What you see, what you know

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“You can see only what you look for. You can recognize only what you know.”

All medical schools have a version of a class that is called Physical Diagnosis for us.  It is a class designed to teach us the art of interviewing the patient and gleaning all the information you would need to reach a diagnosis from just that very interaction.  Meaning that 9 times out of 10, a diagnosis should be reached before the end of the interview.  Ideally the labs should only be ordered to confirm your diagnosis, not to fish around for one.

One of the biggest obstacles to this has been pointed out to my medical class again and again by one of the professors in the quote above. So how do you get around that? Can you get around that? Maybe we shouldn’t focus on getting around it but just attack head on?

I don’t know.  While I put this quote into the context of medical student life I believe that it can apply to anyone regardless of what their job and/or passion is. And just as there are many situations in which this quote can apply, there are many ways in we can attempt to solve it. I myself try many different routes. I read; I live a thousand lives in just one year. I explore; I see the world for myself and what it has to offer and what it has to take. I try to keep quiet and just listen; I try not to say even a word in some conversations and because of that, I walk away amazed of how much I have gained.  But still, I am limited by the statement.

It could be asked: is there even a need to try and negate the inherent truth of this quote? And in that very thought, in my opinion, lies the problem.

Imran, you’re gonna die.

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“Never forget to tell the people you love that you love them”

This quote by Tariq Ramadan was the Facebook status I chose to post the evening of August 2nd, 2013 after witnessing my first near death experience. I was curled up in my hostel room in Amman, Jordan shattered, completely rocked to the core, just wanting to be back home with my loved ones. The horrible memory kept playing in my head and all I could do was allow it to keep draining me of all ego and pride.

I had decided to get away from the craziness of Cairo to find isolation in Amman, do a little touring, and meet up with a friend. I always find it peculiar how I left Cairo, a place where I was witnessing violent protests daily, only to find death waiting for me in a place I least suspected.

We decided to visit Wadi Mujib, a canyon next to the Dead Sea with a shallow river running through it. Now anyone who has been hiking with me knows I’ll start doing stupid things to entertain myself. Whether it be climbing trees, rock climbing walls and boulders, or in this scenario crossing furious rapids, I always seem to put myself in dangerous situations just for kicks. We entered an area with a warning sign labeled, “DO NOT ENTER” suggesting hikers to take the alternative route… I of course read, “PLEASE ENTER, HOT CHOCOLATE AND BABES AWAIT”

The area had tall boulders with high pressured water squeezing through the rocks below. I was casually skipping through the boulders thinking, “Meh, no big deal if I fall in case I’m not able to make a jump.” Boy was I wrong. I failed at an attempted jump across two boulders and fell in, immediately getting thrashed against the rocks completely knocking the wind out of me. All of the water was funneling toward the crack my foot had gotten stuck in and I hadn’t a breath of air left in my lungs. Panicked and stuck under water, I remember looking up at the rushing water and thinking, “No I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die.. No…”

All praises and thanks are due to God for allowing my left elbow and thigh to gain enough traction against the left boulder to make a final effort to push my head above water for a second and yell for help. Fortunately I was pulled up quickly to have my head held above water again, but my foot would not get loose and it took a few more gut-wrenching minutes for another hiker to spot us and offer more strength to pull me out. I had lost my shorts by now and my boxers were barely hanging on at the edge of my shoe and as they raised my body after I finally freed my foot I remember yelling, “WAIT! I NEED TO PULL UP MY UNDERWEAR FIRST”

I wasn’t very fun to hang out with the rest of that evening and I apologize to the friends who had to witness a very cranky Imran. Scratched up and bruised, I was very angry for some reason. I wanted to cry and yell, “What the hell was that?!” I couldn’t find anyone else to blame other than myself. Part of it had to do with the fact that I put my friends in danger. But mainly it had to do with the discovery of how easily I could have lost my life. I didn’t like that at all. I didn’t like the feeling of helplessness. Being 24 years old, financially independent, and somewhat intelligent I didn’t think anything or anyone could threaten my life in such a way. And of all things to make me realize the fragility of life it was water; one of the most vital things a person needs to survive. The contradiction causes me to shake my head even today.

