Mrs. Jenkins* ruined me.
I wish I had never learned how the sunrise is a result of the Earth's rotation.
I wish I had never learned that earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates.
I wish I had never learned how rain comes from condensation of water vapor carried within clouds.
I wish I had never learned that lightning is the discharge of atmospheric electricity accumulated within clouds.
I wish I had never learned how seasons are a result of the Earth's orbit around the Sun.
I wish had never learned about the body's immune system, white blood cells and all that other physio-medical-biological crap.
Can you imagine how much sweeter my faith in Allah would have been if I attributed all these natural phenomena solely to His direct involvement in my life, instead of viewing them as some bio-chemical reactions?
Every sunrise would be a reminder how Allah has 'pulled' this blazing ball of fire out from the horizon.
Every deluge of rain would be an instant cause to run to prayer thanking Allah for the blessing.
Every earthquake or volcanic eruption would be an immediate reminder of Allah's power and wrath.
Sickness and health would be the domain of Allah, not doctors and pharmacists.
I'm convinced that pre-Industrial Age Muslims had a sweeter taste of Iman due to their lack of scientific knowledge. We may laugh off their ignorance and backwardness, but I'm sure they were stronger in Iman than most of us - they attributed all these mysterious occurrences in nature to God.
They had no other recourse. They didn't analyze and rationalize every single natural phenomenon.
They took them as communications from their Creator. The universe was one great blessing (or trial) after another.
Merely looking up at the sky would inspire immediate awe in them as how could Allah place above them this magical canopy without pillars or poles.
But for us, the sky is simply an empty vacuum we call space.
I imagine every spring renewing and re-energizing their faith by their mere witnessing of the dead plants coming back to life.
But not us - we see photosynthesis in action.
Damn you Mrs. Jenkins.
*Original names have been altered to protect the identity of stupid 8th grade science teachers.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Mrs. Jenkins* ruined me.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I just saw this work by artist Sandow Birk called the American Quran (h/t Calligraphy Qalam blog).
The project took five years (and counting?) and consists of Birk hand-transcribing the English Quran onto pages with paintings depicting life in America in the background.
My immediate reaction was 'Cool, another way of carving our own unique space into the American landscape.'
But then when I looked at the sample pics, I was turned off by certain imagery that clearly goes against "Quranic culture". Let's put aside the traditional Islamic stance against painting human images - for it can be argued that Muslim artists and miniaturists throughout the centuries partook in such forms of art.
What really offended me was seeing the translation of the Quran on a backdrop with a woman wearing a mini-skirt and another one breast-feeding her child. Blasphemous? No, not really. Such images are seen everywhere on a daily basis. But is it appropriate to place these images inside a work calling itself the American Quran?
What do the other pictures contain of the American lifestyle? Images from Spring Break in Daytona Beach? Maybe a scene inside a techno club in NYC? Or how about some fat-cat banker standing on Wall street holding up his million dollar bonus?
All images I would deem inappropriate inside a sacred text.
But then again, it *is* art, no? And as they say, 'All's fair in love and art'.
And the various pictures of dogs struck me as a bit odd, especially from someone who, according to his bio, "traveled extensively through the Islamic world, visiting several of the most populous Muslim nations".
You'd think he would've picked up on the small fact that mini-skirts and dogs are a bit taboo in most Muslim cultures. But I guess I'm projecting a non-American version of Muslim culture onto his interpretation of an American-Muslim culture.
I wonder if he's implying that an American instance of the Muslim culture will find these pictures acceptable.
Am I being overly sensitive?
Monday, December 21, 2009
"Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward. And that reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that “Alif, Laam, Meem” is a letter, rather I am saying that “Alif” is a letter, “laam” is a letter and “meem” is a letter.” So increase your recitation of the Qur’an to gain these merits, and to gain the following merit as well." (Prophetic Teaching)
I was raised in a traditional Pakistani home. No, we didn't eat Pratha every morning. I’m talking about our relationship with the Quran.
My siblings and I learned to read the Quran in our early childhood, memorizing large portions, enabling us to recite at extremely high speeds – all the while never understanding a word. I was taught of the immense rewards for reciting the Quran and so I dutifully complied, reading as much as possible in an attempt to accumulate good deeds.
Later, when I went away to college, rationality found its way into my religion. I figured it made no sense that I was reading something I didn’t understand. I felt strongly, as many college students do when it comes to their under-developed thoughts, that reciting the Quran without understanding was a completely worthless endeavor.
And as many immature individuals are wont to do, I began to look down on those who differed from my newfound approach. I would pity the Bangladeshi man whizzing through his Quran recitation or arrogantly correct my aged Aunt who would dash through her litany of nightly dhikr.
I figured the only way to benefit from any act of worship is by *intellectually* internalizing it and this required a competent level of understanding what was being recited and contemplating over it.
I extended this line of thought to my dhikr. In my childhood I would witness my elder relatives whirring through their post-prayer dhikr (Subhan’Allah 33x, Alhamdul’Ilah 33x, and AllahuAkbar 34x) and naturally I adopted their methodology. However, in my college years, I felt dhikr performed at the speed of light was fruitless and instead opted for a more sedate approach, choosing to recite less and ponder more.
So while I used to rush to finish reciting the Quran during the 30 days of Ramadan, I chose instead to read less with an emphasis on studying the translation. Similarly, I stopped sprinting through my dhikr and lessened the load, reciting each term 5 or 6 times, focusing on the meaning rather than reciting it exactly 33 times.
I convinced myself that intellectual comprehension was the key to spiritual bliss.
After all, that is the only way to internalize worship, no? Through understanding, contemplation, and deep reflection, right?
Ahh, the rotten fruits of modern secular thought.
Thankfully, I've been blessed to be in the company of people who have freed themselves from these chains of backwards thinking.
I’ve learned that great spiritual blessings (barakah) are found in reciting the Quran and doing dhikr, regardless of the intellect's ability to process the content. As long as the heart and soul are focused on Allah (swt), the blessings of partaking in these blessed acts are beyond our measly rationale.
I now understand how special Godly individuals are able to recite the entire Quran in one week or three days or even one day. I understand how some select few are able to recite the Tahlil (La-Illaha-il-Allah) thousands of times each day.
For the heart moves at a pace which the brain can simply not maintain.
Blessings are not derived purely from understanding. The Prophet (saw) even said so.
When he taught us that reciting each letter of the Quran will bring about 10 blessings, the examples he gave – the beginning letters of Sura Baqarah (Alif, Lam, Mim) – are universally accepted as being beyond the understanding of man.
So according to our beloved Master, blessings reside in the recitation of something we will *never* understand.
Now, does this mean that we needn't ponder and reflect on what is being recited? Of course not.
I am simply stating that we mustn't belittle those speeding along the fast lane of the spiritual highway, without a care for their intellectually mandated speed limits.
Monday, December 14, 2009
As you all may know, I'm not on the best of terms with the folks over at Brass Crescents Awards. That is, until now!
I got the following from their legal department:
From: Our Legal Department
Re: Your complaints
We have come to know of your recent tirade and are unaffected by your childish rants. The BCA has a long history of supporting blogs of the highest standards, dead and alive. That should suffice to explain why your effort has remained absent from our nomination forms.
Nonetheless, the truth of the matter is that your blog has been ineligible due to the Honorary Judge status conferred upon your kind self. We at the BCA secretly awarded you this status several years ago, which subsequently disqualified you from any future participation. We hope you understand that this honorary status trumps any BC award you could have possibly won. Please believe us.
As an honorary judge, your vote is of the utmost importance. We hope that you can review the winners of this year's awards and give us your opinion. Since Internet communication is not very secure, we will call you to get your votes. Yeah, just wait for us to call you.
We will then incorporate that into our system and adjust the tallies accordingly. We promise.
Again, we hope this clears up any possible misunderstandings.
Now, if you could kindly refrain from referring to us with feces-related names ("poopie-heads", "Brass Crap awards", "Brass DooDoo awards"), we would be much obliged.
So, there you go folks. It's official - the only reason I wasn't nominated is because I'm a secret judge! Yay for secrecy in the judiciary!
But I have my nagging doubts. I think it may be a big hoax.
I just can't imagine a legal document casually addressing me with my first name. Just doesn't make sense. Besides that, everything else makes total sense to me. I mean, I would make a perfect judge. My wife's always telling me how judgmental I am.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I've written before on the importance of reclaiming Jihad, but I've noticed a recent trend and felt it worthy to revisit the subject.
It has become commonplace in the current political climate for Muslims to regularly define (and sometimes redefine) the concept of Jihad. As I see it, there are three popular approaches, all factually correct, but functionally useless to those aspiring to holistically actualize this sixth pillar of Islam.
First, there are those who are keen to denounce blatant acts of terror and violence and disassociate said acts from the venerable principle of Jihad. This approach basically provides us with a clear definition of what Jihad is NOT.
