Day 4

California

08/05/2011

117 Comments

THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE AIR
by Aman Ali

It’s well past midnight and I’m cooped up against a corner with my laptop outside the prayer room. I furiously begin to hammer away at the keyboard to write up this blog post so I can at least salvage a few hours of sleep before I have to get up again and head to the next state.

A guy named Jason decorated with piercings and tattoos walks into the room alongside a girl named Jacqui wearing a white headscarf. Jason’s friend Fedi is with them too and asks me to tag along.

“They’re about to get married,” he said. “Want to be a witness?”

My phone reads 12:42 a.m. The only thing I can think about right now is by the time this wedding is over, the only place to hold the reception at would be Taco Bell (what else would be open?)

Wait, wedding? What?  Before I get up to basically be the Best Man at a wedding for a guy I met about three hours ago, how the heck did I get here?

*****

I walked inside The Ta’Leef Collective in the Bay Area tonight encountering a radiance I’ve very rarely witnessed before. The center is often described as a “safe space” for Muslims from all walks of life. I look around the room and see everyone from men covered in tattoos, clubbing-types with spiked hair and pencil-thin facial hair, elderly men decked out in South Asian garb, basketball-nerds with matching fitted hats and jerseys, women in face veils and other women with multi-colored hair and spiked earrings.

I’ve been to hundreds of mosques in my lifetime, but nothing like this. Almost every person in this room, if they were to step foot inside a mosque, they’d get dirty looks. Heck, if I were in the mosque and saw them, I bet I might even give some of them a look or two. But it was something comforting about this place that didn’t make that an issue at all. I had to find out why.

I chat at length with Usama Canon and Mustafa Davis, the co-founders of the center. I asked how they’re able to attract people to this center who probably get hostile reactions when they enter mosques.

“We have a very clear agenda where we say ‘Come as you are to Islam as it is,’” Mustafa said. “The reason we have that second part is because we’re not trying to change the religion.”

Mustafa said the reason why they try to embrace everyone’s identity is because of a rampant problem Muslims have at mosques that I’m sure we’re all guilty of at times.

“We’re trying to stop the schizophrenia that often exists in the Muslim community where ‘I’m religious in the mosque and there’s a certain set of rules I’ve got to follow at the mosque,’” Mustafa said. “’ But when I leave, those rules I don’t have to follow anymore.’”

It’s true. Mosques can often become theatres, where Muslims come in and put on masks when they step inside the place and pretend to be someone else. I asked Usama how do you address that problem, especially with such a wide net of people that frequent The Ta’Leef Collective. He said the center emphasizes how the circle is just as sacred of a space as it is a social one for people to feel welcome in.

“What we’re trying to nurture is a very visceral God consciousness that is not limited to a particular place,” he said. “In other words, when I’m the ‘Social-Me,’ I’m still the ‘Muslim-Me.’ When I’m the ‘Muslim-Me’ I’m still the ‘Social-Me.’

My conversation is cut short by someone holding a tray with some sort of metallic vase on it. Inside the metallic container are wood embers emanating an aroma whose scent is so vivid the hairs on my arms begin to tingle.

“What is it?” I ask.

It’s oud,” the man said. “It’s kind of like an incent made from rare wood. Breathe it in.”

I have no idea what to do here but I’m the kind of person who loves jumping in head first into experiences that seem foreign to me. The man tells me to take off my fedora  and cup it over the embers.  I let the aroma sift through the fabric on my hat before I place it back upon my head. The wood scents begin to massage my scalp taking away a headache I had been dealing with earlier.

“Nice and toasty,” I said.

****

Watching me try out the aroma is Jason. Underneath the gray wool cap and thick brown hipster glasses he’s wearing are two lip rings circulating through right side of his lower lip and studs almost the diameter of dimes popping through the bottom of his earlobes. I asked Jason when he accepted Islam two years ago, how people responded to his appearance.

“You come to Islam as who you are,” he said. “I had people coming up to me saying I needed to dress differently or change my name. But it’s not about that. It’s really what you have for your heart and what you have for the Creator upstairs.”

I look down at his arms and notice a forearm tattoo of a red-haired woman holding a spraypaint can. I ask him how does he mentally deals with the criticism from many Muslims he encounters about the way he looks.

“I always represented this as a test,” From the very beginning, I was told Allah tests the ones that he loves. He doesn’t put too much on your plate that you can’t handle. So my test is going to be very different from your test, know what I mean?”

He shared with me one example where he felt he was “tested” by getting flack for his tattoos.

“After I got done praying once, a guy pulled me outside and said I can’t come inside the mosque with my tattoos,” he said. “Then he tried to tell me his kid wants to get tattoos and he literally blamed me for his son.  Who am I to judge him though, may Allah help him and help us all.”

*****

It’s past midnight as most of the people at the center have left. I pull out my suitcase from the car and set up camp inside the prayer room for where I’m sleeping for the night. But first thing is first, I need to blog. I begin writing about my encounter with Jason and am drawing a blank about what his tattoo looks like. I look around and don’t see him and get frustrated because I really wanted to paint a vivid picture of what it looked like for the blog post.

Seconds later (literally), Jason comes walking back into the center with Jacqui, the woman he’s about to marry. Myself and a few other people still inside the mosque gather around for the wedding ceremony. But before the wedding takes place, Jacqui tells Usama she wants to embrace Islam. Usama first walks her through the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith basically saying there is only one God and Prophet Muhammad was his final messenger.

Next, Usama asks Jason to join Jackie as he officiates their wedding ceremony. I look at my phone – 1:13 a.m. Wow, this is really happening. Usama explains to them the terms of the marriage the two agreed upon and leads the group in a small prayer to bless the couple’s new union. The couple is now married and everyone takes their turn to congratulate the newlyweds.

I hug Jason congratulating him for what just went down.

“So how about that,” he said with his piercing smile. “We just met a few hours ago and now you’re here at my wedding. Allah’s mercy is beautiful.”

Jason told me he met Jackie, an atheist at the time, at his work a few months ago. The two began talking but Jason realized he shouldn’t try pursuing anything. He wanted to cut things off because his faith was important to him and wanted come closer to God alongside someone else who had similar beliefs. He couldn’t ask her to convert either because Islam forbids forcing someone to believe in the faith. But she soon she developed an interest in Islam on her own, making Jason question if he should have cut things off to begin with.

He added many of his friends, including Usama, would give him flack asking him if he feels serious about this girl, why waste her time if he’s not willing to commit to her for marriage?

“So when did this whole plan to marry her go down?” I asked.

“About an hour ago when I was talking to Usama in the parking lot bro,” he said. “It just felt like the right thing to do and I feel even better about it now.”

Islam is a fairly simple religion to follow. But oftentimes we as human beings overcomplicate things. Take Muslim weddings for example, in some cases families will spend tens of thousands (in some case hundreds of thousands!) of dollars on lavish festivities. But for Jason and Jackie, I don’t think you could ever put a price tag on how beautiful those two looked getting ready to start not only their physical lives together but their spiritual ones as well.

Like I was saying before, all the sights I encountered today would probably seem bizarre at any other Muslim establishment in this country. But there must have been something in the air at this place that made it seem so natural. And it’s got to be more than just the aroma from the wood embers that are still engrained into my hat.

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  • dina b.

    absolutely beautiful.

  • Aaishahburney

    I remember the first time I went to Taleef, there was a double Shahada then a Nikaah. The atmosphere was so full of energy, I had the urge to keep on coming. 

    • http://www.amanali.net Aman Ali

      I feel the same way, if only I didnt live in NYC!

      • Aaishahburney

        Maybe you could start a Taleef extension in NYC? It’s kind of needed concept. Not just for converts but for those born into Islam as well who just don’t fit so well in a culturally specific atmosphere….like me. :)  

        • Cyrus

          Go to the Islamic Center at NYU!

