Nafsi, nafsi, nafsi.... Myself, myself, myself...

Bismi Allah

It all comes back to us, ourselves, our selfish motives, and our lack of effort directed towards understanding things outside of ourselves and our ways of doing and being.

It is often difficult to get our heads around the ways of this world. It's easy to appreciate complicated matters because the complication illustrates the intricacies and sophistication of life, but sometimes it's nice to find some areas of security, free of obscurities.

I imagine that many wonder, "Where must our loyalties lie?" In our chaotic world of increased technology combined with inept and ignoble leadership, it's not safe to trust anybody who is willing to give even a somewhat intelligent opinion on any matter. Thus, it becomes a personal necessity for individuals to learn more about the pertinent issues and to reflect upon these while strictly adhering to universal principles.

These thoughts stem from some of the ideas that Dr. Tariq Ramadan expresses to the world at large. He is one brother who I regard with a high level of respect, and whom I love for the sake of God. [May God bless him and his family, ameen.] Not only does he offer a humble and clear perspective of the world, but he also has practical suggestions that we can all implement in our daily lives to improve ourselves on a personal level and in turn become productive on the communal and global levels.

In a recent lecture, he mentioned that when we build our communities we have to start by building a space of love. For many, this love comes from our families and close friends. They are often the ones we lean on when things get difficult. It is such a blessing, but it's not something that is shared by everybody. I guess that's why it becomes increasingly important for us to express some level of this compassion and love to others. But how? This is a very personal question that each of us has to figure out, given our circumstances, for ourselves.

In one of my classes in university, we were required to form a group and complete a large assignment. The professor advised us to approach this group work with a focus on the process instead of the goal. Similarly, our goal in life is to serve our Lord as He commands us, yet the only way to approach this is to be dilligent throughout the process. The goal doesn't take precedence over the process, especially since we can't guarantee ourselves that we will achieve the goal --- all we can do is ensure that we are working hard towards the goal.

Whatever it is that any of us decide to do, we must take great pains to ensure that we do not feed our egos (or nafs, the lower self). Instead, let's transform our efforts into acts of servitude to God through serving humankind... God willing!

Unveiling One's Nature


The midday heat was becoming increasingly oppressive; nonetheless, the young man decided to trek on. He really had no other choice. "A few more hours until sunset, just keep going..." he chided himself. He had been walking alone through this barren desert for more than 24 hours in search of a treasure. It was not the typical treasure with gold and precious jewels, but rather the treasury of an oasis with lavish date palms and cool water. He knew it was a matter of time before he found it, but despite his decision to continue walking his body collapsed onto a blanket of burning sand.

"I must keep going... I have to find it," he mumbled. Still, his body would not obey. He dragged himself slowly across the earth moving a few feet further and finally collapsed. Time passed by slowly. Though conscious, he was exhausted. It was nearing sunset, and he was losing hope in his mission. In a final effort to continue, he dug his hands into the sand and pushed his body slightly upward. He then looked up.

Before his very eyes was no other than the oasis itself, more beautiful than he had imagined! He was ecstatic. "At last, I have found you!" he declared. The adrenaline that came with his excitement was enough for him to stand up again. He took slow steps towards his beauty as he spoke to it, "For hours, I've searched this hot and crude desert for you, and now you are mine. I shall enjoy you more now than I ever did in my dreams...."

He suddenly stopped.

"Strange..." he said. "Every time I come closer to you, you move further away from me." He took another step forward, and his beauty increased their distance again. "It is not time for games, my love. I've earned my time with you." The sun was rapidly sinking into the horizon, and his beautiful treasure was fading away. He counselled himself to patience. "We shall meet again in the morning," he promised the darkness before him.

He lay down on the sand, now much cooler than earlier that afternoon. Using his arms as a pillow, he tried to sleep. His attempts failed as his mind raced with thoughts of how he would claim his treasure. Finally, he drifted off into a restless sleep.

The morning sun peaked over the horizon, and the young man opened his eyes. Unsure of where he was, he surveyed his surroundings. He then remembered what had transpired the day before and eagerly rose to meet his challenge -- but it was nowhere in sight.

"It has to be here somewhere," he said. He continued walking. Three hours later, he saw it again. "We meet again, O Beautiful One," he said. No response. "You tormented me in my sleep, and now I must conquer you. But first, allow me to understand you." Still no response.

He plopped down onto the sand before it and said, "It seems to me that your wealth is only good at certain times. Can your owner not enjoy you whenever he pleases? Even if enjoyment of you has its limitations, will I have to chase you each morning? Even if I have to chase you each morning, what can you offer me besides sweet dates and some water?"

Still no response. He sighed. He closed his eyes and listened. Silence. He listened to his breathing. The world echoed a silence that moved with the rhythm of his soul.

He opened his eyes again and looked around only to find hills of sand in every direction. He smiled a knowing smile and rose once again to continue his journey. "Sometimes you just have to talk to your mirage."

"Anyone who spends the day in safety, in good health and with (enough to eat), is like someone upon whom the world and all it contains has been bestowed."
-- Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
[Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 185]

Is Love Failing?


For centuries, people have written about love - romantic love, parental love, humanistic love, and the list goes on. To be able to love is a blessing, one that can't be taken for granted, but really, what does love mean?

Does love mean to adore someone or something to the point of weakening your grasp on reality or is it entirely the opposite and instead a force that brings us clarity? Is it really a "force"? If so, what is its purpose? Where can we find it?

If we say we love humanity, why do we wrong each other? If we say we love our families, why can't we respect each other? If we say that we love goodness, why do we engage in evil? We often blame it on the devil, aka Shaytan/Satan. He gets the blame where we err, and yet he will tell us himself that he can't make us do anything and that our decisions are our own. So do we listen to his suggestions because we love him? Perhaps. Or perhaps we are instead serving our nafs where we need to be serving our Lord.

As Muslims, it seems as though we have rankings of love and dedication. There are, of course, various types of love, but it basically goes like this: love your Creator, love the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and all the Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them all), and then love everything that Islam teaches. The second scheme includes that which Islam teaches and goes like this: love your parents, love your kin, love the ummah, love your neighbours, and love humanity. Love is a sophisticated interplay of rights and responsibilities. In each instance, to achieve love requires some work and a focus, essentially the rekindling of a fire within the soul.

I am starting to believe each level of love has to be nurtured in order to have any hope for achieving success at the next level. Have you noticed how often when we speak of great people of the past, we find that these people actually loved their enemies simply as a result of their shared humanity? Today, it is considered praiseworthy to tell another person off -- a glory that at one point was endowed to the one who remained calm. No doubt, accepted cultural norms of today's society need to be challenged with an acute sense of awareness of what it means to be a Muslim.

The Muslim is the one with a patient smile, forgiving words, a compassionate personality, and yet is a lion on the battlefield for the sake of earning His Lord's pleasure.

Love is a tool and force that can be used for both good and evil. It doesn't fail us in bettering this world; we fail because we use it for selfish gains. Ironic, isn't it?

We can only say that we love something or someone if we know what that involves. In order to adorn ourselves with the cloak of love, we need to start from the beginning. For me, this means learning about what it means to be an ama (or 'abd, the masculine word) (servant) of Allah. This is the only type of love that can single-handedly fill the heart. Without it, every other type of love will neither be complete nor everlasting.

Sometimes servants of God try to behave like the Lord, without a doubt. Sometimes servants of God behave like servants.
When they behave like servants, they are truly like the Lord.
When they behave like the Lord, they are in a sorry condition.
- Ibn Arabi

Unintended Rejuvenation


*Wind were you the breath from the lips of the Prophet (peace be upon him) carrying wisdom to thirsty ears?* - Dawud W. Ali

Like the changing winds, I am forced to acknowledge the beauty of renewed direction. One step backwards has taken me two steps forward, praise be to God.

last post on this blog expressed my intention to cease blogging. Among the useful comments following the post was that of MuslimBro whose comments are the source of inspiration for this post.

I owe him an apology, the premise of which has occupied my thoughts and has helped me to assess myself. My response to his comment was, as I see now, ridiculous. I said, "I'll refrain from blogging until I have something substantial and worthwhile to say that may benefit any readers." There will never be a time when I can say to myself that what I have to say will be substantial or worthwhile to anyone besides myself. SubhanAllah! The arrogance of the statement is shameful, and I seek Allah's guidance and protection from such thinking. I also denied that writing is a gift, and that too is sheer stupidity on my part. May Allah forgive me for it, for no doubt He has blessed with me a lot and the ability to write is definitely a blessing and gift from Him. By recognizing this blessing, I am no doubt obliged to use it in a good way.

