The Lion of God

The Lion of God

His mind, sharper

than Dhu al-fiqar.

His blood, nobler

than royalty.

His tongue,

A fountain of wisdom.

His hands,

Strong with fidelity.

His heart

Beat with piety.

His eyes

Pierced with truth.

His name was Ali.

His legacy is the proof.



(C) Saleem Safdar, 2013.

Disclaimer and Terms of Use.

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 ( ,  You can watch a subtitled documentary on the children of Shah Daula at  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.  Thank you. )

Image from

Image from

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.

Quran Stories – Just give up: A boy’s lesson on perseverance

Please follow the link below to catch up on Part One:


Part Two:

“This book was meant to be committed to memory and this is overtly reinforced in Surah Qamar”, encouragingly said my Ustadh.

Wow, that’s pretty cool,  I thought.

I had always thought I wanted to become a Hafiz (one who committed the Holy Qur’an to memory). I was like Forrest Gump running with no obvious understanding of why or where. Pursuit proposed the perception of clarity and depth.

Do I really want to be a Hafiz? I pondered.

This question teleported me back to the origins of my journey. My quest began upon my mother’s return from Hajj (Pilgrimage). Hajj had revitalized her soul, which lead to her spiritual growth. The following hadith – “(the) parents (of one who memorizes the Quran) will be dressed in two garments that the world can never equal. Thereupon, they will question, ‘For what reason are we dressed in these garments?’ lt will be said, ‘This is by virtue of your child who memorized the Qur’an (Mustradak).” –  had produced a burning desire in her to make one of her sons a hafiz. She really embodied the phrase, “by any means necessary”. Hence, at the tender age of 11, I began my journey.

“Do you understand son?”, asked my Ustadh.

Then he quoted from the Quran saying, “And We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember?”

History also explicitly reminds us, that this Quran was inscribed in heart of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). Only after it’s revelation to the prophet (Peach be upon him) was it inscribed with ink.” he calmly reminded me.

He placed his hand on my shoulder and drew me near.

He reduced his voice to almost a whisper and said emphatically, “There is a condition… you must believe it!  It’s imperative that you know, in your heart of hearts, that you can memorize it.”

He continued his sagacious advice, “Allah is musarriful quloob (changer of the hearts). Inspiring change within the hearts is under His purview. However, He only amends the condition if we are sincerely yearning for it. Allah mentions in the Quran:

Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves 13:11

Forget about what anyone has said to you in the past or will say to you, in the future, to deter you from your goal.  That noise will be constant. Keep believing in you and striving for it… I believe in you and I certainly believe you have the intestinal fortitude to accomplish anything you set your mind to!”

His compassion and conviction overwhelmed me; tears began to trickle down my cheek.  His resolve and desire to see me succeed was contagious and I felt it envelope me. His words cocooned around my caterpillar like soul forming a spiritual chrysalis; releasing me morphed with impregnable determination and irrepressible passion.  Those kind and loving words fueled me in accomplishing the first leg of my journey expeditiously.  What I wasn’t aware of is how the wisdom of those words would parlay into my daily life and every opportunity I face. We can never justly measure the impacts our acts of kindness have.

“Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress. When you’re pissed off at someone and you’re angry at them, you just haven’t given them enough time. Just give them a little more time and they almost always will impress you.” ~ Randy Pausch


The State of T-Shirts At ISNA 2013

Here is a look at a selection of the panoply of creative t-shirts that were exhibited by an array of new and fresh young designers at the ISNA convention this weekend in Washington, DC.  Thanks.

Here is a t-shirt by new fashion company Sidikii Clothing Co. (

Here is a t-shirt by new fashion company Sidikii Clothing Co. (  They offer high quality t-shirts with messages like “Just dua it” (Just pray for it) and other classy styles.

Islamic Swag ( offers a variety of t-shirts with cool messages like “Stop Wars”, “Keep Smiling It’s Sunnah” and “I’m fly coz my iman is high”.

Islamic Swag ( offers these  handsome varieties of t-shirts that were a hit with young hipsters.

Islamic Swag ( offers these handsome varieties of t-shirts that were a hit with young hipsters.


