I've written before on the unmatched love that Allah (swt) has for His servants. The oft-cited comparison given by our beloved Prophet (saw) is the love of the mother towards her child.
Now can you imagine if ever an individual were to curse the child, how would the mother react? She would lose her senses, 'How dare you utter such nonsense against my child?!', 'Who do you think you are?!', 'Don't you ever say such filth again!' and so on.
No mother can stand to hear anyone cursing her child.
So let us imagine the seriousness of the issue upon which Allah (swt) has allowed both His most favored angel, Jibril (as), and His most beloved human, Muhammad (saw), to collectively curse the servant of Allah (swt).
Angel Jibril (as) prayed, 'Cursed be the man who finds the month Ramadan and fails to attain the forgiveness of his Lord.'
The Prophet (saw) concurred by saying 'Ameen.'
Ya Allah! This is a gravely serious situation. Will we be of those cursed by Angel Jibril (as) and Prophet Muhammad (saw)?
The severity is compounded by the fact that Allah (swt) has made the road to forgiveness so very easy for us.
Hasn't He promised to accept the dua'a of the fasting person when he breaks his fast?
Hasn't He promised to free a number of people from the Hellfire every single night of Ramadan?
Hasn't He ordered the fish at the bottom of the sea to pray for the forgiveness of the fasting person?
Hasn't He given us the last third of the night where He Himself descends to the lowest heavens and asks "Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness so I can forgive him."?
Hasn’t our Prophet (saw) stated "Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven."?
So how fossilized have our hearts become that we have failed to avail these beneficent gestures made by our Creator to entice us towards Him and His Mercy?
It behooves us all to make a sincere effort, a sincere prayer, a single sincere plea to Allah (swt) to cleanse us of all past sins.
Too often I find myself going through the motions of making dua'a. Devoid of passion. Devoid of fervor. Devoid of sincerity.
I liked this short video clip for some insight on how we ought to be beseeching our Lord (h/t to Tariq):
Let us all raise our hands in these last few days of Ramadan and from the bottom of our hearts pray to Allah to wipe our filthy slates clean and give us a fresh start.
He (swt) is more than willing to uphold His end of the bargain. Can we fulfill our end?
Sunday, September 30, 2007
I've written before on the unmatched love that Allah (swt) has for His servants. The oft-cited comparison given by our beloved Prophet (saw) is the love of the mother towards her child.
Friday, September 28, 2007
I love breastfeeding.
I mean, I love the *act* of breastfeeding. Between the mother and child.
The beautiful act is so heavily laden with symbolism, it boggles the mind. The mother pouring out her love into the child. The child’s foundation coming from no other source but the mother. The life-long bond between the mother and the child cemented with the milk of the mother. And so on.
Breastfeeding is truly a win-win situation for all parties involved.
First of all, the child gets all its needed nourishment from the healthy pure milk. No need for supplements, additives, and what not. Allah (swt) has made the milk perfect and complete.
The mother benefits as the act establishes a union that can not be replicated in any other way. She can lay claim to something that no other person in the world has done for the child. By feeding the child directly, the mother has created a connection with the child that can never be taken away. Never.
And most importantly, the father benefits.
Huh? The father?
Yes, even the father benefits.
You see, Ayah has this crazy upside-down schedule (she must be operating under the Saudi Shift) where she sleeps all day and is awake all night. And it’s during the course of the night that she decides to eat. And sadly (boo-hoo for me), this is something that I have no say in. Nature dictates that this act can only take place between mother and child. I'm SO jealous of my wife.
So I'm 'stuck' sleeping cuz I have nothing to offer.
Moral support? At 2 in the morning, my wife isn’t looking for emotional sustenance – she’s looking for her pillow.
Companionship? At 2 in the morning, my wife isn’t in the mood to talk (and neither am I).
The post feeding burp? Ayah looks so warm and snugly in her mother’s arms – it would be heartbreaking to separate them, no?
So its pretty much understood that I needn’t awaken with them. And folks, I plan to milk this bad boy for as long as it lasts (hey, was there a pun somewhere in there?).
After all, I deserve a break.
Have you ever lived with a pregnant woman for NINE MONTHS?! The constant mood swings, the crazy cravings, the monthly doctor visits, helping her get up, helping her sit down, carry this, carry that – it was like a full-time job.
But I won't be selfish and hog up all the sympathy...lets save some for my wife. I hear carrying a child isn't very easy...Well enough about her, let's get back to my pain and suffering.
