Ankara

My dear readers, Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)!

Alhamdulilillah (praise and thanks be to God) I am currently in Turkey. I came here very blessed as part of a spiritual tour with a great scholar of our times. Please follow the link to find out more. InshaAllah more about this tour soon, it has been so full and overflowing in blessings it is hard to condense into one post so I must think about how best to share the ‘barakah’ with you inshaAllah (barakah=blessing, inshaAllah= God willing).

For today here are some pictures from a day trip I took to Ankara yesterday. I had to go there for some official business and did not have much time to spend. But I discovered it is a university town and has bookshops everywhere. So I was happy! There were several incidents of which one I particularly wanted to share; on my way into the city, being on a small budget I took a local bus and only had the address of the place I needed to get to to guide my way. I had asked several people but English is not commonly spoken and so I had some trouble. Basically I was in this bus that would take me to the city and I was not sure what I’d do when I got there. But I moved around asking a few people on the bus with little success despite very helpful sympathetic faces/gestures/words in Turkish. I then made the du’a of the traveler, a very beautiful and deep prayer (du’a = prayer, as opposed to the wrongly translated Muslim ‘salah’, the 5 times a day ‘prayer’, which really is more a ritual form of worship rather than a prayer as is commonly understood in English. A better translation of  ‘salah’= ‘reorientation or ‘turning to good’ or ‘recalibration’. One can, and is encouraged to make ‘du’a’ during the ‘salah’ as well. Almost all people do, as when one is in the ‘salah’ one is closest to God so Muslims believe, specifically during the prostration position in the ‘salah’). The du’a  is that which our beloved, Muhammed (upon whom be peace) made and taught us, when he embarked on any journey. Here it is;

‘Allaah is the greatest, Allaah is the greatest, Allaah is the greatest, How perfect He is, The One Who has placed this (transport) at our service, and we ourselves would not have been capable of that, and to our Lord is our final destiny. O Allaah, we ask You for birr (= goodness, good deeds, good) and taqwaa (= God consciousness, being mindful of God)  in this journey of ours, and we ask You for deeds which please You. O Allaah, facilitate our journey and let us cover its distance quickly. O Allaah, You are The Companion on the journey and The Successor over the family, O Allaah, I take refuge with You from the difficulties of travel, from having a change of hearts and being in a bad predicament, and I take refuge in You from an ill fated outcome with wealth and family.’

I did not know it well, so recited of it what I could. And then sat and thought I’d enjoy the view. Mashaallah (by God’s grace) soon after, the gentleman seated in front of me turned around and spoke to me in understandable English. He inquired what my predicament was, took the written address from me, called a friend to find out about it and then said to wait till his contact got back with directions. Some minutes later his friend called back and he told me he would show me the way. The man had mashaallah a kind face filled with the light of the good-hearted (those of you who know this can recognize it I know) so I was very much at ease. We got off at the same stop, he escorted me to where I needed to board another bus, got me on that, told the driver where to drop me off and only departed after waving goodbye when my bus left. Allah bless this brother and give him all that is good in this world and the hereafter! On getting to know each other I found out that he works for the ministry of Education and is a poet…MashaAllah! So my brother, if you come across this post, please know that I am grateful for your help and pray for you and your family.

Alhamdulillah the rest of my journey was good. Except for the fact that I was nearly at one point tearing due to having to sit in a room filled with cigerrette smoke for a good amount of time, not to mention a constant itchy throat due to the smoking everywhere. And on this matter let me say I find it very sad how prevalent smoking is in the Muslim world. Some scholars consider smoking to be haram (= forbidden) while almost all scholars consider it at least makhruh (= discouraged, disliked) so I do not understand how it is so prevalent. For those who do not know, everything in a Muslim’s life falls under a categorization of permissibility, that goes from a spectrum of permissible = ‘halal’ to impermissible=’haram’. This is why often Islam is understood as a way of life rather than a religion. It is sad though, that not all Muslims seem to understand or practice it as such.

I heard the azan (= call the prayer) and so could locate a mosque within walking distance, it turned out to be the largest mosque in Ankara. So I could join the jama’ah (congregation) for the salah and also rest a while. There was a ‘janaza’ (=funeral) salah when I was there. The second I got to participate in during this journey. Muslims have certain obligations in their lives they must fulfill, some are considered personal (= fard ‘ain) such as the ‘salah’, where each person has to fulfill his/her own of it, and some are communal (=fard kifaya), i.e., where one person fulfilling it ensures the community has fulfilled its obligation. The janaza salah is a communal obligation upon a Muslim who had died. Needless to say, as many of us as can, join this ‘salah’, as it is a communal obligation, and so we may increase the prayers upon the departed soul. This is why the janaza salah is often held right after one of the 5 times a day salaath (plural of salah) in the mosque, so the whole congregation may join it.