That's all fine and well, but it fails to answer the obvious follow-up question - If that isn't Jihad, then what is?
The other popular trend is to emphasize the internal aspects of Jihad - the spiritual battle with the nafs (ego). Surely, you will find no greater proponent of this concept than this writer. The nafs is truly one of the greatest obstacles to pleasing our Creator.
However, this fails to address the outward needs of man. While struggling to purify our inner selves, we cannot turn a blind eye to the filth surrounding ourselves. The flood of secular hedonism is overtaking our homes yet we are busy with spring cleaning and interior decorating.
Finally, you find those focused on the spiritual Jihad responding to the claim that their ilk has abandoned the physical Jihad by waxing poetically on the glorious history of Sufi Mujahideen.
While this history is impressive to say the least, it says nothing about current day teachers of Tasawwuf and their inadequate approach to Jihad. Far too many of those calling to the ways of the inimitable Hasan al-Basri and Abdullah ibn Mubarak have become derelict with their obligations towards Jihad.
While countless awliyah of the past sufficed themselves with focusing on the inner self, content with the basic framework for "Islamic" governance provided by the sultans, emirs, and caliphs - the same cannot be said for today's situation wherein the Shariah has been shredded apart and relegated to the private domain. Yet, these spiritual inheritors of ibn Arabi and Imam Ghazali remain blind to contemporary political realities, choosing the route of passivity and non-interventionism.
Sadly, very few out there are interested in negotiating a balanced approach to Jihad that finds one combating the oppressions of the nafs while equally turning back the oppressive hands of the tyrant.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Well, it's actually four, if you wanna include mine here. Cuz after all, it really is *my* post that is highlighting the beauty of these other three, so mine is actually the most beautiful of all, no?
1. Tim points out the frustrations of "the perpetual oscillation between right and wrong curtailing my spiritual growth".
Such ingratitude we display in our regular commission of sins and the even greater ingratitude we perpetrate by sinning after having begged Allah for His forgiveness!
As I commented on his blog, how I wish that I could live out all my hedonistic tendencies and carry out all my sins and then once and for all, return to my Lord with the utmost sincerity, instead of playing this back-and-forth game of sinning and repenting.
But then I'm reminded of the numerous ahadith detailing how Allah (swt) loves to forgive his repentant servants - one hadith going so far as to state that if mankind were to cease sinning, Allah (swt) would destroy them and bring back another people who would sin and seek His forgiveness.
So I'm in the clear, right?
Not really, I say to my silly self. All those teachings on repentance and Allah's forgiveness are geared to those who make sincere taubah (repentance), not the wishy-washy version that I put forth every other day, which finds me scheming my next sin before my crocodile tears have even dried.
That's why I wish I could simply accrue my mountain of sins and then turn to Allah with an unbreakable promise to never return to that wretched lifestyle ever again.
2. al-Kakazai writes about frivolous talk at the Dar-al-Hadith blog.
How often do we find ourselves in a sitting, discussing matters that are of absolutely no benefit? Dare I say too often?
I have partaken in numerous such occasions and I must confess that I get up from such gatherings feeling spiritually exhausted and weakened. Nary a mention of Allah (swt) or His bountiful blessings. How odd!
Socialization for the pure sake of entertainment is a very strange phenomenon.
So is conversation for the pure sake of passing time.
3. Baraka reminds me of the countless prayers that I've pleaded to my Lord, so many of which He has eventually answered, and I, in turn, have so callously forgotten to acknowledge these divine favors.
"We ask and we ask and we ask of God, and then forget that we did so, or forget to even thank Him when our prayers are answered."
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
So, it's that time of year. No, I'm not talking about Hajj or Eid - this is more important. I'm referring to the annual "Let's take a collective dump on Naeem" Brass Crescent awards.
Another year has come and another year has gone in which the good folks at the Brass DooDoo awards overlooked my online presence. (Read about past travesties here and here)
In fact, their treachery has sunken to new lows this year - they added a category for dead blogs!! Its like they're saying that I can't even compete against a corpse.
Really? I mean, was that even necessary? Aziz, did you really have to go there?
Well, if they're going to go this far, it's only fair they should create a category for Resuscitated Blogs, as mine was dead for 4 months and then it miraculously came back to life. In fact, that's more reason to celebrate and give me some sort of award.
To be honest, I've moved on from those poopie-heads. The folks at BC wouldn't know blogging beauty if it kicked them in their aRSS.
So this year, I am going to officially make blogging-takfir of these folks. They're all dead to me. As of 0700hours GMT, they will all be removed from my blogroll.
What's that? They were never on your blogroll to begin with, you say. Well, in that case, I'm gonna double remove them and so I guess, that means...I have to...hmmmm...add them?? Well, that just doesn't make sense, does it?
Truth is, I have too many blogging awards and am thankful that I needn't worry about some cheesy BC award. Folks are running over each other to give me awards...it's like so weird. Like this guy here. I got his Gold Star award for having too much time on my hand...not sure what that means, but it must be good cuz it's a Gold Star.
Anyways, I'm taking my 13 loyal readers and going to play elsewhere. You folks have no idea how high I can fly.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Remember that scene in Braveheart, before the first battle, when William Wallace gave his stirring speech to the mistrustful masses. When confronted by a skeptic who declared that he would rather run from the battlefield and live than fight an impossible battle and die, Wallace countered:
"Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!"
Well, I fear we have all become like that ragtag army of weak-minded, indecisive characters.
For too long, many of us have been unwilling to commit to a cause in which we believe. I speak from experience while also, presumptuously, speaking for many of you out there.
Let me explain.
Over the years, I have dabbled with various movements, from Tablighi Jamaat to Jamaati Islami to Hizbu-Tahrir to Tanzeem Islami to so many other acronym-based organizations. I have introduced myself to numerous spiritual brotherhoods such as the Naqshabandi, Shadhili, and Ba-Alawi. And I even started up my own lttle group, the Muslim Kids Club, a Baltimore effort geared towards kids aged 7-12.
I'm a proto-typical Muslim-movement 'playa', sleeping around with so many while never having the guts to fully commit to any one of them - all the while thinking myself to be balanced and mainstream, looking down on the "one-trick ponies" who've naively giving up everything for that lonely cause of their choice.
But I fear my hidden trepidation and not-so-hidden pomposity has failed me.
No true success can ever come from sitting on the sidelines. And here I am sitting in the stands watching the single most important match, that of haqq (truth) vs batil (falsehood), scared to enter the competition, content with my sissie pom-poms.
I have for too long straddled the fence between activity and passivity, between commitment and lethargy.
Neither living for a cause nor dying for it - just going through the motions with noncommittal activism mixed with feigned piety.
Not sure why, but I have a theory.
We have become a content people, lacking vigor and fire. We have adopted industry standard best-practices in risk management. Like a prudent fund manager, we have diversified our portfolios in hopes of minimizing our risks. We have become living examples of the adage 'Paralysis through Over-analysis'. With our safe 9-5 jobs, guaranteed pensions, and retirement plans, we have adopted a psyche fearful of taking risks and making commitment.
And this fear has seeped into our religious endeavors.
After all, we convince ourselves, you'll never suffer the ignominy of divorce if you never get married. You'll never experience the bitter pain of a broken heart if you never fall in love. Right?
But what sort of existence is that?
Truth is that sleeping around is very dangerous - and that is equally applicable to the religious realm as it is to the physical world.
It's time to throw caution to the wind and do away with our 'judicious restraint'.
It's time we moved beyond the safe confines of our comfort zones and trudged into the realm of sacrifice and struggle.
Whether it be going out for 40 days with Tablighi Jamaat (and thereafter committing one's life to the cause) or giving baya'a to Dr Israr Ahmed or diving headfirst into one's local Ikhwan chapter or joining a Sufi silsila (brotherhood), let us all put our money where our mouth is.
Let us stop dilly-dallying.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
that the 10 most blessed days of the year are upon us. Try and take advantage of them.
While so many of us are keen to perform extra acts of worship in the last 10 nights of Ramadan, we are too lax when it comes to these 10 days of Dhul-Hijja.
Let us make this year different.
You can start by reading this and this.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
what an agent provocateur looks like? Well, dear reader, wonder no more!
Yours truly has uncovered rare footage of not one, but TWO of these elusive creatures in the wild:
Seriously, these guys can't seriously expect us to take them seriously.
I don't even know where to begin. I could take the more serious route and present the Islamic argument on where they have strayed. Or I could simply treat them like Larry, Mo, and Curly and expose them for the stooges they really are.
Hmmmmm....that's a tough one.
I'll choose Entrapment Stooges for $300, Alex.
First off, the poor saps are trying their darndest to convince Joe SixPack of their Muslim extremist credentials. One of them swears his love for OBL, going so far as to declare that he loves OBL more than himself! (huh?!) And when the topic of Israel comes up, he's able to inject the famous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad line of wiping it off the map.
