The ten days of Dhul Hijja

Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you) dear readers,

Things are slowly settling in the new place and I am recovering from a few ailments past as well as some new developed during the move. For my Muslim readers, I ask that you please keep me in your du’a (=prayers) for a speedy and lasting recovery ‘hasana’ (=good, beauty, excellence, nobility) in this world and most importantly in the hereafter for me and my family, especially my mother who is fighting a cancer discovered last year. I ask this especially during the ten days that are about to be upon us (God grant we meet them). The first ten days of Dhul Hijja.

Dhul Hijja is the name of the last month of the Muslim year. It is during this month that the annual Hajj pilgrimage is performed. The ‘eid’ (=festival) of Hajj, in this case called ‘eid-ul-adh’ha’ (=festival of sacrifice) is on the 10th of the month and marks the end of the rights of the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage is an obligation upon a Muslim who has the means (monetary and physical) to make it, and due at least once in a lifetime. It is the fifth of the five pillars of Islam. The others being the testification of faith, the salah (=five times a day ritual worship), the fasting in Ramadan, and the giving of 2.5% of one’s savings to charity called ‘zakat'(=purification) – an annual ‘tax’.

I have been longing to go but visa restrictions still prevent me. My beloved grandmother (and I ask you for your du’a upon her too, is mostly bed-ridden now, yet a smile never leaves her face. Allah bless her abundantly!) performed the pilgrimage when she was 75 by the grace of God. She needed to spend some days in a nursing home to recover when she came back severely dehydrated. She told me to go when I was young, so I would have the strength to fulfill the rights of pilgrimage and spoke highly of the multitudes of young women from Indonesia she saw performing the pilgrimage. In the old days it used to be that a village would gather to bid farewell to a pilgrim, not really expecting to see them return and many are the pilgrims who go in the mental state of not expecting to come back. They prefer death in the blessed land close to where the beloved, the messenger of God, Muhammed (peace be upon him) lived. Though it is not so long ago, I did hear of people who did not come back from the Hajj when I was a child. It was difficult for the families but there was always a sense of peace with this news. Inna lilllaahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon (=from God we come and to Him we return).

Yet, these 10 blessed days are open to all in terms of their merit in drawing near to God and many Muslims engage in extra acts of worship at home. Anse Tamara Grey, a ‘sheikha’ living in the USA organizes the annual ‘pilgrims at home’ event for sisters. Here is a link FYI.

Commemorating the sacrifice our father, the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) was so ready to make of his son, the blessed prophet Ismael (peace be upon him), we follow rituals that remind us of this event as well as of the struggles of Hajar, the blessed mother of Ismael. She, when left with her baby (Ismael in infancy) in that barren dessert, ran from hilltop to hilltop looking for help…crying for water. It was then that she discovered the well of water that had sprung up by the feet of her infant son. She was desperate to collect the water and built a ridge of sand around it, crying ‘zam zam’ (=stop, stop)…so the water would not run off. That well to this day has been supplying all the inhabitants of Mecca with water. Pilgrims will often fill what bottles and vessels they can with it and bring it back home, and then distribute it as a precious gift from the hajj. It is a sacred gift, and I have drunk of it. It has a particular taste, attributed to its higher than usual mineral content. Nowadays the water from the well is managed in a modern way and pumps are used to draw it up to supply the pilgrims and others. More information can be found here at the ZamZam studies and research center in Saudi Arabia website.  , part of the Saudi Geological Society.

I pray one day I can go, and I pray I can go soon. For the news of the mega-construction projects all around the haram (=sanctuary, another way of terming the ‘ka’aba in Mecca and the prayer enclosure around it) are very depressing to the spirit. I used to love to see photographs of the haram in the past. Now with that gargantuan clock-tower complex towering over it, the sense of aesthetic is severely dampened. It is an eye-sore, I have to be honest. The haram itself is undergoing major renovation I heard, and soon it may not be possible to see the ‘ka’aba (=literally, ‘cube’. Guess where the English word cube came from? 🙂 ) unless close to it. I have read, though I pray it is not true, that the graceful, elegant and aesthetically so pleasing porticos built during the Ottoman time by the great architect Mimar Sinan (I blogged about him here) may be torn down. What a tragedy that would be. Muslim art and architecture has always had a quality of grace, of being able to transport the spirit out of the body. I am not sure the modern day Saudi government appreciates that quality!

I wanted to point you to a very nice article written by a recent hujjaj (=pilgrim) appearing in the New Yorker. It is beautifully written and contains pithy and poignant little pieces of wisdom and insight. My dear non-Muslim readers may find it especially informative and an easy read. It is too long to copy-paste here. Here is the link. Called ‘Modern Mecca; the transformation of a holy city’. My Muslim readers also may find it very informative.

Finally to end I thought to share a documentary link on the hajj. Youtube is filled with them. I recommend one by National Geographic tracing the journey of three different hujjaj from around the world, even a Biology professor from Texas. But I picked this one to share, about 5 hujjaj from China. So as to shed light on the 20 million strong ethnic Chinese Muslim community (below). Watching it I could not but help thinking of the pure hearts of the hujjaj highlighted in it. We believe that it is only God who knows a person’s heart, and indeed that all and any act of worship is only acceptable to God or not, based on the sincerity in that heart. That it is done for the sake of pleasing the Most Beautiful One, only. A glimpse into their simple lives brings serenity to the heart. May God bless their beautiful souls.

We believe that should the hajj be acceptable to God, one returns from it as pure as a new-born babe! May Allah shower His abundant grace upon the hujjaj of this year, and accept their efforts, granting them this high state. And may we one day be among them.

