This is a repost from several years ago. Considering my current state of spiritual affairs, I felt this post to be timely. Maybe some of you may feel the same way.
Riyadh is a very dusty city; sandy would be a better word if only it didn't sound so feminine. Being situated in the middle of a desert might explain this oh-so-special trait of Riyadh. Sandstorms sweep through on a weekly, sometimes nightly basis. Makes for a funtime if you like the grit of sand between your teeth. The geographical location of this oasis city results in a very trying time for those who are allergically sensitive to dust. And I am allergically sensitive to dust.
Recently its gotten too much, especially in the early mornings. I'm waking up with a tissue in my hand, eyes watering and nose dripping. Its hard enough waking for Fajr at 3:30 in the morning, but its even harder with these allergies beckoning me back to sleep.
I can tough it out I think to myself. It'll go away. It always goes away. But never without a fight.
But man, this time its tough. My allergy attacks never lasted more than a couple days and here I am going on day four with no sign of relief. If I'm not blowing my nose, I'm sneezing.
Don't get me wrong, sneezing isn't always a bad thing. The body always benefits from this indiscriminate system reboot. After all, when Allah(swt) blew the spirit into Adam, he sneezed followed by a hearty 'Praise be to Allah'. So I like the occasional sneeze. Just not when I'm trying to snuggle into my inviting bed of dhikr wearing my cozy pajamas of taqwa waiting to savor every sip of my hot cup of Divine Love.
Go away, you unwelcome vagabond! This is supposed to me my personal quiet time. I’ve been making excuses for the past several months that I’ll get my spiritual mojo back come summer. I just need some silence and stillness I convinced myself, and I’ll be back dancing with the angels, cloud hopping in the presence of my beloved (saw), drunk with the dhikr of Allah.
Oh how I yearn for those days of intense inner tranquility when I found my soul in sync with my surroundings – all peace all the time. I want back my early morning Tahajjud prayers but these allergies are mockingly denying me, ‘Thank your Lord you’re catching Fajr.’ I want to revisit the sweet silence of sajdah (prostration), but my throbbing sinuses are screaming, ‘Get up you moron or I’m going to implode your head!’ I want my free-flowing tears back, but all my puffy eyes have to offer are annoying watery bubbles. I’ve foolishly planned all year for this moment, *my* moment, naively thinking spiritual ecstasy can be summoned like a genie from the lamp.
And here some stupid specks of sand are sullying my immature aspirations. Ah, the justice of it all.
Day four and I’m getting desperate.
I finally turn to Him. How sad that I only knock on His door when I’m desperate, when all else has failed but that’s the least of my worries right now.
"Ya Allah, please help me. Please help me for no other reason but to allow me to begin my journey back to You."
Blank. I stammer and stutter only to append some hollow prayers that I memorized in Sunday School.
Huh? Is that all I can conjure up?! Is my inside so dry, parched from the heat of my lowly passions that I can’t even muster a respectable appeal? How pathetic!
Confident that they’ve found an ideal incubator, my allergies snicker at my paltry plea with a loud sneeze.
I have got to kickstart my heart after my embarrassingly long existential hibernation just so I can *begin* to put together some coherent thoughts in the presence of my Creator. I can’t even make the simplest prayer. Fitting I suppose. Can’t waltz right into the King’s court in your jammies with crusty eyes and nasty morning breath expecting His audience.
You fool! You get what you deserve.
For too long my desires have sucked my heart dry of its vitality. I have fueled my anger, overfed my stomach, allowed free reign to my tongue, and harbored thoughts unthinkable.
Woe am I! How I wish atonement for my heedlessness could be achieved by a hundred lashes to my heart. If it were just that simple.
Ya Allah, but why complicate my endeavor with such an unnecessary impediment? At least play fair. Remove the allergies and give me a fighting chance.
But then it hits me in the midst of my blasphemous tirade. Who am I to decide when and where and how I can approach the court of His Majesty? How arrogant of me to think that I can schedule my purification!
'Silly child, My door is always open to those in search of My Mercy, but those who wish to run in and out will find Me not so welcoming of the tracks made by their muddy shoes on the carpet of My Love'
These allergies are a gentle, loving rebuke by the Most Compassionate. It is His way of letting me know that this journey is not to be taken lightly as an amusement or a sport.
'Wipe your shoes at the door and don't go back out again.'
Day five and I wake up with nothing. I barely even noticed until I went down into sajdah and realized I could breath.
With tears I refused to hold back in a sajdah I refused to arise from, I cried 'You are so beautiful to me and I am so ugly to You. You give and You give while I take and I take. What has this despicable slave ever done to deserve Your attention? When will I ever be able to give back to You? How will I ever be able to give back to You?'
This is the story of my Divine Intervention.
Monday, December 6, 2010
This is a repost from several years ago. Considering my current state of spiritual affairs, I felt this post to be timely. Maybe some of you may feel the same way.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Here's an excellent breakdown by Glenn Greenwald on the case against 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud.
His second and third points are most noteworthy.
Clearly these disillusioned schmucks aren't completely innocent, but the Muslim community in America needs to call out the FBI on their slimy tactics used to entice, entangle, and enable these misguided individuals (they freakin' gave the kid $3000 to pay his rent!!).
I've grown tired of this endless stream of entrapment cases by the US government. Not sure when American Muslims will finally take a stand against these PR stunts which are ruining lives of young Muslims.
Sadly, in the present political climate, American Muslims are in no position to make such demands. But hey, Muslims in America are more free to practice their religion than in the Muslim world.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Sorry for the long lay-off. Still not sure if I want to return to blogging, but for now...
I will share with you a most vital bit of advice.
NEVER, EVER vacuum up vomit. It will stink up the internals of your vacuum and then whenever you use it in the future, it will smell up the entire room with the oh-so-pleasant smell of regurgitated chicken curry.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
Oh, and please don't ask my wife who was the genius who decided to use the vacuum on the vomit. She'll be more than happy to oblige, with some very colored words directed at yours truly.
Friday, August 20, 2010
I want to thank Salon and Osman Adnan for finally explaining to me how I can become a loyal Muslim American. Never having felt comfortable with being just a Muslim American, I have scoured the planet endlessly searching for the recipe for true loyalty to my birth-nation.
Finally, I have discovered it: Attend a Catholic school, celebrate bar mitzvahs and Christmas parties, have an Irish best friend (preferably born on 4th of July), join the military service, keep public displays of your Muslim faith to a minimum and carry a flag of the USA in your back pocket in case some pathetic Muslim child in some far-off pathetic land needs a reminder of your nation's unending benevolence - 'Hey, please don't mind the drone attack that just wiped out your entire village and uhmm, yeah, ignore our propping up brutal dictators across the Muslim world and go ahead and overlook our occupation of two major Muslim nations because, well, Imma teach you to read English. Oh and here's a flag of the good 'ol Stars and Stripes - just promise me you won't burn it...har-har, just kidding. But seriously, don't burn it.'
Yessiree-bob, a good 'ol Loyal Muslim American.
Where do I sign up?
Sunday, July 25, 2010
For those of you who observe the night of mid-Sha'ban (Nisfu-Sha'ban, Shabe-Barat), July 27 is the 15th of Sha'ban, making this Monday night the night to spend in extra worship and Tuesday the day to fast. Read here for more information regarding this special occasion.
As for those of you who don't observe this night, too bad. Your loss.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Dear Imam Johari,
You probably don’t remember me. Actually, I’m certain you don’t. I think I’ve met you only twice; once at an MSA Iftar dinner we shared a table, and the other time I attended a campfire lecture you gave at Dar al-Taqwa, where, I might add, you displayed quite a beautiful voice in singing some nasheeds.
And eventhough we’ve only met twice, I’ve known you for quite some time, as is true for most of the American Muslim community. Your reputation precedes itself and I humbly acknowledge that your years of service at the national level for the cause of Islam dwarf my meager local community efforts of years past.
And that is why it has pained me to read your past few posts.
You started with an open declaration calling for Muslims to adopt the principle of non-violence. Surely, non-violence has its place in a larger movement of resistance, but it cannot be its sole strategy. There must be, as it always has been, space at the table for resistance by force. Surely, you are intimately aware of the American civil rights struggle with the existence of the black power effort in conjunction with the non-violence movement. Also, armed resistance played a significant role in the other example you cited, the South African anti-apartheid struggle.
And the same type of armed resistance has been playing a vital role in defying the authoritarian control of Israel over both the Palestinians as well as Lebanon. It can be argued that if not for the constant thorn-pricking by Hamas (in Gaza) and Hezbollah (in South Lebanon), Israeli forces would still be firmly established in those territories.
Dear Imam Johari, you would be well served to read this excellent piece by Max Ajl on the inability of a purely non-violent movement to affect positive change, especially in the I/P conflict.
“But the sort of non-violence Taylor supports is the sort that castrates resistance, and takes resistance out of the realm of history and into the realm of religion. What would Taylor have recommended to the Vietnamese? There is nothing nefarious about defending oneself from armed attack. Making it nefarious writes the Palestinian right to resist out of history, reserving righteous violence and force for the Western powers that already almost monopolize it.”
