Ihram – Hajj chronicles 1

Dear readers, Assalamu alaikum warahmatullah (peace be with you and God’s blessing)

Alhamdulillah (=thanks and praise to God), I am safely returned to Vancouver after successfully having performed all the rituals of Hajj. I pray my Hajj is accepted and that of all the hujjaj (=pilgrims). I pray also that all who lost their lives in the tragic accidents and events of this Hajj are elevated by it to ‘shuhada’ (=literally those who witness, often translated as martyrs, meaning those who are elevated to a very close state in/with the Divine presence, certainly their place in heaven assured), and I pray for strength, forbearance and fortitude for their families and friends.

Though none in our group was affected, we had a tent-mate from a different group who lost a relative that day…so the tragedy was brought close. Also close due to proximity and the near misses we ourselves had. But I will leave talking about this for later…the Hajj is such a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with so much it teaches, so much you learn about yourself and about people, about humanity and human nature, about the Divine presence and about life, that it is hard to find any words to synthesize one’s thoughts and emotions accurately. Therefore I thought to try to write a series of shorter articles, that each focus on a ritual or aspect of the Hajj and this way try to communicate some of what this journey is about, to my dear readers.

I will begin with the ‘Ihram’ (=pilgrim state, meaning both the dress and the demeanour a pilgrim must enter into in order to perform the Hajj. the word comes from the root word – ‘harama’, which carries the meaning of sanctuary. The grand mosque in Makkah is called the ‘haram’ meaning sanctuary, and in the way of life that is Islam, all things forbidden to a practitioner are called ‘haraam’ which though often translated to mean ‘forbidden’ actually means something more akin to ‘protection’). Ihram for men is that they wear two white untailored pieces of cloth and nothing else. Ihram for women is that they wear clothes that cover their ‘awrah’ (all except the face and hands, interestingly in the Hajj, women who wear a face-veil are required to remove it), and that it be un-figure revealing and in sombre shades, preferably white. Ihram for both includes, that hair and nails cannot be cut in that state, no perfume or any sort can be used, and that any act of intimacy is disallowed. Finally once in the Ihram state, one is not allowed to harm anything – one cannot pluck a leaf from a tree, nor step on an insect, and therefore of course, one is not allowed to harm another human being in any way or form – no pushing, shoving, no yelling, loosing one’s temper etc. One is also encouraged not to talk about worldly things…so the pilgrim focuses their thoughts and speech on being in dhikr (=remembrance, remembering God, being conscious of the Divine presence at all times), reciting Quran, contemplation, sending blessings upon the blessed beloved messenger of God, Muhammed (peace be upon him) while in Ihram.

The dress, the state one enters, the sacred places one is in, and unchanged rituals practiced since the time the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) instituted the Hajj, and the fact that one is doing this in unison with millions of other human beings from all around the world and all walks of life, combine to make it a powerful state where one is helped abundantly to go ‘into ihram’. Others who have made the Hajj told me you forget everything else but where you are, what you are doing, and who you are going to, i.e., the final return to the Divine. I didn’t understand it, until I was in it. And it is true, no matter what is going on around one, you do forget everything else. Family, home, the work you left behind, all fade away and you feel a strong connection to humanity – a connection running through thousands of years, all the way to father Abraham (peace be upon him). You feel his greatness, his purity of worship of the One God, and the tremendousness of his faith. You are both crushed by it and elevated by it. You feel the strongest sense of gratitude to Abraham (in Arabic, ‘Ibraheem’, peace be upon him) and an immense sense of strength and guidance coming from him, through our beloved Muhammed (his heir and the final messenger, peace and blessing of God be upon him), and you feel that all of life has fallen into place. You feel the strongest connection to God, you feel the fragile nature of your own life, and the immensity of the Divine presence, and yet at the same time, you catch a glimpse of the greatness it is to be human and you are grateful and humbled by that.

Once in the ihram state, the pilgrims also constantly chant aloud ‘the talbiya’ – it too a chant that has not changed even by a syllable since the time of Muhammed (peace be upon him) who taught it to us. I don’t know if it was sung before then. It goes like this;

“labbayk, Allahumma labbayk

labbayka, la sharikalaka labbayk

inna al-hamda, wa al-ni’amtha,

laka wa al-Mulk. lasharikalak”

= ‘Here I am O God, here I am (answering your call)

Here I am, No partner do you have, Here I am

Verily, all praise belongs to You, verily, all good comes from You

And Your’s is the Dominion/Creation/Sovereignity/Ownership of all. No partner do You have’

We chant this non-stop through all the days and nights we are in Ihram, wherever we are. It is a very moving experience, when the chant begins, first in the plane, as all pilgrims chant it aloud once we pass over the ‘miqaat’ (=literally rondezvous point, it is the place where once you cross it, now you are in the pilgrim state), and then in the bus as we travel from one point to the other, then as we are walking, sometimes all of us seated in our tent, or you hear refrains from people sitting in solitary contemplation or walking alone. So I heard this call, and made it, from the bottom of my heart all those days I was in Ihram (about 8 or 9 totally) and I miss that state very much.

There are five ‘miqaat’ that Muhammed (peace be upon him) set out for us. kaartje miqaat

They mark the points where pilgrims from all around the world are allowed to enter ‘Ihram. And they are positioned around the holy sights where the Hajj take place. When we first flew into the port city of Jeddah, (from where we took a bus to Makkah), our plane flew over the miqaat of ‘Yalamlam’ to the South of Makkah. The pilot makes an announcement that we are so many minutes away from the miqat, and once over it, we all make the intention out aloud that ‘O God, here I am to do the Hajj for You’ and then we have entered the state of ihram. We begin the talbiya then. It is awesome when the whole plane erupts into chanting talbiya! So we have done all the physical acts of Ihram (wearing the special clothes etc) before we board the plane, and we then ‘enter the state of ihram’ when we make this intention. Now, until we complete all the rights of Hajj, we are not allowed to remove the ihram.

In the way we did the Hajj, we entered into Ihram twice, first to perform the lesser pilgrimage, called ‘umrah’ and then on the 4th of dhul Hijja (Islamic 12th month of the year, Hajj takes place from 8th to 13th of dhul Hijja) to perform the Hajj. We entered into Ihram on the 4th of dhul Hijja from the miqaat north of Makkah, called Dhul Hulaifa. It is very close to the city of Madinah, where Muhammed (peace be upon him) spent the latter portion of his life. It is from this miqat that Muhammed (peace be upon him) entered his ihram when he performed his Hajj. So we were blessed to follow in his footsteps.

