I started teaching Arabic courses and khutbahs here and there and more and more my heart wasn’t in my career. The short courses I was teaching once in a while at local masjids were surprisingly successful. I was more surprised by them than anyone else. When I did decide to take the leap of faith and go full time into teaching Arabic as a career which would fund my own studies of the Qur’an, those closest to me were all skeptical. They had good reason to be. But I was confident in my plan, my ‘business’ plan had been attacked left and right by my close friends in order to further refine my strategy and by the grace of Allah, I dove in.
The success of Bayyinah and my own popularity online is what most people see. What my closest friends and family know all too well are the toil, labour, sacrifice and difficulty that were all a big part of making this thing work. I look back and I wonder how I and my family survived the ordeal of the first few years.
I’ll just say that I have tremendous respect for socially responsible entrepreneurship. That’s what I consider myself. I know that a lot of times our youth see a success story and say to themselves. ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?’ Though I respect the enthusiasm and appreciate the sentiment, I want my young brothers and sisters to understand that I had never worked harder in my life until I started working for myself. I used to think working 40-50 hours a week with full time college was tough.
When I started this project, those days seemed like a vacation! I’m grateful that I delivered newspapers in the dead of the winter in Queens NY when I was in high school, that I ran around in a shoe store helping customers try out different sizes, that I got yelled at everyday for messing up one thing or another at a travel agency…the list goes on and on. I’m happy that I was responsible for my own finances from an early age because it gave me respect for work and a sense of responsibility.
I didn’t go into full time Islamic work with delusions of grandeur and fame. I just wanted to teach and provide a valuable service. I honestly didn’t expect the popularity that Alhamdulillah I and our organization have enjoyed. He is the one who gives honor and He is the one who can take it away at any moment. But I do want to underscore that the help of Allah comes to those who remain committed, serious, optimistic and most importantly sincere.
May Allah count us all among them.
Interview conducted by HOTD