DAY 6

Nevada

08/07/2011

25 Comments

I’M HERE BECAUSE OF DESTINY
by Aman Ali

We came back to Las Vegas to meet up with a familiar face we made friends with last year. The story about Amanullah Naqshabandi was one of the most popular stories on our site last year and we wanted to meet up with him again and see how he was doing.

According to Islam, Muslims are prohibited to gamble and Amanullah is active at his mosque and works at the MGM Grand Casino. Now it’s incredibly easy to point a finger at this guy and slam him for this seeming hypocrisy without understanding his story. But as we discussed last year, his situation isn’t as black and white as it seems. Take a worthwhile moment to read last year’s story if you’re not familiar with him.

Amanullah just came home from an exhausting day of work and welcomed us into his home that is ornamented in precious Afghan art work and furniture

 

Inside Amanullah’s home I noticed vivid photographs taken at various points in his life hanging around the living room. Sometimes to better appreciate a man, you have to understand the journey he took to make him the man he is today.

 

Amanullah grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan. He went back to Afghanistan in 2003 to find out his childhood home had been completely destroyed by a bomb during the Afghan war there.

 

Age 9. "This picture was taken with one of those really old fashioned cameras you had to cover with a large curtain," he said. He paused for a moment and smiled. I asked him what he misses about life back then that doesn't exist in Afghanistan now. "I felt so free. You could go outside and play and there was nobody trying to hurt you or ask where you were going."

 

Age 15. Amanullah said he was a good student in school. A member in our crew started speaking Pashto, a language popular in parts of Pakistan, with him and Amanullah immediately drew him in with a handshake. Amanullah grew up speaking Farsi but learned the Pashto from one of his friends he grew up with that spoke it. When Amanullah finished school, he was about to take a job in Russia. This was around the time the Soviets were invading Afghanistan and Amanullah's friend strongly advised him not to take the job because he could be killed there. He didn't and Amanullah realizes he could have died if it weren't for his friend's advice. Everytime he speaks or hears Pashto, he's reminded of his friend.

 

Age 18.

 

Age 25.

 

(Far Right) One of his first photos of him coming to America. Looks like a baller in those bellbottoms. My dad wore similar outfits in photos he took when he came here to the U.S. too. What's up with immigrant dads looking badass in their old photos. I hope my future kids will look at pictures of me in my 20s and be like "WOW DAD! You look so cool in your 90s cartoon tshirts and Puma sneakers!"

 

Amanullah sporting his beachwear on a hot summer day. This photo was taken in the 1980s so any fashion faux pauxs he made in this decade are forgivable.

 

Photo from the early 1990s of King Amanullah showcasing his throne alongside his beautiful wife and children. Either that or the Sears Portrait Studio he went to is pretty awesome.

Amanullah likes to be a little goofy at times so when he and his wife visited Afghanistan in 2003, she put on a burqah as a joke and they took this silly pic together. Why do I have a feeling someone is going to take this photo seriously and post it on a right-wing blog...

 

Amanullah said he struggles everyday in working in a place he’s morally opposed to and makes no excuses whatsoever for it.  But he came to this country as an unskilled laborer and took a casino job because it was steady income to support his family. In recent years he’s tried to look for alternative jobs, but the job market is tough in Nevada. To make matters worse, Amanullah is 60 years old and has heart problems.

“I have seven stents inside my heart,” he said. “I need insurance otherwise something could happen to me. Who is going to want to hire someone at my age and health?”

As I had mentioned last year, it’s incredibly easy to bash this guy if you don’t know him for being Muslim and working in a casino. But doing so is unfair and downright foolish. You don’t think he already knows its wrong?

Amanullah gets off the couch and stares into a series of mirrors in his living room. I asked him the same question I poised at him last year – with all the stress and guilt he has about his job, what does he do to comfort himself? His stare into the mirror turns into a smile as he points to the sky.

“I stand before Allah and leave everything for him to judge,” he said. “I am here because of his destiny and all I can do is make best of my situation.”

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  • Mikhail Hasanovitch

    SubhanAllah. This story brings tears to my eyes. May Allah (swt) forgive, protect and cherish our elders for subjecting themselves to the harshest realities of life so that we wouldn’t have to experience the same.