Dhul Hulaifa is about 450 km north of Makkah, and so the blessed prophet and his companions (God be pleased with them all) would have been in ihram a long time, as they went on foot from Madinah to Makkah. We traced the route, but traveling by bus. Nevertheless it was a beautiful feeling, to go along that same road. I was blessed to take the recommended shower before wearing the ihram, and then offer two units of voluntary ‘salat’ in the mosque of the prophet (peace be upon him), where he is now buried, in the city of Madinah, and then to go from their to Dhul Hulaifa where I ‘entered the state’ of Ihram. From this point onwards my Hajj had begun.

I will leave you with some pictures, inshaAllah more to follow in the days to come. It is now exactly two weeks since we left the tent city of Mina. Hard to believe, but glad I can finally begin to update this blog. Alhamdulillah!

One of the entrances to the prophet's mosque in Madinah, 'Masjid al-Nabawi'. The second holiest place for Muslims, after Makkah. No photographs are allowed inside. It is the most beautiful, serene, peaceful mosque I have ever been in. The feeling of 'rahma' (=love, mercy, compassion, kindness) there is palpable.
One of the entrances to the prophet’s mosque in Madinah, ‘Masjid al-Nabawi’. The second holiest place for Muslims, after Makkah. No photographs are allowed inside. It is the most beautiful, serene, peaceful mosque I have ever been in. The feeling of ‘rahma’ (=love, mercy, compassion, kindness) there is palpable.
The courtyard of Masjid Al-Nabawi, bustling just after a salat. The awnings unfold and retract as per the weather.. it is very beautiful to be under those large white canvas canopies, like you are in a cool date plantations with the palm trees shading you from the sun
The courtyard of Masjid Al-Nabawi, bustling just after a salat. The awnings unfold and retract as per the weather.. it is very beautiful to be under those large white canvas canopies, like you are in a cool date plantations with the palm trees shading you from the sun
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The courtyard of the prophet’s mosque in Madina, ‘masjid al-Nabawi’, before dawn on the day we left on the Hajj
Just after dawn, I have changed into my Ihram and ready to go.
Just after dawn, I have changed into my Ihram and ready to go.
The mosque in Dhul Khulaifa, where we made the intention and entered the pilgrim state
The mosque in Dhul Khulaifa, where we made the intention and entered the pilgrim state

Finally, here is a rendition of the talbiya I love, from an artist who is close to my heart – Dawud Wharnsby, a Canadian folk singer, very gifted. He captures the ‘feel’ of the talbiya in a very beautiful way. The way the talbiya is chanted at the start is how it is done during the Hajj. The group leader will begin, and we follow.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be with you,

I haven’t been able to blog at all since this beautiful and precious month began. And now we are in day 18 already! Trying very hard to hang on to this amazing time…but it goes so quickly. We say about Ramadan, ‘The days are glorious and the nights are magnificent’!

So for my Muslim readers – let’s make the most of the last ten days which we will soon enter. The honored guest now with us, needs to be treated with the most reverence and love we can show her before she departs our company, inshaAllah (God willing) to return to us next year. I blogged this last year about the special significance of the last ten days, sharing the link again. It’s called ‘looking for laylathul Qadr’

And two more old posts on laylatul Qadr…they bring back nice memories. On this one, yes this year too, my same jasmine plants that gave me nary a bud the whole year burst into bloom with the arrival of Ramadan. And then this magnificent du’a for these special nights (for my non-Muslim readers, du’a is usually what people understand to mean by ‘prayer’…it is a sincerely spoken supplication to God)

I saw this nice clip on CTV news and since it is so rare that the media reports any nice thing about Muslims (I am seriously considering a page just to capture news items that don’t paint Muslims as terrorists or what not – For example, I am not sure how much people know that a mosque group raised 5000$ in one day to help a Catholic church that had been vandalized, or that Nigerian Muslims last christmas linked hands and stood in front of church on christmas eve to prevent any ‘Boko haram’ types attacking the congregation insde, or about the crazy person who was arrested a few weeks ago in a US airport for carrying a machete in his bag – only after he killed a security guard (God rest the soul of this security guard and help his family) – he was not Muslim, imagine the news coverage if he was!!, and I can go on. But I will stop now, it is Ramadan), here it is.

To end as they say in Indonesia –
” it is as if one’s life is a series of Ramadans, with only a moment passing between them”

How strange it is, that with no food and no water, I feel more alive than when I am satiated. As our spiritual masters teach us, it is because now the stomach is shrunken and the heart has room to breathe! The heart is alive and so you feel more alive than at other times. Thanks and praise to God for giving us Ramadan.

Here is the clip. Unfortunately I can’t embed it. Please click here

Let us be truthful

The chapel hill murders were an act of terrorism. Let us be clear about that. The fact that mainstream media says so little about it is appalling. The fact that these three bright young inspiring people needlessly lost their lives is tragic and it is chilling.

To quote the ‘hits home sarcasm’ of Imam Zaid, a beloved American Muslim leader and teacher;

“Many are complaining of the lack of media coverage around this event. The sad fact is that the mainstream media that recently brought us “I am Charlie” has no interest in humanizing Muslims. The deceased were too full of life and positive energy to meet the stereotype of the evil, sneaky, not to be trusted Muslim. Why provide free humanizing coverage to the adherents of an evil ideology, hellbent on taking over the country. The smiles, vitality and genuine concern for others exhibited by the deceased will likely be dismissed asTaqiyya, self-serving deception.”

Please watch this video – this is what the vast majority of American and Canadian Muslims are like…these beautiful, hopeful, inspiring, courageous, proactive souls who are true assets to all around them. It is a great loss to the community and a wake-up call that Islamophobia is alive and well. Saluting Deah’s sister for her incredible resilience and her great generous heart to do this.

I will end with quoting another impressive young American Muslim, Hareem Mannan, who writes in her article “Blood on the Leaves: The Chapel Hill murders” published on VirtualMosque.com.

Should I call them and tell them not to go out today? My mother and sister, the two most important people in my life, my best friends, who just stepped out into the 32 degree outdoors that feels infinitely colder today? Will college campuses and malls in this country ever provide the type of safety for my mother and sister, both dressed in hijabs (headscarves), visible symbols of the Islamic faith, require? Is this the world that I will have to live in– one where I will spend the rest of my life worrying if my mom and my sister, myself and my friends, will make it home?

