August 21st, 2010 was the 15th night of Ramadan. Dr. Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ninowy visited the Twin Cities to strengthen Muslims’ faith during the holy month. He began in at a community iftar (the dinner that breaks the day’s fast) at the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley. Later, he was invited to Woodbury, Minnesota to do an all-night prayer retreat called Qiyam al Layl. An all-night retreat or Qiyam al Layl consists of nightly prayers and remembrance of God.
I asked Dr. Rwoof Reshi, a medical doctor who resides in Woodbury, to share his experience during the all-night retreat.
Wazwaz: Your night retreat (Qiyam al Layl) program seems quite interesting. Can you share your Qiyam al Layl reflections and how the night went?
Dr. Reshi: We had a very organized program. The night began by everyone assembling in the basement doing remembrance of Allah’s Names. The experience was nice. The light was dim, as I closed my eyes I felt immediately transported to the familiar feeling, I, as a child in the lap of my mom while the teachers were reciting dhikr (recitations to remember and invoke God). It was an odd feeling that this time I am doing the dhikr (recitations to remember and invoke God). I recalled as a child, the events would go long and you can play only so much with your cousins and friends. I wanted to make the experience different for my child.
My 4 year old was watching from a corner. He crawled in my lap and went to sleep. Will he one day do dhikr because he will feel incomplete without it? I hope so. I sincerely do.
Then, Shaykh Ninowy arrived and we were all excited. Around 60 people stood up to welcome him. We returned to prayers and remembrance of God again. All of us had Sahri (pre-dawn meal) together. I remember doing Sahri in India with family and friends but 60 people with all shades of skin in one room at 4am doing sahoor (pre-dawn meal) was worth watching.
Then, it was time for the question time with Shaykh Ninowy. People asked different kind of questions one that bears mention here goes back to what I started this reflection with.
“How do we guide our children to the right path” a sister kindly asked.
Shaykh Ninowy responded, “You all were raised with a full cup of marifa (experiential knowledge of God), wherever you went you were fed a little, at your aunts’ house, at the bakery, at mosque, at school. Your kids do not have it available to them. They are ok when young but when they grow a little they act wrong and we get mad at them, why are they not behaving right. Don’t lecture them about dress code, change their heart and the rest will change itself.
It is obligatory on you the first generation to create the environment where they will be fed with the cup of marifa (experiential knowledge of God) every where they turn. If you do not do it, you are responsible for him on the Day of Judgment. You knew, you had the means to do it but you did not. You are responsible.
It was done before when our religious teachers settled in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. They settled and created a fountain of Allah’s knowledge with service in the name of Allah and him only. So create the fountains of love, mercy and knowledge for your kids and neighbors.”
I will make sure my 4 year old gets a drink from His fountain and hope he remembers these events like I did. Amen.
Wazwaz: I heard you began to practice some of this knowledge with the Feed the Hungry Program. Can you talk about it and other services you are now involved in?
Reshi: As a result of the Shaykh’s visit and his guidance, Muslim Volunteer has started a "Chistia feed the Hungry Program" (in recognition of Hadrath Moin-o-din Chisti, who started a feed the hungry program in 12th century and it is still going on thus the name "Saint of Poor") in collaboration with Masjidul Nur in Minneapolis. We will feed the homeless on 1st Sat of every month, Insha’Allah (God Willing). We also will start biweekly Quran recitation and remembrance of God supplications to provide our kids an opportunity to listen and tone their ears and hearts to the rhythms of Allah’s words.