Burning Eyes

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

It was only three nights, but they were all followed by relatively busy days. My eyes opened before the alarm went off in the pre-dawn hours of the night, though my sleep was far from complete. Surprisingly, after Fajr I did not sleep. During the first two mornings, I took a walk by myself savouring the breathtaking sights of nature. Shaykh Abdullah and his wife walked at that time too. We would greet briefly, and then they would continue their walk on deeper trails.

I enjoyed the tranquility of the mornings as the sun peaked over the horizon. By the third morning, however, I considered perhaps catching one hour of sleep before getting ready to meet the day. But the morning air and whistling birds enticed me, and my heart refused. The body cannot rest easily without the cooperation of the heart. My eyes rebelled, and I could feel them stinging. But it was a superbly beautiful morning. It certainly was. SubhanAllah.

I feel a similar sensation in my eyes now. I think of Shaykh Abdullah and the presence of tranquil souls. I wonder at the restful state of the heart. Looking at the great beauty of the autumn leaves, I consciously avoid the effort of putting things into perspective, and that is a great injustice to the heart, mind, and soul. May it not take death at my door for truth's reality to become clear again.

A Littered Heart

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim


The morning after my first night in a boarding school, I heard what sounded like rain splashing on the tiles right outside my door. "Ah beautiful rain" I thought. I desperately wanted to go see it, but I was in the peak of my illness and couldn't find the energy to move.

Eventually, I moved out from that room and settled in a room further away from the typical dorms. It was a classroom of a public school, nestled within the boarding school, that was used to house guests who could no longer be accommodated in the dormitory. It was after settling in that room that I learned that my first morning at the boarding school wasn't met by the sound of rain but rather by the pitter-pattering feet of many little girls heading to class.

Having never lived in a boarding school before and then having a bedroom in the midst of classrooms, it fascinated me how school and boarding co-existed. My schedule was different than everyone else's which afforded me a couple more hours of much-needed sleep in the mornings before I had to get to my one-hour long class for the day. By the time I returned, break time was over for the little girls and the walk back to my room was often marked by candy, chocolate, and chip wrappers strewn across the floor.

It became a habit for me to greet the two sisters who were responsible for cleaning up this mess, and often I would apologize to one as I continuously neglected to greet her with proper respect by using the plural form of address "Kayfa haalukum?" as opposed to the singular form which I was more accustomed to using "Kayfa haaluki?" She would always respond with a forgiving smile. Our conversations were usually quite simple because my Arabic is too weak and her Arabic is much too dialectal for me to have had much hope of understanding her words without taking up a lot of her time and patience (though I'm sure she had plenty in the patience department, masha'Allah).

There aren't many things that bothered me about life in Yemen, but litter was certainly an exception. Six days a week these ladies cleaned the school of garbage that could have been easily placed in a garbage bin by the guilty litter bugs. But it seemed not to bother others much, and thoughts of this type were definitely a part of my "Western baggage" that I needed to deal with.

One Western sister advised that the untidy garbage is problematic for us because it reflects a diseased condition of the spiritual heart and soul both of which need to be purified. I imagine some might want to challenge her words, but she's absolutely right. I suppose the first counter-response would be that cleanliness is an essential part of our deen. Sah, it is... but being personally bothered by the less-than-desirable habits of others is not.

For one to be able to clean the filth of others, in my opinion, points to some admirable characteristics of the soul.

I remember once when I returned from class and headed to the sinks to make wudhu. There I was met by, as you can imagine, the repulsive sight and stench of one sink clogged with vomit. When I returned much later, it was cleaned up, most likely by none other than one of the two sisters who I often greeted.

My respect for them is great, and I love them for the sake of Allah. In my eyes, they have hearts of gold and the way that they carried themselves is well worth reflecting upon. It's reasonable to expect that we may never meet again in this life, and I may never have the opportunity to thank them and to tell them how special I think they are. I suppose even if I did get such a chance, they wouldn't easily accept my words as true, such is their humility and bashfulness. May Allah unite us in Jannah, ameen.

