. They were there for a year. They fell in love with this small sea village. My children learned so much in their time there. My eldest daughter became a mini shaikha always calling me on the phone and giving me da’waa Maashaa Allah Tabaarak Allah. My mother said she had an extended family in Shihr that she’d never forget. The day my family was leaving was a sorrow filled day. All the sisters from the masjid came to visit my family and everyone was crying. I feel in love with Shihr through their eyes and their stories.

I read this to my eldest daughter and she laughs and cries as she remembers the “best years of her life”.

May Allah reward you for sharing your story. May Allah bless you and your family on your new chapter in life in your new home. And may He unite you with your other home, Yemen, soon.

Umm Yasmeen on April 18, 2013 6:46 pm

Assalaamu Alaikoum wa rahmatullaah wa barakatuh
Jazakallaahu khayran for sharing all these wit the people and for not just keeping it with you. With lot of love biithnillah from your sister.