Did I mention that Ayah took 12 hours to come out?! We were in the hospital for 12 long hours. That’s like a whole day people!
This kinda stuff leaves Deep. Emotional. Scars. Listen, any physical scars my wife may have gotten will eventually heal, but emotional scars last for a lifetime. A LIFETIME!
But I’m gonna man up and not complain. I haven’t said a single word to my wife about all the struggles I went through (thankfully, she doesn’t read my blog). So my immense sacrifices are for my Lord.
The same Lord Who has brought a semblance of universal harmony by giving the man a period of well-deserved rest - during the act of nocturnal breastfeeding.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Once Ramadan has arrived, the first thing one notices is the amazingly insane shift in the schedule, which I call the 'Saudi Shift'.
Night becomes day and day becomes night.
Most Saudis stay awake all night shopping, eating, visiting family, and running errands. Most stores and restaurants are open till 2 or 3 in the morning in response to this shift.
I was immediately exposed to the craziness of such a schedule during my first Ramadan here, when several of my coworkers took their annual 30 days of vacation during Ramadan. Being naïve I immediately assumed that they wanted to use the vacation to perform extra acts of worship or maybe stay an extended period of time in Mecca or Madina. But it was only later that I realized they use the vacation to sleep throughout the day and stay awake throughout the night.
And the schedule shift is not purely a social phenomenon. The work schedules reflect a similar shift, just not nearly as drastic. I work for the government sector and our hours are trimmed by three hours in the morning (we come in at 10am instead of the normal 7am).
The law firm where one friend of mine works has shortened their hours by almost 5 hours!
In all honesty, those extra hours are so very nice. Not because my family has made the 'Saudi shift' with our schedules - but an extra few hours of much needed sleep, especially after praying Tahajjud (not as much nor as often as I would like), eating Suhoor, and reading Quran after Fajr (one of the best times for this specific act of worship), goes a very long way during the day.
Now you can imagine how overall productivity takes a serious hit during Ramadan. The closest comparison I can think of is the week between Christmas and New Years, but stretch it out for an entire month, increase the inactivity factor by 100, and replace the alcohol-induced hangovers with the sleep-deprived hangovers. That's how slow it gets at the office.
Schools also make a similar adjustment by starting two hours later during the entire month. Again, a very convenient adjustment, especially for kids who are fasting. But one thing really did shock me the other day concerning the school scheduling.
Humza got a note from school informing us about special after-school activities during Ramadan. I was confused as to how they thought the boys would have any energy for sports while most of them would be fasting. To my great surprise, I found that the hours for these activities were from 9:30pm to 11:30pm. And that's for elementary school kids!
Humza is fast asleep by 8:30 every night and here they expect him to play sports until almost midnight. Truly insane!
On the plus side, you'll find many institutions willing to go the extra mile to assist the worshippers. One brother told me that his company actually gives the employees a day off for the performance of Umrah. Similarly, you'll be hardpressed to find a boss (especially in the government) who will reject your request for a day to go to Mecca or Madina.
And all government employees (which is almost half the workforce) are given their Eid vacation from the 24th of Ramadan upto the 6th of Shawwal. That gives them the opportunity to spend the last 5 nights of Ramadan in extra worship - one coworker of mine goes to Madina every year for 'Itikaaf.
Such is life in Saudi - the good mixed with the bad.
So while I think the Saudi shift is very much against the spirit of fasting, I love the accommodations that Saudi society has made for the fasting person - changes which in spirit were made to facilitate extra worship and ease the hardship of fasting but in practice are abused for less than holy reasons.
On a side note, I hear that a similar shift takes place in Jordan as well. Not sure if business or school hours make the shift, but I was told that socially speaking, people tend to sleep most of the day and go out for most of the night. I wonder how it is in other Muslim countries (anyone from Egypt or Pakistan??).
Ramadan in Riyadh (RinR) - The Arrival
RinR - The Saudi Schedule Shift
RinR - Iftar Time
RinR - Tarawih prayers
Monday, September 24, 2007
All Praises and Thanks to Allah (swt), Who blessed us with a healthy baby daughter yesterday. Please pray that Allah (swt) guide her and make her amongst the righteous in this life and especially in the after-life.
With respect to the other details, I’ve decided to take Br. Tariq’s advice and be a man. Fatherhood is on the rebound starting with this father (smugly pointing to myself). So no more of the girly info on the baby’s weight and height and time of birth and all that feminine nonsense. This will be my new style of raising the kids. (h/t to Tariq for the vid clip)
Anyways, I just wanted to share some quick thoughts on having a baby in a Muslim country (both Maryam and Humza were born in the US).
