Lessons from ’97

September 9th, 2009 by Waleed

The year is 1997 and I am new in college. I’m awe-struck, going from store to store, amazed at being a young adult with a few dollars in my pockets and amazed at the “huge” variety that the on-campus stores were offering. I’m in love with something invisible. It’s not the materialism and it’s not the shopping. I think it’s being independent that I started falling in love with. Years later, this desire to be fully independent has to be carefully balanced with my family philosophy.

I walked a lot those days and that’s how I slowly developed my love/hate relationship with walking. I understood its intricacies and its beauty. I also understood why we rarely walked in the Middle East. (12 years later, I am in Singapore and end up walking 7-9 kms on a two-day trip. I now love walking in the right conditions).

Football season is coming soon and I’m learning how intensely passionate Americans are about their football. Store walls are covered in posters of the players. Hallways in every building have them pinned up to any open space available. This year they are marketing a new message: Family comes first. It puzzles me at first. This is something you need to be told? Ofcourse it comes first. I walk away amused.

In 1997 I lived with my sister and brother respectively. Their house was basic yet full of love, constant wisdom and lots of dishes to wash. I was, as my brother used to kid, his intern and at his beck and call. I never ever minded that – not even the time he asked me to walk across town, go up the street, buy him food and deliver to where he was studying. Or the time he promised to study Arabic with me but had other things to do. I have stories. My brother did things that back then blew me away and today, he is one of my role models in life. May Allah (SWT) guard his heart, make his ebadah sincere and give him/his children characters that He loves. Ameen.

Time and time again bro has demonstrated what it means to be family to me. He’s been there for me when I was being blatantly jaahill (ignorant). He was there for me when I accepted my Islam again. And he was there to pick me up by the freezing curb in winter 97. He’s maintained communication and applied PMP techniques to make family relationships work. After years of seeing him in action and integrating my own skillsets, I understand, though not fully, what family means.

I’ve told these stories a few times over the years – the ones about walking and the ones about my brother. Walking, everyone gets. But as time has passed by I’ve come to certain conclusions about how family is perceived by others. And I guess I’ll learn more as time flies by. That’s OK because it has merely firmed my faith in how I want my kids to be. It’s a simple and powerful philosophy I think. The evidence of its application are in abundance – the outcomes are amazing. Either way, you need to remember the cost and consequences of your actions. As an adult, I’ve managed to muck up a few things with family and have paid the price. Cost and consequences + foresight = deep aha moments.

I know I’m not alone in thinking about family as such. I’ve met countless people who have acted similarly. Family comes first – it’s a no brainer. And yet, to some this is news. SubhanAllah, may Allah (SWT) protect us all.

These are some lessons I remember from my college years. I’m not always good with them but I think I try. Walk whenever you can. And family comes first.

4 Responses to “Lessons from ’97”

  1. humaira Says:

    nice post :)

  2. Waleed Says:


  3. Anjum Says:

    re: no-brainers that people yet do not remember: i think as muslims, we are blessed to know certain simple truths, that many people somehow do not accept as true, or simple. and even among ourselves, we forget and need to remind ourselves. Ramadan is a good time for that. So there’s nothing wrong in reminding yourself to remember those key lessons.. We are not always good with them, but we do try, & that is essential.

  4. Waleed Says:

    What I’m learning is that some people forget, others get distracted and there is yet a class of people who intentionally choose to not follow this philosophy. That one came as a surprise to me.

Leave a Reply