A Life Changing Experience: A Youth’s Reflection on the Winter Clothing Drive

Muslims across the Maryland and DC area united to collect clothing for folks experiencing homelessness. Items were then distributed to shelters in Baltimore, Annapolis, Virginia and the DC streets. Below is a youth’s reflection on her experience distributing winter clothing in the streets of DC


A Life Changing Experience

by Luwaila Babiker

As I hear my phone ring, I see that I get a text from one of my fellow sisters reminding me about the clothing drive the following day in DC. Subhanallah, group texts were formed and sent out within seconds; the youth was really looking forward to getting together and seeing what we could do to help those in need.

Subhanallah, as we all saw each other the next morning we were disappointed about the weather but, Allahamdulilah, that didn’t stop us. After getting to DC we split into four groups (half guys’ half girls). In each group we had individuals dedicated to helping and motivated to make change. Allahu Akbar!

As I started to walk downtown with my group one of the brothers walked up under a staircase; at that moment I was very confused as to where he was going. Then I noticed that there was a homeless man in the corner covered with a cardboard box. In the rain! In the cold!! The brother went up and asked the gentleman if he needed any winter wear; after long pauses the brother asked if he needed a coat, or socks, hats, gloves, etc. The man responded “A coat please”. A man who had almost nothing responded with such humbleness and gratitude. Allahu Akbar! Subhanallah, I hear so much about homeless people, but when I saw it with my own eyes I got goose bumps, my eyes widened as I stood still and pondered for a while as to how they manage to live in such conditions every day. Subhanallah! We continued to walk around the city. As we walked the sisters and I were still reacting to what we just witnessed. We walked in silence for a while and reflected to understand what everyday life is for some folks.

The next group of people we went to were in front of a library. They were in corners, on the floor, and leaning against the wall. We all went to each of them to see what we could help them with. The old man I went to was so amazing. He was blessed with happiness. I asked if he needed anything for the winter and he said “Socks would be great”. As I asked if he needed a jacket, gloves, or even a scarf; he said no thank you I have plenty. This man was so grateful and thankful and his face gleamed with smiles of appreciation. Even though we constantly offered them more, they constantly thanked us and emphasized that they had enough. Subhanallah! Look at this beauty; we who have more than anything complain that we have nothing and those who seem to have nothing prove they have everything. Allahu Akbar!! The more we were with the needy the more we realized how blessed we were. “You can never say Allahamdulilah, enough” tweeted by a youth member that night. Subhanallah just by having simple conversations with these people put the biggest smile on our faces. Some of the people just wanted a pair of socks! We had bags of coats, sweaters, gloves, hats…but SOCKS that’s all that they asked for. Subhanallah! They were so happy and thanked us repetitively. They only took what they needed.

As we continued to walk even more we stopped by a group of women and offered them some winter clothes and they said “No thanks, there are plenty of others who need more help”. Subhanallah it brought tears to my eyes and pain to my heart. It was clear that she was in a state of help but she insisted we move on to help others. Allahu Akbar! With each person we came across the more we began to realize the presence of such humbleness and gratitude. The more we walked the more we realized. The more we saw the more we understood. With each person we experienced something unique.

Overall I observed that they used the word God a lot. As we talked to them I noticed that with every phrase or so you’d here “God bless you” or “God protect your soul”. It’s quite interesting to observe that God is the only hope they have; and that’s exactly what we as youth need to understand. The fact that when we have God in our lives, that’s all we need. As another youth member tweets: “At the end of the day its just Allah that matters” .Subhanallah although it was pouring rain we didn’t even notice it; it didn’t even get in the way. It actually made the experience become more unforgettable. An amazing feeling was instilled into our hearts that motivated us to help the needy. But truly none other than Allah, Al-Wahab, can give. Subhanallah to be honest the way I saw it, they helped us more than we helped them. As a youth we all experienced something with our own eyes that was life changing. We realized how grateful we should be.

As we gathered at the end and reflected upon the experience we agreed that it’s definitely something we’d like to do more often. I feel like it purifies our hearts and more so our intentions. The sad part is that these conditions are a part of everyday life for some people, yet many of us usually just walk past them.. I asked myself if it weren’t for this event; would I have been one of those people who would’ve just walked past? Astagfurallah, May Allah forgive us if we have ever ignored our own brothers and sisters who are in need. Alhamdulillah for all that Allah has blessed us with. Subhanallah for the patience Allah instilled in these individuals.And may Allah also bless us too with strength and patience.

