Imran’s Blog

Al-Rihlah: Team Update, Major Changes to Ride, Kick-off Event

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Dear Al-Rihlah supporters!

This is Imran and Omar Ghani here saying hello. It’s been a while since we’ve updated you on things but now that the ride is just around the corner we thought we’d bring you all up to speed. This past year of training and route planning has faced us with many challenges that have led to incredible physical and spiritual growth. We are ready to experience a unique Hajj trip and are excited to share it with you along the way.
Team Update
  • Thanks to your support we raised $11,136 during our LaunchGood crowd funding campaign. These funds were used to purchase our bicycles, traveling equipment, and food. Major thanks to our sponsors Bicycle World and Fifth Moon Studios for the support they have given our project.
  • Due to circumstances that occur in life many of our teammates will be unable to do the ride. Thank you Jaudy, Umer, Emad, Usman, and Talha for being amazing team mates. We love you and hope you have benefited from this endeavor. We are forever thankful to you for believing in this project. Omar and I will be remember you throughout the ride.

 

Major Changes to the Ride

  • Due to the political instability in Eurasia and the Middle East we have decided to change the cycling portion of al-Rihlah to here in the United States. The above map is the new route that we will be following.
  • The ride will be a combination of about 50-60 miles of cycling everyday and driving to safe camp sites.
  • We understand that our final project is NOT what we promised you when soliciting your financial support. If you would like your contribution returned then please message us and we will provide you a full refund. 
  • Important Dates:
    1. Sunday, July 19th – Send-off party!
    2. Monday, July 20th – Imran to start cycling from Houston towards the Guadalupe Mountains.
    3. Friday, July 31st – Omar to leave Houston and catch up to Imran at Guadalupe Mountains
    4. Cycling + Road Tripping to various National Parks in the Western U.S.
    5. Tuesday, August 18th – Imran to end cycling portion at Berkeley, CA and start school.
    6. Monday, September 7th – Omar to continue U.S. trip solo
    7. Saturday, September 12th – Leave Houston for Hajj
    8. Monday, September 28th – Return home

 

Kick-off Event
 Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 3.35.36 PM
The time has come friends!
Come out and wish us farewell before we hit the road. We have been planning, training, and praying tirelessly and ready for an amazing trip.
Sunday, July 19th @ 8-10pm
1127 Eldridge Pkwy #100, Houston, TX 77077
FB Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/937014206356387/
What to Expect During the Trip

  • Vlogs and blog posts by Imran and Omar
  • Photography, photography, and more photography!
  • Visiting masjids and other religious centers across America.
  • Sharing as many conversations as possible with the new people we meet .
  • Campgrounds!
With that being said we wanted to thank you once again for your support. Please pray that we are able to complete this journey safely and in good health. Please let us know if you have any questions or feedback.
Sincerely,
Imran Ghani
Omar Ghani
www.alrihlah.org

I put my trust in God and He… WHAT WAS THAT?!

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Hmmm it’s 4 pm and I have about three hours left to put in my miles before the sunset… shouldn’t be too bad…

The hills behind the city of Berkeley lead to a thick forest. I feel lost nearly every time because the sun, in it’s different positions, changes the scenery so drastically. On the way back with only about 10 miles to go I decided to pray Maghrib (funny side story while praying: a fellow cyclist thought I fainted and stopped, asking, “Are you okay?!” I tried to hold on to the prayer but ended up breaking it and explaining to him that I was making Salah. Gotta appreciate cycling culture and compassion though).

Biting off my last bit of Cliff bar I head home through the dark forest. A couple of minutes pass by and I think to myself, “Man this place sure is different at night.” A few more miles go by and I realize I am going down a very steep, unfamiliar hill. AND THEN THE PAVED PATH TURNS TO DIRT AND I’M LOST. 

After a while of aimlessly backtracking I found a sign pointing to Berkeley. At this point I begin making my go-to prayer to calm myself. which is the last verse in Surah Tawbah of the Quran:

حسبي الله لا إله إلا هو عليه توكلت وهو رب العرش العظيم

God is enough for me: there is no god but Him; I put my trust in Him; He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne

I was calm… up until my legs started majorly cramping, my flashlight died, and the howling of coyotes took control of my thoughts. Hehe, it sure is different when praying in a state of fear.

I was dragging my bike up a hill when I a car passed by. I shouted for help, begging them to lead me the right way. I find out that I was just a street away from a point about 4 miles away from home.

I took this picture upon returning to the road, thanked and praised God, and said to myself, “Never again.”

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“…and what is even more hidden”

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Greetings Al-Rihlah supporters!

I’ve been getting some amazing views during my rides in the Bay Area back country. Meditating on the Quran while out with my bike for hours is the best spiritual retreat a guy could as for, and all praises and thanks are to the Divine.

These days I have been contemplating the story of Moses in the Quran from the chapter Taha. God prefaces the story by informing  the Prophet Muhammad (S) that the Quran wasn’t being revealed to him to cause him grief. Rather the example of Moses was sent down to encourage him and to expose the inevitable failure of evil no matter powerful it may seem in this world.

The ayah that keeps striking me these days is:

Whatever you may say aloud, He knows what you keep secret and what is even more hidden (20:7). 

What could be more hidden than a secret?! I mean I know that God knows all that is in my heart, but after some more thought I realized the implications of the last part of the ayah. It was almost as if God is mocking my act of thinking I could get away with the shadiest of shady. Those slight glances at the forbidden, those minor slips of the tongue, those thoughts of contempt towards my fellow brothers and sisters. It is an ayah that triggers immediate repentance and seeking rectification within myself.

What do you think?

hi

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”

image

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

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.”

Imran_Umer_Galveston_Ride

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Imran Ghani’s Biography

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My name is Imran Ghani and after graduating with a business degree from the University of Houston and a brief stint in corporate I went after chasing my dream of becoming of professor of religious history and philosophy. Currently I am studying Classical Arabic and other preliminary studies to prepare myself for graduate school. 

It all started with my brother, Omar Ghani, and I day dreaming about doing something crazy while were still young. One thing led to another and somewhere in the conversation Hajj was brought up so we decided, “Hey! why not do something awesome and perform Hajj while doing it?!” I would like my main contribution to this project be the spiritual aspect of the ride. Our main argument is that we feel like today Hajj has become too commercialized, not allowing enough time and space for contemplation and worship. Like the people in the past, I want trek mountains and valleys discussing Quran and reflecting on the reality that is life. What is the purpose of my life? What is God and what is my responsibility to God? What is this religion of Islam and do I really believe in this tradition?

For the most part I am really looking forward to contemplating nature during the ride and reflect on my faith in God and the religion of Islam. I also am looking forward to interacting with people of different ethnicities, religions, languages, etc. All in all I hope to accomplish this ride so that one day when I’m old I can tell people one heck of a story. Oh and I can’t wait for my calves to be huge after the tons of cycling we do 

I’ve been described as a stoic by my colleagues and classmates because of my serious work ethic and alleged professionalism. Trust me! I am the biggest goof in the world… so much so that even my 8 year old sister calls me a loser.