Ramadan Mubarak! and introducing Irfa’a Foundation and QABAS

Dear Readers,

Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)

Greetings and wishes for a blessed and peaceful month of fasting, reflection, giving out, sharing and growing. I know these times are difficult and what almost everyone around the world is facing is unprecedented, strange and can therefore be scary. Nevertheless, upon reflection there is an abundance of reason to be thankful, and so in this time of hardship, remembering all the trouble we have faced and come successfully through, we give thanks and take hear and increase our hope. This time is one of purification or elevation. Both good things, and we pray they are easy and blessed. God willing more on these topics later.

For my dear Muslim brothers and sisters, here are two blog posts I wrote on the topic that I hope may help.



I did not intend to write long, and it has been a long while since I blogged here. The long silence was in part because I have been busy setting up a non-profit foundation and also publishing by God’s grace. Introducing both here today 🙂

The foundation is called ‘Irfa’a’ ;  a beautiful Quranic Arabic word that means ‘to elevate/ raise up’. The first books published, are volumes 1 to 4 of a series that takes its title from another Quranic word; ‘Qabas’; which means a lit flame/torch or firebrand. I invite you to visit our foundation’s website and please look at the books. InshaAllah (God willing), perhaps later we shall write more about them.

Irfa’a Foundation – http://www.irfaa.ca

Qabas – http://www.irfaa.ca/rasalhaq


For now, I leave you with an image of the new crescent moon of the month of Ramadan. I was blessed to witness it last night. I hope you can spot it! May peace be with you all


Glimpses of the early Muslim Women

Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you,

I am just after an amazing week of immersion in illumined knowledge from some of the greatest scholars of the modern age! Immensely blessed and a little overwhelmed. It was the Reviving the Islamic Spirit knowledge retreat http://risconvention.com/knowledge-retreat/
So coming across this post, and especially following the call made by many of the scholars at the retreat, to bring back female scholarship in Islam, I have to share it! Some names we should be more familiar with recorded here. May we walk in the footsteps of these these great ladies.

Reflection – Ustadha Umm Abdullah Hayel

Assalamu alaikum dear readers,
This post which I providentially re-visited today (:)), contains some gems on “fikr” (=contemplation/reflection/thinking), which was highlighted in my previous post on the Hajj. It also introduces the re-emerging voice in female Islamic scholarship. Thanks to God to have our women scholars come back. What a GREAT loss their disappearance has been to the Muslim world the past few centuries (near eradication of Muslim female scholarship coincided with the Colonial period. Muslim female scholarship was strong and flourishing for ~1000 years before then, ever since the time of the prophet peace be upon him, his wife, Ayesha (our mother, God be pleased with her), being among the greatest and first Muslim scholars.
InshaAllah more on the Hajj in posts to come…

Treasures for the Seeker

What follows are brief notes from a class with Ustadha Umm Abdullah Hayel (May Allah protect and preserve her and her family).

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

All praise to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. And salutations and greetings upon our Master Muhammad and upon his family and companions.

I intend to study and teach, take and give a reminder, take and give benefit, take and give advantage, to encourage the holding fast to the book of Allah and the way of his messenger, and calling to guidance and directing towards good hoping for the countenance of Allah and His pleasure, proximity and reward, transcendent is He.

We have to understand ourselves in the scheme of the world. “Know thyself to know thy Lord.” We are like the animal world but have a higher spiritual energy. This is the intellect. Poetry, art, and many beautiful things…

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Hajj chronicles – 3 beginning the Hajj

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be with you,

My apologies for the delay in continuing the series. The difficult world events (our prayers for those tragically affected by them, and also prayers for peace and for true justice that which can only be foundation for lasting peace) and many other pressing concerns kept me away from posting more on this series.

To continue, Hajj proper began on the 8th of Dhul Hijjah, the 22nd of September 2015 CE, with our arrival to take up our positions in the valley of Muna, or ‘Mina’. There is a vast tent city in Mina, that lays empty all year, except for the 5 days of Hajj (8th – 13th of Dhul Hijjah). During this time, it fills up with all the pilgrims – usually about 3-4 million, though much less, at just over 2 million this year. Then the ‘tent city’ comes to life – as much as there are pilgrims in every nook and crevice and corner where there is a spare bit of ground to lie/walk/sit/sleep on, there are also tea vendors and snack sellers and first aid stations and so forth.