Ya Allah you are the most merciful, we ask you to shower us with your mercy and love. Ya Allah we ask you to grant us patience and strength. Ya Allah purify our intentions. Ya Allah allow us to do that which pleases You, and allows us to gain Your love. Ya Allah guide us all to doing good and abstaining from that which is bad. Ya Allah allow the Ummah to come together, in order to achieve greatness and spread good.


Wisdom from Khwaja Abdullah Ansari

“And say: My Lord, make me enter a truthful entering and make me go forth a truthful going forth,” so that I will see Your strength and power when You make me enter, and will submit and conform myself to You when You make me go out.  Give me an authority from You, an ally that helps me that helps me or that helps others through me, but not one that goes against me: one that helps me against self-regard and extinguishes me from the realm of my senses.

From “Intimate Conversations” by Khwaja Abdullah Ansari (May Allah be pleased with him).  You can purchase this amazing book from Amazon at the following link: Ibn ‘Ata’llah and Khwaja Abdullah Ansari 


Zhikr with Al-Madina Institute from November 7th, 2013

For more information on Al-Madina Institute, please visit http://almadinainstitute.org . Thank you.

This is an original recording of zhikr or remembrance of Allah and His Prophet Muhammad from November 7, 2013. This was performed by members of Al-Madina Institute. The chants consist of prayers and the repetition of the Islamic profession of faith, “La Ilaha Ilallah” (“There is no god but Allah”). The zhikr, or remembrance, continues with the repetition of the Prophet Muhammad’s name (Peace and Blessings Upon Him) and title as messenger of Prophet, as well as the repetition of “Alayhe Salatulah” (Upon him be the blessings of Allah”), and the exclamation of “La Ila ha ilala” (“There is no god but Allah”). It is my hope that you find this spiritually beneficial, and that it brings you peace and closer to Truth. Ameen. Thank you.

The Martyr of Shah Daula

(This short story is dedicated to the children of Shah Daula’s Darbar, many of whom are abandoned and left to become beggars.  Please visit the following links to learn more about the plight of the children of the Darbar of Shah Daula (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/122670.stm ,http://www.irinnews.org/report/18638/pakistan-focus-on-rat-children.  You can watch a subtitled documentary on the children of Shah Daula at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j85izjuoLTA.  The best and one of the longest running charities operating in Pakistan is The Edhi Foundation.  You can donate to The Edhi Foundation by visiting this link and contacting their offices. http://www.edhifoundation.com/contact.asp.  Thank you. )

Image from http://aconspiracyofhope.blogspot.com.

Image from http://aconspiracyofhope.blogspot.com.

The Martyr of Shah Daula 

By Saleem Safdar

(C) Saleem Safdar, 2013.
Disclaimer and Terms of Use.

I watched Bhai Sahib walking away, dragging his crying wife with him.  The baby they were abandoning sat in front of me as my world faded to darkness, crying, in much the same way I had cried when I was abandoned as a baby, although I don’t remember much. The world is fading now.  I feel tired.  I want to go to sleep.  I can hear someone screaming my name in the distance.  What is she saying?  Oh, it’s Nani Amma.  It’s just Nani Amma… She would be proud of me if she had known what I did.  I hope Allah is proud of me.  My eyes are heavy now.  I feel weak.  I pray that I see Rasulullah in heaven after crossing the sirat, the bridge, at the fountain of Kausar where I will forget the miseries I suffered in my brief life.  I hope I see Prophets Isa and Musa too.  Maybe I will see my mother and father.  I will not ask them why they left me at Shah Daula’s Darbar.  I will be so happy to see them again.  I will embrace them and kiss their faces.  They will look at me and Shah Daula will be with them.  I will ask them if I am really a Chua, if I am really a mouse, as people said my entire life.  Ummi and Abu will say “No, you are our precious child.”  Shah Daula will put his hand on my head and kiss me on my hair. Allah will bless me and I will smile and everyone will be happy.  The angels and people and animals and jinn will all stand in front of Allah that day with nothing but hope for His mercy and fear of His punishment.  I pray for mercy.  I hope I will see this baby there too.  I hope Qayenaat gets her eyes in jannah, in heaven. I know she will.  She must.  I will miss Qayenaat most as I have missed her for so long now.  She is my love.  My real love.  I must rest now.  I am so tired.  So tired.

