In this post-Enlightenment, post-Renaissance, post-Modern time that we live in, reason rules the day. The times of bowing down to idols of stone and clay are long gone. The new supreme idol, second only to man's nafs, is his power of reason.
The tyrant ruling the kingdom of our conscious is intellect and it must be toppled. The role of king belongs to faith and reason is but a subject subservient to the king. While reason must play its role in advising the king, it must never be allowed to control the throne.
Rationalism is to be constrained and guided by servitude to the claims of faith.
In these days where science reigns supreme and almost every natural phenomena has a logical explanation, the power of man's intellect has grown exponentially while the scope of belief has diminished. The scientific worldview of modernity has usurped the religious worldview of tradition.
We need to corral our intellect and make it subservient to our faith. We have let it loose and that is as dangerous as letting loose our nafs. By their nature, both are in need of great disciplining.
Just as the nafs can only be controlled by going against its inherent nature (fulfillment of its worldly desires), the intellect is tamed by going against its nature (the need to know and understand everything).
And Who better to teach us this very difficult lesson than Allah (swt)?
The most perfect proof that our capacity to reason is limited and imperfect is found in the beginning letters of some of the suras in the Quran – the Muqatta’at as they are sometimes referred to.
Everyone accepts that these letters will never be understood by man – they are a clear demonstration from Allah that our intellect is incomplete and will never fully understand the Divine message. It is Allah's gentle way of teaching us that our intelligence is handicapped and we must never let it arrogantly assume that complete knowledge of the universe is a possibility.
Consequently, these verses are an appropriate counter-response to those who argue that surely Allah would not send a perfect revelation containing verses beyond man's intellectual capacity. If these Muqatta'at are agreed to be beyond man's understanding, why cannot other parts of revelation be equally inexplicable?
There are many verses in the Quran that present a challenge to my western-raised mind. My foundation is from a liberal democratic pluralist society and so my sensibilities are tinged by that upbringing. I find many teachings of the Quran and Sunnah to be quite challenging when harmonizing them with my intellect.
And that is the test presented to me by my Creator – my test is not to fight the urge to bow down to a wooden idol, but to bow down to my intellect and its thirst to rationalize everything.
Many of my contemporaries struggle with the verses on beating the disobedient wife, having sex with the female slave, capital punishment, and the like. I have tried for years to rationalize those components and harmonize them with my faith. I have read the works of Abou El-Fadl, Naim, Mernissi, Wadud, and Barlas and I have found nothing to placate my raging reason.
So instead of allowing my intellect to kidnap me to the badlands of doubt and disbelief, I suspend my reason and take it on faith that Allah (swt) has revealed certain verses in His infinite wisdom, beyond my capacity to understand - similar to those beginning letters.
Personally speaking, I see those controversial texts as tests of my faith in the message brought by Prophet Muhammad (saw).
In response, I have decided to humble my intellect and acknowledge my ignorance on matters of my faith that I cannot reconcile. Its actually quite refreshing and liberating.
But I understand how so many of my peers will find such a move as backwards and incomprehensible, for just like many of us are blinded by the nafs, others are blinded by the intellect.
In closing, I'd like to reference the balanced understanding that Muhammad Abduh reached, as stated in his Risala,
"How then can reason be denied its right, being, as it is, the scrutineer of evidences so as to reach the truth within them and know that it is Divinely given? Having, however, once recognized the mission of a prophet, reason is obliged to acknowledge all that he brings, even though unable to attain the essential meaning within it or penetrate its full truth. Yet this obligation does not involved reason in accepting rational impossibilities...But if there appears something which appears contradictory, reason must believe that the apparent is not the intended sense. It is then free to seek the true sense by reference to the rest of the prophet's message in whom ambiguity occurred or to fall back on God and His omniscience." (emphasis added)
So will we 'fall back on God and His omniscience' when our reason is unable to find the 'true sense by reference to the rest of the prophet's message' when confronted with an apparent contradiction to our reason?
That is the test of our times.
Finally, I'm working on a second part detailing the dangerous implications of my conclusions... hope to have it up in a few days, IA-
Side Note: Initially when I started to write this post, I thought to use the analogy of reason being an idol that needs to be slain, as Prophet Ibrahim (as) destroyed the idols of his time. However I found that analogy to be lacking as our duty is not to slay reason, for that would lead to taqlid (blind following), rather to discipline it, oust it from its undeserving place atop our conscience, and bring it down to its divinely sanctioned rank.
