Back to Reality

Bismi Allah

Camp Nur 2006 is over. Praise be to Allah, it was a wonderful experience. This was the sixth year, I believe, for Camp Nur to have a summer camp for children ranging in ages of around 8 to 17. As usual, it was blessed with the presence of the local shuyukh including Shaykh Ramzy Ajem, Shaykh Zahir Bacchus, and this year Camp Nur also had Shaykh Zahid who recently arrived from Damascus, Syria with his family.

I feel as though I haven't completely collected my thoughts about this experience, but I truly believe that it was fruitful spending five days away from the usual city life of cars, television, news, malls, polluted air, and everything else that city life offers. SubhanAllah, by day two I felt the effects of being surrounded by goodness. I tried to resist the urge to allow my thoughts to consume me while I had a responsibility to be connected with those around me. Eventually, I re-established that connection in my heart, but not without stealing a few moments for my own thoughts.

I cannot pretend to even understand how the children who attended the camp felt. Despite what seemed like a continuous stream of whining about the extended walks to and from the cabins and the need to carry out our chores diligently, I still trust they took away some priceless lessons. Instead, I'll use this reflective snapshot to describe some personal inspirations from camp.

I was responsible for taking care of five sisters aged 12-13. I was optimistic that I would be able to carry out my responsibility at least half decently, but upon meeting these precious young ladies, I couldn't help but feel my incompetency for the task. They seemed responsible, though extremely quiet (barely audible in fact), and disinclined towards expressing much of themselves to me. SubhanAllah I thought. I had bargained on being able to use conversation as a bonding tool only to recognize that my thinking was flawed in that it did not include the aspect of time, which is usually, but certainly not always, crucial in nurturing relationships.

Nevertheless, the day carried on, and I held onto my Camp Nur duotang which so wonderfully detailed the basics of what I needed to know, again impressing me with the organization of Camp Nur itself. The first stop for the sisters was their cabin which we soon found to be somewhere in the middle of the forest. It intimidated me a little that as a counsellor, one who should know what's going on, I had not learnt the route to the cabin after day one. I realized that my many shortcomings as a counsellor were easily disguised by the wealth of fellow counsellor sisters who had so much to offer including their ability to learn the route sooner than me.

The forest itself is truly amazing. We visited the campsite on the Thursday before camp began and immediately upon entering the campsite, I embraced nature's silence and calm. While at camp with all the campers, it was difficult to hear the silence of nature again, but the beauty of the forest was encapsulating. I could not keep my eyes away from the elegance that surrounded me namely that of the sky and the forest. My only regret was that I never went to an open field to feast on the expanse of the stunning black night sky. However, overhead the campfire a few stars were visible, and again served as a great distraction for me as we sang and listened to beautiful qasidahs and stories.

The campfire brought everything together for me. One could not have been present in that gathering without feeling a closeness and love emanating from so many different brothers and sisters. If our ummah could reflect the love that we had in this campfire gathering, I do not doubt that the world would be a very different place.

It must be said though that the shuyukh are the lights in the gatherings. While I truly love many of the sisters and respect many of the brothers there, I was comforted by knowing that those with knowledge were amongst us and leading us via their love for Allah, His Messenger (peace be upon him), and the message of Islam. Shaykh Ramzy explicitly expressed the effects of this during one of our lessons by telling his students that he loved us all. SubhanAllah, I felt the sincerity of his words and reminded the young women who attended his lesson of his love for them and thus the obligation that we have to honour him and the knowledge that he conveys to us.

This reflective moment cannot be complete without mention of my dear sisters. I cannot find the words to express my appreciation for their company. While contemplating on life and my existence, I noticed these sisters and thought of the quality of my existence. If I could have but an ounce of their light, their nur, I would be blessed. But instead I have been blessed with their company, something I need to make full use of.

My words here do not do justice to the entire Camp Nur experience, the depths of which I could not properly convey to anyone. I only hope that I can now utilize the benefits of five awe-inspiring days with the shuyukh, some dear sisters and brothers striving for Allah's sake, and the signs of Allah's greatness that have been illuminated before my eyes. I already sense the weakness of myself, but I remind myself that all I can ever do is try; and regardless of how many times I fall, my success will, God willing, be in my effort to serve my Creator as He intends for me to serve Him.