My first memory was crying.  I was crying in front of the darbar, the shrine, of Shah Daula.  I didn’t know where I was.  I was scared.  It took so long for someone to come.  Finally, a man came and took me with him.  He was wearing shalwar kameez, loose pants and a long shirt.  I don’t remember much except the band they tied around my head.  It was made of metal of some kind.  That is why they call me “Chua”, “Mouse”.  It is because of the small size of my head.  My head is small enough that you could cover it fully with your palm.  I was too little…  when I grew up enough they told me “Go beg.”  I begged.  I prayed.  I prayed that Shah Daula give people children.  I prayed that Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, and all prophets are blessed.  Whoever asked me I prayed for them.  Whoever didn’t ask me I prayed for them.  People gave me money.  I gave it to Sahib.  Sahib said I should tell people I had no parents and to give me money.  In return I would pray for them and their families.  I would pray for the couples who wished to have babies.  The people say if a couple can’t have babies and they pray at Shah Daula’s darbar they may be blessed with a baby.  Somebody made up a story that Shah Daula said they must give up their first born baby to the darbar.  This is a lie.  I know it was a lie because of what happened one day when I was a child.  That was the first day I met Nanni Amma.

It was morning.  I was playing with the children in front of the darbar.  Pick up stones.

“Allah! Main kee kara?  Who will take care of your children, Allah?”

“You will!”

“Acha? You think I am your nokrani?”

The children all giggled.

“May Allah protect you children.  I am a helpless widow.  Like you, I am at Shah Daula’s darbar for blessings.  I clean and get enough alms to eat a little daal, lentils, at night.”

Then she lowered her voice and told us to come closer.

We walked closer.  Nani Amma said: “You are all Allah’s flowers.  He spreads his light in the world through your innocent hearts.  People take their children that they don’t want.  The cripples, the mentally challenged, the handicapped, and they leave them here and blame Shah Daula for their own sins.  The criminals put instruments on your heads to make them small so they can use you to beg, to make the same people who abandon their children feel good about themselves.  I see the play everyday from the veranda of this holy place, but I am helpless.  I complain to Allah.  I complain to Kamli-walay, the seal of the Prophets, my beloved Muhammad.  I am simple woman.  But you are blessed children.  You are too young to understand.  May Allah have mercy on you, blessed ones.  There is some roti in the courtyard.  Go. Eat.”

All the children ran to the courtyard to eat some scraps of roti.  Except for Qayenaat.  Qayenaat could not see.

“Qayenaat, do you want roti?”


“Come, let’s go get roti.”

“Can you show me the way?”

“Yes, hold my hand.”

I held Qayenaat’s hand for the first time on that day.  From that day on Qayenaat would be in my heart.  In my days and in my nights.  In my dreams and while I was awake.  In all of my prayers.  Qayenaat was always with me.

As we walked into the courtyard I saw Nanni Amma smiling at us.

“Haw-hay… Allah de shaan.  Ni Sonu, taynu ishq lagee?”

“What did she say?” I teased Qayenaat.

Qayenaat blushed.

“What did she saaay, Qayenaat?  I swear I didn’t hear her.”

Qayenaat hesitated as if she was contemplating whether she should answer.  “Nanni Amma asked you if you are in love.”


“Well, Sonu, are you in love?”


“You heard me!”

“No, I swear I didn’t.  My ears are bad.”

“Your head is bad!”

“Hey! That’s not nice.  My head is special.  Do you know I get more rupees than the other children who beg?”

Qayenaat giggled.  “That’s because you’re stupid and people feel sorry for you.”


Qayenaat was still giggling.  “Yes what?”

“Yes, I am in love.”

Qayenaat stopped walking.  Her chest heaved through her kameez.  “R-really?  Really you are in love, Sonu?”

“Yes, I’m in love with cricket! Ha!”

I grabbed my roti and ran off with the boys, leaving Qayenaat behind for the moment.  Before I could leave the courtyard of the darbar, though, I stopped and turned around and looked at the girl who I would love for the rest of my life.

Like the creek that flows into the river that flows into the ocean the hours flowed into days into weeks into months and years and with the flow of each day my love for Qayenaat grew.  She was my best friend.  She was my confidante.  She was my life.

The people crowd around me now.  They seem worried.  There is no turning back now.  I am going from this place.

Life was not easy, but at least every day Qayenaat brought the sun and moon to me with her laughter and smiles.  I was a begger.  I danced the rakhs.  I beat my dol.  I prayed.  To the world I was “Chua”.  To Qayenaat I was Sonu.

Qayenaat could not see.  One time she was standing in front of the darbar and begging and a man came and tried to take her.

“Come with me.”


“Come!”  The man forcibly grabbed her arm and started taking her away.  I saw this and started throwing rocks at him and yelling curses at the man.  The other children joined.

Nanni Amma must have heard the noise and came running.

“What happened children?”

“A man tried to steal Qayenaat!”

“Was he successful?” Nanni Amma asked mischievously as she looked down the street for him.

“No, because Sonu saved me!” said Qayenaat.

“You make me sick!” said Noor.