Or is this just about a parking spot, about a man who, as the New York Times described it, was involved in an altercation that was just a “lethal escalation of a neighborhood parking dispute”. Is this about questioning, as CNN puts it, “what role, if any, the victims’ faith played?” Is this about the fact that it literally took an international concerted effort on social media to even get this story to media stations, who still swiftly paint it with subtle pro-white, anti-Muslim propaganda?

Or is this about the fact that I am Yusor Abu-Salha. My sister is Razan Abu-Salha, and my fiance is Deah Barakat. We each carry their story with us, in our siblings, in our daily lives as American Muslims, and furthermore in our efforts to balance activism with school and deen (religion) withdunya (worldly affairs), to get married and play basketball and be with friends and cherish our parents, just as they did. Today I mourn the loss of such excellent human beings, and tomorrow I will don my hijab (headscarf) with a melancholy pride. And it will feel a little heavier, a little more difficult to wear, and as each of these Islamophobic tragedies adds to its gravity, I pray I never have to choose between hijab and life. I pray I never see the day I am not capable of bearing its growing responsibility. And I pray for the safety of all my Muslim brothers and sisters imprisoned by twisted perceptions of their religious beliefs in this land: the land of the “free”, home of the scared.

Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha will never be forgotten. Let their legacies be that of phenomenal human beings, beautiful people who touched the lives of so many through their selfless character and glowing personalities. Put their names down in our Muslim American history books; tell your kids about them: about these stunning human beings, victims of a war that most of the population pretend isn’t being fought every single day, martyrs in every right. Let them make du’a (supplication) with you every night that they are in the company with the very first victims of this senseless war against believers of this faith, Yasir and Sumayyah (may Allah be pleased with them), more than 1400 years ago– may Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) allow them to join their ranks in Paradise.

Let their deaths not be in vain. Let them be the seeds they tried to bury that, instead, gave fruit to a revolution. Demand a re-visitation of the narrative that brands brown men killing over the loss of their countries, families, and homes as terrorism, and white men killing over parking spaces as just that. Demand a re-visitation of the narrative that causes our belief system or varied level of melanin to detract not only from our right to thrive, but also our right to survive. And bring the world to its feet: let everyone come to the realization that this was not about a parking space.

It was never about a parking space.

Please also read this article by Philip Gourevitch in the NewYorker. “The Chapel Hill Massacre Blues”

I have no words to say so I am sharing quotes. Perhaps I will save my energy for action and leave the words to others for now. But I have grown up in a country at war and racial conflict. I know it can take a mountain to move people’s minds…or it can take just a moment of true sincerity. Take a moment to think about what is happened and what is going on here. Let us be truthful, the whole story needs to be acknowledged.

We pray that people have access to sound knowledge, increase in wisdom, self-awareness and self-control and are able to be true.

Here is a charity page that Deah Barakat had set up. This dental school student was raising money for Syrian refugees in Turkey so he could provide dental care for them. http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/syrian-dental-relief/206249

Here is a petition that I pray you will sign

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/declare-chapel-hill-shooting-3-innocent-muslim-american-students-terrorist-attack/HGfXFYH3

And here is a link where you can participate in a joint recitations/readings of the Quran, that we will do for the victims

Ending with a picture that I find beloved. Allah forgive all their sins and grant them the highest paradise, strengthen their families and give them fortitude during this difficult time.

As we say when we hear of any death; Inna lillaahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon…. from God we come and to Him we return

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Muslim condemnations of terrorism

Dear readers, Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)

I had hoped I could move on from the terrible Charlie Hebdo attack, at least on this blog, which was never intended to be political, but tonight a question posed to me by a close friend has prompted this post. She asked me where the Muslim voice is in condemning the massacre. I explained as best as I could, trying not to get emotional as I outlined the very apparent bias in Western mainstream media re the Muslim voice in general, never mind when it matters the most.

As expected, when I got home and googled it, I found that it was only obscure or hardly major media giants that carried the condemnations. I am therefore going to compile them, whatever I can find at least, here. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

First – with great thanks to a brave and honest soul, my job has been mostly done by Katie Halper at alternet.org. The way she begins her piece says a lot. Please read the rest of the article here, It is descriptively titled ’45 examples of muslim outrage about charlie hebdo attack that fox news missed’

Every time an extremist who is Muslim commits an act of terrorism, people ask where the moderate Muslim voices condemning violence are. (Interestingly, as a Jew, I don’t usually get asked to condemn extremism when it is perpetuated by Jewish fundamentalists like Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29 praying Muslims do death, and injured 125, at the Cave of the Patriarchs, or Yigal Amir, who killed Israeli Prime MinisterYitzhak Rabin.) And the same thing is happening following this week’s deplorable, pathetic, and tragic killing of 12 people at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Here is another amazing link, by http://www.judaism-islam.com where they too have compiled condemnations. It’s also a very informative website generally
They have even categorized the condemnations by country, by organization and by prominent individuals. From the website:

The majority of Muslim nations have overwhelmingly condemned the terror attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Only 7 countries with a Muslim majority over 10,000,000 failed to condemn the attack (Bangladesh, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Yemen), every other nation was unanimous in their condemnation. – See more at: http://www.judaism-islam.com/muslim-reaction-to-the-charlie-hebdo-massacre/#clerics

Well, it doesn’t take much general knowledge to surmise that the 7 countries that have been silent are pretty well embroiled in their own troubles currently to say anything about anything going on in the world. Those are some of the poorest countries in the world.

There doesn’t seem much more to compile after those above. The LA times carries this article where they even note the leader of Hizbollah condemned the attacks! And also noted that Ayatollah Khatami of Iran said

“Islam does not approve of killing innocent people, whether in Paris, or in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

The Spectator carried this piece, allowing ordinary Muslims to air their views.

I can go on, but I think the point is made. Of all the so called ‘Muslim’ terror organizations out there, one of the most deranged and cruel in my opinion is Boko Haram. I pray they will be stopped in their mad scourge and relentless brutality. But had it not been for the figure from Judaism-Islam below, even I too would have not had what they recently did in my immediate memory. But look at the image below…and let’s take a moment to be honest with ourselves as to what this says about the ‘politics of media’.

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Finally, for those of you who don’t know – presumably many don’t as hardly any media covered this. Sometime ago, many major religious figures in the Muslim world wrote an open letter to Baghdadi, the one who calls himself the leader of a new Islamic state, the leader of ISIS. In it, they give scholarly proofs as to why his position, ideology and method is not within the fold of Islam and obviously condemned in the strongest possible terms. It is an open letter hosted at www.lettertobaghdadi.com. I am a proud signatory of the letter, and join hundreds of others.

