Do You Smile?

January 4, 2010

I used to visit a specific masjid and for a bit of time I did not look forward to attending that masjid.  I didn’t know anyone there and very few people there made an effort to reach out.  I would see brothers that I would see every day and they wouldn’t smile at me and so I didn’t feel as welcome as I should have.  Maybe it was because they were stingy with their smiles or maybe I wasn’t a member of their click (maybe I wasn’t tablighi enough for the Pakistanis or salafi enough for the Saudis or Arab enough for the Palestinians or convert enough for the blacks (bad generalizations on purpose) etc etc).  In reality, if I wasn’t stubborn enough, there is a good chance I would have stopped going to that masjid because of the uncomfortable environment. 

Muslims are supposed to be welcoming, cheerful people, especially around other Muslims.  We know from the hadith that smiling for your brother is a charity, yet many of us decide we don’t have enough smiles to give out or we decide we only want to smile to those we know.  For those that cannot smile for their fellow Muslim brother, this is a completely moronic and idiotic train of thought that comes from nationalism, miserliness or ignorance.

If you look at the kuffar and the environment they’ve produced around us here in the West, you will notice that these people will make an effort.  They will make eye contact with you.  They will smile in your face and ask you how your day is going.  They will make small talk.  What is wrong with us (the Muslims) when we cannot do this amongst ourselves?

For those that want the scientific benefits of smiling (though the Sunnah should be enough for us), Dr. Mark Stibich (via about.com) notes ten reasons to smile:

1. Smiling Makes Us Attractive:
We are drawn to people who smile. There is an attraction factor. We want to know a smiling person and figure out what is so good. Frowns, scowls and grimaces all push people away — but a smile draws them in.

2. Smiling Changes Our Mood:
Next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There’s a good chance you mood will change for the better. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.

3. Smiling Is Contagious:
When someone is smiling they lighten up the room, change the moods of others, and make things happier. A smiling person brings happiness with them. Smile lots and you will draw people to you.

4. Smiling Relieves Stress:
Stress can really show up in our faces. Smiling helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed. When you are stressed, take time to put on a smile. The stress should be reduced and you’ll be better able to take action.

5. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System:
Smiling helps the immune system to work better. When you smile, immune function improves possibly because you are more relaxed. Prevent the flu and colds by smiling.

6. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure:
When you smile, there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure. Give it a try if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Sit for a few minutes, take a reading. Then smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference?

7. Smiling Releases Endorphins, Natural Pain Killers and Serotonin:
Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good. Smiling is a natural drug.

8. Smiling Lifts the Face and Makes You Look Younger:
The muscles we use to smile lift the face, making a person appear younger. Don’t go for a face lift, just try smiling your way through the day — you’ll look younger and feel better.

9. Smiling Makes You Seem Successful:
Smiling people appear more confident, are more likely to be promoted, and more likely to be approached. Put on a smile at meetings and appointments and people will react to you differently.

10. Smiling Helps You Stay Positive:
Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It’s hard. When we smile our body is sending the rest of us a message that “Life is Good!” Stay away from depression, stress and worry by smiling.

Therefore, O Muslim, smile, it’s the sunnah!  So I ask you, do you smile?
Related: Do You Miswak? and Do You Adhan?

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Getting Involved!

November 3, 2009

Many of us encounter individuals who talk a lot.  They make takfeer on many Muslims and are often times labelled as jihadi or takfeeri Muslims.  These Muslims are quite active on the internet with their online forums and what not.  However, they keep themselves distance from the jama’ and the Muslim community.  As Muslims, we need to be active and involved in our community.  I’m not saying do not be a part of the online dawah scene.  The online scene is amazing opportunity for us to reach out (after all, where are you reading this?).  However, at the same time, we need to be a part of the Masjid scene in our respective cities.  We need to be building for the future.  Moreover, we are the future, right?

Take a look at your Masjid community right now.  What does it look like?  If you look at the Masjid Shoora council (or Board of Trustees), how many people on that council were born in the same country as the one you currently reside in? If you live in an Arab or Desi community, chances are, very few, if any of the board members grew up in the culture in which the Masjid activities should be trying to relate to.  Why are you and your friends not stepping-up?  If you’re trying and gettin shot down, why aren’t you trying harder or running other projects in the area?

