Here is a gentle story on the life of this world

Assalamu alaikum, peace and the blessing of God upon all!

It is hard to stop thinking of Japan. My thoughts and prayers for all the beautiful brave kind people there. May Allah make it easy for them. Knowing that prayer is the greatest help one can give helps a lot, for otherwise how helpless we would be to help. These are the times I wish I had gone in to Med school after all. But wait, no, help is in holding the hand of the cashier stunned at the fallen goods and broken bottles when the ground stopped shaking. Help is smiling at one’s spouse when the anxiety of not knowing how we will get to where we must go makes one only want to snap. Help is in steadfastness and patience. Help is a cheery countenance and cracking a joke, giving a hug and gentleness in one’s touch. Help I hope, even if a little, is in me not wasting the precious time I have here to try and be a nicer person. More reliable, more trustworthy, more truthful and more cheerful. Indeed help comes from heaven simply at the moment somewhere in your heart you say ‘yes I’m going to help’ and that is all there is. And then somewhere, somehow joy explodes inside. Allah Kareem! 🙂

God is the protector of those who have faith. From the depths of darkness He will lead them forth in to light
(Quran 2:257)

Here is a favourite little hymn/song on those lines…easy to put in to a gentle tune, it always brings peace to my heart and reminds me of the rahma of Allah, and the rahma of our prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) how patient and gentle he was through numerous hardship

‘ I live for those who love me
for those who know me true
for heaven that watches above me
and calls my spirit too
For the cause that needs assistance
for the wrong that needs resistance
for the future in the distance
and the good that I can do’

MashaAllah I was sent this link today. It is a beautiful short video on one of the stories from the life of Isa (peace be upon him). A very telling tale… that reminds one of what is important in life. Great natural events such as what we have witnessed now, do that also. Back home in Sri Lanka seeing all it did and knowing how long it took to rebuild… Subhahanallah! A life lesson on what is important. Yet, how easy it is to forget. God protect us all.

‘O my Lord, do not leave me alone with myself even for an instant’

So then this temporary life, full of lesson in every second, in every heartbeat something to know and marvel at. As my dear sister, who is in Japan and shared these beautiful words just before the earthquake indeed, imaan is something that grows inside, flourishing it dispels all doubt and despair in its wake. Allah Kareem, may the growth of imaan be the only tsunami we ever face! And we trust in Allah’s infinite justice for those in hardship.

فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا ﴿٥﴾ إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا
For indeed with hardship will be ease. Indeed with hardship will be ease (Quran 94:5-6)

What a billion Muslims Think – The Gallup Poll in Documentary

Many many thanks to Seeking Hidaya for posting this on her site. I stumbled across it and wanted to share it here. It’s the documentary showcasing the Gallup poll of Muslim countries. Well worth the watch, don’t miss it. Many many points in it ring true and are all topic headings of their own, inshaAllah one day to return to.

But in light of what is going on in the Muslim world now (and coming from just as much an ‘outsider’ as the average non-Muslim, in so much that I too have never lived in a Muslim majority country, and I too practice my faith almost as if I came to it as a ‘convert’ i.e., no family background of Islam in any serious sense etc) I think its most topical to watch this. We seem to be witnessing the truth of it coming out; that most Muslims want democracy, the right to self govern, human rights, free speech and human dignity upheld. May God almighty help us all.

I cannot insert it embed it here. So the links are below.

Source video at snagfilms
http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/inside_islam_what_a_billion_muslims_really_think/

And twitter link
http://bit.ly/e8oQqe

Struggling for patience

A little gem of a talk after a hard day, nay, many hard days (:) ) struggling for patience as I hope in the promise of my Lord. I want to keep that hope strong so I do not despair. Despair leads to depression and then an easy entry for the whispering devil. The believer is strong in belief and therefore never despairs. What a glorious state to be in!

Patience is so hard to achieve isn’t it? It’s so easy to be excited about something and go rushing in and then so hard to keep at it and persevere. Is that why ‘patience and perseverance’ often come in the Quran together. Our merciful glorious Creator who knows human kind well, Subhahanata’ala!