“That’s because you’re just jealous that you didn’t save me!” said Qayenaat.

“No, because I have better things to do.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Like beating you up, you Chua!”

I remember getting beaten up pretty badly that day by a group of kids led by Noor.  It was okay though, because afterwards Qayenaat came and soothed me.

“Are you okay, Sonu? Sonu?

“He is on the verge of death.  We must take him to the hospital” I could hear someone shout.

“What use?  The bachara is just a Chua.”

May Allah bless you.  I will make dua for these people without receiving or asking for any alms today.

They said I was retarded.  Mentally.  They said I was defect.  That I was reject.  I had no respect.  But Allah was my friend to all the way end.  I knew Him in beginning and I will know Him the end.  I don’t need to pretend.

Time passed and we danced and played and begged, stole food and I stole kisses in my dreams from Qayenaat.  I would bring her a mango from the bazaar chup chupkey so many times.  Baba Ji would be so friendly the way he would greet me…

“Salaam beta.. did you win today?” He would say as he stroked his white beard.  He wore a topi, hat, and always wore clean loose cloth over his legs with a kameez on his upper body.

“We didn’t play yet..” I would always tell him.

“Well make sure you win when you play, beta, you are my hero.” He would say this and turn to other customers, always singing a tune and smiling.

I would take a mango and slip it under the opposing arm from his view as I would run back to share a mango with Qayenaat.

I would feel guilty but my excitedness at seeing Qayenaat’s reaction to the sweet taste of a mango made me commit this slight to Baba Ji.  I hope he understands now, this was for my Qayenaat.

“Sonu, have you ever seen a rainbow.”

“Yes, Qayenaat.”

“What does a rainbow look like?” She asked as she ate the mango that I had brought for her on the side of the darbar.

“It is all the colors together, Qayenaat.”

“But I have never seen the colors.”

“It is beautiful, Qayenaat, like you.”

“Am I beautiful, Sonu?”

“More beautiful than the sun and the moon, Qayenaat.”

“I have never seen the sun and the moon, Sonu.  What do they look like?”

“Qayenaat, the sun is like your smile when you are happy.  The moon is like the brightness of your face against the darkness of the night.”

“Sonu, you are crazy.”

“Am I crazy for loving you?”

“No, you are crazy because you have a head the size of this mango pit.” She bellowed in laughter and the mango could still be seen on her cheeks and in between her teeth.

“Sonu, my hands are sticky.”

“Take my kameez.”

“Sonu, will you wait for me?”

“Wait for what?”

“Will you wait for me so we can get married when we are older?”

“You would marry me?  Even though my head is the size of an almond?”

“Not an almond, silly, a mango pit.”

“Oh… I forgot.”

“Yes, Baba.  I would.  You are my jigar.”

“Have you ever seen a jigar, Qayenaat?”

“I do not need to see.  I can feel you.” Said Qayenaat as she placed her hand over my heart and felt its thump-thump.

“I wonder what your heart says, Sonu.”

“It says your name, over and over again.”

“You are such a bird brain…”

I enjoyed being a clown for Qayenaat.  I loved her smile.  I loved Shah Daula.  I loved Gujrat.  Even though I was a poorly fakir I loved and loved and people loved me.  That is, until they took my Qayenaat from me.

“Bechara Chua will die like he was born… alone.”

What they are forgetting is we all are born alone and die alone… but at least I had known love… I had known Qayenaat.

It was Friday, the holiest day of the week.  Jumah was always the best time for us fakirs to make money.  People were more generous when they left the masjid after Friday afternoon prayers.  I was excited to tell Qayenaat my plans of saving enough money and leaving this life of beggary.

When I reached Shah Daula’s Darbar, however, Qayenaat was no where to be seen.  I asked everybody.  No one knew where she was.  The whole day passed and I didn’t see my Qayenaat.  All the previous days I had begged I had often faked crying.  Today I was crying for real.  I thought my tears would never stop.  I didn’t know what to do.  I realized I was as the others had said I was.  I was retarded.  I was no good.  I was nothing but a “Chua”.

“Nee merey bachay, what’s the matter?”

“I can’t find Qayenaat Grandma.  I looked for her all day.  I tried to get the words out between my tears and swallowing of my breath.  I looked everywhere.  Even Noor helped me look.

“Beta, listen to me.  They have taken Qayenaat away.”

“Where?  Where is she, Nanni Amma?”

“They took Qayenaat to be a nokrani, a servant, in the wadera’s house.”

I was confused.  “Will she come back?”

“No, I’m afraid not, my sweet, innocent son.”

