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 - GuidanceMedia.com]

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

People of the Qibla, Not People of the Moon

Bismi Allah

Were it not that the Qur'an explicitly commands us Muslims to turn our faces to the Ka'bah, we would probably differ as to where to face during our five daily prayers.

Each year, Muslims anxiously await the arrival of Ramadhaan and then the announcement of Eid. As a youngster, I remember some days when we would pray salatul Taraweeh and go to bed only to hear the phone ringing at some strange hour of the night with someone from the masjid telling us that indeed the moon was sighted and the next day was Eid. It was so exciting! I would hear my Mom go into the kitchen early in the morning to finish things that she had initially expected to complete with ease one day before Eid.

And then I grew up...

Now each year when the confusion of Ramadhaan's beginning and end manifests itself, my heart cringes, but most often I don't express that to many others. I remember last year when I was talking to a sister at school and we discovered that we were a day off on our Eid celebrations. I made light of the community's dilemma by saying "Well I guess that's why Eid is three days. At least one of those days we'll be celebrating together."

Today I just had to absorb this moon sighting dilemma. I was under the impression that the 15th of Sha'baan is due to be tomorrow and thus tonight would be Layatul Bara'ah. My brother went to the masjid for salatul Maghrib and was told that tonight is not the 15th, but the 14th of Sha'baan. Hmm... I was surprised. I thought I remember receiving an e-mail that said that the Muslims of North America had reached some type of agreement regarding the sighting of the moon, so I checked it up online. Moonsighting.com says that tonight is the 15th. The Hilal Committee says it's the 14th and offers a refutation to ISNA's and the Fiqh Council's decision.

Really, I can't blame our ummah for their differing opinions. If I think about it a little more, I find that the bright side is that at least we are thinking and trying to follow Islam as best as we can. At least we are trying to consult the scholars. We may not agree, but agreement does not necessarily mean unity and disagreement does not necessarily indicate disunity.

The issue of the moon potentially has disuniting effects, but praise be to God, we are people of the qibla and as such we will remain united even if it is only in our core beliefs and the direction that we all prostate towards five times each day.

May the Almighty forgive our sins and accept our deeds for His sake, ameen.

Update: 2006-09-24

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf has written a very detailed and enlightening article concerning this issue. It is entitled "Cesarean Moon Births." It is in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. Please read it.

Uncertain Dependence

Bismi Allah

At this moment, I am officially free of any worldly commitments. I really don't have to be doing anything, though there are many things I suppose I should do. Yet, I still feel at a loose end. I feel guilty having 'nothing to do' per se. Ironically, I find myself having trouble balancing my lack of commitments. How strange is that?

I suppose my discontent stems from knowing that while I have no commitments, I do have serious ambitions - none of which I have the means to achieving just yet. But "wondrous is the affair of the believer" which must then mean that Allah is giving me this time of freedom to dedicate to all my lesser ambitions.

Words can be so pretty sometimes, so clear, and so wise. It is practice and implementation of these words that always catch me. How will I ever learn to discipline myself toward achieving any of my freelance ambitions?

Everything that happens in life inevitably returns to the question of gratefulness to Allah, Glorified and Most High is He. I have no idea what will become of my life and ultimately of my death. I fear that if I were to indulge my current state of being, it would benefit little and instead I would unintentionally display ingratitude to my Creator. So again, I silence myself and enjoy the beauty of this hadith...

"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]

SubhanAllah, isn't that just beautiful? Here's some more of that beauty...

"O God, by Thy knowledge of the unseen and Thy power
to create, grant me life as long as Thou knowest life to
be best for me, and take me when Thouest know death
to be best for me. O God, I ask Thee for fear (and love)
of Thee both within my secret heart and openly. I ask
Thee for the word of truth in pleasure and anger. I ask
Thee for moderation in both poverty and riches. I ask
Thee for felicity which does not pass away. I ask Thee
for comfort which is not cut off. I ask Thee for satisfaction
with what is decreed. I ask Thee for a pleasant life after
death. I ask Thee for the pleasure of looking at Thy
face and longing to meet Thee in a state in which distress
does not cause harm or testing lead astray. O God,
beautify us with the adornment of faith and make us
(among those) who are rightly guided."
Recorded in Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 788

--- Ameen.

Pray for me and this ummah, please.
"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]