An immediate consequence of this incident was the loss of a ton of ego and the gaining of a lot of humility. Moving forward in life my daily interactions are less about proving my self worth or accomplishment and more about laughter and appreciating the simple joys I experience alone as well as with others.

After a year of meditating I have come to realize something even more important. I’m going to die. It was so overwhelming and seemingly morbid at first but coming to terms with this reality has been incredibly liberating. I’ve lived life this past year with purpose but also in a state of blissfulness, knowing that the remaining life I have is a gift. And that this gift I must cherish dearly by serving my physical and spiritual self, by exchanging love between my family and friends, and displaying احسان (consistent excellence) in the work I leave behind in this world. Believe it or not I’m actually even more silly than before. I just don’t put myself in harms way anymore. 

Every now and then I’ll find myself stressing about things in my personal life. This memory helps me take a step back and reminds me, “Imran, you’re gonna die”


PS: Those of you who have seen The Fountain know why I put this image up :’)


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Salaam everyone! We are halfway through Ramadan and training while fasting has been incredible. I’ve learned so much about myself and I recommend that everyone should do this. I must admit that biking in humidity sucks pretty bad, but inshAllah it will be worth it.

“There are two of God’s favor that are forgotten by many people: health and free time.” – Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

The beauty of Rihlah is that we are taking advantage of these favors God has blessed us with. Our health is super important and inshAllah this journey will bring us to the best forms in our lives. I would like to mention that I have lost over 10 pounds this month by biking and fasting. Our health isn’t guaranteed and we have to do whatever we can to sustain it as long as possible. The favor of time is a blessing I personally overlook. Life is too short to not take advantage of all of the blessings Allah ahs given us. Please refer to the quotes listed:

• Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.
• Carpe Diem!!
• Life is too short
• The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
• We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.
• Travel far enough you meet yourself
• You have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé

These words should give you some idea of why I believe traveling is more advantageous than just taking a plane to perform hajj and back. There is so much more to the world and I feel like many of us overlook that. In a future blog post, I’ll tell you about some of the things we were discussing and how these quotes helped us. For now, I just want to say thank your for blessing my team with this opportunity, thank you for taking time out of your day to read this blog post, and please Carpe that Diem.

-Mohammad Usman Aijaz

Living life

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Reflections at sea

Reflections at sea

As-salam-alaikum and Ramadan Mubarak guys and gals. SubanAllah, Ramadan has been amazing experience for me so far. This month has this amazing ability to soften the heart to such a degree that the little things in life become…colossal. I pray and ask Allah (swt) that this month affords us all the opportunity for this month to soften our hearts, strengthen our resolve and renew our purpose in this world inshAllah. Ameen!

What I wanted to talk about in this post is about one of the main reasons why I am doing this ride. Allah (swt) says in His Book:

Say: “Travel in the land and see how (Allah) originated creation….” [Surah Al-‘Ankabut; 29:20]

The theme or concept of reflecting is presented time and time again in the Quran and Allah (swt) does this for a reason. Reflection is not a pointless exercise. At its best, it brings about a significant change in us and actions that change the lives of those around us. At its worst, it brings a transient change. But even then, sum up enough of those transient changes and you will get a permanent one. So reflection is not a pointless exercise and instead I would argue that it is something as essential to the wellbeing of our soul as water is essential to the wellbeing of our body. Without it, there would be no change. Without change, there would be no improvement. And without improvement, life is simply not being lived.

So yes, Allah (swt) invites to reflect upon His creation and in this particular ayah He offers a method of doing this: “Travel in the land”. What better way is there to reflect on His creations than to travel through countries that are beautiful and countries that are suffering on a bicycle – a means of transportation that gives us plenty of solitude and time to soak in the environment around us – on the way to Makkah to perform Hajj!