MashaAllah another reason to admire and learn from the recent happenings in Egypt; 18 days is a very long time to maintain a struggle, and that too against such seemingly insurmountable odds! Allah is Great. Victory truly is with the patient. I will try harder. Keep me in your du’a please, in constant need of it. My du’a for you all too. Allah help us be patient

By the way, the scholars classify the root virtue of patience as being courage. Isn’t that very wise. It takes great courage to be patient. In fact all the lives of the prophets (peace and blessings be upon them all) is a testimony to patience. All of them toiled hard against many obstacles and all of them mashaallah ta’alah saw their reward toward the end (and we believe this will also be for Jesus, upon whom be peace and our beloved, who will return to live a good life and see great success)

On the hajj..from Sheikh Hamza.. ‘turtles perform the pilgrimage too’

Beautifully written and offers much to ponder… couldn’t resist but sharing 🙂

Enjoy!
Happy 2011 to all and may it be peaceful. Seeing an end to needless war and suffering

Pilgrims with a Purpose: Turtles Make Hajj Too – Hamza Yusuf

There is no animal on earth, nor yet a bird on the wing, but forms communities like you. We have not neglected anything in the Book; and they will ultimately be gathered to their Lord. Those who repudiate Our signs are deaf and dumb, in the dark. God confuses whomever God wills, and places whomever God wills on a straight path.

Qur’an, Sura 6, Cattle, (38-39)

Pilgrimage is one of the profound manifestations of humanity, a materialization of our spiritual nature. The word pilgrim is from a Latin term, peregrinatio, which means “to journey about.” An early English word peregrine meant “a falcon.” Like our feathered friends, human beings also tend to flock, driven by an inner force towards a specific destination. Historically, people have always flocked to places of devotion for spiritual rebirth.

The word Hajj means “to intend a journey,” which connotes both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions. In his Mufradat, Raghib says that Hajj became associated in the sacred text with visiting the House of God. From the same root, we get the derivative hujjah, which means “a proof,” and also a mahajjah, which is “a clear path that is straight.” Related to this word through the greater derivation is the word hajab, which means “to be prevented from arriving at one’s destination.” This is important in relation to those who are spiritually veiled (mahjub) by a material hijab from arriving at their true destination.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and represents the return to God. Each of us is a pilgrim in this world, wayfarers all. Some of us know the way and are focused on our ultimate destination, while others get easily distracted and flounder. Death is our material destination, and the body returns to the soil from whence it came. But what of the soul that is not of soil?

The spirit that animates us is set free upon death and must journey on to the next stage. Hajj represents a congregation of souls preparing for a meeting with their Lord. Arafah, which is related to ma’rifah (knowledge of God), is the culmination of Hajj. The pilgrim is stripped of all outward decorum, unkempt and disheveled, and abased before his Lord, pleading for acceptance. The inner sense of purpose that took him or her to Mecca is among the mysteries of faith.

But what can we learn from the Qur’anic verse above regarding all of God’s creations and their collective journeys to God’s House?

All over this planet, there are epic migrations of wildlife taking place each year. The animals have their own Hajj, and we must learn from their journeys, as God has told us to reflect on the signs in the self and on the horizon until the truth is embedded in our soul.

Even as you read these words, multitudes of birds are in flight for their annual peregrinations. In traversing their journey, they overcome immense odds and perform navigational feats that neither evolutionary theories nor modern science can yet explain. This is true of ocean life as well. For instance, scientists don’t know why loggerhead sea turtles travel nine thousand miles to return to the small beach where they were born only to lay their own eggs for the cycle to continue. Moreover, they possess navigation skills that rival the most advanced radar systems.

The mysteries of the natural order surround us. We don’t know why monarch butterflies migrate south in the winter to one particular location to gather together in a symphony of color, in what can only be termed displays of vertiginous spiritual ecstasy by a human observer. Even the large buffalo make a pilgrimage across the plains of the Northern states; rattlesnakes set out from varied points of departure but are inner directed en masse to a single spot where they mate. There is, of course, scientific research taking place in an attempt to unlock the myriad mysteries of these migratory creatures with their navigational secrets. But there is another phenomenon that is now coming to light: the absolute singularity of purpose with which these creatures go about their journeys.