Monday, December 31, 2007
In this post-Enlightenment, post-Renaissance, post-Modern time that we live in, reason rules the day. The times of bowing down to idols of stone and clay are long gone. The new supreme idol, second only to man's nafs, is his power of reason.
Friday, December 28, 2007
What a fitting ending to one of the most tragic years of Pakistan’s short history.
From the Red Mosque siege to the ensuing spat of suicide bombings to the failed military campaigns in the Northwest Frontier to the expelling of the Chief Justice to the hoopla surrounding Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto’s return from exile to the martial law escapade to this latest act of inane violence, 2007 has been a terrible year for the 'Land of the Pure' (translation of 'Pakistan').
I won’t get into all the varying theories of who killed Bhutto and why, I just wanted to chime in on the talks of the near future of Pakistan.
First of all, I’m not clear why the elections are so critical. I admit that I’m very cynical, but I can’t believe that people truly hope for some positive change coming from these upcoming elections. Haven’t the mock elections where Musharraf was elected for President (followed by him dissolving the Supreme Court in order to make sure the elections were not challenged) shown democracy for the sham it has become in Pakistan (as well as the Muslim world)?
Have people become so desperate that they’ve become politically delusional and are placing hope in democracy in Pakistan? That’s some serious grasping for straws people!
Secondly, I get a kick out of all the doomsday predictions of Pakistan spiraling into chaos. Pakistan is not Afghanistan or Somalia or post-Saddam Iraq. Warlords or militias do not run the country. The military is without a doubt in charge, as it always has been and as it always will be. I say that not with any sense of national pride or arrogance, simply as a sad fact of life.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I strongly recommend you all to open your minds and hearts and give this very interesting article on finding Allah on Xmas a read.
I'm very intrigued by my dear sister Suroor’s ability to connect with Allah(swt) in a Christmas mass. Eventhough I attended a Jesuit high school and went to many masses during those four years, I never fully appreciated its significance in the remarkable manner that Suroor explains in her writing.
I do believe that many Muslims (especially in the West) have lost the emotional connection with our prophet Isa and his beloved mother Maryam (peace be upon them both), as they casually write them off as icons unique to the Christian faith, with only historical significance in Islam.
Why don’t we read the Bible to connect with the teachings of prophet Isa? Surely there are unaltered parts that have retained the spirit of his teachings. Surely the predecessor of our own beloved Prophet is worthy of some attention.
“That day I learnt to love Maryam, the blessed mother of Jesus, just like I loved Fatima and Aisha (may peace be upon them all). I also discovered the love I have in my heart for Jesus.”
I wish to feel that love for Maryam and her miracle child Isa. Although I don’t feel it necessary to attend a mass to gain that feeling, I can't knock Suroor for doing so.
While I don’t agree with her sentiments that Jews and Christians are not to be considered disbelievers, as she states here:
“Amongst those who will go to Hell are those who “disbelieve and deny Our revelations” (Quran 5:10). According to this definition all Jews, Christians, Muslims (Shias, Sunnis and their sub-sects) are not Hell-goers. They neither disbelieve in God nor do they deny the revelations.”
I do believe that respect and love ought to be extended to our faith-brethren in a manner that is sorely lacking in our times. A joint Christmas luncheon is an excellent gesture towards achieving that goal.
Monday, December 24, 2007
A sheikh and his students were once travelling in a boat. The students noticed a group of fellow passengers singing, drinking and dancing and understandably got very upset.
“How dare they act in such a lewd manner in the presence of our esteemed teacher? Don’t they know that a wali (friend) of Allah (swt) is accompanying them in the boat? What an insult to our sheikh!”
So they rushed back to their sheikh and informed him of their findings. They beckoned him to make a dua’a against them and pray that Allah (swt) punish them for their blasphemous actions.
The Sheikh raised his hands and with his students eagerly anticipating a stinging rebuke, he prayed, ‘Ya Allah, Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim, we are Your servants and slaves and we humbly beg of You to bless those youth with the same ability to drink and dance in the highest levels of Jannah as you have allowed them in this life.’
His students were shocked. ‘Oh teacher, how can you make such a lofty dua’a for these depraved, lost souls?!’
The sheikh sighed, ‘Have you not learned that entry into Jannah is reserved for the pure souls? So have we not prayed for Allah (swt) to purify their souls, guide them down the path of sincere repentance (taubah), and make them worthy of entering Jannah.