"The world is not a box. There are no lids, no doors, no cardboard flaps or locks, and everything in nature from the clouds to the rocks is a piece of the puzzle of the purpose of man. It's a piece of a piece of Islam."
-Dawud W. Ali

Thank you Allah!


Bismi Allah

Anas relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."
[Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]

Mu'amalaat is the term used essentially to describe the relationships or dealings we have with people, while ibadah refers to our relationship with our Creator, or simply worship. It is strongly emphasized in Islam that Muslims strive to develop their character. Actually, that's an understatement. A Muslim with a bad character strays far from the teachings of Islam, and is sadly mistaken if he/she thinks otherwise. It is an absolute neccessity that Muslims continuously work to develop themselves in an effort to at least try to follow the way of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the righteous people of the past (may God's mercy be upon them all).

When I think about how the world is sometimes, including all the different relationships that I have (including as a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, etc.), I can't help but feel that my character is off the mark. When I think of the above hadith, I can't help but wonder why I fail in acheiving it. I would almost be inclined to say that these days such a love is not possible because it means one has to be 'sincerely selfless' instead of 'politely self sacrificing.' I figured if such a relationship were possible today then it should be first visible between parents and children, but it's not (but then again, that's a unique relationship in itself). Perhaps then husbands and wives have the honour of experiencing such a profound relationship, after all, God Most High has said that He puts love and mercy between their hearts. It is true. They do share a bit more of this, at least at the beginning of marriage before Shaytan has set to work. But still, I know of many who don't have this. Perhaps it's opposing the wisdom of this hadith by adopting selfishness that accounts for the rising rates of divorce amongst Muslims. Allah knows best.

But I must confess, I do know what this feels like. It has nothing to do with the devleopment of my character, but rather it is a blessing from Allah. Though I fail in my gratitude too, I readily acknowledge that I've been blessed to know that such a love, at least in a lesser degree, can still exist.

Thank you Allah.

O Bittersweet Moon

Bismi Allah

*Were you the same moon who lit the way of the Prophet [peace be upon him] slipping through the desert on his hijra...*
Dawud W. Ali

Ah sweet moon. So luminous and beautiful. So strong and certain, yet so humble. You have been honoured to be amongst many signs in this universe. I can't help but smile when seeing you, just knowing that the beloved of Allah, peace be upon him, looked toward you and saw you as I see you now. This is the sweetness I find in you. This is what draws me to you.

But my dear moon, you are bitter too. You encapsulate a bitter reminder for me of how time passes. How we are limited and confined by time. Soon many moons will pass and our time will have elapsed. You are more than an hour glass can or will ever be. Through you, I have seen the great month of Rajab slip away. I smile at you with a weight in my heart knowing that as your next cycle arrives and passes, so too will Sha'baan. Ramadaan will not be free of this ending either. Such is its fate. Such is my despair.

Ultimately though, I submit to the wisdom of your cycles because you move not by your own free will. You are in complete submission to the commands of Allah. And again, I see the sweetness in you.

I admire you. I look up to you more than in the just literal sense. Were it that one day I could have a taste of such nur upon my face, this would be my peace. That I could share in the connection that you had to all the Prophets and Messengers, peace be upon them all, this would be my honour. Or that my life, like yours, could be a symbol of the unity of Allah, Most High and Transcendent is He, this would be my success.

I know though, your life is not easy nor simplistic. There are times when you must seek shelter behind the cotton creatures of the sky. There are times when you are beautifully orange, much unlike your usual tranquil pearl. There are times when your strength shows in crisp contrast to the background sky yet there are other times when your weakness fuses as a blur with the atmosphere surrounding it. What do you know, O Luminous One, that causes you to change so much? Your variations can almost be likened to deception as the truth of your size and enormity is never truly visible, even when you hover over the horizon on those beautiful, peaceful nights. When will you share your secret with me?

