The Lone Dandelion

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

"You forgot one dandelion" the little boy informed his grandfather. They spent some time in the garden tending to the flower beds, lawn, and the many weeds. The astute four-year-old was an eager helper enjoying his time with his grandparents. But this young assistant takes his surroundings for granted as he has to yet to discover his family's history and all that it entails. It is a history of migration and something that he must learn to embrace.

The term "immigrant" is tossed around in various political or economic arenas. People question the wisdom in allowing "others" into "their" country often times neglecting their own histories of migration. Regardless, countries are dependent on migrants, and citizens owe it to themselves to recognize that a country only grows richer with increased cooperation.

My family was like that lone dandelion in the garden. We immigrated to Canada almost twenty years ago from a life of relative comfort in a country of despicable corruption to a life of sacrifice in a country of relative peace. It was not easy trying to build a new life for ourselves as we faced a new array of challenges in a place where we lacked social networks and supports. But God takes care of our affairs, and after some time it has become the only place that we are familiar enough with to call home.

I am very grateful for my history of migration as it offers me an alternate lens to view the world. It's almost as good as travelling except that the "them" that my fellow citizens use to refer to immigrants will always be an "us" for me.

There are a host of psychological readjustments that immigrants must adopt in their new homes. Tariq Ramadan speaks of these, and once mentioned a very simplistic yet profound idea, "there is no such thing as a minority citizen." The implications of such a truthful statement are vast and demand the attention of all citizens.

The challenges that refugees face are a lot more multifaceted and increasingly more difficult. A refugee, by definition, is one who flees for safety, especially to another (foreign) country. A forced migration often times means one comes from an unstable environment to a new land without the means to easily establish oneself there.

Al Amaanah is an organization based in Houston, Texas that strives to serve the needs of the refugee population in that vicinity. Their name points directly to the responsibility that they acknowledge each community has towards the struggling (refugee) segment of the population. It was very inspiring watching these three (1, 2, 3) videos regarding their work.

One young man specifically mentioned that it is difficult for people in need to ask for a helping hand and it is upon those who are able to offer themselves and their contributions before a person is forced to ask. He also mentioned that every community has people who are need and it is up the rest of the community to seek these people out and offer them help in honourable ways.

I pray that God gives this organization divine success (tawfiq) and facilitates their efforts for His sake. May He help other communities combine and utilize their resources in the service of others for His sake, and may He give ease to all those who are suffering worldwide, ameen.

In closing, my use of the term dandelion in reference to immigrants is absolutely not meant to belittle. In fact, I'm hoping that it would invite us to think deeper about how we classify newcomers in our midst. Those who know the value of the dandelion plant actually seek it, collect it, and use it to improve their health. Most of us though cannot see its beauty and instead take cheap shots as we uproot it from a place it deserves to flourish.

As with many things, it only takes an initial effort to put ourselves in other people's shoes in order for us to be more productive and empathetic towards the situations that we face as communities.

And success is from God alone.

Focusing In

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

وَ قُل رَبِّي زِدنِي عِلماً

Have you noticed how perseverant the devil is in his oath to distract mankind from the worship and servitude of the One and True Lord of all that exists? His arrogance led him to make such an oath, and he works wonders in trying to fulfill his goals.

It amazes me how we, people in general, are able to persevere in our wrong actions. I suppose we have both the support of the ego (nafs) and Shaytan that makes that path easier. As Shaykh Abdullah Al Haddad (of Fes) mentioned once, the nafs is the daughter of Shaytan. They're a lethal father-daughter tag team that are very easily sustained.

However, intellectually, I don't blame Shaytan for my wrongdoings. He probably has a portion of blame, but only insofar as delivering an invitation to follow a misguided and undesirable way. Acceptance of that invitation and execution of its requirements are all matters that sit firmly on my plate of life's choices. And this is a burden I place on myself.

If the world was like a video game that has a power bar in the peripheries of our vision continuously telling us how much we earn in terms of rewards and how much punishment we've reaped from our misdeeds, most of us would likely despair. But life is not a video game, and our ability to rectify our situation is always an accessible option. It's almost like a game that has 'cheats' but in life (since life isn't a game) there are windows of opportunity to overcome the negative effects of our transgressions.

This is simply achieved, as I see it, by directing our sincere efforts to praiseworthy endeavours and most importantly sincerely seeking God's forgiveness with the resolve not to continue nor return to our wrongdoings.

It seems quite the challenge to remain focused in the honourable pursuits of life because they are harder to sustain. I suppose a firm support system needs to be established, and often times that comes from one's home. And more importantly, I imagine that our efforts toward good are only made easier by seeking knowledge for His sake.

Shaykh Abdullah Al Haddad visited Toronto in the summer of 2007. In my absence, my friend kindly shared some of his words with me. She had asked him about knowledge and how some students of (beneficial) knowledge feel weak or lack perseverance in their studies. She said his response was lengthy but he essentially said, something to the effect, "Many people ask regarding this issue. However, if we only realized the importance of this knowledge, we would never feel this way (lazy or lacking in motivation)." He also said that if we were sensitive to the responsibility we have concerning this knowledge ('ilm), these feelings would be impossible.

We cannot worship God in fear of Hell, nor can we worship Him in anticipation of Paradise. Our entry into Paradise is only granted by His mercy. But we must strive to worship Him and to perfect our worship of Him because He is deserving of this complete servitude.

The road is not an easy one, but half the time I think most of us are looking for the actual path, never mind attempting to tread it. Again, I think it's by the light which God bestows through knowledge that the path will become clearer, God willing.