  • Brother

    You visited the Bay Area and all you did was go to ONE mosque?! You missed out big time!

    • muslima

      can’t please everyone.

    • Mary

      which others would you suggest?

      • Houda Myal

        MCA in Santa Clara has a great outreach program, the Salam Center in Sacramento does too.

    • http://www.amanali.net Aman Ali

      It was a time issue, we were in town essentially for 11 hours

      • Brother

        =( maybe next time! By the way, my post wasnt intended to be rude or anything, far from it so sorry if you guys got that sort of vibe from it !

  • Jeremy Stern

    MashaAllah, you painted Ta’leef perfectly. Tawfiq inshaAllah.

  • tenderheart200

    Wonderfull may everybody have a blessed Ramadan

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

    We do over complicate life.  This post is such a beautiful reminder that life IS beautiful and we don’t need to spend our time judging, complaining, looking for more.  Thanks for that important lesson Aman!  Looking forward to your next post and safe travels please!

    • http://www.amanali.net Aman Ali

      thanks Missy!

  • Shenaaz

    Alhamdullilah! An inspiring story.

  • Rashed

    Great post, as always. Ma sha’ Allah. I need to visit this place if I’m on the West Coast sometime.

    • http://www.amanali.net Aman Ali

      Definitely do it bro

  • http://amenaskhan.wordpress.com Amena Khan

    Wow. Incredible story. I love the picture too. 

  • faatimah knight

    A beautiful place, so glad you featured it!

  • faatimah knight

    A beautiful place, so glad you featured it!

  • faatimah knight

    if you have more pictures please post them, Ramadan Mubarak :)

  • faatimah knight

    if you have more pictures please post them, Ramadan Mubarak :)

  • Azaan Shah

    Shows the true essence of Islam, truly beautiful

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

    Simply amazing. GREAT post to show “conservative” “evangelical” Christians that American Muslims really AREN’T so different from American Christians – both for the better, and for the worse.

  • ayda

    Awesome post. Islam is indeed simple. We do overcomplicate weddings. I plan to have a simple marriage too. Insya Allah, ameen. Thanks for this post. Keep doing your thing!

  • Reem

    beautiful story, mashallah. 

  • SHR

    mashallah, this is so beautiful. I wish they had something like this were I live . 90percent of time I feel out of place, I am a new convert of 4 years, and always feel I need to put on a “show”  to me this is a lie, because I am masking who I really am. They say most women are quiet, submissive etc, and so many things I must do, that do not represent who I am, which I feel is part of what makes you who you are :/   I even have friends that make comments about people like in the article. Sorry for the babbling, but I always wondered if an atmosphere like this existed, even though I am not covered in tattoos, or piercings, colored hair etc. I look “normal” in typical islamic standards, but my personality is more like the beautiful people above. Thanks for this.

    • Aaisha Shaikh

      SHR – I don’t know you but I know some of the feelings you are describing. Don’t ever feel like you have to fit into a box. Muslim or not, female or not, you have a right to be a confident, strong individual with your own opinions, as long as they are presented respectfully. That means different things to different people, but please do not feel like you are alone. Within just my family, I have three sisters who would never be defined as ‘submissive’ and they are definitely not ‘quiet’ :) Don’t let people define you… every individual has something to offer so don’t let ‘them’ take away your voice.

    • Canadian Sister

      Stay strong sis :)
      Modesty and submissiveness are 2 different things, the more you learn about the great women of our past the more that will become clear insha’Allah. 
      And it’s never too late to start looking for new friends! I’m not saying to ditch your friends completely, but you shouldn’t feel bad when you’re with your friends.

    • Muthe

       Dear SHR, I believe that Allah will judge you upon what you do in your life, and not upon your “islamic” type attitude. Be yourself, and if the so-called islamic community doesn’t agree with you, screw them. Don’t conceal yourself, shine! You can only shine by being yourself. Plus, think back about the time you decided to convert. Why did you convert? What make you decided to convert? Did this so-called community have a role in your convert? I hope you will find another community that receive just the way you are, receive you as yourself. Salaam

  • Jacqui

    Thank you so much for being a witness to my Shahada and a guest at our wedding. Your blog was beautiful and made me start crying all over again. If you happen to have pictures of the wedding, along with other pictures throughout the night, Jason and I would love to see them. May Allah keep you safe during your travels and for you to keep experencing the beauty of Islam as you saw in ta’leef.

    • http://www.amanali.net Aman Ali

      Jacqui, I’m beating myself up cuz we didnt take any pictures of your wedding!!!!! I was too much in awe of what I was witnessing that I forgot to pull out my camera

      • Jacqui

        supanAllah. its all good. once again thanks for even being there. inshAllah i cant wait to read more blogs like this one!

        p.s. cant wait for that taco bell ;D lol

  • Ali

    inshallah, the newly wed couple could go to umrah together for their honeymoon (or soon), and perhaps this will allow Jacqui to witness the great sign.  May allah bless you both  Great Blog, great story!

  • Haj S. T. Ibrahim

    Good writing,it seems as though I was there!

  • Jonbarraza

    Perfect. Just perfect. Great job

  • Bahry S

    Salaam Aman!  You guys visited our masjid in Santa Ana, CA last year. After reading that blog, I was thinking, Hmm, where should they go next year? And I thought, it’d be nice if they visited Ta’Leef in the Bay Area. And here you are! So glad you got to experience the beauty of Ta’Leef.  Great job on the blog. May Allah protect you guys on your journey. Ramadan Mubarak!

  • Ayesha Akhtar2

    wow – what a fantastic post. and what a fantastic way to spend an evening on your 30 day road trip – a memory you and Jason/Jackie will treasure for a lifetime, inshaAllah!

  • Faiza

    Awesome post. I had the honor of visiting Ta’leef earlier this year, and it was an amazing experience. I’ve never felt so at home in a room full of strangers in my life! Can’t wait to go back Inshallah. Jacqui and Jason – congratulations, and may Allah bless you on this wonderful journey you started together!

  • Aaisha Shaikh

    This has to be my favorite post so far :) I love how you portrayed the vibe of the space, and the conversation with Usama. We have so many versions of ‘me’ attached to us, that it’s great to know that a space like this exists which allows us to negotiate some of those ‘me’s to feel whole. 

    Also a major congrats to Jacqui and Jason. It’s an amazing feel to find this person you can connect to on so many levels. And even more amazing when the person feels that way about you. I pray that you guys always have love and patience for one another, and that no matter where you end up in life, you will always be ‘home’ for each other. 

  • anas canon

    Who do the photo credits belong to?

  • Claire Hxtable

    Thank you for highlighting  this community. Much to be learned from their embrace.

  • Muirnawaz

    I have dreamed of such a place where you can come as you are…. maybe it’s time for a place like this in Toronto.
    Suzanne

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

    I’m conflicted as to whether I agree with the principles of this mosque.  In a sense, I agree there is a judgmental vibe in alot of mosques i remember when I was a kid I got the popular at the time mushroom haircut once and some ppl at the mosque said some things.  They werent rude but they did point out that the haircut was un-Islamic.  But at the same time I think how you conduct yourself in a mosque is more important then people judging you.  When one goes to the mosque, they should make an effort to show respect to the mosque by trying to adhere to Islamic principles after all it is a house of Allah.  For example even if a girl does not normally wear hijab, I would not consider it scizophrenic or hypocritical for her to wear hijab to a mosque as a sign on respect to the mosque.   Furthermore, I dont think there is anything wrong with trying to behave better then normal at the mosque, the mosque is where our community assembles and its a good thing for people to adhere more strongly to Islamic principles in the mosque because it is a reflection of our community as well as a reminder to other members of the levels we should strive to achieve.  Now for example if there is a convert who has tatoos from prior to his conversion I’m not going to flip out and demand he have them removed, but if for example the majority of the tatoos are on his arms it would be a good thing to wear a long sleeve shirt to cover them, in order to reflect the muslim principles of modesty in the mosque.  Also when you expose them like that, there are many young Muslims looking to that and thinking hey if that guy is doing it maybe its ok, especially when you add the fact that they already wanted one.  Furthermore I dont think its apporopriate or cool for women to show up dressed indecently to a mosque, what they do on their time is their business, however this is a mosque and it should be respected.  It is not okay to go against the major principle of modesty for women’s dress at the mosque!  I havent seen this happen at mosques in my community, however i have seen it happen frequently at Eid celebrations.  I think what I’m saying is common sense, if for example you have a job interview, chances are  you will try to make yourself as presentable as possible for your potential future boss, doesnt it stand to reason that you should do the same for Allah.

