Thursday, March 01, 2007

Praising the Prophet ~ Arab News

Praising the Prophet

Sikander Z. Hashmi | Special to Review

IN 1999, Linda Delgado was a police officer in the US when she and her husband decided to host two Saudi police officers who had come for training. A week before Fuad and Abdul — whom she refers to as her “foster sons” — returned to Saudi Arabia, Delgado accepted Islam.

Last Sunday, Delgado was declared one of the winners in the first annual Praise the Prophet International Poetry Competition. Delgado’s poem, My Hero Is Your Hero, took the top prize in the adult category. In it, the 60-year-old describes a conversation between a mother, a son, and a daughter, in which the three attempt to guess each other’s heroes and drop hints about their identities.

“Son said his hero was the greatest teacher the world had ever known / Daughter giggled and said her hero and his wife played racing games.

“So I declared my hero left his Sunnah for all mankind to understand. / He recited each of Allah’s Words in our most honored Qur’an.”

The poem ends with the children realizing that they are all talking about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Delgado, of Tempe, Arizona, won up to $1,000 for airfare to Makkah and Madinah, Saudi Arabia. But she won’t be able to make the trip due to ailments, which keep her from traveling. Instead, she says she wants to use the prize money to help produce coloring and activity books for young Muslim children. These books will be based on fiqh-based comic strips Delgado creates for an American Islamic magazine.

Mai El-Sadany of Fremont, California, will also receive up to $1,000 for airfare to Makkah and Madinah. She won the first prize in the teen category for her submission titled “Remember.” El-Sadany’s rhyming poem educates readers about the life of the Prophet Muhammad by reminding them about his qualities.

“Remember the strength of mind after his tribe’s rejection / But, later, the sincere hearts he would easily win / Remember the kindness to his neighbors and enemies alike / After being bombarded with trash, thorns, and spikes.”

Eleven-year-old Amal Mohammd of Toledo, Ohio, was the youngest top prize winner. Amal’s poem “My Love For You” ranked first in the children’s category and she will receive a gift package valued at $400 US. “My Love For You” is a very personal expression of just that — love for the Prophet Muhammad.

“The crystals in my little brown eyes / Are tears that I cry when I hear the lies / about the things they said about you / The horrible things so untrue.”

A total of five winners, including poets from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Morocco, were chosen in each of the three categories. All winning submissions are posted online at

The Praise the Prophet contest, launched 10 months ago, was inspired by a desire to react to the Danish cartoon controversy in a positive and proactive manner, said Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf, a Muslim scholar and author in Santa Barbara, California, and founder of the website behind the contest.

After witnessing the fallout of the Danish cartoon controversy, Ibn Yusuf called up other scholars and brainstormed about launching a poetry competition in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. All agreed that it was a brilliant idea.

With the support of volunteers, the contest was launched and ran from April to November 2006. Nine judges, including writers, an American imam, and a poet, shared the responsibility of judging the over 300 submissions from 12 countries.

Ibn Yusuf said he was thrilled by the response and the quality of submissions and said he believes the contest went beyond the intended goal by a mile. “This is simply an inspiring success,” he said. “Inspiring because it proves to us that by directing our collective energy in a positive way, we can educate and accomplish much, much more than we do by venting our anger and reacting emotionally.”

The contest got writers thinking creatively and writing spiritual and uplifting poetry, something the Prophet Muhammad liked, said ibn Yusuf. “At last we are on the way to fulfilling the rights of the Messenger of Allah in English poetry.”