Impressive - both OBL and Ahmadinejad referenced in one interview. Bogeyman caricaturing has never been so easy. Oh wait, I forgot to mention their donning of the keffiyeh. No Muslim stereotype is complete without it!
Then his buddy goes on about how the Quran commands Muslims to terrorize all non-Muslims, even quoting the exact word in Arabic (with impressive pronunciation I might add). But I'm extremely disappointed that Agent McFly failed to quote the more fiery verse of 'slay them wherever you find them.'
Tsk, tsk. The researchers back at base must have slept on this one.
In their defense, they've done a respectable job in presenting themselves as 'real' Muslims to the larger Muslim community. With their smooth Arabic, requisite elements for the hardcore Islamic look (bushy beard, kufi and keffiyah), limited knowledge of the Quran and Hadith (I liked their twist on the famous hadith where Umar swears his love for the Prophet (saw) by stating that he loves the Prophet more than himself, but this goof instead swears by Allah that he loves OBL more than himself) - these guys present just enough a veneer of Muslim thugishness to bedazzle, bewilder, and be-stupefy* the masses.
Finally, one of them admits to having (coincidentally) known the young Muslims Americans involved in three separate cases dealing with plots to carry out terrorist acts. But he washes his hands of them when he declares "I would not do it myself."
Of course not. Your job is to entice, enlist, and entrap.
These jokers are the GWoT equivalent of IT honeypots - Fake computing systems designed to bait hackers so IT security surveillance teams can collect information on the latest hacking techniques.
The only fools who would take these schmucks seriously are naive Americans and even more naive young Muslims.
...(pause to think)...
*My made up word. I couldn't think of another word starting with 'be'
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Stuck in a crumbling marriage with Billy Bob, poor Mary Lou is constantly wavering between the lows of physical violence and the highs of sweet love - abundantly showered on her by a suddenly remorseful husband.
While she knows that Billy Bob loves her to death, a fact unrealized by her friends and family, she fears those moments when his inner demons incite him to let loose on her petite frame.
Like that evening last weekend, when little Johnny broke daddy's favorite beer mug. Mary Lou pleaded in vain, begging her high school sweetheart to simply buy another mug. But the backlash was swift and severe. Billy Bob’s eyes turned bright red and with one fell swoop, he planted Mary Lou on her back with a deep blue bruise on her side to serve as memorabilia.
Or like the time two weeks ago, when Betty Sue from down the street dropped by for an unannounced visit. While she may be as nice as apple pie on a Sunday afternoon, Betty Sue just doesn't know when to quit talking. So she ended up leaving right before Billy Bob came home, causing Mary Lou to rush dinner; and in her haste, she burned the casserole.
Billy Bob didn’t take too kindly to the sentiment. She tried to explain that Betty Sue the neighborhood chatterbox had come over unexpectedly but that only increased his fury, resulting in a ferocious slap to the back and a quick punch to the face.
Pastor Buck has regularly provided them with counseling, constantly calling on Billy Bob to withhold quick judgments and temper his anger – but to no avail. The beating has only intensified at every perceived slight to his fragile manhood.
Mayor Jones even got involved, at the behest of Mary Lou’s mother. But no bigwig from Town Hall, driving a big car and spouting even bigger words in some official statement is changin’ Billy Bob’s wayward ways.
Mary Lou’s family has consistently pleaded for her to leave the scoundrel. The gifts he showers you with are no consolation for the misery he has heaped upon you, they cry. But she keeps holding out, in hopes that next time Billy Bob’s tears will be genuine and his promise to rehabilitate himself will be legitimate.
The more I think about it, the more I can’t help but compare the plight of the American Muslim community to the sufferings of poor Mary Lou.
In the postmortem analysis of the tragic shootings in Texas, the situation bears an uncanny resemblance to the tension felt moments before an abusive husband’s foreseeable outburst:
1. An unfortunate incident involving Muslims has lit the fire in the American landscape with media talking heads inciting the masses to question every American Muslims' loyalties.
2. Leaders of the Muslim community have come out with all sorts of statements in hopes of forestalling an Islamophobic backlash.
3. Politicians and religious leaders have released official statements calling on the American community to temper bottled-up frustrations and withhold judging the wider Muslim American community.
4. All the while, American Muslims are legitimately fearful of the impending backlash from the wider American citizenry with whom they wish simply to coexist peacefully.
And this sad cycle has repeated itself countless number of times since the inception of the Global War on Terror.
So the question remains – Should Mary Lou leave this roller coaster relationship with Billy Bob or cling to the hope that they can find a way to coexist and maybe even live happily ever after?
Saturday, November 7, 2009
A beautiful exchange between two special lovers of Allah (swt):
Imam Jafar as-Sadiq asked the famous saint Shaqiq al-Balkhi about the affairs of his people.
Shaqiq al-Balkhi replied, 'They are well. When they receive from the blessings of Allah (swt), they are thankful. And when they are tested with difficulty, they bear patiently.'
Imam Jafar frowned, replying 'Such is the state of dogs.'
And he continued, 'The state of true believers is that when they are showered with Allah's blessings, they give. And when they are tested, they are thankful.'
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I scoff at the mere suggestion, reminding myself of the various injunctions of Allah (swt) and His messenger (saw) that not only make certain forms of combat necessary, but commendable. How can any sane Muslim ever consider all forms of war to be criminal, especially when our Creator has stated, "Fighting is prescribed upon you and you dislike it. However, it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you..."(2:216)?
The Prophet took part in many battles and he surely was no criminal! So who are we to suggest that war become a criminal act, worthy of universal condemnation?
Of course, when I bring up the criminality of war as discussed in contemporary forums, I am looking at it less from secular, international standards and more from Islamic juristic rulings. So, in reality, my question may be better phrased - Should war be Haram?
My concern arises from a recent talk given by Mahathir Mohammad on the call to criminalize war (YouTube link).
While he didn't express any earth-shattering points in his short talk, it struck me while listening that war in the 21st century is entirely different from how warfare was conducted in the past. So maybe it *is* time that we reconsider the Islamic ruling on war as its carried out in this day and age.
After all, Muslims universally reject modern-day slavery - not because slavery never existed in Islamic history, but because the form in which it has been practiced in recent history is abominable and would have been deemed inhumane and clearly Haram by our beloved Prophet (saw).
Why can't the same logic be applied to modern warfare?
After giving it some thought, I seriously believe that our perfect model Muhammad (saw) would reject all forms of modern warfare. The indiscriminate killing by missiles and drones, the unfathomable harm caused by multi-ton bombs, the ability to destroy an entire nation in a matter of hours, environmental damage beyond control - all stand in stark contrast to every teaching of the Prophetic concept of war.
Surely some will counter with the verse in the Quran "Make ready against them whatever force and war mounts you are able to muster, so that you might deter thereby the enemies of God" (8:60) as a justification to using modern military equipment, including nuclear.
But the problem with the nuclear deterrence argument is that one must be fully prepared to make good on one's threat. And Islamically, I'm just not comfortable with that possibility.
On the other hand, I understand that traditional scholars, such as Abu Hanifa, justified the usage of flooding or poisoning water sources as legitimate tools in war. But c'mon, the scope of such tactics pale in comparison to the ridiculous damage that can be inflicted by the military arsenal at our disposal in the 21st century.
No, I haven't become a pacifist. I firmly believe that force is necessary to bring about justice and truth. It's just that the current form in which this force is wielded has got me thinking twice about its permissibility in our deen.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Most of us know about Prophet Musa’s (upon him be peace) attempt to see Allah (swt). After having spoken directly with Allah several times, Prophet Musa’s burning love for his Lord was such that he asked to see Him. Knowing full well man’s limitations, Allah (swt) warned him of the dire consequences of such an appeal.
So instead of manifesting Himself directly to Musa, Allah (swt) revealed His countenance to a mountain, which instantly crumbled at the divine Majesty of our Lord. As to Musa, the sight of the mountain crumbling caused him to pass out unconscious , proving that not only was he incapable of viewing Allah (swt) directly, he was unable to contend with the image of another creation seeing Allah. (reference Quran 7:143)
And so our dear Prophet Musa lived out the rest of his storybook life never having seen Allah (swt), nor His reflection.
But all of that changed on the night of Prophet Muhammad’s blessed Isra and Miraaj.
When our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was on his way back from the highest heaven, after having been in the company of Allah (swt) and having been given the command to pray 50 times each day, he met Prophet Musa.
So here was the great Musa standing face to face with Muhammad (saw) upon whom Allah had graced His Majestic visage. And not only had Muhammad (saw) not crumbled at the sight of Allah (swt), but Musa was able enjoy the sweetness of this divine light beaming from the Prophet’s face!
What was Musa’s reaction to this dream-come-true opportunity? He wanted more.