Here is the executive summary

Executive Summary
1- It is forbidden in Islam to issue fatwas without all the necessary learning requirements. Even then fatwas must follow Islamic legal theory as defined in the Classical texts. It is also forbidden to cite a portion of a verse from the Qur’an—or part of a verse—to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Qur’an and Hadith teach related to that matter. In other words, there are strict subjective and objective prerequisites for fatwas, and one cannot ‘cherry-pick’ Qur’anic verses for legal arguments without considering the entire Qur’an and Hadith.

2- It is forbidden in Islam to issue legal rulings about anything without mastery of the Arabic language.

3- It is forbidden in Islam to oversimplify Shari’ah matters and ignore established Islamic sciences.

4- It is permissible in Islam [for scholars] to differ on any matter, except those fundamentals of religion that all Muslims must know.

5- It is forbidden in Islam to ignore the reality of contemporary times when deriving legal rulings.

6- It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent.

7- It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers.

8- Jihad in Islam is defensive war. It is not permissible without the right cause, the right purpose and without the right rules of conduct.

9- It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares disbelief.

10- It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat—in any way—Christians or any ‘People of the Scripture’.

11- It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as People of the Scripture.

12- The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.

13- It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.

14- It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.

15- It is forbidden in Islam to deny children their rights.

16- It is forbidden in Islam to enact legal punishments (hudud) without following the correct procedures that ensure justice and mercy.

17- It is forbidden in Islam to torture people.

18- It is forbidden in Islam to disfigure the dead.

19- It is forbidden in Islam to attribute evil acts to God .

20- It is forbidden in Islam to destroy the graves and shrines of Prophets and Companions.

21- Armed insurrection is forbidden in Islam for any reason other than clear disbelief by the ruler and not allowing people to pray.

22- It is forbidden in Islam to declare a caliphate without consensus from all Muslims.

23- Loyalty to one’s nation is permissible in Islam.

24- After the death of the Prophet , Islam does not require anyone to emigrate anywhere.

Here is the complete letter. Pages 18-23 colate signatures from leaders all across the Muslim world.

english-v14

Please take a moment to forward this post to anyone who may have that same question please.

I leave you with wishes of peace and may God protect us all from darkness. Remember the Muslim is not allowed to be sad :), so keep smiling….it’s sunnah!

“keep smiling, it’s sunnah” is a favourite Muslim slogan. It comes from the saying of the prophet (peace be upon him) who was always smiling and taught us to smile, teaching us that ‘a smile is charity’

I’ll end with another story about the abuse he (peace be upon him) faced in his lifetime. When he was living in Mecca, a woman who hated him (I think it was his own aunt but I am not sure) would heap garbage and filth at his doorstep every morning. One morning on opening his door and noticing no dirt there, he was surprised. He asked after her well being, and finding that she was sick he visited her to inquire after her health! – Sallallaahu ala Muhammed (O God, send your peace and blessings upon Muhammed)

Peace be with you all my dear readers, Assalamu alaium

Al-Jabbar (the Compeller) and a NCCM op-ed

Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you) dear readers,

NCCM (the National Council of Canadian Muslims), published an Op-Ed in the Toronto Star. It addresses the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the rise in Islamophobia since (I was surprised to find the police visit our local small mosque in the middle of Vancouver on Friday after prayers – they came to check if all was okay, and I was glad they did). It is a well written piece, and in my opinion, balanced. It is also vital to share. Here is a link. I will append the text below as well. And here is a related article that came in The Star titled ‘Using free speech as a cloak for anti-Muslim bigotry‘ well worth a read.

My views on what happened I gave in the previous post and they are clear and unequivocal. I will never accept any killing of the innocent in the name of Islam. This is completely condemned by the example of our prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) and will always be by myself, a proud follower of the way of life he taught. I owe every good thing in my life to Islam and to his sunnah (=way of life/example/teaching) and God is my witness to the truth of that statement. May his good name be cleansed of all the dirt thrown upon it! by those who call themselves Muslims especially, and otherwise.

And that dirt thrown is nothing new. I was contemplating to share some stories of the many abuses he faced during his lifetime in a post. But I was lacking the energy to begin, the news makes one have to fight dejection you see… when by God’s grace, I came upon this, an old post on joymanifest that really was a re-posting of an article from SuhaibWebb.com, now virtualmosque.com (great site to bookmark by the way).

The post talks about one of the ‘names’ of God, al Jabbar. And it gives one of the most memorable stories from the life of the blessed beloved (peace be upon him) of when he was vilified, persecuted and tested the most. From that post

The root of al-Jabbar is ja-ba-ra and has a wide variety of meanings indicating Allah’s strength and majesty, which Sr. Amatullah explained to us in this excellent article. One of the basic meanings of this name is the One who compels and restores, and demonstrates Allah’s Majesty and Strength over His servants. This is a Name for the tyrants and oppressors to be aware of, because their misdeeds will not go unpunished.

Yet this Name has another dimension: al-Jabbar is the One who is able to restore and mend what is broken. Some of the great scholars would supplicate “Ya Jaabir kul kaseer” when they were faced with overwhelming difficulty, meaning “Oh You who mends everything that is broken.” The Arabic word for a splint that is used to help an arm heal when it is broken is “jibeera” from the same root ja-ba-ra. Thus, when we feel broken, we need to go to the only One who can mend our state–al-Jabbar.

Muslims believe there is only one God, but He has many ‘names’ or attributes. He is, in His attributes the same as in His essence, He is one and nothing is like Him, He is eternal without beginning and forever without end, utterly limitless, ever-sustaining but not-sustained. So His attributes are like His essence – they are not sustained, not limited, and none equals Him in them. For example, His love is not like human love, it does not tire, does not need, does not flag nor wane, does not grow impatient. He is utterly exalted above any defect, for defect implies limit and God is limitless. So the same in Allah’s quality of ‘jabara’, hard to translate but commonly translated as ‘compeller’. When we let go of our ego’s drive to control and let God take over, then we truly see this quality manifested. I have encountered (in my own life and that of others) so many examples of this, it is too numerous to mention. But we must let go completely for this to happen and we must trust completely too.