Peace be with you all

 

 

Global tawbah

Dear Readers, Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)

Today is a happy day. Alhamdulillah (=praise and thanks to God) I am officially moved into a new place to stay. I pray it will be an abode of peace, joy, learning and teaching. A step closer to that long lasting and eternal home, at least in the way it may manifest in this life-form where we are bound by the time-space continuum (Muslims believe in an after-life where the human soul will enter another reality not bound by the four dimensions this life is bound in, and that that reality will be eternal. Not limited in that reality as we are here, we will have a greater or more real experience/understanding of the Creator there than we can here).

Therefore finally I am settled enough to be able to say something about the very disturbing global events that have been unfolding, specifically in the Muslim world. I do not want to make this blog a venue for political discussion, hence why I’ve refrained from commenting on many events over the past few months…though I have not been silent in other venues. This talk though, has to be shared. The popular media will not broadcast the views of the Muslim scholarly leaders enough, so let me do my part.

The talk is by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, an American Muslim leader and authentically trained scholar. He is perhaps one the most influential Muslims in the English speaking world today. Consistently ranking among the foremost in the annual top global Muslim 500 lists. He converted to Islam as a teenager, then travelled to the Muslim world and studied at the feet of authentic scholars for 10 years, obtaining ‘ijaza’ (=license) to teach several classical works from top scholars, many who can trace their ‘sanad’ (=chain of transmission) via famous scholars all the way up to beloved prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) or to the authors of the classical scholarly works. He then returned to America and obtained a nursing degree and worked as a nurse. Thus fulfilling another scholarly etiquette in that he obtained secular training and also had his livelihood from a secular job and not from religious discourse (mark of a good scholar).

He is now founder-faculty at Zaytuna college in Berkeley University. The USA’s first Muslim liberal arts college. And he is my teacher. This talk is delivered in Malaysia, perhaps a few weeks ago. It is relevant for he addresses current global events. The Q&A period in the second half will especially hit home. And more so will it if you are a Muslim young person struggling to navigate your faith through current events.

He is addressing a Muslim audience, so there are a number of Arabic terms he uses. I will try to update this post with a translation later on. I don’t want to wait to do that so posting now. It is long, but well worth the listen.

Finally to join my voice on this public forum to that of all the scholars and millions of Muslims condemning the actions of ISIS and their ilk. They are monsters. What they have done to Muslims is heinous and condemnable, and what they do to non-Muslims is more heinous and condemnable. They are a scourge upon the good name of our beloved Muhammed (peace be upon him) and a scourge upon his way. They have nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with them. I repeat that, they have nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with them.

To end ‘tawbah’ in the title means ‘return’. This is a call to Muslims to return to God, to return to our teachings and return to the way of our beloved Muhammed (peace be upon him). We have left it too long and our nation is being humiliated. We have much to do and no time to waste. Allah give us the strength to work and live noble lives.

 

Muslim Women in Science

Assalamu alaikum dear readers,

There have been several issues I have wanted to blog about recently, however I have been prevented from doing so due to  pressing personal issues. So in passing, a quick video I wanted to share. It is ~5 mins and a delightful listen delivered by Professor Emeritus Dr. Salim Al-Hassani, associated with the multi-award winning global exhibition, 1001 inventions:Muslim heritage in our world . He uncovers something I’ve been coming across in my studies in Islamic knowledge too – that Muslim women’s contributions to all facets of knowledge in the Islamic world is largely unearthed. For example, there was recently published a manuscript written by a very prominent male Muslim scholar, As-Sulami about a 1000 years ago, where he chronicles 80 famous Muslim women scholars/saints of his day! This manuscript, ‘Dhikr an-Niswa al-Muta’abbidat as-Sufiyyat’ was ‘lost’ for about 900 years until recently discovered in a library in Saudi Arabia and now has been translated into English. You can buy it from Amazon.

Prof. Al-Hassani mentions that of about 5 million manuscripts surviving from the Muslim Golden Age, only about 50,000 have been edited so far. Many of these manuscripts are rotting away in libraries in Italy, Spain and in old European cities. (where they went during the Renaissance).

He speaks of Fatima Al -Fihri, who founded the world’s longest running (still functioning) University. I did not know that she is reported to have fasted throughout the time of the building of this University. [Aside – her sister built a mosque in the same city at about the same time. Fatima chose instead to build a University. The Arabic word for University is ‘jami’at’ – the female form of the word for gathering!]. Indeed blessing of God upon her, for her work seems to have been accepted by God as evidenced by its longevity. In Muslim spirituality we consider something lasting as a mark of God’s being pleased with that service. While many good deeds if not rendered upon a sincere intention (that is the intention of it being purely for the worship of God, and not to ‘display one’s piety’ or please society or for fame etc.) are often short-lived. I find this a fascinating standard – as truly one will never know in one’s life-time how good one’s actions have been found… but posterity will!

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Finally a word to my sisters before I post the clip – Sisters! we have a lot of work to do. The Muslim nation is in crisis upon crisis and knowledge starts in our laps. We have to participate more in our mosques, societies, communities and surroundings. Whether Muslim  or non-Muslim…we have to retake our place in building humanity. It is the woman who brings wisdom to temper the excesses of the power-hungry male ego. Lets stop ‘trifling with trinkets’ and get to work. Allah SWT speaks of this weakness of mind that ensues when we raise our girl-children with trifles…

43:18
English interpretation by Shakir

What! that which is made in ornaments and which in contention is unable to make plain speech!

Quran (43:18)

It’s time to get serious – as I’ve often said, there are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world…roughly half are not really participating. We have a lot of work to do. Let’s say bismillah and begin!
Peace to all, enjoy the clip