First thing that really gave me a nice jolt was when we stepped into the delivery room. Next to the chair I found a book of wird (litanies) compiled by Sh. Ibn Uthaymeen written specifically for the time of childbirth. With various verses from the Quran, dua’as of the Prophet (saw), and different adhkar, it really provided me and my wife a most needed injection of dhikr-Allah with which to start the delivery.
Twelve hours later, when Ayah finally decided to bless us with her presence, I was so excited that I totally forgot the Sunnah of calling the Adhan in her right ear and Iqama in her left ear. It was only after they had taken her upstairs to the Neo-Natal ward that the OB doctor reminded me. And she’s not even a Muslim! Obviously she had witnessed this practice by all her prior patients that she knew I had forgotten.
When I got upstairs to see Ayah, they informed me that they were feeding her some form of glucose drink. And it immediately dawned on me that the Sunnah of our dear Prophet (saw) informed us 1400 years ago of this vital step immediately after the birth of the infant. Did not the Prophet (saw) teach us to gently rub tiny parts of a chewed date into the mouth of the newborn?
Finally, about 20 minutes after Ayah’s birth, in the room next door another lady was delivering. All I could hear was her shrieking ‘Bismillah’ louder and louder and louder with each push. Her screaming so loud that the entire floor could hear wasn't particularly noteworthy. Rather I found her specifically calling out the name of Allah (swt) at the time of childbirth to be immensely profound.
It truly gave me goosebumps to hear the power behind the remembrance of Allah (swt) and how a woman in the most weakest of states turns to Allah (swt) for support. And she wasn't merely yelling out 'Ya Allah!' as some may exclaim 'Oh God!' or 'Jesus!'. I felt she was yelling out 'Bismillah' so her child would enter this world by and with the name of its Creator and Sustainer.
It reminded me of the state of our dear mother Maryam (AS) when she was suffering the pangs of delivery all by her lonesome and how she most definitely sought assistance with the dhikr of Allah (swt).
"Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the succession of night and day, there are indeed messages for all who are endowed with insight, [and] who remember God when they stand, and when they sit, and when they lie down" (3:190-191)
Friday, September 21, 2007
Humza’s your typical seven year old boy. He’s got his good habits and his bad habits. One of his most annoying habits is his incessant calling upon his mother (and, lucky for me, only occasionally his father).
When he wants something, he’ll say Momma over and over and over and over, until he gets a response. This is a bad habit we’re trying to teach him out of – especially since he also does it in school with his teacher.
Anyways, when he does this to his mother, as you can imagine, it annoys the living daylights out of her (as well as me and anyone else in the vicinity). At first, she’ll quietly and politely tell him to wait. After a few more calls of ‘Momma, Momma’, she’ll raise her voice and ask him ‘Did I not ask you to wait?’ But rarely does he desist. Finally, my wife or I will either sternly reprimand him or (wrongly) give in and ask him what he wants.
Why am I sharing this with you?
Well, I was thinking today that Humza’s mother loves him more than she loves herself. Indeed such is the love of the mother towards the child. But irrespective of how much she loves him, his constant and continuous calling upon her - sometimes for the most trivial of things - becomes a serious nuisance.
How much then must Allah (swt) love His servant who is ceaselessly calling upon Him, day and night, ‘Ya Allah! Ya Allah!’, yet He never tires of hearing those calls?
Especially when you consider the forgetful, heedless, sinning servant has done nothing to deserve a response. He has done nothing to deserve an audience with the King.
Yet Allah (swt) loves to hear His servant's call.
It has been narrated that when the disbeliever calls upon Allah (swt) for something, He orders the angels to quickly fulfill the person’s needs. But when a believer calls upon Allah (swt), He tells the angels to wait.
When the angels express their confusion at this seemingly backwards state of affairs, Allah (swt) replies that when the disbeliever calls upon Me, I cannot stand to hear his voice calling My name, so I wish to quickly silence him.
However, when My beloved servant calls Me, I love to hear his petitioning Me, I love to hear his sincere prayer, I love to hear him express his need for Me and so I delay his request knowing the he will faithfully persist in calling upon Me.
