The Hidayah Student Financing Campaign

8 Sep
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Copyright TMG.

Please read this short message from the creator of Hidayah Student Financing (myself):

The ‘Hidayah Student Financing Campaign’ (HSFC) was formed for the sole purpose of persuading the UK government to legislate an alternative student finance model. This model would be based on Shariah-compliant financing, with no interest added on student loans. We strongly believe that despite repeated claims by the government that interest based loans do not deter students, the opposite is the case. Orthodox Muslim, Christian and Jewish students are having to make a difficult decision and in many cases are compromising on their beliefs, taking out the loans to fund their education. Those of no faith from low socio-economic backgrounds too, face pressure from negative perceptions towards debt and interest-based loans. HSFC’s goal is to raise awareness of the issue at hand by lobbying prominent personalities and MP’s, getting faith organisations involved, informing the public about our campaign and objectives and petitioning the government to debate this important issue in Parliament. We need 100,000 signatures and sustained support from all communities to keep this campaign in the public eye and make the alternative student finance model, a reality.

To make a difference, please sign the campaign petition at: epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/54508

 

NB: To sign the petition, you must be a UK resident/ have legal stay in the country. Please sign and pass on this petition to everyone you know.

Jazakallah Khayr to my Muslim followers

Thank you for all your support to my non-Muslim followers

Giving Up Something for the Sake of Allah | Part Two

3 Sep

So, you’ve decided that university isn’t for you. It was a nice idea but realistically was not a feasible alternative. You are now racked with worry as the persistent question enters your mind: ‘What am I going to do now?’ There are plenty of different routes that will assist you on your life journey insha’allah {If Allah Wills}, some of which may be completely new to you. There is more to life than university you know!

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Hands On

The first thing that comes to mind with apprenticeships is plumbing, building and general hands on work. I am guilty of thinking this as well. However, I only recently discovered that apprenticeships cover a range of sectors.

 I met someone at the museum where I volunteer and she was pursuing an apprenticeship in customer services. She had found the vacancy on the City Council’s website and was learning on the job, in an interesting and enjoyable environment. It would be well worth checking out your council’s web pages for both city and county, as apprenticeship vacancies are cropping up all the time. As well as gaining some valuable hands on experience, you also get the opportunity to gain a qualification in your chosen field (Level 2, Level 3 or Level 4). So for example, if you found an apprenticeship as an Administrative Assistant, you would be able to gain a Level 2 Award in Business Administration.

 Examples of Apprenticeships include: Administration, Retail, Business, Customer Service, Journalism, Support Work in Classrooms, particular roles in the Media and Publishing and more.

 

‘Petals, Kettles and Dettols’

Now this is the route that I would like to take insha’allah {if Allah wills}. There are alternatives to getting a degree and then a PGCE, I again didn’t know that these pathways existed. This September, I will be starting a course called Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) or nicknamed ‘petals’. This is normally a Level 3/4 course which introduces you to teaching in the Further Education sector. Main subjects include: ESOL, Literacy and Numeracy. This usually lasts for three months part-time (or a two day intensive).

 After that you can either get a Certificate to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (CTLLS) or ‘kettles’, which is a teaching assistant qualification, or a Diploma to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS) or ‘dettols’, which is where you are a fully qualified FE teacher. Insha’allah {if Allah Wills} I aim to get my Diploma and thereafter my Level 5 subject specialism in ESOL (this subject specialism is mandatory for those without a degree and in most cases is taken after the Diploma). Now the DTLLS is two years part-time (or a year full-time) and the subject specialism usually takes 1 year part-time (or around 6 months full-time).

 However, you will not be able to teach in State Schools as this requires the traditional degree- PGCE route but there are many learning providers and centres where FE teachers are in demand. For an ESOL teacher, you get paid either £50 (London) or £20 (rest of UK) an hour, and usually work between 16-20 hours a week.

 Can I tempt you any further? All course fees combined, to get a full FE teaching qualification will cost around £4992 compared to the staggering £30077 that a degree- PGCE would cost. If money is tight, then this is the best alternative.