As young American and British youth, it’s our turn to step-up to the plate and become a part of something wonderful.  We need to become active and always be involved in various different dawah projects.  We should always be involved in some activity in our locality where we aim to try to make a difference.  The project doesn’t have to be something monumental, but it should be something that’s real.  You can be a Sunday school teacher for the youth teaching them how to pray or you can be a member of Project Downtown feeding the hungry and homeless.  Alternatively, you could be an active member of your MSA/ISOC promoting the good and forbidding the evil.  You can help with projects aimed at conveying knowledge like the AlMaghrib Institute or the local halaca series going on at your Masjid.  Just imagine of teaching one youth at a Sunday school Surat al-Fatiha.  InshAllah you would benefit every time that child then prays and recites Surat al-Fatiha for the rest of his or her life.  Making the difference in just one person’s life as a mentor, teacher, friend could potentially be the difference between heaven and hell, couldn’t it?

Not everyone is in the position to teach, but everyone is in the position to do something whether it’s A-V work, organizing events, cleaning the Masjid area, mentoring the youth, etc.  Ask yourself, what am I actively involved in?  What is my current project(s)? Shaytan often comes to us and gives us excuses that seem reasonable.  He may tell us that we only plan on being in our locality another six months so why not wait until our next community or you’re too busy right now as a newly-wed or it’ll be better to start after Eid or after our current project at work, etc.  However, these are satanic ploys for us to keep procrastinating.  We need to step-up and be involved now.  So what if you’re going somewhere in three months, start something and begin to establish it now and it will take care of itself as a sadaqa jariya (continuous charity) on your behalf even after someone else takes it over for you.  You don’t have to start a new project; you can always help out the other visionaries in your community with theirs. 

Our communities are seriously lacking in man-power and it’s time for the new generation to step-up and take control, inshAllah. Get involved now!

7 Practical tips for praying Qiyam Al-Layl

Qiyam means standing and Qiyam Al-Layl means standing at night. In the Islamic terminology, both words refer to the voluntary night prayer, whose time extends from after Isha prayer until dawn.
Other common names for Qiyam Al-Layl are Salat-ul-Layl (the night prayer), Tahajjud (from hajada, meaning remained one who awake at night), and Taraweeh (resting).
A widespread misconception is that Tahajjud is a different night prayer than Qiyam or Taraweeh. It is important to clarify this misunderstanding and to make clear that the voluntary night prayer is known by different names.

1. Ikhlas (Sincerity)
Allah’s Help is required not only for worldly affairs but also for our worship. And Allah helps those who are sincere in their hearts. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “If you are truthful with Allah, then Allah will deliver to you what you wish for.” (An-Nasa’i, Al-Hakim and Sahih Al-Jami’’)
Therefore, one should have a sincere intention to pray Qiyam Al-Layl. One should seek the pleasure of Allah alone and avoid any desire of praise or fame. Allah says:

“And they were commanded not, but that they should worship Allah, and worship none but Him Alone…” (Qur’an, 98:5)

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “The degree to which a person is helped and aided by Allah depends on the degree of his intention, drive, aim and hopes. Help from Allah comes to people in proportion to their drive, intention, hopes and fears. Failure comes to them in a similar manner.”

2. Know the virtue
Knowing the virtues and rewards of worship encourages us to perform them. The virtue of praying at night during Ramdan supersedes the virtue of praying any other night during the year. Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) encouraged the people, without making it an absolute command, to perform Qiyam during Ramadan. He (peace be upon him) used to say: ‘Whoever stands (in Qiyam) in Ramadan out of faith and expectation (of Allah’s reward), all his previous sins will be forgiven.’ ” (Sahih Muslim)

3. Take a nap
Taking a nap before or after Zuhr Salah will reduce stress and give you sufficient energy to wake up late at night to stand in front of your Lord. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Take a nap, for the Shayateen (pl. of Shaytan) do not take naps.” (At-Tabarani, Al-Sahihah, no. 2647)

4. Sleep as per the Sunnah
• Sleep early! It’s a healthy habit and it was the practice of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). He would sleep immediately after performing the Isha prayer. Abu Barzah Al-Aslami said the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to prefer to delay Isha, and he did not like to sleep before it or talk after it.” (Al-Bukhari)

