And there is hope…

Yesterday driving back from a quick look in at the lab, I reluctantly made my way to Chapters to pick up some ‘learning to read’ books, for my very little friend who delights me with her presence twice a week so she can be ready for kindergarten, with the very great achievement of being able to read! Reluctant because I disagree with Chapters and their econo-political policy but that is another topic. Similarly the issue of immigrants having to try to teach their kids to learn a language they don’t know very well and the importance of the language barrier is another, but these two are topics for later on.

There I was driving, and being hypoglycemic I find I am not as sharp on the ball as before, so I got semi-lost and then found that I was driving a in a very round-a-bout way to my goal. With the result that I passed by a random multi-family sidewalk garage sale I ordinarily would have never come across. I parked and thought I’d check it out, on the off chance I’d find a book that works and making the same du’a :). Indeed, I did, not just one but a heavy haul for a few dollars. And also enjoyed some pleasant time chatting with lovely folks. Isn’t it amazing, how when it comes to things for kids, no colour, demographic, culture gets in the way. We can all just talk about how the kids love the Dora books… never mind that none of our kids speak Spanish! Anyways, one of those books was an old gem called “The Velveteen Rabbit”. Written in the late 19th century, its a sweet tale of how a boy’s love makes a toy ‘real’. Subhahanallah! in this was a beautiful allegory, how God’s love, often felt as God’s mercy, makes one ‘real’. Really be, really live. Really know oneself and know one’s fit in to the greater scheme of creation (or more simply, ecology). So I sat in my car and finished the book and my soul was eased. Some of the grief of the days before caused by all the troublesome news, dissipated and the ‘nur’ of God glimpsed.

At home later on I was surfing, and again was directed to something that has been priceless. A wrong click and I was in a favourite bookmarked site, where this talk was posted up. Some time ago I had heard Sh. Hamza was going to be talking with Tareq Ramadan. The former, one of the greatest Ulema among us and the latter, one of the sharpest intellectuals out there. Both talking about something incredibly relevant today. The need for ‘reform or renovation’ in the Islamic tradition. Talking about the deeper issue, not just the easily pandered rhetoric that Muslims are misunderstood and Islam is misunderstood. The deeper issue is that Muslims misunderstand or don’t understand Islam. Or have an internal arrogance (or denial, use whatever word you want) that doesn’t allow them to see the problems inherent in our societies. The treatment of women for instance…and I don’t mean can they wear a head scarf or not. I mean are they treated as equal decision makers, given the same dignity within the community as they receive in a University class room for example. The ability to be heard and acknowledged. In short, talking about the essence of Islam.

I’ll stop now and post the link up here. Hope you get to hear it from the masters 🙂 It’s called ‘Rethinking Islamic Reform’.

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Thoughts on mid-Ramadan… and global/local events

The irony is that the month of Mercy that envelops me and brings such joy on the one hand, is also seeing sight of such incredibly disturbing events on the other. Truly, from all occurences there is something to be learned. First the tragedy in Pakistan. So much a lesson on maintaining faith, actuallizing the doctrine of Ramadan, i.e,. eat yourself less and give to those in need whose privation you have now experienced first hand, so much more to be said on this. In fact it has been too painful to be able to be writen about. May God have mercy upon us all and help us help those who need us.

But today, another tragedy. Or rather deeply concerning news in this peaceful beautiful country I adore and feel privileged to call home. Three guys arrested on suspected terror charges. First reaction, not disbelief or incredulity or disappointment.. they’ve all come and gone during previous similar news stories (isn’t that itself such a sad sad statement?), but first reaction – anger. Not the type of blind anger the prophet taught we should never succumb to. But anger at witnessing again something so wrong. How could these people do this? What egotistical trip allowed them to think they had the right to violate every sacred principle of Islam by taking it in to their own hands to act on its behalf? Moreover, how is it possible that they are without even the simplest essense of human kindness, in that they want to hurt the innocent. Haven’t they learned the famous hadith ‘none of you believes until he loves for others what he loves for himself?’. Would they have loved that they be victims of some savage act of brutality aboard public transit etc.

But therein lies the problem it seems. Radicalization occurs to Muslims not due to Islam, but due to an ABSENSE of it. An absense of its basic teachings. Rather instead, something twisted and self-serving. I am also deeply worried. The prophet said, ‘if you see something wrong, correct it with action, if you cannot, correct it with your speech and if you cannot, detest it in your heart..and the last is the weakest form of faith’. I am sick to my stomach thinking of the likes to Khurram Sher (if he indeed is guilty, and make no mistake I am not ruling out the fact that he may be rightly innocent, but the sad thing is that there have been many others like him. Saving lives in their day jobs, professing to be Muslim and plotting the antithesis of Islamic action in secret) and more sickened that we as a community have not been able to stop it yet.

There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Thankfully the few hundreds or thousands who have hijacked it are not worth mentioning in terms of a number comparison. But the crunch is that they exist. How incredibly sad it is that this great deen, great beautiful infinitely peaceful way of life has left the hearts and minds of these people. I wish more Muslims would learn Islam. Would take the trouble to really learn it. To learn the core of the prophetic teaching. To internalize the spirit, the essense, the intention of its ways instead of adopting its practises without a soul.

As the scolars have said; A sufi is like the heart without the mind, a fakir is like the mind without the heart, the Muslim rightly guided has both heart and mind. May we all in this incredible time, when God is teaching by His numerous signs, may we all have the humility to want to learn and the intelligence to discern the middle way. Surely not so hard, given we have the best role model who existed in the history of mankind! If only we would take the trouble to really know him.

At least by writing this I can sleep a little easier knowing I am doing something. May it be of some use!