As the writer notes, look at the emasculated example of the MV Rachel Corrie, the June 5 ship that attempted to break the Gaza blockade. The IDF swiftly diverted the ship and the activists quietly complied with nary a cry. How effective was that?
In your call for non-violence you have mysteriously conflated the issue of illegitimate violence (e.g. suicide bombings of civilians) with the strategic usage of force employed by resistance groups. While the former is clearly indefensible, the latter is essential in opposing oppression.
It is a bit dispiriting to hear from a prominent American Muslim leader as yourself the unconditional call for non-violence by the Palestinians, as if such tactics have never been employed by the weaker side. For years, non-violence has played a leading role in the resistance against Israeli aggression, especially with the increased participation of foreign peaceful organizations.
So, for you to state your thoughts as you have, you are (unknowingly) bolstering the argument that Israel is justified in its actions to defend itself against this delusional ‘barrage of violence’.
Surely, that is not a sentiment you wish to express.
Ajl sums it up in the end of his article: “Those who resisted violently were brave. Those who resisted non-violently were brave. All were right. All were just. Solidarity organizations can agree in advance to resist or not to resist, as Taylor instructs us. But most oppression in human history has been thrown off by horrible violence. Frankly, if a man has a gun pointed at my head on my own territory and has shot the person standing next to me, and I can disarm that man, I will disarm him. And there is something surreal, if not pitiful, to demand not only that I abjure that basic human response, but furthermore, abjure it when the gun is pointed not at my head but at the person standing next to me. Writing about it admittedly makes for good copy and good employment for those living and writing in Western countries where power is eager to dissolve an internationally-sanctioned right to resist. For those living under the gun, Taylor’s prescriptions may seem a little odder.”
My other grievance is with regards to your blog post on the topic of Imam Anwar Awlaki. You write that Islamic bookstores and other businesses should stop selling his famous lectures, such as Lives of the Prophets, due to his recent calls in support of unIslamic acts of violence. You cite your concern that innocent Muslims who may be positively affected by his lectures, which you acknowledge as being extremely beneficial, could be led down the slippery slope towards his more recent lectures advocating unIslamic acts of violence.
How ironic is it that your warning of a slippery slope is itself leading you down another slippery slope. If we begin to advocate the censoring of Islamically legitimate material due to questionable views held by the author, where will this take us? You are creating a precedent that can be used in future calls to ban such revolutionary authors such Syed Qutb or Maududi.
Surely, that is not a precedent you wish to set.
As intolerable as Imam Anwar’s views on suicide bombing may be, it is equally intolerable to censor his legitimate work in fear of leading astray the ‘naïve’ and ‘ignorant’.
This reeks of paternalistic totalitarianism. Because lay-Muslims are too stupid to tell right from wrong, the Muslim leadership must censor the good stuff from the bad stuff.
While we’re at it, let’s get rid of all the Shia material. And all that goofy Sufi stuff as well. These books could really lead people astray, no?
I’m sure you realize that such an approach is inconsistent with the principles of a free society.
Many know you as a man of serious principle and strong leadership. But I must say that your past few posts have come off as someone trying to appease more than lead. I don’t think even Fox News has made such demands of the Muslim American community. So why would you? Also, what gives with you admitting that you've learned from Steve Emerson? The clown journalist has no interest in creating a working relationship with the Muslim community, as evidenced by his obnoxiously condescending response to you, yet you are touting his approval?
These past few posts seem like some ill-conceived PR campaign attempting to win over the distrusting American public. ‘Hey, look at us American Muslims. We understand you all are afraid of us, so watch us bend over backwards to prove our allegiance by cutting all relations with this new bogeyman, Imam Anwar, no matter how positive his work may have been to thousands and thousands of young Muslims. And we won’t stop there. We’ll throw in a complete rejection of all forms of violence resistance, choosing the more acceptable (to the American Empire) approach of non-violence. Now can someone please call Michelle Malkin so we can schedule a nice photo-op?’
In conclusion, while my letter is addressed to you, my thoughts are not solely restricted to you. They are more intended to address a trend I am fearful may be growing in the American Muslim community in specific, and the international Muslim community at large. That is why I chose to share my thoughts on my humble blog instead of writing to you in private.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Must-read article by Reverend Frank Julian Gelli on the World Cup:
"Capitalism-plugged football is the new opium for the people. A counterrevolutionary tool. So David Cameron had the flag flying over Downing Street yesterday when England played the US. The bankers, financiers and public school toffs in power want to keep the opium flowing. By contrast, faith in God is about liberation. About arousing people up from their drugged slumbers. About a bright new dawn. Listen to the Apostle to the Gentiles:
‘It is full time for you to wake out of sleep. For salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand.’(Romans 13:11-12). Kick the habit, folks. Kick the Cup, O you new Gentiles. Time to wake up!"
Seems like the good reverend reads my blog:
"And it's this need for a diversion from 'life' that needs to be countered.
One reason for the Islamic prohibition of drugs and alcohol is the suspension of reality that is a consequence of their consumption. As mature, responsible adults, it is our duty (to ourselves, our families, and to our fellow man) to remain cognizant of our actions and our surroundings. By doing so, we are to constantly strive to become closer to the Ultimate Reality (swt).
Instead, we have become preoccupied with ways to distance ourselves from reality, thereby distancing ourselves from *the* Reality (swt)."
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Back in an age when marriage lasted a lifetime and divorce was not considered a failure of the marriage, but a failure of the self, a learned sheikh was approached by one of his students.
"Oh teacher, we have noticed how your wife is so abusive of you. She has embarrassed you in public countless number of times and never loses an opportunity to insult you. How come you don't simply take your legitimate right and divorce her?"
After a brief moment of silence and deep thought, the teacher looked up at the student and gently responded.
"My son, if I were to divorce this woman, one of two things would occur. Either she would remain a single divorcee or she would get remarried. In the first case, she would become miserable and lonely and I do not wish to be the cause of her misery. In the second case, she would cause her new husband untold difficulty and I do not wish to be the cause of his misery.
And so I have decided it best to take it upon myself to bear the burden of this misery. 'Surely Allah does not waste the reward of the doers of good' (9:120)"
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Who is Furkan Dogan you may ask?
He was the lone US citizen of the nine activists killed by the Israelis during the Flotilla Massacre. I was horrified to read about his execution-style killing and the even more horrifying, but not surprising, silence by the US on one of its citizens being murdered abroad.
What does this 19-yr old martyr have to do with me?
Well, besides his obviously extraordinary act of courage and sacrifice, I didn’t give any extra thought to him over the others who died at the hands of the IDF.
But when I read that he was born in a small town located in upstate New York named Troy, I immediately sat up.
You see, Troy, NY is known for nothing - absolutely nothing. The weather is dreary, the social life is non-existent, and the locals are aloof. Those living in this ex-industrial town are infamously known as Troilets.
The only thing of real value located in Troy is my Alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Yes, that makes me the only human being in the world who has the ignominy of being both a Troilet as well as a Baltimoron (being from Baltimore). Yay for me!
Anyways, so when I read that he was born in Troy 19 years ago, the story became a bit more personal. I was there in Troy from 1990 to 1994, the exact time of his birth.
And since I know that the only Turkish residents of Troy are RPI postgrads, I immediately started racking my brain for any Turkish brother with the last name Dogan, in the off chance that I actually may have known Furkan’s father. Seeing that it was almost 20 years ago, many names and faces have begun to blur, so I wasn't having much luck there.
And then when I finally found a picture of the good brother whose son was killed in the Flotilla Massacre, my heart dropped.
His name is Ahmet Dogan and I knew him from the local masjid at RPI. While he was pursuing his PhD, I was an undergrad youngling. I remember him for two things, his extremely quiet demeanor and his sweet jump shot. Our paths regularly crossed in many places during my four years there – at the masjid, at social gatherings, at Juma’a, on campus.
And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that I actually held little Furkan in my arms, during one of the countless encounters with dear Ahmet.
And for the mere possibility of having met modern-day martyr Furkan Dogan, I am humbled and honored.
Friday, June 4, 2010
MM posted this amazing debate on the Freedom Flotilla massacre between Ahmed Bedier and the Israel consul general in Florida. I can't put into words how impressed I am by Ahmed Bedier.
Azra put up a flashy ad by a SA telecom in support of the World Cup. As I commented on her blog, these types of ads truly disgust me. They deify sports and athletes as objects of worship. The world stops when the game begins. It was done with Jordan many years ago and it's being done today.
Judge for yourself:
File this under 'News to me' - it's illegal to send money to the Taliban. Not just for American citizens, but for Emiratis.
Seems that these folks sent money to the Afghan Taliban and in return got beat up by UAE police, who also threatened to sexually abuse them or a family member, and eventually were sentenced for three years for financing a terrorist organization.
The arm of the American legal system is very long indeed.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Just when you thought that Israel couldn't stoop any lower:
Al-Jazeera reports that 16 have been killed in an attack by Israeli forces on the Freedom Flotilla, a non-violent fleet of aid-carrying ships traveling to Gaza.
I'm left wondering when will the world say 'Enough!' to the arrogantly inhumane shenanigans of Israel?