He asked Muhammad (saw) to go back and request Allah (swt) to decrease the number of daily prayers, all so he could further indulge in the ecstasy of seeing his Beloved Creator (swt) reflected in the face of Muhammad (saw).
And each time the Prophet (saw) returned from the company of Allah (swt), Musa (as) stopped him to further treasure the unimaginable beauty of the light of Allah cast upon the unimaginable beauty of our Prophet Muhammad’s face.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Nice to meet you.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Cold Turkey: The act of giving up a habit all at once.
I've learned that one of the best ways to deal with nafsi desires has been to go cold turkey. Whether its watching TV, going to the movie theater or indulging in the viewing of sports, I have found an abrupt cessation to work the best.
Going cold turkey shows your nafs that YOU are in control and that it is but a tool at your disposal, to be subjugated and refined.
All these silly distractions have muddled my path to spiritual ecstasy. It doesn't take a genius to realize that the path which requires one to minimize food, sleep, and speech will never allow for one who has busied his senses with watching TV, movies, and sports.
And the Internet.
I need to focus my senses, which have too many neurons distracted with what the Internet has to offer.
I'm going primitive folks.
I think everyone needs to experience primitivity (look it up, it's a real word), especially in this day and age. Whether it be one week, one month, or even a year.
That being said, let's see how long my turkey stays cold. :-)
Saturday, May 30, 2009
While it is definitely in vogue to publicly denounce the 'brutal actions' of the Afghan Taliban, the few who try and proffer an alternative narrative are seen as "retarded Muslims" who are intent on blindly defending the indefensible.
Why are people so digital? Analog is not so bad.
It needn't be an either/or situation.
I support them in their resistance against occupation forces. I don't support them in their attacks on civilians.
Is that so complicated?
It bears repeating that reports on Taliban atrocities must be taken with a grain of salt, especially when it's been reported that US forces are aggressively employing "strategic communications" (read disinformation) to counterweigh their losing military strategy in Afghanistan.
Like in the aftermath of the May 2009 drone bombing in the Farah province that killed almost 100 civilians:
"The U.S. military tried desperately to spin the story, initially denying that any significant civilian casualties had resulted from the air strikes. Carefully placed leaks in the media suggested that the Taliban themselves had killed dozens of innocent people with grenades to make it appear that they had been killed by U.S. bombs.That "message" failed to gain traction, and was quietly abandoned.
When doctors and public health officials began to speculate on the reasons for the horrendous burns suffered by the Farah victims, the U.S. military circulated reports that the Taliban had been known to use white phosphorous. That, too, was not substantiated." [source]
So unless you are reporting from the battlefield, please spare me the blanket denunciations against the Taliban (or any other resistance for that matter).
I prefer not to base my judgments on press releases and government officials, especially when it's in their blatant interests to obfuscate the truth.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
It's understandable that the vast majority of non-Muslims would not know the difference - after all, their primary source of information (Corporate Media) chooses to overlook such 'nuances'.
But I'm more worried about us Muslims and how we're slowly falling into the same confusion.
Most of us will label our Chechen brothers fighting against Russian aggression as Mujahideen. Same with our Palestinian brothers. As long as their efforts are utilizing legitimate means, directed towards legitimate targets.
But are we as clear in our convictions when it comes to our fellow Iraqis and Afghanis? As Western Muslims, are our perspectives affected by the fact that they are resisting American and European forces?
It's funny how so many of us were so vocal in support of the Afghani jihad when it was the Russian in the 80's, but when the same resistance is taking place against NATO forces, we've turned silent.
OK, let's say that we support our brothers in Afghanistan, as it's their right to resist foreign occupation. What then do we think of outside Muslims who travel to Afghanistan to join the resistance?
Just because these folks are constantly termed as foreign fighters linked with Al-Qaeda, are we to blindly condemn them? Or should we look upon their struggles and sacrifice as praiseworthy and admirable?
These are the questions that we all need to ponder over as we read this recent story of a group of European Muslims who traveled to Afghanistan to join the jihad.
The story chronicles the strange journey of a group of Muslims from France and Belgium. This group had no gripe with their adopted nations (as they weren't looking to carry out terrorist activity in Europe). They simply felt the need to support their brethren in Afghanistan. Of course, as the story details, their struggle was not rewarded:
"After getting ripped off in Turkey and staggering through waist-deep snow in Iran, the little band arrived in Al Qaeda's lair in Pakistan last year, ready for a triumphant reception.
"We were expecting at least a welcome for 'our brothers from Europe' and a warm atmosphere of hospitality," Walid Othmani, a 25-year-old Frenchman from Lyon, recalled during an overnight interrogation in January.
Wary of spies, suspicious Al Qaeda chiefs grilled the half-dozen Belgians and French. They charged them $1,200 each for AK-47 rifles, ammunition and grenades...Then the trainees dodged missile strikes for months. They endured disease, quarrels and boredom, huddling in cramped compounds that defied heroic images of camps full of fraternal warriors."
So I'm left wondering, should we be supporting them or denouncing them? As citizens of the West, are we to sacrifice our loyalties to our faith in order to save face in our local communities?
I guess we can always fall back on the fail-safe method of denouncing them for 'attacking civilians' and carrying out 'indiscriminate bombings', as reported to us by the occupying forces and their media henchmen.
Yeah, that would seem most safe.
[Inspired by this TalkIslam exchange]
According to the foremost leading military man in America, the Afghan Taliban (with their evil cohorts Al-Qaeda) are going to shift their operations into Pakistan. Why? Well duh! The US surge of troops in Afghanistan is going to force them over the border and into Pakistan.
Reason #2,947 for the destabilization (and inevitable failed-state status) of Pakistan.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Before we begin hearing the usual calls for denunciation and condemnation, let's put this "extremely" dangerous plot into perspective.
First, let's look past the minor detail of the ringleader getting stoned before carrying out his havoc on civilized society (read the comments at the TPM link - hilarious!).
Based on a scientifically based algorithm, I've compared recent terror plots and I'd say this latest one is a bit more dangerous than the Miami Seven who were not so close to bringing down the Sears Tower (according to the FBI, their plot was "more aspirational than operational") but not as threatening as the pizza-delivery guys in Jersey who were insidiously planning on attacking an entire US Army base by their lonesome selves.
Of course, all these jokers pale in comparison to the evilness (and ineptitude) embodied by the Ghettoist Terrorist in history.
I just read this awesome anti-teen-dating diatribe by Mohja Kahf. She compares the odd ritual of teen-dating as found in Western society to the alternative of early marriage:
"For Muslim parents to provide a nubile woman with a reliable life partner, with whom she can build a home as well as satisfy her sexual desires—someone who bears witnessed responsibility if she conceives a child, in a union nurtured by surrounding family—this is oppressive, while parents providing ill-prepared teens with the means for furtive groping amid all sorts of conflicting messages about what they are to do in this badly set-up ritual, that’s benign?"
And it reminded me of my rant on Sex Ed from two years ago:
"I would much rather have my adolescent son ask me why his wife gets upset every month or my daughter ask why her husband is so stubborn than to explain to them why their high-school peers are dating and they aren’t. I would rather have them struggle with the complexities of a marital relationship than struggle to create their own chaste space amongst their promiscuous schoolmates.
In the world I envision, Islamic sexual education would not be veiled behind social taboos nor would it be an instrument to blunt the natural urges of young adults. Rather, it would consist of teaching the adaab (etiquettes) of sexual education to couples preparing for marriage, not teenage kids worried about the next school mixer."
Yeah, I just quoted myself. I'm all about self-love.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Update: One cool feature I just discovered: While viewing the panoramic files, if you wish to capture a shot, just hit the PrintScreen button. Then open MS Paint (or MS Word, etc.) and click on Edit, then Paste. Then you can save the file and mail it your friends, pretending that you took the picture yourself!
Thanks to almiskeenah, I ran across this most beautiful website.
It's got panoramic views of the Kaaba, Prophet's Mosque, and other masjids from Saudi Arabia as well as Turkey.
In addition to that, there are views of historic sites such as Battle of Badr, Cave Hira, Topkapi Palace (Istanbul), and more.
My favorite is the special page dedicated to the beautiful Blue Mosque (more appropriately known as the Sultan Ahmed Jami).
Now you never need to visit Turkey, except maybe to taste that extremely delicious, mysteriously halal, fermented drink called Boza.
See how reading my blog just saved you a bunch of money?!
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Be righteous believers.
That's what I learned from the story of Prophet Musa (as) and Khidr (as). Here are the exact verses from Sura Kahf:
"And as for that young man (killed by Khidr), his parents were [true] believers - whereas we had every reason to fear that he would bring bitter grief upon them by [his] overweening wickedness and denial of all truth: and so we desired that their Sustainer grant them in his stead [a child] of greater purity than him, and closer [to them] in loving tenderness.