• Sleep in a state of taharah (cleanliness). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Purify these bodies and Allah will purify you, for there is no slave who goes to sleep in a state of purity, but an Angel spends the night with him, and every time he turns over, (the Angel) says, ‘O Allah! Forgive Your slave, for he went to bed in a state of purity.’ ” (At-Tabarani, Sahih Al-Jami’, no. 3831)

• Choose a suitable bed. Extreme luxury and very soft mattresses provoke laziness. We tend to sleep more and become negligent. Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated that the pillow of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was made of leather stuffed with palm fibers.” (Abu Dawood and Musnad Ahmad, Sahih Al-Jami’, no. 4714)

• Keep the bed clean and lie on your right side. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When any one of you goes to bed, let him clear his bed by hitting it with his garment, for he does not know what may have come onto it. Then let him lie down on his right side…” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

• Recite the Adhkar (supplications) mentioned in the Sunnah before sleeping. Among the Adhkar are reciting the last two verses of Surah Al-Baqarah; reciting Surah Al-Falaq, Al-Nas and Ikhlas and blowing in the palms and wiping as much of the body as possible – starting from the head, face and then the front of the body – three times; and saying Subhan Allah 33 times, Alhamdulillah 33 times and Allahu Akbar 34 times. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

5. Don’t eat too much
Eating and drinking too much are the main obstacles that make one lazy and negligent of Qiyam Al-Layl. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “Man fills no vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to have a few mouthfuls to give him the strength he needs. If he has to fill his stomach, then let him leave one-third for food, one-third for drink and one-third for air.” (At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, Sahih Al-Jami’, no. 5674)
Abu Juhayfah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said to a man who burped in his presence: “Stop your burping, for the people who eat the most in this life will be the most hungry on the Day of Resurrection.” (Al-Hakim, Sahih Al-Jami’, no. 1190)

6. Exert yourself
Exert yourself to get up and pray. Rise above your desires. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And as for those who strive hard in Our Cause, We will surely guide them to Our Paths. And verily, Allah is with the Muhsinoon (good-doers).” (Qur’an, 29:69)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The Mujahid (one who strives in the Cuase of Allah) is the one who strives against his own self for the sake of Allah.” (Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Sahihah, no. 549)
He (peace be upon him) also said: “When a man from my Ummah gets up to pray at night, striving against his own self to get up and purify himself, there are knots on him. When he washes his hands in wudu, one knot is undone. When he washes his face, another knot is undone. When he wipes his head another knot is undone. When he washes his feet, another knot is undone. Then Allah says to those who are veiled (in the Unseen): ‘Look at this slave of Mine, he is striving against his own self and asking of Me. Whatever My slave asks of Me shall be his.” (Musnad Ahmad, Sahih Al-Targheeb, no. 627)

7. Regret if you missed it
Qiyam Al-Layl is a great blessing of Allah. He has kept numerous spiritual benefits and rewards for the believer in this prayer. Therefore, one should regret if he misses this great opportunity of achieving rewards and the Pleasure of Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“O you who believe! Fear Allah and keep your duty to Him. And let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what you do.” (Qur’an, 59:18)

Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim said, “If the slave is responsible and accountable for everything, even his hearing, sight and innermost thoughts, as Allah says, “…Verily, hearing, sight, and the heart of each of you will be questioned by Allah.” (Qur’an, 17:36), then he should check on himself before he is brought to account.” – As-Sunnah

Ref: ‘The Night Prayers’ by Muhammad Nasir-ud-Deen Al-Albani

The Fiqh of Priorities

September 1, 2009

It is a sunnah of our beloved Prophet (SAW) to shorten the dhuhr and asr prayers to two rakat instead of four during the time of Hajj. However, Uthman (the caliph at the time) thought the sunnah was to pray the full four rakat. Ibn Masood , who had personally seen the Prophet (SAW) shorten his prayers during Hajj, approached Uthman to tell him of the correct opinion. However, Uthman held firm to what he believed was correct and led the prayer in full. Ibn Masood prayed behind Uthman the full prayer.