And the story,

The example of the Prophet ﷺ is a beautiful one. Imagine being 50 years old, having just lost both your wife of twenty-five years and your uncle who took care of you as a child. Imagine walking into a town in order to ask people for their protection, and instead have them throw stones at you until your feet bleed. How would you have felt? How exhausted, both spiritually and physically, would you have been? And yet, the Prophet ﷺ calls out to Allah in one of the most beautiful and heartfelt du`a’ (supplication):

“O Allah! To you alone I complain my weakness, my scarcity of resources, and the humiliation I have been subjected to by people. O Most Merciful of those who have mercy! You are the Lord of the weak, and You are My Lord too.

To whom have you entrusted me? To a distant person who receives me with hostility? Or to an enemy to whom you have granted authority over my affair?

But as long as You are not angry with me, I do no care, except that Your favor is a more expansive relief to me. I seek refuge in the light of Your Face by which all darkness is dispelled and every affair of this world and the next is set right, lest Your anger or Your displeasure descend upon me.

Yours is the right to reproach until You are pleased. There is no power and no might except by You.”

Read those words carefully. The du`a’ of the Prophet ﷺ was not “O Allah, please give me x and y.” It was literally the call of someone broken– complaining to Allah of his situation and expressing to Allah how he felt. What did Allah give him? A young boy by the name of Addaas saw the Prophet ﷺ, came to him with some grapes and kissed his bleeding feet. That is al-Jabbar. Imagine how the Prophet ﷺ must have felt after that, the relief he must have felt after the cruelty he was subjected to. And al-Jabbar healed the broken heart of the Prophet ﷺ in another way – He bestowed upon him the miraculous journey of al-Israa wal Mi’raaj (when the Prophet ﷺ traveled from Makkah to Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to the Heavens in one night).

Arabic is considered a divine language, able to capture meaning unlike many others. A language created as all things are, by the Creator (nothing comes from nothing after all, and the One Sustainer is never sustained but all else is sustained, as there is nothing like the One) in order to communicate truths in amazing layers of meaning. I am a novice student of it but I am completely overwhelmed by its depth and grandeur. In Arabic, the word for patience, ‘sabr’ can be traced to a ‘mother quality’ that implies courage. It is not the passive letting-go of the English ‘patience’. But rather the hard ‘I will keep it in’, the ‘stoicism’ of the English. We Muslims need to be more patient. We need to make more du’a, clean up our hearts more, help our youth, teach our children, mend our homes. Let us also pray the rest of the world lets us get on with our work in peace.

Here is the article from NCCM below, I want to second them on this line especially, and note my gratitude to CBC for their principled approach – “Much of Canadian media should be lauded for their principled stand in declining to print the magazine’s incendiary cartoons. We can take a cue from their decision. As democratic societies we need to demand mutual respect and understanding, and reject the purveyors of intolerance.”

God’s peace and blessing be upon you all.

Charlie Hebdo just meeting demand for Islamophobia

By: Abbas Kassam Published on Sun Jan 18 2015
Charlie Hebdo has long operated on the fringes and is now only popular for doing what seems to be in vogue — being Islamophobic. Many of the magazine’s cartoons were plainly bigoted and unnecessarily inflammatory. They depicted Muslims as brown-skinned and turban-wearing violent misogynists. The cartoons reinforced harmful stereotypes about Muslims and were designed to shock.
But let’s be clear: nothing is more offensive and denigrating to the conscience and to Islam than murdering people for their views. Canadian Muslims have categorically condemned the attack on Charlie Hebdo. The killers despicably claimed they were avenging the Prophet Muhammad — but they betrayed the Prophet’s message of mercy and peaceful coexistence.
Freedom of speech protects Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish all of its cartoons, even if highly offensive. The magazine should be critiqued in the same forum, the media, using the same weapon, the pen.
But the debate should not be focused around freedom of speech. Free expression is a near-absolute in our western democracies. It is a protected right and for good reason. It is premised on a free market of ideas. Speech is allowed to enter the market, where it can be analyzed, debated and then accepted or rejected.
Yet, the magazine and its supporters are just meeting the market demand for Islamophobia. It is now popular in our discourse to pitch western values against radical Islamists (no matter how empty these terms are). Charlie Hebdo met this demand in the worst possible way.
It is questionable whether the cartoons were even satirical. Satire is a classical tool of those without power to shed light on the weaknesses of the powerful. Satire is not about perpetuating negative stereotypes about a disenfranchised minority. Ultimately, Charlie Hebdo was promoting the very stereotypes it was supposedly trying to satirize. This might work as a business model, but it is detrimental for society.
French Muslims, by all indicators, are a stigmatized community. Close to half of the prison population in France is Muslim, even though Muslims make up only about 8-10 per cent of the French population. A large portion of French Muslims are immigrants who have trouble integrating into society due to systemic barriers such as employment discrimination.
Publishing incendiary cartoons that perpetuate the “otherization” of a minority in France leads to social divisions and is disgraceful to the genre of satire.
The Muslim community in France does not have a strong voice in the marketplace of speech. Contrast this with criticism and caricatures considered to be anti-Semitic that were published in 2008 by then Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Maurice Sinet. Sinet was asked to issue an apology, which he refused to do, and he was subsequently fired by the magazine.
There is similar precedent in Canada. In March 2014, federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay asked a local Nova Scotia paper to apologize for printing a cartoon of a flag with a Nazi swastika flying over the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. MacKay called the cartoon “deeply offensive, outrageous, insulting and completely inappropriate.”
It is essential that we also collectively reject the demand for Islamophobic material because it harms our valued social cohesion. As Canadians, we are living in a society that promotes tolerance and cohesion, not discrimination. However, Islamophobia stigmatizes Muslim communities, disenfranchises and isolates them from the mainstream. This creates conditions ripe for extremist radicalization, which has proven to be a danger to all of us, including Muslims themselves. And violence then creates demand for a response. This reaction can sometimes lead to the erosion of civil liberties and decreased freedoms for everyone.
Much of Canadian media should be lauded for their principled stand in declining to print the magazine’s incendiary cartoons. We can take a cue from their decision. As democratic societies we need to demand mutual respect and understanding, and reject the purveyors of intolerance. This may not sound as interesting or exciting as the clash of civilizations framework, but it is a long-term investment in our shared future.s
Abbas Kassam is on the Human Rights Committee at the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

A ‘rahma’ to the worlds

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be with you,

I have been on the fence about posting re what went on in Paris. Without doubt nor hesitation I say those people who perpetrated that bloodbath have nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with them. It seems hardly necessary for me to state that, but such are the confusing and confused times we live in, where truth is twisted into falsehood and falsehood masquerades as truth, that I must state this over and over again.