‘Do not let your anger cloud your judgments from the most perfect way of our beloved Prophet.’
Sunday, December 23, 2007
My brother-in-law, who is notorious for his lack of intelligence, came up with a brilliant idea and I felt the need to share it with everyone.
He recently began recording short interviews with his parents in hopes of sharing these tidbits with our future progeny. The topics for his interviews would be specific to their upbringing back in Palestine as well as other interesting stories from their past.
What an ingenious way to share the past with our future!
Every so often, I find myself thinking about the countless sittings with my parents and grandparents back in Pakistan and the various tales they’ve shared with me, wishing I could impart these gems to my children (and even their children). And here is a simple yet powerful way to accomplish that!
So I salute you dear Moutasem for a simple idea that even 7-yr old Humza could have thought of, but one that escaped his 34-yr old father.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I had written down these thoughts from my last Hajj of two years ago and I figured now would be a good time to share them with everyone:
This was my second time around as an honored guest of Allah (swt), although it would be the first time accompanying my better half. And even though I had performed the Hajj before, I actually felt more prepared this time - the countless number of Umrahs enabled me to concentrate on the internal aspects rather than burdening myself with the details of the Hajj rituals.
Ree and I had talked of going for the past year but our major stumbling block was securing a place to stay for Maryam and Humza during our 6-day pilgrimage. And it was this act of entrusting our kids with another family, purely for the sake of Allah (swt), which would begin our profoundly symbolic Hajj.
When invited to a lavish social event in which children are not welcome, the onus of finding babysitting is normally left to the guest. However, Allah (swt) is no ordinary host and the Hajj is no ordinary social event. In our case, He graciously took care of the babysitting as well.
As an amazingly unexpected blessing from our Lord, Maryam’s second grade teacher volunteered to take care of both our kids. And now with two weeks left before the days of Hajj, we began the logistical preparations – finding a Hajj group, packing our bags, packing the kids’ bags, tying up all loose ends with friends and family – as well as the mental/spiritual preparations – studying the rites of the Hajj, contacting everyone to ask them for their specific prayers as well as for their forgiveness, spiritually preparing for the Hajj.
And it was then that I started to realize the symbolic similarity between what Allah (swt) had asked prophet Ibrahim to sacrifice and the angst we were feeling as our journey was in its initial phases.
Both of us were feeling extremely nervous about leaving our kids for an entire week. It would be the first time for both of us to simultaneously be away from them for such an extended period of time (Maryam is seven years and Humza is five).
Our worries spanned the entire spectrum, from the emotional – who would comfort them when they cried? – to the mundane – how would they bathe and clothe themselves? And to top it all off, three days before our departure, Humza started running a very high fever with coughs and nighttime vomiting! It was so confusing and heart-wrenching that Ree was even considering not going.
And it became very clear to me that this is exactly what the Hajj is supposed to be all about. It is a journey of sacrifice. A journey of turning away from this life towards the after-life. A journey of sacrificing our deepest fears, worries, desires, and attachments for the edicts of Allah (swt). As our father prophet Ibrahim was asked to make the ultimate sacrifice, Ree and I were being asked to make a similar sacrifice (relative to our spiritual level).
Our attachment to our children was being put to the test. Our trust in our Lord was being put to the test. Once we both came to this realization, it became that much easier to accept this as a test from Allah (swt) – a test of our faith.
Every pilgrim seems to go through some sort of tribulation which I believe is part of the purification process of an accepted Hajj. And so for me, my purification came in the form of pain and unease caused by what most would consider very minor injuries.
When I first arrived to Mina, the tent city next to the stoning pillars, I somehow got a very serious infection inside my right nostril.
This infection would slowly increase in size and pain causing redness as well as swelling of my nose, with pain shooting into my head and down my neck. And only now, three days after returning from my Hajj and ten days after first noticing it in Mina, has the boil inside my nose begun to reduce in size, by way of emitting its disgusting mixture of brownish blood and yellowish pus.
I chose to describe the nauseating nature of the discharge as it is befitting the nauseating nature of my sins that I pray were similarly discharged from my soul during the Hajj. In fact the sins that I have committed must be even more disgusting in the sight of my most Loving Creator as He has continued to bless me day-in and day-out, yet I have relentlessly opted to turn away from Him and commit countless egregious acts of disobedience.
