Following the Footsteps of Abu Bakr and Umar (ra)

As Muslims, we are encouraged to compete and hasten in matters of the hereafter. Even among the companions of the Prophet (saw) there was healthy competition, as they strived to be the foremost, solely to please Allah.

Umar ibn al-Khattab reported: The Messenger of Allah, (saw) ordered us to give charity and at the time, I had some wealth. I said to myself, “Today I will outdo Abu Bakr, if ever there were a day to outdo him.” I went with half of my wealth to the Prophet and he said, “What have you left for your family?” I said, “The same amount.” Then, Abu Bakr came with everything he had. The Prophet said, “O Abu Bakr, what have you left for your family?” Abu Bakr said, “Allah and His Messenger.” I said, “By Allah, I will never do better than Abu Bakr.”

Within our own community today, we have individuals who are endeavouring to strive for His Pleasure, just as the companions of the Prophet (saw) did. They do it not for praise, nor recognition; but to help others who are less fortunate. For years running, they have supported HHUGS tirelessly, raising funds by any means necessary, with a relentless commitment to our bi-annual Race to Jannah fundraising Campaign.  One of these inspirational heroes is Usman Ilyas.

A Brother to Turn To

Usman Ilyas is the go-to person for everyone that knows him; for his family, his extended family and beyond. They turn to him, knowing he will come to their assistance.  He is generous, always ready to help people, be it a friend or a stranger. There are many more layers to Usman’s character. Beside his friendly nature, he also has a very serious competitive streak, something his close friend Iqeel knows all too well about.

Usman’s competitive nature is what keeps Iqeel motivated; it keeps him on his toes, especially during Ramadhan. Their brotherly rapport builds for great competition; both equally hungry to win, determined to raise the most funds for HHUGS families.  When Iqeel introduced Usman to HHUGS a few years ago, he was aware of Usman’s competitive spirit and saw an opportunity to encourage him to fundraise further.

Prior to me introducing Usman to HHUGS, I had heard that Usman was into fundraising, as was his family. They would collect for various charities, doing cake sales and various stuff for these charities. At this time, I had just started the Race to Jannah and the first 2 years I didn’t have anyone (fundraising at the same level) to compete with. I always felt that if I had someone to compete with, it would push me more and more. I wanted to know how much I would be prepared to do, for the sake of Allah.”

Striving for Jannah

Iqeel invited Usman to join the Race to Jannah Campaign to which he agreed.  From that moment on, the dynamic of the Race to Jannah changed for Iqeel; he now had some serious competition.  The healthy rivalry between Iqeel and Usman stems from their drive to gain the pleasure of their Creator by doing a deed which is most beloved to Him; giving – and being the means for others to give in charity. Having a companion whom can motivate you, inspire you and guide you during your fundraising journey is a blessing both are grateful for.

“Our competition is all year round, not just in Ramadhan. We spend the whole year taking little jabs at each other, jesting with each other. It picks up the closer we get to Ramadhan. We try to outdo each other, in terms of what we are going to make the other one do when they lose, that’s the fun aspect.  The serious aspect of it is we are constantly reminding each other of renewing our intentions, about the fact that it is Allah that opens the hearts of the people; we will make the effort but at the end of the day, we don’t rely upon our results, or ourselves, but only Allah. The way to gain his pleasure is to the deeds beloved to Him. Although it is fun, it also helps us develop as people.”
Having Usman as a competitor has kept the challenge far more interesting for Iqeel. It has pushed him to limits he never knew he was capable of. Over the years, they have been neck and neck.

“The first that Usman did it was a lot of fun.  It was neck and neck; the money had to be in by Maghrib on the last day of Ramadhan, and he beat me in the last 15 minutes of Ramadhan.  It was so tense; it was everything I had hoped for in a competitor.  He pushed me to my limits. I had never raised so much before SubhanaAllah, and he literally beat me right at the end, it was a lot of good fun.”

Iqeel raised just shy of £15,000 that year, with Usman taking the champion title at £17,500. These were staggering amounts, unprecedented by HHUGS fundraisers prior to them. The following year, Iqeel beat Usman, taking it up a notch by raising £26,000.

Raising the bar

Not willing to be beaten again, this year, the dynamic changed. It was unlike anything Iqeel had witnessed before. Usman went to all lengths to win, giving himself entirely, his time and effort and including his family in his efforts also.

“This year was like nothing I had ever experienced before, when I mean – SubhanaAllah, it was everything and the kitchen sink! There was absolutely nothing that he didn’t do to try and win this year. I knew I was in a fight.  When he told me what he is aiming for, I thought how am I going to manage this. The competition was so fierce. He and his family were literally at it day and night; they were out there selling cakes, raising money, raising awareness – anything they could do, they were doing it. You cannot ask any more in terms of effort and commitment and passion, they were really on it”

He talks of the push it gave him, how it in turn made him do everything within his power to raise funds and take the lead.

“I had to use every trick up my sleeve, I had to ring (a)round everybody, I had to send message after message, I had to secure people’s commitments. I was also helping my son with his fundraising, so there was a slight distraction there, but I knew I could not lose. I would not have been surprised if I had lost, such was the passion and commitment and zeal that Usman and his family were putting into this, that I was like, ‘it seems it’s personal, they want this’. The outcome was that Alhamdalillah I had a few last minute really big donations which won it for me, and even though, SubhanaAllah, they had given absolutely everything, in His wisdom Allah deemed for me to be the winner.”

As Maghrib entered on the night of Eid, both had surpassed their past efforts as well as their best expectations – with Iqeel raising a stupendous £50,000 and Usman just a little behind with a breathtaking £40,340 under his belt. Alongside all of his efforts, Usman also sacrificed a great love of his for HHUGS: his love for sugar.  He was teased by friends and family, which made it more difficult for Usman, but he stayed strong and persevered. Iqeel describes Usman’s passion for anything sugary.

“Usman giving up sugar is like someone saying to me, you can’t use one arm for a whole month! It wouldn’t surprise me if he had dessert after breakfast!”

The lengths Usman went to raise funds for HHUGS is inspiring. Year after year, he continues to strive harder, to come up new innovative ways to raise funds for HHUGS. This year, both he and Iqeel got their children involved in raising funds for HHUGS with their own sponsored challenges – one doing a sponsored fast and the other doing laps of their garden. Both fathers recognise the importance of involving your loved ones with one’s fundraising and charity work.

A brotherhood to benefit others

The brotherhood they have, is a blessing for both. They motivate, support and encourage each other, both within worldly matters and their aspirations for the hereafter. Iqeel is grateful and thankful for Usman’s commitment and support throughout their friendship and especially for the competition!

“The reality is that I could have not picked a better companion, a better brother, to have done this with. It has pushed me to places I never imagined. I look at what we have achieved, SubhanaAllah by the sheer mercy of Allah, I can’t believe it. I know if I didn’t Usman with me every step of the way, I wouldn’t haven’t been able to do a fraction of what I could do. He is my brother and throughout the years, he has supported me in so many different things.”

It appears Iqeel and Usman have competed tirelessly for years, however they still have more to give.  Iqeel and Usman’s competition will take a step up next year. They aim to team up with their children to do a father and son vs father and daughter challenge.  Both are inspirations to us, that we too can strive with our loved ones, with our family members and friends, to do whatever we can to help the sisters and children in need on our doorstep.

This Dhul Hijjah, why not follow their inspirational example by signing up for the Race to Jannah with your children? Or you too can Give it Up For HHUGS and sacrifice sugar, or something else dear to you, in the best 10 days of the year.