    • http://twitter.com/veritasthorn Jeff Sexton

      Pardon my ignorance – 30mosques is really the first time I’ve ever taken time to actually talk to the Muslim community (virtually non existent in the circles I run in/ around in Ga and SC), but I keep seeing “Allah (swt)” here in the comments. Allah I get (not THAT ignorant ;) ), but what is the “(swt)”?

      • Anonymous

        Hey Jeff! Great question. Swt is short for “Subhanahu wa ta’ala” which means “Glory to him, The Exalted” (referring to Allah). Some Muslims like to use it to further emphasize His greatness and as a term of respect. Hope you are enjoying the 30mosques experience as much as I am!

      • Zainab Ghwari

        Great observtion! It’s the Arabic abbreviation for Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala, meaning “Glorious is He, and Exalted.” Almost like the human term for respect ‘His/Her Royal Highness’, as in “HRH King Abdullah.”

      • Amina

        (SWT) is a way of saying Allah the most great and exalted, this explains it more
        http://www.sunniforum.com/forum/showthread.php?7442-Only-about-Allah-subhana-wa-tala

      • ironbeard

        SWT = Subhanahu                Wa           Ta’ala 
                   The Most Glorified      And           Exalted

        To all muslim readers, please correct me if I have got the meanings wrong. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Duston-Barto/542722033 Duston Barto

        Check out http://www.islamicfinder.org and you can locate a mosque near you.  I’m from the western part of NC and I’m still surprised at how many mosques there are in random places (there are over a dozen in the area I grew up in).

        Most Mosques are very open on Ramadan and would be likely to have one or more interfaith gatherings.

  • Rayan

    Beautiful post. 

    May Allah be pleased with Amanullah and forgive him for his sins and forgive those that usurp Allah’s power and judge their fellow human beings as if they possess the authority and wisdom of God.

    While there is a lot of guidance in the Qur’an, the Qur’an only condemns people for 5 things: to worship any entity other than Allah, to be dishonest, to be unjust, failure to pray regularly (remember God), and failure to give charity.  After that, there is no condemnation in the Qur’an, there is guidance. 

    People who wish to issue blanket condemnation fail to understand human nature, human circumstance, and the beauty of the Qur’an and Islam.  

    • http://twitter.com/veritasthorn Jeff Sexton

      “While there is a lot of guidance in the Qur’an, the Qur’an only condemns
      people for 5 things: to worship any entity other than Allah, to be
      dishonest, to be unjust, failure to pray regularly (remember God), and
      failure to give charity.  After that, there is no condemnation in the
      Qur’an, there is guidance.”

      Is that accurate? WOW. Of course, the New Testament in the Bible is even less condemning, but even with my not-exactly-typical-for-my-demographics “enlightenment” towards Islam, even *I* thought of it as a MUCH more legalistic religion, similar to its sister (Judaism)?

      • Rayan

        Hi Jeff,

        There will be many people who will agree with your interpretation, because of hadith (sayings of the Prophet SAW) and their perceived importance to many here.  However, ‘hell’ or ‘hell-fire’ is mentioned in the Qur’an only 96 times and in each and every case it concerns hypocrites, those that believe in other entities, those that do not give out of what they earn, those that are unjust/dishonest, and those that lie or fail to remember Allah.

        However, the vast majority of the Qur’an is focused on those that worship other entities and about being just, honest, and giving (in particular to Orphans).  Different iterations of these verses are found throughout the Qur’an, here is a sample. 

        “Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers
        and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no
        fear, nor shall they grieve.” Qur’an Chapter 2, Verse 286

        “But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers,
        believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee:
        And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and practise regular charity
        and believe in Allah and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great
        reward. We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after
        him: we sent inspiration to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, to
        Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms.” Qur’an Chapter 4, Verse 162-163

        “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as
        against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against)
        rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your
        hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice,
        verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” Qur’an Chapter 4, Verse 135

        “The believing men and believing women are allies of one another.  They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong, and establish prayer and give charity and obey Allah and his Messenger.  Those – Allah will have mercy upon them.  Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” Qur’an Chapter 9, Verse 71

        • http://twitter.com/veritasthorn Jeff Sexton

          Very interesting indeed. I’ve actually downloaded the Koran to my Kindle, planning on reading it at some point, hoping to start this month.