So to blog or not to blog? Well, I have benefited from exerting some energy into articulating my incoherence, but I question why it is that I felt relief after my decision to cease blogging. I have an idea of reasons for this relief which I think I discovered from my response to Farhana's comments on my last post. I told her that my posts have gradually weakened since the onset of this blog. When I said that, I was referring to the quality of writing. But it's not the writing itself that I find weakness in, rather it is the intention and/or motivating factor behind the writing. SubhanAllah... I sense a change there that I don't like, and which I believe may be harmful to myself.

I tend to get frustrated with myself for not putting my money where my mouth is, and this blog is clearly my mouth. This is another deterrent. However, with that said, I know there is greatness in step-by-step progression. For example, it is a general trend in society that people enter university, pick a program, and move forward with it as long as they are able and willing or as long as they have achieved adequate credentials. My university experience was far from that, and will likely continue to remain that way. I decided to graduate one year earlier than initially intended because I didn't want to have a degree just for the heck of it. I feel as though I need to pursue other things in life before perhaps considering going back to further my education for the sake of achieving other purposes. Blogging is no different I think. My writing on this blog compared to my writing in notebooks is quite different. I think in some ways, at this point in my life, I do need this outlet as an introspective endeavour -- but on condition...

The condition is one and the same, God willing, with everything in life, and that is that it helps me to move closer to the ultimate goal of purifying myself and coming closer to Allah. If it does not help me in my servitude to my Creator, it is worthless. That goes with everything and anything in life.

"Actions are based on intentions, and he will have what is intended for him." Thus, I will likely resume blogging as long as I can keep my intentions clear and use it as a source of healthy progression, God willing. If not, may Allah help me to see the wretchedness in my misdirected deeds, ameen.

Jazakum Allah khayr previous commentators for being the means through which Allah has allowed me to see my errors. May He continue to favour you with His blessings, and cause us all to meet Him when He is pleased with us, ameen!

Everything Has Its End

BismiAllahir Rahmanir Raheem

I've had a sneaking suspicion, or rather a gut instinct, that there was something about the 'blog world' that wasn't good for me personally (I guess just being the way that I am). But I pushed it aside and instead spent four months writing things that were probably best written in notebooks, if I felt the need to write at all for personal benefits.

I am not sure if in any of my posts I have mentioned trying to 'earn Jannah [Paradise].' If so, forgive me for making such a nonsensical statement. We cannot earn Jannah. It is only by His mercy that we will be able to enter Paradise, God willing. For a brief elaboration on the topic, watch this short clip:
Are You Ready to Die?

I don't think there is much traffic on this site, alhamduliAllah, but for those who do visit it, thank you for your comments and discussion, both of which I have appreciated. I will need to find alternative means, besides a wonderful family, for more regular thoughtful interactions. Nevertheless, such is life. Here's a parting
gift. Oh, and one more. More food for thought, and another point worth reflecting on, God willing.

May God, the Almighty, forgive me for my mistakes/errors and the wrong that I may have engaged in. May He guide me, my loved ones, the ones who I have come to respect including those in the 'blog world,' and the entire ummah of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Ameen!

Remember the ummah in your prayers...
Wa 'alaykum assalaam wa rahmatuAllahi wa barakaatu.

The Painful End of Another Semester


If you're still a full-time student or have recently spoken to a full-time student, then you know why there seems to be that much more stress in the air these days. Alas, another semester is coming to an end. Students are scrabbling to get assignments completed in the midst of studying for exams with, of course, little time to enjoy for sleeping.

Since I was in my mid-teens, I have had three "life skills" goals - learn to sew, cook, and drive. I guess I figured that once I had these under my belt, I would be set to go through the motions of life, married or not. I have not proven mastery in any of these domains, yet I wonder if I ever will. My idea of 'achieving' these goals is to develop them to a point of automaticity, yet I observe others who have been doing them for years and years but they still run into 'problems' and experience learning curves. So really, I cannot count on being competent enough to have the luxury of slacking in my delivery of any of these essential skills for a 21st century Muslim woman. But does it matter? It doesn't, because that's not the point of achieving these skills.

My reflective point, you ask? Well, any goals that I have in my worldly life are hopefully a means to making things better in my eternal life. Meaning that I only want or need to be perform certain acts diligently for the sake of benefiting myself and my family for the sake of earning God's pleasure for the sake of being among those He chooses to bestow His infinite mercy upon. That's my hope, God willing.

Here's the problem, I'm not stressed enough. I am not like full-time students, and yet I am in the midst of an exam as I write this. I kid you not. This life is a test, and this is absolutely no joke. It's reality, the only reality that a sane person can accept. Yet I feel my failure. I sense it because I am looking for the point where I will be equipped without worry over certain things so that maybe I'll be peaceful enough to concentrate on the exam. Do you see the sad irony of what I'm saying??

I'd like this to make sense to more than just myself, so consider this quotation from the English translation of Imam Mawlud's "Purification of the Heart" with the commentary by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf:

Imam Mawlud says that dissatisfaction is a motivator to seek out better character. A human being is spiritually stalled as long as he content and smug with his state.

Thus, I must ask, do I have unrest because of minor things of this world that won't serve my goal, yet at the same time I experience some element of peace in that which is everlasting but of which I cannot claim possession?

The simplest way to summarize the underlying thoughts of this post is this... most exams don't deserve stress, but this one does. This test of life requires full dedication and the sacrifice of more rather than less. Am I even aware that this is a test? Is my internal self conscious of what the test is meant to achieve? And finally, what sincere effort am I putting toward success in this test?

Glory be to God, the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth, the One deserving of all praises. May His blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad, his companions, his family, all the messengers and prophets, and all the righteous people.

Healthy Appetites?


Some say that the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Unfortunately, I think there is some truth to it, but I like to think that besides the stomach and eyes, it could be through the mind. It is then not much of a wonder that to battle one's nafs we need to control both our gaze and food consumption (among other things).

Years ago, while grocery shopping with my Mom, I took a moment to survey my surroundings. I was amazed at what I saw. Amongst rows of neatly piled fruits and vegetables were a variety of different people all intensely examining each item before throwing it into a bag. "Feeding time at the zoo," I told my Mom. She didn't think that was very nice of me to say, so I elaborated a little by saying that while we grocery shop we are all so focused on trying to get the best of something that is far superior anyway that it seems as though we are experiencing hunger pangs - a rare experiential phenomenon in this community.

My selection of fruits or vegetables now is always coupled with the story of one shaykh who would choose the worst of the fruits available so that he could eat them before they were discarded as waste. SubhanAllah.

Food is like a lot of other things in this world. Outwardly, it has immense appeal, but if not used appropriately it can hinder us beyond belief. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him, set the balance for us through Islam. Through him, peace be upon him, we know that there is a tremendous amount of benefit in abstinence, such as through fasting, yet continuous fasting is not the Islamic way because it is a blessing of God to have and appreciate food.

Food is from God, it is by His blessing that we can sow seeds and reap the benefits of them through numerous types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that potentially provide millions of unique, palate-tantalizing combinations. So again, it is not surprising that it is a farmer's duty (Islamically speaking) to ensure that part of his harvest goes to those in need since the farmer's harvest is not due to his work, but in reality is it a blessing of God to be shared by all.

Western society runs on the concept of continued consumption, but the price that we may ultimately pay for it is much too high. In the words of a wise person, "Be a people of abstinence, not a people of indulgence." That's something worth chewing on for a while.

Renewed Perspective


Travelling has its benefits. Despite the hassles it takes to prepare and actually carry out the venture, the consequences of it never ceases to enlighten me.

I recently returned from a wedding in New York. I would never even be able to imagine a wedding as such since it went beyond sufficient and tapped into the domain of 'dream like' for some. Generally, weddings aren't my thing. I really love to hear of a marriage, but rarely (though there have been exceptions) can fully appreciate the actual wedding reception. AlhamduliAllah, it went well and the families seemed happy.

