Sunday, December 18, 2011
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
But don’t judge me.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Just not sure how he was able to read my post and then copy it 6 months ago!? :-)
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
We are constantly in need of reminders; for we humans, by our very nature, are forgetful. The Arabic word for human is Insan which shares the same root as the Arabic word for ‘forget’ – Nasa. Among the more eminent matters that we forget, our very Creator is at the top of the list. That’s why it makes sense that we have been commanded to remain in a persistent state of divine dhikr.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Why? What justification can there be for President Obama and his lawyers to keep secret what they're asserting is a matter of sound law? This isn't a military secret. It isn't an instance of protecting CIA field assets, or shielding a domestic vulnerability to terrorism from public view. This is an analysis of the power that the Constitution and Congress' post September 11 authorization of military force gives the executive branch. This is a president exploiting official secrecy so that he can claim legal justification for his actions without having to expose his specific reasoning to scrutiny.” [Source]
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
I’ve written before on the blessed interaction between two of the greatest prophets, Muhammad and Musa (may Allah bless them both) during the Isra/Miraj journey of our Prophet (saw). Indeed we greatly revere and assign a lofty status to Prophet Musa (as), whose amazing tale begins in his infancy when he was miraculously rescued from the clutches of Pharaoh and ends with his flustered attempts to return Bani Israil to the Promised Land.
But at the same time, we proudly realize that our very own Prophet (saw) has a standing before Allah (swt) that is unmatched. And this subtle difference between the two is further substantiated by the Word of Allah (swt).
First let us examine how Allah (swt) discusses His meeting with these two special Prophets.
When we hear from a dear, old friend who may happen to be passing through our locality, we will eagerly rush to him and take him by the hand back to our home in our best attempt to honor and respect him. And when another acquaintance contacts us wishing to see us, we may simply arrange for a meeting at some convenient location and ask him to come at a certain time. The latter is not rude or impolite – it’s just that the former approach is reserved for the select few.
When Allah (swt) referenced our Prophet’s Night Journey, He revealed:
Glorified be He who transported His servant by night (17:1)
It is Allah (swt) Himself who sent for the Prophet. He dispatched a most unique escort and guide (Angel Jibril) with an even more unique means of transport (Buraq). And most important of all, Allah (swt) brought the Prophet (saw) to Him, in the highest heavens where even Jibril could not enter.
On the other hand, notice how Allah (swt) narrates the blessed meeting with Musa (as):
And when Musa came to the appointed place (7:143)
Allah (swt) set a time and place, not in the Heavens but on Earth, and Musa came there on his own, without any fanfare or pomp.
Then later we read about a special prayer made by Prophet Musa:
(Musa) said “Oh my Lord, expand my chest (heart)” (20:25)
When first assigned the momentous task of prophethood, Prophet Musa made this special dua’a, seeking Divine assistance in fulfilling the weighty responsibility. He asked his Lord to enable his heart to receive all the knowledge and wisdom of prophethood while also strengthening it against the slander and attacks of his enemies.
But then we look at our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) and the special treatment afforded him by Allah (swt):
Did We not expand your chest (heart)? (94:1)
Without ever having to ask, our Prophet was given this same special gift of spiritual expansion.
So, why am I saying all this?
After the single greatest blessing of our lives, namely our faith and the ensuing ability to know our Creator, the pride and joy of being of the ummah of Prophet Muhammad (saw), the Beloved of Allah (swt), is a close second.
And so, we should all rush during these last few moments of Ramadan to express our immense gratitude to Allah (swt) for this extraordinary blessing.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
In these spiritually uplifting days of Ramadan, I was reminded of this post from several years ago about my best friend. Looking back, I felt it may have been a bit too cryptic. As you read through it, are you able to conclude that I was referring to my relationship with my sajdah (prostration)?
Anyways, I hope we all can appreciate this most powerful of blessings bestowed upon us by our Lord. The joy of humbly joining head to ground is one never felt by the vast majority of mankind.
Take advantage, especially in the remaining days of Ramadan!