 

Working your way up

Another option if you’ve gained your GCSE/ A Level qualifications is to start from the bottom and work your way up in the civil service. The civil service can include the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence, Department of Transport, Crown Prosecution Service, Department of Health, Office of Fair Trading, Food Standards Agency… the list continues.

 To enter through these paths you will have to regularly search for jobs on the civil service website. If you have GCSE’s only, look for AA (Administrative Assistant) jobs. If you have A Levels too, look for AO (Administrative Officer) jobs. I have seen full-time vacancies going in the Crown Prosecution Service where you work at the courts, assisting in the running of the place and working alongside other civil servants. You’ll have the opportunity to progress, you’ll get a better rate of pay and each day is different with new challenges to face.

 

Bon Voyage!

A very radical solution if you are still pining for university is to go abroad to another European country where fees are free or substantially cheaper than the UK. The courses are in English, the teaching is world-class and it will look excellent on your CV. Imagine putting ‘studied Humanities at Maastricht University in the Netherlands’. It will show employers that you are a confident, independent person. Furthermore, you will get to experience another culture as well as having the opportunity to speak another language (yet another good thing for the CV!). The best countries to go to include: Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Belgium and Norway amongst many others.

 However, you must check in advance that the universities to the same course (or similar one) to the one you want to study and that you have the option to attend lectures and seminars being taught in English.

 As I said before, it’s a very radical solution and one that must be researched further before you decide to take the plunge.    

 

NHS- Established 1948

If you are looking to study midwifery, nursing (and other applicable medical courses) you have the opportunity to have your course fees paid in full through the NHS bursary. I don’t see any negatives to this as you aren’t falling into the dreaded ‘loan’ trap and it will give you the opportunity to go into a worthwhile and enjoyable career. More information can be found on the NHS bursary website. As with all bursaries you apply for, you may need to meet certain requirements, so please check in advance before you apply for your course.

 

Final Few Words

I hope that you found this posting helpful to you and that it made you more hopeful about the opportunities open to young people who choose not to go to university. Just because you don’t have a degree, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make something of yourself. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool or someone who managed to get in on £3000 per year. It takes guts to stand up for your beliefs and I’m proud of you for doing so. If other people don’t understand, know for sure that I will. 

Giving Up Something for the Sake of Allah| Part One

26 Jul

University is supposed to be the best time of our lives. Where we meet new people, study in depth and gain the necessary skills for employment. An unforgettable experience.

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 I, myself, was looking forward to studying English. As many of my friends (and indeed family) will tell you, I am a keen English nerd. I constantly have a book to read (right now it’s Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’), I loathe incorrect language use and am always utilising new words in my normal speech. This not only means I sound like an Etonian ‘toff’ (according to my friends), but results in me getting very odd looks from old people. ‘I didn’t realise you Muslims could speak English’ is probably what they’re thinking. Well, unsurprisingly, we’re not all first generation immigrants and we’re not all terrorists!

Joking aside, my passion for English could be clearly displayed from a young age. ‘M always writes with flair’, my reports annually boasted. At that age, I assumed that my teachers were politely commenting on my trousers. Alas, no, they were not predicting my rise to ‘Beegee- like’ fame. Rather, that I had a way of manipulating and using words to great effect. In other words, I had style. The Versace of the written word. Shakespeare had better watch out, I thought with delight, there was a new heavyweight in the literary town.

English had become such a ‘normal’ part of my school routine that it felt wrong, simply absurd, to drop it post-GCSE level. Science never stretched me and I found it too easy. Maths on the other hand, is a long and arduous story in itself. I honestly believed (and still do) that I was dyslexic with numbers. Addition and subtraction? Fine. Surds (or turds as I fondly call them) and algebra? No, just no. Why Arabs felt the need to invent algebra, I’ll never know.