As I watched from afar, my brother and I sticking together for much of the time, I couldn't help but feel grateful for not ever wanting to have such an extravagant wedding. It's nothing that I can credit myself for, but instead I praise God for protecting me from it.

Travelling often allows one the opportunity to appreciate that which is right under one's nose yet one may fail to appreciate it as fully as it is worth. While I generally recognize my disconnect from certain social and/or cultural practices, I was given the chance to witness that I've been blessed to feel this way. AlhamduliAllah. It is also something that if Allah wills, He could take from me and I could be among those who fall victim to social pressures with little action directed towards protecting me from the consequences of such practices.

The above may seem a little arrogant, and perhaps it is. But while I recognize all that, I also realize how important it is for me to work harder to improve my state of imaan. I may be blessed to not want a certain type of wedding, but this is by no means an indicator of my state in the Hereafter. In fact, I realize that my ability to see where others err is actually quite telling that I am weak and thus I do not focus as heartily on where I err. The people of wisdom work to purify themselves instead of wasting time criticizing others. May Allah bless me and my loved ones with this wisdom, ameen.

May Allah protect us all from earning His wrath, may He make our last moment of life the best moment of our lives, and may He cause us to meet Him in a state which is pleasing to Him, ameen.

The Other Side... or Not


As my sister and I perched ourselves on the floor in front of the fireplace, we talked about the quality of blog entries that we've seen, and we both agreed that there aren't a significant number of blogs that either of us have chanced upon that are both insightful and enjoyable reads. Redirecting the conversation, I said, "I know, my blog is boring. I wonder if anyone could make sense of my last post and give it a context." She responded, "Hmm.... well I read it, but I couldn't comment. I thought 'that's Farzeen again.'" I then decided that I would make my next post for her, a little entertaining and a bit of my other side.

Armed with this idea and a half-living laptop (more like half-dying, but I'm trying to be positive), I sat in the living room. As my family watched the news, I proceeded to log into Blogger. The internet connection is faulty on this laptop and especially slow today. As I waited for the Blogger page to load, I turned my attention to the news. There are increased suicide rates among women in Kabul this year, the news reported. Women who are forced to marry or face other cultural problems seek a solution through suicide, worst yet they carry this out by burning themselves to death. My heart dropped. SubhanAllah....The next story was far from uplifting, reporting on a soldier who raped and murdered an Iraqi girl. My jaws clenched.

It is reasons such as these reports that I find it very difficult to sit down, open a door to my thoughts, and still write something light-hearted. With this said though, I don't believe in depressive responses to world atrocities. In fact, I think it is quite ridiculous that people, as pampered in life as I, can respond to the world's problems by reducing their mental health to that of a cabbage via some form of depression. The only point of credit here is that at least it is, shall I say, a noble way to be depressed -- if such a thing is possible.

I also don't believe it is justified to despair (which is distinctly different than being emotionally moved or even upset) over the state of the people today because I believe that to fall into despair would indicate a loss of recognition that there is something greater than all of us and that His plan is ultimately being played out. His, most glorified is He, plan will prevail.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did not despair over people. When the people of Ta'if humiliated him and physically harmed him by getting their community's children to throw stones at the him, the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed for them. He prayed! That's what we need to do. [Please read this article which discusses
why our prayers remain unanswered.] This was the thinking of great leaders, of great people. Another example is that of Sallahadin Ayyubi who was trained in medicine. When his enemy fell ill and the doctors failed to cure him, Sallahadin disguised himself and went into the enemy camp, successfully treated the enemy's leader, and then left again.

What would we do? What do we do?

May the Almighty give us success with Him, and place us among those whom He is pleased with, ameen.

Update: 2006-11-16

Please listen to this lecture: 25 Promises of Allah to the Believers by Shaykh Anwar Al-Awlaki.

Rise Again O Sad One, Rise Again


How is it that as time passes conditions worsen? Is it that a soul will rot while maintaining its right to exist? Or is it simply that the lump of flesh which is worth more than all worldly commodities is festering beneath my very nose?

Travelling back, I see one who is familiar yet strange. One with contentment. With no plans, one who still achieves beyond thoughtful goals. The mirror shows a transition, providing evidence which proves the guilt of long hopes. Its destructive nature is certain and becomes increasingly ugly when combined with an unsettled soul.

The flavours of the past have their bitterness and are worth avoiding. To seek them again would only lead to increased turmoil, again leading further away from what needs to be sought. The path that once led to tranquility is renewed, though distant from the abode of long ago.

The difficulty comes in taming the nafs which is wildly out of control. Theories will not suffice, as it already harbours ideas but willingly and consistently rejects their application.

What can save such decrepitude?

There is hope for even the worst of conditions, but change needs to occur. Change must occur. A return to truth is in order. But how, pray tell, can this be achieved? Must it be through increased heartache towards what is frivolous to begin with? There must be a better way. Then perhaps it is in resigning oneself to inactivity and no ambitions? Is this the way of wisdom? Perhaps, though likely not. Or maybe, just maybe, it's time to beat the nafs into submission. But who will administer such an order? This is likely to backfire as weakness is the only available executor.

The resolution is within reach. The hurdles are mighty and the terrain is rugged. The soul hangs to these thoughts by a mere few threads. The day of miracles are over. Fall, fall, and fall again, but never be enticed to murder the soul nor sell it to the one who seeks it. Guard it. Fight for it. Pray for it.

O Lord, You know the state of our hearts and minds. You know what benefits us and where we err. I submit to Your greatness and ask that You don't let us sell our souls to the devil. I ask that You give us, this ummah, contentment and strengthen us to fight that which distracts us from sincerity towards You. Give us consistency in our good works, and cause us to have a joyful return to You. Protect us from doing anything that prevents us from experiencing the joy of being with You and those whom You love. Ameen.

The Online Affair


Let the games begin my friends! The Online World, the amusement park nearest you. Despite the clarity of the situation, it seems sometimes that no one can really figure out how things should work with Muslim brothers and sisters interacting in the real world, never mind the world wide web. So here it is, a chipped-chopped (and probably quite tamed) version of what awaits you online.

In some way, I am a veteran user of the world wide web. I probably first entered a chat room when I was 16 (a thing I've long ceased doing) and have come across some strange individuals. I'm not proud of this extended history, but I can tell you a little something about the way men and women interact, often laced with some story I'd prefer to deny knowing. On the bright side, I can say I've learnt a lot with little risk to maintenance of my dignity.

brother: salam, a/s/l?
-- The most annoying question anyone could ask me online. That's when I consider ignoring them, but feel obliged to answer their shortened prophetic greeting, despite its deviance from the sunnah.
me: Wa 'alaykum assalaam. Does it matter?
-- silence. Success. I don't have to be rude and eventually block this person who has already decided to leave me alone.

brother: Assalaamu'alaykum
-- Ooh, a full prophetic greeting, nice.
me: Wa 'alaykum assalaam
-- If he says a/s/l, I will have to ignore him.
brother: How are you?
-- Hmm.. surprise surprise. He's polite too.
AlhamduliAllah, well thanks, and you?
-- Maybe it won't be a/s/l, but the extended way of figuring the same thing out.
brother: AlhamduliAllah, pretty good. I was hoping there was someone who had something worthwhile to talk about. Do you know anything about the importance of the six fasts of Shawwal?
-- Ah, finally, someone who isn't trying to mack.

Henceforth, you enjoy discussing various issues with this person, who obviously seems to use his intellect, coupled with some decent manners, and most importantly an inclination to learn more about Islam. How bad can it be? He knows his limits, you know yours. It's all good, right? Actually, it's not all good. Shaytan's workforce is also employed on the world wide web. Emotions can be expressed, feelings can be shared, and a mutual sense of care can and will likely form. So what's wrong with that? Well, apart from the risk of having to later pick up the pieces of your broken heart and put it together again, it can lead to undisputed acts of haram. Game over.

You may try explaining this interaction to some of your real life friends, but they fail to understand how you can get along with someone who you have never met. You're not sure you can explain it yourself. Most likely the attachment occurs because it means that there is someone, somewhere who is taking the time from life to consider what you have to say and responds to it in a way that makes you feel worthwhile (this can be done with all sincerity, so it's not something that's easy to let go of). Humans are social beings, so there is no doubt some appeal in finding someone who you feel understands you. In fact, psychologists attribute the excitement of marriage (as understood in the West) precisely to the fact that someone has chosen another over every other potential in the entire world. Quite flattering, eh?