In addition to my nose, I was ‘afflicted’ by some very painful blisters on my right foot. As a result of wearing the wrong type of slippers while walking from Mina to the Kaaba and back, I got blisters in three different locations. And given that I was to make that trek several more times, my injury was that much more magnified.
It really struck me how fragile Allah (swt) has made man (or at least this man!) that even a small injury the size of a penny could cause so much grief and misery. This injury was infinitely lesser in comparison to the death of the stampede victims (over 300 died), yet it somehow impaired me enough to cause me constant pain and suffering. And only after I stole a pair of socks from Ree was I able to achieve some sort of relief. What a beautiful and powerful reminder from Allah (swt) of His great blessings and my even greater dependency upon them!
After having performed the stoning rituals, we proceeded to the Kaaba to perform our Tawaf-al-Ifaadah. With a crowd of millions, pushing and being pushed is the accepted course of action. More often than not, the pushing comes as a result of the massive crowd surges and thus out of the control of the individual. Nonetheless, it is recommended that one perform the tawaf with hands down by the side so as to prevent any harm to another fellow pilgrim. Sadly, every so often one is encountered by a small group of pilgrims who are intent on moving faster than the crowd and thus are forcing their way through. It is then that one’s patience is tested.
The first, natural reaction is to turn and either rebuke the individual, give him a stern look, or simply push back harder. Having been counseled against such actions, as they are unbecoming of a person on a spiritual journey to Allah (swt), the preferred reaction is to simply absorb the push and ignore it. Normally that is what I and the other 2.5 million pilgrims observed.
However, I feel that the best response and one that the Prophet (saw) would have himself enacted, as his character was the most refined and most beautified, would be to turn to the individual with a gracious smile, extend a hand of peace by patting him on the back, and kindly suggest to him to slow down. Surely, this takes an immense amount of restraint and patience, but I am convinced that it would not only calm the individual, but also teach him with love and mercy.
Sadly I was only able to muster up enough patience to do this a few times, but when I did, I noticed a very positive response. Their faces would at first have an unyielding look of determination while ignoring the barking reprimands of those they were pushing.
However, when confronted with a smile and an extended hand of peace, I noticed many would smile back and in turn relax their military-style march. Such was the sunnah of Muhammad (saw), was it not? Remember the desert Arab who urinated in the corner of the Prophet’s holy mosque? Truly if our actions and reactions would be carried out with this spirit of patience, mercy, and love, how elevated and exalted would our status become in front of Allah (swt)!!
The symbolic nature of our Hajj continued when we proceeded to perform Sa’ee, the running between the hills of Safa and Marwa, a reenactment of the desperate search for water by our dear mother, Hajar. The crowd was incalculably enormous on all three floors. It was actually even more difficult than the Tawaf, with both of us barely finding any room to walk.
And it was here that I realized how difficult it was to maintain my concentration on my prayers and remembrance of Allah (swt). I had become so engulfed in the actual performance of the Sa’ee, trying to avoid getting pushed and shoved, that I had lost track of the greater purpose of this ritual, the constant glorification of and beseeching to our Lord. In this fashion my life has passed me by, with its hustle and bustle consuming me to the extent that I have forgotten the ultimate purpose of my creation.
Life is like this unending stream of people running between the hills – it will continue with or without me. I will never be able to change its flow to fulfill my personal needs; rather I must accept it and move in conjunction with its natural direction. My ultimate goal is to move beyond the mechanics of this massive flow and concentrate on my own inner development. I must struggle to regain my focus and elevate myself from the earthly so as to reconnect with the heavenly.
What a subtle, yet beautiful lesson from our Beloved Creator!
As we were leaving the Haram to return back to Mina, I did notice a truly delightful trend amongst the millions. There was an immense amount of peace and patience. Like a spray of cool water during a hot summer day, the showering of divine Mercy upon the pilgrims established a sense of coolness around Mecca that no police force could have ever enforced. And even when the occasional person became so testy and voiced his anger, the pilgrims around him immediately jumped in to soothe his irritation with reminders of Allah (swt) and the holy state of our journey. Is that not how our life should be lived? Rather than simply witnessing confrontations or worse, egging them on, we should assuage such altercations with reminders of our Creator.