The mosque itself was very beautiful and grand, all the mosques (in arabic, ‘masajid’) are amazing in this country. InshaAllah I wil follow with posts about the mosques later on. The caligraphy and feeling of space and reverence is very beautiful and restful. Some pictures are below.

Image
Kocatepe camii entrance
Image
The salah from upstairs in the women’s section
Image
The domes of Kocatepe camii
Image
archways…

To end, a sight that touched my heart and gave me a sense of strong hope. There are sadly many children who beg on the streets here. And there are children who work for a living on the streets. This is a topic that deserves a post on its own, so I won’t say more now. But the picture below is of a boy I saw, may Allah increase him, bless him, protect him and grant him a glorious future in this world and the hereafter, who was busy doing his homework while in front of him he was selling little packets of tissue. I did not specifically get permission to post the picture, but as it is blurry I do not think it it wrong of me to do so. He was very diligent, hardly looking up but all his customers were faithful to give him the right amount of money for his wares or so for as long as I witnessed this it was what I saw. I felt very proud, humbled and a great rush of love and delight looking upon this determined young man and so I ask you my dear readers to also send your prayers upon him. May Allah grant this country and its people a great and peaceful future.

Image
‘O Allah, increase my little brother!’

***

Peace be with you all

The heart

Thank you Allah for this greatest gift you have given me. The human heart is limitless in its capacity…it is in heartache that we most acutely catch a glimpse of its depth…but realize that in joy it is as boundless.

Then how beautiful the one who knows the heart

“Whether you hide your word or publish it. He certainly has full knowledge of the secrets of all hearts. He is the One that understands the finest mysteries and is well-acquainted with them.” (Surat al-Mulk, 67:13-14)

In the footsteps of the Prophet (peace be upon him)

I read some years ago a book by Tariq Ramadan – one of our foremost intellectuals today, a professor at Oxford-  that had a significant impact on my life. It is ‘In the footsteps of the prophet‘, a biography of our beloved. What sets this biography apart is the masterful and deeply insightful analysis given by Prof. Ramadan. Dr. Ramadan brings historical events to light and marries them to current world events in a way that we all need to understand. The life story of our beloved was not for naught…it teaches timeless truth. I hope you will read this book.

For now suffice to share a quote from the introduction. I am not sure how but I was bereft of my copy of the book and at long last I have gotten another one. So with thanks to God, deeply happy to be able to re-read this work. Here is how Dr. Ramadan ends his introduction-

“The prophet’s life is an invitation to a spirituality that avoids no question and teaches us – in the course of events, trials, hardships, and our quest – that the true answers to existential questions are more often those given by the heart than by the intelligence. Deeply, simply: he who cannot love cannot understand.”

Peace be with you all, Assalamu alaikum

Prophet-Muhammad

Chess and Divine Decree

Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)

My dear readers, I am not sure I’ve talked about it before, but those who know me know I am an avid chess player. I’ve loved the game since a dear uncle taught it to me before he passed away (Allah irhamu ‘may God bless and cherish his soul’. I was eight at the time I think…I still have the chess board he taught me on). It  is very relaxing believe it or not, as it focuses the mind and gives clarity to the thought. I used to play tournament level in high school and then at a rather mediocre college level but sadly have not had much opportunity to play since, except now online with a global chess community (you have to love the internet!).

So imagine then my absolute delight at finding this article on ‘chess and divine decree’. I always knew there was some deeper truth the game lead one to or hinted at…there must be, if it has the ability to draw people in so. It is a beautiful game, very profound. Quite surprising a game can be so.

But enough from me, please enjoy the article. One last parting thought on reading it, happy sighs to know our ‘Ummah’ (community or nation, a word Muslims use to talk about the followers of Muhammed, peace be upon them. The real and true followers, not charlatans and abusers of his pure and blessed name) had scholars of this caliber at one time, who could think and write so. May we once more have this level of scholarship in our community and in the world. I do believe peace comes with sound knowledge.

God bless you all!

Chess-and-Divine-Decree