We're Muslims, so the bottom line has to come from Islam. The interaction between men and women in Islam is wisely guarded. Different cultures, though all Muslims, approach this situation in different ways. Suffice to say, adultery is common place in society, and we would be fools to think that it doesn't exist among Muslims. I'm telling you it does, as do other illicit relations. We have to set our standards above this.

Consider this. All the prophets and messengers of God came from legit relationships throughout their lineages. From the beginning of time, there is not a single illicit relationship that bore the prophets and messengers (may God's peace and mercy be upon them all). This is a proof of the importance and sacredness of marriage.

It's a bit ironic that I speak about the problems that sisters and brothers may have in figuring out online interactions when physical interactions in daily life itself has been put on the back burner. To each their own. For those who care, here's one way of looking at it. Men and women were created in pairs. When one marries, one becomes connected to an eternal partner. It may be that your spouse goes to Heaven and doesn't find you there and asks for you; and God, in His infinite mercy, removes you from the fires of Hell and unites you with your spouse. That's the greatness of the relationship. That's the honour of it. Why cheapen it by allowing yourself to get involved with others who have not made noble intentions when interacting with you?

You must admit, for a man to engage in close discussions - including but not limited to jokes, expression of his current feelings, life problems, etc. - with a woman that is not his wife is wrong, no? (The same would be true if it were a woman talking to another man who is not her husband.) This type of interaction becomes too intimate for a wise person. Wouldn't it be wronging one's spouse through a form of betrayal? I would say that it is wrong. The same can be said of a single person towards that person's future spouse.

The take home message is this, "If you have no shame, do what you will." But if you do have some shame, assess the situation as objectively as you can. Sometimes it gets tough, so if you have some trouble, consult one whose opinion you respect. Don't follow your nafs, and when that red light goes off, pay attention and respond appropriately. It's completely okay to consider marrying one who you have met online, but I warn you to consult people of wisdom and to continue the process in the right way (by the book, that is, inform your families and proceed through a third party).

Keep in mind, mixed-gendered relationships are sneaky. Sometimes the other person is emotionally moved by the interaction, where you may not be; but you are duty bound to correct the situation and take steps to terminate the interaction when you sense trouble.

Finally, I remind myself foremost, and ask that you, too, remember this: Illusory trust is a secured foe. You deserve better than an illusion.

For more information, read

Raising Clarity, Abasing Deception


It has a way of spoiling the good of previous experiences and the hope of smoothly reconciling conflicts. It is worse than sighting a rain cloud during a momentous outdoor event. Not only does it burden the carrier, but it also plagues the one who senses its presence. I call it pride.

I have been thinking about this topic for a while, knowing that it is something that plagues the heart, yet ironically it takes a lot of energy to maintain. I believe it to be related to arrogance to some extent, but its relation is best known to those who have studied the diseases of the heart. All I know is that I don't like it, nor do I want it.

Recently, I saw it approaching me. I accepted it, welcomed it, and gave it a home. Yes, I'll do that. It's better for me anyway. If I keep this up, then I'm going to lose out in the end. So I accept your way. I'll have my peace. But I don't have my peace with that because that's not called a resolution for me. It's called proud avoidance, and it continues to eat at me. Sometimes when life throws out a struggle, it's easy to say, "Forget that. I'm beyond that. I don't need that. I'm just going to blah, blah, blah." But we can't just blah, blah, blah. Etiquette and values cannot be dropped because of hardship, rejection, challenges, or internal strife.

I love the feeling of taking a problem and breaking it down until it becomes crystal clear and I see the true worth of it because I know that this is possible with every problem. It's sort of like trying to solve a brain teaser. You know there's an answer, it just takes some time to figure it out. Sometimes though, life doesn't offer a problem. Sometimes it's just a minor nuisance or something that can't quite be articulated as 'bad' but is nonetheless troublesome to the heart. This I consider a challenge, and it is exactly what I almost temporarily reconciled with a dash of pride.

Peace doesn't come from pride, nor contentment. Its sources are clear. We cannot depend on people, but this is not to be understood in the proud way such as "people aren't trustworthy nor reliable and depending on them will only lead to disappointments." Certainly, having expectations of people will lead to disappointments because for the most part we don't have the right to have some of these expectations nor are these expectations all together fair. The reality of it all though is that we each have a place in this world, as do other people. It is very possible to know this place, but we neglect to see it because our hearts are clouded with the other whisperings of our egos.

I only get a glimpse of this place on rare occasions... and how sweet it is. Really, it is one of the sweetest moments. I remember once, years ago, I sat in the car to go somewhere and I remember thinking to myself, "If Allah takes my soul now, I won't miss a thing in this world. I'll be going home." I miss those thoughts because they stemmed from contentment not despair.

My cousin once gave me this frame that says, "Home is where the feet may leave but not the heart." I love reading it because it always reminds me of the reality of human life. Our home is in heaven. That's where our father Adam (peace be upon him) was brought into existence, and that is where we hope to return; and though we may not be there physically, our hearts can be there. Can.

There are just so many distractions in this world. I guess this is why it is so important to have good company, regardless of the ways that we are able to interact with this company. To be able to share with people who live for the eternal is a blessing regardless if it is through telephone conversations, e-mail, the much frowned up chat services, or treasured dinner discussions. However, it is often not easy maintaining relationships without occasionally swallowing one's own pride.

These incoherent thoughts lead to one final thought, and that is that when we forget that we were created to worship God as He wants us to worship Him and to serve Him by following His laws, we end up in trouble. It is necessary to continuously utilize our resources in an effort to get our thoughts and actions back on track -- that is to sincerely strive towards eternal success. This is what this life is all about. It really is. Everything else is just... history.

Update 2006-12-04

I want to clarify one point above regarding my thoughts one day when getting into a car. When I said that I would not miss anything of the world, I did not then mean that I wished for death. SubhanAllah. Please watch this short clip called "Don't Desire Death" for a brief elaboration on the topic.

Comic Relief


Sometimes we all need a little bit of comic relief. I'm not complaining about life, praise be to God... "Wondrous is the affair of the believer." With that said though, I do have some comics that hit home for me these days. [My secret hobby of collecting random comics unveils itself.]

I've provided links for them since this blog template doesn't accomodate much width in my posts. My apologies for the inconvenience.

This first one is sad in essence, but coming from a crab it isn't too bad...

And this one always cracks me up...

[Calvin and Hobbes - Copyright Watterson/Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate]

Update: 2006-11-12

This one appeared in the Toronto Star shortly after I posted the comics above. Poor Sherman. I think they're going to need some professional help in the lagoon soon.

The Road to Guantanamo

The Road to Guantanamo (Roadside Attractions), Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross' half-feature film, half-documentary about three British youths who spent over two years in military prison for no justifiable reason, is exhausting, depressing, slightly nauseating, and unfortunately necessary. It turns an abstract debate about human rights and the Geneva Conventions into a visceral experience of lived injustice: What if you were rounded up with friends on the eve of your own wedding; shipped to an American airbase to be shackled, beaten, and interrogated; and then sent without trial to languish in a cage in Cuba?
This is not easy to watch. I can't imagine how it must be for someone to live through it all. :'-(

Do we really know what pain is? Is hunger only a theoretical concept for us, the reality of which most of us don't know? Are our lives filled with petty concerns and a continum of self-satisfying ventures clouded by delusion? Do we really know what it means to pray?

May God ease the sufferings of the innocent people worldwide. May He cause humanity to serve Him in a way that He has taught us so that compassion would enter our hearts and actions and the world will be filled with peace, ameen.

[If it isn't working on this page, - as it's not working for me here - you can watch it here.]

Update: 2006-11-06

Read this article about a brother's Ramadhan experience while at Guantanamo Bay:
The Best of Times

Update: 2006-12-21

Children in Guantanamo

"For me, this path that I walk on, there's only one way."


"Bullets may kill, bones may break, still I throw stones like David before me, and I say...."

Two weeks ago marked the commencement of the last five years of the first half of a full life, the 25th year of life; but no day is guaranteed. No moment is yours except the present. The past is not for you, nor is the future. Only now.

