My handwritten notes from the 4/15/2018 retreat mentioned: “Grateful, honored, humbled, excited, and a bit nervous.” I still feel extremely grateful, exceptionally honored, exceedingly humbled, extraordinarily excited, and still a bit nervous about what the future holds.
What a fantastic journey this has been!
Most of my monthly reflections started with how busy the month had been and how fast time has passed. It is hard to believe that it has been two years and that the fellowship is coming to an end.
The fellowship has taken me from Minnesota to California, to Chicago, from conferences to karate school, to personal trainers, to executive coaching, to networking breakfasts, to the emergency room, to chiropractor, physical therapy, but glad to report that I am doing well now. From working 60 hours per week and being on four boards, doing two simultaneous fellowships, offering 4-6 sermons per month, to try to take a break, and learning to say no. I think I have declined and have said “sorry” more often in the last two years than the previous 20 years combined.
The fellowship could not have come at a better time. I was clearly headed to burn out and possibly to health and psychological breakdown. This experience has been educational, transformative, and valuable beyond words can describe.
I have read dozens of books, written hundreds of pages, met and learned from hundreds of new and marvelous people, from all backgrounds.
I have learned that being focused on your BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) is a key to reaching high levels, with the Grace and Help of God Almighty. My BHAG is to reach one million people of other faiths, to build bridges and to bring a better understanding of Islam and Muslims.
I have learned that to be successful over the long term, having a strong base in 7Fs is critical:
Faith, Family, Finance, Fitness, Friends, Fun, & Future.
As for faith: I have spent two years studying, in an academic sense, about the religion, foundation, theology, jurisprudence, holy texts, leadership principles, movements, and reformers of the past and present. I feel more comfortable with my understanding of Arabic (still ways to go). For my entire childhood, we only had a 12-inch black and white TV. Later, when visiting a relative, I watched one of my favorite shows in color. What a difference! Reading and understanding the Qur’an directly in Arabic has been like watching a 3-D HD, vs. a black and white small TV. What a difference! I don’t have to read it through the lens of a translator anymore.
I have learned that taking an extra 20 min each day to meditate (making Zikr, remembrance) is analogous to taking a few minutes to sharpen my saw. Yes, it takes a few minutes, but it makes for much more comfortable work. I set reminders for myself to take 7 min each day to read the Qur’an and finished reading the entire Qur’an. With the exception of one B, I have been blessed with all A’s so far in my classes, mashaAllah.
The trust in Providence of God has been re-emphasized for me over and over. At times, the same goal is achieved with new means.
One of the beneficial side-effects of the fellowship has been for me to have met Imam Saifullah who is now the imam of our mosque. Very grateful for this relationship and addition to our community.
Studying at Bayan-Claremont (and now Bayan-Chicago) has been a God sent. In addition to providing traditional studies, it offers an Accredited Education, which is essential in further pursuit of goals in academic and institutionalized settings in the West. It has also been flexible enough for working adults with families, with less to sacrifice.
After speaking with some mentors, I was reminded that one of the main regrets of people at an older age is not spending enough time with their children—something which cannot be easily rectified later in life.
I have spent more time with my family and tried to teach my children the lessons (in leadership, in spirituality, and in communication), which I have learned. MashaAllah, they did better academically this year than in the years before. We have done fishing outings, family vacations, and even a trip to Disney Land (with personal funds).
I always appreciate the support of my wife and the prayers of my mother and my family. I have attributed the honor of the Bush Fellowship to my mother praying for me at Mecca during her pilgrimage.
Hard to mention the details, but the point is, how is your money funding the priorities in your life. Glad to say that I am investing in the education of my children, family, self, community, and those in need around the world.
A person who is physically (or emotionally) unhealthy cannot be an effective and successful long-term leader. Although my major accident, serious back injury, which ended up at ER, chiropractor, and physical therapy, caused a temporary setback, I think I am on track in developing good habits for a healthier self:
Walking, on average, 10,000 steps daily
Working out 3-4 times each week
Taking time to rest
Drinking a lot more water and
Eating much healthier
Friends & Fun:
With much focusing on meeting the deadlines for work, classes, family obligations, and recently COVID issues, I have not spent much time with friends, with the exception of a few parties and BBQs (other than social media). This is an area that I need to focus on soon.
I am very optimistic about the future, mashaAllah. Completing this prestigious Bush Fellowship, Multireligious Fellowship, M.Div. degree from an accredited and reputable college, investing in my education, the education of my children, and the community … helps me to be very optimistic about the future.
Someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to: are the three keys for happiness. I have all three. I love my family, my community, our partners and allies, and all the good people. I have interfaith bridge buildings and education to do and look forward to seeing the results in all, and in meeting my Creator.
Additionally, having a written plan for the next 3 years, 7 years, 20 years, while reflecting on the past 3 years, 7 years, 20 years, has helped me feel motivated and excited.
Meanwhile, I had the honor to finish a parallel fellowship with St. John’s Collegeville Institute Multireligious Fellowship with a dozen amazing leaders from 6 different faiths, and marvelous faculty and presenters.
With the help of great friends and board members, we have launched a non-profit organization called Nousury Micro-Loans to provide no-interest loans of $250-1000 for Minnesotans of all faiths and backgrounds.
The lessons in self-care have been vital. I sleep more (most of the time), average about 10,000 steps on a daily basis, eat better, relax better, and feel less stressed. I have learned that it is essential to get out of the fray and take the “balcony view” to see the broader sense is critical.
What has been the most surprising is how fast the two years have passed.
What I did not anticipate two years ago was that I would be adding an extra year to do a Master of Divinity (M. Div.) instead of an M.A. in Islamic studies.
With this, God Willing, I am well-positioned for a second phase to my activities and career. I aspire to finish the books that I have started and to start new ways to reach my goals.
The fellowship started me on a trajectory for positive change. As for the academic portion, I am well on schedule (enough classes to quality for an MA), but added an extra year for M.Div. to be able to work as a qualified chaplain, which there is a dire need for the ~200,000 Muslims in Minnesota. I hope to be able to teach, including the community college level, write books, produce videos, offer a TedTalk, write articles and blogs …, to reach a million people.
Your prayers, advice, assistance, and guidance are always appreciated.
The Bush Fellowship has been an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity.
As the sagacious saying says, “The leader of a people is their servant,” I hope and pray that the lessons that I have learned make me a better, kinder, wiser, more effective, servant at serving the people.
Needless to say, none of this could have been possible without the grace of God.
All praise and thanks to God, and much appreciation and gratitude to the Bush Foundation (its staff & volunteers) and all my family and friends who have gone out of their way to help me in this journey.
I will continue to need your prayers and support.