The Prophet (saw) is reported to have said: “The love of God for His creatures is seventy times greater than that of a mother for her child”
Verily our dear Prophet (saw) has spoken the truth.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
I haven't put up a Good News Post for quite some time, so I figured its time to cheer up my readers. Here's an uplifting music video from Native Deen from their new album, Not Afraid to Stand Alone (coming out soon):
There's another, more selfish, reason for posting the video.
It's not because one of the singing trio, Naeem Muhammad, is a good childhood friend of mine (he plays the football coach in the vid). Listen up sisters, he’s got only *one* wife. So there’s three lucky ladies out there just waiting to be snatched up. :-)
I’m also not posting it because his wife, Sahra, is one of my most loyal readers and commenters. Or at least she was, until that last paragraph. Hey sis, I was only kidding about the one wife joke. Right? heh (nervous laugh) heh...
I’m also not posting it because the young brother starring in the video, Tariq Jones, who plays the football star, is Naeem’s younger brother and one of the first ever members of the Muslim Kids Club. MKC was a youth group Sahra, Naeem, myself, and a few others started around 10 years ago.
Oh and Tariq’s not just a make-believe football player, he’s for real. And he’s nice.
The reason I’m posting it is because my wife’s younger brother is the *real* star of the video. Around the 2:28 mark, he’s the second football player coming off the bus, wearing number 81. You can see his face in the still-picture of the video above (right behind number 30).
Gosh (eyes tearing up), we’re all so proud of little Bilal. Sure his role is less than a millisecond, but it seems like a full second to us. He’s finally made it bigtime!
So be careful not to blink. You might miss a star being born.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I’ve been pondering whether to write one long post on celebrating Ramadan in Riyadh or a few scattered posts. I think I’ll go with the latter as there are so many things to write about.
Anyways, here’s the first installment of RinR – The Arrival.
Having been raised in America all my life, I had never before been exposed to Ramadan in a Muslim society. Ramadan had always been a quiet affair. My parents weren’t one to openly celebrate it so we never really ‘felt’ that it was a special time of year. And of course, nothing in American society ever reflected that the month of fasting had arrived.
But we sure knew when Christmas was coming. If the Xmas lights adorning half the neighborhood didn’t give it away, the annual Xmas cartoon specials surely did.
So you can imagine how refreshing it’s been to be in a Muslim environment come Ramadan. The first thing one notices is the build-up to Ramadan’s arrival.
Your heart skips a beat when you see the crews putting up the bright lights and various ornaments on the major streets of Riyadh (especially for me, coming from a Muslim community where they considered putting up lights to celebrate Eid an imitation of the Kuffar).
You feel giddy walking into the grocery store and seeing “Ramadan Sale” printed all over their flyers. The same grocery stores have also erected nicely decorated stands to sell Ramadan-specific foods.
Newspapers have begun running articles about Ramadan.
Restaurants have signs advertising that they’ll be open for Iftaar.
Another reminder that Ramadan is almost here - a week or so before Ramadan, you’ll start to see tents going up next to many of the Masjids. The tents are arranged by the local communities to house nightly dinners for anyone who wishes to break their fast. A gesture I find very reflective of the spirit of Ramadan taught to us by our Prophet (saw).
The buzz of Ramadan is in the air and it feels good.
Since moving to Riyadh, it’s the small things, such as the Ramadan ambiance that I’m really starting to appreciate. And it means so much more to see my children able to participate in this celebration and get excited about the arrival of Ramadan.
Ramadan in Riyadh (RinR) - The Arrival
RinR - The Saudi Schedule Shift
RinR - Iftar Time
RinR - Tarawih prayers
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Having attended Tarawih prayers the past few days, I’ve come across a very annoying situation. And I’m quite sure most of you have been equally disturbed with this occurrence. I’m talking about praying next to the brother whose burping out his biryani for all to smell or the sister who can’t hold down the ful she just ate for Iftaar (Ladies, don't deny this reality...you all have the same gastrointestinal anatomy like us men!).
This madness must come to an end!
And to alleviate us all from these gaseous brethren (and sistren...is that a word?), I’ve come up with a very convenient solution.
Let us create burping and non-burping sections in our masjids. Like the smoking and non-smoking sections, this will allow everyone to cohabitate peacefully.
Those of you who are notorious for your internal gastric implosions can comfortably pray in the burping sections (burp away to your delight!), while those of us who have been blessed with the gift of gastrointestinal fortitude can pray in the fresh air of the non-burping section.
Membership in these sections is not permanent by any means.