Check out WitnessGaza for latest info.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
“Abujee, I’m booored”
Words that have always made me cringe. I strongly believe that children need to stop getting so agitated and restless with boredom. If they have nothing to do, their minds should offer them a limitless playground of ideas and thoughts.
“To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world, and to explore the internal one.” (source)
I fondly remember my youth when I would sit around the house waiting for my friends to come over and play. I would bide my time mulling around the house, sitting on the front porch, or quietly exploring my surroundings. Some days this could last half the day!
These moments to myself were so amazingly peaceful. An outsider would have thought them to be an immense waste of time, but looking back I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
No email. No TV. No video games. No distractions. Just me and the real world. Just me and the stone I was kicking. Just me and the tree I was climbing. Just me and the ants on the sidewalk. Just me and the cars passing by.
I look back wistfully at those long gone days of effortless simplicity.
I miss being bored. I miss the quietness of nothingness. I miss the concept of ‘spare time’ when one could hit the pause button on life. I’m not talking minutes folks – I’m talking hours.
And I now struggle to convey that sensation, that nostalgia to my children.
I struggle to impart upon them the other-worldliness of disconnecting from the all-encompassing virtual world.
I struggle to explain to them how disengaging from the twitchy distractions of this world will bring out their humanity.
I struggle to convince them that boredom ought to be embraced and celebrated, not rejected and disparaged.
I struggle to teach them that gadgets and trinkets, data and information, bits and bytes don’t make the person, but a thriving imagination, multifaceted emotions, and an intimate knowledge of yourself makes you a human.
I struggle to assure them that our senses need not constantly remain stimulated by external sources, rather the internal fountain of divine inspiration is forever flowing and can be tapped wherever and whenever we wish.
Instead, society is forcing me to cease my crusade on behalf of boredom while coaxing me to entertain my children.
“What? Your kids don’t have the Wii?! That’s inhumane!”
“What’s so wrong with giving them limited access to the Web?”
“Why do you deprive your children from visiting the likes of Disney World?”
“At least let your daughter have an email address. Let her join the rest of us in the 21st century.”
“What’s the big deal with letting your son have an iTouch?”
What’s the big deal?!
What’s the big deal with letting my kids feel and enjoy uninterrupted stints of boredom?
What’s the big deal with teaching my kids how to feel at peace while being alone?
What’s the big deal with allowing my kids to mull around the house with their senses on park, but their brains on hyperdrive?
What’s the big deal with giving my kids the freedom to simply be themselves?
Must I be forced to amuse my children to death?
Must I be forced to tether my children to the world?
Must I be forced to surrender my children to their nafs?
Alas, my dilemma is not isolated to my offspring, for I too wish to be free of these virtual chains that are slowly choking away our humanity.
I so desire to experience again the joy of boredom.
(Inspired by this article, Joy of Boredom)
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
For too long, we have all heard the American government, as well as the puppet media, making loud declarations about the Taliban funding its operations by trafficking opium. Such propaganda* serves to present the Taliban forces as not only barbaric terrorists, but also evil drug dealers. And to boot, it places into disrepute the image of their insurgency in the Muslim world.
But a 2009 report by UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as broken down in this FPIF article, paints a picture quite divergent from the disinformation being spread by the occupying forces. The FPIF article does an excellent job in breaking apart the arguments that the opium drug trade is being fuelled by the Taliban.
First of all, the UNODC report estimates that only 10-15% of Taliban funding is drawn from drugs, the rest coming from private sources outside the country.
The FPIF article continues:
“The total revenue generated by opiates within Afghanistan is about $3.4 billion per year. Of this figure, according to UNODC, the Taliban get only 4% of the sum. Farmers, meanwhile, get 21%.
And the remaining 75%? Al-Qaeda? No: The report specifies that it "does not appear to have a direct role in the Afghan opiates trade," although it may participate in "low-level drugs and/or arms smuggling" along the Pakistani border.
Instead, the remaining 75% is captured by government officials, the police, local and regional power brokers and traffickers — in short, many of the groups now supported (or tolerated) by the United States and NATO are important actors in the drug trade.”
Yeah, let’s not forget the allegations that Karzai’s brother is involved in the heroin drug trade.
Another factor often conveniently overlooked is how the Taliban generate revenue by taxing ALL farmed land under their control, regardless of which crop is grown on those fields. So if the farmers are paying the Taliban taxes on cultivated poppy seeds, this is twisted and presented as the Taliban are active in trafficking opium.
Finally, and I believe this is most critical in understanding the dynamics of the sinister opium trade in Afghanistan, is the transformation of opium poppies into heroin. This process cannot take place without a special chemical precursor called acetic anhydride, which is not found in Afghanistan.
The FPIF article states:
“The report identified "Europe, China, and the Russian Federation" as "major acetic anhydride sources for Afghanistan." For instance, 220 liters of acetic anhydride were intercepted this year at Kabul airport, apparently originating from France. In recent years, chemicals have also been shipped from or via the Republic of Korea and UNODC's 2008 Afghan Opium Survey pointed to Germany as a source of precursors.”
Obviously, the Taliban have nothing to do with the smuggling of this chemical from Europe into Afghanistan. The answer to who is bringing in this precursor can be answered by the old adage ‘Follow the money’.
Besides the incredibly corrupt Afghan government, many stand to benefit from a thriving drug trade originating out of Afghanistan. It's worth noting that the CIA doesn't have a clean history when it comes to covert drug trafficking.
“In other words, intelligence agencies, powerful business, drug traders and organized crime are competing for the strategic control over the heroin routes. A large share of this multi-billion dollar revenues of narcotics are deposited in the Western banking system. Most of the large international banks together with their affiliates in the offshore banking havens launder large amounts of narco-dollars.
This trade can only prosper if the main actors involved in narcotics have "political friends in high places." Legal and illegal undertakings are increasingly intertwined, the dividing line between "businesspeople" and criminals is blurred. In turn, the relationship among criminals, politicians and members of the intelligence establishment has tainted the structures of the state and the role of its institutions including the Military.” [Source]
This role played by Western banks is repeated in the FPIF article:
“The report says that over the last seven years (2002-2008), the transnational trade in Afghan opiates resulted in worldwide sales of $400-$500 billion (retail value). Only 5-10% of this is estimated to be laundered by informal banking systems (such as hawala). The remainder is laundered through the legal economy, and importantly, through Western banks.
In fact, Antonio Maria Costa [UNODC Executive Director] was quoted as saying that drug money may have recently rescued some failing banks: "interbank loans were funded by money that originated from drug trade and other illegal activities," and there were "signs that some banks were rescued in that way."”
It becomes very clear when the dots are connected that the argument of Taliban drug trafficking is a classic red herring when it comes to America's Afghan policy.
*I wrote before about the disinformation campaign employed by the American occupying forces in attempts to defend their losing ways in Afghanistan. This drug-trafficking myth is merely another example of this strategy.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
I'm not looking to pick a fight here or anything. The only subject more overhyped in the Muslim blogosphere than polygamy is hijab, so I'm not looking to revisit all the pros and cons of multiple wives.
I just want to see what people think about this semi-hypothetical situation:
A 34-year old sister is living with her parents after years of failed attempts at finding a suitor. Her family hasn't helped as they've rejected a few applicants due to petty cultural issues. She's become so desperate at wanting a child that she recently adopted an orphan baby.
A few weeks ago, a respectable business man in the community approached the father with a proposal that would make the daughter his second wife. The father laughed at the idea, followed by an immediate rejection. When the father came home and brought it up with the family, the daughter, after pondering over the situation, apprehensively came to a similar conclusion.
I say apprehensively since she has seen the writing on her wall and marriage is clearly a distant possibility. She fretted at the thought of sharing her man with another woman, but countered it with the possibility of having her own natural children. She savored the possibility of living in her own home with her own man, but shut that door with the social stigma of being a second wife.
So in the end, she played it safe and accepted her parent's decision.
The thought that immediately comes to my mind is how oppressive is the father (as well as the society) that simply will not entertain the possibility of this woman becoming a co-wife.
If all parties involved (the man, the first wife, and this sister in question) are accepting of the situation, who the hell are people to judge this polygamous relationship? What kind of irresponsible father places his own social circumstances and fears before the well-being of his daughter?
I just don't get it.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
No, not the freedoms. And, not the democracy either. I can live without all that, thank you very much.
What I miss most about living in the US is the Muslim community. Alot.
The tight-knit community that revolved around the local Masjid is simply not to be seen anywhere in Saudi Arabia. 7 years running and Riyadh has nothing remotely close to the feeling of brotherhood I felt in Baltimore.
The reasons are pretty obvious.
Muslims over here aren’t operating as a minority under attack and thus find no need to go the extra mile to build a community. On the other hand, Muslims in the West naturally gravitate towards the masjid in order to feel more at home with others who share their worldview. This inevitably leads to social activities and the like.
Also, the fact that masajid are located at every corner of Riyadh dilutes the concept of the masjid serving as the social center of the community. Masajid here serve only one purpose – prayer. In America, they fulfill multiple objectives – spiritual, social, political, and educational.
Whereas in Baltimore, I would regularly see my friends at the masjid every other night or so (and at worst, every week at Juma’a), here in Riyadh, months can go by before I see a brother who lives merely a few miles away, simply because he attends a masjid walking distance from his home. There’s no two-birds-with-one-stone approach of going to pray and also seeing the brothers. If I want to see anybody, I have to organize a separate social activity, which is simply too time consuming.