The valley of Mina is I think about 2 million square feet in total, so you can imagine the density of people during the Hajj. Unfortunately nowadays, this density has meant it is almost impossible to feel the natural surrounding. However, the clear bright ‘bigger than life’ dessert sky always impedes into one’s consciousness, and the barren rocky mountains that surround the valley are often visible…these at least, no government has been able to alter (!) and give one a glimpse of what it must have been for the great prophet Abraham (=Ibraheem, peace be upon him), when he was there. And indeed what it must have been for every generation of pilgrim who camped there since the time of Muhammed (peace be upon him)’s pilgrimage.

Muhammed (peace be upon him) who taught us how to perform the Hajj,  banned the building of any permanent abode in Mina, saying that the valley’s pristine purity must be left untouched. I was reflecting on my own destiny, that I was destined to be there in 2015 or 1437 in the Hijri calendar, i.e., 1427 years after the blessed beloved messenger of God Muhammed (peace be upon him) performed his pilgrimage. And I was reflecting that pilgrims who had performed Hajj a mere 30 odd years ago, would still have enjoyed that pristine dessert, up until the time so many changes have been put in place.

Nevertheless the experience played out by my own destiny brings profound impacts as well. If one is not as acutely impacted by the natural surrounding, one certainly is by the incredible *number* of people – by the crush of humanity, by the sheer magnitude of it, by the vastness of the differences in peoples represented there… and by the unique leveling the Hajj is able to bring about among us all. Truly it is ‘a great leveler’, perhaps the greatest leveler humanity ever is able to experience.

The only obligation for us on the 8th of Dhul Hijja is that we stay in Mina. What we do while we are there is up to us. Needless to say, almost all were keen to soak up the golden opportunity and try not to waste any time in idleness-curiosities/chatter/distraction etc (not always easy, but that is part of the training/lessons of the Hajj!), but spend as much time in prayer/meditation/remembrance (=dhikr, a core practice in Islamic spirituality, where the person goes into a state of trying to remember God, and his or her own origin) etc.

And indeed many were in contemplation. What a great place and what great fodder for contemplation! Contemplation (=fikr, a practice as importance as dhikr and equally emphasized in Islamic spirituality, means to contemplate all the creation so as to understand what it all means – it is to seek the Creator in the created, see here for more detail on this essential, nay, fundamental Islamic practice so often neglected by modern Muslims), is highly emphasized in the Quran, where Allah (=God), subhahana ta’ala (most sublime and exalted) constantly asks the human being to think. ‘Do you not think?’, ‘Can you not see?’, ‘Do you not contemplate the heavens and the earth?’ asks God of mankind in the Quran, and praises those who engage in fikr;

They reflect on the creation of the heavens and Earth (3:190)

The prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), in an authentic narration said ‘an hour’s contemplation is better than seventy years worship‘ (please see here for sources of the hadith, and here and here for useful articles, including on Huffpost, the well titled – Thinking is an act of worship in Islam, on fikr or ‘tafakkur (=to be engaged in contemplation) in Islam). Below is a quote defining tafakkur by Islamic scholarship, from the same post, with thanks to chaplain of Duke University;

to think on a subject deeply, systematically, and in great detail. In The Islamic context, it signifies reflection, which is the human heart’s light, the spirit’s nourishment, the essence of knowledge, and the heart and light of the Islamic way of life. Reflection is the light in the heart that allows the believer to discern what is good and evil, beneficial and harmful, beautiful and ugly. Again, it is through reflection that the universe becomes a book to read and study, and the verses of the Qur’an disclose their deeper meanings and secrets more clearly. Without reflection, the heart is darkened, the spirit is dysfunctional, and Islam is lived at such a superficial level that it is devoid of meaning and profundity.