An article in this month’s National Geographic magazine quotes a scientist referring to the “undistractibility” of these animals on their journeys. “An arctic tern on its way from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska, for instance, will ignore a nice smelly herring offered from a bird-watcher’s boat in Monterey Bay. Local gulls will dive voraciously for such handouts, while the tern flies on. Why?” The article’s author, David Quammen, attempts an answer, saying “the arctic tern resists distraction because it is driven at that moment by an instinctive sense of something we humans find admirable: larger purpose.”

In the same article, biologist Hugh Dingle notes that these migratory patterns reveal five shared characteristics: the journeys take the animals outside their natural habitat; they follow a straight path and do not zigzag; they involve advance preparation, such as overfeeding; they require careful allocations of energy; and finally, “migrating animals maintain a fervid attentiveness to the greater mission, which keeps them undistracted by temptations and undeterred by challenges that would turn other animals aside.” In other words, they are pilgrims with a purpose.

In the case of the artic tern, whose journey is 28,000 miles, “it senses it can eat later.” It can rest later. It can mate later. Its implacable focus is the journey; its singular intent is arrival. Elephants, snakes, sea snakes, sea turtles, myriad species of birds, butterflies, whales, dolphins, bison, bees, insects, antelopes, wildebeests, eels, great white sharks, tree frogs, dragon flies, crabs, Pacific blue tuna, bats, and even microorganisms – all of them have distinct migratory patterns, and all of them congregate in a special place, even if, as individuals, they have never been there before.

In all of this, there are signs for us to reflect upon. Their single-minded sense of mission is one. The care they take in preparing for their journey is another; as the Qur’an says about Hajj, “Take provision, and the best provision is piety” (2:197). In other words, fatten up your souls with spiritual calories for this sacred journey back to your Lord.

The Qur’an reminds us, “Have they not seen the birds above them, as they draw in their wings, having spread them – the Merciful alone holds them up, observing everything” (67:19). Almost immediately after that, we are told, “Then is the one who walks bent on his own design better guided, or the one who walks for a common cause on a straight path?” (67:22). These animals have a common cause, as they move on their linear journeys of rebirth.

The Hajj is our sacred journey, and it allows us to gather in spiritual community, in common cause, so we may plead for our wellbeing and spiritual survival. In those same verses we are told nothing is neglected in the Qur’an, according to God, and we are reminded that God will gather us, by analogy, as these animals, like us, are gathered for rebirth. Those who repudiate these signs are spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb – in other words, veiled, and unlike these divinely guided animals, are unable to find their way back home. For their repudiation, they are led astray, but God places whom God wills on a straight path – a path of linearity, undistracted by the temptations of the world, well provided with spiritual energy for their journeys back to their Lord. It is a journey we must all take.

The poet W.S. Merwin, upon reflecting on the miraculous migration of the birds, wrote that they are “tracing a memory they did not have until they set out to remember it.” God tells us in the Qur’an, “And if you forget, remember.” The journey of Hajj is remembering what we have forgotten. Allahu akbar!

A Muslim For Mary (via God, Faith, and a Pen: Basking in His Love)

Loved this post…inshaallah must try to be more like Mary (peace be upon her). One of the first women to enter heaven and our great role model and prophet. Also love reading Surah Maryam!

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful Thanks be to the Precious Beloved, this was published today on the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog on Eboo Patel's site. It is reproduced below: During my days as an undergraduate at Marquette University, I always enjoyed the 8th day of December. That's because it would be day off from school for a holiday of which heretofore I had never known: the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I had a … Read More

via God, Faith, and a Pen: Basking in His Love

On ‘Intellectual Humility’…

Subhahanallah! All glory and praise be to God for the beauty of the brain. This incredible organ that drives thought, that forms memories, that processes information, that orchestrates a myriad complex of response to a myriad complex of stimuli in nanoseconds.. that does all this simultaneously. Consider a person walking along the street perhaps a newspaper in one hand, a cup of coffee in another… reading, ruminating, sipping his coffee, negotiating his way on a busy side-walk (subconscious aware of possible dangers). All simultaneous processes, all complex, all independent and at the same time inter-dependent. All regulated, controlled, in a way we really don’t understand. We barely understand the reflex-arc…that most basic of neurological processes whereby our muscles respond to an external stimulus. Nevermind more complex synaptic processes such as those that involve actual ‘thinking’.