I digress, but point is, it again felt so natural to choose it for degree level. I enjoyed the prospect of indulging in Chaucer, Marlowe, Austen, Dickens, Milton and Lord Byron.  I was particularly looking forward to studying Byron’s contemporaries in the Romantic Era like Wordsworth…

It may be a good idea to give you more information about myself at this point. I’m Muslim (if you haven’t noticed, I’m very worried!) and as you may know, there are certain rules I follow according to the Qur’an and Sunnah {the lifestyle of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him} – one of them (which may be familiar to other Abrahamic faiths) concerns interest or usury. In laymen’s terms, usury is forbidden on the grounds that it’s unfair to the person in debt. For example, if a man is given £200 as he’s struggling to pay his bills, why should he have to pay up to 30 or 40% on top of the £200 when he’s paying it back? Common sense tells me if I give you £200, I expect £200, not more, simply because I don’t deserve it. The money’s not mine and would be better spent on the man’s family or charity to the destitute and orphaned. This is why countries are in debt at the moment because of the amount of interest that’s being bandied around like a bad smell. For further information about usury and Islam’s stance on it, can be found here. The shaykh will insha’allah {God Willing} explain it better than I can!

The reason why I mention interest is because it’s an intrinsic problem for Muslim students who want to study at university. Pre- 2011, there was 0% inflation on the tuition fee loan and courses were capped at £3000 per year. Post- 2011, the government took the cap off fees which gave universities the go ahead to charge £9000 per year.  I would have to pay for one year what my friends (who are in their second year and managed to narrowly avoid the rise) pay for the entire degree! On top of this, the student finance people raised the inflation from 0% to 3%, meaning interest will be added. As a result, the tuition fee loan is now completely haram {forbidden} for the Muslim student to take.

So instead, we turn to grants and bursaries. I planned to go ahead paying my fees through the Maintenance Grant of around £3,350, the National Scholarship Programme (consisting of £1000 cash and £2000 fee waiver), an Academic High Flyers scholarship of £2000 and a part time job to mop up any extra. Not bad right? A halal {permissible} route had been found!

Or so I thought.

One day, my mum asked me to double check something on the university’s funding pages. To my horror, I discovered that they had withdrawn most of the funding. The NSP only offered £2000 in the first year and that’s it. The Academic High Flyers scholarship was gone. I was entitled to no help from the university after my first year. Instead of having to find £3-4000 throughout my degree, I instead had to find (minimum) £14000. A large sum for a single parent (and hell, a two-parent family!) to find. Who, realistically, has that much money to throw around? The answer to this sudden withdrawal lies with the government. They have withdrawn over £100 million of funding, reducing scholarships to £50 million. The scholarships were used to stroke the Liberal Democrats’ backs after Judas Iscariot (a.k.a. Nick Clegg) decided to turn traitor to all the students who voted for him and allowed the increase in fees to go ahead. What a nice, honest man! No wonder the Lib Dems are caving in on themselves…

Since I made the decision to withdraw the unconditional offer the university gave me (an unconditional, can you believe it?!) I have been notified daily of Muslim students who have had to make the painful decision to withdraw from their courses and now face an uncertain and rather bleak future. Their parents cannot afford the fees and cannot find a halal alternative for their children. Some will compromise on their beliefs and will go ahead and take out the loan. Others will find that their conscience pricks them and they simply cannot go against their faith. Allah declares war on those who take usury. A war. With God. And who do you think will win?

Here is a very useful webpage specifically dealing with usury from hadith and Qur’anic sources. This especially jumped out at me:

And if you do not do it, then take a notice of war from Allâh and His Messenger but if you repent, you shall have your capital sums. Deal not unjustly (by asking more than your capital sums), and you shall not be dealt with unjustly (by receiving less than your capital sums). —Al- Baqarah 279

So they give up their dreams, their hopes and aspirations. A girl with good grades wanting to study medicine is instead going out to work, financially caring for her family. A young man with the thirst for civil law, whose elderly parent cannot afford even their daily living expenses is having to face the reality that he may never enter the legal profession.

There is hope though. The government are deciding on introducing an alternative model of student finance that is Shariah compliant {i.e. Islamically okay}, where students still have to pay £9000 per year but without the dreaded usury. Alhamdulillah, I hear you cry. But wait, there’s more. This legislation may not be introduced for another FIVE YEARS MINIMUM. It’s going at an incredibly slow rate. I sit here typing this and wonder how many more students like me, will be falling through the net. People with high grades, high hopes, high level of discipline required to study. It’s madness to allow this to happen. But that’s exactly what the Muslim community are doing. Allowing it to happen. Instead, we need to sit up and take action and encourage the MP’s to get this legislation through.