    • Ramadan Mubarak

      salam.  i wanted to take a minute to share my own reflections to your question, because i think this may be a cognitive discomfort many muslims are similarly reacting with.  the bottom line as i understand it: this is about salvation & eternity, and our lives are not job interviews.  we all come with a medley of pain, hurt, joy, etc that make up our baggage as human beings.  we want to be able to be vulnerable, lay that on the table, and face god with that baggage.  part of that baggage may be many people’s difficulty in processing why modest dress is even relevant in 21st century america, where pornography is literally everywhere.  so if you tell someone with a less seasoned grounding in traditional muslim practice that God has a problem with your short-sleeved shirt right off the bat, you leave them wondering whether it will ever be possible to join their aspiration with their reality.  don’t underestimate people’s aspiration to live up to what is ideal, or as it was put, “islam as it is.”  in the meantime, if we continue to deny our reality, we will continue to live in enclaves of alienation where a few of us feed off of eachother’s perceived good vibes and look down upon the perceived spiritual riff-raff.  people are like mines.  i’d be interested to read other responses to this question too.  Ramadan Mubarak!

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

        You make some good points, however I think the fact that we live in 21st century america where pornography is everything, makes it that much more vital to have a mosque you can go to where you can be reminded of the principles of Islam.  I dont think the solution is to simply surrender to the perversity that surrounds us.   The way that I see it is, take Ramadan for example, every Ramadan I among many Muslims try to alter our behavior in order to become closer to Allah.  This can include watching our language, giving charity more, avoiding sinful distractions.  The month of Ramadan is like you’re yearly spiritual checkup, it lets you examine your life from a spiritual perspective and improve on your short comings. It comes once a year because the shitan is tricky and during the hussle and temptations of the year one sometimes loses their way.  Now the mosque and Friday prayers are you’re weekly spiritual check up, to help keep you in touch with your Muslim principles as well as your Muslim community.   Now you make the point of possibly turning away a new Muslim by mention proper Mosque ettiquette such as attire.  Frankly you’re attire and your behavior is not just a technicality, its a major part of the religion.  This should be explained in a nice non-confrontational way.  This person is now a Muslim, and as a Muslim living in a non-Muslim country we must work extra hard to represent Islam in an appropriate light.  Islam isnt rigid or unconforming, I think it makes sense to any religous follower that in a house of God one should dress modest and clean.  Now I understand that people have issues, and I think as Muslims we should take the time to try to explain to Muslims why these things are important and encourage them to change what theyre doing, and the best way to do that is by example.  But in this mosque it seems like the message is come as you want, we dont care, its not a big deal.  Frankly with this approach I cant imagine any of the followers conforming to Islamic principles, when its being treated as a non-issue.

        • Salaam Bay Area

          Salaam. To make a long story short, Ta’leef is NOT a mosque, nor does it claim to be.

          • Ramadan Mubarak

            i wish it were a mosque.  then we would be able to join our sacred and non-sacred identities and flow more freely between all spaces in our lives without a sense of guilt, shame, anxiety, or compromise.  imagine if all of our personalities were finally permitted to come together and we could get over our sybil syndrome.

          • Rashed

            I agree!

        • Ramadan Mubarak

          salam.  your “islam as it is” may be worth examining.  when people begin to behave in a way that is being dictated to them as morally upright and superior, pushed out into the public as ambassadors of a religion they don’t yet fully understand, but it’s not coming from a place of grounded faith, it begets either burnout or hypocrisy.  so if we’re going to hold a checklist up to every person, convert or not, then i see that as far more perverse.  whose responsibility is it to call the shots anyway, even if there was a checklist?  i don’t think this center put up a neon sign encouraging people to come in immodestly and unclean.  but if this is the only place that will welcome an unkempt, drunk & tatted true seeker, then i’d much rather be there than a place where i need to submit to a questionnaire before i can offer prayers.  i only encourage us all to invoke the seerah.  peace.

          • Najem Al Hasan

            Completely agree.  I often visit mosques in my area and never return because of the judgemental eyes – more importantly the tradtional Imams who feel they have to shout down the mic in a rage of anger at the “KAAAAFIR!” and can only think of peaching hate when Islam is all about peace.

            The perception of Ta’Leef being a centre for the unkept and unclean is, yet again, traditionalist judgementalism kicking in – just because people with tatoos and piercings are being allowed in – the “ah well, there goes the neighbourhood” thoughts are kicking in – these guys all pray five times aday – so the chances of them being unclean and unkept are very little.

            We see so many examples of people who embraced Islam after leading lives of drunkenness, drug taking etc – and yet they are the best ambassadors of Islam today.  Let me tell you a little story.  This actually happened in a small English town.  While Isha prayers were being held late one night, a drunk homeless man (Lets call him Andrew) walked into the building to get some shelter from the rain. When the prayers finished, a handful of the older Bangladeshi men spotted this man and proceeded to evict him from the premises.  A younger, convert Muslim, lets call him Adam, intervened and told the older men to let him be, as he is not in the right frame of mind.  He volunteered to stay at the mosque overnight and see to the man in the morning.

            When it was time for Fajr, Adam woke as normal and did his wudu in preperation for the prayers.  Andrew woke up and asked where he was, to which Adam replied “you are in a mosque. Don’t worry, you can stay as long as you want.  There is a shower upstairs, and I have put some clean clothes out for you.”  Andrew took a shower, changed his clothes, and also had a shave.  He was a different man when he came down the stairs.  Well spoken and well presented.  Adam told Andrew he could observe the prayers about to happen, by which time the Imam arrived, and others also trickled in to offer their prayers.

            Once done, Adam noticed Andrew was sitting at the back and he had tears streaming down his face.  Adam went to him to ask him what was wrong, only to be told that this was the first time he had been treated like a human being and not a dog, and he himself was amazed that this happened at the hands of Muslims.  His story was that he lost his job and his house, and became homeless.  He drank because that was the only way to forget his situation.  He embraced Islam soon after and one of the elders so eager to turf him out of the mosque gave him a job at his shop.  Andrew is one of the finest gentlemen one could hope to meet and in my eyes a very good ambassador of Islam, a tremendously good Muslim.

            If he had been ejected from the Mosque that night, we would have never known him, and the loss would have been ours.

            May Allah bless you and Ta’Leef.  I will make a point of visiting.

        • Najem Al Hasan

          Very sorry to read this.  Who are you to judge others?  A mosque is the house of Allah, only He can judge.  I grew up in the Middle East and what made me proud of our beautiful religion was the ability for ALL to pray next to each other, regardless of background.  By creating these “checklists” you start alienating people.  We potentially could end up with a kind of “Islamic” appartheid. 

