Tell us about your childhood?
I would say I was a very blessed person when it comes to my upbringing. Alhumdulillah, I was blessed with parents, who really cared about making us very happy and, above all, leaving memories behind. My father passed away nearly six years ago, so I talk to my mother and siblings, sharing memories about my father – that’s the legacy that I am trying to leave for my kids as well. Although we are working hard to provide financially for our kids, it is more important to leave a legacy of cherished memories that will always remind them to remain on the straight path. My dad did this a lot, so, yes, my childhood was great. We had a lot of fun. I could say I was one of the luckiest people, if you consider my childhood. Alhumdulillah.
How did you tie the knot (get married)?
I was into music, as many people know, and I desperately wanted to become famous as a singer. In the process of trying to find my path, I met my current wife from Philippines, who was Catholic at the time. She was coming to Egypt, where we met. I immediately felt that this is the right fit. We got married in Egypt and then we moved to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, Alhumdulillah, Allah (swt) guided me towards Islam.
Have you had a life coach or a mentor?
There are many people. I don’t stick to one mentor or one life coach, so I have many mentors, a lot of advisors. I always keep going back to them. When it comes to Islamic advice, I go immediately to Dr. Wajhdi Hunain, Sheikh Hussaini, Dr. Salah of Al-Huda TV. I go to Mufti Ismail Menk for life support, I go to other advisors for secular issues, so I don’t stick to one person only. I advise everyone to maintain ties with mentors and advisors from different backgrounds, as it helps a lot.
What do you do, if you feel stressed or depressed?
First of all, we need to understand that the word ‘depression’ is used by the people loosely without actually understanding its meaning. So if dealing with stress is relatively easy, then dealing with depression as that requires professional help and support. Most of the time, people do not actually have depression diagnosis; rather, they just use the word for describing how they feel.
Depression means loss of interest in life and that is why depression can lead to suicide. I advise everyone to use this word carefully because our use of language in general has an impact on our brain and on our behaviour. If you keep on saying “I am depressed”, you will end up being depressed. So rather say “I am sad” or “I am in a bad mood”, because these things can be dealt with easily.
Youth tend to be stressed due to school and lots of homework. I advise parents to take them out of this misery by exciting them through some happy events, through some memorable outings. The problem is that we are living in sad homes most of the times, because parents are busy in their own things, leaving children to their own devices. Kids end up chatting online to strangers. We need the parents to bridge this gap. Play one or two games with your children and teach them the proper use of internet devices, rather than cutting it off altogether. This way, we can prevent stress and sad moments.
What plans do you have for your kids?
I do not plan for my kids; instead, I advise and guide them according to the Quran and the Sunnah. Whatever they decide to do in their life, it is their own decision, whether it is a marriage proposal that my daughter will accept or a career she would want to pursue. I would support my kids, so long as it is not complicating Islamic identity. But even it happens, may Allah (swt) protect us and prevent this from happening, even if a child decides to leave Deen, my role as a Muslim parent is to advise and to guide, not to enforce, not to punish. In most cases, when you bring your children up in such environment, in most likely that they would end up as good Muslims and also have a good career. Very seldom there are cases, where you find good upbringing that end up in a disaster.
How do you feel Islam and Muslims are performing today?
I am an optimistic person. I love to discuss the bright side, although it is important to remind people of the negative as well; otherwise, if you don’t speak about the negative, we won’t be able to find solutions.
I believe we are living in one of the most difficult times ever in terms of Muslims not performing well in their Deen. They have lost track of the purpose of life and, as a result, people end up committing suicide, becoming atheists and so on. Yes, it is a difficult time, and the challenges are too many to handle them all at once.
My advice is to get back to the basics – scholars and speakers should start focusing on what could make a Muslim consistent on the path of Deen; rather than just providing motivational talks for relieving pain momentarily. Muslims get relieved after a good talk, but few minutes later, everything fades away, because there is no consistency in action. We should focus on bringing back Islam to its might and dignity.
Transcribed by Faiza Rizwan