The trees have more stories to tell than I. Slowly slaughtered for the benefit of homo sapiens. The creatures that inhabit these trees know confusion and chaos as they are uprooted from their homes. On bitter days, I envy them. But most days are bright, smiling back at me with the sun and moon. Both embracing me, sheltering me, showing me the truth.

The moon speaks. He sings a song only the attentive eye can hear. We hear with our minds, but can see through our hearts. The sun hums a tune of sweet elegance - inviting, prodding, guiding, reminding us of what we truly are.

Like an emerging butterfly, I shed the cocoon of certainty in myself and others. That which was once seen as a life source will now only cripple me. As a caterpillar, I move on. Every rock, every piece of dirt, every drop of rain affects my way.

It's up to me to decide if what faces me is a window or brick wall. For the blindsighted, it is always a wall. But I cannot accept the same interpretation. A rainbow emerges, and I cannot supress my smile. This, I trust, is my window. The wall is a mirage. Despair floats aimlessly away finding those waiting to entertain it.

The architect plans and sketches only as a past time. The final product is dependent on everything except preconceived blueprints. Thus, no blueprint can be made of the cosmos which uniquely reflect the greatness of the Creator. My microcosmic self acknolwedges only the success of humble submission.

".....I throw stones at my eyes for way too long they've been dry
Plus they see what they shouldn't from oppressed babies to thighs [?]
I throw stones at my tongue 'cause it should really keep its peace
I throw stones at my feet 'cause they stray and lead to defeat
A couple of big ones at my heart 'cause the thing is freezing cold
But my nafs, still alive and kicking unstoppable, on a roll
I throw bricks at the devil so I'll be sure to hit him
But first at the man in the mirror so I can chase out the venom."
- Outlandish (featured with Sami Yusuf)

Cleaning House


Eleven days ago, I spent pretty much the entire day with my sister cleaning a filthy, disgusting kitchen, the likes of which I would never believe could exist had I not seen it with my own eyes. The ironic thing of it all is that 11 days ago we were in the blessed last ten days of Ramadhan, a blessing indeed. So while I scrubbed and inhaled chemicals that surely hindered my breathing capabilities, I neglected cleansing of other pressing matters.

Habib 'Ali Al Jifri mentions in his book, Wayfarers to God that when it comes to cleaning, even our bodies, people do not mind cleaning their own filth, but they are repulsed at the filth of others. Their own filth is perceived as less of a filth, which may be why we have such a challenge purifying ourselves.

Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali said, "The hyprocrite looks for faults; the believer looks for excuses."

Exploration of the science of purification of the soul is surely a lot to chew on, and implementation of it all is battle certainly worth struggling towards.

May God give us success with Him, ameen!

Farewell O Ramadhan


Twenty-four Ramadhans later, I think it is becoming increasingly more difficult saying goodbye to Ramadhan each time the announcement of its yearly demise is made. There remains one lunar year until the announcement of its next birth, a moment of true joy and anticipation.

Eid Ul Fitr is a day of celebration, so despite my inclination towards bittersweet feelings upon its arrival and Ramadhan's parting, I encouraged myself to refocus on what the day should mean to me. What is Eid ul Fitr all about?

This day we go all out. New clothes, lots of gifts, lots of food, and lots of smiles. Oh, and a few sleep-deprived babies too (but who can blame them really). But why? Why do we do what we do?

Well, arguably it's fun. But there is a lot of time and effort that is invested into Eid preparations. People strain their brains trying to find ways to make Eid that much more special. Secrecy is on the rise as Eid gifts are being discussed. New recipes are sought specifically for peaked taste buds on the occasion. But why? How do we justify a commitment to such exuberant festivities?

Quite simply, the day following Ramadhan is declared a blessed day through the teachings of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught us to take care in celebrating it. It is not a day likened to the commercialized holidays that society normally advertises. There is greatness in the first day of Shawwal, and we know this because God, Most Glorified is He, has allowed us to know this.

In Canada, one can go into stores in any given month and find supplies, decorations, and accessories for upcoming celebrations, even if the celebrations are months away. With all due respect, I suspect that many of these celebrations are carried out only because they are a part of the society's cultural fabric and not because of any further significance. I can think of Christians and non-Christians alike who celebrate Christmas simply because that's what society at large does. The depth of the occasion is lost for many.

Has Eid become this way? I like to think it hasn't, but sometimes I think we slip into it and lose sight of what it all really means. So again, what exactly does it mean to celebrate Eid? I don't plan on supplying the answer to this question. I think it would require some serious contemplation in itself. I will, however, say that while it is here, I must consider it yet another manifestation of blessings that I continuously receive. Food, home, health, family, and further indulgences. All of these are abundantly clear on Eid, yet they are continuously present on every other day of the year, which is really something to celebrate by means of praising the One who has control over all and bestows such blessings upon us.

Eid Mubarak!

"Which is it of the favours of thy Lord that ye deny?"

A Cultural Paradigm

Bismi Allah

*Allah made us all a different shade and colour. Nations and tribes recognize one another cuz every single Muslim is your sister or your brother. So many different colours of Islam...*

Culture is a fascinating phenomenon. It distinguishes people from different lands all across the world.

However, today conformity lingers in the air, but not with a single tradition. Instead, one will often see the 'dual life' being played out. One part of life is conforming to the values of our upbringing, ethnic background, and 'culture' while the other part of life involves conforming to some type of 'subculture' within society wherein people adopt a communally accepted image which is simultaneously tolerated by most and frowned upon by others.

There is goodness in having a culture, but I have trouble with the concept of a dual life dictating incongruities. I personally can't imagine having to 'alter' myself in any drastic way when my environment changes. To do such, I suspect, would make me feel as though I am being untrue to myself. Of note, I am referring to adopting superficial ways and not adopting good values or propriety.

Like most, I have an ethnic lineage. I am aware and grateful for my background and all that which makes me the person that I am. I am "Indian." Though born in Africa, I cannot call myself "African" per se because Africans are black and I'm brown and declaring myself "African" alone would be misleading (somehow, it all comes down to race). When asked where I'm from, my usual reply is "I'm from Zambia, but my roots are Indian." My parents speak languages of both ethnicities, and eat foods from both ethnic lands as well. And of course, they do the same with what has been seen as 'non-ethnic' namely adopting English and aspects of the 'white culture.' But, I am as little Indian and as little African as I am white. So what does that make me?

In elementary school, I was first introduced to the formal definition of "culture." I think in some subtle way the consequences of my reflections at the time influenced the decisions that I made into my teenage years and currently into adulthood. In that class, culture was essentially defined as one's way of life or that which directs one in one's life. At that point, I asked myself, "What makes me do what I do?" "What guides me?" I realized then that the only thing I could consistently attribute as my 'culture' as defined in that class, was Islam. SubhanAllah. I thought then, "So wait.. does that mean Islam is my culture? Is it possible for religion to also be one's culture?" I decided then that it didn't matter if it was linguistically possible or not because my reality showed it to be true.

Unfortunately though, this becomes problematic for me because it excludes me from what most consider a cultural group. I find that many of those whom I share a strong sense of affinity with (my good friends) connect with me on our ability to communicate well with each other and to use Islam, in its beauty of moderation and not extremism, as our baseline. That is not to say they are as 'culturally undefined' as I see myself, but still we connect on a level beyond culture. When interacting, we use our normative cultural differences as something to appreciate from each other.

Culture is not meant to be disuniting. It is meant to bring appreciation for each other. It is a blessing. God tells us in the Quran:

O humankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know and deal with each other in kindness (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God (is he who is) the most righteous of you, and God is Knower, Aware. [Al-Hujurat - 49:13]

At the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, the Arabian peninsula's social makeup was founded upon tribal affiliations. Conflict amongst neighbouring tribes was common and even deadly. Vengeance was the norm. Tribal honour was to be upheld at all costs. Islam changed this so that one's honour came from one's servitude to God. Honour was endowed with depth, and superficial tribal considerations were demolished.

Consider the lengths that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, went to in order to disable the negativity that tribal commitments created. He, peace be upon him, married women from a variety of tribes in order to unite the tribes. SubhanAllah. Really... this is a profound thing.

Unfortunately, Muslims of today find that mosques, houses of God, cannot be built because of cultural barriers. There are too many incidences where Muslims themselves have severed ties with other Muslims on the basis of culture, thus ignoring what Islam dictates and instead becoming victims of their cultural pride.