I know I will never hear your reply, so instead I take solace in what you offer me. You are a symbol, a mere symbol, of the greatness of my Creator. In the grand scheme of things, you too are simply dust which can float into nothingness. But while I see you, and know you, and watch you, I take heed in your warnings. The moons that have passed will never return, but the wisdom of your existence is here in this very moment. This precious moment that we call life.

Glory and praises belong to Allah, the Creator of all.

The Similitude of a Roti

Bismi Allah

I came into the kitchen today to find my mother starting to make roti. I said I would make it instead, so I waited for the water to boil and finished off the dough (with some pointers from my mom). Two hours later, I finished 21-not-so-very-circular-but-not-too-bad rotis, all the while my mind was filled with words that I wanted to write.

You see, making roti is not easy as it looks. The first time I made roti, if my memory serves me correctly, was six years ago, shortly after graduating from high school. I had no intention of going to college or university because I wanted to study Arabic and Islamic sciences, so I figured before that happened I should learn to cook. My rotis never came out round then. Nevertheless, I reasoned that while my rotis at that time didn't look perfect, they would rise very nicely, always ballooning (this is something else one hopes for in a good roti).

As I cooked the rotis, I thought of my grandmother who would often cook the rotis for me as I rolled them out. She would tell me that they were very nice, even though I knew that sometimes they weren't. I missed her today as I watched my rotis failing to rise. Right now she is in Zambia recovering from surgery. Pray for her and all the people who are suffering.

I have been told that good rotis demonstrate culinary skills, so even though roti isn't a daily or even weekly menu item, I tried making them more often. I thought I was doing pretty well with the rotis until we had guests one day. As my mother prepared the meal, I offered to make the rotis but she refused to let me make them. Naturally, I was insulted as I realized that my rotis weren't up to par for guests. I had, and probably still have, a long way to go.

As I rolled out another roti, I thought of how much life has changed. Four years ago my sister married and moved to Montreal. Although it is a common event in most families, it meant big changes for me that eventually have resolved themselves into the life that I have today. Life is really like making a roti. Sometimes it goes smoothly and comes out beautifully round, other times it is a shameful disgrace that you wonder about. Sometimes it rises completely making you happy, and other times it doesn't rise much at all reminding you to be grateful for at least having it. It gets tiring, and it gets messy. But regardless of how the roti comes out, it is still a blessing as some people have no food at all. Again, life is much the same.

I still haven't learnt Arabic or studied Islam, but my sister is close to home now with her husband and two sons. I am still not married, but I have earned a college diploma and a B.A. I still have no job, but I have more luxuries than most. I still haven't earned my 'culinary badges,' but today I made a round roti.

Wishing you all a life of tasty rotis!

The Weight of a Tear

Bismi Allah

Today is no different than yesterday, than last year, or even 1400 years ago. Wars happened. Wars are happening. And I suspect that they will happen in the future. People live. People die. The only worthy reference point for me right now is to consider the difference between how we handle these struggles compared to that of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and his righteous companions, may Allah's mercy be upon them all.

We weep for the deceased. We weep for our failures. We weep for what we don't know and what we can't do. Don't we? Or have our hearts hardened to the point of no tears? Do we only weep when we have direct pain or are tears still an invaluable energy source for our hearts?

Abu Bakr, may Allah's mercy be upon him, was a righteous man known to be soft. He was a respected man, an amazing leader, and he held the honour of leading our ummah upon the death of our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him. He was known to weep easily, but that never made him any less of a man in all respects. To me, his tears reflect a worth more than that of gold. As for the tears of the Prophet, peace be upon him, words cannot describe them. I imagine they are still benefiting his ummah today, whether we realize it or not.

What is a tear worth today? Today, crying is considered a weakness. Tears are a private affair except under dire circumstances where the human cannot control itself and thus it is deemed acceptable to weep in public. Otherwise, one is considered to be unstable and incompetent. Today, tears demonstrate a weak mind, body, and spirit. But no one speaks of the heart. Tears soften the heart, or at least they used to. Now they seem to only reflect internal hypocrisy where the heart is part of a continuous pendulum that the world controls.

