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.