Spring in Vancouver

There are those who are said to *know* God, who we call ‘a’rifeen-billah’ (=those who *know* God). Of course it is not possible to ever *know* God according to Muslim theology, at least not in this realm (what will happen in the next realm Muslim theologians prefer not to talk about as it delves into the area of speculative knowledge. It is preferable to stay within the bounds of logical and revealed knowledge). Because to say one knows means one has encompassed a complete meaning and if something can be encompassed that would logically imply that something has been bounded or a limited. Now if something were bound or limited it would not be completely able, for its ability would be limited. And that whose ability is limited cannot be Divine. Because the definition of Divine naturally implies no limitation. The Divine is not limited or bound in anyway, the power of the Divine is not limited or encompassed by anything. Completely able, the unsustained sustainer of all…the uncaused cause, the Divine is not like the creation, for, in whatever way you like to ponder upon whatever part of the creation, you will come across a limit in it. So we say, the Creator is not like the creation. Things are often ‘known’ by their opposites… so pondering upon the creation gives us a *glimpse* in to the Creator. So when I say *know* I say it with these caveats in place.

The ‘knowledge’ the a’rifeen-billah have is yet only a minutae of knowledge, that too a gift from the Divine, and an atom in comparison to infinity…

So it is said by the a’rifeen-billah that were the human heart to be unveiled to the true nature of Divine beauty, it would burst out of sheer ecstasy! These beautiful spring days in Vancouver, it is easy to understand why it is so said…for surely the beauty we are blessed to witness all around us takes our breath away. If so much can be unveiled in such a short time that is so breathtaking, then who can even imagine the Divine, who is ‘Al-Jamal’!

Al-Jamal means ‘The Beautiful’, it is one of the *names* or attributes of God, and the attributes of Allah (=God, Allah is preferred by Muslims to use as a term as it is devoid of gender-connotations, exalted be God from such) are of the same nature as Allah’s essence – meaning they are unlimited and unsustained but sustain all. So then imagine that Beauty! The Beautiful! Subhahanallah (=Glory be to God)

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Peace be with you my dear readers, and may you also be blessed to witness great beauty in your lives

Truly it is a beautiful call

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be with you,

The moon is full tonight and it is a ‘supermoon’. Beautiful to behold, quietly radiant, softly white. And it marks the half of the month of Shawwal already passing. Time passes so quickly and how little control we have over time. Which reminds me of the hadith qudsi (narrations from the prophet peace be upon him, where the words are from the prophet though the message is from God, the exalted, the high. This is in difference to the Quran, where the words are from God, the exalted and the messenger peace be upon him, only transmits or utters them. And it is also different to the hadith literature – which are sayings of the blessed messenger himself and not the word of God, the exalted) that goes like this;

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“Allah said:

‘Sons of Adam inveigh against [the vicissitudes of] Time, and I am Time, in My hand is the night and the day.’” (1)


(1) Note from commentator – As the Almighty is the Ordainer of all things, to inveigh against misfortunes that are part of Time is tantamount to inveighing against Him.

It was related by al-Bukhari (also by Muslim).

 

And that milky bright moon, whose face beheld that of the blessed messenger…feasting my eyes upon its glorious super-moon splendour tonight, I thank God for the gift of eyesight and for the wondrous creation that is the moon and the sun’s light that it reflects. Isn’t it amazing that a great concentration of earth can become such a shining mirror! Subhahanalllah (=exalted is God)! Truly the methodology of the fashioning of the universe exudes the name of God – Al-Kareem (The Generous). And no generosity is akin to the generosity of the limitless divine. How little we understand of our Maker and how little we are able to in our created state. Subhahanallah.