Afterwards, a group of Muslims came to Ibn Masood and asked him why he prayed the full four rakat behind Uthman when he could have waited for the prayer to be over and then prayed the shortened prayer by himself. After all, Ibn Masood had personally seen the Prophet (SAW) shorten the prayer himself and knew it to be the correct opinion. Ibn Masood responded that to shorten the prayers during Hajj is a sunnah, however, to follow the imam is an obligation.

Here we are given a glimpse into the Fiqh of Priorities. We are to give precedence to that which is more important. So next time you want to become a fitnah in your community and raise a ruckus about whether the Taraweeh prayers should be eight or twenty rakat, ask yourself, “Is this what the companions of the Prophet (SAW) would do?” After all, the true sunnah here is to pray what the imam has prayed as Abu Dharr said the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Whoever prays qiyaam – i.e., Taraweeh – with the imam until he finishes, it will be recorded as if he spent the whole night in prayer” (Tirmidhi).

For a lecture on the Fiqh of Priorities, check out Yasir Fazaqa’s lecture available on AudioIslam here (it’s the 22nd lecture listed).

Do You Adhan?

July 28, 2009

The call to prayer (adhan) is one of the most beautiful sounds known to man.  When the call comes out, we hear about tawheed and the shahada.  Then we hear the secret to success when one hears, “Come to prayer, come to success.”  When the adhan is pronounced, we should stop what we are doing and listen to call and repeat its words as Rasoolullah (SAW) said, “Whenever you hear the Adhan, say what the Mu’adhin is saying” (Bukhari).

There is a great merit and reward in pronouncing the adhan.  After all, Allah (SWT) tells us in the Quran, “Who speaks better than one who calls to God and acts righteously?” (Translation of the Meaning of the Quran, 41:33).

The Messenger of Allah (SWT) said, “If the people knew the reward for pronouncing the adhan and for standing in the first row (in the congregational prayer) and found no other way to get it except by drawing lots they would do so” (Bukhari).

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “the Mu’adhdhins will have the longest necks on the Day of Resurrection” (Muslim).

Furthermore, Satan despises the adhaan as Allah’s Apostle (SAW) said, “When Satan hears the call to prayer, he runs away to a distance like that of Rauha.”  Someone asked him about Rauha. He replied “It is at a distance of thirty-six miles from Medina.” (Muslim).

Even if you are praying alone, it is the sunnah for a man to make the adhan and iqama by himself as anything that hears your call to prayer will testify for you on the Day that lasts 50,000 years.  Abu Sa’id al-Khudri told a man, “I see you liking sheep and the wilderness. So whenever you are with your sheep or in the wilderness and you want to pronounce Adhan for the prayer raise your voice in doing so, for whoever hears the Adhan, whether a human being, a jinn or any other creature, will be a witness for you on the Day of Resurrection.”   Abu Said added, “I heard it (this narration) from Allah’s Apostle” (Bukhari).

Furthermore, the Messenger (SAW) said, “Your Lord likes it when a shepherd at the top of a mountain pass calls the Adhaan for prayer and then prays. Then Allah says, ‘Look at this slave of mine, saying the Adhaan and the Iqaamah for prayer and fearing Me.  I ask you to bear witness that I have forgiven My slave and will admit him to Paradise’” (an-Nisai).

Moreover, Imam Shafi held the opinion it is disliked to pray without the adhan and iqamah as he said, “If a man neglects to say the Adhaan and Iqaamah when he is praying alone or in congregation, I regard that as makrooh, but he does not have to repeat the prayers he did without the Adhaan or Iqaamah.”

So I ask you, do you adhan?

How is it possible that some people can call themselves Muslim yet they don’t pray?  Prayer is the second pillar in Islam after the declaration of faith.

If a Muslim is an alcoholic or a fornicator, scholars agree that these sins do not take that person outside the fold of Islam.  However, in regards to the prayer, the scholars disagree on this issue as the difference between a Muslim and kufr is the prayer.