I will conclude with two parting thoughts. As we sat in the airplane on our way back, we both realized how amazing it was that throughout the Hajj, Allah (swt) covered us both with a blanket of inner peace allowing us to concentrate on the actual pilgrimage rather than being consumed by our worries for the children. That was one of my biggest concerns – that we would spoil our beautiful journey by the incessant uneasiness for Maryam and Humza’s welfare – yet Allah (swt) put our minds and hearts at ease allowing us to comfortably enjoy the sweetness of the Hajj.
What a truly remarkable Host is He!
And as guests visiting the home of a host, it is very disrespectful to talk badly of any mishap or hardship that took place during the visit. That was a mistake I made after my first Hajj – I was very censorious and critical of what I saw and went through. And to be sure, I heard many people complaining and criticizing during this trip, especially after the unfortunate stampede tragedy.
However, the eyes of my heart have been unveiled (to an extent) and I now realize that everything, and I do mean *everything*, is a blessing from our Lord – it is only due to my impatience and limited understanding that I am unable to appreciate it and accept it for what it truly is. And with that closing thought, I am able to declare that my Hajj was a sincerely beautiful journey!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Every year in Saudi Arabia, tens of thousands of local pilgrims take the decision to perform their annual Hajj without the proper governmental authorization. You see, the Saudi authorities have placed a limit on the local residents by restricting them to once every five years. However, there are many who bypass this formality and find their own round-about ways to Mecca.
I'm caught in the middle as I recently performed Hajj with my wife two years ago and I really wish to go again, but I feel a bit dishonest in breaking the law.
On the one hand, I understand that Hajj is a once a year opportunity to refresh oneself and wipe the slate clean, stand before Allah (swt) in the most simplest of forms in the midst of a mass of humanity and commune in a most unique way. The blessings are unimaginable and the spiritual exuberance is beyond words.
Millions of Muslims across the world dream of coming but once in their life, and here is a God-given opportunity to attend every year!
Besides, the reasoning continues, I won't be squatting in problematic locations – I'll setup my tent outside the busy areas.
And besides, if the Saudis can't get their act together with the billions of petrodollars that Allah has blessed them with, why should I suffer for their incompetence and poor-planning?
And besides, why should I allow man-made laws to restrict my God-given right?
My spiritual needs are gnawing at me to screw all the bureaucratic red-tape and just return to Allah (swt).
And then on the other hand I think that I need only perform Hajj once in a lifetime – there is no obligation upon me to go ever again. So why should I break the law for something that is optional?
Besides, even though the authorities could have better designed and planned for millions more, the fact that they haven't is reason enough to not exacerbate the situation by adding to the overcrowding.
The analogy to this situation is that of a highway road. While the road is wide enough for a 4-lane highway allowing cars to travel upto 75miles/hour, the government has only paved a 2-lane road with a more restrictive 50miles/hour speed limit. If I choose to go faster thinking that the road has a 4-lane capacity and the government is to blame for failing to properly plan, I am only endangering myself and others. True, the government should expand the road, but until it does, it behooves everyone to obey the limits.
Besides, while I may not be squatting on busy intersections, the mere presence of myself (and the 100,000 other illegal pilgrims) in the Haram doing Tawaf is inevitably going to cause someone harm.
And of course there are countless scholars who have publicly denounced the illegal pilgrims, with some even considering it a blatant sin to perform the Hajj without the proper permission.
Here is a good workaround: I know some brothers who drive upto the plains of Arafat on the blessed day of Arafat and if the authorities allow them to enter (without the permission), it means the capacity is still there and the government is allowing more to enter. But if they are turned back, they simply turn around and go home.
Maybe that's the best route to take.
So what to do? Well, I've taken the easy way out and decided to go and spend Eid in Madina.
Can't go wrong with that, eh? :-)
Friday, December 14, 2007
Here are two pics of baby Yasmin’s latest outfit:
What’s the first thing you notice? I mean after reading the word ‘cutie’. Be honest, when you give the pictures a second, more focused look, what image immediately stands out?
I won't comment any further in hopes of getting an objective public opinion.
Please prove to my wife that I’m not crazy – if only with respect to this design. :-)
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Here's a much-needed nice story worthy of a Good News Post, especially in light of all the negative attention being centered on the murdered Canadian Muslim teen.
"A Muslim man jumped to the aid of three Jewish subway riders after they were attacked by a group of young people who objected to one of the Jews saying "Happy Hanukkah," a spokeswoman for the three said Wednesday."
But the poor brother not only got beat up helping the victims, but also got handcuffed when the police arrived.
