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Dr. Najat was born, raised and educated in India. He came to Windsor, Canada for his post-graduate education. I dare not write his original name since it is very long and hard to pronounce. All it tells me is that he belonged to a very conservative Hindu family who chose such a typical Hindu name for him. He received very sound religious education, which he practiced as much as he could during his stay in India.
At the University of Windsor he found a very healthy interaction of ideas and cultures. He, like many other students, was open-minded. He wanted to make his life meaningful for himself. He was not comfortable with his Hindu ideas and practices. He, therefore, started reading the Christian Bible. It appealed more to his mind than his native religion. Thus, Najat accepted Christianity and practiced it sincerely for a year or so. However, he did not find the ultimate satisfaction that he was looking for. Consequently, he started exploring Islamic ideology. Certain religious conflicts were going on in his mind while he was studying for his Doctorate in the field of Engineering.
College campuses offer a unique freedom of choice and practice. Sometimes constructive debates are arranged between Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars in a very healthy climate. This has opened doors for many who have been locked up in their own closets. Najat learned more and more about Islam through various sources. It made much more sense to him to have one God rather than having many gods to worship. He found the Islamic ideology the most consistent and coherent of all. Thus, he embraced Islam and chose Najat as his Muslim name. May Allah keep him on the straight path, since entry into Islam is very easy, but growth of Islamic knowledge and practice is often gradual.
Najat realized that in order to practice Islam sincerely it was necessary to marry as soon as possible. His wish was soon fulfilled. He got married to an educated Muslim girl from a respectable family in Windsor. The marriage ceremony took place in a Windsor mosque. Najat not only graduated in family life, but also graduated from university as well. Now Dr. Najat was looking for a job. He had a grand offer from the Ford Company in Detroit. He accepted the job and his family moved to Farmington Hills, a suburb of Detroit.
A new mosque opened in this area called the Tawheed Center of Farmington Hills, Michigan. I met Dr. Najat in this mosque a few times. One day I asked him about his Quranic reading. Najat said that he could not read the Quran in Arabic. I was shocked to find that a talented person like Najat could not read the Quran in Arabic. The reason was obvious. Many Muslims fail to find time to help other people on Islamic matters on a one-to-one basis. In this way many potential learners are left out or become disheartened. Without sacrifice of personal time hardly any progress can be made. Lip service or sympathy is not enough. I asked Mrs. Najat boldly, “Why haven’t you taught your husband the Arabic alphabet, as you have been married a few years now.” She did not have a good answer for me. I said to Dr. Najat, “Let us have a deal. You give me four weekends. I guarantee that you will be able to read the Quran, Insha’ Allah(God Willing).” We agreed to meet in the Tawheed Center after Fajr Prayer for a few hours. To our great surprise and happiness, brother Najat was reading the Quran in Arabic after these four weekends. This generated interest in many other potential learners. Many brothers started working with new students on a one-to-one basis. Surprisingly, one American-born M.D. joined the group as a fresh student as well. This morning session was often followed by a simple breakfast in the mosque.
Dr. Najat could read many chapters from the last part of the Quran. He, however, needed a better teacher than I. One elderly Syrian brother, Sheikh Al-Atasy, agreed to work with brother Najat privately. Najat really started enjoying the recitation of the Quran after learning the true pronunciation from an experienced Arabic-speaking teacher. Sheikh Al-Atasy and Najat both loved this activity and extended it to a daily meeting after the Fajr Prayer for about one and half hours. Najat would then proceed directly from the mosque to his work. After work he used to bring his family to the mosque for Isha Prayer.
Sheikh Al-Atasy and brother Najat were both very committed to their Quranic study session. Winter is very nasty in Detroit. Both hardly missed any day through snow or storm. Sheikh Atasy was very proud of his student. Sheikh Al-Atasy used to say to me, “Najat’s pronunciation is better than yours.” Najat not only had an excellent pronunciation, but he could also read the Quran from anywhere you opened it. Najat also started reading the meaning of the Quran in English. In this way he started appreciating Quranic verses with their full significance. Najat did not stop here. He quickly started memorizing the Quran. The last time I met him, he had memorized about half of the last section of the Quran.
It is often very hard to find a volunteer for community work. Most of the people enjoy criticizing or they like to make a big deal of what little they happen to do. Dr. Najat volunteered himself to run some of the community affairs without any preaching or motivation on my part. He often opened the mosque for Fajr Prayer, although he lived the furthest from it. He used to remove snow from the footpath and passage leading to the main door of the mosque. He used to sprinkle salt over this area to prevent anybody from falling down and breaking his bones. These services by Najat were very essential and important to our community, since any injured person could easily sue the mosque for huge damages. Consequently, insurance companies would refuse to provide insurance to such public places.
Dr. Najat also helped run the weekend Islamic School in the mosque. He would again open the mosque every Sunday before Dhuhr Prayer and remove the snow and sprinkle salt before the arrival of any teacher or student. Collecting school fees from parents is a very unpleasant job. Najat did it without annoying anybody. He used to buy snacks and serve these to the children. He used to clean the kitchen single handedly and defrost the refrigerator periodically.
Brother Najat did not limit himself to indoor activities. The property around the mosque was spread over about a two and a half-acre area. He used to fertilize the grassy area every year. He preferred to pay for the fertilizer and weed killers from his own pocket, just like he did for the snow salt. He was lean and young. He helped cut down some dead trees around the mosque as well.
We highly appreciated his services during Ramadan when there used to be many community dinners every week. He helped every host in setting up dinners and serving them to men and women. He used to vacuum the mosque after nearly each dinner. He preferred to do most of the tasks himself very quietly rather than instructing or reminding others. He used to set up and serve delicious refreshments to the audience after the Eid Prayers along with other volunteers. He and the community members developed a very close relationship. He used to invite many families to his house for snacks and dinners after Eid Prayers. He did it year after year and the response from the community was tremendous. Hence, the first thing I had to do after delivering the Eid Khutba was to rush to brother Najat’s house to entertain myself with delicious food. May Allah reward brother Najat’s family for their consistent and sincere services.
One day I asked brother Najat, “You know the Quran and Islam pretty well. What are your true feelings about Islam?” Dr. Najat said, “Honestly I feel satisfaction deep in my heart, which I did not feel with Christianity and Hinduism. The Quran has a very soothing effect on my mind and heart.”
Now brother Najat sometimes even leads the prayer. This clearly indicates that there is no hierarchy in Islam. Anybody with good knowledge and taqwa(consciousness of Allah) can be a leader in performing different Islamic services. Allah says in the Quran: “…Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has Al-Taqwa…” (49:13) In Islam anybody with taqwa can act as a leader irrespective of color, creed, geographical origin or nationality.