Sitting in a fancy Chinese restaurant in a booth surrounded by enormous fish tanks, we're all mesmerized by the colorful fish swimming around us.
Ree looks behind me and lets out a loud laugh and says, 'Look Naeem, those two fish behind your head. They're...they're...uhmmm...copulating.'
Copulating? I look at her with a that's-the-best-you-could-come-up-with? look.
So both kids turn and ask 'What? Where? What's going on?'
I'm stumped to explain and so I look at Ree since she's the one who mentioned it. Her evil smile turns to a look of confusion.
Then Humza blurts out 'Yeah I see them Mimi. Look there. I see the fish.'
Startled at Humza's 'discovery', I ask him, 'What exactly do you see Humza?'
'I see the two fish over there, copying each other. They're copying, just like Mama said. Right Mama? '
With a deep sigh of relief, she looks at me and replies, 'Right Humza. That's exactly right, they're copying each other.'
Saved by sweet childish innocence!
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Sitting in a fancy Chinese restaurant in a booth surrounded by enormous fish tanks, we're all mesmerized by the colorful fish swimming around us.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
As I lay here at the feet of the man I love, I wish to share with you my tale. It is one that billions have read, but none have ever heard.
Today I wish to break my silence.
Mine is the story of search. Search for peace. Search for fulfillment. Search for completion. And it is only now, in the most miraculous of circumstances, that I can confidently declare that I have concluded my search.
My mother, God bless her soul, had always counseled me to keep righteous company. She realized how malleable we are as a species, thus she constantly enjoined me to follow good people. She was always keen to add that serving an honest, sincere man is the greatest blessing in all of Allah's universe.
I never appreciated her advice when I was young for I despised that bitch of a mother. She had wasted away her life doing no good and now had the audacity to counsel me.
Judge me not, dear reader, for I have always loved her to my feeble bones, but I wish to be open and honest with you. Many of my afflictions and sufferings are due to her poor mentoring - that I cannot deny.
And so I rebelled as miserable youth are so want to do. I resulted in exactly that which my mother warned me against. Sadly, I had to experience some vile, wicked men in order to fully appreciate what my mum advised me.
For years I was ashamed of my tragic circumstances. I was embarrassed by all my misadventures. My mother had passed away and no one was there to watch over me, so I naively turned to all sorts of men.
Men who led me astray. Men who called me the most base of names, men who starved me, kicked me and abused me. Men who made me carry out the vilest of deeds. Men who cared not for me, but for my utility.
I would run away from them, looking for that 'good company' that my mother's voice would always beckon to, only to wind up in the same tragic circumstance. If you wish for ever anyone to educate you on the importance of keeping the right circle of companions, I am at your service dear reader.
My associations with these people carried with it unfortunate burdens. The sight of me would encourage a barrage of insults by mothers as they would scurry away their little children. Strangers would abuse me purely due to the company I kept. The places I would venture with these men ensured that I would remain a creature of great disrepute.
Or so I thought.
Redemption is truly at the feet of Allah's Mercy. I am living proof.
I found the man of my dreams, at whose feet I currently rest, by mere happenstance. I was rummaging through a pile of rubbish one evening, whimpering over my latest mishap, when I saw a group assembled behind one of the homes.
I had vowed to avoid such gatherings as nothing but trouble had come from them. Fortunately curiosity (or was it fate?) got the better of me and I quietly strolled over to listen in on their conversation. And immediately it struck me that this lot was different from all the others.
Their talk was not of the standard fare – finding some women, drinking, gambling, wasting the night away – acts which, only now that I have removed myself from that cesspool of degeneration, come across as extremely lowly and depraved. Their words were gently uttered with strong convictions yet sincere humility. They carried themselves with the utmost dignity with nary a sense of pride. And what they spoke of rang musically through my ears.
The eldest of them, maybe in his mid-30's, was very animate (in a hushed manner) in denouncing the errant ways of their elders. He called upon his mates to reject the idolatrous traditions of their people. And when he pronounced the name of Allah, that magical name I had heard from no one except my mother, I immediately knew I had found my calling.
After a life of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people, it was not chance that Allah blessed me with this moment. All those mistakes, all my suffering, all my pain was designed just to get me to this singular moment. With a teardrop of melancholy sorrow, followed by a teardrop of reserved joy, I resolved then to accompany this group and never leave their company.