And as for that wall, it belonged to two orphan boys [living] in the town, and beneath it was [buried] a treasure belonging to them [by right]. Now their father had been a righteous man, and so thy Sustainer willed it that when they come of age they should bring forth their treasure by thy Sustainer's grace." (18:80-82)
Notice how both incidents dealt with children of righteous parents.
The first case (of the child being killed by Khidr) was Allah's (swt) way of providing for the spiritual well-being of the child (which sadly meant that he be killed). The child was destined for evil and wickedness, but due to the upright character of the parents, Allah (swt) saved them (and the child as well) from such a troublesome destiny.
The second case (of the orphan children and the wall) was Allah's way of providing for the physical well-being of the children. The parents were unable to provide for the children before their untimely death, but due to their righteousness, Allah (swt) found a way for the orphans.
"And whosoever is conscious of God, He grants a way out (of difficulty), and provides for him in a manner beyond all expectation."(65:2-3)
Raising children is never an easy task. There's no science to this most difficult of responsibilities. People have written books, given lectures, held workshops, and done whatever else can be done to guide parents. But in reality, there is no fail-safe method to raising upright, model children.
So what is one to do?
I've seen the most wicked children come from the most pious of homes and vice-versa. It's truly illogical and unpredictable.
In the end, it's not us who are raising the children as much as it's Allah (swt) using us (and everything else) to raise them. If we fulfill our part of the deal by being virtuous, God-conscious servants of our Creator, all the while striving to foster a positive home environment for the children, Allah (swt) will take care of the finishing touches.
In the manner He deems most appropriate.
What do I mean by that last statement? We may conclude that our children are successes or failures based on our standards, but in reality that counts for little. In the end, success/failure is what Allah (swt) decides.
Let me finish with a real example.
Several years ago, back in my community in America, a young man (who I used to teach in Sunday School) got caught up in the wrong crowd and got involved in an extremely messy criminal situation (he was convicted of murder). He was sentenced to life in prison and needless to say, it tore apart the community.
You see, his father was one of the pillars of the community - very pious and well-respected. People failed to understand how it was possible for such a tragedy to befall such a family.
But I sincerely believe that due to the righteous actions of the father, his son was saved from a far worse fate than life in prison (think apostasy or a life full of evil). Instead, the young man is stuck in prison where he has since repented (from what I hear) and is now protected from the evil he may have wrought against himself or others.
So is he a success or a failure?
Friday, May 15, 2009
When I read the story below, I felt it was special enough to revive my Good News Post series.
The Christian Science Monitor has this excellent article covering Judge Khouloud el-Faqeeh who is the very first Qadiyah (female judge) in Palestine.
While there are many female judges all over the Muslim world, she is believed to be one of the first female judges for Shariah-based courts.
Now, I wonder if the same people who sensationalized the case of the singular Saudi judge who condoned slapping of the wife are going to overplay this story in a similar manner?
I don't think so.
I wonder why.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
During countless casual conversations, this question has been asked. And every time, the questioner is referring to the occupation of the one being questioned.
And thus, one's job has come to define that individual.
I work in the IT field, therefore I'm an IT guy.
My friend works in a hospital as a surgeon, so he's a doctor.
My sister teaches, so she's a teacher.
But the problem with this approach is that IT is NOT what I do and more importantly it definitely is NOT who I am.
Of more significance (I would hope), is that I'm a father, a husband, a son, a servant, a neighbor and so much more. I am someone who hopes to make my mark in this world and this mark has absolutely nothing to do with IT.
I struggle for more hours each month raising my kids than I do at work, yet I'm supposed to answer the question 'What do you do?' with my official job title??
'Yeah, I'm a networking engineer.'
No, that's not what I do.
What I really do is constantly struggle on the path back to Allah (swt). I struggle to please my parents, take care of my wife, and empower my children with goodness.
My entire life revolves around *THAT*. That's what I do.
I use my job merely to assist me and my family on that journey.
However, our society has turned us all into meaningless automatons, whose primary function is to work. And if we're not working, we're either studying to work or vacationing from work.
What the hell sort of existence is that??
Our conversations revolve around our ephemeral existence. The context of our vocabulary is completely of *this* world. If our intention is to talk of the other-world (you know, the REAL world), we are forced to specify it. But in our normal day-to-day interactions, it's become understood that we are referring to what our limited physical senses perceive.
We have lost sight of our true purpose and our social lexicon reflects that loss:
A 'successful' person is one with worldly fame or fortune.
An 'alive' individual is one who truly experiences life.
One who is 'bankrupt' is one without any wealth.
All terms that ought to have higher, other-worldly significance, but instead have become restricted to this-worldly (mis)understandings.
So, next time someone asks me what I do, I'm gonna answer that I'm a struggling traveler.
'Hmm, you mean you're a traveling salesman?'
Monday, May 11, 2009
I've kept quiet over the past few weeks with all this crap flying around about the countless problems plaguing Pakistan. But I really need to let out some steam.
It's such BS how the image of Pakistan succumbing to extremist forces is being paraded around in the MSM. This recent piece* by a NY Times writer really set me off.
The main themes you'll find in most reports are these three:
"Oh my, look at how close the Taliban forces have gotten to Islamabad - only 100 miles away!"
"The Pakistani nukes are in danger of falling into the hands of Al-Qaeda."
"Pakistan has given up control by signing over the Swat valley to the Shariah. The Shariah is taking over the world! "
Outright fear mongering at its worst.
Look, I'm no fan of the Pakistani government. They are crooks to the highest degree. They've stolen from the population as well as from the international community. Shame on them and shame on the world for continuing to support them.
And I'm also no fan of the nation of Pakistan, as so many Pakistani nationalists who live and die for the nation. Zaid Hamid is one character who at first impressed me, but recently I'm getting very tired of his pro-Pakistani, pro-army stance riddled with Zionist and Indian paranoia. These folks have gone off the deep end, referring to Pakistani forces as the real mujahideen.
But let's get real here folks. Pakistan is (and sadly always will be) the same useless country of corrupt feudal lords and army generals. The country is not losing control to anyone. The army is the seventh largest in the world. They have an established federal infrastructure with semi-stable governmental services. Police run the streets, not gangs or warlords. Legal cases are settled in courts, not by local mafias.
So what's with all this propaganda painting Pakistan with the same brush as failed states Afghanistan and Somalia?
First, I'm convinced the powers-that-be desire for a more controllable Pakistan. And the best way to achieve said desire is to either break it up or declare it a failed state. Both options would result in an outside presence needed to oversee the nation.
The other possibility is along the lines of Pepe Escobar's theory that all eyes are on the main prize: resource-rich Baluchistan. This theory includes the chess-game going on between the US, Russia, and China.
Regardless of the various theories posited to explain the outside presence, it's painfully clear that America is screwing things up, what with the careless drone bombings and the recent findings of them using white-phosphorous.
And that's why I love how this picture of a US soldier in Afghanistan perfectly sums up America's poorly planned presence in Af-Pak. Just like this fool who didn't consider using a weight clip to hold the plates. Idiot.
It's really too bad that so much international politics is hamstringing this region. I really would've liked to have seen how far the Afghan Taliban could have gone with their project from the late 90's.
*The author basically served as a mouthpiece for the liberal elites of Pakistan. Fearful of losing their lavish secular lifestyles, they're coming up with this crap:
"All the world's achievements for the past 500 years are at risk"
"Once you bring Islam into politics, it's hard to handle..You don't have the tools to control it."
For them (Islamists) "laughter is not permitted, not even a full smile"
"This is really a war for the soul of Pakistan"
Huh? You mean the soul of Pakistan was never threatened by the gross economic disparity that you thrive off of? The soul of Pakistan was never threatened by the institutionalized cronyism fueled by your greed? Ya, it's just now that some folks up north are fed up with the ineffective local government and are calling for Shariah courts that you fear for the soul of Pakistan.
Get real you losers.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Al-Jazeera recently exposed some US military personnel distributing Bibles and spreading the Gospel to locals in Afghanistan. The US Army denied the report citing quotes taken out of context and an overall misunderstanding, stating that "it is not our position to push any specific kind of religion."
Al-Jazeera fired back with this article, including an unedited video clip of various chaplains discussing their 'strategy'.
While this mindset is a bit annoying, I just don't get all the uproar over this sort of military preaching. What's the big deal? Isn't that what conquering forces do? Muslim forces did the same thing for centuries. Why should we cry foul?
What pisses me off is the absurd stance taken by the US Army. Why deny the existence of missionary efforts? It's such a farce how they present themselves as some benign, humane army, respectful of local customs and religions.
Get off your high horse. You people are no better than any other conquering force.
You see, I'm really not worried about folks in the Muslim world changing religions. I'm more bothered by the cultural and economical proselytizing that's long been taking place in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
The US Forces are not Christian crusaders on a mission to convert or kill, as much as they're foot soldiers for free market capitalism and liberal values antithetical to local cultures.