Nanni Amma placed her arm around me and kissed me on the head.  “She loved you, beta.  But if Allah wills you will see each other again one day, in this world or the next.  It is my belief in love that has kept me at this darbar all these years…”

Nanni Amma sighed and walked away… whistfully asking Allah “My Dear Lord, I know Your wisdom is greater than my small mind can comprehend, but why must this life hurt your servant’s heart so much?  Why must every love story be a tragedy?”

I didn’t return home that night.  Where was I to go anyway?  I had nowhere to go and no one to call my own after my Qayenaat had been taken from me.  I started running.  I didn’t know where I was going but I was going to find out where the Wadera lived.  I ran and ran until I found myself thirsty and delusional in the desert of my mind.  I remember not remembering who I was.  A Sufi looking man found me and asked me who I was and I said I was Qayenaat.  He tried to feed me and give me drink to no avail.  He prayed for me and sighed, saying these verses:

My Beloved, what is your slave to do

When everywhere he turns he sees You?

Then he brought me back to the darbar and kissing my forehead, departed.

I didn’t speak to anyone or move from my spot.  People continued to throw money at me in my disheveled and distraught state.  It was two days later, early in the morning, when I became beloved to Allah.

The dawn prayer had finished.  People had left.  A rooster crowed in the distance and I recalled when Qayenaat and I used to chase the chickens in the village.  A man appeared in the distance with his young wife who wore a head dress, a dupatta, draped around her head.  He was broad and strong.  She looked beautiful, like she had a glow.  Her dress was brown and her dupatta revealed a baby that she was cradling.  She looked distressed and under duress.  I watched as they approached.

The man yelled at his wife.

“Leave the baby here! We’ve made an oath to give our first born to this darbar and we must!”

“Fear Allah, I don’t want to.  This is my baby, my flesh.  This is our baby!”

“We must.  Besides, the baby is a retard.  He will be of no use to us.  He will be better here with the rest of the Chuas.”

“No, he won’t!” I protested.

“Chup! Shutup, Chua.  You don’t know anything!  You are a mere fakir!”

“He is your son, you should keep him.  Allah wants you to keep him.  Hazrat Shah Daula wants you to keep him.”

“Sweetheart, please listen to the boy” pleaded the man’s wife.

“Shut up, woman!  This is all because of you!” shouted the man as he pushed his wife to the ground.

At the moment the man pushed his wife I could see in my mind’s eye an image of Qayenaat in the Wadera’s house, being pushed to the ground.  I ran towards the man and he picked me up and threw me against the ground.  I guess my head must have hit a rock because I started seeing red everywhere.

The baby cries and cries but I am helpless to do anything.  I was a child beggar in life.  I was abandoned.  I was abused.  I slept on the streets.  I was exploited.  I was spit on and preyed upon by vultures.  As I die I return to what I did in life… prayer.  Ya Allah, have mercy on this baby.  Whose lane is this?  Is that you Qayenaat?  Your smile is my sun…

The end.

Some Useful Words:

 ”nokrani” = female servant. 

“Rasulullah” = Muhammad (Peace and Blessings on Him).

“Isa” = Jesus (Peace and Blessings on Him).

“Musa” = Moses (Peace and Blessings on Him).

“Allah” = arabic word for God.

“Wadera” = wealthy land owner.

“Hazrat” = an honorific title in Urdu and Arabic.

“Chua” = rat or mouse.

“Nanni Amma” = Grandmother.

“Sufi” = a Muslim ascetic or mystic.

“Darbar” = shrine.

“Shah” = an honorific title.

“Fakir” = a beggar.

“Gujrat” = a city in Punjab, Pakistan, where the Shrine of Shah Daula is located.

A Token of Appreciation


He gave him a buck

And said have a good day

His friend wished him luck

As they parted ways

Just then the breeze blew out of the West

And the world looked so beautiful

Like heaven had opened its treasure chest

And love was pouring out

In limitless supply

Like Allah was smiling on the world

And blessing them from on high

The sky was bluer

The foliage more verdant

The love was unspoken

Yet more evident

The birds prayed on them in their own tongue

Above the blue and yellow flowers adorning the street

Hope was rekindled and the world was young

Drunk with the nectar of humanity so sweet

Such a small gesture had elevated him higher

In his ears were sung praises of Allah by an angelic choir

Oh Saleem, poor slave of your desires

Isn’t that a small price to pay to raise you higher

The Pious Alim | Al-Madina Institute Blog

Please check out Al-Madina Institute’s blog at http://almadinainstitute.org/blog  and

check out the following post on a wonderful teacher, scholar, and spiritual sage, Shaikh Muhammad Emin Er, May Allah be pleased with him:

The Pious Alim | Al-Madina Institute Blog.

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