          Let me give you an example. I am in the construction industry and sometimes, there is just no time to run home, get changed, then go for Salaat.  So I show up in what are effectively my work clothes, with concrete on them, perhaps a bit of mud on them too.  I clean off as much as I can, but then I offer my prayers to the Almighty.  According to your view, I should forfeit offering my prayer because i am not dressed for a job interview.  Is it not more important that I pray than I come all tarted up??

          When Islam was blessed upon mankind, it was a gradual process and people learned the principles as they went through life.  There is good reason why, to embrace Islam one only needs to say Shahaada – everything else comes in after.  Your view that “Frankly with this approach I cant imagine any of the followers conforming to Islamic principles” has already been proven wrong – Jason attracted Jacqui by being a good example.  It is now up to Sister Jacqui to begin the process of discovering Islam.  You are making the same mistake of judging others by your own standards.

          And fundamentally, you miss the point – this is a COMMUNITY CENTRE and not a mosque.

          Allah SWT knows best.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

            I think you missed my point completely.  Your example is very different.  First of all you are working to provide, and as you said sometimes its not possible to change.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  When you come to the mosque with mud or cement your appearance is not one of arrogance, yours is that of a working person which is the essence of humility and the backbone of these Islamic principles.  The fact of the matter is you drop your work and you come to Salat by any means necessary and thats excellent I commend you for that.  Infact during the time of the prophet many of the poorer people had very short galabayas because they couldnt afford material, and the richer people would have very long ones that dragged.  The prophet (saw) said any material that touches the ground while praying is burning in the hell fire.  Because Islam hates arrogance such as symbols of wealth.  But you have to admit that Islam cares about how we present ourselves in certain ways.  Thats why men for example are banned from wearing silk and gold.  I’m not making it up its a part of the religion.  I’m not advocating throwing people out of mosques, but setting a good example for converts in the mosque will give them a stronger foundation of muslim etiquette and help them to progress to that standard faster.  I have no problems with Jason or Jacqui.  I dont have a problem with Jacqui’s tattoos either, however i think it would a be a nice sign of respect for the mosque and the community if he covered them with a long sleeve shirt while praying.  There are many impressionable young Muslims at the mosque, and at least if he covered them it would send a strong signal that hey we’re not perfect but at least we acknowledge it.

          • Najem Al Hasan

            Appreciate your response, however I have only one thing to say.  You say that “setting a good example for converts in the mosque will give them a
            stronger foundation of muslim etiquette and help them to progress to
            that standard faster.”  How patronising.  You must think that because you were born a Muslim you are somehow superior to any convert?  And that you alone can teach/lead by example?  I am truly gobsmaked.  I have learnt more from brothers and sisters who embraced Islam than those who were fortunate enough to be born into Islam.  In some ways we take so much for granted being born into the religion.  However people new to the religion, are not “poisoned” by cultural influence or “spoilt” by inherited unchallenged ideologies, and so tend to practice Islam much truer to the faith than most who are born into the religion.

            Impressionable young Muslims here in the West are influenced by many factors.  If their deen is so weak then even a billboard could put ideas into their heads…  Again you do the obvious thing by looking to blame someone for the weakness of someone elses deen.

            I completely disagree that Jason et al should cover up their tatoos – to me it is an invitation for our youngsters to discuss.  If someone wants to get a tatoo, then so be it – they will do it regardless – just like those lads who have their ears pierced. Or their hair spiked.  I’ll bet Jason et al put some born-Muslims to shame.

            Jason and co – you guys are welcome in our home, tatoos, piercings, khaki pants, polo shirt and all, as equals, anytime.  Ahlan Wasahlan Inshallah!

            The more this discussion continues, the more convinced I am that Ta’Leef is absolutely essential in the diverse world we live in today – and more so for those born into Islam to learn from those very fortunate to have made the decision from their hearts to embrace Islam.

            Allah’s mercy is beautiful. (Jason – LOVE that statement!!!)

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

            First of all I am by no means insinuating that because I was born Muslim that I am somehow a better Muslim then converts.  That would be completely ludicrous because most of the sahaba were not born Muslims.  I think in terms of commitment and dedication many converts are better then us who were blessed to be born Muslim, because many of us who are born Muslim take it for granted, where as it takes real commitment and courage to convert.  However, lets be realistic when you are a convert you are new to the religion and whats wrong with having guidance from people who are more experienced on a topic.   I dont think thats condesecending at all, I think its common sense.  As for the young Muslims part you need to be realistic kids are influenced by alot even billboards and when you’re a kid many of them dont have a true sense of what their deen is to them, yet theyre childhood experiences greatly influence how they will turn out.  All I’m saying is there are going to be countless negative influences to the kids, whats wrong with having one place where they can go and have positive example.  Jason would be welcome in my home too, I dont look down on him in any way and welcome him as a full brother, I’m just saying in the interest of Islamic etiquette whats wrong with simply acknowledging that tatoos by nature are un-islamic, and therefore when you’re in the mosque covering them up shows that you realize this. I dont think its such a crazy concept.  If I’m a convert for example but I have an alcohol problem from my pre converting days that I cant beat, thats fine, but I would think I would make an effort to not drink at the mosque.  Its the same thing.

          • Najem Al Hasan

            There you go again, being all self righteous and judgemental.  How the
            heck do you know whether Jason wears a long sleeve shirt or not while
            praying?  Again, you have assumed something because, in his shoes and in
            your mindset, you would NOT wear a long sleeve shirt.

            I think you ought to read your own comments and then re-read them. 
            Having read all your comments, I certainly do not take the same
            interpretation that you then further explain.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

            Listen i am neither self righteous nor judgemental in fact if anything I think you perhaps you see it that way because of your own insecurity.  Secondly I wasnt talking specifically about Jason, but if you do read, Jason says he was at a mosque with his tatoos clearly visible and a man confronted him about it, thats how i know.  I’ve read my comments and believe me I’ve spent a great deal of time studying Islam.  What I wrote is my opinion and its backed by Islam.  Tattoos go against Islamic values any normal Imam or learned person can tell you that, if you want to stick with a fringe opinion based on nothing you are free to do so.  That being said I do not judge Jason for it because he is a convert and when you convert its like being born again and your past sins are wiped.  I’m merely advising him on the true path of the religion.  If you think its perfectly cool to get tatoos and come in tank tops and what not thats fine.  I and the over whelming majority of the Islamic world disagree.  If you want to pretend that its a non issue you are free to do so.  I however do not, and that is all I will say on the matter.  Whether you take my interpretation or not means nothing to me, I know what my interpretation is and Allah knows what it is and thats all that matters.  I disagree with your opinions on Islam but I wish you success and hope that your views will bring you closer to Allah. 

          • Habeeba

            I have a half-brother who we learned about 2 Ramadan’s ago. He has been learning about Islam since he got to know us. His girlfriend is also learning about Islam and they read Stories of the Prophets to their children every night before bed. My half brother is COVERED with tattoos. If Allah SWT blesses his heart with a true love and conviction for Islam, so be it. His tattoos are a NON-ISSUE and should be treated as such. When you convert to Islam, you are sin-free like a new born baby. I was born and raised as a Muslim. I went through a rebellious period and got facial piercings. I feel that my piercings were a great ice-breaker during my conversations with Muslim and non-muslim youth. I believe Jason’s statement regarding his tattoos being his test from Allah SWT truly ring true – this dramatic discussion being a great example of that test. Let us not forget that we are all human which means we all commit sins and make mistakes, no one is perfect and only Allah SWT can judge us so calm down people.

            Jason: You and Jacqui are welcome to our home, this article made my heart smile. We wish you two nothing but the best insha’Allah. May Allah SWT protect and strengthen your faith and love, Ameen.