I wrote to my local MP about this issue and implored him to contact the person (or government official) in charge of this palaver, to encourage him to get the legislation passed. He agreed with me and sympathised greatly, offering his future services to me should they be needed again. See Clegg, this is how you should be!

I also wrote to an Islamic Trust who are keen to hear any correspondence from people writing to their MPs. They were also happy I took some positive action and will use me as a case study to present to the government about the real effects of their decisions.

So Alhamdulillah, out of darkness, came light.

To my brother or sister facing this predicament, regardless of whether you’re Muslim or not, I have some advice. Don’t compromise on your beliefs. Honestly, I know of people who have taken up interest based loans and are suffering as a result, in work, marriage and Islam. It may seem like a good short term solution but the long term effects both in this world and the next, are harrowing. You know, I have no idea where I’m going from now. But I know that insha’allah {if God Wills} He has accepted my sacrifice for his name and will give me something far better.

He will do it with you too. You may not see it now but you will definitely see it later.

“And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine” — al-Talaaq 2-3

In Part Two of this post, I’ll be discussing alternatives to university and ways to finance your degrees (if you have either some financial backing or like), some of which may be unheard of to you. I will also be discussing what I’ll insha’allah {if God Wills} be doing now that the door to University has been closed.  

 Like I’ve heard many a time, university isn’t the ‘be or the end all’, like they want you to think.

Useful Information:

MP Search (to contact them over finance): http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

1st Ethical Trust:  http://www.1stethical.com/2012/07/18/lobbying-for-a-halal-alternative-to-student-loans/

-Dedicated to those in search of truth since 2011-

The Masked and Buried Muslim Believer

28 Jan

Assalamu-alaikum! 

After much pondering and perpetual chin-scratching, I’ve finally decided the topic of this blog post [after months and months! I know I apologise sincerely for keeping you in limbo]. It’s something, I feel, needs to be addressed for Muslim youth everywhere, regardless of whether they’re ‘practicing’ or not.

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Laila, Aisha and Fatima are walking through the busy city, heading towards the shopping centre. Linked arms, giggling constantly, their hijabs and abayas draw glances, on more than occasion. Sometimes hostile, sometimes encouraging. But the trio are having too much fun to take notice. They pass through the automatic doors of the centre and feel the hot blast of air above their heads and then the sudden drop in temperature as they enter the light and chilly interior. Walking past a book shop, they slow down deliberately, nudging each other slyly. Standing before the window, looking evidently uncomfortable was a young girl. Actually, this young girl is a classmate of theirs, Sara’s her name, cheerful, bright, clever. But not popular. She gets bullied a lot at the Iocal state comprehensive she attends. She’s not pretty enough, not white enough, not brown enough, not foreign enough, not English enough, not Muslim enough, not Atheist enough.  She just doesn’t fit in. An odd and somewhat lonely sock at the bottom of the drawer. They pass by without talking to her yet slyly eyeing her from the corners of their eyes. She looks down and pretends to be busy on her phone, desperately avoiding their stare. 

‘Did you see her?’ Fatima asks as soon as they pass. ‘Hair all open, clothes too tight, I mean what was she thinking? She looks terrible!’

‘I know right?’ Aisha quickly joins in, ‘I mean, I wouldn’t even go to bed dressed like that, let alone parade around in public.’

Laila winces slightly as the comments continue. She looks back over her shoulder and sees Sara’s eyes staring into her own. ‘She looks so depressed,’ she thinks to herself. ‘Maybe she knows what they’re saying. I should really tell-’ her thoughts are interrupted by a loud squeal.

‘Oh my God, those shoes…I need them! Just look. Look! They’re so cute!’ Fatima and Aisha half-walk, half-run into the shop, leaving Laila trailing in their wake. She sighs deeply and shakes her head as she enters the brightly lit store.