My Qays ( offers printing services as well as a selection of Islamic themed shirts and apparel made from high quality material that will last.

The National Muslim Basketball Tournament ( came out and brought their basketball skills to the table with a panoply of colorful t-shirts and jerseys.


The Return of the Strangers brought a unique and eclectic selection of t-shirts, many of which touch upon poignant currents in society. Check them out at

Saleem Safdar and friends at ISNA 2013.

ISNA is a great place to make new friends and learn about Islam in America. I am on the far left and am rocking the Muhammad Shirt by by Sidikii Clothing Co. You can see the Muhammad shirt at

Morning Mantra


The best way to start the day

Is to converse with Allah and pray,

To give thanks for another chance

Another opportunity to advance;

Wash off the impurities of doubt,

Of negativity within and without;

Do some exercise to keep yourself fit

But make sure you don’t get late because of it;

Refuel your engine with wholesome eats

To give you legs to perform the days feats;

Keep the ground firmly under your feet

& remember that humility has a fragrance that’s sweet;

Hold these keys as you step out the door

And don’t forget to keep your heart pure;

Remember to greet all with a genuine smile

And be prepared to go the extra mile

Help to make the world a better place

So you may receive Divine grace.

Samy Goes to the Masjid

praying with pops

Samy Goes to the Masjid


I am Samy,  Samy am I.

I am the apple of my parents eye.

One day I was playing, happy as could be

When Daddy said, “Come to the masjid with me.”


So I put on my shoes and off we went.

I sat on Dad’s bike and he pedaled fast,

Cars wizzed by and the road bent,

Until we reached the masjid at last.


We parked the bike and I was in awe.

This was the best masjid I ever saw.

Of course it was also my first,

Or first that I could remember, since I was only three

And I didn’t remember much, honestly.


But I remember this day, as it was really great.

My dad’s friends all said “salam” by the gate.

They were all nice, and some had kids too:

Big ones, little ones, happy and crying babies too,

Round ones, skinny ones, some tall and some short,

Some in shalwar kameez, some in suits, some in dresses or long skirts.


The masjid was impressive

It was big and beautiful too.

It had a big dome and minarets

And an archway people walked through.


There were grandmas, mommas, and young girls with hats

There were men with beards of all types –

Some were fluffy, others stringy, and some like mats

And some had none at all – and that was alright.


There were some clean shaven

And some whose beards were shaped up tight

And some with moustaches that looked funny


Some called each other “brother” and “sister”

And some called me “sonny”

And I heard one uncle call his wife “honey.”


We walked on the path

And I took giant steps over the cracks

While talked to my Dad

About possibly having ice cream on the way back.


When we entered the hall

Our ears were delighted.

A man sang the azhan

And our hearts were invited.


The masjid was beautiful.

It had art and a chandelier

But what made it special was the feeling that Allah was near


The muezzin’s voice brought calmness to my soul

As I lined up next to my Dad.

I felt at peace and whole

And I was glad.


The Imam said “Allah hu Akbar”

And we started praying.

Standing together

We listened to prayers the Imam was saying.


After a while

I began playing.

Against Dad’s leg, I began leaning.


I listened with delight

To the Imam recite.

Then he took a break, or so it seemed

And we joined together in saying “ameen.”


As the Imam recited some more

My heart felt pure.

He put his hands on his knees,

And I did too,

Following the Imam felt like the right thing to do.


Then we stood up before we put our heads on the ground

And of course I had to look around.

I peeked in front, to my left and right

I peeked behind me at a bald man’s head so bright.


Everyone sat up and went back down;

By now I was up and running around.

I flew down the prayer line like an eagle

And stood in front of people like a beagle.


I danced, hopped and skipped too

I could have probably touched the roof if I wanted to.

I saw many men who looked at peace

And I saw some whose fidgeting wouldn’t cease.


One had a runny nose,

One had an itchy beard,

One kept looking at his watch,

One just looked weird.


I saw some kids playing

So I joined in too.

There were boys and girls,

And some ladies too.


One lady smiled at me;

She wore an orange scarf on her head.