Once they adopted me into their ranks, I fell in love with the youngest of them. His soft demeanor was like no other I had ever seen walking the Earth. He was kind and compassionate and treated me with the utmost respect. And it was he who convinced the others to allow me to join them in their trek to the cave.
Since that night, I have dutifully remained by his side and my loyalty has been duly rewarded with the most noble of rewards - none other than having been immortalized in the holy book of Allah:
Thou wouldst have deemed them awake, whilst they were asleep, and We turned them on their right and on their left sides: their dog stretching forth his two fore-legs on the threshold... (18:18)
(Some) say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them; (others) say they were five, the dog being the sixth,- doubtfully guessing at the unknown; (yet others) say they were seven, the dog being the eighth. Say thou: "My Lord knoweth best their number; It is but few that know their (real case)."... (18:22)
What great act did I, a measly canine, carry out to deserve the eternal celebration of my existence by the Creator of the universe? What deed did I perform to deserve the honor of being mentioned in the same breath as this esteemed group of youth?
I state with the utmost humility that I did nothing but commit to the company of these righteous youth and you, dear esteemed reader, with the countless other reciters of the Holy Quran are witness to my humbled fame.
Do not for a moment take my tale as a short-lived moment of entertainment. The lessons in my story are plenty for all to benefit from. I shall leave it to you, fair reader, to glean what you may from my tale.
Monday, May 26, 2008
The Muslim Link paper reprinted my post on the New Opium of the Masses and it got an interesting reply by one Peter Stanton:
"Naeem has gone off the deep end. With online porn, nude bars, Girls gone wild, drugs, alcohol and rampant extra marital sex, sports entertainment is the least of threats to our youth and families.
Watching and participating in sports in moderation is part of American culture Naeem. You have not provided a valid reason for why Muslims should remain separate from this activity."
I gave a short reply on the Muslim Link website, but thought it prudent to give a lengthier response here.
Peter is correct that social ills such as online porn, drugs, and extra-marital sex are much more serious than sports entertainment. In fact, if I were ever to counsel an individual who is partaking in those major sins, I may suggest sports as an intermediate alternative.
However, my target audience for my original post was not those unfortunate souls engrossed in such contemptible acts. My audience was the larger majority of practicing American Muslim (especially youth) who find sport entertainment to be a legitimate social outlet.
"Watching and participating in sports in moderation is part of American culture Naeem."
So what? Since when is that a criteria for accepting or rejecting a practice?
Besides, 'moderation' is a relative term. What is moderate to you, may seem extreme to me and vice versa. So let's refrain from using such subjective terms.
"You have not provided a valid reason for why Muslims should remain separate from this activity."
Not sure if you read the article, but I clearly stated several reasons, namely the idol-worshipping of the star athletes, the squandering of valuable resources into mega-stadiums, and most importantly the diversion from life that entails the following of a sport.
And let's not even get started on the insanity fueling Fantasy Leagues...
The fact is that the sport entertainment industry is not what it used to be – an afternoon out at the ballpark bolstering the father-son bond or a guys night out at the soccer pitch.
It has morphed into a multi-billion dollar juggernaut that not only consumes endless time and money, but also distracts the public from issues directly affecting their welfare.
Moderation is the last word that one associates with this industry.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
When I first read the scrolling news flash at the bottom of the TV screen '22 foreign nationals killed in wave of violence by disenfranchised mobs in South Africa', my first thought was of black South Africans attacking white expats.
'Oh crap, these blacks are gonna catch some serious hell from the local authorities for daring to raise a hand to the white expats', I said to myself.
I thought the police would enforce harsh curfews, carry out mass arrests, prop up check points at every intersection, maybe even threaten a state of emergency – all to ensure the complete and utter safety of their precious expats.
And if the South African authorities weren't doing enough, the governments of the foreign nationals would surely intervene, ranging from diplomatic pressure to emergency airlifting of their citizens.
Fortunately we were spared the horror of such a tragic turn of events.
Because the foreign nationals being killed weren't European or American. They were African blacks, mostly from neighboring Zimbabwe, as well as Malawi and Mozambique.
That's why the police crackdown never came to be.
That's why police hell wasn't let loose on the culprits.
That's why more than 20,000 of these foreign nationals have fled their homes instead of waiting for the government crackdown on these mobs.
