Vibrant Muslim community in Hawaii

Updated 22 September 2012
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Vibrant Muslim community in Hawaii

Hawaii is the dreamland for holidaymakers. Annually thousands of tourists spend their winter in the comfortable climate of Hawaii which is like an earthen pot lying in the heart of Pacific Ocean. It is 2,300 miles from the US coast and 3,400 miles from the Asian coast of Japan.
In 1820 the first American missionaries came to preach Christianity and teach the Hawaiians Western ways. They succeeded converting many natives to Christianity. Now, there are thousands of Muslims living in Hawaii.
Muslims in Hawaii are like a rainbow presenting various colors in one arch. Muslims from the Uighurs of China to the Touareq of Mauritania, to the Aloha people of Hawaii, all merged into one community. Islam transcends the superficial boundaries of nationality. This is demonstrated in Haj every year where an Indonesian Muslim prays next to the British, American, Spanish, Iranian, and South African Muslims. Muslim men and women of different backgrounds, races and cultures pray next to each other in peace throughout the year facing the Holy Kaaba in Makkah.
A group of non-Muslim visitors recorded their observation during a Friday visit to the Hawaii mosque, they said: “The mood was light as men and women gathered outside, lining the edges of a rug to hear a Moroccan immigrant and his Oahu-born wife, Janine, repeat vows of Nikah. ‘Islamic marriage is to be a comfort for the couple. ... You should be the source of mercy for each other,’ the imam told them.”
The small crowd that day represented the multinational Muslim community in Hawaii - from Pakistani and Arab professionals to American-born converts and recent immigrants from Palestine and Iraq. The mosque serves as a social center for all of them. About 200 men attend the Friday prayers. There were nearly 700 people at the Eid prayers.
Muslims of Hawaii form a vibrant society. The mosque arranges various program for Muslims and awareness programs for non-Muslims. The following are some of the programs organized by the mosque:
Imam holds classes twice a week between Maghrib and Isha prayers in the mosque. On Saturday nights after Isha prayers, Imam Ismail gives lecture about the lives of different prophets.
Women’s classes are held on Monday and Wednesday nights.
A welcome house is being planned at the mosque that will be open to the public and will distribute Islamic books and DVDs free of charge to Muslim and non-Muslims visitors.
There are facilities for the memorization of the Holy Qur’an.
The Muslim Association of Hawaii (MAH) supervises and integrates Muslim activities in Hawaii. The current president of MAH, Hakim Ouansafi is from Morocco. He was 21 when he came to America to attend college in Rhode Island, where he met and married Vermonter (who later converted to Islam) and become an American citizen. Nine years ago he came to Hawaii. Now 42, he is the president and CEO of Diamond Hotels and Resorts.
Less than three weeks from 9/11 Heather Ramaha, a navy petty officer stood among a group of women at the mosque in Manoa Hawaii and recited the Islamic Shahada in Arabic, and entered the fold of Islam. Ouansafi, MAH president, said that prior to Sept. 11, there had been an average of three converts per month. In the two months since then, there have been 23.
Most converts are African-Americans, who make up about a third of US Muslims, some of whom found the guidance while they were in jail or while recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. On the West Coast, the men are mainly military, said Ouansafi, and most of the O’ahu converts are former Christians. One is even a single cosmetics saleswoman. “We believe, as Muslims, that once a person reverts to Islam, all his past sins are forgiven by God,” Ouansafi said. “He or she starts just like a baby born.”
Now, Ramaha is incorporating her Islamic faith into her life as a navy officer stationed at Pearl Harbor since July. Ramaha said she struggled with the Christian view of the Holy Trinity. In March, she took an online world religions class through a California university. “I’d been a Christian for 18 years.” As a follow-up, she took an introductory class on Islam in Hawaii. She started reading the Qur’an, and “something clicked.” She converted soon after. “I’ve always felt drawn to something out there, otherwise, there’s an emptiness,” she said. “The only way I feel complete is when I have a religion, a God to pray to.”
Hawaii’s state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill in May 2009 to celebrate “Islam Day on Sept. 24 every year.” The bill seeks to recognize “the rich religious, scientific, cultural and artistic contributions” that Islam and the Islamic world have made. The date of Sept. 24 was selected as the Prophet Muhammad’s (may peace and mercy on him) arrival at Madinah in the first year of Hijrah.
Sen. Will Espero, a Democrat, said: “It does not call for any spending or organized celebration of Islam Day. We are a state of tolerance. We understand that people have different beliefs. We may not all agree on every single item and issue out there, but to say and highlight the negativity of the Islamic people is an insult to the majority of believers who are good law-abiding citizens of the world.”
A center for Islamic art and culture:
Shangri La stands for a beautiful and rich collection of Islamic art from the Muslim world. Its founder Madam Doris Duke was one of the richest ladies of the world. She was born in 1912 to Mr. Duke, a baron of tobacco business. On her honeymoon in 1935 she visited many Muslim countries in the Middle East and later stayed at her seasonal home in Hawaii for long. She was much impressed and captivated by the Islamic art. She collected thousands of artifacts and designed her Hawaii home in a museum form. Architectural design was influenced by the objects collected and the objects to be collected were assessed for their potential place within the built environment. From her first foray into collecting while traveling in the Islamic world until her death in 1993, Duke’s pattern of collecting for design remained remarkably consistent, yet it also matured.
For nearly 60 years, Doris Duke commissioned and collected artifacts for Shangri La, ultimately forming a collection of about 3,500 objects, the majority of which were made in the Islamic world. Massive painted ceilings, elaborately carved doorways, intricate mosaic tile panels, colorful textiles and numerous other art forms enliven the interiors and create an environment rich in texture and pattern.
Today, Shangri La serves as a center for Islamic arts and cultures. It is owned and supported by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (DDFIA), which Doris Duke created in her will to promote the study, understanding, and preservation of Islamic art and culture.
Praying toward the north:
The direction of Qibla in Hawaii lies in the north through North Pole. The writer visited Hawaii twice. Once in Ramadan, he was invited by an Afghan family for iftar. Wherever Muslims live, they have strong bond of brotherhood. There is no inhabited land on the earth, where Allah-o-Akbar is not declared from the minarets of a mosque.


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.