But most of all, I miss the volunteering aspect of the Muslim community in America.
I miss shoveling snow off the Masjid sidewalk.
I miss cleaning the bathrooms.
I miss serving food at community dinners.
I miss teaching at the Sunday School.
I miss cleaning up after Iftar dinners.
I miss working with the youth groups.
I miss rolling out the carpets for Juma’a.
I miss selling tickets for fundraising dinners.
I miss collecting donations.
I miss organizing car parking arrangements for Eid.
I miss the high of carrying out said parking plan to perfection.
I miss the exhaustion felt after executing a successful summer festival.
I miss selling balloons after the Eid prayer.
I miss mowing the lawn of the Masjid.
I miss calling up parents to remind them of the next Muslim Kids Club trip.
I miss all the sweat and blood that went into building a thriving Muslim community.
And I am pained at the thought of not exposing my own children to these most beautiful opportunities to serve their Lord. If ever there were a reason for me to go back to the US, the Muslim community and all that it offers would be it.
Friday, April 30, 2010
I am convinced that too many of us living in industrialized nations have lost sight of what it truly means to have trust in our Sustainer. With our guaranteed salaries and medical insurance and pension plans, our lives are meticulously laid out to safeguard against every possible curve ball thrown our way.
We have assured ourselves that our Rizq (sustenance), present and future, will come primarily from our own efforts. The more we struggle and strive, the more we shall accomplish and achieve. Sure, our belief system dictates that everything comes from Allah (swt), but our attitudes expose our hypocrisy.
Our provisions are not coming from Allah (swt), but from our paychecks.
Our medical services are not provided by Allah (swt), but by our health care provider.
Our homes and automobiles are not protected by Allah (swt), but by our insurance companies.
We feel secure since protection is provided by the police force and fire department.
We needn’t worry about losing our credit cards as the companies have policies protecting against fraud and theft.
And with everything guaranteed, insured, and protected, where has Allah (swt) gone in our daily lives?
Don’t get me wrong. None of what I mentioned is inherently wrong. They are merely ways we implement the Prophetic advice to ‘tie the camel’. But the problem arises when we become so consumed with securing the camel that we build a fence around it, install a camera system, and hire a security force.
Where did the second part of the famous Prophet guidance go (‘and trust in Allah’)?
We are so busy with establishing safety nets and emergency funds that we have forgotten the more essential principle of Trust in Allah. These devices are desperate measures created by a desperate civilization that has lost all ties with its Creator and Sustainer.
Yet, we are falling in full step behind them, mimicking their every act, in creating a lifestyle safe and secure from the randomness of Divine ‘interference’.
So instead of expending our energies towards higher goals and objectives, we have become infatuated with tying down the proverbial camel.
Modern society dictates that not only must we provide for today and tomorrow, but we must engage all our energies into securing next year and the year after. Not only must we strive to provide for our family’s basic necessities, but we must save up for college funds, expensive weddings, and retirement costs.
Allah (swt) will not provide, our actions scream. Our 401(K) will.
And with our trust in our Creator withering away, we feel a greater urgency to incessantly pursue our Rizq - all the while forgetting that our Rizq is actually running after us.
“And how many a living creature is there that takes no thought of its own sustenance; God provides for it as [He provides] for you - since He alone is all-hearing, all-knowing.” (29:60)
“And there is no living creature on earth but depends for its sustenance on God” (11:6)
Let us focus our efforts towards that which matters and leave our sustenance to the One who has sustained everything in this world since its inception.
Allow me to share a tale that nicely captures the essence of our sustenance and how, regardless of what we do, it runs after us:
In a remote village, a young man was asked by his gentle elderly mother to eat his breakfast before leaving home. Bursting with energy and in a rush to begin his day, he declined and scurried off on his way. Being the caring mother she was, she quickly ordered her young daughter to follow after the boy with the plate of food to ensure he ate it. Said the loving mother, ‘Do not let him see you, lest he reject it again. Simply leave the food nearby, so when he becomes hungry, he will eat it at his leisure.’
The sister surreptitiously followed her elder sibling through the forest all the way to the local river, where she watched as her brother jumped in for a morning swim. After he got out, he stretched out under a nearby tree and proceeded to take a nap. Figuring he would be hungry after his nap, she laid the plate of food some distance away from the tree and returned home, certain that her brother would eventually find his breakfast.
Coincidentally, a group of no-good hooligans were convening nearby and discussing plans for their next act of thievery. While arguing back and forth, the gang leader smelled the scent of fresh food and followed it back to the same plate. Desperate for a home-cooked meal , the lot of them eagerly decided to share the food amongst themselves, until the leader paused and reflected. He shared his concern that the plate could potentially be a devious plot concocted by a rival gang.
‘The food may contain poison’, he grumbled. ‘Scout around and see if you find one of them spying on us.’
They ran about looking for anyone hiding away, until they came upon the young man sleeping under the tree.
They immediately pounced upon him and carried him back to their leader, who ferociously demanded the boy confess to setting up the poisonous plate of food. The young man repeatedly denied it until the leader decided it best to ‘test’ the food by force-feeding the hapless lad.
They made him eat every last morsel and eagerly awaited for the poison to kick in. Soon thereafter, they realized that nothing of the sort would occur and so dejectedly beat the boy one last time and went on their way.
The boy limped his way home and upon seeing his bruised face, his mother shrieked, ‘What happened my son?!’
With half a smile, he admitted, ‘Dear mother, my Lord had decreed my sustenance in the form of your hearty breakfast. One way or another I was destined to eat it. I declined the choice to eat it by your blessed hands, so Allah willed for me to eat it by the punches and kicks of those less savory.'
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I was appalled by this recent article where the columnist actually recommends couples (married or not) spice up their sex life by engaging in public sex:
“The point is, the fear of getting caught -- combined with the thrill of being naughty by taking things out of the bedroom -- can really ramp up your sex life.”
Disgusting, yet expected.
Surely I am not the only one who immediately thought of these Prophetic warnings of the Last Day:
Narrated Anas (RAA) Allah's Messenger (SAW) said, "From among the portents of the Hour are (the following) …There will be prevalence of open illegal sexual intercourse." (Bukhari)
“The Last Hour will not be established until they (wicked people) commit adultery on the roads.” (Ibn Habban)
And finally a last narration, for which I couldn’t find the exact text, where the Prophet (saw) warned that the Last Day will not arrive until the wicked are engaging in public fornication like donkeys.
Monday, April 19, 2010
As I was watching the news coverage of the volcanic ash cloud blanketing parts of Europe, I couldn't help but think of the Dukhan (the Smoke), one of the ten major signs of the Last Day, as taught by the Prophet (saw):
“Allah’s Messenger came to us all of a sudden as we were (busy in a discussion). He asked: What are you discussing? (The Companions) replied: We are discussing (the subject of) the Last Hour. Thereupon he said: It will not come until you see ten signs. And (in this connection) he made a mention of the Dukhan (smoke), Dajjal, the Beast, the Rising of the sun from the west, the Descent of Jesus son of Mary, Gog and Magog, Sinkings of the earth in three places, one in the east, one in the west and one in Arabia, after which a Fire would burn forth from Yemen, and would drive people to the place of their assembly’ (i.e., the place where mankind will be assembled for judgment).” (Sahih Muslim)
Now I'm not claiming this ash cloud is *that* Dukhan. Only Allah (swt) knows. But I'm guessing that a majority of Muslims around the world are completely heedless of the possibility.
My concern is the nonchalant attitude with which we Muslim observers of global affairs treat potential apocalyptic signs.
We have becomes so desensitized to the bizarre occurrences of our world, that nothing seems peculiar anymore. So much so, that I would not be the least surprised if an extraordinary event, like say the coming of Prophet Isa (as), were simply reported by the media, and duly consumed by us viewers, as some delusional individual performing tricks of magic while claiming to be the Messiah.
Or if the appearance of Imam Mahdi was casually written off as some fanatical terrorist claiming to revive the Islamic Khilafa.
I think that most of us are expecting these individuals (Prophet Isa and Imam Mahdi) to be accompanied by some cinematic soundtrack or maybe a ray of light beaming from the heavens.
Or that Yajuj and Majuj (Gog and Magog) will storm down across the lands like the savage beasts in Sauron’s army.
Or that Dajjal will be this immediately recognizable one-eyed monster who will lay waste to the entire world.
The fact is nothing so flashy and jazzy will be taking place. These signs will come and go as ‘normal’ events to which the majority of people will pay no mind.
With regards to the coming of Yajuj and Majuj (Gog/Magog), the Prophet (saw) said “People would continue to perform the Hajj and ‘Umrah even after the release of Gog and Magog, but the Last Hour would not come before the (valid) Hajj no longer existed.”
This hadith demonstrates that the release of Yajuj/Majuj will not be some sensational Hollywood-style climactic event with monstrous zombies running amok, devouring innocent children and dining on human blood. On the contrary, there will remain enough peace and security around the world to allow pilgrims to travel all the way to Mecca and back.