To continue, feasting my eyes on the beauteous face of this bright pure moon, I echo the prayer our beloved messenger taught us to make, each time he saw the moon. He (peace be upon him) would say ” O moon, as you do worship God, so do I ” (I could not find the source for this narration, and it is my habit to usually give the source-text. However there is scholarly consensus that in certain matters – such as this quote, which is only meant to engender faith in the heart and can do no harm, it is okay to use even if the source is weak. Therefore I am not so worried about not finding the source for this one. Truly I can’t recall where I learnt it, I only remember reading it years ago and perhaps due to its simple joyous expression of faith – it was engraved in my memory). And I recall the numerous hadith from the companions of the blessed prophet (Gods’ pleasure be on them all) who all likened the beauty of Muhammed to that of the moon. I will give one here, and others are nicely compiled in this post

Jaber bin Sumrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “I saw Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on a full-moon night.  His face was radiating with light, I looked at him and looked at the moon repeatedly.  His face was brighter than the moon”

(this hadith is in Imam Tirmidhi’s Shama’il)

Now it is strange, I titled this post on the call to prayer – the Azan. For I have come across a most beautiful azan that I want to share, and yet I am writing about the moon. But perhaps not so strange, for as the moon calls the waters of the oceans in tide-swell, so this azan calls the heart of all who listen to a heart-swell of peace. I pray you feel this peace, and so share this with you.

God bless you all

 

The honored guest has arrived! and my attempts to sight hilal ur-Ramadan

Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you!

My dear readers, Ramadan Mubarak! (= congratulations on Ramadan/wishing you a blessed Ramadan/Happy Ramadan…any of these will work, again its a phrase hard to translate). Thanks and praise to Allah for the felicity to meet another Ramadan. I pray you are all well and in good health to meet her, in happiness and ease.

Of the many things I am in love with in this way of life – deen ul-Islam (the religion or way of Islam) is the way our lives are tied to the natural phenomena. I love it that the five prescribed ritual worship cycles or salat (some call it prayer but prayer is what we do at anytime) are tied to the position of the sun in the sky. These are obligatory ritual acts of worship. The word ‘salat’ comes from a root that means to ‘do good’, ‘to align rightly’, ‘to recalibrate’. It has all these meanings. It is the daily 5-time reminder of who we are, where we came from, where we are going to, and who we belong to. It’s that one-on-one meeting of the slave with his or her Maker that is the most precious thing in the world.

And I love it that the way we count the months is tied to the phases of the moon. There is something very magical about the moon. And something more magical about how this moon and sun tie into each other. About the passage of day and night. About the light and dark. The Quran talks of these often in many many places. Again, I love these passages too much not to share, so here is one instance below. Where Allah SWT swears by these immense creations…and scholars of Quranic interpretation say, that whenever Allah SWT swears by something that is a mark of the greatness of that thing, and also a mark of the import of the message that is sworn upon – in this case, to have a pure upright character or soul or self.

These are the first 11 ayat (=signs) from surah Shams (=sun). Unfortunately the English does not capture the cadence, rhyme or rhythm of the Arabic. Also there is no ‘neuter’ gender in Arabic. Everything is either male or female.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of Allah the most Loving, the One showing Love

91:1
By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour;
91:2
By the Moon as she follows him;
91:3
By the Day as it shows up (the Sun’s) glory;
91:4
 By the Night as it conceals it;
91:5
 By the Firmament and its (wonderful) structure;
91:6
 By the Earth and its (wide) expanse:
91:7
 By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it;
91:8
And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;-
91:9
 Truly he succeeds that purifies her (meaning one’s soul)
91:10
And he fails that corrupts her (meaning one’s soul)!

Now the fact that it is the moon that determines the count of the months is significant also for religious reasons. Since the third main pillar of the deen is the obligatory fast during the month of Ramadan. So much has been said about this that I won’t repeat anything here, except to say briefly that during this month Muslims are obligated to fast from dawn to dusk. The fast entails keeping away from all usual pleasures – definitely of lawful eating, drinking and marital relations and also (though less strictly observed) of too much of the sensual pleasures such as movies, music, TV etc. even if lawful. It is a time one removes the ‘creature-pleasures’ to free the soul to experience divine realities. The spiritual masters say that a too satiated body is heavy on the soul and so cannot be tuned into the call of the Creator. So then, removing those creature comforts paves the way for those heart-valves to open. In addition to this there is exoteric cleansing of course and much charity and feeling for the poor is an outcome.