I pray that one day we can be among the internally purified, and I pray that Allah blesses them and the many others like them with goodness in this world and the next. Ameen.

Written on March 19, 2009

Nope Squared


I've decided...*cough*
Drum roll please.
*drull roll*
... that....*ahem* I just don't care.
There. I-do-not-care.

Okay, okay, I do care.
But I don't want to.
Okay fine. That's not true either.
But why?
Why? With more intensity.

I don't know what irritates the heck out of me more
Why do these stupid things happen?
Yes, stupid is the peak of articulacy in this regard.
Why do I not understand?
Why can I not make a triangular peg fit in a round hole.
It's a wonder, not an interrogative. Just a wonder.
Time to make the hole square I think.
Actually I don't really think so.

Not much of a rebel here, y'know.
Only with the big things like, y'know, big things
That won't irritate anyone else except the garbage man.
Blue, green, and black. It's how we sort.
And we have so much garbage to sort
While people die of starvation.

Where's the chisel at?
The hole has got to be square or just bigger

To make sense
Cuz I don't get it.
I just don't get it.

Too dumb.
Must be.

Sometimes I wonder...

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Sometimes I feel like I just have to pause my involvement in the world so that I can take a look at what's going on around me. Each person is for himself, and yet the actions of others inevitably affect us all.

Sometimes I wonder if my optimism in facing the crises of this world of ours would be diminished if I had children to raise. But I guess part of the urgency in change is to make the world more manageable for the world's children. And yet as I say this, I fully recognize that there is no equilibrium in their conditions. I guess this is the nature of the world, and when the appetites of power and privilege in men are not curbed, the conditions only worsen.

There is good in the society that I live in, but sometimes I wonder if the good outweighs the bad. The thousand and one pros and cons, ambitions and fears, and realities and illusions play in my mind. They sometimes keep me awake at night as I wonder what my role is in this chaotic world.

I am not an apologist for who I am, nor for where I came from, nor for where I stand now. But for many, all these realities are seemingly incompatible. In a recent discussion about racism and discrimination, I realized that it takes me a while to recall situations in which I've been discriminated against. My logic for this was that such acts are sourced in ignorance (and often arrogance), and by storing such incidents in my "easy recall" memory (the official term of this memory store is beyond me) I would be giving them value in my life. I don't value such things, but I value the need to change. Thus, it's necessary to examine the areas of error in order to find suitable solutions.

What am I talking about you wonder? Ah, I wish I could simplify it, but it's the complication of the world that we live in. We cannot wash our hands off of this world, and we must know that there are pockets of beauty in all this chaos. But I still find it difficult to witness greed when I know that poverty exists. I cannot accept unearned advantage where injustice exists. I cannot accept lies where morality is at stake. I cannot. And yet, what can I do about it?

From where does our world's degeneration stem? SubhanAllah... Ya Rab...

In this year's Eid ul Fitr khutba, Shaykh Ramzy Ajem mentioned that we live in a time when extreme opposites are easily visible. Perhaps in previous generations these dichotomies were discreet and only apparent to those of keen insight, but today, it defies blindness to not notice. And as I find myself reimmersed in these competing ideologies, I know that I have only one thing keeping me sane. He, the Almighty, placed me in this, and as uncomfortable as it may be sometimes, I submit to His plan for me.

I must remind myself that while the ways of this world continue and our challenges for establishing morality and justice increase, God's plan is in effect. My greatest challenge then is not to try to save myself from getting sucked into the tornado of chaos but instead it is to embrace the clarity of indisputable truth and let it be my strength. By God's grace, I know that at this point I have the means to survive this chaos where many others may not. While my thoughts walk along spiralling paths, eventually He will show me the light of balance. Praise be to God for every condition.

The following is a very enlightening lecture by Tim Wise entitled "The Pathology of White Privilege." He articulates the interconnectedness of power, privilege, and responsibility very well and I believe that many of us, regardless of our race, need to understand the systems at work including those of divide and conquer.

"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]