That's why these 'foreign nationals' are huddled in tents surrounding local police stations out of fear for their lives, instead of living comfortably in their homes, secure in the knowledge that the government will do anything and everything to ensure their safety.
That's why 20 more have died since the original outburst last week (total now stands at 42).
Its just another case of black-on-black violence. No biggie.
Oh wait, the police finally showed up, NINE DAYS after the violence started. But this Reuters piece correlates their sudden arrival at the scene with the drop in the value of the South African currency as well as the potential damage to their bid for the 2010 soccer World Cup.
And ELEVEN DAYS later, the army has been deployed to help quell the violence.
This is 21st century civilization. Yay for humanity!
Friday, May 23, 2008
These pictures are proof:
On our recent road trip to Dubai, my kids went from one extreme (climbing road-side sand dunes) to another extreme (posing next to ice sculptures in the Mall of Emirates’ artificial snow slopes).
I also wanted to contrast the simplistic, yet beautiful, desert colorations in this father-son pic:
with the loud, in-your-face, prissy greenery of this father-son pic. I believe you’ll concur with me that desert brown is where it’s at and lush green is so 90’s. :-)
Sorry MamaParo, even you'll succumb to the alluring traits of the desert within all of us. :-P
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
For those of you in the dark (har har...get it?), load-shedding is the governmental act of intentionally turning off the power in order to relieve the stress on an overburdened infrastructure.
Thankfully, they're gracious enough to spread the misery throughout the entire day, so the suffering isn't concentrated.
But it sure does suck.
I was actually surprised that load-shedding took place in the capital city of Islamabad. After every three hours, they would have one hour of power outage. However, it was much worse in the rural areas. In Gujrat, where my parents live, twelve hours out of the day saw them with no electricity.
Now I wouldn't mind if it were being carried out as some 'Go Green' environmental campaign. In that case, I would proudly wear the sweat patches under my armpits as badges of honor. But sadly, its simply a case of administrative mismanagement by a government that wastes away billions on its military while neglecting its peoples.
Friday, May 16, 2008
I will preface this post with a disclaimer. I do not wish for the destruction of the US. While I am thoroughly disgusted by so many of the actions and policies of its government as well as so many of the materialistic ways of its consumerist society, my disgust is similarly directed to so many of our own Muslim nations, who are equally misrepresented and equally decadent.
My sincere wish is for a shift in the balance of global power; a shift where power is spread amongst a handful of powerful nations, as opposed to concentrated in the hands of a single superpower which sadly has displayed utter recklessness and mismanagement of that weighty responsibility.
That being said, I wanted to bring your attention to three articles that are ominously pointing to a humbling of the US:
I was really fascinated by this LA Times piece highlighting the reverse trend in global economics where Chinese businesses are actually finding it cheaper to run their operations in the US.
Talk about trading places.
"Liu Keli couldn't tell you much about South Carolina, not even where it is in the United States. It's as obscure to him as his home region, Shanxi province, is to most Americans.
But Liu is investing $10 million in the Palmetto State, building a printing-plate factory that will open this fall and hire 120 workers. His main aim is to tap the large American market, but when his finance staff penciled out the costs, he was stunned to learn how they compared with those in China.
Liu spent about $500,000 for seven acres in Spartanburg -- less than one-fourth what it would cost to buy the same amount of land in Dongguan, a city in southeast China where he runs three plants. U.S. electricity rates are about 75% lower, and in South Carolina, Liu doesn't have to put up with frequent blackouts."
And here is an article from CommonDreams discussing the impending demise of America's superpower status (incidentally coinciding with Russia's rise) due primarily to its oil addiction.
"...the U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s single biggest consumer of petroleum, using more of it every day than the entire nation of Sweden...the United States is importing 12-14 million barrels of oil per day. At a current price of about $115 per barrel, that’s $1.5 billion per day, or $548 billion per year."
And finally, there's the ailing US dollar. This article from the Telegraph states the obvious that the biggest players in determining the fate of the dollar are not Americans, but the Chinese and the Gulf countries.
Geopolitically speaking, its very disconcerting that China has such a large role in financing America's debt (nearly one trillion dollars in US bonds). There was even talk last year of China possibly exercising this 'nuclear option' by selling off its US dollar assets. Of course that would spell economic suicide to China, but they have far less to lose than America.
