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.
"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]