"Askari was first handcuffed alongside them, but he was released when Adler told police he was not an attacker, Hellerstein said."
Only in America! :-)
Seriously, I can't understand how these sort of attacks take place in public locations and onlookers just turn a blind eye. I'm no famed defender of the weak (Batman-style), but I can't imagine being in the same situation and standing by idle.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Once again sister Amy has provided me with fodder for a blog post.
The good sister is feeling the burden of a downswing in her faith – one which I can relate to all too well - and I felt it to be an opportune time to remind myself and others of a specific form of test which Allah (swt) puts us through.
We all accept that life is a series of challenges as the oft-cited verses from the Quran state:
Do men think that they will be left alone on saying 'We believe', and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false. (29:2-3)
Be sure we shall test you with fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. (2:155)
When contemplating these verses, I immediately think of loss of wealth or health. People often talk about being tested with death or terminal illness or the loss of a job or a home.
But overlooked among these more tangible losses is one of the greatest tests – the test of faith.
A period will pass where we may be dancing in the clouds in the company of angels, barely cognizant of the pouting shaytan in the corner of our souls. Good deeds are carried out by the dozens. Tears of faith and fear are readily flowing. Sins are but a distant, remote memory.
And with the flip of a switch, our iman plummets down to the depths of the devil's lair and we're struggling to make our five daily prayers. Shaytan in cohoots with our nafs is back on top.
In such circumstances, I immediately wonder if I have angered my Creator who has decided to punish me by taking away the sweetness of divine nearness in which I was happily immersed.
But I recently learned about the intricacies of this most beautiful test from Allah (swt).
When we are feeling the ecstasy of faith and are rushing to perform all the various acts of worship, our obedience to Allah comes as a by-product of this euphoria. We are simply falling in line with our desire for that spiritual rush. Obedience to our Lord is coming naturally and effortlessly.
But what happens when that rush is absent, when the high has worn out? Will we still hasten to submit to Allah? Or was our worship conditional on that existential high?
Thus Allah (swt) tests us by taking away that joy of worship and boost in Iman to see if we weather the spiritual storm by remaining eagerly obedient to our Lord or will we succumb to this heavy burden by begrudgingly performing our duties.
And it is in times like these that we need to double our efforts, increase the nafl (optional) acts of worship and demonstrate to our beloved, loving Lord that our faith and worship is to Him (swt) alone and not to the occasional spiritual exuberance we may feel.
Allow me to conclude with a quick point.
The word 'Lutf' in Arabic means kindness and graciousness and is the root of one of Allah's names (Al-Lateef). In Urdu the same word 'Lutf' means pleasure, sweetness, and enjoyment.
And thus it was from Urdu-speaking Sh. Zulfiqar Ahmed that I heard this beautiful explanation: These spiritual tests of rising and declining faith are designed to establish whether we are Abdul-lutf ('slaves of fleeting spiritual ecstasies') or Abdul-Lateef ('slaves of the ever-present Most Kind and Gracious').
So which is it?
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I never cease to be amazed by the unimaginable love that Allah (swt) has towards His most beloved creation, mankind. I love to ponder on the countless ways that His love is expressed for us.
I've written about this before (Call of Love, Are you a Lover or a Beloved), but in listening to a recent lecture, I've come across yet another indication of His love.
In the Quran, there are many instances of Allah (swt) directing the Prophet how to answer questions posed to him.
'They ask you what they should spend (in charity). Say: Whatever you spend that is good is for parents and kindred and orphans and those in want and for wayfarers' (2:215)
'They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit." They ask you how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs."' (2:219)
'They ask you what is lawful to them (as food). Say: lawful unto you are (all) things good and pure...' (5:4)
The common format consists of Allah (swt) restating the question and then commanding the Prophet to say such and such as the divine response. Allah (swt) is using His beloved Prophet as the intermediator, the go-between in this conversation between mankind and Allah (swt).
Each and every verse starts with 'Yas-aloonaka' (They ask you) about a specific matter, followed by Allah (swt) commanding the Prophet to 'Qul' (say) the answer.
The one verse in which this standard format is broken is the verse in which the object of the question is Allah (swt) Himself, verse 2:186.
'When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close: I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me...'
In this very special case, notice that there is no command to 'Say' (Qul). That’s because Allah (swt) has declined to command the Prophet to respond and instead has answered it Himself - "I am indeed close".