            Your Sister in Islam,
            Habeeba

          • Najem Al Hasan

            Allah Hu Akbar!  I am so glad to read the comments on here – most of which wholeheartedly disagree with your draconian view points – as I am sure most of the moderate Islamic world will.  I do not judge the way you have judged.  I have not passed comment and assumed matters the way you have – and yet I am the one with insecurities?  Hamdellah! I did not realise we were on America’s Next Top Model – please issue us with the correct dress code to attend various establishments so that we too may present ourselves to others as what we are not – but so long as we keep judgemental people like you happy, our job is done!

            I do not pretend this is a non issue – however I do say this – only Allah (SWT) will judge us on Yaum-al-Qiyyama – not you (thankfully) and certainly not Tyra Banks!  So if someone attends mosque, tatoos, piercings etc, but in their heart they pray to Allah (SWT) in complete sincerity, then I firmly believe they have already found the true path.  Then compare those who cannot devote their prayer completely to the Almighty because they are too busy “checking out” the attire of other people.

            You state “Whether you take my interpretation or not means nothing to me, I know
            what my interpretation is and Allah knows what it is and thats all that
            matters.  I disagree with your opinions on Islam”  I really find this incredible – and it simply shows your arrogance as a person rather than your ability to empathise and discuss rationally.  You have now decided that all my opinions on Islam are contrary to yours – yet you know nothing of me.  May Allah (SWT) give you the ability to shed your arrogance and become a tolerant Muslim, just as our beautiful Prophet (PBUH) was.  I pray for you inshallah.

          • Indiar34

             All the “knowledge of Islam” in the world means nothing if you can’t ground it in a realistic and compassionate context the way the Prophet (saw) did. Your comments are lacking in compassion and an understanding of social context, and as the classical scholars often warned, that kind of thinking is toxic to Islamic knowledge. Islam does not exist in a vacuum, it exists among flawed human beings, and one person is not superior to another except by what Allah alone knows. You’d do well to ask Allah for humility rather than obsess over a brother’s short sleeve shirt.

          • Sabbasi

            First of all, Converts dont’ get guidance from “experience people”…they get guidance from Allah.  I would stop focusing on people’s tattoos, because Allah definitely focuses more on the heart.   I mean who are you to judge a tattoo wearing brother who “made an unislamic decision” when maybe when he got the tattoo he wasn’t even Muslim?  I have met way too many born into the religions who are wandering about ( no tattoos, rest assured you can take them home to your mom) with nice ties and collared shirts who cheat on their wives, beat them, etc….that is NOT ISlam…..many of the drink at Santana Row, Santa Clara, ( seen it with my eyes) and many of them also keep relations with other women while they are married.  I’m pretty sure “looking decent” in yoru eyes may not be the same as looking decent in Allah’s eyes.  Allah is the only judge and he looks at our hearts FIRST.  If you have everythign on the outside yet you claim to not even be kind to your new reverts, I would double check what I personally were doing wrong rather than point at people’s tattoos, nonhijab-ing heads, etc.  Plus Ta’leef is not a mosque.  Coming from some difficult tribulations myself, how dare anyone speak badly of this place.  Taleef has the most supportive muslims, beard wearing or not, tattoo wearing or not, hijab weargin or not.  I don’t see people coming in Ta’leef in hoochi mama clothes, but many traditional mosque-goign women come in traditional clothes and then I see them an hour later at a restaurants in their hoochi clothes, or dancing in front of the camera…so it makes me wonder.  Sorry to say this but when I went to the mosque( Santa Clara to be precise) the other day a sister was sitting on a carpeted floor and told me not to sit on the carpetetted floor.  Mind you it was Ramadan I traveled from afar and was fasting and needed to sit and break my fast.  She herself was sitting yet looking at me all weird for not sittin on the carpet and told me I had to go somewhere else to break my fast.  I lookeda t her and just sat down and broke my fast…didn’t say anything.  Then she started yelling because someone kicked my shoe away from me and it was “in the way”….in stead of picking it up and asking, “is this your other shoe?” I was yelled at.  This woman, btw, this was a NIQAABI…the Niqaabi, in traditional garb, was yelling at me at a “tranditional mosque.”  Let’s figure out that one, when the Prophet ( peace be upon him) said ” the best of you are those with manners”…I never got anythign less than love at Ta’leef….and I have nothing but duas for Ustadh Usama Canon and those who have dedicated their time in putting on the events they have…I have met the most beatiful sisters and hoping to make more lifelong friends there ,inshAllah…who again, remind me of my LORD.

          • Metrow4all

            you arent reading what buriedinlit is saying at all !!!

          • shooz3

            Yeah, imho it’s gotten out of hand a little bit. Just like a lot of other discussions on muslim sites. At first it was as simple as a suggestion to cover tattoos when going to a masjid. (Since tattoos in fact are haram in Islam, it is understandable if a lot of muslims think they should be covered when possible). And then there is the opinion about reverts should be accepted as they are, including the tattoed ones.To me both opinion is fine. People can have whatever opinion cuz they do think differently. You just have to listen. When disagree, try to present your thoughts, don’t forget your manners. If you don’t see any understanding in the horizon, do like Jason up there. He stopped. Probably when he sensed that this discussion would go the way it is going now. When people feel so strongly about something, they forget, and start doing the thing that they were opposed to. When trying to get people respond more positively to the reverts, they are acting very negatively toward the other muslim brothers.Wallahu a’lam. Like I said, it started only as a simple suggestion, we just need to listen and try to understand and refrain from using sarcasm, cynicism.

          • http://onelegacyradio.com/programs/real-talk-with-imam-suhaib-webb.html Everyone Take A Chill Pill

            “Tolerance, Tolerance Everyone!” Check out that same show from Suhaib Webb that addresses this exact issue.

            http://onelegacyradio.com/programs/real-talk-with-imam-suhaib-webb.html

            May Allah forgive us all for our shortcomings and protect us from being Intolerant.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HFP7IFLW7SWIRK3OJHPZ77RXWY Aicha J

            i totally agree with you bro i m not judging jason or jacqui may Allah keep guiding them as newcomers.. but as  for us the ones who know a lot more we should be examplary to our youngsters and to the new converts i dont know why he doesnt get it.. Im not saying to force people to take off there tatts or nail polish but we are aware of the rules of islam so its our job to show and tell the ones that dont know in a nice and respectfull way and also we have to have patience no one is perfect indeed .. inshallah may Allah guide us all to the right path

        • Jason the Muslim =D

          “But in this mosque it seems like the message is come as you want, we dont care, its not a big deal.  Frankly with this approach I cant imagine any of the followers conforming to Islamic principles, when its being treated as a non-issue.”

          Salam. First off i would like to say Ta’Leef is not a Mesjid, end of story. I am not to sure if you are a convert or if you were born into this religion, but have you ever been told by other Muslims at the Mesjid you’re not Muslim beacuse you dont have a Muslim name? I have. SubahnAllah!! Who would of thaught my faith and love for the Creator would be based off my name. My name is Jason, Alhamdullilah I am Muslim. See i think we need to take a few steps back and work on the basics, the five Pillars of Islam. Here is some food for your thoughts. What is worse, a brother who stays rockin a kufi and thobe but doesnt pray five time a day, or a brother who is tatted up with piercings but completes his salat??

          I am very grateful for Usama Canon and Ta’Leef Collective. I have learned more about Islamic princibles and Islam itself at Ta’Leef then I have at any mesjid i have been to.  InshAllah you should check it out some time and just be amazed with the unity of the ummah. At the end of the day, Muslim or not we are all the ummah of the Prophet Muhammed. (peace be upon Him) Who am I to deny anyone this truth?