Furthermore, often times, people think they are fulfilling their duty of prayer by praying five times a day.  However, we are not told to just pray, rather we are told to pray properly.  The Quran states, “So woe to the praying ones, who are unmindful of their prayers” (Translation of the Meaning of the Quran, 107:4-5).  Subhan’Allah, the one who prays yet is heedless in his prayer is condemned, then what about the one that doesn’t pray?!  Many of the scholars of the past held the opinion that if you miss one prayer during its time slot on purpose ONCE, then this is kufr (this is apparently the opinion of the Hanbali madhab).  Missing just one prayer outside of its time slot, if it is not kufr, is a major sin (other major sins include the likes of murder, adultery, etc).

The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer.  If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound.  And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.” [at Tabarani]

Next time you want to delay the prayer out of its time slot because of an exam or a meeting, take a step-back and think what’s more worthy of your time, the purpose for which you were created or anything else?  There is no excuse for praying “kaza,” period.

Allah (SWT) states in the Quran, “I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me” (Translation of the Meaning of the Quran, 51:56).

My Experience in Egypt

June 21, 2008

Alhamdulillah, by the Grace of Allah (SWT), I have been privileged to spend the last four months living in Cairo, Egypt as I study Arabic at the Fajr Institute (www.fajr.com – what a prime-time website, huh?).  As my time is starting to near its end (unfortunately, I’m scheduled to depart Cairo at the end of July), I thought it may be a good idea to reflect on my time here and to possibly, insh’Allah, offer advice to those will travel abroad for their studies whether it is to Egypt or anywhere else it may be.

SO WHY EGYPT?

It seems to be a thriving place for the aspiring student of knowledge with many people flocking here to study.  The Visa to stay here is a gimme if you are an American and the cost of living is extremely cheap.  I think it is the best option for someone wanting to study Arabic in the Middle East.  Jordan is also fantastic, but extremely expensive.  Yemen was a lil too-third world for me, but if you can hack it, it is also a place of extreme benefit.  I would not recommend studying in Syria, especially if you are an American.  One of my friends got deported from Syria because they thought he was an American spy.

No doubt that there is a lot of hustle in Egypt, especially if you pick Cairo.  However, if you choose to be patient, insha’Allah, you will be rewarded greatly.  Or, you can try to keep up with the bustle (as I did sometimes) and enjoy the ride.

ARRIVING IN EGYPT

Alhamdulillah, I was fortunate to come to Egypt with a good friend of mine and we planned to experience everything together.  We left Florida together, have studied together at Fajr, have lived together (with another brother) and will depart together, insh’Allah.  Regardless of where you go, always try to live with someone at your destination.  It helps keep companionship and it can be good motivation in your studies as well (plus it helps to have a backup alarm for Fajr!).  If you are going to Egypt (or possibly anywhere else in the Middle East) and do not know anyone, let me know, and maybe, insh’Allah, I will be able to hook you up with someone there.

As far as arriving in Egypt goes, be prepared to stopped, held, and questioned at customs by the Egyptian-version of the FBI.  I’m pretty sure some Egyptian government officials are intimidated by a person who grows hair on their mandible (jaw) and that is why we got pulled to the side.  My advice would be to just answer their questions and brush it off.  Never give them your real address on where you are staying.  They are known to come see you if you do.  They had my phone number and called me a couple times during my stay asking me to come in to see that.  I completely blew them off and would recommend you do the same thing.  Everything here is done by paper (20th century stuff!) and eventually they will forget about you.

As far as being in actual Egypt is concerned, just carry a copy of your passport around and everyone will treat you like royalty (yeah).  Bust out the English whenever talking with a police officer and know the USA Embassy phone, just in case (I would also recommend registering with the Dept of State while traveling abroad).

WHERE TO STUDY?

If you are coming for Arabic studies, Nasr City is the place to be.  There are numerous Arabic centers located in Nasr City including Fajr, Diwan, Sibawayh, and Al-Ibaanah.  I personally chose Fajr and absolutely loved it there while at the same time other brothers have had mediocre experiences at Fajr.  Fajr is the oldest and most established.  It has 13 total levels (each level = 75 hours) and if you finish the 13th level, you receive a certified diploma from the Egyptian Ministry of Education that certifies you to teach Arabic (I think).  The books used at Fajr are from a series called “Arabia Bayna Yadaak” (Arabic Between Your Hands).  Diwan, from what I’ve heard, is extremely nice; however, it is more expensive.  I believe they use the Asassy books at Diwan.  Al-Ibaanah has its own books that it uses.  However, I would like to point out that Ibaanah heavily concentrates on grammar at the beginning and thus, many of its students are not very good at speaking.  Many students also branch off and do their own thing with a private tutor, which can for some people, be an excellent idea.  If you want to go to Alexandria, the place to study is definitely Qortaba.  Insha’Allah, keep reaffirming you intention to study solely for the sake of Allah (SWT).