          It seems you have a similar battle in Islam that I have in Christianity: For us, there ultimately is only ONE command, ONE thing that separates those going to Heaven from those going to Hell: Belief in Jesus Christ as the only way to get to Heaven. NOTHING else matters – and yet so many of my brothers and sisters in the Church want to make it otherwise.

  • Rayan

    Beautiful post. 

    May Allah be pleased with Amanullah and forgive him for his sins and forgive those that usurp Allah’s power and judge their fellow human beings as if they possess the authority and wisdom of God.

    While there is a lot of guidance in the Qur’an, the Qur’an only condemns people for 5 things: to worship any entity other than Allah, to be dishonest, to be unjust, failure to pray regularly (remember God), and failure to give charity.  After that, there is no condemnation in the Qur’an, there is guidance. 

    People who wish to issue blanket condemnation fail to understand human nature, human circumstance, and the beauty of the Qur’an and Islam.  

  • Raheemah

    Wonderful story Aman, as always! Its true, you never know someone else’s life or issues unless you take a walk in their shoes!!!

  • Tuncay

    Dear Bassam and Aman,
     
    I am very happy to meet you in the Internet. I  follow up your every writing and I am looking forward to your every post  impatiently. Unfortunately, our knowledge on American muslim is not enough. In this way, we are able to recognize our muslim friends  from US.
    Thank you very much. May Allah reward you for everything you are doing.
    Have you ever been in Turkey before?  I hope you would come to Turkey next year or later.
    Best wishes from İstanbul,
    Tuncay

  • http://bit.ly/hYrDQv Valencia Mf

    we hope to host you guys in Baton Rouge, LA – http://bit.ly/hYrDQv — we are hosting an event called #socialREVOLUTION — add the RED STICK to your travel plans between Aug 15 – 18 — there is a mosque here in town you can visit 

  • http://www.melibeeglobal.com Melibee Global

    After experiencing the nightmare of Tony’s surgery expenses (with his “good” insurance plan!) I can really understand the challenges that this man faces.  The insurance industry in the US is one that burdens many. I met a woman the other day who is a vegetarian but works at the deli counter at Whole foods – for the insurance.  I really appreciate this story and learning more about his life and path to immigration.  Keep those stories coming!

  • Tanya Rahman

    Awesome story Aman! Ya’ll are doing such an amazing job :)

  • Heela Naqshband

    Thank you for once again profiling the most decent, honest, and hardworking man I know — my father. So many immigrants (or children of immigrants) can relate to his story, but for those who can’t, I think your interview helps shed some light on how much strength and composure we can gain from our faith regardless of the situation around us. Despite all of his struggles throughout the years, my father has never lost his faith in Islam, not for a moment, not even in Sin City. He is an inspiration to me.

    I’m sorry I wasn’t able to meet you guys when you came to my parents’ house. Next year, inshallah. I think this is such an awesome, eye-opening project, and I wish you continued success.

  • A fan

    Loved it!!!

  • Sue Smith

    What a beautiful story!

  • Ms Anish David

    Its interesting to see this story here. I was just counseling a convert Muslimah who is an auditor at a Native American casino — who feels horrible about working at a casino, but needs the work because she has to care for her three children — as the SOLE provider. She is where she is because she was forced from her prior home and marriage by domestic violence. Allah knows her plight & the struggle she goes through daily to provide for her kids. I feel deeply for these people who through circumstances outside their control, find it necessary to work in such places. Those who judge them negatively should do more to SUPPORT them financially — otherwise, they should keep their traps shut, in my opinion.

  • http://amenaskhan.wordpress.com Amenaskhan

    I remember this from last year! Only God can judge us. So true. 

  • Fashraf

    you’re on point about the 70s clothing looking cool in old photos — my kids will NOT think i look cool or stylish in my generic gapwear and sneakers. 

  • Mariyah BintHoras

    Asalaamu alaikum..when you are in Rome, you sometimes have to do as the Romans do to survive. It is difficult living in the diaspora, we do the best we can with whatever we are given. JAK to this brother for  being brave and sharing his story. Eid Mubarak


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