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

            I’m not a convert I was fortunate to be born into the religion.   Whoever hassled you about a name seems foolish to me,  a name is not a reflection of your belief especially if you were not born a Muslim.  There is nothing that requires you to change it, in fact most of my convert friends havent changed their names and I’ve never seen any of them hassled about that.   You entering the mosque with the name Jason  doesnt offend anything.  Many of the so- called Muslim names pre-date traditional Islam.  What I’m talking about is a much bigger issue, when it comes to attire and how one composes themselves its not an issue to be shelved.  It is a big part of our religion, and the Prophet (saw) spent a good amount of time addressing the issue, meaning it should not be ignored.  Now if someone cant conform to that principle of a daily basis, thats fine as long as they recognize it is an issue.  But at very least when they go to assemble for prayer whether it is or isnt an official mosque, they should have enough respect for their religion and their community to make an extra effort and conform to the best of their ability to that standard.  Now in the hypo you gave I could careless if a guy wears a kufi that means nothing to me, but why does the choice have to be so rigid, why cant it be a guy in jeans who dresses neatly and prays, is that standard so out of reach? I hope not

          • Jason the Muslim =D

            “Now in the hypo you gave I could careless if a guy wears a kufi that means nothing to me, but why does the choice have to be so rigid, why cant it be a guy in jeans who dresses neatly and prays, is that standard so out of reach? I hope not”

            I agree with you. we shouldnt have to label one another based off ones attire but it is ashame because people do. This is happening in communities all around. Ta’Leef is trying to break that and covers these “bigger issues” that you speak of but its ones choice if they choose to listen and follow.

            Thanks ive never been happier except for the day i became Muslim! Allah truely has blessed me in this beautiful month. InshAllah your fasting and Ramadan has been good!

          • Sarwar Ahmed

            Dear Jason, Jacqui – truly you are blessed to have found Allah. May Allah shower His blessings on you both!

          • Micheletariq75

            the issue is not whether YOUR standard is out of reach, but rather who defines the standard. While this may be acceptable for many, it may not be acceptable for others and their is a real problem in our Mosques/community centers of people appointing themselves as the “haram” police. I know one young man who converted in college, he says he has been accosted by certain men (mostly Tabighi and Salafi) for wearing his pants too long (i.e. they were “below his ankle). These were work slacks and would be perfectly acceptable in most Middle Eastern mosques. Another time he was told that his shorts were too long, yet they fell way below his knee. I have seen young women yelled at by older ladies for having their  wrist bones showing, I have seen others told that their prayers didn’t count because their feet weren’t covered. I agree that there should be a minimum standard of respect, no short skirts, sleeveless, low cut, etc, hair covered while inside the prayer area of the mosque. At a minimum cover tatoos and no offensive sayings or logos on shirts, this should be done nicely and politely. Otherwise leave the rest to Allah (swa). I often thought that those who are driving others away by makiing them feel unwelcome will most likely be subject to more wrath than those who are violating these “perceived” mandates. Many people put a huge emphasis on their “outside” as Muslims, i.e..dress, rituals, etc. while often their inside sprituality, compassion and character may be lacking. No one has yet to show me where Allah has decreed the former more important than the latter.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

            P.S.  Congratulations on your marriage brother, I wish you and Jacqui nothing but happiness and spiritual fulfillment. 

          • Bela

            I couldnt agree with you more. Im tired of judgmental people that can’t get over me talking to a guy or wearing nailpolish to the mosque. Nobody has the right to judge you except for God. I think Ta’Leef is awesome and I hope places like these grow all over America. I live in San Diego and Im guessing Ta’Leef is in LA?

        • http://twitter.com/TheCivilMuslim TheCivilMuslim

          “Frankly you’re attire and your behavior is not just a technicality, its a major part of the religion. ”

          IS it a major part? And *should* it be a major part for someone who just converted? I would think that things like prayer and keeping away from haram would be higher priority than dress for a person who just entered the faith.

          If we really look deeply into the fiqh books we will even find the scholars debating what the awra of the slave woman was. Some said it was from her navel to her knee, thus there were women who were topless in Madina!  In medieval times there were these interesting dervish-type figures called qalandariyya. Some of them entered mosques and prayed basically naked and were tolerated as eccentrics. I think our contemporary culture is far more conservative, in some respects, than Islamic societies in the Middle Ages.

          “This should be explained in a nice non-confrontational way.  This person is now a Muslim, and as a Muslim living in a non-Muslim country we must work extra hard to represent Islam in an appropriate light. ”

          I don’t agree that the new Muslim should be burdened not only with learning the fard ayn but being a poster boy for Islam. Presenting a good image to your Lord is first and foremost. Also, there is an assumption here that a person should dress more in line with mainstream Muslims to attract people to the faith. I would argue that by dressing more like their non-Muslim counterparts, they are less “foreign” looking and therefore less “threatening” to approach with questions when others find out she/he is a Muslim. They are actually doing more dawah for Islam than someone who covers herself from head to toe, face included, and thereby alienates people from hearing the core of Islam: which is simply believing in one God and accepting His Will.

          • Rashed

            Completely agree with you, sister!

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

            Ok for your slave woman argument I dont think you’re approaching it with the right mentality.  I think the problem with the Islamic community today is they see the time of the Prophet (saw) as the gold standard.   In a way it is, but in a large way it isnt.  Let me explain what I mean by that.  What we know as Islam today came into being in the 6th and 7th century Arabia.  Here are some key features of life at the time.  Infanticide for female babies, little or no rights for women, alcoholism, tribalism, constant tribal warfare, high crime, ect.  Some people have this idea that Islam came and then all those problems disappeared and everyone converted that is wrong.  Islam was a new religion with some very very radical ideas at the time.  However in order to attract believers these ideas had to be scaled down and implemented gradually, because essentially the society was much too backwards to be hit with ideal standards.  So for example with alcohol, alcohol and Arabia had a long history so it couldnt be banned outright initially, so at first alcohol was discouraged, then it was said one shouldnt pray while drunk, finally when the community was strong enough alcohol was banned out right.  Now for the slavery this is important because Islam has always been very against slavery, however at the time it was such a major part of the world as a whole that Islam couldnt ban it out right.  So they did the next best thing which was just as radical, they set a strong set of guidelines in how to treat slaves, and anytime one commits a major sin, the ideal way to repent was to free a slave if possible.  Now this is Arabia and the idea of sex slaves was long entrenched, in fact slaves aside the man at the time could marry as many women as he could afford.  Now there was a serious issue, if you made the rules too strict when it came to these unfortunate women you would not be doing them a service, because if the rules were too rigid people either wouldnt join the religion and the slaves would be treated the same, or people would violate the rules in secret and it would become common practice, just as it was common practice in America for white masters to rape their black slaves.  Now why is this relevant, it is relevant because Islam is purety and light and has had to try to coexist with the evil that man produces. However when you make this naked slave argument, its not a testament to the liberality of Islam, its a testament to the nurture it provides to the victims of our evil and greed.  You are essentially comparing someone choosing to wear a tank top to prayers to a slave with no say.  Its not a fair comparison.  As a community we need to realize that Islam was held back by the evils of the 6th and 7th century and if we truely progressed we need to progress Islam to higher standards, not regress back.  I’m not advocating new Muslims be burdened with being poster boys.  But its not too much for a new Muslim to conform to the principles within the mosque.  Let me be clear when I say the principles I’m not talking burkas and kufis, just plain moderate appearance that is all.

        • Omusa

          Salam, just my two cents on what I see as fundamentally flawed in your approach which is a reflection of what is fundamentally flawed in the larger Muslim community.

          You have said things like “you can go to the mosque and be reminded of the principles of Islam”, ” every Ramadan I among many Muslims try to alter our behavior in order to…”, “It comes once a year because the shitan is tricky and during the hussle
          and temptations of the year one sometimes loses their way”,” Now the mosque and Friday prayers are you’re weekly spiritual check up” and so on. Now this may be all true, but most of it is subjective and personal. These reasons may be true, at least to you and others, but at the end of the day these aren’t rules or principles that people are obligated to follow let alone agree with.