TELL ME ABOUT NASR CITY

Nasr City (Madinat Nasr) is a mash’Allah, baller-awesome place.  It is considered middle-to-upper class in Cairo but is still relatively inexpensive.  Everything you need is pretty much located in Nasr City.  Al-Azhar University is located here as well so you can manage to run into quite a bit of its students.  Whenever you go out to eat or walk around, you will run into some foreigners who are aspiring students of knowledge.  They tend to stand out for some reason.  Talk with them, network, enjoy!  Subhana’Allah, I’ve met people from the north of Egypt (i.e. Russia, Kazakiztan), east of Egypt (i.e. Malaysia, China), south of Egypt (i.e. Nigeria, South Africa), and, of course, west of Egypt (i.e. Holland, Denmark just for extra emphasis!).  Unfortunately, Americans are seriously lacking in numbers as compared to Frenchmen and Brits.  The only desis you’ll probably find are those from Britain and the USA.

There are also some malls in Nasr City including the famous City Stars Mall, which is a reminder of shopping malls in America.  City Stars is nice, but it is also a place of fitna and thus it would be recommended to go there during the weekdays during the daytime instead of the evenings during the weekends.  Genaina Mall has an ice-skating ring in it if you are into that.

HOW WE LIVE?  WHAT ABOUT COSTS, DUDE?

If you do live in Nasr City, the streets to know are Mustafa an-Nahas, Makram-Obaid, Abbas-al-Ekaad, and Sharia Tayhran.  Nasr City is broken into Zones 6,7,8,9, and 10.  Zone 7 (Hai Saba) is probably the nicest and most expensive while Zone 10 (Hai Ashar) is the cheapest and most developing.

We lived in Hai Thamin (Zone 8 ) right next to Siraj Mall.  Alhamdulillah, we were in a prime-time location and close to everything.  I lived with two other brothers in a 2 bedroom/1 bathroom flat.  Our rent was L.E. 1800 which translates to about $330 split three ways.  We lived on the 5th floor (note: the first floor here is not the first floor it is the ground floor as what is the real 2nd floor is called the 1st floor here) and there was no elevator (alhamdulillah, I lost some weight!).  If you are willing to live in Hai Ashar, you can cut your rent in half easy.

I would like to note that crossing the street in Egypt is crazy.  You will face death everyday while doing it.  Just suck it up and walk like you own the place and cars will try to avoid you, insh’Allah.

You can check out: http://www.geocities.com/learnarabicincairo for a map of Nasr City and other goodies about Cairo.

I LOVE FOOD

If food is your thing, Egypt is also a good place for that.  Koshari is huge here (tho I’m not a big fan, I prefer meat!) as are the other standard Arab dishes.  In Hai Saba (Zone 7), there are good Thai and Malay restaurants.  Assil on Mustafa an-Nahas in Hai Thamin (Zone 8 ) has some off-the-chain shawerma shami sandwiches, a must-try.

Almost all the food places deliever (even MickeyD’s and KFC!), but I would recommend going out to these places so as to at least get some exercise.  I would eat out everyday (but only one meal a day) and I would try to walk everywhere.

I, personally, watched what I would take into my stomach while in Egypt.  I didn’t drink the man –made sugar-cane juice because people are known to get sick off them.  Don’t drink the local water, your body won’t like it.  Drink bottled water and plenty of it.  Please be hygienic and smart.  Oh yeah, if you wear contacts, I would recommend bringing your entire duration’s supply (lens and solution), but glasses you can get pretty cheap here.

I tend to eat anything if it is hot (including corn cooked on a fire!) and try to stay away from stuff that is cold, including cold meat.  Fruits and veggies in Egypt are great as they are smaller but more flavorful (ballerlicious mangos).