Similarly, with the release of the Dajjal, it will be a normal everyday occurrence, as witnessed by the Prophet seeking to confirm the identity of Ibn Sayyad as the Dajjal:
It is related that 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar reported that 'Umar went with the Messenger of Allah (saw), with a group to visit Ibn Sayyad. They found him playing with some children in the hills of Banu Maghala. Ibn Sayyad, who was approaching puberty, did not notice them until the Prophet (saw)patted him with his hand and then said to him, 'Do you testify that I am the Messenger of Allah?' Ibn Sayyad looked at him and said, 'I testify that you are the Messenger of the unlettered.' Ibn Sayyad said to the Prophet, 'Do you testify that I am the Messenger of Allah?' He refuted it and said, 'I have believed in Allah and His Messengers.' Then he said to him, 'What dreams do you have?' Ibn Sayyad replied, 'Both truthful people and liars come to me.' The Prophet (saw) said, 'You are in a state of confusion.' Then the Prophet (saw) said to him, 'I am concealing something from you.' Ibn Sayyad said, 'It is just smoke.' He said, 'Shame on you! You will not go too far.' 'Umar said, 'Messenger of Allah, let me cut his head off?' The Prophet (saw) said, 'If it is him (i.e. the Dajjal), you will not be able to get the better of him. If it is not him, there is no point in killing him.'"
Salim reported that he heard 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar say, "After that, the Prophet (saw) went with Ubayy ibn Ka'b al-Ansari to the palm-grove where Ibn Sayyad was staying. He wanted to hear something from Ibn Sayyad without Ibn Sayyad seeing him. The Prophet, Messenger of Allah entered and hid behind the palm trunks, trying to hear something from Ibn Sayyad before he saw him. Ibn Sayyad was lying on his bed, covered by a wrapper and there was a murmuring sound coming from him. The mother of Ibn Sayyad saw the Prophet (saw) hiding behind the palm trunk and she said to Ibn Sayyad, 'Saf! (which was a name of Ibn Sayyad) Muhammad is here.' So Ibn Sayyad got up. The Prophet (saw) said, 'If she had left him, the business would have been clear.'"
From these two narrations, it’s evident that the Prophet (saw) saw the release of Dajjal as uneventful, as opposed to the Armageddon-style view that so many of us harbor where we expect the entire earth to shake and the skies to fall upon the Dajjal's arrival.
So back to the ash cloud.
I'm not making any rash predictions about it being one of the major signs of the Day. I'm simply saying that we need to first, become intimately aware of what our Prophet (saw) taught us about the signs (both major and minor) of the Last Day, and second, be on alert for these signs, because when they do occur, there ain't gonna be any thundering announcement coming from the heavens.
Monday, April 19, 2010 | | 36 Comments
Saturday, April 17, 2010
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term ‘rubbernecker’, it refers to those depraved individuals who, while driving by a car accident, quickly turn their necks back and forth just so they can catch a glimpse of the wreckage. And to top it off, in the process of their gawking, they’re forced to slow down their car which inevitably results in a traffic jam.
I find it very unsympathetic of these schmucks to find some sort of viewing pleasure as they pass by the remains of someone else’s misery.
I can only imagine the frustrations felt by those involved in the accident. Adding insult to the injury caused by the crash, they have to stand there and endure the humiliation of becoming an unreluctant circus act for hundreds of passing viewers.
Why don’t these heartless souls just hand the victims a top hat and cane so they can at least dress for the part?
And that’s not the worst of it.
You’ve all the heard the quip when someone is caught staring at somebody else, the person will respond, ‘Hey buddy, why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer’.
Well, some folks took that suggestion literally.
I’ve seen people here in Saudi Arabia, where I have witnessed more gruesome accidents than I wish to discuss, slow down their cars to the point where they can take out their phone and snap a few quick pics of the shocking scene.
Such an insensitive act is a serious invasion of the victim’s moment of grief and misfortune.
I shared my thoughts with some co-workers and they both felt I was being too sensitive. They reasoned that as long as the pics aren’t of the people involved and aren’t being taken to make light of the situation, it’s no big deal.
Really?! Where is the humanity???
I find such logic lacking in compassion and simple courtesy.
Or am I simply being too sensitive here?
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sh. Yasir Qadhi wrote a piece over at MuslimMatters presenting his new initiative (Like a Garment) to address sex-related problems plaguing many Western Muslim couples. He cites his experience in presenting various lectures and seminars, where many young Muslims expressed confusion and frustration in navigating the murky waters of intimate relations.
He mentioned three examples in his article:
1. A couple experimenting in questionable acts.
2. A wife complaining about her selfish husband who cares nothing for her sexual satisfaction.
3. Husbands frustrated by their wives' lack of sexual interest.
So after discovering the dearth of Islamic scholarly work on this subject, he decided to read up on the countless western studies and decided to Islamify them for consumption by his Muslim audiences.
Sh. Yasir reasons that such problems of intimacy are “compounded for most of us, since we as a modern generation of Muslims are caught between two cultures: the excessive ultra-conservatism of our parent’s culture (in which parents never even held hands in front of their kids, or addressed each other in endearing terms, or indeed showed any signs of being romantic), and the hyped over-sexuality and over-romanticism of the culture surrounding us (in which much happens in public that we’d rather not discuss).”
So, he’s claiming that the social dynamics are so completely different for Muslims in modern society that it necessitates a new approach to address the challenges of their sexual problems.
Is it me or are the three examples he cited problems that have existed since the dawn of time and not merely specific to the modern generation of Muslims?
Married couples have been struggling with these issues for generations. I don’t see anything so problematic that it warrants such a focused attention.
Nothing modern about these issues.
What is modern is this self-serving need to talk about everything. We are the Oprah/Dr. Phil-generation. We need to open up and express our emotions and share our frustrations and analyze everything, even our most intimate of problems.
I’m not comfortable with this position.
What makes us believe that the problems related to intimacy found in our generation are so special that they need to be addressed in a manner different from what ALL the generations before practiced?
For ages, couples have dealt with these issues in the privacy of their homes or in extreme cases, in a private session with a respected elder.
But not us. We need to publicly discuss sensitive issues, such as masturbation, orgasms, and vibrators.
The lack of public sexual discourse found in Muslims societies is not a deficiency. I counter that it’s a strength. After all, with all this openness found in Western society, how has it improved their marriages?
Caught in this intersection between two cultures, we’re sadly choosing the ways of our newly adopted culture where it’s completely acceptable to openly discuss sex, while arrogantly tossing aside centuries of tradition and custom, marked by this most essential of characteristics, Haya (bashfulness).
Haya dictates that not every problem of intimacy needs to be addressed. Haya teaches us that getting the absolute maximum sexual pleasure does not take precedence over social propriety and modesty. Haya teaches us that problems created in the bedroom should be fixed in the bedroom.
Let me clarify that when I refer to problems, I speak not of modern-day perversions that are destroying marriages, such as porn, romance novels, and Facebook. Issues born from these sicknesses, as complex as they are, can be addressed either in the conventional manner, as detailed in this timely article posted at Imam Suhaib Webb’s site, or with the expertise of a marriage counselor.
And I’m not just picking on Sh. Yasir’s project. I have similar misgivings with programs like the one hosted by the Egyptian ‘Dr. Ruth’, Hoda Kotb, who shocked the Muslim world several years ago with her TV program ‘Big Talk’ in which she discusses sensitive issues. The sex therapist admitted that "Five years ago, I'd see two or three patients a week. Today, I'm booked three months ahead."
Some may conclude from her statement that modern couples are indeed having more problems in bed. On the contrary, I think it’s just that they’ve found an outlet receptive to their questions and frustrations.
Parents, elder siblings, and close friends simply don’t care about your bedroom antics. So in this day and age, where sexual prowess is critical to one’s identity, couples are insistent on finding a solution and thus these initiatives are taking hold in our communities.
Sex just isn’t that complicated. If village dwellers can figure it out, why can’t the modern Muslim generation?
I guess I’m just old school. I say to couples interested in improving their sex life exactly what my father told me before I got married.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I recently discussed my experiences with weaning my kids off the TV. Yeah, I know, it really shouldn't that hard. Just throw the stupid thing out!
I know some families who have done exactly that. Kudos to them, I say. One day I hope to do the same.
But then I see these same folks giving their children free reign on the Internet. I see them buying their kids hand-held video games (Nintendo DS, PSP). I see them buying them fancy cell phones. I see them buying them iPods.
What in the world are they thinking?!
This attitude exposes their shallow understanding of the evils of the TV. Or their shallow understanding of their children's Tarbiya (spiritual development).
They hear all the talk of rejecting the TV and they obediently throw it out. But since they haven't heard any lectures condemning netbooks, Facebook, cellphones, and iPods, they mysteriously figure those items must be okay.
How is tuning into Youtube any different than tuning into TV? How is it any better having your kids glued to the laptop instead of glued to the TV set? What do you expect to teach your kids with their ears plugged into MP3 players or fingers texting away on cellphones, WHILE YOU'RE SITTING IN THE SAME FREAKIN' ROOM WITH THEM?!?!
Do you seriously need a fatwa to tell you that this other stuff is just as harmful for your kids as a television set?
I guess some people just need to be spoon-fed their religion.