Indeed then what wisdom to bring all the world together to this little valley, full of the rich treasures of history and heritage, the legacy and the footsteps of that giant of humanity, Abraham (peace be upon him), the vast dessert sky above and a sea of white-clad pilgrim equalled-humanity below, and then be told all we need to do is be there. So what deep oceans of knowledge and as we say ‘openings’ to reflect upon. It was a time and place where contemplation is almost forced upon one. It would be a great loss indeed, for the one who missed out.

As we are taught, the greatest ‘fikr’ is to contemplate on oneself, on who one is, where one came from and where one is going. And indeed  the beloved messenger taught us (peace be upon him), by words and example to often engage in fikr.  “If the servant knows himself, he knows his Lord” = ‘man arafa nafsahu faqad ‘arafa Rabbahu’ in Arabic (attributed to as-Suyuti, Mawardi, Al-Jarrahi, and Yahya b. Mu’adh ar-Razi. –taken from this post).

I leave you with a few pictures from Mina.





Wonders of the Heart – Part 1

A must share! And much needed boost after the inevitable post-ramadan slump we all experience it seems :). As one of my teachers says – you must have your ‘regular diet of ‘ilm (=sacred knowledge)’. The heart almost craves this and feels starved otherwise. No wonder then, we were so energized during Ramadan – a time when the heart is well fed. A time when our physical bodily needs fade into the background and we can hear the hunger pangs of the heart, and then set about feeding it for that one special month. My dear brothers and sisters – lets’ not let our hearts starve now that Ramadan is over. For the Quranic ayat is true and has been testified unto by seekers for centuries past…”Without doubt, in the remembrance of Allaah (=God), do hearts find peace.” – Quran 13:28

Take Back Islam: #BringBackOurGirls

I could not have said it better. Have to add my voice loudly and clearly – “It is time for the Muslims to stand up together in outrage about the filth that is done in the name of our religion.

We demand that Boko Haram brings these girls back to their families, to their childhood, and to their education!

We demand that Boko Haram and groups like it STOP misappropriating Islam for their agendas!”
– thank you to my sister for writing this



Take-Back-IslamAs the world waits and worries over the fate of the girls who were abducted on April 14 from a school in Nigeria, a terrorist group, Boko Haram, steps forward and claims responsibility for the repulsive act. And all this evil based on the premise–as their name states–that Western education in sinful (much of which is based on the Golden Era of Islamic discovery) and that Allah tells them to sell these girls as sex slaves (did someone forget to take their Thorazine?).

But somewhere between May 2013 and the recent kidnapping the story changed. CNN reports that Shakau, the leader of Boko Haram, in May 2013 “first announced in a video that Boko Haram would start kidnapping girls. The kidnappings, he said, were retaliation for Nigerian security forces nabbing the wives and children of group members.”

Now after the deed is done and the world is looking at Nigeria…

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Live Below The Line: Day 2

Had to share this beautifully and lovingly written post from one of my favourite artists and people… a pure and simple soul now blogging about his living below the line fundraiser challenge.
[For readers waiting to see more of my trip to Andalusia, stay tuned – I am still on the road and just waiting to get home so I can upload some photos to an already written post. Learned and experienced so much. What a blessing travel is!]

Women Scholars and the forbidding of being sad :)

Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you) dear readers,

Tonight I have been doing some joyful (not sure this is a right way to use this favourite word of mine, I mean that I have been enjoying the task very much, and surely that can be said to be ‘joyful’) research on modern day influential Muslim women, in order to respond to a request by ‘genometalk’ commenting on the post about famous Muslim women I shared. Genometalk – Thank you for spurring me to do this!

Now I have a lot to say about this and inshaAllah (=God willing) tomorrow I will complete the post, but for tonight I want to highlight one woman. A ‘shaykha’ in her own right. BTW ‘sheikh’ literally means ‘old man’ and sheykha is the feminine form of that word. It is often given to a scholar as a title to convey the fact that they are learned. But if you walk on the streets in an Arab land, you will find people addressing the elderly as ‘ya sheikh’ (= O’ sheikh ) or ‘ya sheikha’ as a term of respect. And such is Arab colloquial custom that some times kids are called the same way as a term of endearment. [Having said that I can’t but help point out that it is strange idiom or language usage customs like these, that lead to so much confusion and error when translations are undertaken by those not familiar with ‘the other’. The orientalist movement contributed its fair share to this misunderstanding of the Muslim world due to this. Unfortunately the same types of misunderstanding are still prevalent].

