Saudi Gazette: Americans flocking to Kingdom to learn Islam

Americans flocking to Kingdom to learn Islam
Monday, 03 August 2009 – 12 Shaban 1430 H
By M. Nasir Jawed

MAKKAH – The growth and spread of Islam to every nook and corner of the world could almost be witnessed in the Umrah-cum-knowledge trip of not less than 75 men and women from America. The group, with several converts to Islam, made pilgrimage to the Two Holy Mosques between July 16-Aug. 3.

Senior scholars of Saudi Arabia, including the Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz Aal-Sheikh, gave lectures and taught the aspiring learners various sciences of Islam. All seminars were translated bit-by-bit for the American audience.

The trip is organized every year by Al-Qur’an wa As-Sunnah Society of New York (www.albaseerah.org), which is engaged in inviting people to Tawheed and Sunnah. The Society has held several seminars that has featured nearly 50 prominent scholars.

The Grand Mufti made clear to the students Islam’s stance on terrorism and suicide bombing. He urged them to show respect for non-Muslims.

“Islam is a religion of peace and mercy. It denounces terrorism in all forms and shapes and those who do this do not understand Islam. Islam is free from them – both terrorism and terrorists. Those, who do this, need to fear Allah,” the Mufti said.

The three weeks of seminars covered topics on Tawheed, Sciences of Hadith, Fiqh, and spirituality. There were also special sessions for women and for learning Tajweed.

“We are here to seek knowledge and boost our faith,” says Zahid Rashid, Graduate of Umm Al-Qura University and president of Al-Qur’an wa As-Sunnah Society of New York.

The program is quite unique for the English world. No single event in the English-speaking community manages to bring senior scholars like Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ghudyan, Sheikh Saleh Al-Luhaydan, Sheikh Sa’d Nasir Ash-Shitri and Sheikh Saleh Al-Husayyan under its umbrella.

Perhaps one of the many highlights of the seminar was that the Imam of Prophet’s Mosque, Sheikh Ali Abdul Rahman Al-Hudhaify, sat with the students after Isha prayers till 2 A.M. giving lessons on Tajweed (proper recitation of the Qur’an) and listened to the recitation of entire delegation brothers and sisters.

The students were drawn from diverse backgrounds. While some where doctors, IT professionals and businesspeople, others were Imams and Khateebs in America. Families had also come together.

The message with which all students went home was the importance of good conduct with Muslims and non-Muslims, the dangers of terrorism, and an exhortation to continue seeking Islamic knowledge.

Imani, a 37-year-old woman who converted from Christianity to Islam at the age of 19, described how Islam brought her out from a dark past to a virtuous present. She had a three-year-old daughter from a past relationship when she embraced Islam. Now she lectures women at mosques and also looks after 13 children.

“One of the best things that has happened to my life is coming to the Two Holy cities to seek knowledge,” Imani said.

Hamza Jayinz Mckind, from Columbus, Ohio, was brought up in a religious Christian family. His father is a Christian priest and he himself was in the process of becoming a Christian minister. Things turned around when he got an opportunity to work in an Islamic school.

“I found so many things in Islam, which I had earlier learnt in the Bible, but in the Qur’an I found them to be in detail. I saw the truth and embraced Islam. My mother followed me two months later,” Mckind said.

“The whole trip was wonderful, and quite a rejuvenation for me,” said one participant.

Bidding farewell however is an emotional experience. “They are crying as they are about to leave Saudi Arabia,” said another participant.

“By such trips, we get close to Allah as we have the opportunity to not only make pilgrimage, but seek knowledge directly from the inheritors of the prophets,” he added referring to the Prophetic narration on the virtue of Islamic scholars.

One of the many Saudi Arabia’s blessings, Zahid says, is the presence of such a large number of well-learned scholars, which is missing in America.

“Scholars here have devoted their lives to teach and educate people about Islam. They have great concern for the Ummah and humanity at large,” he said.

The president of Al-Qur’an wa Sunnah Society of New York and his entire administration expressed their sincere thanks and gratefulness to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the governors of Makkah and Madina and all scholars for their help and cooperation in making the seminar successful. – SG

About Rasheed Gonzales
My name is Rasheed Gonzales. I’m a Muslim convert of Filipino descent. Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, I was guided to Islam through one of my younger brothers and a couple of friends, all of whom had converted to Islam sometime before me (may Allah reward them greatly). I am married with four children (and the praise is Allah’s) and also a volunteer for the Qur'an & Sunnah Society of Canada, based in Toronto.

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