Someone please find me a fatwa against the new iPad before these folks buy one for their kids. :-/
Saturday, April 3, 2010
When I first arrived in Saudi Arabia, I was warned about a specific tactic used by car thieves where they would initiate a 'fender-bender' accident, causing you to jump out of your car to check the damage. Then, while you're inspecting the back of your car and talking to the driver that hit you, his partner sneaks into your car and drives away.
When I heard this, I brushed it off as something that rarely occurs and is simply being highlighted due to the shock factor.
Until recently, that is.
A few months back, my friend's co-worker had newly arrived to the Kingdom and was running some errands with his family. As is normally the custom here, the husband will run into a corner shop to quickly grab some fruits or bread, while the family sits in the car. And due to the immense heat, the car will remain running with the A/C for the family's sake.
In the case of this fellow, while he was in the store, a car thief broke the window, jumped into his car, and drove off, WITH THE FAMILY INSIDE!
Thankfully, the criminal had some mercy and let out the family further down the road. Needless to say, the victim and his family were extremely distraught and soon left the Kingdom.
I was shocked when I heard this story as the incident was closer to home than some news item in the paper. Yet, I was still undeterred and maintained my practice of leaving the car running with my family inside.
Until two weeks ago when my very own friend had a similarly unfortunate incident. He had just finished shopping at IKEA and pulled his car up to the loading area to get his family and their items. He casually got out to put the bags in the trunk and help his wife with the baby, and in the blink of an eye, a car zoomed up, dude jumped out and into my friend's car, and both cars sped off.
Thankfully, the family was not in the car. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for his wallet (including the most essential Iqama card) and cell phone. Somewhat happy ending in that last week the police found the car abandoned in the outskirts of the city.
Regardless, this one hit too close for comfort. Since then, I've become alot more vigilante in turning off my car while my family waits inside. I would strongly recommend all others to follow suit.
Not sure what we're going to do when the summer heat arrives.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I challenge anyone to find me a cuter experience than having my 2-yr old daughter, crying and sobbing, complain to me in her baby voice, 'Abujee, my eyes not woking!' because she's confused by the tears in her eyes that have blurred her vision.
I gently wipe away her tears and ask her if her eyes are now working, to which she bashfully smiles and whispers, 'Yes, I'm okay now'.
Moments like that make all the hell we go through as parents totally worth it!
Monday, March 29, 2010
Pilger is spot on with his definition of Americanism, especially the final sentence about a popular culture designed to distract and stultify the masses:
"Norman Mailer once said he believed the United States, in its endless pursuit of war and domination, had entered a "pre-fascist era". Mailer seemed tentative, as if trying to warn about something even he could not quite define. "Fascism" is not right, for it invokes lazy historical precedents, conjuring yet again the iconography of German and Italian repression. On the other hand, American authoritarianism, as the cultural critic Henry Giroux pointed out recently, is "more nuance, less theatrical, more cunning, less concerned with repressive modes of control than with manipulative modes of consent."
This is Americanism, the only predatory ideology to deny that it is an ideology. The rise of tentacular corporations that are dictatorships in their own right and of a military that is now a state with the state, set behind the façade of the best democracy 35,000 Washington lobbyists can buy, and a popular culture programmed to divert and stultify, is without precedent."
John Pilger, Have a Nice World War, Folks
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Most of you have heard about the latest audio release by Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki (the audio and a response). In the past few years, many of those in the West who found immense inspiration in his audio series on the Lives of the Prophets, the life of Abu Bakr, and the Hereafter have become disillusioned with his transformation to a revolutionary supporter of Jihad.
One of the common arguments used against Awlaki is that he once espoused universalist messages of Islam (“Islam is peace”, “Muslims are against terrorism”, etc.) and then (after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq), he transformed into the exact opposite. The argument continues that such a revolution of thought is a sign of instability and misguidance.
Regardless of where you may stand on his views, there is one point that we should all agree upon – an evolution of thought does not always indicate a deficient understanding of the truth.
Similar arguments are made against Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, who took a somewhat inverted approach to Awlaki’s journey, going from a firebrand speaker, calling on Muslims in the West to disassociate themselves from the wayward mores of Western society, to an assimilationist, preaching a more tolerant message of Islam in the West.
I find many people negatively critical of individuals who go through intellectual renovations. The implication being that those persons who consistently stick to the same worldview have a more solid base and represent a more balanced frame of mind.
These same people refuse to study and analyze thoughts and teachings espoused by anyone outside their outlook, fearful of diluting their ‘intellectual purity’. They claim that guidance can only come from their ‘authentic’ scholars and unabashedly reject all others as deviant.
The irony is that these folks are actually the ones on weak foundations since they’re too afraid to be intellectually challenged by foreign ideas.
Imam Ghazali is the most famous example of intellectual evolution, going from a more exoteric life as an Islamic judge (Qadi) to a more esoteric life of Ihsan and spiritual excellence. In the process, he embraced the challenges posed by other methodologies, such as contemporary philosophy (Falsafa) and extreme theology (Bataniyya, Mutazila).
Personally, I’ve never shied from reading works by authors outside my personal point of view. And in the process, I’ve come to adjust and reinvent my outlook, while always keeping my foundation fixed firmly on the fundamental principles of Islam.
Sure, some of my colleagues have been critical of my intellectual ebbs and flows but I personally find myself stronger in my convictions after having challenged them against countering ideas.
Not sure why so many people are afraid/critical of the maturation process of one's personal thought. I guess it's easier to stand behind the cover of select scholars, blindly regurgitating their words than to withstand the barrage of intellectual arrows in the battlefield of ideas.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I remember from days long past, trying to be the first to yell 'Shotgun!' in an attempt to get the front passenger seat. The one rule governing this childish antic is that one must *see* the car in order to win the position. So my siblings and I would quickly throw on our shoes and run outside, screaming 'Shotgun!' at the top of our lungs.
Of course, the fun of being in the front quickly subsided when we discovered that it was rather easy for our father to grab our ears when we were situated right next to him.
And so, it is with that quaint memory that I read the question posed by a brother who recently commented:
"who sits beside the husband in the car? wife or mother?"
My initial gut reaction would be to have them compete for it the old-fashioned way (by shouting 'Shotgun!'), but in case my mother won, that would make it easier for her to grab my ear for having the audacity to ask her to play this silly game.
So after some thought, I would have to advise my good brother to seriously consider setting things straight in his home.
My first advice is one that I got from Sh. Zulfiqar who taught that when you get married you must realize that you now have two fathers and two mothers. You must treat your spouse's parents as if they are your own parents. All this garbage of father-IN-LAW or mother-IN-LAW needs to be rejected. Her parents are your parents. Full stop.
When she sees you treating her parents with the same respect as your own, she will undoubtedly 'return the favor'.
Once that is established, the wife must then realize that complete respect is owed to the parents. So if and when a situation arises where the wife and the mother are at odds, it must be clear that precedence goes to the mother. Full stop.
If someone is to eat first, it will be the parent. If someone is to sit first, it will be the parent. If someone is to speak first, it will be the parent.
Obviously, I am simplifying the complex dynamics between relations, especially those living under the same roof (which I might add is *always* a bad idea). But the husband and wife must realize that both sets of parents are to be placed on a pedestal.
I'm assuming that the parent is not abusively tyrannical, trying at all costs to sabotage the marriage, and make the life of the child a living hell. In that case, serious counseling may be needed for all involved parties.
Such extreme cases are the exception.
The problem nowadays is that all too often, the newly married couple feels it's their God-given right to be independent. They desire to make their own decisions. The concept of the extended family, where parents played a vital role in the lives of the newlyweds, has become outdated. The wife feels challenged when the husband's mother is present. The husband feels emasculated when the wife's father provides input. Too much ego, not enough humility. Sadly, I speak from experience.
Instead of welcoming and embracing the wisdom of the parents with awe and respect, the couple views them with disdain and spite.
To be frank, the fact that such a question (of whether the wife or the mother should sit in the front) was ever allowed to be voiced reveals the enormity of the fundamental problem - the absence of parental respect. In an atmosphere loaded with respect for all four parents, such a confrontation would never arise.
The child always yields to the parent. Full stop.
And when such a recourse is taken with the intention of pleasing one's Lord, no matter what the damage it does to one's ego, it will only result in goodness and blessing from Allah (swt).
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
that although my Creator, the Lord of all that exists in the heavens and the earth, Who existed before there was anything and will remain after there is nothing, Who is in no need of my feeble self, descends all the way from the highest heaven to the lowest heaven *every single night* for the sole purpose of listening to my pleas, I refuse to descend simply from my cozy bed to the prayer mat on the ground beside it to avail His infinite mercy!
Our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "The Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the night remains and says: Who will call upon Me that I may answer Him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will seek My forgiveness, that I may forgive him?"
Sunday, March 14, 2010
I used to laugh hysterically whenever that question was asked of women who are NOT pregnant. And then after I'd wipe away my tears caused by the momentous foot jammed in the mouth of the questioner, I would proceed to feel bad for the questioned.
And man, would I feel bad for those women - the worst being when the lady is actually *trying* to get pregnant. Salt meet wound.
Why am I saying all this? Because I now know what those women feel like.