Yet isn’t it amazing.. that while not yet really knowing how we think.. we presume to think and know so much. Here is a scenario that I find ironic, amusing and at the same time sad – how often in Academia, one comes across professors who have bloated egos based on their discoveries.. but those very discoveries only point to how much more needs to be found out, and how very little is really known. At the very least, it points to how much hard work is needed to decipher the simplest of natural process. But on a more positive angle, I have also seen real intellectuals, who by the very token of their advancement are the most humble of people. A sure indication that real knowledge has come to one perhaps is that one becomes really aware of how little one knows!

So then the irony of the created presuming to fathom the Creator. I find this truly remarkable. But to each his own, and this post is not meant to read against anyone’s beliefs… but merely to record my own thoughts (and fortunately or unfortunately, the reader has decided to embark on listening to them…that is, for as long as you want to! Don’t you just love a blog… you can leave and no one will know! 😉 ).

What I did want to comment on was the very real problem caused by people of half baked knowledge. With special reference to my own faith group. We see very often, actually routinely, Muslims calling out judgements. Often at the drop of a hat (or even without any conceivable reason) Muslims are ready to criticize and judge. I find this reprehensible. Surely one who has surrendered his/her will to the will of the Creator, cannot presume to take on judgement for only God is the real judge. If we hasten to judge, is that not an indication of lack of humility? And is not lack of humility a state of arrogance? And is not the state of arrogance the state of one not a Muslim, i.e., one who has not surrendered himself fully? So even purely on a logical argument…being anything but a humble person cannot be a Muslim!

Having said this, thankfully there are some very wonderful real scholars in our traditions. And I’ve noticed that the scholars of depth, the best in the world, are very shy of making any sort of pronouncement or fatawa. Whereas we sure do have many a scholar of mediocre repute throwing out fatwa faster than one can type them!

So advice first to myself and then to anyone else.. say and mean ‘Allah a’lam’ when you have to talk about matters such as those that are not well defined. All the sheikhs of note in our long scholarly tradition will always end their works with these words, ‘Allah a’lam’ or ‘God knows/All knowledge is with God’. So it is far better to refrain from matters of contention and refer them to one more knowledgable than to comment oneself. It is the same principle on which a family physician will refer a patient with a disease beyond his capacity to treat to a specialist. So like in medicine, as quacks do their share of damange so in religion, these types of shallow intellectuals do a far bit more.

Here is a gem I found recently, from our scholars of old.

It is reported that Ibrâhîm b. Adham (d162H) – Allâh have mercy on him – once passed through the market of Basrah. People gathered around him and asked: O Abû Ishâq, Allâh the Exalted says in his Book. ‘Call on me, I will answer your prayers’, but we have been calling on Him for a long time and He does not answer our prayers. [Ibrâhîm] replied, “O people of Basrah, your hearts have died in respect to ten things:

* First, you know Allâh but you do not give Him His rights;
* Second, you have read Allâh’s Book but you do not act by it;
* Third, you claim to love Allâh’s Messenger – Allâh’s peace and blessings be upon him – yet you abandon his Sunnah;
* Fourth, you claim to be enemies to Shaytân but you conform to [his ways];
* Fifth, you say you love Paradise yet you do not work for it;
* Sixth, you say you fear The Fire yet you put yourselves closer to it [by sinning];
* Seventh, you say death is true but you do not prepare for it;
* Eighth, you busy yourselves with the faults of others and disregard your own;
* Ninth, you consume the favors of your Lord but are not grateful for them; and
* Tenth, you bury your dead but take no lesson from them.”

