A row of artwork depicting sunflowers were laid out on tables for a contest last week at the latest Thabaat session at the Miftaah Institute, an Islamic education center in Warren. Thabaat is a social space for young people who don’t drink alcohol or go to the bar to network, but still need a place to gather professionally.
Tareq Tamr, the program director of Thabaat, said the program begins with a social hour.
“This time Alhamdulillah we did a community art display. We encouraged people to draw something based on Van Gogh’s sunflowers. And the reason for that was just the fall sunflower season,” he said.
The community space is for professionals 23 and older who have already graduated college and may not have obvious ways to connect with others their age. That often involves game nights, coffee and lots of laughter.
Thabaat means “firmness” in Arabic, referring to having firmness, constancy and stability in faith, based on a prayer the Prophet Muhammad made often. The program launched in February as a biweekly networking space on Monday nights.
Raya Smidi drove in from Toledo for the event and has been attending since the launch. She said the program attracts people on various parts of their spiritual journey.
“There can be people of all different levels of faith,” she said.
Attendees transition from a large common room for the second hour for lecture and discussion based on the Islamic sciences and spirituality. People are sitting in chairs and rugs on either side of a divider with Tamr and Shaykh Abdul Aziz Waheed, one of the spiritual leaders of Miftaah, at the front center.
Each session includes a community check-in to get a pulse on how people are feeling, Tamr said. At the most recent session, Palestine was on people’s minds.
Tamr says it’s a relief to have a space where you don’t have to begin conversations with disclaimers. “When you use that at the starting point for the community, that just basic level of trust, to facilitate community bonds,” he said.
Mohamad Zahwi, an attendee from Dearborn, said he appreciated having a place to decompress with others.
“Coming to an event like that where you can see other people who are feeling the same pain as you, gives you a sense of relief,” he said.
The main topic for last week’s lecture was tahara, or “purity.” Waheed said purification or cleanliness is half of faith.
“This struggle of trying to keep yourself externally physically clean… and also internally purifying ourselves,” he said.
Purity includes making ablution or washing up, before praying daily prayers, reading holy texts like the Quran, and performing the pilgrimage, he said. It also requires seeking forgiveness, making repentance and having pure intentions.
Smidi said the space gives young people a chance to connect.
“You can network in terms of like jobs, learning more about Islam, or even learn about other events that are happening, whether in the community or outside of the community,” she said.
Zahwi said there are new people at every session.
“Coming here has given me a whole new perspective on life,” he said, noting he’s made everlasting bonds with people.
Tamr hopes Thabaat inspires people to be better in their interpersonal relationships and as community members.
Toward the end of the lecture, two winners were chosen from the art contest. The pieces depict the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which is symbolic to the Abrahamic faiths, surrounded by sunflowers. Winners received gift cards.
Tamr says Thabaat is for everyone.
“Our hope with facilitating the space is that people from all backgrounds from all religious beliefs or no religious beliefs, can feel welcome to at least come and give it a try,” he said.