MASAJID

Some of the big masajid in Cairo have graves in them and so I would be cautious of them.  Alhamdulillah, Nasr City is relatively new and thus does not posses any masajid with a grave (to my knowledge).  Masjid Bilal (cool name for a Masjid, IMO), located in Hai Thamin (Section 8 in Nasr City) is a popular masjid for Western students of knowledge (including Imam Suhaib Webb).  However, Masjid Bilal has heavy surveillance.

There are lots of local basement masajid everywhere in Nasr City (there are a double-digit number of masajid within a quarter-mile of our apartment building!)  I prefer the basement masjid-scene because it gives one the community feeling that is present in the masajid back in the United States.  Subhana’Allah, there are numerous knowledgeable people at these basement masajid as well.  If you live in Nasr City and are looking for an amazing and patient Quran teacher, I would recommend Shaykh Adel of Masjid Ridwan in Hai Thamin.  Email me for his contact.  Subhana’Allah, I thought he was awesome.  I remember one day he was sitting with his fellow shayook boys (they’re all like 30 years old) and they start testing each other in recitation of different ayaats of the Quran in different qiraat (this is a game for enjoyment for these scholars!).

As far as the different types of Muslims that are present in Cairo, you are going to get the whole shabang.  You have your twirling sufis (with shows every week!) and, at the same time, you have your neo-salafis.  If you ever go to Masjid Hussain, you can see some ‘unique’ characters there too (but try not to pray there!).

Oh yeah, get this, there is an Arab Tablighi Jamaat as well!  They do the whole 3 day stay in the masjid with bayaans all day and everything.  However, the weird thing is, there are Salafi Tablighis and they use Riyadh-us-Saaliheen.  I guess Fadail-Amaal hasn’t been translated into Arabic yet 😛

TAXIS, PLEASE

Everyone apparently complains about taxis in Egypt.  I personally would recommend walking everywhere and when going somewhere further away, using the bus or micro-bus system.  However, in my use of taxis, alhamdulillah, it has been a pleasant experience (I got ripped-off one time, but gave the dude the money cuz he swore to Allah it was legit).  The places to work on your Arabic are at your school, at your masjid, and with taxi cab drivers!  One way to ensure a cab driver will not rip you off is to talk with him the whole time you are in the cab and have fun with the driver.  He is obviously going to know you are not local, but that doesn’t mean you cannot befriend him (I would often just say that I’m from America).  Cab drivers would offer me advice, cassettes, their phone numbers if I ever needed anything.  I would negotiate a rate when going somewhere far, but would just pay them what I thought was fair if going somewhere close.  I remember when I was coming back from the airport once; one cab driver only wanted L.E. 20 from me even though we had agreed on L.E. 25.  Subhan’Allah, there are some really good people out there.  I would recommend that you pay your cab driver after you have gotten out of the taxi at your final destination.  Have fun with the cabbies.  Smile, it goes a long way and people tend to like you more, plus you’re following the Sunnah as this is a sadaqa for your fellow Muslim brothers.

If you sit on the big bus, they have shot-gun seats in the front next to the driver.  Sit there and you can have a say in what they play on the radio as well as well as get an amazing view of the road 🙂

As far as talking with the locals goes, some really good advice I received by several brothers was never to talk about politics or soccer (futbol as they call it).  Talking any politics will get you thrown in jail.  Don’t even say the word ihkwaan anywhere.  Futbol is also a diehard thing here.  You will know when a soccer match is going on b/c no one cares about anything else at that time.  Don’t pick a side to cheer for either b/c if you pick the wrong side, Allahu Alim what will happen to you.

DOING THE TOURIST THING

Yes, I did the tourist thing.  Pyramids were great, but a one-time thing.  Nile is a great river to walk next to.  There are these L.E. 2 party boats that are quite amusing to see.  Al-Azhar Park is fantastic and gives you an amazing view of Cairo.  It was definitely worth the L.E. 5 entrance free.

We went to Alexandria twice.  Alex is a beautiful place.  We went by micro-bus both times (about L.E. 20 each way) though train is also an option.  The micro-bus ride is death-defying, but I recommend just sleeping through it to avoid the anxiety.  Alex can be accomplished in a day-trip.  Definitely check out the beautiful library while you are there, it is breath-taking.  Seafood in Alex is fantastic.  Recommendation:  try the herb-stuffed sea bass at Abu Ashraf Restaurant (prolly the most famous restaurant in Alex and its open 24/7!).