In this way, as a community we have moved back to the days of ignorance leaving us in a bad state. When Muslims pass by each other and only feel comfortable greeting each other when they find that they are of the same ethnicity, we have a serious problem. When people cannot marry each other because they are not from the right village 'back home,' a village they have never seen and will likely never see, then we have a problem. These mere examples express problems because these are against the standards of wisdom set for us by Islam.

As a community, we need to change ourselves so that culture is no longer a prison for us, an oppressor, but instead it is a fruit of goodness for us, a liberator.

Again, I can't help but be extremely grateful that my family only requires that I am true to my faith and encourage me to live in such a way. The fact that I do not have to live a 'dual life' is a blessing indeed.

Thank you Allah!

*....Fill the world with colour, paint it everywhere you go. Paint everything you see and tell everyone you know. Quran will be your paints and your brush will be imaan, so fill the world with colour every colour of Islam.*
- Dawud W. Ali

*Oh when you're smilin'...*


Not everything in life is peachy, wonderful, smooth sailing, lum-de-dum and a bottle of *ahem*.. right..Point made. But so what?

There is so much more to smile about. The mere fact that you can smile is something to smile about. Praise be to God!

Batter up! Here's the fool proof solution for you. You lose in your mind first, then your soul, and finally your destiny. Prevention is better than cure.

O believers, smile. Smile. Aww, come on now.... just a little smile. There ya go. Now let that smile grow into a priceless comodity for all, insha'Allah.

Trust me (if you dare), a good attitude is priceless (not to mention, it looks stunning on you ;).

Update 2006-11-03

Read this excellent article by Yahya Abdul Rahman: On New Carpets and Good News

Merciful Death


I can hear the rain again. It's been raining quite a lot this Ramadhan. Just the other day as my brother was cutting the grass it began to pour. After he came back into the house, we both stood in the doorway overlooking the front yard, both of us enjoying the fresh air while watching the rain. "The clouds are crying and crying for Allah's mercy" I told him. "Mmhmm" he said, allowing me the space to interpret the world as it would work for me. SubhanAllah I thought, "if rain were really the clouds' tears, then what of human tears this Ramadhan... where is my river of subservient tears.."

Shortly after suhur (the pre-dawn breakfast before the fast) today, I heard what sounded like the smoke alarm going off. It was very brief. I'm not sure what it was, but for the second that it went off my mind touched on the idea "uh oh, what's happening?" Before those thoughts could develop, the sound stopped, and I re-embraced the comfort of my life again.

There aren't many people who can boast the same comforts in life that I can. Truly, Allah has given me so much. Beyond meeting all my needs and more, I have the space to grow into the type of woman that I want to be. My limitations are only from myself. Parental guidance is always open, and parental friendship is always for the taking.

But I remind myself that one day... one day... I will be held to account for all of this. Maybe it's because I'm so blessed with comfort and ease and a caring family that I think I should do more with myself. I have the means. But that day I speak of, that day when the alarm won't stop, the world will be in panic. Chaos will manifest itself in a way that we have never known because we forget, I forget, that the calm reflected in nature is only because Allah commands it so. All my current-day comforts will be gone. There will be no need for those type of things. My home won't save me. My family won't save me. My health nor my education nor any rational thought would have the chance to save me. That is the day when I am utterly alone forced to face the reality of the person that I am today and will continue to be until my first meeting with reality.

"First meeting with reality?" you ask. That's when my soul leaves my body and my corpse begins to rot. That's the end of my beginning and the beginning of my eternity. That's when my body moves to a new home, my grave. I like a comfortable home, but I don't know what awaits me. O Lord, save us from the punishments of the grave, ameen!

I want to be with the clouds, submitting to my Lord's Greatness. Yesterday I tried explaining to a young lady what it means to be a Muslim. I tried to tell her what it means to have faith (iman), including the six pillars of faith. I used a handout with a translation of Imam Ghazali's summary to try to guide me in my explanation, but I found that I could not express myself fully. I discovered that I was guilty of ignoring the depth of the very same message that I was trying to share with her. "It's up to you to decide where you stand in relationship to your Creator..." "... We've been created to serve Him alone.. that's our purpose.."

It was so clear to me what this young lady needed to do. Islam is for the taking, but I don't think she has tasted its sweetness yet. I tried, in vain, to convey the idea of what it means to have the sweetness of faith. I'm not sure she understood. God guides whom He wills. I think she just needs time, but while she figures her way out in this world, I must return to what I know is my truth. My comfort. My solace. My being.

I can't fight the ways of this world. I can't know how I'll be when my loved ones and I part into two different realms of existence. I simply don't know what will become of me or my loved ones. I do know one thing though, I am a Muslimah, and that's the greatest thing in the entire world! In this lies hope for me, and in this I rejoice.

Thank you Allah! There is no power or might except with Allah.

*Rain pouring down upon my garden,
rhythm for the wind that sings its song.
I close my eyes, and I'm floating along.*
- Dawud W. Ali

Update 2006-10-09

A video seriously worth watching: If the Dead Was to Talk. A great reminder. SubhanAllah.



Why is the world the way it is? Sometimes I wonder. When did hurt become recreational?

Bleeding hearts continue like miraculous springs. For souls part from bodies more than we know. Constant suffering. Constant pain. But why? Why have we lost our humanity?

One good word is all it takes. If they but listened to his message. If they gave him one word, one word... His one word is today's voluminous collection of works. Evidence, proofs. But no, even on the intimate level, one is guilty until proven innocent. There are no chances in this game of life.

You can't put your hope in the people, words are empty. Nothingness. Superficiality is our closest companion. Soap box presentations by many, only more entertainment. Why must people suffer at the hands of each other?

Words stop on tongues and lips, never going further down one's throat. Missing the way to sincerity. Why is this world complicated in wretchedness?

I don't understand it. I can't accept it. I blame you. You fault me. No words.

Each breath takes me one step closer to my grave. I don't need this world knocking at my door. I'm waiting for the knock of the next world. It cares while you deceive.

Sometimes I wonder why the world is the way it is.

Update 2006-09- 30

Everything is put into perspective.... - The Prophetic Mirror - Habib 'Ali Al Jifri



One would expect that with the abstinence of food for a few hours each day during Ramadhan, Muslims would be hungry. O fellow fasters, here's something to satiate your appetite. Click here. Bon appetit!

[Habib 'Ali Al Jifri -Standing Firm -]

Our Neighbours

I wrote this sometime within the last year. I figured I'd post it here in case someone bumps into this insignificant part of the world wide web and benefits from it, insha'Allah.

Bismi Allahir Rahmanir Raheem

In 2001, I attended a humble event wherein there were a few inspiring speakers including Brother Dawud Wharnsby Ali who somehow managed to get the entire audience to promise that they would give something, however small, to at least one of their neighbours. Each person was to repeat after him and make this promise. The promise that I made was knowingly lip service, the words did not leave my mouth but my lips moved with the rest of the gathering. I don't make promises that I'm not prepared to keep. "Ah, but my lips moving may have been a promise..." I thought, and so the promise stayed in my mind.

How true it is that we, as Muslims, have a duty to our neighbours and communities. How true is it that if we all were to care for our neighbours then the community as a whole would reap the benefits. How true it is that we are guilty, myself especially, for not knowing our neighbours. It was such thoughts that entered my mind as I reflected on the knowledge that our beloved teachers convey to us. This was in the spring of 2004. The promise entered my heart but not because it was possibly a promise but because I felt it is my duty as a Muslim to try to initiate a relationship with my neighbours.

My idea was perhaps to give a potted plant to each of our neighbours and put a little card with it or stencil something about being neighbourly on it. I wasn't sure how I would do that, but I figured that once I shared the idea with my family we could come up with something half decent. I was afraid that perhaps this idea was a bit over the top, but I liked the idea and hoped that with Allah's help it would be affordable and turn out to be better than just sufficient. If we're going to do something, we should try to do it well.

Lo and behold, a few hours later on the very same day, I found myself shopping in Michael's (a huge arts/crafts supplies store) with my mother. There I went to price the terracotta pots to see if it would be affordable. Three pots for 99 cents! They were on sale! So after consulting my mother and deciding on a good size pot, I took a cart and filled it with 60 small, but not tiny, terracotta pots.