If the US were ever to suffer a demise, I would prefer it to go the way of Britain, where it was able to retain a dignified standing in the world, as opposed to an outright devastation followed by years of reconstruction – as was the path forced upon the likes of Japan, Germany, and Russia.
(BTW, Sorry I haven't replied to any comments...travelling and will be back in a few days. I appreciate everyone's thoughts)
Monday, May 12, 2008
I recently ran across this verse from the Quran:
"and worship thy Sustainer till death comes to thee" (15:99) [Asad translation]
Although the last word in the verse (Yaqin) literally means 'certainty', the most popular interpretations have it alluding to either death or the Day of Judgment.
This got me thinking how the meaning of this verse would considerably change if it were taken literally: "And worship your Lord until you attain certainty."
I read the verse as a command from our Creator, Who is most aware of our inner workings, to struggle through any existential doubts and reservations by continuing in our acts of obedience and worship.
When we feel down and out, beaten down by the trials and tribulations of life, having hit a spiritual road block, doubting the purpose of life, doubting our Creator, questioning His Love, questioning His Wisdom – we are to maintain our worship and He will make that commitment to worship a means of our attaining the much-needed comfort that is brought by certainty.
I don't see this doubt that occasionally creeps into faith as being such a bad thing. It’s a force that strengthens and fortifies one's convictions, sometimes through a process of needed adjustment and revision.
And it's in that light that I sometimes read the story of Prophet Ibrahim (saw) when he gazed upon the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars as possible objects of worship. The doubt projected by him did not posit him into the folds of the disbelievers, but it increased him in his belief of the One.
Doubt is the vaccination (in the form of a virus) injected into the body to strengthen the immune system of certainty. Doubt is the manure used as fertilizer to aid the growth of the beautiful flower of certainty. Doubt needn't be discouraged and rejected, but can actually be used as a tool to further one's faith.
And the proper way to deal with this doubt is not to abandon your Lord, but rather to uphold the relationship of servanthood and permit Him to return you to the blessed realm of Yaqin.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
My scattered thoughts on the going-ons of Burma (I can't call it Myanmar - my childhood Quran teacher's from Burma, so I'll stick to that name) and its cyclone tragedy:
How the hell is Burma being compared to Somalia?? I've read that in various occasions, most notably this Slate piece which had the headline 'The Next Somalia?'.
Although there isn't any explicit explanation for such a comparison, I'm guessing its the proposed idea being kicked around that the UN should militarily intervene for humanitarian purposes and overthrow the Burmese junta that is denying international aid to the cyclone victims. They're comparing that to the military intervention (more like invasion) in Somalia last year where neighboring Ethiopia (under direct orders from the US) overthrew the UIC (Union of Islamic Courts) who themselves had taken over the inept puppet government and established peace and some sense of order.
Its obvious to any objective observer that the Ethiopia/US invasion of Somalia had nothing to do with humanitarian purposes. I've posted about this before, so I won't rehash that argument.
But I must admit that the situation in Burma is ripe for such a humanitarian invasion. If reports are accurate and the junta is in fact denying aid out of paranoia and distrust, then I do believe that intervention (military or otherwise) is justified and even necessitated.
This is not about arbitrary calls for women's rights or hypocritical denunciations of un-democratic rule - tactics used by the US and gang to carry out their imperialistic policies. This is about the most basic of human rights - the right to life. If the government is jeopardizing the lives of its citizens and enacting laws and policies blatantly endangering their health and safety, its the duty of every nation to stand up against this injustice.
This is not about freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, or any of these other freedoms that are politicized by the West in their hunger for global resources. This is about protecting a people who cannot protect themselves against the oppression of their own rulers.
That being said, I will also opine that this endless campaign to demonize the ruling junta is probably being spearheaded by Burmese pro-democracy opposition groups with Western governments and media-outlets (check this one-sided Time article) more than willing to play their role as lackeys and stooges (see Iraq and Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress who played the US and media like a violin in fomenting Saddam's overthrow).
So let's critically analyze the crocodile tears being shed by these critics of Burma's military leaders.
Burma has allowed aid from China, India, Turkey, and others while rejecting assistance from most western governments who had vocally denounced their suppression of pro-democracy Buddhist monks. So how come these western governments, if they are sincere in their wish to help the victims, don't simply send the aid via China or India?