Let’s say you were invited to a Pakistani brother’s house whose wife loves to cook really oily and really spicy food (Yum!). Although you normally may pray in the non-burping section, tonight you’re stuck with the gastrically-challenged. You deserve it bro. Next time you’ll think twice before going back for seconds for the Chicken tikka masala.
Am I the only one thinking this??
Thursday, September 13, 2007
As we embark on this month long journey of Ramadan, praying for the wondrous winds of the Most Merciful to propel our sails and rejuvenate us with the spiritual energy we’ve been sorely lacking all year long, I wish to share with you my simple advice.
Many others have provided us with a more comprehensive presentation of how we should approach this month so I will spare you the repetition.
I have just one critical piece of advice.
Please, please, please do NOT overeat.
Not when you wake up for Suhoor. Not when you sit to break your fast. Not when you come home from Tarawih prayers. Not ever.
You’ve tamed your carnal desires all day long. You’ve fought your physical inclinations and suppressed your nafs from dawn till dusk. You’ve finally taken control of your wild uncontrollable nafs, thrown on the saddle, and mounted it. After months of having your nafs ride you and control you and steer you and direct you*, you’ve finally set aright the natural order by forcing your nafs to obey its master.
By overeating, you’re giving your nafs a second chance. You’ve held it underwater all day with your fast, at the brink of its death, and then with the act of overeating, you’ve let it up so it can gasp for air.
By overeating, you’re like the villain who has caught the hero and right before he kills him, proceeds to prance around haughtily, revealing the details of his devious plot, giving the hero enough time to loosen the ropes around his hands, think up a scheme to foil the plot, and save the day.
Only your nafs is no hero. And it surely has no intentions to save the day.
By overeating, you are strengthening the nafs, empowering it. You are handing back control to your nafs.
By overeating, you will sleep more, you will talk more, and you will worship less.
So I beg you, don’t negate all your hard work by releasing this ravenous wretched beast to cause its mayhem. Keep it subjugated. Keep it controlled.
Starve your nafs. Not from Fajr to Maghrib, but for one entire month.
*As Imam Ghazali mentioned in his Ihya, how odd would be the site of a rider carrying his horse. The rider is meant to be on top with the horse carrying him. Equally astonishing is the scene of the man who is controlled by his nafs. The nafs is riding him while it ought to be the other way around.
And here’s a bonus word of advice for you kiddies who had the patience to read this far: keep your tongue busy with dhikr. Our beloved Prophet (saw) even told us which dhikr is most preferable:
“So increase during this month of four qualities: two with which you shall please your Lord, and two which you cannot do without. The two that shall please Allah are the repetition of La Illaha Ill Allah and Istighfaar (asking forgiveness), and the two qualities you cannot do without are asking Allah to be allowed into Paradise and taking refuge in Him from Hell” [Taken from the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam's) khutbah on the last day of Sha'baan]
So constantly say La Illaha Ill Allah and Astaghfir-Allah as well as Allahumma Inni Asaluka alJannah wa Ajirni min anNar (O Allah, I ask You to grant me Jannah and save me from the Hellfire).
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I promised myself that I wouldn't write any political posts during this month of Ramadan, but technically Ramadan doesn't begin for another couple hours, so I'm still safe.
I wanted to bring your attention to my recent post on the spiraling US-Eritrea relations. The comments have gotten a bit passionate and are really worth reading, especially the noteworthy comments by Anonymous, who once worked for the US government as a representative in Ethiopia and Somalia, and Sahra, who is originally from Somalia.
However, I take umbrage to Anon's latest comment where he/she so easily hurls this oversimplified sandlot retort:
"Why is it that so many Somalis come to live in the US? If it is such a terrible Crusader country why come here, go elsewhere."
This reasoning is so tiring yet so common that I finally felt the need to address it.
The Muslim (as well as non-Muslim) immigrants who continue to make their way to the North by the millions every year are NOT, through their acts of migration, endorsing the West and its values. What they are laying claim to is their own human survival instincts.
Americans and the West do not realize the very real pain and suffering that prevails in so much of the South. The nations of the North have become so far removed from these harsh realities that they've convinced themselves, as they live in their insulated lap of luxury, that the indigent and destitute of the world cherish the social and moral values of their society.
They need to realize that people are NOT scrambling to get to America because of its liberties or its democracy or any of its other vaunted principles. The vast majority are simply trying to find a way to give their families a better life.
This is about pure economics.