Abû Nu’aym, Hilyah Al-Awliyâ’ 8: 15, 16.

I can’t vouche for the reliability of it, but the advice certainly makes perfect sense. And I think it is very topical as well. There is much going on in the Muslim world today…I understand its an over simplification to say that this is due to the Muslims leaving Islam.. but there certainly is a lot of truth in saying so as well. God is The Most Just and treats no one unjustly. As those belonging to a great scholarly tradition, well can we lament what we have lost. But then again the above incident took place at the most 150 years after the death of the prophet (peace be upon him). So this is an indication of how easy it is to stray.

Therefore a constant reminder to be humble is an essential. If it is hard to do, just think of how little you know of how you are thinking.. and it will be easy!

May God forgive us and guide us all to His eternal Mercy

Rev. Deborah C. Lindsay’s sermon on Islamophobia

This is not good… I intended to write once a week and its now creeping close to two since I was last here. hmm…must do something to stop this. Don’t I recall it being said that those actions most pleasing to Allah are the consistent ones, no matter their size. Of course only good actions are included and InshaAllah these simple posts fall under that category! 🙂

And indeed it’s not hard to see the goodness manifested in this beautiful sermon delivered by Rev. Deborah Lindsay. What a joyous and wise leader. May God protect and bless her!

Click here to watch

What happened to Poetry…

It’s been a few days since I last wrote. The post Ramadan blues have hit and taken a few days to re-adjust to not having the disciplined ways that brought such closeness to the God-head. I see now the other realm of blessing in having the 6 days of fasting in Shawwal such a strong advice. Indeed, fasting again in Shawwal would remind what Ramadan was all about. And would help cement the (hopefully) newly found better habits of Ramadan.

But Alhamdulillah, today, while baking some goodies to take to work tomorrow (sharing Eid spirit..yay!) I came across this gem of a short talk by Hamza Yusuf. Talking about the place of poetry. It reminded me of the love of literature born in those long gone days of schooling when a teenager. Sitting in those classroom open to the breeze from the Indian ocean and listening to teachers from an old school, spinster teachers who dedicated their life to being ‘our second mothers’…beautiful generous souls whose piety transcended religion, who loved God, and loved humanity and served endlessly. How blessed I was to be taught by them. To have known them. I guess growing up in an island forgotten by the world (yes, even despite desperately needing assistance to end a brutal civil war) had its advantages. I may be old fashioned, but I sure do thank God for my old fashioned education! My English literature teacher, in her seventies at the time, still wearing frocks as they wore in the 40s… who used to walk about the school premises and feed the cats milk in saucers.. My English literature teacher, who taught me to be compassionate to prostitutes through a Beatle’s song, who taught me to see the love of a civilization in the music of a guitar, who taught me to love truth and be courageous in fighting falsehood.. how blessed I was to have her. Stumbling across this talk reminded me of those days, reading Shakespeare, reading the Quran slowly everyday, pondering deeply. How much poetry there is in the Quran. How much truth. Indeed it is all truth. And real poetry speaks universal truths.

The written word is magical. And so God swears by the pen, by language, by reading.. in the first revealed words. ‘Iqra’! Read!

I had many wise things to say, but rather than bore you with pithy cliches, let me just link here the fabulous talk and hope you all get to watch it. Please do.

And I’ll copy one of my favourite poems of all time too 🙂

‘I had no time to hate, because
the grave would hinder me,
And life was not so ample I,
could finish enmity.

Nor had I time to love, but since
some industry must be
The little toil of love, I thought,
Was large enough for me’
– Emily Dickinson

“If They Can Burn It, We Can Read It.” A UCC Minister’s Response to Burning the Qur’an. (via The Creative Seminole)

This is essential reading 🙂

Such a great idea and so many many thanks creativeseminole for writing this.

"If They Can Burn It, We Can Read It." A UCC Minister's Response to Burning the Qur'an. There are some things that really get under my skin. One of those things is religious intolerance, be it from Christians, Muslims, Jews, Agnostics, Pagans, Pastafarians, or the like. It's good t … Read More

via The Creative Seminole