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WOC2019: Interview with Brother Nadeem Ashraf

Brother Nadeem is a mentor, trainer, and an English teacher in the UK. He is one of the official speakers of Youth Club’s Winds of Change Tour 2019 and has been a constant support in YC’s Da’wah mission. He has studied politics at TVU, London and gained an English teaching certificate from the Cambridge University Board of Accreditation. He has worked with major organisations like Amnesty International, the International Red Cross, UNICEF, the British High Commission, and Qassem University in Saudi Arabia, among others. He loves nothing more than being random, interacting with the public, and engaging in deep conversations.

Here are a few questions we asked him about his experience as a speaker in this year’s Youth Club’s WOC2019 Tour!

1. What inspired you to come to Pakistan to participate in YC’s Winds of Change Tour 2019?

Many reasons! But for the sake of brevity I’d say as someone who has been on almost all WOC tours including the very first one in 2012,  I feel a part and parcel of this tour! There’s a lot of personal history and memories for me. I have benefited from these tours immensely in terms of inspiration and knowledge, Alhumdulillah!

2. As you are heavily involved in Da’wah activities abroad as well as in Pakistan, how does the Da’wah scene in Pakistan compare to that of the UK or other countries?

This is a very deep question, requiring an essay but briefly I would say other than the obvious factors for example in the U.K. the Da’wah is heavily focused on non-Muslims and is of an intellectual nature whereas in Pakistan our main focus is the Muslim youth and we have more of a spiritual approach.

Other factors are that right now, although there are well established Da’wah organisations in the U.K., which have been operating for decades, there is a stagnation of sorts. Whereas the advent of YC & other organisations in Pakistan has brought about a freshness to the Da’wah efforts and revival of the Ummah & humanity.

In the U.K. and the West, they have the resources, the financial power, and infrastructure which is much superior to Pakistan but Pakistan has that ‘spirit’ and that bond of brotherhood and sisterhood; that family feel.

Pakistan also has people like Dr Fazl Elahi. That moment when I prayed Maghrib at Masjid Tirmidhi and then we all sat around him holding Mushafs (copies of the Quran) and discussing ayahs around obedience to our parents; the vibe and ambiance created was incredibly moving for me! I haven’t experienced this in the U.K. so it is a memory worth cherishing.

3. What was the most memorable moment of WOC for you?

Too many! 

Memorable moments were when Allah (SWT) gave me the honour of calling to his worship and in this the immense respect people gave me really made me think. Thoughts such as, am I really worthy of this respect and love? And if people know what we are really like! The thought and constant prayer that Allah makes us actually worthy of as perceived by the people.

Other memorable moments were the various Salah at various masajid; the Jummah at a Karachi mosque; the halaqah with Dr Fazl Elahi; and, the incredible passion and enthusiasm of the faculty and students of AJK College, Kashmir.

4. As you have been touring Pakistan for WOC, in which city have you had the best response?

The response has been pretty much equal. If we are measuring response by numbers of attendees to our events then it’s almost equal with maybe Karachi slightly surpassing Lahore in numbers, at each of their respective mega events. In Karachi it was the ‘Unseen’ event and in Lahore the ‘Rearing a Strong Nation’ event. 

When it came to brothers and sisters getting involved and showing enthusiasm for the tour then maybe Lahore was slightly ahead.

5. Which city would you like to visit again to give even more Dawah?

Multan! A new fresh team. Brothers and sisters both. There’s hardly anything happening here on the level for the youth so this could be a good challenge. Plus, I like the vibe of the city. 

6. What was the absolute worst moment during touring?

Worst moments for me are lack of sleep & some of the driving through rough streets & almost on breaking point with cars/ taxis!  And then the almost mandatory stomach upset because of food poisoning!

But these are some of the factors that were expected, and we should be used to. This struggle is something we need to bear with.

7. You were touring in the spring and early summer which can be quite hot in Pakistan, how did you cope with the Pakistani heat?

Just had to sweat it out. It feels good that we are putting in the hard-work and literal sweat into this. We pray that these get accepted. And I am grateful that wherever we stayed, there were ample cooling facilities, Alhumdulilah.

8. Best night’s sleep on the tour?

The last day for me! When we got back from Lahore, back into Islamabad around Maghrib (an achievement in itself!). 

9. Best meal on the tour?

Oh, tough one. It’s a toss-up between the biryani we had with the YC volunteers in Karachi and the Hardees superstar burger on the go from Lahore! Mainly because we ate in the car heading towards Islamabad. 

10. Best college on the tour?

From an interaction point of view, IBA & Karachi University in Karachi were super busy. 

A worthy mention is also Riphah, QIE Campus. I liked the set up and the library!  

11. Best YC Brother on the tour?

Not one! But many heroes emerged!

Brother Abdusalaam for agreeing to my challenge to come to Multan with us from Lahore the next day. This was my first ever meet up with him! He’s a volunteer for Youth Club Lahore but we dubbed him the ‘WOC internee’ ! Lol. 

Brother Zarain, the Youth Club Karachi media man. Such a sweet brother and hopefully he too is inspired to engage in active vocal Da’wah after seeing our work in action.

Brother Usama Kamran for his beautiful hospitality in Multan.

And Br Haider Kaiser, who worked hard before and during WOC, even though he was getting married! Bless him!

12. Funniest moment of the tour?

The crazy last-minute trip to Muzaffarabad and back! Brother Zia on a bike and then us in a car, driving through the mountains in the darkness of the night. Both funny and crazy! 

Also, when we were made to wait outside Karachi University for an hour, Brother Zia had this urge to leave his car, jump into mine and just go for some super spins! Dust everywhere! And then returning back to his car! Lol. Ridiculously random!

13. Saddest moment of the tour?

The goodbyes. It is always an emotional part for me.

Also just seeing the situation of various universities, the fitnah, the free mixing, the lack of dynamic interaction. The fact that we have so many knowledgeable brothers and sisters in Pakistan, yet they are not engaging with the youth on the level that’s needed. I really hope this improves with YC leading the way.

14. Would you do it all again?

Yes absolutely! But it has to be a yearly adventure for it to have the proper impact. 

15. What would be your advice for people entering YC to participate in Da’wah activities?

Don’t wait on members from YC to ‘get going’. Start a positive Da’wah project as long as it is authentic, based upon our tradition and principles and has that ‘YC’ feel to it. In other words, the fun and creative factor. Be it a weekly gathering, an event, sports or other activities. Start in your own neighborhoods and areas.

Always attend all YC events be it weekly or monthly, only then will you be noticed and assigned tasks according to your skills. That’s exactly how many of us began with YC! As an example, I along with another Brother set up and pioneered a halaqah in the area I used to live in the I-8 sector. After all these years it is still going Alhumdulilah! We did this with no directive from YC management.

Do not search for positions and statuses amongst YC or any other Da’wah organisation.

Always remain humble and sincere to the call to Allah (SWT). That is essentially what we do, we are callers to the Oneness and worship of Allah (SWT), the Creator and Sustainer of everything that exists.

Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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