Allah (swt) is saying to all of His servants that if you ever wonder or ask about Me, there is no need for a mediator, there is no need for a middleman, there is no need for a Prophet to talk on my behalf.
I, the Creator of the universe, will answer you, my beloved creation, directly.
Allah is showing us that He is so close to us that He has even bypassed His Prophet to answer this call Himself.
Think of a lover who is getting the latest news about his beloved. His greatest wonder is 'Did she ask about me?' and imagine the excitement he feels when told that she did in fact inquire about him.
Truly Allah (swt) is above all possible anthropomorphic attributions, but a scene comes to mind where He is so pleased to hear His servant asking about Him that He rushes to answer, even bypassing His dear prophet (saw).
Ya Allah! How feeble and undeserving are we to receive such an honor from You!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Some call this the Digital Age. Others refer to it as the Age of Globalization. And then some say it’s the Post-Modern Age.
If you ask me, I see the times that we live in as the Age of Parental Paranoia.
For quite some time, I've wondered about this cloud of anxiety under which we subsist. It exists in our work environments where everyone is looking over their shoulders worried about getting the big promotion or the pink slip. It exists in our cities where petty theft and aggravated assault are all too common. It exists in our communities where distrust and apprehension can be found between neighbors.
But this sense of paranoia is most apparent and at its greatest intensity when it comes to our children. We're afraid to let our children out of our sights, fearful of the ever-present predator. We don't trust them alone with anyone, not even the Quran teacher (or is it *especially* not the Quran teacher?).
And then I counter this parental paranoia with my very own experiences as a child. I vividly recall the days of my childhood where my parents were completely oblivious of our whereabouts. My siblings and I would venture unimaginably deep into the woods behind our house - everyday brought forth a new exploration into uncharted territories. We would ride our bikes to the far corners of the county, sometimes even riding on the shoulder lane of two-lane highways, alongside speeding cars.
All this when I was between nine and eleven years old.
Granted we did live in a very white middle-class neighborhood where the local mini-mart was called 'Lucky's' and the nearby outlet road to the highway was called Quarterfield Rd.
No, Barney Fife was not our local sheriff. Although I'll admit that our only experience with the county police was when a bunch of high-schoolers were bullying a few kids at our school bus stop (one of them punched a kid in the face). So the parents contacted the police who setup a 'sting operation' (I kid you not).
They briefed us on how to act normal if the high-schoolers returned. And then when the bullies drove up the next morning, a police car was hiding around the corner waiting to pounce on them. True story.
Back to my point. Its true that my parents were recent migrants into the US and were not cognizant of the potential dangers of American society, so they didn't know any better. But how do you explain their white American counterparts who were equally unmindful of their children?
You can't just write off my experiences due to my three years in Smalltown, USA. At the age of twelve, we moved to the outskirts of big city Baltimore and our adventures continued.
Hurdling fences and crossing interstate highways on the way to the nearby mall to catch the afternoon matinée. Walking home from school taking shortcuts under highway tunnels and cutting through backyards. I'm bewildered by the insane activities of my childhood.
And I'm not talking about generations ago. These tales are a mere two decades old. Has society disintegrated so much so fast?
Although the film was set in the sixties, I could really relate to the story told in 'Stand By Me'. That type of coming-of-age adventure (minus the dead body of course) was very reminiscent of my childhood experiences.
The generational gap between the child of the eighties and his counterpart from the sixties seems to be very small.
But fast forward twenty years later to this day and age and it seems like those days of my upbringing were centuries ago. Can anyone imagine letting their child partake in such unsupervised escapades?
I may sound like such a grandpa when telling these stories, but I remember coming home from the woods with ticks stuck to our heads and our mother would heat up a needle to burn off the tick where it had dug into our scalp. It happened so often that we used to do it for each other.
I remember regularly getting eye infections (often referred to as a sty) because we weren't careful to wash our hands before rubbing our eyes. Nowadays, the moment my kids run into the house, my wife throws this anti-bacterial sanitizing liquid in their face before they touch anything!
As I'm writing this piece, I'm thinking that my type of childhood is probably found in the lower income bracket of 21st century America, where the parents are too busy struggling to worry about over-parenting.
Most of my current relations are with younger families living in well-to-do neighborhoods where soccer moms and metrosexual fathers are ever aware of the latest tabloid story or Internet urban legend of some crazed lunatic kidnapping babies from strollers as the mother is loading the groceries.