May Allah bless us with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. May He forgive our sins and help us draw closer to Him. May He protect us from deceiving ourselves and distracting ourselves in fruitless and blameworthy pursuits. And may He take us back to Him in the best of states. Ameen.

Update 19/05/09:

Narrated Dirar ibn Murrah: Iblis said: "If I am successful in persuading man to do three things, then that will be all I need: to make forget his sins, to regard his good deeds as too many, and to be proud of his opinion."

.رب انفعنا بما علمتنا... رب علمنا الذي ينفعنا, آمين


BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

Most seem not to need to recharge during this time of the year. Spring, by itself, invites renewed enthusiasm. And how can it not? With budding leaves, blossoming flowers, emerging butterflies, and refreshing rain, it begs one to look ahead with positive and optimistic anticipation.

But even though I welcome this spring season, it seems not to be the same as I've previously seen it. As I listen to today's howling wind that co-exists alongside whistling birds and the bright evening sun, I recognize that some of us still sing with that very same wind.

So instead, I find my sense of renewal, at least for now, in words that a sister documented last year during her forty days in Tarim, Hadramawt, Yemen.

Day 25
Just like you die if you stay three days without water, your heart will die if it stays three days without listening to anything that reminds you of Allah, whether it is Qur'an recitations, lectures etc. So what if you're not only not listening to things that remind you of Allah, but listening to things that make you forget Him? Habib Umar

Every time you sin layers are added to your heart, until eventually your feelings [towards Allah] are blocked. Every time you feed your body what it wants, it just wants more. And when you do that your soul is dying. If it could talk to you it would tell you to feed it; the food of souls is worship. Sheikh Imaad

Day 15
It's ok to sometimes meander from the spiritual path. As long as you have a goal in mind, you can always get back to it, just like a car can get back on the road if it takes a right or left. Habib Umar

Day 35
"[Don't be] the man who wants to be learned in the sciences of religion but spends his time in idelness and says, 'God is generous and merciful, able to fill my heart with that knowledge with which He filled the hearts of His prophets and saints, without any effort on my part, any repetition, any learning from a teacher. Again, you resemble the man who wants wealth, yet does not engage in farming or commerce or any gainful occupation." Imam al-Ghazali

Day 36
To attain the secret of knowledge, act upon it. To attain the secret of dhikr, do copious amounts of it. To attain the secret of prayer, have presence in it. Habib Kathim

Day 39
People are sick of kalaam [talk] and they won't listen to it anymore. We don't need people who talk anymore, we need people who act, and who do da'wah through their character and behavior, not their speech. Habib Ali

A Breath Away

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

For much of this past year, I've felt like a fish out of water. Yesterday marked one year when I last breathed Yemeni air, and I do miss it. I miss it a lot.

As I listen to the rainfall this early morning, I can't seem to get back to sleep. It poured and poured the night that I was scheduled to fly out of Sana'a delaying my flight by five hours. And while many might have found the delay a nuisance, it was yet another blessing in God's ultimate plan for me. By the time I made it to Frankfurt to catch my connecting flight, I only needed to wait in the boarding terminal for about half an hour before boarding. My preference, by far, was to spend five hours sitting in Sana'a's humble airport.

There are endless memories - thoughts, reflections, dreams, experiences, interactions, sights - from my time in Yemen that I've drawn from over the last year. Interestingly, they have helped me in many ways as I lived through what has been the most challenging year of my life thus far. My life is far better than most, alhamduliLlah, and it is pretty problem-free, but there are things that I've almost taken for granted that have changed and that force me to restructure my approach to life. I am confident that peace will eventually meet me if I persevere, God willing.

Perseverance. It's really a difficult word to describe, and my life has been far too easy for me to ever claim to have any insights into its deeper meaning. But in my own simple way, I have had a taste of it.

I suppose it's fair to say that most who know me note that I'm particularly fond of Arabic. It was in search of her sweetness, at least initially, that took me to Yemen (and God knows best). However, it might surprise these same people to know that sometimes I wanted to give up. Though I only studied for about sixty percent of the time that I was in Yemen, I devoted my attention at those times wholeheartedly to my studies. After my short class each day, I'd return to my abode, be it my empty though peaceful apartment, or a home of generous though trying strangers, or the confines of a bustling boarding school, and studied alone with my trusty dictionary ever nearby.

I would sometimes get frustrated with myself when I noted that I was looking up the same word in the dictionary for about the fourth time (if not more). I wondered why I couldn't remember its meaning the first or second time around. Nonetheless, it was what I had to do, so I did it. I couldn't detect the progress that I was making in the language, and I couldn't anticipate any end.

Finally, it was time to write a mid-term exam. My teacher had far more confidence in my abilities than I had (and still have) in myself (yet another blessing, alhamduliAllah), and thus prepared a somewhat challenging exam. I suppose it was about one hour into writing the exam when I realized that I was smiling. I probably smiled the entire duration of the exam as I engaged with the questions. True enough, I didn't know all the answers and I made some silly mistakes, but that's the meaning of learning, and I was learning.

Now, I'm afraid to even look at that same exam which I still have with me because it'll evidence all that I've forgotten or failed to build upon.

A year of my life has passed, and I have not achieved even a minute percentage of the goals that I put before myself as I made my way back home. I suppose my goals are superficial in their own right, and I need only focus my attention on the needs of my heart, but that's an even heavier weight which I'd be blessed to be able to carry.

My longing for Yemen has little to do with the country itself (though it is a beautiful place) but rather focuses in on what it offered me. I remind myself that those offerings come from a single source, and it is to Him we must submit.

Peace is only a breath away, and I pray that it's a breath that finds its way to me before I breathe my last, insha'Allah wa ameen.
"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]