They don't realize the lows to which a man will degrade himself in order to put food into his children's stomachs and a roof over their heads and clothes onto their backs and an education into their brains and maybe, just maybe, a chance at a better life.
Dignity and freedom and democracy take a back seat to survival and sustenance and hope.
The Mexicans who risk their lives for the chance to work the fields of Arizona or sweep the floors in California are not looking for a life under a democratic government. They are looking to send money home to their families.
The Pakistani MD who rejoices at his chance to come to the US to drive a taxi does not care about living a dignified life. He's lowering himself so as to give his children the chance that he never got.
To further my contention, look at the unfortunate souls who make their way year-in, year-out to the Gulf. There are no liberal democratic values championed by Saudi Arabia or the Emirates that the poor Afghani or Bengali come in search of. Their fateful trek to the Gulf is solely a survival tactic. They endure the abuse and adversity and ignore the human rights records and despotic regimes solely for that monthly salary.
The Africans who cross the Mediterranean into Spain and France or the Turks who enter Germany knowingly venture into those lands as second-class (or even third-class) citizens. They do so knowing that their future is in ghettoes and crime-ridden neighborhoods. They do so accepting their less-than-dignified life, not to vote or to express themselves or to breathe the air of freedom, but to survive.
To get away from the hell they once called home.
The values espoused by that society (be it America or Saudi Arabia) are completely irrelevant to their very real needs.
In their eyes, the US or the UK are the same as Bahrain or Kuwait. Lands of riches that give them – no, not them, but their families - hope for a better life.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The new moon wasn’t sighted here in Saudi tonight so Ramadan is starting on Thursday. Ramadan Mubarak everyone!
I don’t get it, what’s all this nonsense about some annual moonsighting controversy? Everyone simply has to fall in line with Saudi Arabia and we’ll all live happily ever after, right?
Listen people, Saudi is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques *and* of Nawaz Sharif. That ain’t no joke!
I mean really, who else you gonna follow? Pakistan? What do they have to offer besides a nuclear bomb and a sucky cricket team?
Or maybe we can all unite under the banner of Malaysia with their world’s highest mosque located in the Petronas Towers (actually would provide a nice view of the crescent). Naah. They’ve got a major highway named after a US telecommunications company (talk about corporate sponsorship gone wild!) and that volleyball game they play with their feet just freaks me out.
You think Turkey with their blasphemous ambitions to join the kaffir EU is worthy to be the official moonsighter of the Muslim Ummah? Besides, I’ve always had my doubts about their national drink, Boza. (whispering) Between me and you, methinks its been fermented a tad bit too long to still be considered Halal (end whispering). Now that I think about it, I was a bit lightheaded and flirty after I had a full glass during my visit to Istanbul. But they do get bonus points for Pocket Hercules, whose first name I absolutely love.
How about Iran? Well I must say that I’m impressed with a country whose leader has his own blog (last December the dude wished a Merry Christmas to everyone!) and has created its own national Encyclopedia Iranica (what an ironica name (get it? Iranica ..ironica ..the name is ironic ... when compared to Britannica ...oh forget it)) to counter the imperial influences of Britannica. However, any nation that makes such great kabobs and then serves them with plain white rice (adding a bit of saffron doesn’t change anything) has lost all credibility. Where’s the curry people? Would it kill you to add a little bit of sauce?
Or maybe Egypt with its national dish, ful medames. Need I say more?
So its an open and shut case. No other Muslim country has anything noteworthy to offer to this moonsighting discussion besides Saudi Arabia.
So stick with Saudi Arabia for the beginning of Ramadan. Or ISNA. I hear their annual conference is ballin’.
Monday, September 10, 2007
I want to dedicate this post to my dear brother Nawaz Sharif. I say my brother because we’re both Pakistanis and we’re both under self-imposed exile here in Saudi Arabia. So basically we’re like blood brothers.
Nawaz, I want to welcome you back home from your Pakistan vacation. You were there, what, a whole five hours. We really missed you.
Those vicious natives in Pakistan really treated you unceremoniously. Don’t they realize who you once were? I can totally understand your scowl in this picture.
Savages, I tell you.
Then they made you wait in the PIA airplane for ‘more than an hour’. The horror of it all. Don't they know this kinda stuff leaves scars?
Well, I’m glad to see that you’ll be gracing us with your presence for another three years in the Kingdom, until your self-imposed 10-year exile is over.
Well, you’re more than welcome to come hang out this Friday and watch the news on the day Benazir announces her plans for her celebrated return. However, my gut tells me her plans may have indefinitely been put on hold.