Now having said that, I will fall silent except to say two things – that below is the text of a speech a dear sister of mine sent me recently and with her permission I post it here. She speaks to this and speaks from the heart, so I am honored that she lets me share her words. She would like to be known by ‘Umm Zakir’ (=the mother of Zakir, it is a Muslim custom that adults will take on a ‘kunya’ or nickname that goes as ‘mother of’ or ‘father of’ and it is usually their first born child’s name used in this form though that is not essential. It is considered a mark of honor and modesty to be addressed as such. I personally love it) and she is a fellow Canadian Muslimah (=female of Muslim is muslimah)

The second to say is that this is a month of great joy as it is the birth month of the blessed prophet (peace be upon him). He was born in the 3rd month of the Muslim calendar which in the year of his birth, 610 CE, would have been in spring time. Pre-islamic Arabs followed a lunar calendar but would add days so that the lunar calendar followed the solar (i.e, the months in the lunar calendar did not change through the years). Islam abolished that and since its advent the lunar calendar does not shadow the solar, hence Rabiul Awwal (the name of the 3rd month in the lunar calendar) moves across the year now, and it falls this year in the winter. So it is a month of great joy typically…and this year we have the greatest sorrow – that so called Muslims would carry out in the name of our beloved (peace and blessing of God upon him) what he would forbid and abhor, and that his good name continues to be besmirched and disparaged beyond the limits of what is civilized.

So may we grow in patience and grow in the personality, taking on the ‘colours’ of the beloved messenger of God who is given the title ‘habibullah’ (=the beloved of God), our master Muhammed (peace be upon him). While other of the noble prophets (peace be upon them all), and we consider them all the best of humankind, were given titles of honor in the Quran, such as ruhullah (=word/spirit of God) for our beloved Isa (=Jesus, peace be upon him), and kaleemullah (=the one to whom God spoke) for our beloved Musa (=Moses, peace be upon him) and khalilullah (=the intimate friend of God) for our beloved Ibraheem (=Abraham, peace be upon him), none was given the title of ‘beloved of God’ except Muhammed, who is called in the Quran, a ‘rahma’ to the worlds.

Rahma is often translated as ‘mercy’ in English. But it means much more, I have blogged on this before, it means everything from cherishing protection to love to nurturing care…and since he is the seal of prophethood, the last of the messengers of God, guidance sent through him is for all people and all time till this world comes to an end.

Here is the text of the speech of Umm Zakir, Allah bless and increase my beloved sister! (I have added a footnote for abbreviations used, and extremely moderately edited the text toward the end)

***

Introduction:
I am honored to be speaking during this special time to all of you special people. Know that was is true and beneficial comes from Allah SWT alone and what is incorrect is from me.

IRONY/IGNORANCE
-It is a great irony that in the month of Rabbi awwal, the month that our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW was sent as MERCY to the worlds, violent  and dark-hearted people took REVENGE on his (SAW) name and killed innocent people without due process.

To layer irony upon irony, these people who were supposedly representing Muslims, defending and protecting the honor of Muhammad (SAW) also known as Ahmed (the praiseworthy one), in the end shot a police officer by that very name, Ahmad (May Allah have mercy upon his soul and give patience to his family). So the defenders of Ahmad, in their very act of defending him, in fact murdered Ahmed. SubhanAllah! (=glory to God, we often say this when we are stupefied/amazed/stunned) This is not a mere coincidence but a wake up call…

All of this along with other recent events:
-Boko Haram slaughtering 2,000 Nigerians,
-The Taliban massacring close to a 150 people, most being children in Peshawar.
All of this should cause us to pause and reflect…what is happening to our great legacy?

 

Even though such people say that they are avenging the “supposed” insult that was inflicted on our Prophet (SAW), if they knew anything of the Prophet’s life they would have known that this was not true to the way he (SAW) lived nor what he (SAW) taught. Such a terrible act contradicted his very essence.

And that is the problem, the crisis of our time—: ignorance and the darkness that it spreads. And as long as we remain ignorant of our religion, we too will remain in the dark. It is no longer good enough to know that all of these acts are wrong instinctually, in our gut, but we all must know why they are wrong.

LOVE/RAHMA
All of this violence, this hatred, this hard heartedness comes from a place that lacks love/Rahma and it is love that many scholars including Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah have argued is THE signature of Islam—it is the defining character of our deen, our very way of life.

Islam is the religion of Love. And fittingly, the Quran teaches that Prophet Muhammad is “the prophet of Love.” God shows love to the loving and withholds it from those who hold it back from others.

Therefore, The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
“People who show rahma to others will be shown rahma by the All-Merciful. Be merciful/have love to those on earth, and He who is in heaven will be merciful/be loving to you.”1 (TirmidhÏ, Sahih)

In his article, “Mercy: the stamp of creation,” Dr. Abd-Allah explains, “this teaching is so important, it was considered the bedrock of our dealings with ourselves and others, that it was called the “Tradition of Primacy.” In other words, it was the very first tenant taught by Classical Muslim scholars and it was the first tenant that students had to memorize with it’s isnad, it’s chain of narration/transmission going back to The Prophet (SAW).

ALLAH’s MERCY
Islamic scriptures emphasize that Rahma—above other divine attributes—is God’s hallmark in creation and make up His interaction of the world from it’s beginning through eternity.

It is no coincidence that one of the most oft mentioned attributes of Allah SWT in the Quran is Ar-Rahman. In Islam, the All-Merci- ful/Loving (ar-Rahman) and the Love/Mercy-Giving (ar-Rahim) may be said to be the greatest names of God after Allah.

As Dr. Abd-Allah explains, “Of all His names, they are most descriptive of his relation to the world and emphasize His will in the salvation of history throughout eternity to benefit creation and ultimately bring about the triumph of supreme good over evil.”

THE PROPHET OF MERCY
The Prophet SAW is introduced in the Qur’an in these words:
[And We have not sent you forth but as a mercy to humankind. ] 
(Al-Anbiyaa’: 107)
And also The Qur’an says of him: “We did not send you but as a special mercy to all the worlds.”7 (Qur’An 21:71)

The Prophet, himself stated:
 “In certainty, I was not sent to bring down curses; I was only sent as a special mercy.” (Recorded in Muslim)

Describing Prophet Muhammad’s beautiful and gentle demeanor, Dr. Abd-Allah writes:
Muhammad (SAW) played with children, showed a kind humor toward adults, and even gave his followers friendly nicknames. He visited the sick, asked about the welfare of neighbors, friends, followers, and even those who disbelieved in him. He was always willing to forgive, rarely chastising those who disobeyed him. AND He did not restrict his mercy to his followers. In today’s time, this understanding is especially important.