***

Sitting by herself on the way home, Sara’s eyes are caught by a shop display as the traffic slows down to a halt. Brightly coloured hijabs and long, flowing abayas wink back at her, reflecting the strobe lighting. Tears prick the back of her eyes. ‘I wish I could be like them,’ she thought, thinking about the trio that walked past her in the store. ‘But I’m not one of them,’ she concluded as the traffic lights turned green and the bus sped past.

***

Sara’s mother came into her room at nine o’clock prompt. ‘Sara love, you finished praying?’ 

‘Yes mum,’ she said, closing her Qu’ran. She walked over to her bookshelf and placed the Qur’an back, slowly peeling off her prayer scarf as she did so. She chewed her bottom lip thoughtfully. ‘Mum, can I ask you something?’

‘Yes, what is it?’ her mum responded, sitting down in the office chair. 

‘How can- can- do you- I dunno,’ she finished mournfully. 

‘Go on and spit it out!’ her mother said smiling. 

‘I don’t really think I’m Muslim enough! I- I don’t even look Muslim, I feel like a hypocrite!’ Sara blurted out, tears already rolling down her cheeks.

‘Flippin’ heck Sara! Are you mad?’ her mother said, standing up and enveloping her in a hug. ‘Actions aren’t just what you wear, what people think about you and what you do outside the house, they’re from here,’ she said, pointing to Sara’s chest, ‘from your heart. From your character, your worship, your relationship with Allah. Insha’allah, if Allah wants to, the exterior will follow. Just because there are girls out there wearing the Islamic dress, doesn’t necessarily mean that their relationship with Allah is better than yours. For all you know, they could be on the completely wrong path.’

‘Thanks mum,’ Sara mumbled, sniffing, feeling somewhat reassured.

The Prophet saw said: “No one with the slightest particle of arrogance in his heart will enter paradise.”

A man remarked, “But a man likes his clothes to be nice and his sandals good.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Verily, Allah is beautiful and loves beauty. Arrogance is refusing to acknowledge what is right and considering others beneath one.” (Mishkat al-Masabih)

-Dedicated to those in search of truth since 2011-

Contemplations

23 Oct

Before I get to what I’ll actually be covering in today’s post, I have some news. Don’t worry, it’s nothing major! I won’t be able to post as much as I would have liked to this week due to my aunty visiting. I’ll have to give her time and I also have college on top so I doubt I’d have any time to do anything! Inshallah, I’ll be back to my regular posting the week after.

Contemplations

Okay, news over, it’s time to focus on what I’ll be discussing today. Alhamdulillah {Praise be to Allah} I have been getting a lot of views and regular people following my posts. Jazakallah Khayr {Allah reward you} all for taking time out to read and watch what I have done. Inshallah, {If Allah wills} I would like to do a few book reviews, however, due to unforeseen circumstances 90% of my islamic book collection is at another house. I would also like to do personal posts about me. So any questions about me (nothing too personal mind!) can be added in the comments section below. Alternatively, if you feel that you may have something to contribute to this site such as articles, poems, lectures you’ve seen, your own book reviews, feel free to let me know in the comments section. Inshallah {If Allah wills}, I’ll get back to you and we’ll see whether we can make you famous :)

One good question that I’ve been asked by some people is: Why have you decided to set up a blog? 

Personally, it’s my duty to. As Muslims, we believe that inviting people to get to know Islam or dawah as it is known, is one of great importance. The Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) invited people of all walks of life, from the poorest to the richest, to believe in the one God and to submit themselves. Islam basically means to submit in Arabic. In modern society, it is easier, much easier to invite people to Islam. I am using one such method (blogging). There are many others from face to face conversations, to going on websites and chatting about Islam to scholars. One such website is:- http://www.chatislam.com/ hosted by Yusuf Estes, where you can find out instantly questions you may have about Islam and its followers. Now, we don’t have any excuse to not talk about Islam and to spread the word.