There are many reasons why I am partaking in this ride. Fulfilling the Command of Allah (swt) is one of them and perhaps the most important. InshAllah, in my future posts I will address the other reasons. Until then: Rabbana afrigh ‘Alayna sabran watawaffana muslimeen [Our Lord! Pour out on us patience and constancy, and make us die as those who have surrendered themselves unto You].

Oh Why Do We Do the Things We Do

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Oh why do we do the things we do
Is it because we don’t know whether it’s true;
We sometimes sit and wonder as kids
What the meaning of all of this truly is,
Looking and staring at our hands in awe
At our thumbs and fingers, unlike a hoof or a paw

Oh why do we do the things we do
When we know in our hearts but we feel so blue;
Oh is there even a god in the sky
That looks over me when in my bed I lie,
Oh who are you that made me so
Perfect all from head to toe,
With a brain that thinks and eyes that see
Your existence I ponder in mystery

Oh why do we do the things we do
Is it only because we wish we knew;
Oh Lord in the sky I ask you to say
Something to me should I not go astray,
But when I rise from my shameful slumber
After years of wonder, toil and plunder,
I finally see that what you said to me
Was clear as day, perfect as can be

Oh why do we do the things we do
Are we blind to all that we see from you;
You say in this book about the origins of life
And how to live in peace instead of strife,
And how to be a good husband, son, and dad
And to please your mother, rather than wish you had,
And to give to the creation, of all there is
For He made it all, and all is His

Oh why do we do the things we do
Is it because we stay in our homes, caged in a zoo;
With love you created us from a bit of dust
And with that you gave us a whole lot of trust,
That we’d use what we have for help and do good
But all too often only wishing we would

Oh why are we, who we are today
And why do we do, what we do everyday
We wake and eat, work, and play
Without a thought, for what you told us to say
Should the ocean be ink for the knowledge you keep
The ocean would be dry, even before you speak

Oh why do we do the things we do
Oh Lord I ask you to show me what’s true
And wisdom and guidance, I ask for me
To spread your love to all humanity

-Talha bin Baqar

Ramadan Mubarak!

All too often, it seems that everyone ends up following the same boring paths we’re destined for. InshaAllah that involves a loving spouse, happy parents, and virtuous children. But somewhere in the monotony, lies all of the dreams and aspirations that we hoped we’d accomplish. All of the life questions we asked ourselves are somewhere in that mess. Are we really who we are and are our lives all they’re cut out to be? There’s a whole world out there. Al-Rihlah isn’t just about being young and crazy. We truly want to change ourselves from the inside out; to think outside the box; to be people of faith that know why we love Allah and why we’re so blessed to have a community with people as caring as yourselves.

We ask Allah to guide us in this blessed month of Ramadan, we ask Him to bless our beautiful community and the amazing communities that surround us. We ask Him to make us ponder our creation, our purpose, and to allow us to build bridges of peace throughout the people of the world as we humbly set off on our journey.

My Lord, You have not created all this without purpose.

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Bismillah and Salaams folks! I know it’s been a while since you’ve heard from me as well as the others on the team but, God willing, from here on out you can expect weekly blog posts every Monday, and perhaps more! I wanted to share with you all a verse of the Quran that I recited at the recent Rad Talk in Houston before introducing Al-Rihlah to the audience:

There truly are signs in the creation of the heavens and earth, and in the alternation of night and day, for those with understanding, who remember God standing, sitting, and lying down, who reflect on the creation of the heavens and earth: ‘Our Lord! You have not created all this without purpose — You are far above that! so protect us from the torment of the Fire (3: 190-191).

My dear Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan helped me realize something very beautiful in regards to this verse one day. He asked us students at Bayyinah one evening to contemplate nature and the universe. He invited us to reflect on the tiniest of organisms to the magnanimous celestial bodies above, and after making us realize how there is such order in the way our universe functions he provoked us with a very challenging question, “If God’s design and plan for the universe is so perfect then shouldn’t His plan for us possess such perfection as well?” Think about it and maybe let me know what you think.

I’ll admit right away to you all that I am someone that struggles a lot with faith, but I will never be content with the doubt that keeps me unsettled. A big part of why I left my corporate career and am now am studying religion and the humanities is to seek the truth about God and my purpose in life. Al-Rihlah has already been a huge blessing for me as the hours spent on my bike has offered me a tremendous chance to get away and observe God’s creation.