Pollution

This, unfortunately, is a major down-side of living in Egypt.  The air pollution is ridiculous.  Almost everyone smokes including some little kids and women (biggest turn-off ever).  Supposedly, breathing the air in Nasr City is equivalent to smoking twenty cigarettes a day.  I managed to have some allergies when I first arrived though I have never had allergies before in my life!  Furthermore, there were even a couple instances where I would get random nose bleeds in the beginning.  At the same time, the pollution can be avoided by living outside Nasr City in an area like Rehab.  I would recommend this if you travel to Egypt with a family.  You do not want to risk your child getting asthma by living in Nasr City.

Noise pollution is something else too.  Apparently, the New York Times (www.nytimes.com, yeah, like you needed their website) reported Cairo is possibly the loudest city in the world.  Everyone honks their car horn like there’s no tomorrow.  I’ve heard of people having to replace their car-horn every three months (I didn’t know this was possible!).  My advice would be to just bear it and put up with it, insh’Allah.  Sometimes a horn does save your life.

LIVING IN A MUSLIM COUNTRY

This is my first time living in a Muslim country for such an extended period of time (I have visited family in Pakistan for a couple of months several times in the past).  Subhana’Allah, I absolutely loved it.  Granted you will always see Muslims doing un-Islamic things and you need to come here expecting it or you will be sorely disappointed.  However, at the same time, many of the people I have met are amazing and fantastic people.  In Cairo, there are parts where you can go and 95% of the sisters are wearing hijab and there is a masjid on every street (literally!) while at the same time there are parts of Cairo you can go to where you would not be able to differentiate it from a European society.

I loved the Egyptian people as I would chill with the Egyptians at the masjid, in our building, and just other random places (I think some Egyptians look very desi).  Fellow bearded people have an automatic connection in Egypt.  If you walking and there is another bearded brother on the other side of the street walking in the opposite direction, expect a big-wave and try to read “Assalamu Alaikum” off of his lips (yeah, pretty cool, huh?).  I remember once a random bearded brother even picked up in his car to give me a ride where I was going.

There have been some funny experiences here in Egypt as well.  I remember one time a brother asked me if I knew “Assalamu Alaikum” when he learned I was American (I think he was kidding, maybe).  Another time, I went to play basketball with some friends at a sports club.  They wouldn’t let me in cuz I was wearing a thobe (the fobs wanted to be more American like me), so I just took it off in the middle of the street as I always had my bball clothes on underneath ready to play, alhamdulillah.  One time our landlord’s wife sent over some soup for us.  It smelled delicious and I went straight for it, but the taste was waaay off from the smell.  We later realized it was fresh home-made jam (a lot of it) and it was good too, just not be drank in the same way as soup, lol.

I have made a general observation in terms of Islam in Egypt (can be extended to the Arab world) versus Islam in Pakistan (can be extended to the non-Arab world).  The Muslims in Pakistan, mash’Allah, have a lot of zeal and they want to be practicing Muslims, following the Sunnah and everything.  However, it seems, that knowledge seems to be lacking significantly in Pakistan.  At the same time, in Egypt, the knowledge is present and people know the Quran and are well-grounded in the Sunnah.  However, the zeal and desire to follow through with that knowledge is not present.  As Muslims, we need to bring these two extremes together where we can combine knowledge and desire.  Obviously, this reflection does not include all Pakis and Egyptians and it is a simple observation and it is just a thought.

I HEART EGYPT

I’ve loved my experience here thus far, alhamdulillah.  I have significantly increased my respect for Azhari students.  Subhana’Allah, they work out ridiculously hard and are a very impressive group of students.

I have had an amazing time in Egypt thus-far, alhamdulillah.  If you actually go to Egypt, email me and I may be able to give you some more personal tips.  I can be emailed at coolguymuslim @ gmail.com.  I pray that this summary may actually be of some benefit to someone who goes to study abroad.  Insha’Allah I may do a follow-up to this piece after I return back to Florida in a month.  Please keep me and my family in your dua’s, insh’Allah.  Go Islam!