You are my best friend.
Words cannot describe how I feel when you visit.
When you and I sit together, I feel so …refreshed?…liberated? ...fulfilled? ...comforted? ...drained? ... depressed? …remorseful? I feel so…me. I don't need to pretend to be what I am not. You accept me for me.
When we talk, you give me a head rush. Really, my head goes into a spin with all my varying thoughts. Yet I never tire of our sittings.
When you visit, all my other activities are put on hold. You force me to concentrate solely on you. Normally I wouldn't accept such pretentiousness from anyone, but from you it's different.
When I'm with you, no one bothers us. No one. People see us together and they know to leave us alone. The world may think I'm crazy when they see us conversing, but those who understand your beauty, they understand.
And it's amazing how our visits last without you uttering a single word. I do all the talking. You quietly listen. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I smile. Often we both sit and stare at each other. Other times I release all my frustrations. Always you quietly listen.
I most enjoy our late night sessions. Your cold long stares empower me to confront the ugliness of my past. You sit quietly looking into my eyes, motionless, expressionless, undaunted by the heaviness of the moment. You strip me of everything, leaving me quivering in the cold of the night.
Then you grab hold of me. Your warm embraces give me hope, reminding me of the Mercy of the Merciful. Alas I do not have Jibreel (as) to come take hold of me, for that was unique to our dear Prophet (saw) when he was commanded to read. But your embraces will suffice for this meager soul.
But to be honest, for a best friend you don't visit me often enough. Yeah, I know it's my fault that I don't invite you, but sometimes I wish you would come over uninvited, like you used to. Remember those days? I would be engulfed in some tedious task or maybe just daydreaming my time away and out of nowhere you'd drop by. Those were the days! Oh how I wish to return to those days of spontaneous love!
I've tried thinking about Allah (swt) when you aren't around, but its just not the same. The sweetness of dhikr is absent without your presence.
Few are the creations of Allah (swt) that when gazed upon act as an instant reminder of the Creator. You my friend are one of those rare creations. You remind me of my Creator. He blessed me the day I met you. He blesses me everyday that I meet you. And I dread the day that He takes you away from me.
What will I ever do without you?! You are truly my best friend.
خَاشِعَةً أَبْصَارُهُمْ تَرْهَقُهُمْ ذِلَّةٌ وَقَدْ كَانُوا يُدْعَوْنَ إِلَى السُّجُودِ وَهُمْ سَالِمُونَ
"On the Day when man's very being shall be bared to the bone, and when they shall be called upon to prostrate themselves, and shall be unable to do so. Downcast will be their eyes, with ignominy overwhelming them - seeing that they had been called upon to prostrate themselves while they were yet sound [and alive]." (68:42-43)
Sunday, August 7, 2011
The Atlantic has a stunning collection of photos from the regions ravaged by the flooding. The first few pictures showing the before and after are especially amazing.
Very humbling. Make a special dua'a for them tonight when you break your fast.
Monday, July 25, 2011
As I was repeating some of the Prophetic adkhar the other day, I began wondering why we Muslims are so obsessed with the continuous remembrance of our Creator.
Surely Allah (swt) is in no need whatsoever of our verbal recitals of His Perfection.
Nor are we attempting to repay the impossible debt owed to our Sustainer.
Good deeds, maybe? Sure, we all accrue badly needed good deeds for our day of accountability in front of our Lord. But there are so many other ways to do so – including ways that may additionally benefit others (charity, visiting the sick, helping the environment, etc.).
I think most people, who regularly recite the name of Allah in the various forms of dhikr, believe they are achieving higher states of spirituality. Actualizing a state of constant divine remembrance is undoubtedly one of our greatest aspirations - a means of realizing divine nearness (qurbah).
But I had an epiphany about another possible explanation for repeating over and over and over the praise and glorification of Allah (swt).
It’s akin to the athlete (or any type of performer for that matter) who practices for countless hours shooting the basketball or kicking the football or practicing whatever his sport/art may be. His goal is to perfect that action, not for the sake of itself, but in preparation for that one moment when it will be most required.