Umer and I rode our bikes 65 miles to Galveston last week and met this beautiful sight. Lo and behold, I found myself shaking my head in awe and whispering, “My lord, You have not created all this without purpose.”


Photo with the LaunchGood Team in Detroit!

Rihlah Team Update! June 1st, 2014

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Sallam and Greetings everyone!

This post is long overdue but Inshallah it will be the first of many to come over the next year as our team prepares for this incredible journey to Mecca!

Background of myself

Just to give an introduction on myself, My name is Omar Ghani. I’m an American Muslim of Pakistani and Indian descent. Alhamdulilah I have had the chance to live in several places in the world but Houston, TX has been my family’s home for nearly the past 18 years. Islam is a big factor of my life…A lot of who I am is thanks to the foundation of my parents and older brother who instilled Islamic principles in my life.

When I graduated from High School, I went to go pursue my business degree at the University of Texas (Hook Em!) There, I fell in love with the outdoors and specifically to cycling when I joined the longest Charity bike ride in the world, Texas 4000 for Cancer in 2012 (www.texas4000.org). It was a wonderful experience cycling from Austin, TX to Anchorage Alaska and raising charity for Cancer Research. During that trip, I fell in love with the outdoors, meeting people from all different kinds of backgrounds and wanting to continue striving to do good things in life with still a passion for an adventure.

Since then, I graduated from UT a year ago and now work for the Dow Chemical Company as a Purchasing Analyst in Michigan for this year and will later move back to Texas next year. I enjoy my career quiet and look forward to building a great business foundation and later incorporating it for my other goals in life.

Background of the Rihlah

The idea of the Rihlah actually popped in my mind a few months after I completed the Texas 4000 ride. I have never performed the sacred pilgrimage of Hajj (a requirement for every Muslim to do at least once in their life) and I thought to myself, what better way than to actually take the time out of it like the people of the past? The idea of the Rihlah became more concrete towards the end of 2013 by sharing a long journey to Mecca to the world and using my love of riding bikes to embark on a physically and mentally long journey in 2015 Inshallah.

LaunchGood and THANKYOU

As many of you are aware of and participated, we thank you tremendously for making our first campaign to start the Rihlah project a success!! While the Rihlah is an enormous task and does seem slightly intimidating to several, thanks to your generous support and contribution our team of 7 will make this journey a reality! To provide you with a quick update on where your contributions go towards, for this year you have helped us tremendously by allowing the team to purchase our bikes, basic gear equipment as well as media supplies to ensure that we capture the experience! Costs such as, Air tickets, the Hajj Package and other gear will be purchased through our personal pocket to respect that we are financially supporting our journey to Hajj.

We would like to thank LaunchGood tremendously for supporting the online campaign! They are a new online crowd funding site that supports Muslims projects worldwide to make them a reality and thanks to their hard work, patience and pushing our team to succeed, they helped us raise over $11K thanks to everyone’s support! We hope for their continued success to make other creative Muslim projects a reality and be a role model of American Muslim entrepreneurship!

AND TO YOU ALL!! THANK YOU and Jazakallah-Khair for believing in this incredible journey! Whether you contributed $10/$25/$50/$100/$1,000 we value your support tremendously! Our media team is thrilled that we have a better vision now to make this documentary a reality and hopefully soon share some great filming updates over the next few months! We hope that you all have received our thank you cards and T-shirts by now.

Special Thankyou’s to our incredible sponsors!

Sama Tours

Bicycle World of Houston


The Gopalani Family

And many many others

Getting the bikes and naming!

Ok now for the juicy stuff! Our team has nearly collected all of our bikes! For those of you curious, what our bike is, it is a Cross Tour Bike meant for Road biking and a little bit of gravel terrain. We hope these models, “The Jamis Bosa Nova” will last us throughout our training in 2014 to the last very last mile to Mecca in 2015 Inshallah.

