It was summer of the year 2018. I had reversed the Great Migration, and was now in the South, Memphis precisely. It was also during Ramadan. I went to the mosque and as I turned my heads in Salaam after the prayer, the first person I saw was, Baba Asiyah, a then Doctoral Candidate at the University of Memphis. Seeing a Nigerian, a Yorùbá at the Mosque, was exciting. That same night I met Brother Naheem and Baba Adnan.
Alone in the new city and going through the rigorous, intensive summer institute, I had no time to prepare good sahur. I took some left overs from the iftar, but you know, dem’ Middle Eastern rice don’t have spice for a Nigerian man. Iya Asiyah, a thoughtful woman, took pity on me and sent me Sahur meals via her husband. And with that a community is on the rise.
When my wife joined me in Memphis, she already had a friend and sister in Iya Asiyah and in no time their friendship, a trio, with Iya Abike who had recently returned from a trip to Nigeria had blossomed. A great sisterhood. Baba Asiyah and I would visit each other and have long talks about building a community. It was important to us.
So, wherever I went out or Iya Umar went out and saw Nigerian Muslims in the city, we would get their contact and actively reach out. I was also reaching out to my brother in New York, convincing him to move down south when he completes his Master’s. We were actively meeting people. Inviting them to our place. Calling to check on them.
In less than two years, a vibrant knit community of Nigerian Muslims in Memphis had begun to thrive. The children knew each other and were friends. Sisters would call each other virtually every day, sharing ideas and tips on parenting and spirituality.
When a family gave birth, a family would take in their children and ensure that the needs of the family are met. When someone has financial setback, the brothers will gather to support. They reminded themselves of Allah even as Covid-19 closed the world.
Still, we were scattered around the city, and we began thinking of living closer to each other. One of my dreams from the outset. Covid-19 happened and with all its horrors and challenges, Alhamdulillah our community came out with so much grace and the families started getting new homes close to one another and close to the masjid.
And it is at this time that visions for the communities are coming true that Allah says its time for me and my family to leave Memphis.
It was tough. The day we moved to Middle Tennessee the community traveled along with us. There were tears. A year later, the entire community husbands, wives, children came down to celebrate Eid with us. We had so much fun. A memorable night I’m sure is indelible to all, including the kids.
Amazing thing happened during Ileya. The new community forming in Middle Tennessee met the Memphis community. When a family in Memphis had a baby, another family in the Nashville area sent gifts and plans to go to Memphis for a visit. In fact the Nashville area community are talking of returning the gesture during eid next year and travel to Memphis for it.
Perhaps our family’s move was strategically designed to connect Memphis – Nashville – Knoxville and other parts of Tennessee?
Community is important. As you japa to these foreign lands, ensure you join a community or form one. People with shared faith, values, culture. Don’t be a loner or say you don’t want anything to do with your people. And oh, it doesn’t just happen. You have to be intentional about it. You’ve got to put in the work.
So many good things have come out of that simple gesture of Iya Asiyah to send me Sahur meal. Ẹ bá mi kí Iya Asiya ó. 🤷🏿♂️