Those pots sat in a box in the garage for a few months. I didn't know what to plant in them. Soon enough, Ramadhaan rolled by and I read Imam Zaid Shakir's article wherein he appealed to the Muslims to essentially come closer to their neighbours as is the spirit of Islam. I felt guilty. The pots were still sitting in the garage. I contemplated filling them with candies instead of a plant and then distributing them in Ramadhaan, but my mother advised me to wait for spring when we would decide on something nice to plant.

A few more months passed by and it was spring again. "Mom, what can we plant in the pots? We need something nice... maybe a small tomato plant? That way they could get some good tomatoes too..." We didn't decide on anything. A couple more months passed before my mother told me that she had taken some stems of a spider plant and put them in water to root. The plan was in motion, alhamdu li Allah.

Another six weeks passed before my mom and I planted them in the pots. Unfortunately, some of the roots rotted and the plants weren't doing that great, so my mom replanted them with fresh stems. They were watered, fed, and a couple of months later they were ready.

Now the issue remained on how to present them and what writing should accompany them. I thought about this for a few nights while trying to sleep and finally came up with this short poem:
Here's a little something just because we're neighbours
A little gift, one of nature's favours
Please consider this a token
Of words rarely spoken
"Hello" -- "How are you?" -- "Good day"
Sending you greetings from just a few doors away
[Our House Address]
My older sister, a graphic designer, nicely designed this poem to fit the size of a business card. She managed to fit 12 on a page, and we had the pages printed in colour at Business Depot. My sister also suggested that instead of using ribbon to decorate the pot, we could tie a bow using straw. So we bought some of that crafter's straw and finally put it all together.

Alhamdu li Allah, on September 1, 2005 we put them all in the trunk of the car. My father drove the car and parked at the curb as I walked to each house. We delivered a potted plant to each family on our street making it a total of 44 pots. The response was good all around, alhamdu li Allah. A couple of neighbours came to the house to say thank you. I met some of the neighbours who were home when I delivered the pots. Some were middle aged and some were just teenagers, but all of them seemed appreciative and pleasantly surprised. One of the neighbours that came to the door told my father that it's always nice to receive gifts, but especially so when it is unexpected and that he appreciated it. He also mentioned a bit about himself and his family. A couple of neighbours also sent thank you cards.

All in all, I think perhaps a new door has been opened. I just pray that the light of civility shines through that door and that dialogue can occur so that the walls of ignorance that we are responsible for building can fade away. Quite simply, I pray that from this all we receive the pleasure of our Majestic Lord, the Most Kind, the One deserving of all praises and servitude. Thank you Allah for blessing us with Islam, for without it we would be at a loss... a grave and severe loss.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If you are kind to your neighbour, you will be a believer. If you like others to have what you like for yourself, you will be a Muslim."

Kalimaatun Min Qalbi

Bismi Allah

I wish to know you, but you seem unapproachable
Unique in character, you're found among the sociable
Your beauty is in your eloquence
Your depth incites my reverence

When will you grace me with your companionship?
And increase my awareness in the worthiest relationship?
Cradled in my heart, I long for us to meet
To unite for all eternity would be all too sweet

For years I have struggled to come close
To have a taste of the wisdom that you disclose
Knowing all too well that my insecurities hold me back
Dedication, strength, and discipline I surely lack

My words fall steadily to deaf ears
For you are only mine when I conquer my fears
I'll never lose hope of that beautiful day
But in the mean time, it is for patience that I pray

One day, God willing, you will be with me
To finally set this unsettled heart and soul free
This prison of ignorance that I adorn
Must one day be broken and turned away with scorn

Today I profess my love to you...

UHibuki ya Lughat-ul Quraan
UHibuki ya Lughat-ul Az'eema
UHibuki ya Lughat-ul 'Arabiyya

Reactions to "Offended Muslim Sensibilities"

Bismi Allah

So there I was sitting and thinking that I really should have gone to bed earlier. But no, I had to make one more Internet stop before I headed off to bed. I visited a blog, which led me to three more blogs, and here I am. It's an epidemic I tell you. The words were swarming in my head after I turned off the computer. I had to come back and spit it out here. Hmm.. I was warned of this after my first blog entry...

Tayyib. The blogs that I was reading were about how entirely un-Islamic it is for Muslims to respond violently to the recent comments of the Pope. I couldn't agree more. Violence is just a waste of energy in my humble opinion. If it is not Islamically justified, it is not useful and it often becomes useless. But that's not what this blog entry is about. This one is intended for the Muslim readers. A mere glance at the issue from a slightly different angle.

Like I said, I agree that violent reactions are incorrect. They are far from the sunnah of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him; but are our reactions to the violent reactions productive?

Let's say, for example, that someone defames my mother. *Gasp* This is intolerable. No one in their right mind dare insult my mother. You mess with my Mamma, you are messing with me! In retaliation to such insults, I write this person's name on a piece of paper and burn it on my driveway in public view demanding that the person apologizes. Shortly thereafter, my sister (who, in this story, lives in a high class neighbourhood) comes over and chastises me for lighting a fire on the driveway. In extreme frustration, she says, "For goodness sake, get over it! Those words don't mean anything. You look like a savage here like this. You have no class..." and then she strolls into the house leaving me outside to defend my cause. Now I'm insulted twice fold, and I'm hurt that my own sibling didn't support me in avenging the stupidity that came out of a stranger's mouth.

Okay, so that's a bad story. Thank you for your patience, now please allow me to attempt to draw out the point. Everyone's actions were wrong - the stranger, myself, and my sister. It is obvious where the stranger and I err, but maybe not where the sister errs. This sister represents you, the one who has a computer and is sitting there comfortably reading these words. You're the rich sibling. You're the one with class. You're the one who strolled into the house. You're the one who washed your hands off of me when you disagreed with me. Now I officially don't respect you much either. Way to go, o child of my mother, way to go.

At least I care enough to make some noise about the stranger's intolerable actions. Sure, I've wronged others along the way in my attempt to find a solution, and yes I have made the situation worse for myself, and I've tarnished my reputation; but hey, at least I can sleep at night knowing that I tried to do something to protect my mother's name. I tried! That's more than you can say, sister.

Somehow, I think my point is still blurred or buried. I fear my words can soon be misconstrued to mean something entirely unintended, so here it is almost in black and white. While the actions of our fellow brothers and sisters in Islam are not justifiable under the banner of Islam, it is understandable that they stem from a love of their deen. We, the rest of the ummah, have no place questioning this love. Only God knows the sincerity of everyone's actions. But really, these strong and sometimes violent reactions often cause harm in the community of those Muslims themselves. These people don't march out to other countries and wrong people of different communities. They stand on their own driveways, and they shout as loud as they can right from there.

As for us, the ones who watch them on the news shaking our heads saying, "SubhanAllah, what kind of uncivil, savagery behaviour are you representing on behalf of myself and all Muslims??"...well, let's step down from our thrones and give them credit for at least conveying to the world that when others insult our beloved deen, they insult the very essence of our being. And after acknowledging that, we can then attempt to counter their reactions with reactions of our own that are in line with Islamic adab (propriety) and manners. Insha'Allah.

Don't forget, we shake our heads at the television screen because we fall into the trap of accepting the media portrayal that our Muslims are behaving badly. Turn your head slightly to the right or left of the screen and you'll see the Muslims who are reacting appropriately.

The source of inspiration that led me to this perspective on our reactions to our sisters' and brothers' reactions is as follows. I was speaking to a good friend of mine one day on the phone, and she was telling me that a respected Shaykh in the community went to a masjid for the Jumu'ah prayer once and was shocked to hear the Imam say that our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, was a normal, average kind of guy. Average? You're kidding me! Really... This Shaykh was very, very disturbed by what the khateeb had said. In fact, he was deeply saddened too because as he looked around the room he noticed that nobody in the gathering seemed to have noticed what the khateeb said. There was no reaction. Anyway, after the prayer, the Shaykh approached the Imam, who was the khateeb, to tell him that what he said was not appropriate because the Prophet, peace be upon him, was not average nor typical in any way. My friend elaborated on this point by saying that he, peace be upon him, was not average so-much-so, in fact, that his waste products were taahir, pure. The Imam brushed the Shaykh off and left to attend to other things.

Sometimes I think us Muslims, myself foremost, sitting comfortably in the West are in a state of narcosis. We are asleep. Were we proactive, our voices may be heard. Instead, I fear, they will remain on our blogs, disturbing my attempts at sleep.