As per my Texas 4000 Team’s culture, every rider must name their bike and so I encouraged my new team to do the same. As a joke one of our teammates said that each bike must be named after a Disney princess…and well I guess it’s serious now haha

Usman’s has named her bike Ariel, Emad’s is Jasmine and Talha’s Tinker Bell (But for real why that? Lol)

As for me, the full name of my new bike is “Qaswa Aurora Borealis”. In Islamic history, Qaswa was the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) camel in which he used to enter the city of Medina and Aurora because of its beautiful meaning on natural light (…and yes because of Sleeping beauty). The name of my T4K bike is Buraq so I’m happy to say that both of bikes have very cool Islamic reference names!

Training Camp and 2014 Schedule

Inshallah on June 9th, the Rihlah will be having its first Training Camp as a team! We will be training in a small town called Fayyetville, TX where I will cover the basics of riding a road bike, being alert on the road and being safe at all times to the best of our ability. We will be covering a lot of miles that day as well and hopefully be taking plenty of photos and filming to share to all of our supporters!

In addition, here is a schedule for our supporters to be on the Lookout for!

Key Dates

Training Camp: June 9th, 2014

June 28th, 2014 Ramadan Begins

July 28th, 2014 Ramadan Ends

Training Camp: August 9th, 2014

Training Camp: October, 5th, 2014

Training Camp: December 24th-December 31st, 2014

January-July 2015 Rihlah Team to train every Week

June 18th, 2015 Ramadan Begins

July 17th, 2015 Rihlah to Depart US and begin Journey!


That’s all for now! We hope you have enjoyed the first of many of these blog series and we wish that you pray for our success in making this dream a reality.

Sincerely and Sallam,

Omar Ghani

Rihlah Founder and Operations Captain





Emad Akhter’s Biography

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My name is M. Emad Akhtar, and I own my own Marketing and Multimedia company known as Fifth Moon Studios. I have been in the multimedia industry since late 2007, and have had the honor of working independently since 2010. My primary experience comes in the form of developing high-end content for companies and organizations, with my passion developed through Documentary Film making.

I became involved with Rihlah because a close friend of mine, Usman Aijaz, recommended me to the group to film their trip. I had the chance to meet up with Omar for coffee and we discussed the opportunity to film for Rihlah. I had already met other members of the group, including Imran and Umer while I was attending University of Houston, and Jaudat actually helped me out substantially when I was filming a music video for a local artist,

In terms of the trip itself, the one aspect I look forward to most is just experiencing the different countries that we will be traveling to, and being able to meet with the locals. Travel has always been a life long goal of mine, and being able to mix my goal of travel with my love of filming makes me a happy guy.

Things most people don’t know about me: I love peanut butter, cooking, watching terrible b-rate horror movies, and my guilty pleasure is watching food/cooking shows while fasting.


Umer Arian’s Biography

Posted by | Umer's Blog | 2 Comments

My name is Umer Arian and I am currently a medical student at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. My interest in medicine specifically lies in internal medicine and trauma. And my goal is to embody the title “Doctors Without Borders” by frequently setting up free or at least cheaper care in areas that are in need of it, both locally and abroad. 

The first time I heard of the Rihlah was during a road trip back to Houston after spending three days snowboarding on the awesome slopes of Colorado with the Ghani brothers. I became interested in the project simply because it is an opportunity of a lifetime. It is an opportunity that promises to develop me physically, spiritually and mentally. In addition to that, given my role as the Medical Advisor on this team, this ride presents me with the opportunity to develop my medical skills in a manner and setting that very few other opportunities would allow. By His Will, both of these opportunities will immensely aid me in achieving my dream of setting up medical care in the areas of need. 

The biggest thing I am looking forward is exploring the unknown. When I say unknown I am referring to things that I have never gotten to see or experience: I am going to get to see awesome landscape, meet new people, explore different ways of life and, if and when the opportunity presents itself, explore different ideology in regards to medical practice from country to country, city to city and village to village. In addition to that, I look forward to performing Hajj with a great group of guys. 

I am generally pretty quiet.