There were many interesting places to describe, many interesting events to recall and many characters to introduce, but as usual, many were also too private to write about and are more suitable to talk about in circle of the few.
Malaysian in Fort Collins
The Malaysian community in Fort Collins comprised of about 40 people. Few families – Abd Halim Ghazali, Bard and I, in Aggie Village South, Walid in Aggie North, Ismail Bahari (now a professor in UKM) and two other families in University Village. The rest were bachelors. Of these, I was quite close with Hisham, Abd Rahman, Saiful and others. Since our interests varied a lot, we met only on certain events such as Friday prayers, or if we bumped into each other on campus. So, it was very different than Pueblo.
In my final year, few more students came to Fort Collins. Among them were Shahrir, Suffian, Jimjali and others. Suffian and Shahrir were studying Chemical Engineering. At that time, we had another Malaysian student in the department. He was a diploma holder from UiTM.
Brother Hassan was another interesting character that I came across in life. He was a PhD student from Libya, doing research on Soil Mechanics, studying the impact of rocket launch to earth stability and hence nearby structures. He had a son called Abdul Rahman. He had a sound Islamic knowledge and conducted a weekly tafseer session for a group of us – a Pakistani post-doctorate fellow called Ayyub, and an Indian working in Hewlett Packard (I forgot his name), another PhD student from Pakistan, Bard (he moved to CSU from Oregon State) and I. He read the tafseer written by Al-Shankeeti and at the end of each session, we would checked on our Quran memorisation, based on the previous week’s lesson.
Brother Hassan was a perfectionist. He used to say over and over, “we must do the right thing in the right way at the right time”. For that reason he was very particular about our Islamic knowledge, about sunnah and bida’ah. I was told that once he said to the crying Abdul Rahman, “Abdul Rahman, if you want to cry, cry properly, otherwise keep quiet”. It may sound funny, but that was brother Hassan, who had taught me a lot. Following his encouragement, I started to read many more Islamic books.
Khuruj in North of Colorado
The dakwah and tabligh community in Pueblo and Denver were large. However in Greeley and Fort Collins, there were only a few of us. For our monthly khuruj, we combined the two groups. We would then go to Denver, Laramie, and sometimes Pueblo. Since it was a requirement that we rotate our roles, I sometimes had to be the leader (amir) of the group. How would you feel when you have two big sheikhs under your command? Of course it was difficult. What would you do when you assigned sheikh Mabrook to give bayaan, he said, “Ya akhi, you are the amir, I will obey whatever you say, however, in my opinion the bayaan should be given by Brother Hassan”. Sometimes, I adjusted the task distributions, sometimes I didn’t. As promised, everybody obeyed.
There were many lessons learned during these trips. Islamic knowledge, recitation of Qur’an, memorisation of some surahs, lessons from the story of the companions, tales from the “moon generation”, characters and most importantly brotherhood – ikramul muslimin. Many times I was caught embarrass by the act of sheikh mabrook who came out of the mosque early, picked up my shoes from the rack and handed them to me. He was many years older than me, yet very humble…
Khuruj fi sabilillah in those days were so memorable. It was during these trips that I learned to stick to the decision of syura, to obey amir and to put perseverance, tawakkal and other good qualities in right perspectives. So much of meaningful guidance from God the Almighty through the brotherly communities of Colorado. For these, I am forever grateful…
Death of Sheikh Mabrook.
If any event was to be considered most tragic during my stay in the rocky mountain, the death of Sheikh Mabrook was the event that fit that description. Sheikh Mabrook was a knowledgeable person. I was told that he memorized the whole Quran. Yet he was very humble and brotherly. He was a PhD student in Computer Science at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley.
He was one of the founder of dakwah in Colorado. Working hard in various cities, persuading Arab students to come back to the teaching of Islam in the environment that was constantly luring the opposite. He went to all possible places – night clubs, shops and universities- with one mission, to save the ummah from being conquered by the seduction of lust and desire. He managed to gather a few, then a few more until it became a small community. The group organised their dakwah works and the results were significant. Later, when more middle east students came to Colorado, Muslim community continue to grow. Mosques were established in all major cities in Colorado. But in the 1980’s, there was only one purposely built mosque in Colorado, which was in Denver, established by local communities. The rests were houses or churches converted into mosque.
Sheikh Mabrook first visited us at Canyon Creek Apartment in Boulder, in 1981. Along with Brother Amir and other Arab students, he invited us to the mosque for maghrib prayer, reminded us about the purpose of life, and urged us to maintain our faith and not to be dissolved or absorbed by the challenging environment. I can also recall the way he called his son Ibrahim during iktikaf in Masjid an-Nur in Denver. He would just call Ibrahim softly, and after few times, Ibrahim who was sleeping woke up, made his ablution and joined in tahajjud prayer.
When we heard of his death in 1985 during pilgrimage to Mecca, we were all shocked and sad. Details about his death were sketchy but the impacts were paramount. Our hearts were devastated. The ambiance in Colorado was somber. It was like we had suddenly lost a power supply… Nobody seems to have a mood to talk. When we met we were more quiet than ever before.
Dakwah works also slowed down. I remember one day I went to masjid an-Nur in Denver and found it deserted with only few people around. The mood in Pueblo was also similar. It took a while for the brothers in Colorado to recover, and when they did, new inspiring leaders emerged…
Somehow, the remark from Sheikh Mabrook in Los Angeles Ijtema’ stayed in my memory permanently. It served as a strong reminder to me. I thanked him for all his reminders, his brotherly treatment throughout the years we spent together during khuruj, iktikaf and other events. I’ve always wish to see him again in paradise. May Allah showers His mercy upon him.
Faiz was born
In May of 1985, Faiz was born, and I became a father. Earlier, when Hana was tested positive for pregnancy, I froze. When Faiz was born, I was overly excited. It was an interesting experience as we managed to implement what we learned in the lamaz sessions during the actual delivery.
The aqiqah was organised by Brother Hassan. He coordinated with Brother Fallah and another Libyan families to prepare the food and the two lambs slaughtered were served in the mosque. Thanks for their contributions.
Days, weeks and months that followed, life was different…
In later parts of my undergraduate years, I took study more seriously and my grades improved tremendously, and in Spring of 1986, I graduated. The graduation ceremony was held in the indoor stadium where college basketball games were normally held. When I was just about to leave, Nazmul Karim, my process control professor gave me a hug, congratulated me for my graduation, and wished me luck. Wow, that was something… a hug from a professor !! Never did I imagine at that time that some years later, I myself became a Professor of Process Control. Subhanallah…