I jump in the car this morning and my carpool partner asks me:
"Bro, you must be feeling really sore this morning, eh?"
Puzzled by the question, I respond, "Sorta yeah. I had a nice workout last night and my knees are hurting a bit. But how'd you know? Were you also at the gym?"
"Naaah, I didn't go. I just figured you're sore cuz I smelled the BenGay* cream."
I replied, "Uhhmm. Actually, I'm NOT wearing any BenGay" while lifting my arms to smell my armpits.
And there it was. My very own 'Are you expecting?' moment. Only this time, I wasn't wiping away tears of laughter.
*In case you've never used it, BenGay is this pungent cream used for muscle pain that is made from dead rats, dirty diapers, and rotten milk.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
That's six for those of you counting at home. All within a span of two months. All in (or close to) densely populated areas.
First there was the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti (1/12), then 7.0 Japan (2/26), then 8.8 Chile (2/27), then 6.4 Taiwan (3/4), then 6.5 Sumatra (3/5), and now 6.0 Turkey (3/8).
And of course the priests of our time, the scientists, are allaying people's fears by constantly telling us that earthquakes aren't on the rise according to their data.
"According to long-term records (which exist since about 1900), the U.S.G.S. expects that about 17 major earthquakes (magnitude 7.0 - 7.9) and one great earthquake (8.0 or above) will affect the world in any given year."
Sure the frequency may not be increasing but the location of these earthquakes, in populated areas, is definitely noteworthy.
"In an average year, the geological survey estimates that several million earthquakes occur around the world. However, many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes."
So how come the location of these recent earthquakes is not being considered in the analysis? These quakes aren't taking place in remote parts of the Pacific Ocean - they are affecting millions and millions of people.
So what to make of this?
Regardless of what one may or may not conclude from these earthquakes, there must remain a place for the Divine in any related discussion. The fact that God has been removed from our discourse of these 'natural phenomenon' exposes our lacking epistemology, which places value only on the observable while turning a blind eye to role of the sacred. Worse yet, when God is injected into any explanation of these earthquakes, the response invariably is drenched in mockery and derision.
I say that Muslims buck this unfortunate trend and bring back other-worldly considerations to this-worldly occurrences. As Muslims, who place our Creator at the epicenter (pun intended) of our lives, such a callous attitude must be outrightly rejected.
I have a feeling that many of us are fearful of being lumped together with the right-wing fanatics (such as Pat Robertson) who are extremely loud in condemning the victims as sinful and thus deserving of the 'punishment'.
But it needn't be the case that the role of God is solely as Punisher. It isn't either you make calls for the Armageddon or you remove God completely from the picture. These quakes can serve as a reminder of the raw power of God or that one day we will face the same fate as those who perished or a Divine call to arms to help those suffering in the wake of the tragedy or so on.
But one thing is for sure - explanations of and discussions on these events must not be devoid of Allah (swt), even if the only result is a burst of pure emotion culminating in a reminder that we all have come from Him and to Him we shall all return.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Well, this video is not technically a CNN report. It was produced by Suroosh Alvi of VBS.TV, but CNN is hosting Part 1 (Part 2 is here). So it's close enough.
Anyways, a friend forwarded me this video report and I must admit my ambivalence towards the overall tone. It's really geared towards the regular man on the street. The narrator takes extreme liberty in describing this most sacred rite in Islam, at one point comparing the crowds performing tawaaf to a mosh pit, but so be it. Such are the times we live in.
At the same time, he seemed generally apologetic in presenting the Hajj rites to his non-Muslim audience. For example, I found it odd how he expressed his concern that the airplane scene where all the passengers were chanting the Talbiyya made them look like a bunch of terrorists. Also, why did he mention the Filipino stewardesses and how they wished they were anywhere else in the world?
And when describing Madina, he talked about the camels and malls and oh yeah, there's also this cool looking mosque called the Prophet's Mosque. Huh? Isn't that the ONLY reason for going to Madina? And what about that tiny little detail of our Prophet (saw) being buried there? No mention. The stopover in Madina was all about getting into some 'meditative state'.
And since I'm all about picking on my brother Suroosh, it would've been nice if he had mentioned that the Ka'bah was built by Prophet Abraham (as). After all, he is the patriarch for the three main monotheistic faiths.
Maybe I'm reading too much into the flow of his piece, but I simply didn't care for his vibe.
He seems to have taken the Orientalist approach of communicating the Hajj experience to the Western public. He (and by extension, his audience) represent the world of sanity and civility while the millions of heathen pilgrims fill the role of the unsophisticated 'Other'. Clamoring on bus rooftops, jostling for position in front of the Kaaba, sleeping on the streets of Mina - these are the bedraggled masses hopelessly littering the sacred grounds of Mecca.
In addition to his questionable tone, I wanted to also make some corrections:
1. He says that video recording is strictly prohibited in the sanctuary of Mecca and so he secretly recorded his video footage and smuggled it out. Sure, if you're walking around with a huge camera on your shoulder, like those used by cameramen working for broadcast networks. But tiny digital cameras have become so ubiquitous that the Saudi authorities basically turn a blind eye. That's what allowed me to record this and this. And I recorded both videos in the open without any need for sneaking the footage out of Mecca.
2. The fancy high-rise hotels that shocked and disappointed the narrator are NOT solely for the super rich. In fact, most of the guests staying in those hotels are regular folks who are staying there via discounted rates afforded by their Hajj/Umrah group. And even for the regular guest (like me), the average cost per night ranges from $120 to $150 for a double room, hardly the scope of the rich and famous.
3. And our video host makes another mistake when he claims that the super rich take those rooms in order 'to pray from the confines of their rooms', as if to avoid the dirty company of the masses found around the Holy Mosque. That may be said of the Royal Palace, reserved for Saudi royalty and visiting dignitaries, that overlooks the Haram, but the pilgrims staying in the surrounding hotels have come from all around the world for the sole purpose of standing in front of the Ka'bah. Not sure who he met that was praying from within his/her hotel room.
Near the end of the second part, he describes the scene of pilgrims lining the streets in their makeshift tents and plastic mats as apocalyptic. Sure, I guess it may come off as a bit dreary and morbid from the confines of an air-conditioned bus. But in reality, when one moves away from the five-star accommodations afforded to pilgrims coming from the West and walks the streets with the 'regular' pilgrim, one only senses joy and elation. Thankfully, both times I was blessed to make the Hajj, I was able to get a taste of the more simplistic Hajj and I would most definitely not describe it as apocalyptic.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
I’ve been recently listening to Sh. Imran Hosein and I must say that I find many of his teachings very much resonating with my personal thoughts. And so, as part of my ongoing contribution to the world, I will write up some posts summarizing a few of his lectures. Let me begin with a most beautiful explanation he has given of the first four verses of Sura al-Layl:
Consider the night as it veils in darkness, (92:1)
and the day as it rises bright! (92:2)
Consider the creation of the male and the female! (92:3)
Verily, you aim at most divergent ends! (92:4)
The night and the day are presented as two separate entities, followed immediately by a seemingly unrelated verse mentioning the creation of man and woman. It concludes with a proclamation that man (as he is commonly understood to be the subject of the verse) is full of diversity in his work.
In Sh. Imran’s understanding, the presentation of the day and the night is, in fact, directly linked to the creation of man and woman. As different as are the day and the night, so too are man and woman. The day with his sultry brightness is the period of toil and work. The night with her mysterious darkness is the place of cool comfort and serenity.
The day is naturally attracted to the night and the night to the day. When the day approaches the night, the skyline reflects the universal change in mood. The day calms himself in preparation for the night’s warm welcome. All the hustle and bustle found in the blazing heat of the day is brought to a soothing end.
As the day turns to dusk and the dusk turns to night, the tender embrace of the night overtakes the sluggish day. Once the day enters the night, he succumbs to her alluring influence and takes a backseat. The night reigns supreme within her domain.
And when the time comes for the day to leave, the night refuses to let him go quietly. She slowly releases the day, one ray at a time, until finally the day breaks free of her comforting grasp and goes back to work.
Presented as such, it becomes clear how the phenomenon of the day and night translates to the Quranic understanding of the relationship between man and woman.
What remains clear throughout this reading is that each of these creations of Allah (swt) are exceptionally unique. The day can never become the night (and vice versa) nor can man ever become woman (and vice versa). And if there was any doubt, the fourth verse puts it to rest by explicitly declaring that the functions of man and woman are separate. They are not to be confused nor mixed up. Just as the day and the night are complementary yet completely distinctive, so too are the roles of man and women.
Now let us see what would happen if the roles were to become distorted. If the night became the province of work (or other activities) with the day being used primarily for sleep, the result would be society-wide chaos. It's been proven, for the most part, that individuals working extended stints in the graveyard shift suffer a variety of medical conditions. Besides work, other types of nocturnal activities, in conjunction with the lack of sleep, undoubtedly result in lowered productivity and effectiveness. And finally Ben Franklin must have known what he was talking about when he coined the phrase ‘Early to bed, Early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.’ (smile)
Another noteworthy point in the interpretation of these verses is that neither the day nor the night can claim superiority – both are equally essential to maintain the natural balance. Only a fool would declare the day more important than the night. And only a vampire would declare the night more important than the day.