If you take anything from my incoherent thoughts here, remember that Muslims have rights over each other. The instant that a person says the shahada, the declaration of faith that would make him/her Muslim, each and every one of us are obliged to fulfill rights towards this person (and vice versa). These rights include, but are not limited to, the need to honour each other, cover each other's faults, and use wisdom to teach each other. If we point out each other's faults without wisdom, we risk the world thinking that we are disconnected when in fact I believe that nothing can disconnect us - after all, we are people of the shahada. Muslims cannot ultimately be conquered because we serve our Lord, even to the extent of willing to die for His sake.

Please feel free to correct me where I err.

Ya Rabb, strengthen us for Your sake, ameen.

Update 2006-12-05

Watch this video with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf called "Broadening the Scope of the Pope."

Today's People of the Bench

Bismi Allah

I was thinking about a recent post that I read on another blog (you can read it here). The blog entry entailed thoughts surrounding the visible poverty on Vancouver's streets. The comments following afterward expressed gratitude for the luxuries many of us wade in each day, including simply our belief in Islam. That is truly something to be grateful for, but then I began wondering about what we're really doing about this problem of poverty.

Sure, we all pay our zakah, donate to charities on occasion, and remember the less fortunate people of the world in our prayers, but is that enough? Have we done our fair share? How do we know when we've done enough? Are we minimizing our responsibility by wishing for the collective action of all the comfortable people in the world to give generously to those in need? I wonder... more so about myself than anybody else. When my life ends, it's only about what I've done. So really, if no one gives in charity, it's not my problem, it's their own. Charity benefits the one who gives more than it benefits the one who receives.

What would our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, do were he to witness the poverty of humanity today? What did he do when he witnessed the poverty of his day? Glory be to Allah as these questions have answers in his seerah, life stories.

At the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, there were a group of people who were very poor. They were homeless and lived in the mosque just outside the door of the Prophet's, peace be upon him, house. They were known as the "people of the bench." The Prophet, peace be upon him, would give them whatever he could, whenever he could. Others of the community would also do the same.

SubhanAllah. I'm sure you know the story of when Fatima and 'Ali, the daughter and son-in-law/cousin of the Prophet, may God's peace and blessings be upon them, approached the Prophet, peace be upon him, after much hesitation to ask him for one of the recent slaves that he had because they were overworked and struggling in their daily lives. The Prophet, peace be upon him, loved Fatima and 'Ali dearly, but he had to deny them this request due to there being people who were struggling more and really worse off than them. SubhanAllah.

There are so many lessons in this, but the one that we can take into our hearts now is the continuous, ongoing concern and dedication that the Prophet, peace be upon him, had towards those in need. It goes without saying that the Prophet, peace be upon him, also paid zakah due on him as well as prayed for those in need. But he also gave freely. He also denied his beloved daughter for the sake of helping others in the community.

That evening, after telling Fatima and 'Ali that he could not give them anything, the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to their home and gave them something worth more than what they had asked him for earlier in the day. He taught them, and thus he has taught us... "He said to them, 'shall I not direct you to that which is better than a slave, if you get into your bed say Subhanallah 33 times, and Alhamdullilah 33 times and Allahu Akbar 34 times, Allah will suffice you from needing a slave.' Ali said, 'by Allah after saying it Allah increased us in strength so we did not need a slave.'"

Our duties are clear. It is not sufficient that I despair over people's dire situations when I myself have not made any sincere efforts toward helping them. It would be so easy to start a food drive, or a weekly soup kitchen, or to donate packages of food for their sake, or to distribute gently used clothes, or to spend time just talking to some of them. This would be relatively easy compared to what might await me at my death when I realize that my reflections without actions are fruitless, without benefit to my soul and that which truly matters to my soul after the death of my body.

One final thought before putting this to a close. Have you ever wondered how people manage to pay off their weddings? Have you ever wondered why people buy so many clothes and so much jewelry to celebrate weddings? When I say "people," I'm referring to Muslims. I have no expectations of other communities. Wouldn't it be nice to help today's "people of the bench" on the occasion of your wedding too? To give them food and know that the day you're united with your eternal partner you have eased someone else's burden and God willing also earned the pleasure of your Lord? Wouldn't that be beautiful?

So for those of you getting married soon, enjoy the day with you family and loved ones. Invite them to the mosque to witness your marriage and to pray for you. Give them something to eat, give them a tasbih, and remind them of the story of Fatima and 'Ali and the source of the prescribed adkhar. And then... invite the poor, Muslims or not, to eat a meal.

Let the world see the beauty that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, conveyed to us and left us with so that we could share it with the rest of humanity. Let us be among those who try to follow in his, peace be upon him, beautiful footsteps. Insha'Allah.

Allahuma sali 'ala sayyidina Muhammad wa 'ala aalihi wa sahbihi wa salim.

Beauty Atop Our Heads

Bismi Allah

Some people argue against the hijab's purpose in steering away the gazes of unrelated men. "What is a piece of cloth on one's head going to to do minimize men's attraction? If anything, it makes the beauty of the face all the more visible." Perhaps, but you're kidding yourself if you think that hair doesn't contribute to a person's beauty.

I never thought much of this type of thinking toward hijab, but I do recall being puzzled as to why young girls, my classmates in high school, would bring their hair brushes to school as an essential backpack item alongside their pens and notebooks. How bad could their hair possibly become in the event of a typical school day that would require a quick brushing in between classes? It boggled my mind, and in fact disgusted me because their loose hair would cover the ground and serve as a potential mess that could attach itself to the static molecules at the bottom of my jilbaab.

Nevertheless, I realized that if their hair wasn't in perfect order, their appearance would be diminished that much more. Aha! So it is a necessity to carry a hair brush. After all, what would they possibly do if a popular boy happened to pass by and there was a strand of hair out of place. Ah, what an ugly thought!

Today as I read an e-mail in my hotmail account, my eyes took note of a pesky advertisement that decorated the right side of the page. It was listing "Singles of the Week." Imagine my surprise when I read, "f, 25, blonde" - "f, 24, brunette" - "m, 31, bald." Three essential pieces of information when trying to find a romantic partner: age, gender, and hair colour. Hair colour! What an absurdity... truly.

For the record, to observe hijab is not only to cover one's hair but to cover the entire body in loose-fitting clothing. I like to think of hijab as the manifestation of an internal characteristic called hayaa (loosely translated as shyness or bashfulness). Muslim women wear hijab only because it is a command of our Lord. There are infinite benefits to it namely that it makes one modest, protects one from crude looks from some men, it is a source of self respect, and it is a symbol of faith. In the life of a Muslim, one's faith, one's iman, is incomparable to anything in this world. Without it, we are nothing.

The superficiality of the society that we live in is overwhelming. It makes a mockery of things of true worth such as having a sense of depth in one's character. It directs society's interests to a path of emptiness, to a dead end, bearing no fruits or tastes for the finer things of life. The soul will never be satisfied on this road of plastered beauty.

Beauty is deeper than what society dictates. If we but think.... If we but think. True beauty emanates from those who nurture their souls. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf once mentioned that he noticed that a lot of women in the West don't age gracefully like the women in the East. He said you could actually see the nur, the light, in the faces of the elder women in the East. These are women who have guarded their modesty in their youth and are thus able to adorn themselves with nur in their old age. SubhanAllah.

May that same nur fill our lands. May our women's beauty go beyond what the eyes see. May the light of our hearts show on our faces, our actions, and throughout our lives. May we live up to the worth for which we have been created. May we have beauty with You, Ya Rabb. Ameen.

"This hijab, this mark of piety, is an act of faith, a symbol, for all the world to see, a simple cloth to preserve her dignity. So lift the veil from your heart and seek the heart of purity. Lift the veil from your heart and seek the heart of purity. Lift the veil from your heart and see the heart of purity."
- Dawud W. Ali

Update: 2006-10-26

Excellent article: How I Came to Love the Veil by Yvonne Ridley

"Do you think that you will enter the Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried: 'When (will come) the help of God?' Ah! Verily the help of God is (always) near!" [2:214]



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"Be mindful of God, and God will protect you. Be mindful of God, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of God. If you seek help, seek help of God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. And if the whole world were to gather together to harm you, it would harm you only with something that God has already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried."
--Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]