If anything, THAT should be our greater concern.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
when you take an extremely talkative 10-yr old girl, a yellow belly 8-yr old son, a cranky 2-yr old baby, an even-crankier pregnant wife, and a cheap bastard (who won't pay for air tickets) and throw them all in a car for an 8-hour trip to Mecca?
Baddest. Road-trip. Ever.
And I don't mean 'baddest' as in Michael Jackson "I'm Bad". I mean bad as in it was so rough that I had to resort to a grammatically incorrect term to fully express my misery.
Half way to Mecca (around 11pm at night), I blew out a rear tire. The force of the tire tread ripped out the plastic molding of our Toyota Prado as well as part of the rear bumper.
So there we were, middle of nowhere, pitch-black desert, on a weeknight (being the Mr. Smartypants I am, I figured traveling on a weekday would result in less traffic, which it did - so there went my chances of getting any roadside help), without a flashlight, having to change a flat on my Prado that I had never done before.
Now, I've changed many flat tires in my life, but never from an SUV which has the spare tire mounted underneath the rear of the vehicle. The procedure to simply REMOVE THE SPARE took over 30 freakin' minutes!!! I had my son holding up my cellphone to provide some semblance of light, with headlights of the occasional passing car or truck helping out.
Once I got the spare down, I had to jack up the truck and switch tires. This proved to be an even bigger ordeal, for our fearless son, whose sole task was to hold the cellphone, got startled by a tiny desert mouse running around our truck. He started hopping around, letting out screeches and screams that would've put any woman to shame.
So much for naming my son after the Prophet's uncle, Humza, also known as Asad-Allah (the Lion of Allah).
After he bravely situated himself back inside the truck, my wife took over cellphone duties and I got the tires swapped.
It took me one hour exactly for the whole operation.
And wouldn't you know it, right when I was pulling out, emergency roadside service pulls up behind me. I kid you not. He was probably hiding behind some desert hill, just waiting for me to finish.
But I was impressed by one taxi of three youth who pulled over about 15 minutes before I was done. They kindly offered assistance, which I politely declined since I was basically finishing up.
It took me another hour or so, stopping at 4 or 5 different gas stations, looking for a tire shop where I could buy a tire to replace my blown one. And also I stopped several times to take power naps. And also I drove extra slow, mainly because my wife kept nagging me every time too fast for her nerves.
So our trip that normally has taken us 8 or 9 hours ended up taking 13 grueling hours.
Which was nice for my wife, because it gave her even more time to make sure I understood that she's NEVER driving to Mecca again.
Worsest. Road-trip. Ever.
But in the end, as you all probably guessed, it was totally worth it - with images such as this one to really sweeten our experience:
That's a clip of Humza and Aya relaxing on the second floor near mount Safa inside the Haram.
One last note. We got rooms at the Zamzam tower hotel, one of the hotels at the megacomplex right outside the Haram, better known as Burj al-Bait.
While it was annoying at having to pass MotherCare and Promod and Starbucks on the way to the Haram, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Zamzam. The rooms had a beautiful view of the Haram, as well as the audio from the Haram connected directly into each room (with volume controls!). The executive suites were reasonably priced (500sar/night) for 2 rooms plus a sitting room, although the valet parking was a bit pricey (150/night).
Oh and when I returned to work, I found out that one of the towers under construction had a full blown fire that took out 6 floors.
Weird how we totally missed that.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
that friends who go out of their way to tell you that they love you *for the sake of Allah* don't really love you??
It's like they're saying, 'Dude, I'm telling you I love you not because I'm gay or anything, but because I'm looking to score some good deeds. So don't sweat it - we cool.'
I just find the exercise of adding 'for the sake of Allah' after a powerful sentiment such as 'I love you' to be defensive and even a tad bit disingenuous.
Why add that last part? Why not simply say to the friend, 'hey bro, I love you'? Are you afraid your feelings will be interpreted in a homoerotic manner? Are the words 'I love you' trademarked for Valentine's Day paraphernalia? Are those three words to be uttered only between sexual lovers?
It's as if, by adding 'for Allah's sake', the statement is transformed from one bursting with deep spiritual affection into an indifferent, non-sentimental, business-like gesture. It becomes void of emotional investment. It becomes dry and mechanical - in the same we perform our acts of worship.
Sure, I know the various ahadith on the matter of loving one another purely for the sake of Allah. So, yes, we should all strive for creating bonds of love between each other, independent of worldly benefits and favors.
But c'mon people, such relationships aren't simply established by invoking a few words - they are born from sincere action and emotion.
So next time you feel the urge to tell your fellow Muslim that you love him/her, try it with just those three words and save the intention for where it belongs - in your heart.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Blurred by my tears, I looked up and saw a fuzzy image of him.
As I wiped my eyes, I couldn’t believe what I saw.
He was wearing the same white undershirt but with tight blue jeans and weird cowboy boots. The jeans had a large artificial rip above the left knee.
He had broad shoulders, well-defined arms, and what looked to be an admirably flat stomach. His hair was longer, oiled back and tied into a ponytail. His face was lined with a dirty stubble.
He looked like some washed-up Bollywood actor.
At the same time, he looked really beaten up and exhausted, as if he had ran a marathon. He had that same stench that was emanating from the rusted metal lining of the object in the dirt.
But his face really took me by surprise.
He’s got my face. Just a bit darker.
“Not darker, you moron. I’m the same shade as you. I haven’t for the life of me been able to get rid of your friggin’ dark skin.”
“Wha..wha..Who are YOU?” I stammered, unable to comprehend the situation.
“Let’s start with some ground rules, mmkay? First, no stupid questions.”
“What are YOU...I mean, what am I...no, wait, you are you and I am me. What the HELL is going on here?”
“I’ve had enough of your stupid soul-searching bulls***. Time to wrap it up bro. You’ve gone far enough.”
As he stood there looking down at me, he pulled out a box of cigarettes from his folded up sleeve and then a lighter from his pocket.
He lit his cigarette, put everything back, and looked up, squinting into the sun.
“I seriously never thought you’d get this far though. I must admit I’m very impressed.” He pointed at me, wagging his cigarette, firmly fixed between his middle and index fingers. “But you know, now I gotta kill you.”
“Wait, huh? You're gonna kill me?”
“Naaah, cuz that would be like suicide...haha. I just like f***in’ with your weak mind, you insecure little sh**,” he puffed in a deep breath and popped his lips as he blew out the smoke.
“Over the years, you’d come out here every so often”, waving his arms, flailing at the surrounding desert. “Wandering aimlessly, makin’ a damn fool of yourself. We’d all get a kick out of you. Very entertaining, really,” he chuckled.
We? Who is we?
“Hello? You think I work solo out here?”
This is all like some freaky scene from Superman 3, where good Superman faced off with evil Superman.
“I prefer the final scene in the Matrix where Neo and Agent Smith go toe to toe. And whats with you and the 80’s dude? You really need to get a grip and come join the rest of the world in the 21st century.”
He slowly walked around the edge, kicking some dirt back into the pit. I turned and followed his arrogant swagger, my gaze fixed on his every movement. I nonchalantly picked up the pick, not sure what this hyper-aggressive maniac was capable of.
He stopped on the opposite side, with the blinding sun now right over his head. I shaded my eyes with my free hand, squinting so I could continue looking up at him.
He took a smug puff and continued, “But you had to f*** it up didn’t you? You had to come out here with that stupid shovel and pick. Like some god-d*** super hero. You just couldn’t leave well enough alone.”
His face started to turn red, his anger visible as well as audible.
With his voice rising, “How long’s it been, huh!? Almost thirty years, right? Jesus, Naeem! Thirty f****in’ years and now you think you have some God-given right to come in here and start digging?! WHO...THE F***...ARE YOU?”
His last word ended with a loud scream, his veins visible on the side of his forehead and spit spraying from his mouth.
He took one last powerful puff, looked at his cigarette, and then flicked it at me. I looked down to see it land at my feet and when I looked up, I saw his dark silhouette lunging at me.
I immediately threw up the pick to fend him off as he simultaneously grabbed a hold of the handle. Both of us were standing face to face with our arms stretched above our heads, struggling for control of the pick.
“You naive fool! So weak, yet so persistent. When will you ever realize that you have no chance?” He pushed me back as he released the handle and flashed an evil grin with a sense of confident finality. And before I could react, he took a step and jumped into me, disappearing like some dreamy apparition.
I shook my head, blinked hard a few times to collect myself, and looked around. I was seated alone in my darkened living room, with the sounds of the arguing kids as well as my wife, who was busy trying to quiet the crying infant, piercing through the closed door.
I stood up, walked past my ringing cellphone towards the kitchen and decided to indulge myself with a serving of my wife’s deliciously decadent carrot cake – leaving that rusted, sullied container with its miserable contents and its crazy caretaker for another day, or maybe another year, or maybe never again.
Yeah, that would be so much more easier.