And so, one can easily deduce the Quranic view on claims of male (or female) superiority.
Many may question or even denounce such an unorthodox reading, but I found it extremely enlightening and very much in line with the ever-flowing wisdom found in the spiritually refreshing fountains of the Quran.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
My friend Marc Manley responded to my recent post on the scourge of Secular Capitalist Islam for which I’m greatly honored. Its always nice to get critical feedback, whether in the form of comments on my blog, emails in my Inbox, or dedicated blog posts.
So I will respond to his response in kind – with a post of my own.
I will begin with a clarification, one that I feel is a bit unnecessary. I made overarching generalizations in my original post. I realize that. But it should have been clear that everything I stated is applicable to those cases where the ‘shoe fits’.
I am completely aware of the existence of American Muslims who are NOT giving in to the secular capitalistic way of life and are NOT willing to sacrifice any Islamic principles in the molding of their American Muslim identity. They have not deceived themselves into believing in the validity of the Secular Capitalist Islam that I spoke of so critically. They are not the target of my critique.
Did I really need to explicitly state that? I guess so.
Now, let me address the contentions of the good brother, beginning with his comparison of American Islam in its infancy to the growing pains that Muslims must have gone through in ‘traditional’ Muslim outlets such as Egypt, Morocco, or Pakistan.
“It is very easy and convenient to think of Egypt as a Muslim country now, but what was Egypt’s transition like, from a non-Muslim polity to a Muslim one? What struggles did Egypt have to go through to negotiate this transformation? Even to this day, there are folk holidays still in practice such as Shams an-Nasim.”
In my original post, I alluded to this point when I stated that “[American Islam] is NOT Islamic with simply an American twist, like what may be found in China or Indonesia or Africa – those instances of Islam were never born in such a hostile environment (to Islam in specific and religion in general), necessitating great conciliatory gestures from its followers”.
I am convinced that when Islam was introduced in the cases that I mentioned as well as Marc’s examples it was a completely different experience than what we are witnessing in America. The power politics were simply not the same, which makes the comparison between then and now as day and night.
Historically, Muslims never entered into a land except as victors. They never suffered from inferiority complexes. They rode into those lands with their heads high and their core values even higher. The indigenous non-Muslim masses were scrambling to adopt the ways of the Muslims in order to “jump on the bandwagon” of the winning side.
Need I ask, who is jumping on whose bandwagon nowadays?
And in those rare cases, where they were not the conquering force (e.g. Indonesia), they were not entering a hostile environment, where their beliefs were being demonized and their traditions were being belittled. Theirs was a pre-modern time where principled religious beliefs were celebrated and embraced, in stark contrast to the current-day atmosphere which finds an anti-religion secular worldview proudly boasted in America.
In such challenging circumstances, where not only Islam, but religion in general is under attack, how can American Islam be nurtured and allowed to blossom *on its own terms*? In such a charged environment, where American Muslims are told to choose a side, how can American Islam genuinely develop its own character? It is naïve to remove the political context from the equation when analyzing the introduction of Islam into new lands.
The other point that Marc brought up was the typical counter-argument presented whenever Muslims in America are criticized – “Well, look at the Muslims in [choose any Muslim country]. They’re even worse than us!”
Living here in Riyadh, I’ll be the first to admit that crass consumerism has hit the shores of Saudi Arabia in a disgusting way. And sadly, this is the case all over the Muslim world. Muslims are falling over each other to talk, walk, dress, and act like their Hollywood heroes. The ‘tradition’ of the West, as glorified in the media and the web, is being replicated all over the Muslim world.
But the key difference is that Muslims in these lands are not sacrificing their Islamic identity in pursuit of this hollow lifestyle. As repulsive as it may be to see Muslims opting for gaudy Bentleys and Guccis, jet-setting in Europe, and clubbing in Dubai, no one is attempting to incorporate these social mores into a new flavor of Islam.
And that is my greatest fear – an Islam that has taken such conciliatory steps in order to assimilate with its adopted culture that it has sacrificed core Islamic principles.
Yes, all the illnesses found in American Muslims are becoming apparent in Muslims around the world. But these other Muslims are not in the formative stage of their Islamic identity, this most critical stage in the development of a child, a people, or a civilization. These other Muslims have centuries of Islamic tradition to fall back on, when faced with a philosophical crisis. These other Muslims have Islamic institutions built on principles of truth, not compromise. These other Muslims never had to concern themselves with conflicting loyalties between their adopted nation and their deen.
What of the American Muslims?
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
As I was coming into my personal Islamic awareness many years ago, I was convinced that the light of Islam would reignite itself from within America, similar to how Prophet Musa (as) was raised and reared in the house of Pharoah. Back then, I viewed the Muslim world as backwards and in need of serious guidance – which American Muslims, stripped of cultural baggage and historical hiccups, would readily provide them.
But recently, I’ve begun to feel serious disillusionment with this entire “American Islam”* project.
Maybe it’s all the desperate talk of Islam being compatible with western democracy, which is in actuality a crooked corporatocracy.
Maybe it’s the post 9-11 lulling that saw so many Muslims tone down their stance against American's secular hedonistic ways and imperialistic aspirations out of fear of sounding unpatriotic.
Maybe it’s the unfounded need by American Muslims (under immense pressure from MSM and the American military industry) to constantly denounce terrorism and the unfortunate extension of this condemnation to now include Islamists, who, although having never partaken in acts of terrorism, have nonetheless incurred their wrath.
Maybe it’s the convenient acceptance by many American Muslims of principles of gender relations as understood by Western society, relegating centuries of Islamic tradition on the role of men and women to history’s dustbin.
Maybe it’s the glaring dilution of the Islamic concept of Jihad, or worse, its deliberate suppression altogether.
Maybe it’s the callous attitude of American Muslims striving for the American dream while participating in a system that is ravaging the entire world, politically, militarily, economically, and environmentally.
Maybe it’s the unquestioning adoption of capitalistic maxims which finds American Muslims enslaved by their struggles for better jobs, bigger homes, and nicer cars – all the while claiming to be adhering to the Sunnah of our Prophet (saw).
Whatever it is that’s causing my unease, my dear brother Yursil captured my feelings quite well with his recent posts on Suburban Capitalist Islam (Part 1 and Part 2). While he didn’t address all my grievances, he did well to introduce a long list of oddities found in American Islam.
I particularly like his characterization of American Muslims as naively accepting of their adopted culture, as long as it doesn’t outwardly contradict any Islamic teaching. This includes the whole McDonalds, blue jeans, and Hollywood outlook of American culture. The widely accepted view is that American Islam can be formulated by simply weeding out the haram components of American culture and freely embracing what remains.
The problem is that the ethos of these remains is not Islamic.
The result is not American Islam, but a twisted version that I prefer to call Secular Capitalist Islam (taken from Yursil's term 'Suburban Capitalist Islam'). This Islam is primarily American, with an Islamic veneer, not the other way around. It is NOT Islamic with simply an American twist, like what may be found in China or Indonesia or Africa – those instances of Islam were never born in such a hostile environment (to Islam in specific and religion in general), necessitating great conciliatory gestures from its followers:
Change can only come about by way of assimilation and integration - otherwise, we will be deemed foreigners, anarchists, or terrorists.
The interest-based banking system is too entrenched to be questioned – the best we can do is minimize our exposure.
The educational system is our fast-track to success, regardless of any negative socio-intellectual repercussions.
Mixing politics with religion is taboo.
Scaling the corporate ladder is the only way to prosperity.
Gluttonously living beyond our means is completely acceptable.
All technological advances must be blindly embraced, regardless of socio-spiritual impact.
All forms of entertainment (adapted to Islamic mores, of course) are a necessary release from the pressures accumulated in daily life - this includes movies, music, sports, vacations, etc.
Environmentalism is about reducing our ecological footprint, not reducing our consumption.
These are the views underlying Secular Capitalist Islam, the core of which is fundamentally at odds with the Quranic worldview. And no amount of window dressing can alter this reality.
Just like most everything else in American culture, we’ve opted for the drive-thru version of actualizing Islam in America. Our instant recipe consists of slapping on a hijab or growing a beard, implementing the personal acts of worship, meekly presenting Islam to our friends and coworkers, and attending feel-good weekend Islamic programs, all the while diving headfirst into the American way of life.
And yes, I am aware of the American Muslim mantra that we have greater religious freedom in the West than our counterparts in the Muslim world. That may be true. And if it is, it makes the sin of Secular Capitalist Islam even more egregious. For instead of using this freedom to become moral leaders in the West and challenge the status quo, American Muslims have chosen passivity and integration, fearful of the repercussions of speaking out.
Where is the sacrifice that is inherent in the declaration of Tauheed and rejection of Taghut?
Where is the sacrifice that is inherent in the proclamation of love for the Prophet (saw)?
Sadly, Secular Capitalist Islam has replaced these sacred endeavors with the very profane struggle for the American dream.
In part 2, I want to discuss the legacy our children will be inheriting from us, the founding fathers of Secular Capitalist Islam.
*I place the term in quotes because I’m not comfortable with creating varying flavors of Islam, but since the term is commonly used by so many American Muslims, I’ve stuck with it.