          When you say something like, “This person is now a Muslim, and as a Muslim living in a non-Muslim
          country we must work extra hard to represent Islam in an appropriate
          light”, this is another way of saying “You’re not Muslim, so act like one”. It’s true Muslims should act like Muslims and represent Islam properly, but who is to judge who is acting like a Muslim? Is it more important to BE a Muslim rather than ACT like a Muslim? What comes first? That’s not the point, the point is people evolve naturally.

          But I think the most significant issue with what you said is “But in this mosque it seems like the message is come as you want, we
          dont care, its not a big deal.  Frankly with this approach I cant
          imagine any of the followers conforming to Islamic principles, when its
          being treated as a non-issue.” To you it may seem unlikely, but not being able to imagine followers becoming better Muslims may merely be a limitation of your mind, and anyone’s mind really, because at the end of the day Allah guides whom He wills in the way He wills. It’s true that we should always try to put forward the most efficient and positive ways of producing and promoting positive change in the lives of our community and community members, sometimes what we think is the right course of action may in fact be detrimental. This always follows the principle of taking things out of their proper place. It is not our place to judge others, nor is it our place to predict who will become a good Muslim and how. Because really we do not know what sort of changes are occurring in a persons heart, and that inner battle is the most significant jihad that humans face, which is precisely why I cannot agree with you when you say “with this approach I cant imagine any of the followers conforming to Islamic principles”.

          We see this attitude exemplified in our mosques by the older people, who feel it necessary to remove anyone who doesn’t conform. This desire to control others stems from insecurity, when in fact Islam is supposed to give us contentment. Where no rules exist, or when the environment is open, to impose ones own way may be “oppressive” to the heart.

          I agree with you when said that being a good example is the best way, and practicing good adab is necessary, but those acts must be free from personal motivations of insecurity.

    • Mustafa Davis

      It is very important that people understand that Ta’leef Collective is NOT a mosque.  Ta’leef is a collective of people that share a space that is dedicated to welcoming people of all faiths. It is a religious organization run by Muslims with Imam Zaid Shakir as the chairman of the board.  We encourage people to go to the mosque regularly and to observe the etiquette the mosque deserves.  We do not conduct the five daily prayers at Ta’leef but we all pray five times a day. Again, Ta’leef collective is not a mosque nor are we a replacement for the mosques in our community. It is better described as a community center.  
      - Mustafa Davis (Ta’leef Collective co-founder)

    • nashwa

      First of all I want to say that there are people out there
      who believe in buriendinlit’s views, as I am one of them and I am sure there
      are more.  I don’t think that in any way
      is he/she being judgmental or righteous. All buriedinlit is trying to do is
      relay a message: that attire is important and can impact people. When we
      muslims gather together, we must be aware of that. For example, a person with tattoos
      praying next to me would be distracting and thus, I would not be able to focus
      my attention to salaat. By no means is it the fault of the tattoos but rather
      it would be my inability to focus. But I would appreciate if the person with
      the tattoos knew what effect it had on me. Islam is about caring, and if attire
      is causing some disturbance wouldn’t it fall under Islamic principles to change
      it? Short skirt versus long skirt, tattoos versus covered tattoos?

  • A K

    Good work profiling this interesting mosque…wish there were more. Time to accomodate ’Islam as it is’ as long as they conform  if they happen to be in the other mosques. Visitin’ any sufi place? Tks a lot guys. 

  • Najem Al Hasan

    I am in total awe of this establishment.  I do not agree with the ideology that one must “put on a mask” when going to the mosque.  It is correct that it is the house of Allah SWT, however the planet is the creation of the Almighty and one should behave everywhere as one would in a mosque.  After all, we are judged on ALL our actions in this life, not just those in a mosque.

    Brother Mustafa points out that the premises are not a mosque – it is more a community centre.  I would be happier praying here than in our traditional mosques where you are eyed up and down like a supermodel (and believe me I am far from it!) as you walk in – a kind of human eye scanner to see if you “conform to the norm.”

    Jason, with his tatoos and piercings, is probably more of a Muslim than many people I know.  His aesthetics might be a little “out the box” when it comes to the “norm” but no more so than the lads I see who sport expensive gold diamond encrusted earrings, TAG Heur watches, gold jewelry, silk shirts and who claim to be Muslim.  The same guys can be seen frequenting nightclubs etc – but on a Friday, they are in their traditional clothes, as if to say that Friday at mosque time is the only time the “judgement” clock ticks.  I take my hat off to Jason – his faith is so strong that he looks past all those judgemental eyes and rather than put him off the religion altogether, he has the ability to use it as a reason to make his faith stronger and better still attract others to the faith!

    All those who have posted comments to this blog – ask yourselves one question – how many people have you attracted to Islam so positively that they have decided in their own heart to embrace the faith?  We need more Ta’Leef Collectives to let us be ourselves, without fear of being “image scored” against a predetermined set of “values” set by cultural traditional views rather than Islamic ones.

    And, as Jason rightly says, Allah’s mercy is beautiful.

  • Hinna

    As previously stated, Taleef Collective is not a Mosque, it’s really a place anyone who is Muslim or otherwise can go to and feel welcomed. I have been going of/on for about 2 years now and it literally changed my life, my perception on Islam, on the deen and we as an ummah. I think people are too caught up in the idea of “coming as you are”. What about crediting those people who are taking initiative to better themselves, in the pursuit of knowledge? Taleef is a place that allows and encourages dialogue openly and freely, I think that every Muslim community needs to have a similar center that people can come to for a spiritual recharge without feeling belittled by other Muslims because their head isn’t covered or the have tatt’s, what people fail to realize is that this type of judgement alienates our Muslim brothers and sisters, instead of uniting them. I think that most people who knock Taleef have never been, or truly never allowed themselves to experience the beauty that Taleef bestows to the soul. Better than any Mosque I have been to. 

  • Anonymous

    amazing. congrats to the newly weds

  • Zakariya

    Why is there no picture of Jason and Jacqui? Everyone thinks Im Jason because there is a picture of me at the top lol

    • Zakariya

      Furthermore, Ive been reading some of the comments on this post. And Id like to say that if my khaki pants and polo shirt isn’t good enough for everyone because I have tattoos on my arms and Im not wearing a long sleeve then thats your problem. Ive been to masjids where I was told I need to cover my tattoos, well I have tattoos on my hands, throat and face, and since I dont plan on wearing a burqa anytime soon I just dont return to those masjids. 

      From Ibn Arabi’s Mishkat Al Anwar:

      Hadith Qudsi #20

      According to Ibn Abbas, Nabi Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله) said:

      “Allah, (سبحانه و تعالى) revealed to Moses (عليه السلام‎):
      ‘There is no approach you can make to Me which I love more than your satisfaction with My decree. And there is no action you can perform which better preserves your good deeds than looking to your own affairs.”

      • Habeeba

         hahahaha ” then thats your problem” OMG I LOVE IT!! Masha’Allah Brother! Keep it up, may Allah SWT continue to strengthen your faith, bless and protect you, Ameen!