If our tears bring us no peace and if they do not serve as our heart's fuel, then maybe they are in vain. To cry for what we don't have instead of what we are not reflects a sorrowful state for the soul. A tear is worth as much as the reason it is shed. Are our tears worth more than the dust from which we were created? We can only hope and pray that our tears will tip the balance in our favour on the Day when our deeds are weighed.

Unleashed Patience

Bismi Allah

What does it mean to be patient? Is patience hoping for something and waiting until you get it? Or is patience doing something about that desire and seeking it, knowing that ultimately whether you acquire that pure 'object of desire' or not is something you have no control over.

Patience is the way of our ideal role model, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Do I have that? Is it patience that I lack or is it the effort toward the goal that I lack? Is it ever okay for me to compromise my values, trouble my heart, and challenge my mind for a chance at achieving that goal? No, it's not. That's where patience is required. There are no more strikes left in this inning. I'm out of the game.

Instead, a refocus is in order. I recognize a force unnamed that cannot sit and wait for things that may never happen. Will they happen if I don't try? No, they won't. Patience is not synonymous with inactivity. Stagnant waters can never feed fish or the undergrowth of an ocean. They are limited to their confines.

A speck of dust is to be admired. It is tameless, free, but it is fickle. It knows no patience. It knows hardship. Is hardship the price we pay for losing patience?

I submit to Your plan ya Rabb. A moment of clarity that I have hoped for has come. I cannot smile. It's here. Now. My heart and mind are reconciled, and this is the beginning of yet another path. For a heart and mind that conflict leave nothing but an unsettled soul. I fear that if my heart were to speak, it would disclose more than is befitting of a patient servant. So I tame my voice. Patience by my side, I know what needs to be done before I return to dust.

Ya Rabb, give me the strengh to be as You command of me, to not waver in what pleases You, and to have peace with You.

Restless Sleeper

Bismi Allah

As we sleep soundly in our beds at night, we cannot forget that for others night means enhanced vigilence and no peace. The bombs continue to go off, buildings continue to crumble, and there are no signs of upcoming relief.

My whole being hurts at the thought of what so many innocent 'you's and 'me's go through all day. If one part of our ummah is in pain, then naturally the rest must be affected by it until it is made aright. But I question myself as to what I am doing to help them. To grieve the trials that are sent before them, to sympathize, and to hope is not enough. Our strongest weapon is in the form of our supplications to our Lord (du'a). But shouldn't this be coupled with whatever else is in within our means?

Take, for example, the infamous Mr. George Galloway who did a superb job in telling Sky News the reality of the war (watch the interview online). He did not shy away from speaking the truth despite what it may mean against him. He spoke the truth, advocated for justice, and earned my admiration. Where are the Muslim voices like this? They are easily silenced, I imagine, and thus they are rare to come by. For many of us, we are guilty of our implicit support of injustices (as indicated through our lack of responses toward these injustices). Sadly, our guilt goes against the very nature of our faith, one that is founded on truth as illustrated by our beloved Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him).

For the innocent people who are suffering throughout the world, I pray for their relief and their patience in the situation. Allah's plan will prevail. It would not be fitting for the believers to lose hope in our Creator. As one teacher reminded us, a trial only becomes a tribulation when one is ungrateful towards Allah.

All praises and thanks belong to Allah.

Just Another Day...

Bismi Allahir Rahmanir Raheem

*Dear God, how will I be when the angel in black will come for me? What will he say when I ask for one more day, just another day, just another day...*

And so I begin a blog. The hope is that I can write more, think more, and most importantly make sense, for my sake, of this world around us. In all truth, the Internet is no place to call home. So while I start this, I know that there are obvious limitations. In the least, this will compensate for my release from the world of academia. Better yet, I hope that it will go beyond what the classroom ever offered and instead allow certain fruits to flourish -- the same fruits I neglected while in school.

Here's a part of the effort to find the peace that I once experienced through writing. Thoughtful reflection eventually brings peace and contentment, by the permission of Allah.
"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]