For that one moment, in the heat of the battle, when the game is on the line, in front of thousands of spectators, in the face of an equally determined adversary, when he will either succeed or fail.
The more sweat, blood, and tears that he has poured into his practice sessions; the more likely he will succeed. His actions in the game will become automatic and simply an extension of his being. His movements will come to him naturally. His performance will flow effortlessly. While concentrating on the goal, all distractions will melt away and his perfected form will smoothly enable him to succeed.
Similarly, we are all in an epic battle against our avowed enemy. When he comes knocking on the door of our hearts, with his minions in tow, we will come under his sustained attacks – anger, jealousy, arrogance, miserliness, hatred, sloth, indulgence. That is when our countless hours of dhikr will come to our defense. We must be prepared to call on Allah (swt) without a second thought. We must all become like Yusuf (as), when he instinctively called to Allah (“Ma’adh-Allah!”) in the face of devastating temptation.
When the pressure is on, spurred on by the whisperings of an enemy who knows our weaknesses better than we know ourselves, we have not the luxury to step back and reflect on our situation.
We must react.
We can’t call a timeout.
We can’t look to teammates for assistance.
We can’t ask the coach for guidance.
We are in the spotlight and we must respond.
And only those who have “practiced” - losing sleep, forgoing food, repeating dhikr ad infinitum, sacrificing countless delights and pleasures – only they will react with composure.
Under the immense pressure of the situation,
when a spouse unjustly reproaches them or
when an unexpected compliment threatens their ego or
when their parent undeservedly disparages them or
when their sibling purchases the same car they’ve been dreaming of,
only those who have put in the effort will intuitively call on Allah (swt) instead of succumbing to the calls of their lower selves.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Every now and then, we are struck with gentle reminders by the Most Subtle - Al-Lateef - (swt) that our fast-paced life is not the most conducive way to gain nearness to Him. This video is one of those reminder:
All too often we take our Wudu for granted, whizzing through it without any sense of spiritual awareness. Even this most basic act of worship, which many of us learned in our childhood, has the potential to be a refreshing spiritual experience.
But only if we allow it.
I found this video very effective in injecting some life into one of my more 'programmed' acts of worship. I really need more humanity in my worship. I guess that's what happens when we gain all our knowledge from books and mp3 lectures.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’*
This oft-repeated question heard across countless primary schools quite nicely sums up the problem with schooling. For the purpose of school is not about what you want to achieve when you grow up or how you want to improve society, but about which career path you wish to choose. The purpose of schooling is to get you a job. The purpose is to create cogs for the economic machinery – you may become a dull cog (garbage man, waiter, teacher) or a shiny cog (lawyer, doctor), but cogs you will all become.
Schooling creates career professionals. This is pounded into students from day one with the constant question of what you want to become.
This is the major concern for high schoolers when they choose a university to attend.
This is the major concern at the university level when students choose which degree to pursue.
And this is the major concern when the college student graduates and ‘enters’ into society.
Education has always taken a back to seat to careerism.
After all, every society has its own barometer of success. Hunter-gatherer societies placed a premium on those with adept hunting skills. Societies based on warfare deemed an individual with excellent fighting skills as successful. Tribal societies perceived strength in numbers, so a large number of sons was considered invaluable. In our modern capitalist society, one who has a ‘nice job’ and thus has accrued the most wealth is considered most successful.
But as Muslims, we have our divinely-sanctioned definition of success – faith and piety. Regardless of how good or bad we may be at hunting, fighting, or shopping, our success is measured by our level of spiritual development and servitude to our Lord.
And so, schools have failed at developing humans and have merely become the gatekeepers for the job-based professional economy as well as the national military. They have perfected the means for churning out ‘human resources’, citizens pliant enough to subserviently fit into the capitalistic model or become unquestioning soldiers in the battlefield. Schools excel at producing eager consumers and smoothly functioning bureaucrats.