However, we have a battle. Against the media who falsely portray us all as bomb-carrying extremists. Seriously, I have lost count the amount of times I’ve been called a terrorist. And I don’t even have a beard! Some Muslims believes that through our everyday actions, Inshallah {if Allah wills} we can help to try and wipe that image. If non-muslims see us helping the poor, helping an old lady get off the bus or cross the road, even removing hazardous objects out of the way, they can see that we’re not all bad people. This in itself is a form of dawah! Dawah doesn’t always consist of you sitting there at a stall trying to ram information down someone’s throat. Although I don’t have a problem with setting up stalls as I have received some positive information from them and a free Quran. :) Which is why no one has an excuse for not doing it.

And I feel selfish for keeping Islam to myself. It’s like having a massive chocolate cake and not sharing it. No matter how good it tastes, you feel bad for not sharing it’s deliciousness. Islam is a beautiful religion, I’m proud to be a Muslim and I feel selfish if I don’t share the true meaning of my faith. So now you know about my intentions for the blog and also why I have decided to set it up.

As Da’wah and Hadiths of Islam said (http://www.facebook.com/dawahofislam):

Judge a Religion by the Religion, not by it’s People.

We say to Non Muslims to judge Islam by the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h).

However, in today’s fast paced time, it’s highly unlikely for a non Muslim to sit down and read the Quran or the Hadiths to find out what Islam, unless Allah swt wills. 

So, it’s vitally important for us Muslims to be the walking Quran and the Hadiths inshaAllah, to show what Islam is more for the Non Muslims than ourselves. 

-Dedicated to those in search of truth since 2011-

The Tattooed Revert and The Mango Juice

17 Oct

Here are two short videos that I found on my travels round YouTube. Inshallah {if Allah wills} you’ll find both of them enjoyable and light hearted.

The Tattooed Revert

So this one is about a Muslim Revert who is from the UK and about how he found Allah. You’ll see that Muslims come from all walks of life and had extremely diverse histories. Take this Muslim brother for example, he used to be a heavy metal punk rocker with a bright blue mane of hair, heavily pierced ears and tattoos crammed on his body. He has a lovely personality and alhamdulillah {thanks to Allah} he’s been guided on the straight path since the late 1980s.

The Mango Juice

This is short excerpt from a Kamal Mekki lecture where he shows us why ‘chatting up’ men and women is not a bright idea! Brother Kamal is full of halal {permissable}  humour however, you learn valuable life lessons.

-Dedicated to those in search of truth since 2011-

Desert Rose by Muhammad Alshareef

14 Oct

Many people have heard of this man. Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)*. However, if you ask them, particularly the non-Muslims, they may not be able to give a comprehensive account of his life and mission. Some of them may even quote false information swearing it is true because some Muslim-hater on some website or other claims it is true. Furthermore, they may quote fabricated hadiths {sayings of the prophet} as true!

Going off topic a bit, isn’t it funny that when an article on a news website mentions anything Muslim, the first person to be back-bitten about is the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h)? Or another scenario: A forum where miraculously everyone is a scholar who has studied hadiths for years and yet are somehow non-Muslim… This tip that I’m about to tell you is for everyone even me, to take note and remember in the future. Just because you’ve been on a  website for a few hours looking at hadiths, or just because you’ve found a good hadith site with a search engine, DOES NOT make you a scholar. Scholars of the hadiths have taken YEARS out of their everyday lives to sit and study with knowledgeable people of Islam, to study every aspect of hadiths. Don’t take offence, I’m just saying what annoys many Muslims out there.

I’m going to now introduce a video. It’s by a lecturer from AlMaghrib Institute from the USA called Muhammad Alshareef. Entitled ‘Desert Rose’, this tells the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h) It’s a brief account, so you won’t be getting every single detail, however it’s a good start for those who would like to learn the truth about what the Prophet Muhammad’s (p.b.u.h) life before revelation and also afterwards. Inshallah, {if Allah wills} this will dispel many rumours that have been surfacing around and tainting the name of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h). It’s a moving account, so if you are of a gentle disposition, be ready with a tissue.

Desert Rose by Muhammad Alshareef  

*Muslims are required, when hearing the name of the Prophet Muhammad to add on ṣall Allāhu ʿalay-hi wa-sallam translated in English becomes, ‘May Allah honour him and grant him peace’. It’s a sign of respect.

-Dedicated to those in search of truth since 2011-

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