Or maybe just go straight to food-drops, bypassing airspace authorization from Burma? They've never cared for airspace authorization when it comes to dropping bombs, so how come that's such a big deal when dropping aid?
Seems to me if there's a will, there's a way. No need for all this media hoopla and grandstanding...
And of course there is that double-standard thingy with the US. I vividly recall the US refusing Katrina aid from Cuba and Venezuela. So why are they acting surprised when Burma isn't accepting aid from the US, Australia, and company?
Methinks Burma isn't the only one politicizing this tragedy.
So yeah, I'm advocating military intervention if the junta doesn't wise up and place the interests of its suffering population ahead of its political ambitions - but not by the UN or the US (but who else is there?...sigh). They've proven that they can't act in the interest of the oppressed (see Serbia, Somalia, Darfur, Iraq, Afghanistan), choosing their own interests and alliances before all else.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Whenever we drive from Riyadh to Madina, we've always wondered about the sudden black terrain that we hit near the outskirts of Madina. The shift is quite dramatic, from the expected light-colored sand and dirt that we see most of the way to the pitch-black lava fields that suddenly surround both sides of the highway.
And so it was pretty cool when I stumbled upon this satellite image of the area:
"The western half of the Arabian peninsula contains not only large expanses of sand and gravel, but extensive lava fields known as haraat (harrat for a named field). One such field is the 14,000-square kilometer Harrat Khaybar, located approximately 137 kilometers to the northeast of the city of Al Madinah (Medina). According to scientists, the volcanic field was formed by eruptions along a 100-kilometer long north-south linear vent system over the past 5 million years; the most recent recorded eruption took place between 600 - 700 A.D. Harrat Khaybar contains a wide range of volcanic rock types and spectacular landforms, several of which are represented in this view."
Scholars in the science of purifying the self (tazkiya-an-nafs) have counseled that attaining Jannah (heaven) is a two-step process. First, step on your nafs. Then step into Jannah.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Sitting with some friends the other night, the discussion of the Mawlid (celebrating the Prophet's birthday) came up and seeing that the brothers were salafis, their aversion to the practice came as no surprise to me. I normally tend to avoid such discussions (as experience has taught me no good comes when ignoramuses discuss such nuanced subjects), but since all of us are close friends with a positive feel for each other, we indulged each other.
While they were convinced in the error of my ways, I was simply looking for them to accept the possibility of a difference of opinion on the matter. But the strength of their convictions would allow no such thing.
It never ceases to bother me to what extremes we are willing to take our convictions. The brothers, with the utmost respect and dignity, expressed how I was so blatantly rejecting the 'truth', that I was so clearly in the wrong, that I was so obviously misguided (on this matter).
And this attitude is obviously not confined to one group.
In fact, the next night I was sitting with a brother (affiliated with the Tablighi Jamaat) who found it necessary to share his strong feelings against the 'deviant' scholars who allow eating meat/chicken in the West. He was stubbornly adamant that they were without a doubt mistaken and wasn't willing to accept any other possibility.
[Quick digression: Why is that Pakistanis are so insistent on this issue of NOT eating the meat/poultry in the West? When we were younger, we would make fun of this stick-up by saying the shahada of every Pakistani has the added portion "and McDonald's is haram". Pakistani dude may drink beer, womanize, cheat on his taxes, but will NEVER, EVER eat non-zabiha meat!]
This bothers me. The convictions expressed by these brothers allow no room for any other possible opinion. They have established an area of 'unquestionable convictions' which doesn't allow for any divergent views. For me to voice a conflicting opinion is tantamount to 'rejecting the truth', their truth. (In their defense, they all acknowledged that there are many issues on which permissible differences can occur – just that the issue at hand wasn't one of them…..hmmmm, who is to decide that?)
This is why I so much like the term 'Arrogance of Certainty' (h/t Muse).
But in reality, am I any better? I too have my personal realm of 'unquestionable convictions', such as Tauheed (belief in Allah), Prophethood of Muhammad (saw), belief in the after-life, and so on. If anyone were to question those convictions with countering opinions, I would be forced to judge them as being misguided and mistaken. Otherwise, what do I stand for?
So am I not equally arrogant in my certainty?
To what extent can we make claims of certainty to our convictions?