Add this mentality to the 24-hour news channels that are constantly publicizing fear and you have a recipe for instant parental paranoia.
So are the days of childhood (mis)adventures long gone? Are our kids doomed to supervised playtimes at the neighborhood park, never allowed to leave our sights? Will our children look back on their childhood and wax poetically about their 'exploits' in Chuck-E-Cheese?
Or will we buck the trend and allow our children to be children and let them grow up outside our artificially-created, sterile, secure bubbles of reality?
Sadly, I fear that its beyond our control and we have become victims of our societal circumstances. What a sad and sheltered existence we have created for our children.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Great news people! The BC's are out and this deserves a Good News Post, sorta (see my objections below). But since I don't have a Sorta Good News Post category, I'll file this under a regular GNP.
The good folks at Altmuslim and City of Brass have come out with their 4th annual Brass Crescent awards. Although they didn't announce it publicly, inside sources tell me that the winner of each category will get a years supply of chocolate covered dates, a teddy-bear named Jesus, and a million dollars.
Wait, you haven't heard of the BC's? Uhmmm, ok...so were you raised by a pack of wolves or a gang of gorillas? The BC's are to the Muslim blogosphere what the Oscars are to Hollywood.
And the greatest travesty of the BC's is that my blog should have been this year's Titantic (referring to the movie that won 11 awards, not the actual ship that didn't do as well).
I poured my heart and soul into every blog post and all I have to show for it is a measely Best Series nomination?! That's like winning an Oscar for Best Special Effects...everyone's clapping while thinking 'Is that even a category?'
So I think it behooves me to enlighten the BC folks and everyone else in the blogosphere how I qualify for ALL the other categories:
Best Blog: How many bloggers are brave and edgy enough to post about Matt Dillon dreams? That alone should have locked me in as the winner.
Most Deserving of Wider Recognition: My investigative journalism exposed the cover-up behind a UN official smuggling drugs out of Afghanistan.
Best Female Blog: There is no room for sexism in Islam and I have openly celebrated my feminine side on my blog. Just read my Ode to Breastfeeding. Oh and notice how I placed THREE exclamation marks in the post announcing my daughters birth. Many Pakistanis would have put a sad face, but not me – I'm all about women's right to be born. And did I mention that I had a dream about Matt Dillon?
Best group blog: I'm very moody and borderline schizophrenic. Does that qualify me for Group blog?
Best Mideast/Central Asian blog: My better half is Arab and I currently live in Saudi Arabia. And what's up with the inclusion of Central Asia? What do the nice people in Nicaragua and El-Salvador have to do with Muslim bloggers?
Best South/Southeast Asian Blog: I'm a brown man and I once wrote a personal letter to Nawaz Sharif. I also posted on the newest intriguing soap opera called 'Pakistani Politics'.
And what gives with the Best African Blog category?! Its like non-existent. And if it did exist, I would clearly warrant a nomination based on my in-depth coverage of Eritrea, the Nile controversy, and Australia.
Best non-Muslim blog: Uhmmm...(scratching my head)...some of my best friends are non-Muslim?? Ok, fine I'll skip this one.
Best Post or Series: Yeah, ok, so they threw me this crumb...I won't rest until I dominate!!
Best Multimedia blog: Folks, this is such an insult. Which blogger introduced the Muslim online community to the laughing Yoga, the Human Tetris, (even Best Blog nominee Yahya Birt found this noteworthy) AND dorky human Transformers?? Hint: It wasn't Baba Ali.
Best Ijtihad: I'm no Mujtahid, but I humbly present to you the single most important Ijtihad of the year: Ihram Improvement (sure, it wasn't my own ijtihad, but I was one of the scant few who publicized and embraced it). Fine, if you wanna be a stickler, how about my Tarawih innovation to separate the prayer halls into burping and non-burping sections. Not impressed? How about my calls for Iftar Reform?
Having proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that my blog is number vun (and that I have lots of free time), I call on my loyal readership to boycott the BC's and instead flood the organizers with a massive email campaign. They'll never know what hit them when they see their inboxes overflowing with emails from all 13 of my readers (defiantly clenching fist in the air).
In the meanwhile, go ahead and vote for my Best series nomination – but don't do it for me - rather, think of it as a vote for Maryam's, Humza's, and Ayah's college fund! Besides, by the time they hit college, a million bucks will only pay for their first two years.