Too bad for democracy, eh?
Hey look on the bright side bro, now that you’re in Jeddah, you’ll be able to make Umrah during Ramadan!
Ramadan Mubarak, Chump!
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Ever since the US closed the Eritrean consulate in California, the tensions between the two countries have steadily increased.
The fateful war of words that preceded the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia earlier this year, is now taking place between US and Eritrea. The latest salvo was the US accusing Eritrea of harboring terrorists.
"We have tried our best to act with restraint with Eritrea," Frazer said. "We cannot tolerate ... their support for terror activity, particularly in Somalia."
Jendayi Frazer is the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.
I like what Ali Abdu, Eritrea's information minister, said in response to Frazier:
"We are very, very grateful to Miss Jendayi Frazer [for] exposing her ill-will towards the Eritrean people."
Its worth noting that the exact same accusation (of supporting terror activities) was made against Somalia and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) when they temporarily ran the country earlier this year.
I assume the terrorists Eritrea is harboring are the UIC leaders, who fled Somalia when Ethiopia invaded, and are currently holding "a 10-day congress in Eritrea to call for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia". Another case of legitimate insurgents being called terrorists – nicely bundled into the same group as Al-Qaeda. How convenient.
Speaking of convenient, the UN has called for Eritrea to stop arming the UIC insurgents in Somalia. Haven't we heard this rhetoric somewhere else? Ahh, yes – the US has accused Iran of arming the Iraqi insurgents. So nice to have the world turn out so symmetrical.
For those looking for more information on the history of ill-will between the two nations, check out this 35-point censure of US foreign policy against Eritrea released by the Eritrean Ministry of Information.
If you find the dossier too long, here are some points of interest:
31. The charges of “sponsoring terrorism” and “destabilizing the region” are the most preposterous allegations that belie the ulterior motives of the US State Department. Eritrea's position on Somalia has been spelled out unequivocally in various occasions and forums before; including at the IGAD and UN sessions. Equating Somalia's quest for national reconstitution after 16 years of mayhem with “Islamist terrorism” is either inexcusable ignorance or deliberate distortion of facts and events. As Eritrea has underlined repeatedly, the presumed presence of one or two alleged international terrorists cannot justify, by any stretch of imagination, the invasion of a sovereign country; and, the deaths of tens and thousands and displacement of almost half a million civilians.
32. The charge of regional destabilization is equally preposterous. Ethiopia has invaded Somalia in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions which were adjusted to “fit the new reality” because of the US support. Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia was long planned with the tacit encouragement and joint planning of the respective US agencies. Ethiopia is violating international law to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories and to spawn a permanent situation of regional tension and instability.
34. The spiral of hostility that characterizes US policy towards Eritrea boiled down to one overriding reason. This was true in the 1950s and it is also true today. It has nothing to do with principles of international law or with values of justice, democracy and human rights. The United States has all along believed that its perceived strategies in the region can be better served by Ethiopia; irrespective of the philosophical persuasions of the regime in power in Addis Abeba. This consistent and overriding policy was couched in Cold War terms in the 1950s. It has now been articulated in terms of the regional “Anchor States” as spelled out in the US National Security Strategy of 2002.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Last night, I’m flipping between the three international news channels that we receive: BBC World, CNN International, and Al-Jazeera English. BBC and CNN both headline with the missing Maddy McCann story, highlighting the ‘breaking news’ of the mother becoming a leading suspect in the case.
On the other hand, Al-Jazeera goes through the top world headlines – the Palestinian in-fighting between Hamas and Fatah over the outdoor prayers, the pending OBL video, Hurricane Felix causing mayhem in Nicaragua, the suicide blast in Algeria, and the Morocco and Sierra Leone elections.
Ten minutes into the Al-Jazeera news, I flip over the CNN and BBC and they’re still talking about the missing girl case.
And to think, this is CNN’s international branch – the one that is supposed to be better than CNN America, which is always busy with Paris Hilton, Michael Vick, and the latest terror scare.
God help you folks living without Al-Jazeera. At least you have the Internet...and my blog. :-)
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
"Are you ready for Ramadan?"
Sr. Izzy Mo asks the question and although I've been thinking about Ramadan for some time, her post got me thinking about what Ramadan brings.
Before I begin, I know I've gotten some slack from my readers on being so negative and all gloom-and-doom and I swear I've tried to be more positive (See Good News Posts). However, the true Naeem is coming out here when I say that Ramadan really brings out the entire spectrum of mixed emotions.