The Hadith of the JEW
One day in Medina, he was sitting with his Companions, who later related: “A funeral procession passed us by, and the Prophet, may God
bless and keep him, stood up so we all stood up because he had. Then we said: ‘O Messenger of God, it is only the funeral procession of a Jew.’ He replied: ‘Was he not a human being?’” (narrated in Bukhari and Muslim)

His (SAW) mercy did not only encompass all of humankind but also all of creation, including animals. So we here this beautiful story:

The Hadith of the DOG
When the Prophet (SAW) “conquered” Mecca peacefully. As he approached the city with the largest army ever assembled on the Arabian Peninsula till that time, he noticed a wild dog on the roadside nursing her litter and told one of his Companions, Ju’ayl ad-Damari (rA), to stand guard near her so that the entire army could pass without disturbing her or the pups.

In some sense, he was one of the first animal activists.
His Rahma was so special that it even extended to the natural world of trees.
So in some ways, he (SAW) may have been the first environmentalist understanding nature and giving each of Allah’s creation its due respect and care.

Story of the TREE:
In medina, during the period when the Muslims were a nascent community, it is narrated that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) used to lean against a date palm tree-trunk when he delivered his Friday sermons/qutbas. Upon seeing this a woman offered to have pulpit/minbar built for him (SAW). Prophet Muhammad graciously accepted. But the next week when he stood on the minbar to deliver his qutba (=sermon), everyone begins to hear a moaning, wailing, sound full of anguish and pain. The sound only subsided when Prophet Muhammad (SAW) stepped down from the pulpit and embraced the date palm tree-trunk he used to lean on. That date-palm trunck missed his leaning so much it was groaning and moaning! And the blessed beloved considered the feelings of a tree so much, he stopped his sermon to go and hug it. What is miraculous about the narration is that everyone present there heard the sound and witnessed the event. It is a mutawaatir Hadith (=a hadith whose authenticity cannot be doubted. This is the highest classification of authenticity given a hadith in the vast science of classification of ahadith, or narrations from the life of the beloved, peace be upon him). So many have reported it through so many chains of narration its authenticity has always been considered unshakable even by the scholars most averse to acknowledging the supernatural. It reveals as to the deep spiritual connection that the best of creation had with the rest of Allah’s creation.

The correct definition of MERCY:
How do we define Mercy?
English,
-forgiving,
-setting things right
 -after the fact
But in Arabic it is far more encompassing:
-it includes being forward thinking,
-quality that makes a break with the past
-fosters new beginnings
-and constantly thinks of actions that give the best benefit of the future.

[-that is why though the word ‘rahma’ is often translated as mercy it is better defined as love. Arabic has many words for love, far more than English. Rahma is a special form of that love – a word used in Arabic to denote the love of a mother to a child.]

Conclusion:
Mercy is Hope. And in today’s time, we need to be agents of Mercy, we need to be inspired by hope all working for a tomorrow that will be better. There is not a better time to start than now, the month of Rabbi awwal, where the special gift of Mercy was bestowed upon all of humankind. So let’s not allow blood and hatred, darkness and ignorance to stain this month, let’s be people of life and love, light and knowledge as we not only celebrate his (SAW) legacy but we also continue his legacy. And let’s give Him (SAW) the gift that he deserves—that when people look at us, and deal with us, you and I, they say, we want to know more about this man, Muhammad, and this religion of Islam. IA.

For a more in-depth examination of the theme of Mercy as a stamp of creation, please see Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah’s brilliant article.
***
SWT (= Subhahana wa ta’ala, glory be to Him and He is the exalted – a phrase used when speaking of God)
SAW (= sallalaahu alaihi wasallam, may the blessing and peace of God be upon him, a blessing we send upon Muhammed, whenever we mention his name)

 

I love Canada and I love Canadians

It’s been a difficult week. Who knew that the day after my previous post on one deranged incident, another, more shocking attack would occur.

Who knew the attacker would have been a visitor at my local mosque a few years ago, and that the mosque would have to cancel an event on Muslims. Astronomy and Science to celebrate Islamic History Month this weekend would need to be cancelled

Instead the mosque held a press-briefing and I am glad they did so. Glad they also talked about this man’s visits to the mosque and his objections to non-Muslims being welcomed at the mosque, and the mosque authority’s condemnation of that attitude – saying the mosque has always been a place of welcome for all people (of any faith or not) and it will continue to be that way. And I am doubly glad this man was not allowed in the mosque thereafter.

I am sad that this attacker, like the one before, was mentally unstable and suffering from substance abuse. We need more support and help for people with mental illness. They need to be protected from the scores of organizations waiting to pray on ‘these broken young men’

I am sad the mosque received death threats and other mosques have been vandalized. It is not unexpected. But it is sad. Muslims have been fighting those who call themselves Muslim and use the religion for their own power-struggle far longer than the west has. I wish the media that so often talks about the Kurdish forces, or Pashmergas or Iraqis or Pakistani military that are the real front-line defenders against ISIS and their ilk, would mention that all these forces are composed of primarily Muslims. They seem to never refer to the fact that they are Muslim, but so easily link the term ‘Islam’ with extremists. Muslims are the ones that have suffered the most at the hands of extremists but we will continue to fight them. What does not help is the media’s often immature reporting of the matter.

So then a breath of fresh air in this morning’s CBC report. Not only because of the incident, another example of the type of happening I have witnessed so often in this land…that has stuns me over and over again as to how blessed I am to live here. But also because CBC reported it. How many a media organization has passed by so many countless other incidents like this that I am sure have happened all over the world.

Please enjoy. There is a lot of disease and misguidance amongst humanity that must be treated or eradicated. All of humanity are brothers and sisters and we have to help each other.  The sound human heart is kind and it is strong, and there is no fear.

The prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) said you must help a person in doing good or in doing evil. His (p.b.u.h) companions were baffled and asked “O Messenger of God, we understand how we help a person doing good, but how do we help a person doing evil?” He (p.b.u.h) replied, “by stopping him from committing the evil”

http://www.cbc.ca/video/swf/UberPlayer.swf?state=sharevideo&clipId=2571129245&width=480&height=322

A conversation with women in Saudi Arabia

Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you) dear readers,

The post I planned to write today is going to be superseded by sharing a clip that I think is vital to share. Especially given the rather troublesome news I received today. I am signed on to the NCCM, National Council of Canadian Muslims (if you are a Canadian Muslim and not part of this organization, I highly suggest you join them or support them in some capacity) mailing list, and came home to find in my inbox a condemnation issued by NCCM of the senseless attack on Canadian officers today in Quebec, by a self-proclaimed recent convert to Islam. Linked here.

This was alarming, the last thing one wants to see is a trend of radicalization in this peaceful country. There also seems to be a trend of new ‘converts’ to Islam joining a radical understanding of the faith. Easy to understand, given they have little knowledge or understanding of Islam. But how this brain-washing takes place, I am at a loss to understand. It is as if these so called converts are using Islam as a means to take out whatever social deconstruct they are suffering. Others have spoken with more data and eloquence on this trend, so I won’t go into it more.

My topic is related though. For if it is that these converts are ripe for the plucking by elements who want to abuse their sincerity, then the rest of us need to do more to stop this. Even more urgency for women to step up. The mosques are alarmingly empty of women in day-to-day activities. Women have always brought a nuanced and merciful understanding to any sphere of knowledge. Take the women away and the men are hard pressed to cope with the needs of the modern Muslim community.

I moved closer to a mosque recently and try to pray in it whenever I can. Often I am the only woman there. We women have to retake our place in our community-shaping and nation-building. I’ve run a halaqa (knowledge circle) for Muslim women for a few years. The amount of misconception among Muslim women as to their place in this tradition is astounding. Even from educated (I’m talking PhD educated), thinking females.

Therefore this candid interview, obviously filmed many years ago but only recently released to youtube, is a breath of fresh air. It’s a group of women, reverts and born-Mulsims living in Saudi Arabia, talking to Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, a well trained classical Muslim scholar. I am glad the issues in the community were called out openly and more glad to hear honest answers from a scholar.

Part 2 is especially important. So I will post it first. BTW, some of the comments on the videos are a telling reminder of how much still needs work in our community. So my sisters, today’s events are a fresh reminder of how we have little time to waste.

I especially want to highlight Sh. Hamza’s comments at about minute 8 of part 2. He speaks of his displeasure of reading books on ‘womens’ role in Islam’, as how they often say the ‘primary purpose of women is child-bearing’ he goes on to say, and I quote, “I mean, where is that in the Quran…I’ve never seen that, I’ve never seen a the hadith that says that. The primarily role of a woman is to know her Lord, like the primary role of a man is to know his Lord”  and he goes to elaborate. Indeed music to my ears! Indeed, reading those books as a teenager, even then I instinctively knew there was something not right there. I was studying my faith then, and I came to it very much by research and conviction (my journey to Islam will one day be a post inshaallah), and never in the 20 odd years I’ve studied this religion have I found anything in it that is not inherently leading to truth.

I hope you watch this. They are both very short. And please share widely.

Allah bless and help us all

 

part 2

 

part 1

 

 

Eid Mubarak!

Eid-ul-Adha Mubarak ! (=May it be a blessed festival of sacrifice)

Dear readers, Assalamu alaikum (=peace be with you)

The rights of the Hajj pilgrimage are over and it is time to celebrate. The hujjaj (=pilgrims) will be shaving their head or cutting locks of their hair off to symbolize their completion of the pilgrimage and soon the ‘udhhiya’ will be carried out. Udhhiya is the term given for the religious sacrifice of an animal, where each pilgrim must sacrifice a goat, sheep, cow or camel and distribute it’s meat to the poor. There are rules governing the distribution, with at least 1 third being obligated to be distributed to the poor.

This year, there would have been over 2 mill pilgrims amounting to about 500,000 sacrificial animals at least. It’s commendable that the Saudi government has put in place a system whereby the meat from this massive sacrifice is processed in modern facilities and then distributed to the poor of over 30 different countries. And though some of you may find this hard to believe there are plenty of people in many parts of the world where this is the only meat they see the whole year. I personally have heard of many such cases.

The sacrifice is an enactment of the willingness of the prophet Abraham (peace be upon him, the name is rendered ‘Ibraheem’ in Arabic) to sacrifice his son Ishma’el (peace be upon him, the name rendered ‘Isma’eel’ in Arabic) upon the command of God and Ishama’el’s willingness to comply. At the last minute, God sends down a ram to take the place of Ishma’el. There are many other events from the life of Abraham and his family (peace upon them all) that the hajj symbolizes, which I won’t go into here. And there are many places in the Quran where God, Exalted and High, speaks of these events. Here are one set of ayaath (=verses, literally ‘signs’). Interpretation in English from Sahih international, surah Saffat (=those arranged in ranks, or who set the ranks), verses 100-106

Bismillahi ar-rahman ar-raheem

In the name of God, the Most Loving, the Most Nurturing

37:100
My Lord, grant me [a child] from among the righteous.”
37:101
So We gave him good tidings of a forbearing boy.
37:102

And when he reached with him [the age of] exertion, he said, “O my son, indeed I have seen in a dream that I [must] sacrifice you, so see what you think.” He said, “O my father, do as you are commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, of the steadfast.”

37:103

And when they had both submitted and he put him down upon his forehead,

37:104

We called to him, “O Abraham,

37:105

You have fulfilled the vision.” Indeed, We thus reward the doers of good.

37:106
Indeed, this was the clear trial.

 

The lesson from the Hajj is about trust I think. Certainly the sacrifice is all about trust. Both Abraham and his son (peace upon them both) completely trusting of the will of God and that it is good for them. The pilgrimage is arduous and one is forced into circumstances and situations where one’s usual ‘props’ are all taken away. Everyone dressed alike and stripped of all the illusion we surround our souls with in terms of material possessions, we are confronted with our humanity. Confronted with our utter need and dependency. No wonder all who go have something to say about this life-changing experience.

I was searching for a video to share for Eid, and I found this 8 min clip of thoughts shared by returning pilgrims. The last speaker said what I found to be especially enlightening.

 

Eid Mubarak once more! I leave you with a clip of the hujjaj performing their final circumbulation of the ka’aba, symbolizing many things, among which, the muslims willingness to rotate their life around the axis of God, and aligning oneself with the movements of the planets and constellation and galaxies that we also believe are rotating around the axis of the One Creator. They chant as they go the ‘eid takbeer’, which we also chant in our homes during the times of Eid as we celebrate with them.

 

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