Additionally, I am convinced that sending our kids off to school for 8 hours a day to be raised by complete strangers contaminates the parent-child bond. It plants the seed of deviation away from the parent’s thought-process. It paves the way for the child to accept, maybe even celebrate, a difference of opinion with his parents.
Once this reverence is corrupted, the child ceases to see the parents as sources of guidance deserving ultimate respect, viewing them instead as guardians charged merely with the child’s physical well-being and sustenance. The influence and sovereignty of the parents is eventually replaced by outside institutions such as school, government, or pop-culture.
Instead of impressing upon them the importance of family, religion, and community (social values that schools of the past focused on), modern day schooling hammers into our children’s minds that the most important goal is to get into a good college. And they must get into a good college in order to get a good job. And they must get a good job so as to live a comfortable life.
And that, my fellow readers, is the crux of the schooling failure.
The essential goal of schooling is materialistic success. Anything more is icing on the cake. Enlightening of the child’s mind, if it occurs, is merely accidental. To say otherwise is naïve at best.
I’m choosing not to be naïve.
*I ranted in a previous post on my issues with a similar socio-cultural phenomenon - the casual question of 'What do you do?'
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Having two school-age children (ages 12 and 10), education is of the utmost importance to me. I have sent both of them to school since KG and after years of persistent frustration, I have come to the conclusion that modern-day schooling is one of the greatest wastes of time.
I am convinced that schools are in the business of training, not educating, our children - in the same manner that animals are trained. Schools are factories of mass human training. They replicate the industrial model found in automated factories, churning out graduates in the same way factories churn out cars or laptops.
Schools produce graduates, not human beings. Schools excel at preparing their end-product for a capitalistic life in modern society. Schools provide a hierarchical education for a hierarchical society, embodied by the cubicle corporate lifestyle. Schools are perfect at producing docile, obedient citizens content with the status quo. Schools fill the role of creating cogs necessary for the machinery of society.
Schools do not engender a strong family or culture or religion. In fact, they undermine all of the above, replacing them instead with loyalty to the self, nation, and institutions.
The potential of most every child is stunted by this schooling system. I refer not to the ‘educational’ potential – that potential measured by report cards and SAT scores. Rather, I refer to the human potential – that potential to be a complete Adamic human being, who understands the true nature of the universe in ways the angels cannot even comprehend.
Our humanity is measured by more than grades and report cards. Life is more than homework and tests. Knowledge is more than some concocted curriculum taught at school.
Children and young adults need to understand man’s place in the universe. They need to actualize the higher purposes of life. They need to learn about the spiritual even more than the physical. They need to embody higher morals and ethics.
And this is not material that can be covered a few hours a week at Sunday schools. These subjects are the crux of our very being and yet, we have all accepted a model of education where these fundamentals are given lip service at our local Masjid. We have silently fallen in line with the rest of society, choosing to focus our children’s intellectual efforts on worldly studies.
And it’s not as if the schools excel in the worldly studies. In addition to the incredible absence of spiritual guidance, the schooling system fails to prepare children for the real world. Schools leave them disconnected, existing in a created space dedicated purely to children.
We fail to engage our children in mature topics, viewing them as mere receptacles for useless information such as Social Studies, Health, and Language Arts. When will they learn the affairs of the adult world? We coddle them in a manner that stunts their maturation process, leaving us with 23-year old adults playing video games and watching UFC.
Manufactured concepts, such as teens and tweens, thrive and take over the mind of young adults, robbing them of their productive place in greater society. Instead they are relegated to the periphery, in classrooms and study halls, playing nary a role in society at large.
After years of schooling my own children in this failed system, I have cast aside the artificial importance placed on my child’s ability to memorize data and regurgitate it for testing purposes. I have rejected all the counterproductive efforts required for homework, school projects, and exams. While the schooling system may prepare my child for the next grade or a good college or a good job, it fails miserably at producing a complete human being.
So I’m choosing to focus on educating my children instead of training them. Maybe they won’t become ‘successful’ engineers or lawyers or doctors (only a small percentage of all schooled children actually do), but my definition of success is not dictated by mainstream society.