By Ibrahim Abdul-Matin
Friendships are woven around what you do together.
You forge a relationship with activity, work, play, and intention. One of the aspects of being a Muslim in America today is that where you live, work, went to school, and where you were raised may all be different places. Along the way we accumulate brothers and sisters who know us and love us. One of the challenges of our generation is to create family in a brand new way. When we move on we have to actually do the work of staying connected just like faith tells us to always maintain relationships with your family.
Dawood and I met in Oakland. We were part of an interesting group of Muslims who arrived in Oakland, CA in the mid-2000’s feeding off of the strong spiritual community and learning about being a Muslim as an adult. We were part of a group raised Muslim and when we met our re-discovery of the deen was in full bloom. We were internalizing what it meant to us and how we were going to be “muslim” as we moved on. In our little group of people Dawood met Sara and they married. Eventually he found his way back home, to Portland.
Recently I was given an opportunity to give a talk in Portland. I was excited since I had never been there but I saw it as an opportunity to connect with my dear friends, Dawood, Sara, their little ones and Dawood’s sister Maryam. They are salt of the earth first generation immigrant Portlanders. It has been years since I have seen all of them together. I took the opportunity to give a talk about recognizing the rights of nature in balance with human rights, moving beyond fossil fuels, building local economic infrastructure, ensuring the localization of food, energy, water, waste management, and redefining the good life.
I was effective at delivering my message in part because of my friendship with Dawood and the rest of their family. When we were “figuring” things out in Oakland we also found that we both loved to ride bikes. Dawood is a gear head, I like riding fast on fixed gears. I came here to speak to business and civic leaders working on solving persistent human problems and wanted to find a way to see and survey the city. Bike riding was the natural choice. Dawood let me take his road bike so I could cruise around town – doing so helped give me the right perspective from which to speak.
There are a few lessons here. One, we are who we spend our time with. The people in our circle reflect the state of our being. Be with good people – people that elevate you instead of bring you backwards. Two, when you make an intention to get to a deeper knowledge of self, and to dive in deeper with your spiritual practice, you never know when the benefits will manifest themselves. We all came together in Oakland to be better humans and Muslims. That was ten years ago. It is worth it to stay connected so that relationships forged in renewal can keep manifesting blessings.
Finally, riding a bike around a new city is the best way to discover its value and stay in shape while you are doing business travel. I strongly suggest that you try it.
Editor’s Note: Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has worked in the civic, public, and private sectors and on several issues including sustainability, technology, community engagement, sports, and new media. He is the author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet and contributor to All-American: 45 American Men On Being Muslim. From 2009 to 2011 Ibrahim was the regular Sports Contributor for WNYC’s nationally syndicated show The Takeaway. Follow him on twitter @IbrahimSalih. The views expressed here are his own.