One of the results of this tying between the deen ul islam and the natural phenomena was the necessitated great feats in astronomy and mathematics that were part of the Islamic golden age. Precise calculation of time became increasingly more important as the Muslim world expanded. There is divine wisdom in action.

So I went out to see if I could sight the hilal ur Ramadan (=crescent of Ramadan). It is a magical experience. Something very special about seeing that new moon during the few minutes it appears before it sets close upon the heels of the sun. I was not blessed with that sight this month though, as it was too cloudy. But I caught a mesmerizingly beautiful sunset instead.

While some Muslims rely on astronomical tables to determine the month, other opinions favour the need to sight the moon with naked eye. Some scholars hold a local sighting is necessary and others say a global sighting suffices. Two witnesses are required. I was tracking crescentwatch.org that tells when there is a chance to see the moon (as in astronomical possibility) and tracks user sightings. I felt greatly elated to hear that the moon was sighted in Sydney that morning and so waited to see if I too would catch a glimpse of her that night. Being in Western Canada we were among the last to see her, except for Hawaii which would be much later. Also for my non-Muslim readers to know – for us, the ‘day’ begins with the night. So when the hilal ur Ramadan is sighted thus marks the first ‘day’ of Ramadan. Great joy then! as mosques began the special night prayers and people gather to celebrate this most special of special times.

May her stay with us this year bring much peace and tranquility to all people, especially in those Muslim lands torn apart by bloodshed and hatred. God have mercy upon us all.

Here is a screen capture from crescentwatch tracking the crescent’s march across the globe.

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And here is a image of the crescent announcement

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And finally the beautifully peaceful sunset I encountered, though I did not see the hilal ur-Ramadan

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Joyjot for the day :-)

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A little note-to-self I found tucked away in my wallet, that fell out while riffling through 🙂

Al-wadud is one of the names of beauty (in Arabic, ism-jamal) of God. It means the source of all love put simply. Though it is deeper than that. There are several words in Arabic that mean love…each to communicate different types of love. Not all can be used as a ‘name’ of God. This one, Al-Wadud, (= The Love) means a type of love that never tires or dries-up that, like Allah, is all sustaining but not sustained (in Muslim theology God is One in His essence as well as His attributes).
Continue reading “Joyjot for the day :-)”

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

Frangrance to greet laylatul qadr

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Here is a little snapshot of my jasmine plant corner. Jasmine is not an easy plant to grow in rainy cold Vancouver, but MashaAllah my two jasmine plants have survived and thrived over five years of some pretty cold winters and gloomy summers. I took this picture and am sharing because my heart is delighted by the bounty of flowers…rarely do so many bloom at the same time. They are by the corner where is my rocking chair and favourite spot to recite quran. And indeed it is as if their blooming is a special gift to greet these blessed last ten nights of Ramadan. My Lord is most generous to me. Subtly watchful in His love and care. May we all have hearts aware of Allah’s rahma that is ever upon us.

Peace be with you all

Insignificance

One of the greatrest blessings of tribulation is that it forces one to end self-reliance and instead rely on God. This is another of the meanings of that profound verse in the Quran…repeated twice…in surah 97, which is aptly titled ‘inshirah’ a word that can be translated as ‘the expanding of the chest’ meaning increasing one’s understanding or realization. The verse is
‘inna ma al usri yusra…/ inna ma al usri yusra…’
Meaning ‘ verily, with hardship, is ease / verily, with hardship is ease’

– I have translated to the best of my ability as I am on the road. I believe it is right though God willing. But please forgive any errors.

So Ibn Ata’allah, a great Islamic scholar advised us to ‘bury oneself in the soil of insignificance, and then like the seed, to be brought to fruition’

So I pray, ‘O my Lord, empty myself of me and fill me with Thee’
– ameen

Peace be with you all and may whatever hardship you go through bring you also to the One and to peace.
Assalamu alaikum