Anse Tamara Grey (with thanks to W.B Abdullah, wbabdullah.wordpress.com, ‘Anse’ is an affectionate title given to sister Tamara. It is used in Syria and means sometime like Shaykha, but as in an educational-nurturer) is a highly respected scholar. Here is a bio from her website. Do read more about her. For now, what I will share is something she wrote about what the Quran says about being sad. She is actually bringing to light a teaching by one of Islam’s best known scholars of yore, Ibn al-Qayyum al-Jawziya a polymath, who wrote vast amounts in many fields of religious sciences, especially to do with the heart, and in other sciences such as astronomy and medicine. I have one of his books on medicine actually, some remedies there I have used as well and they’ve been very effective keeping the sick-bugs away. Allah have mercy on him!

Taken from ‘The Sandal’ blog at this post – Journeying to places: the secret of joy and rest (II). [According to what I have understood from the share buttons there, I do not believe it is wrong to post it here with the above citation] –

“The word joy is one of my favorite words.  We can use it to say things like, “She cried tears of joy.” Or “At the moment she was soaking in the joy of being alive.” In its verb form we say, “Rejoice!” As an adjective, “She uttered a joyful noise!” and as an adverb, “The children giggled joyfully.”
 Sometimes I think we come to Islam thinking it is better to be miserable. We carry around a ‘martyr’s attitude.’ This is not the martyr who struggles and fights, and is killed in the way of God. No, this is the whining and complaining ‘poor-me’ martyr.  Poor me I have to live in a small apartment; poor me I have to live in (and clean) a big house; poor me I’m not married; poor me I’m married; poor me I have only one child; poor me I don’t have any children; poor me I have to do the dishes every day; poor me I have to work; poor me I can’t work… and it goes on and on and on.
Every life in essence is the same. All have great and wonderful moments and all have trials.  The only difference is in our ‘rida’ (N.B – my translation rida=contentment, being pleased with a the state one finds oneself in) of this life, this stage of life, this moment.
Ibn al-Qayyim tells us that there is no mention of huzn (grief/ sadness/ sorrow) in the Qur’an except in two places. It is forbidden in the verse: {Do not weaken and do not grieve} (3:139), and it is rejected in the verse, {No fear shall afflict them, nor shall they grieve} (2:274). The secret behind this is that ‘huzn’ (grief/ sorrow) is of no benefit to the heart. It is most beloved to Shaitan (N.B my translation = satan) that the believer suffers in grief and depression so that it throws him off course and stops him in his tracks.
Indeed, the Prophet (s) sought refuge from grief, saying, “O Allah, I seek refuge in you from worry and grief.”
It is thus that Ibn al-Qayyim says, “Depression/grief weakens the heart, dampens one’s resolve and erodes one’s will, and there is nothing more pleasing to Shaitan than the sorrow of a believer. So rejoice! Spread cheer! Be positive and think good of Allah (z).  Trust in Him and rely on Him. Indeed you will find happiness and deep contentment in all circumstances.”
This is an awesome, joyful faith. Every day should have a joy jot – or something that brings you enough joy that it needs to be written down.  Bring joy to others, rejoice, spread joy. You are a Muslim. That is a joyful word in and of itself.  Let it be your first joy jot. “I am a Muslim… alhamdulilah!” 😀


To my dear Anse Tamara Grey, if you do ever read this, please know I send my salam to you and to all your students and that I am delighted joy is one of your favourite words, it is mine too! Allah have mercy on my dear grandfather who named me. May he be in the highest heaven and we be there to greet him!

This is my ‘joy jot’ for today! And what a great big joy jot it is. Hey, I love that phrase – “joy jot”! Thank you Sr. Tamara and thank you to W.B Abdullah, the author of ‘The Sandal‘ for sharing this with a global audience.