Part 1 - The Beginning
Part 2 - The Discovery
Part 3 - Memories
Part 4 - The Opening
Part 5 - The Caretaker
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I awoke as soon as the morning sun hit my eyes. I sat up and looked around to orient myself. And then I noticed the footprints leading up to the pit. As I followed the trail into the pit, I noticed a bunch of bushes and rocks as well as most of the dirt was thrown back in.
Dammit! Who's the idiot sabotaging my efforts? If I find that bastard, I’ll give him a serious ass-whoopin’.
I wiped my face and with a renewed sense of commitment, I quickly removed all the rubbish and returned to the gas pipe. As soon as I opened up the hole again, the voices returned. This time, I didn’t run away, but forced myself to listen.
Is someone inside there calling for help? But the voice sounds just like mine?
Not only was the voice my own, but those exact words were mine as well! Words uttered in anger. Some with envy. Some with disdain. Others with an all-out hatred and venom that can only be described as hideous.
Broken hearts and broken promises. Principles overcome by desires. Convictions overruled by passions.
The intense, biting pain caused by the memories and the circumstances of these words caused an extreme heaviness inside me. I felt a sense of disgrace and humiliation that I had never felt before. I simultaneously felt a need to turn back and run away.
But I yearned to see what this container was and what other mysterious powers it had. With a rage curiously building up inside me, I quickly whacked at the tiny pin-sized hole to make it bigger.
All the while, the voices were getting louder and louder.
I need to get inside and see what the hell is going on. Keep pushing yourself. No time for rest.
True to my word, I didn’t stop this time around. I kept at the metal object, oblivious to the pain in my shoulder and the calluses on my hands. And then suddenly, when I burst open a hole the size of my fist, a filthy pus started uncontrollably gushing out. I jumped back and covered my face to protect myself from the splashing grime.
Once the pressure let up, I noticed that the slime was a thick yellowish pus mixed in with dirty brown blood and had an unbelievably disgusting smell. Unable to control myself, I jumped out of the pit and let out a stream of vomit next to the piles of dirt.
I turned around and as the sickening mixture continued to slowly flow out and spill into the pit, I noticed a bunch of thick index card-sized booklets floating around.
I felt so disgusted by the smell of the pus, I wanted to just bury the whole mess and pretend it never happened. But the voice inside me continued to badger me to continue my mission.
So I unbelievably jumped back in, with the pus coming past my ankles and bent down to carefully pick up one of the booklets, caring not an iota of the filthy slime getting all over my hands and clothes.
I began leafing through its wet, heavy pages. I could make out some of the illustrations in the book and what I saw caused me to drop the book and let out a childish scream.
It couldn’t be! I must be imagining.
It was full of images with no text. And to my horror, I recognized every single image.
With chills and goosebumps, I picked it up again and with an indescribable pain shooting from my stomach to my lungs, I forced myself to look at the images.
Second and third glances. Magazines. Movies. All images I wish I had never set my sight upon. Gazes of indulgence, of jealousy, of spite, of disgust – all cast by me.
Then there were the images of the eyes.
Eyes of disappointment by the father whose expectations I never lived up to.
Eyes of pain bore by the mother who should never have had to suffer such indignities.
Eyes of a broken heart by the one woman whose heart I vowed never to break.
Countless pairs of eyes, some with anger, some with hurt, many with overflowing tears.
And there were images of me, images of mockery, images of contempt, images of conceit, images of fury, images of ugly. All images I had so desperately tried to distance myself from.
How could it be? How did they get in here?
With my mind reeling, I continued to flip through the booklet and I continued to relive the brutal memories. My breathing had accelerated and I felt as though I was going to pass out.
What in the world is this deeply buried object, out in the middle of nowhere, that is uncovering my most ugliest of memories. I thought I had buried them deep into the recesses of...my heart...
Wait...it couldn’t be...oh God...
My legs began to tremble, unable to hold up my weight, until they buckled and I fell to my knees. Looking at the booklet, my hands were shaking uncontrollably, until the realization came around once more.
No! No! No! It can’t be! Nooooooo! I screamed and buried my face into my hands, sobbing hysterically...
“Uhmm, excuse me. Am I interrupting, Naeem bhai?”
Part 1 - The Beginning
Part 2 - The Discovery
Part 3 - Memories
Part 4 - The Opening
Part 5 - The Caretaker
Monday, April 20, 2009
Where is that stupid hole? I really can’t stand these moving sands in the desert. They make it so difficult to backtrack my steps.
Ah, here it is.
Huh!? What the hell?!
Who put all these rocks back into my pit? Definitely not the work of the winds. Been gone for 5 days, but surely no one else would come all the way out here.
That’s it, I’m staying here this time around until the job is done.
I picked up the shovel and resumed the arduous task of getting back to the metallic object in the ground. The winds had picked up and the sand was flying right into my eyes and mouth. I pulled my shirt over my head and blindly returned to the shoveling.
Oh wow, this shirt smells nice. I wonder what kind of fabric softener was used. Does that stuff really soften the fabric or just give it a nice smell? That guy in the pharmacy had some really nice smelling Oud. Best Oud shop is in Mecca right across from the Haram. I can’t understand what people see in Obama.
I finally reached the buried, metallic object. I threw the shovel to the side and picked up the pick. With a deep breath, I drove the pick into the object. With a tiny spark, I saw a thick flake of the metal chip off the top. As soon as I picked up the chunk, with its reeking smell, this strong wistful feeling overcame me.
Thoughts that had long exited my memory banks came flooding back. I was instantly transported to a nostalgic dimension. But the thoughts that overcame me were extremely ugly and extremely painful.
I quickly threw the piece to the side.
What was that all about?! Am I going crazy out here in this isolation?
I paced around inside the hole, holding my head in my hands, wondering what I was doing. I brushed aside my apprehensions and without thinking, turned to pick up the piece again. This time I didn’t let go, letting the stream of memories flow unabated.
Promises, broken without remorse. Insults, hurled without consideration. Condescension, treachery, arrogance, insincerity. So much pain - inflicted upon others, upon myself.
They kept pouring into my conscience, one ugly memory after another.
Aaagghh! All these hideous thoughts!
I flung the metal piece onto the pile of dirt and immediately fell to my knees, more out of emotional exhaustion than physical, struggling to catch my breath.
What the hell was *THAT*? Where did all those memories come from?
After a momentary pause to recollect my thoughts, my urge to dig mysteriously returned, overcoming my urge to flee. I grabbed the pick and struck the object again and another piece came off. I continued chipping away the top metallic layer of rust, until I heard a hissing sound coming from a small hole I had managed to pierce.
Oh crap, this is some sort of gas pipe and I just busted a hole into it. But the hissing sound stopped and it was replaced by voices.
Voices? Naah, that can’t be voices. Must be imagining things again.
But it was a voice. And not just any voice, but MY voice!
Freaked out, I leapt out of the pit and jumped behind the pile of dirt. I sat still, slowly peeking at the pit, trying to control my heavy breathing.
I’ve officially gone off the deep end. I’m reliving memories and hearing voices all while digging a pit. What the hell am I thinking?
I turned around, leaned my back against the mound, legs sprawled, and stared out to the open desert, struggling to make sense of what just happened. The cool breeze of the crisp evening helped to alleviate my worries.
As I sat there, the weight of my eyelids overcame me.
Part 1 - The Beginning
Part 2 - The Discovery
Part 3 - Memories
Part 4 - The Opening
Part 5 - The Caretaker
Sunday, April 19, 2009
What the hell did I just hit?!
The sound was more than a shovel hitting a hard rock. In fact, it was much too high-pitched to be a rock. I tapped it with the shovel a few more times. More ringing sounds, almost like metal-on-metal.
I tried to get underneath it by poking the shovel to either side, but nothing. This sucker is big. It was too big to dig up with the shovel.
I looked around and noticed that I was about waist deep into the hole. I purposely had dug it in the shape of a square – didn’t want it rectangular, looking like a grave – that would be too morbid. I got down on my knees and started clearing away the dirt to get a better idea of its size.
It was two weeks since I last came out and I thought I had gotten over the urge to dig. I thought the voice wouldn’t return. But last night it did and here I am.
After wandering around for hours looking for the pile of dirt from my last trip out here, I had finally found the spot.
Seems like the desert wind blew some of the dirt right back into the hole. But how did some of the shrubs and bigger rocks also make it back in there? Odd.
As I lowered myself to the ground, I was immediately awestruck by the serenity of the desert.
It wasn’t this peaceful last time or maybe I’m just more in tune with my surroundings. The sun does seem more crisper and the wind is a bit more biting. Not sure what’s changed.
At first, I was a bit leery of getting down on all fours. If I lost sight of the area around me, anyone could come up from behind. My apprehension slowly faded as I used my hands to clear out the dirt away from the huge object in the ground. I was becoming more intrigued by it and less concerned about my surroundings.