She called me closer to her:

“Asalamu Alaykum” she said.


I saw a baby eating  a cookie

So I asked her how it was.

She said “it’s tasty” and gave me a bite –

and It tasted like love.


Then the lady with the orange scarf

Picked up the baby and patted my head.

So I started trotting back to Dad

To tell him about the fun I had.


My Dad was not hard to find

He’s really one of a kind.

He’s strong, wise and very kind.

I am blessed to have a Dad like mine.


The Imam raised his hands

And we did too

We prayed for well-being for everyone

And that includes you too!


Now it was time to leave

But first we had to find

Our shoes that we took off

Near the entrance sign.


I searched and scoured

But found myself confused,

Because there were too many shoes

From which to choose.


There were boots, dress shoes and slippers as well.

There were colorful sneakers that had a funky smell.

I was so frustrated I almost gave up my task,

When Dad found our shoes at last!


Then we went home

And Mom had made dinner.

It was so yummy in my tummy

I felt like a winner!


Then Mom fed us ice cream.

It was so sweet!

Dad said, “Remember Samy,

Heaven is beneath your mother’s feet .”


So I thanked Mom and Dad

For one of the best days I ever had.

I kissed them on their cheeks

And headed up to my room.


And while I was laying in bed

And thanking Allah for His gifts,

A big smile appeared on my face

As into happy dreams I slipped.


The End.


Islam in Chinatown | The Jakarta Post

Along with its unique name, Lautze Mosque does not look like most mosque’s in Jakarta. The four-story building, in the Chinatown area of Pecinan in Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta, was formerly a shop-house.

The mosque’s architecture is in the Chinese style and its doors and windows are painted red. Excerpts from the Koran are written in Arabic script and Chinese kanji are hung on the walls.

With a width of 100 square meters, the mosque can accommodate 400 people on its first and second floors, while its third and fourth floors are for Haji Karim Oei Foundation — which manages the mosque.

Besides being a place to pray, the mosque is also a place for Chinese-Muslims in Pecinan to assemble and teach mualaf (converts) about the religion.

“Lautze, in Chinese, means teacher or wise man,” said mosque spokesman Yusman Iriansyah. “Our main activity is to deliver information about Islam to people, especially Chinese descendants who live in this area.”

Lautze Mosque was founded in 1991 by a group of friends, including Ali Karim Oei, the son of the prominent Chinese-Muslim businessman Oei Tjeng Hien or Abdul Karim Oei.

Abdul Karim was a member of the early generation of nationalists who fought for Indonesia’s independence with the country’s founding father, Sukarno, and prominent Muslim leader Buya Hamka.

Yusman said that the mosque established to introduce Islam to the Chinese in Jakarta because they often kept their distance from the majority indigenous Muslims.

“Even though the majority of Chinese people are not Muslims, they need to understand Islam so that they can eliminate their bad perception of Muslims,” he said.

Yusman said that around 90 percent of residents in Pasar Baru area were Chinese; some of them had become mualaf and the mosque assisted their conversions.

According to him, from 1997 until now, the mosque had assisted more than 1,000 people to convert to Islam.

“We try to be flexible because they need to understand about the religion first,” he said.

“For example, if a married person wants to be a mualaf, we will not force his or her spouse to follow. Or if someone asks whether Islam allows Muslims to say Christmas greetings to family members, we will say yes.”

Amin Ali Nurdin, a convert and regular visitor to Lautze Mosque, said he was grateful that the mosque was close to his house and he only hoped it would stand forever.

“Islam does not teach Muslims to force other people to follow their path,” he said. “The most important thing is to do good things to each other.”

He said the mosque also held religious services, Koran readings and Mandarin lessons.

“During Ramadhan, every Saturday evening we provide iftar [food to break the fast] and then hold tarawih [extra prayer services],” he said.

To encourage mualafs to improve their understanding of Islam, the mosque management encourage them to lead tarawih prayers, he said.

“Unlike in other mosques, we change imam [prayer reader] for every set of prayers,” he said. (ian)

via Islam in Chinatown | The Jakarta Post.