First of all, I love Ramadan. I love it soo much. I especially love it in a Muslim society (I'm working on a post describing Ramadan in Riyadh).
I love the spiritual boost that comes with it. I love the added incentives that our loving Lord has given us to entice us into action. I love how Allah (swt) has locked up the devils, leaving us face to face, for one solid month, with the evils of our own selves. Yes, I love the time I have with my own nafs (self), allowing me to confront it, combat it, and crush it, even if only momentarily (see below).
I love the varying cultural actualizations of Ramadan. Every culture has a different way they celebrate Ramadan. Check that, every family has a different way. I've come to terms with the reality that Ramadan is more than a religious event (although, I still believe the religious context needs to be highlighted first and foremost). Ramadan is a social and cultural celebration. I love that as well.
But I hate the realities that Ramadan exposes. I hate that I need Ramadan to bring me to a level of spiritual awareness that I really should be maintaining through out the year.
I feel like such an opportunist for waiting until Ramadan to wake up for Tahajjud (night-prayer). I feel like such a sleazy hypocrite for going to the masjid every night only in Ramadan. I feel like such a fraud for reading the entire Quran in this one month while I can't even duplicate that effort across the other eleven months of the year!
While the countless blessings of my Lord take no break during the year, why do I?
I hate that Ramadan lasts only for a month. Why does Ramadan play these games with my spiritual heart, playing its yearly peek-a-boo? Why does Ramadan give me such a high for these few weeks only to leave me gasping for more, like a spiritual junkie looking for the Ramadan fix?
I feel so dirty when I look back at the heights I achieved in Ramadan only to have fallen flat on my face so quickly after Eid.
I feel so discouraged and beaten down.
But the amazing thing is that every year, for the past 25 years of my adult life, my most loving Creator has allowed me this chance to revive myself - to sustain myself. He (swt) has not lost hope in me.
He (swt) has allowed me to waken from my slumber, recite my daily portions of the Quran, attend the nightly prayers, raise my hands in supplication and bow my head in prostration (am I even worthy of such noble gestures?) with that hope – the hope that this Ramadan, (O please let it be this Ramadan, ya Allah!...I'm begging You Please!!) that this Ramadan be the special one which will get me over that hump...that hump behind which my nafs is lurking, waiting so eagerly to pounce on the weak spiritual flame that I have struggled to kindle in these blessed days.
I hope and I pray that this Ramadan be the one.
That, I guess, is the greatest blessing of Ramadan. The hope that accompanies this blessed month.
Monday, September 3, 2007
I would like to bring everyone's attention to this beautiful post by Br. Abu Eesa.
He highlights a very important, sorely lacking point in our community: the need for everyone to show that extra bit of sincere effort when dealing with our fellow human. While he uses Princess Diana to make his point, I would like to highlight another iconic figure from Western culture, Mr. Rogers.
You remember Mr. Rogers. He was that slow-talking sweet old man who was the epitome of politeness and kindness. In case you've never heard of him, here's a clip showing him interacting with a young breakdancing boy (Watch Mr. Rogers try breakdancing. Pure Classic!):
I remember watching Mr. Rogers when I was a kid and I never really enjoyed him since he simply couldn't compete against the action cartoons like Transformers or G.I Joe. That's too bad because only now can I see that I missed out on alot. Someone like him has quite a bit to offer our children.
And it seems that he wasn't just a made-for-TV character. He was for real.
I really wish that Muslims had a personality like Mr. Rogers to offer our children. I remember when Maryam was 2 years old, we bought a whole bunch of Adam's World videos. How come we don't have anymore programs like that?
But more important than mere programs, we need more individuals like Mr. Rogers. People who make a difference, one smile at a time. People who embody the Sunnah of our dear Prophet (saw) by teaching neighborly respect and civic responsibilities.
Abu Eesa says it well:
"Once you have that love and concern for humanity in your heart, you’re natural disposition will change; you’ll go that little bit further with your friend, your neighbour, your work colleague, your customer in the workplace, the passer-by in the street, the one who asks your assistance at the grocery and so on. The lesson to learn here from the Diana experience and something I am sure that all of us can attest to is that such small acts of kindness are never forgotten, and always leave a good impression."
Let me conclude with this short clip of Mr. Rogers in a Senate hearing for PBS funding. Talk about a sales pitch from the heart!