    • Aaishahburney

      Haha! Br. Zakariya, my sisters and I were wondering why you changed your name to “Jason.” :)

  • Javiersandoval93

    That’s me doing the handstand! hahaha

  • Hannah Jones

    This story is so inspiring :) Thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Elyas

    ATTENTION! ATTENTION! Regarding the Catastrophic Famine in Somalia:
    Brothers and Sisters, we are very fortunate to have all the food one needs living in this prosperous countries. We have plenty of water that we need. We waste food on a dialy basis and we also waste unnecessary water on daily basis as well…. In the meantime there are people in Muslim Somalia who are dying of lack of food and water. Does it mean that Allah favors us and loves us more than them? Absolutely not. It is a test that Allah is testing to see whether we would  have mercy in our hearts to help our fellow human beings in dire situations who are dying because of natural/unnatural calamaty. As been told in the Quran, to those who are given more they will have more to be accountable for on the day of judgement. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, do not sit around on the sidelines as your fellow Muslims are dying in Somalia. One single dollar will go a long way, so please donate to this Islamic Relief Agency based in Canada called Human Concern. Their website is …. humanconcern.org ..They are taking donations online with your credit card or if you have a paypal..all it takes is 2 minute to complete..Once you enter the website..click on the Urgent Appeal-Somalia..Just read carefuly from there on..They will give you a receipt that you can later use for tax exemption…You can also see pictures of what your money is doing…Btw, the money is Canadian dollars which means perhaps the American dollar is stronger today(but I doubt it lool) ..Please help in this blessed month..If you got any question ..reply to this message below… Jazakalah
    Brothers and Sisters, we are very fortunate to have all the food one needs living in this prosperous countries. We have plenty of water that we need. We waste food on a dialy basis and we also waste unnecessary water on daily basis as well….

     In the meantime there are people in Muslim Somalia who are dying of lack of food and water. Does it mean that Allah favors us and loves us more than them? Absolutely not. It is a test that Allah is testing to see whether we would  have mercy in our hearts to help our fellow human beings in dire situations who are dying because of natural/unnatural calamaty.

     As been told in the Quran, to those who are given more they will have more to be accountable for on the day of judgement. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, do not sit around on the sidelines as your fellow Muslims are dying in Somalia.

     One single dollar will go a long way, so please donate to this Islamic Relief Agency based in Canada called Human Concern. Their website is …. humanconcern.org ..They are taking donations online with your credit card or if you have a paypal..all it takes is 2 minute to complete..Once you enter the website..click on the Urgent Appeal-Somalia..Just read carefuly from there on..They will give you a receipt that you can later use for tax exemption…You can also see pictures of what your money is doing…Btw, the money is Canadian dollars which means perhaps the American dollar is stronger today(but I doubt it lool) ..Please help in this blessed month..If you got any question ..reply to this message below… Jazakalah

  • zees

    Thanks for sharing this with us. What a beautiful, all inclusive and embracing community. Love it. I never would have heard of this place had you not shared with us and congrats to Jason and Jacqui.

  • keke

    its true, your blog made me cried, it reminds me of my wedding in the mosque in Portland, Oregon. I was in other room waiting for my turn to say ” I do “. I should have kept the cassette that recorded the short ceremony of my wedding, but as my marriage is over I felt like I do not want to keep it anymore. Thank you so much for being there as a witness for them that was nice. 

  • http://www.amanali.net Aman Ali

    Guys, this is a fantastic discussion we have brewing here. Spirited and
    insightful, like good dialogue should be. What if Bassam and I set up an
    interactive live video chat with you guys on Thursday ? Would that be
    something you guys would be interested in? Click the like button on this
    comment if you think it would be worth your time.

  • Haj S. T. Ibrahim

    There was a problem apparently when I attempted to post from the site of the opened Disqus email. It was a long, well thought out, near genius comment that I am unable to recollect in this new moment. What a tragic loss to us all. (Ha Ha) Ramadan Mubarak! 

  • Muthe

    To Jason and Jacqui, congratulation on the wedding, may Allah bless your wedding and your life ^^

    as a comment to the whole article, it’s an amusing fact that some Muslims (if not most of them) are judgmental person. Judge this, judge that. Not this, not that. They also build this irritating attitude –> “If you don’t do same thing that I do, you’re wrong, you’re sinful, Allah will punish you, you will go to hell!” Also the hypocrite attitude they build when they come to the mosque (well I don’t know what’s inside every human’s heart), to present that they are very religious, but outside the mosque, when they do the daily activity, I don’t see that they embed what they believe of Islam in their attitude.

    This is my personal opinion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=552466362 Hadayai Majeed

    Good to hear that people are trying some sound intra faith relations.

  • http://twitter.com/Smiley3face33 Smiley333

    I would love a place like this in my midwest town! Alhamdulilah! I agree that Islam doesn’t have to be complicated and you should come as you are- God is the only judge so we should all be available for support and guidance and have the right to accept or reject that guidance without judgement. How I practice Islam is different from my husband and from others but I feel peace in my heart because I follow the Quran- and thats all I need.

  • MuChicagoslim

    Congrats !

  • A Soltani

    I want to visit this center! We need these in more cities inshAllah!!

  • Mohammed Azam Hussain

    You have been to some amazing places but as a Chicagoan, I have never been more jealous than I am right now reading about Ta’leef Collective.  I love the motto “Come as you are to Islam as it is” and strongly agree with many of the commenters that there need to be more tolerant and open spaces for young Muslims.  I have not personally felt the bias that many have written about but I admit that I do look like a classic masjid-attendee (eastern clothes, brown skin, black beard, kufi, etc) but I have witnessed others being judged for their appearances.  I hope that Ta’leef is the beginning of a trend and pray that Allah blesses the sisters and brothers there.

  • Ruqayyakimm

    Congratulations Jason and Jaqui :)
    Welcome to Islam Jaqui
    May God bless you with happiness, togetherness, love and laughter, and everything else that makes this marriage, a happy one for you. God bless xxx

  • http://twitter.com/PavartiDevi Pavarti Devi

    This is beautiful, I would so love to go visit and be a part of it.  Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Your Sister

    MashaAllah, this is just beautiful! Islam is soo simple. May Allah bless the two who married and fill their lives with happiness. Ameen. One of the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him) that has been neglected by majority of Muslims today is this simplicity of getting married–most Muslims as you’ve said make this too complicated. 

    To the Ta’leef Collective, mashaAllah and may Allah accept from you guys. I’ve never heard of such a collective but was very happy when I read this post. I hope you guys are a source for the community to debunk the stereotypes about appearances and judgments about one another. Keep up the great effort inshaAllah. 
    ~Your Sister in Islam

  • Norah_deen

    precious article love the photo at bottom!

  • Metrow4all

    Asalamuaylakum,

    I feel like there is a huge misunderstanding here. We have to differentiate between the treatment of new converts and acceptance of who they are before the religion and the dangerous field we are playing in which is making everything halaal.  I am 17 yrs old and growing up I always wanted a tattoo and the first day I saw a muslim in the mosque with one I used that to justify my desire. There is a difference between making one kafir and modesty and as for those uncles who think they are haram police they are WRONG!  But that doesn’t mean that we go to the other extreme also of making all halaal and leaving the basis of the religion. remember just because there are terrorist who claim Islam that doesn’t mean Islam is a terrorist religion… if you dont see the parallel think of the haram police as terrorist they are wrong. And i understand that The Ta’Leef Collective isn’t a mosque therefore i commend what they are doing my comment isn’t a reply to this article but a reply to the comments and arguments that have been made below!!

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  • soufism
  • Noor D

    beautiful article ma’shallah, and such an amazing place that anyone living in the bay area is blessed to have!

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  • Liaqat

    Shaadi Mubarak Jacqui and Jason; congratulations and may Allah bless you and keep you in His care.
    A quick comment regarding attire in a mosque for what its worth, bearing in mind that the Ta’leef Collective is not a mosque, an Imam once mentioned that we should make an effort to make ourselves presentable at least equivalent to one we would make going to a dinner at a friends house. 
    As far as criticizing personal appearance is concerned stop; please. An unislamic haircut give me a break where do these people get this…

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  • http://twitter.com/__Farhan Farhan | Official

    This place sounds really cool alhamdolilah.

  • Jafar S.

    Alhamdulillah =]


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