It was massive. It stretched the entire width and length of the pit. The object could have been a huge pipe or some old container. I was able to chip away some sharp pieces of metal with my fingernail. The metallic rust had this odious stench unlike anything I had smelled before.
I grabbed the pick I had brought this time around and figured I could try and poke a hole into it. I stood up, cocked the pick back over my head and wailed away. A resounding TWANG followed and the pick forcefully bounced right back at me.
Aaawwgghhh! That hurt like a...
I clenched my teeth trying to regain my composure after that body-rattling smash. Once I gathered my senses, I smelled the aroma of fresh bread brought in by a sudden desert breeze and realized how hungry I was.
Man, I’m famished. I’ll come back tomorrow and finish up.
Part 1 - The Beginning
Part 2 - The Discovery
Part 3 - Memories
Part 4 - The Opening
Part 5 - The Caretaker
Saturday, April 18, 2009
The voice had told me to find a desolate spot far outside the city. It had to be away from the people, away from the traffic, away from the noise. I needed quiet it told me.
Stupid sedimentary life has made walking such a long distance such a pain and it’s even harder with this heavy shovel.
I'd been following the power lines for the past hour or so.
These huge towers are amazing. Like those funny looking insects, praying mantis I think they’re called, lined up through the stretching desert. But what are those red balls attached to the power lines for? Never quite figured that out. They remind me of those spongy red kickballs. Yeah, kickball was fun, especially in the 4th grade. That Patrick could really kick the ball hard and he wasn’t even that big. If I could have kicked that hard, I would have been so popular.
Where am I going? Should I stop here? Nope, let me see if I can get even further out, away from the distractions. Is that even possible? It’s already pretty calm out here.
In fact, this silence is seriously annoying. It’s just so quiet and I really can’t stand it. Never understood what ‘deafening silence’ meant until now. I guess I’ve gotten so used to having that background noise, the kids, the cars, the TV. This silence is really driving me crazy.
I vented out a loud scream and nothing. Not a peep. The vast, open desert simply absorbed the sound.
OK, this is freaky.
I continued trudging along until I found the spot. Not sure how I knew, but it seemed to be right. I surveyed the area and noticed some scrawny bushes and a few scattered rocks. All I heard was the faint whistling of the wind blowing across my ears.
How do these tiny shrubs get enough water to survive? Must be a source of water underneath feeding these plants. That irrigation system setup on Abujee’s farm back in Pakistan sure was cool. I wonder if I could ever live on a farm.
Putting the shovel to the side, I started clearing out the shrubs and kicking aside the bigger rocks.
Haven’t really dug much in my over-urbanized life, but I know that digging is made easier when the ground is cleared away.
Damn it! Stupid bushes have some really sharp thorns. I need some gardening gloves. Great! I got a splinter stuck right between my thumb and index finger. At least it didn’t go all the way in.
Having cleared out enough space to start digging, I picked up the shovel and struck the ground. The first blow reverberated through my entire upper body.
Stupid ground isn’t soft at all. No rain has visited these solid grounds for months, maybe even years. (Deep sigh) This is gonna be a long day.
Instead of throwing aside heaps of dirt at a time, I was stuck chipping away at the ground. With the noon sun beating down on my feeble body, I kept at it for several hours, but with a slow, deliberate pace. I paused when my salty sweat trickled into the sides of my mouth.
Spit that nasty sweat out, you disgusting bum. Isn’t piss and perspiration made of the same substance? Note to self: Don’t drink your own sweat. Don’t I have more important things to do? This’ll seriously take so much time. Speaking of which, what time is it anyway? The sun’s gotten a bit dull and the heat is beginning to wane. Must be around 3 or 4pm. That’s when I normally come home from work and play with the kids. Kids can be so difficult to raise. How did my parents happen to get it so right with me? After all, I never did drugs or sex, so I must be on the right path. Right?
Hours passed before I finally reached some soft earth. Now we’re talkin’. With sweat dripping off the tip of my nose, I finally hit a groove. I even had the proper form: ‘bend at the knees not the back,’ they always say. A respectable mound of dirt was building up by my side.
Then at one point, the dirt started to feel heavier. And I wasn’t just getting tired. It really was getting heavier. Like it was more dense. Sure, my shoulders were aching and the muscles in my arms were burning, but how could the dirt just get heavier?
Should I stop here? What exactly am I digging for? Nah, I must keep going. I need to do this. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt my fat ass to get some exercise every once in a while.
So with my shirt soaked with sweat and my gym pants starting to stick to my legs, I plugged away at the dirt.
And then all of a sudden, my extreme fatigue completely overwhelmed me. Not just physically, but also mentally. I became convinced that all this was an exercise in futility. I looked up and noticed the setting sun.
Oh well, it’s getting dark and I’m not ready to stay the night out in the middle of nowhere. I guess I’ll come back some other time to finish the dig.
Part 1 - The Beginning
Part 2 - The Discovery
Part 3 - Memories
Part 4 - The Opening
Part 5 - The Caretaker
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
We have become estranged – from our neighbors, from our friends, from our families, and worst of all from our Creator and Sustainer (swt). All because we have become estranged from our very own selves.
As members of a scientific age, we hypothesize, analyze, and synthesize the Outer. But as humans, we remain oblivious to our Inner.
We surround ourselves with recreational noise so as to avoid the silence of our souls. We dull our senses by entering delusional states of social inebriation in order to evade this most fundamental of truths – the truth of who we are.
We plunge ourselves into the depths of the oceans searching for the most amazing creations of Allah, while failing to scratch the surface of the single most amazing creation of Allah, our hearts.
We have become masters of the known universe, while remaining slaves to our lower selves.
And that is why we have falsely convinced ourselves that happiness is found in laughing, eating, shopping, and playing, while disregarding those who abstain (from laughing, eating, shopping, and playing) as being aloof from the world. In reality, we are the ones who are aloof – aloof from our own selves.
Maybe because the journey to know oneself is not a simple one. It involves serious reflection and contemplation. It requires coming face to face with an ugliness we have subconsciously buried deep into the recesses of our hearts. It is painful and brutal to acknowledge.
But this endeavor to dig deep down and push aside years of waste and clutter and discover hidden realities and horrible truths is vital to fulfilling our purpose in life – attaining a true state of submission (‘Uboodiyah) to the One (swt).
And thus, I was very much intrigued by the classifications of the nafs as detailed by Sh.Mokhtar Moghraoui. If you have the time, please listen and internalize his words. Otherwise, I provided below a quick summary of four types of nafs that we need to ponder over.
We can take the first step in discovering the true nature of our nafs by reflecting on what brings us happiness and contentment:
First, there is the bahimi nafs, the cattle-like nafs. Like cows and chickens, this nafs finds ultimate happiness in consuming food, drink, sleep, and sex. Its life revolves around such types of activities. Parties and outings are organized with the sole purpose of indulging in these desires.
Furthermore, a society is created in which the pursuit of this type of happiness is institutionalized and all sorts of products and gadgets are invented to facilitate the consumption thereof. The rat race of life that we find ourselves in during the work week culminates in the culture of ‘the weekend’, where food, drink, sleep, and sex are pursued incessantly.
Admittedly, it is only natural that we have bahimi instincts to eat and drink. But if these desires overtake our desire to submit to Allah (swt), we have an imbalance.
Then there is the subu’ee nafs, the predatory nafs. In addition to the basal desires of food, sleep, and sex, this hyena-like nafs finds pleasure in coveting the goods of others. This nafs takes part in attacking, usurping, stealing, and killing. Self-satisfaction for this type of individual is found in accruing wealth, especially at the expense of others.
Thirdly, there is the shaytaani nafs, the devilish nafs. This type seeks to mischievously plot and scheme in creating evil and causing harm to others. This nafs desires to lord over others and become an object of worship. The greedy amassing of property has left this nafs wanting more, so it seeks to subdue and control and manipulate others – like the Shaytaan himself. Additionally, this nafs finds satisfaction in enhancing and strengthening the lower qualities and vices of the previous two types of nafs.
Finally, there is the malaaiki nafs, the angelic nafs. This nafs finds its greatest pleasure in nearness to its Creator. It aspires to become closer to Allah (swt) by detaching itself from all other forms of attachment. It is nourished by and satisfied with Divine guidance and Prophetic example.
We all have qualities of each type of nafs and to the extent we actualize and nourish each nafs, that is our true nature. We may cultivate cattle-like and predatory-like practices so much that it so thoroughly dominates our angelic inspirations that we become unrecognizable monsters.
While every individual has the capacity for predatory or devilish deeds, it is only when we have consistently acted upon and even developed and nurtured these covetous and evil inclinations, that we have forsaken our angelic potentials and created a most detestable inner image.
So the question remains, only for you to answer, only for you to know: What type of nafs have you allowed to dominate your heart and soul? And if you don't know, do you have the inner fortitude to commence this journey of discovering the truth?