A vigil for minorities

Another day, another earthquake. Certainly not a hopeful way to start this post but indeed sometimes hope is hard. Perhaps that is why it is called ‘jihad’ (the struggle). The jihad to be steadfast, upright, positive, proactive, always working for a better world no matter what goes on around you. Yes, it is hard. Hard to smile, when you sometimes want to cry. Hard to keep believing and working when the mountain to climb is large and the way not clear. But then look at this wise saying from our beloved prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him);

“Wondrous are the affairs of the believer. His affairs are all good, and this is only the case for the believer. When something pleasing happens to him, he is thankful, and it is good for him. When something harmful happens to him, he is patient, and it is good for him.” (Sahih Muslim)

SubhahanaAllah! So then, true faith equates to an always happy disposition. You see, being patient is not a condition of worry and anxiety, rather it is the opposite, being a condition of joyful anticipation, a peaceful state of waiting. How can this be unless we completely believe in the justice, the ultimate justice and ultimate ‘rahma’ of God.

[Rahma is a fast becoming my favourite word and it’s meaning so deep it indeed begs the time to explain. Composed of the three radicals ‘r-h-m’, it includes all these meanings; love, mercy, compassion, nurturing, kindness, graciousness. In the Quran it is the first attribute Allah azza wajal uses to describe himself. Appearing in the second verse of Surah Fatiha, the opening chapter. One of the beauties of the arabic language is the root word system, where all the meanings of the derivatives of the root add to each word’s import. I am not doing a good job of explaining this so I’ll keep it simple and get to the point. One of the meanings of the root ‘r-h-m’ is womb. Yes, that beautiful complete-system-capsule we all spent the first months of life here on earth in! A safe, nurturing, loving, place where we are at complete peace, all our needs looked after. This meaning then given to the attribute of God. The Creator of mothers and source of ALL ‘rahma’ in the world. The scholars say that is why women are given such a high place in the islamic theology, as they embody this divine essence of Rahma. Indeed, of the attributes or ‘names’ of God we know in our tradition, about half are considered feminine while the other half masculine, for example, ‘jameel = ‘beautiful’, is feminine while ‘jalaal’ = ‘majestic’, is masculine. And that is why then God is beyond gender… what points these are to ponder upon…

ومن كل شئ خلقنا زوجين لعلكم تذكرون
And of every thing We have created pairs: That ye may receive instruction. (Quran 51:49)

But I have digressed a fair bit. My point was that sometimes grasping that immensity of love and mercy that is the divine attribute itself, is sufficient to rid the heart of anything but hope and joy. Talking about ‘rahma’ and its presence in the world though, one must comment on the sad state existent in some Muslim societies, where this immense source of ‘rahma’ in the community, i.e, women, are not given the place our beloved prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) gave to the fairer sex. As many have said, ‘if the women would play a greater part in world leadership many of the wars would have been averted’! Remember the story of Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba and the prophet Sulaiman (peace be upon him) in the Quran? Commentators on that story mention that it was Bilqis’s wisdom that averted a war and lead to harmony between their kingdoms. But I am in grave danger of another long digression, so inshaAllah more on this and other fascinating stories later on]

But coming back to where I began, then indeed an ‘effort-ful’ grasp of ‘rahma’ is sufficient to keep the heart full of hope. And we know that God is just. Completely just. So none will be wronged in the least. Our struggle then to be patient and wait that real justice.

And while we wait, our test is that we must remain true to what we know of justice. What for example, we learn in our holy book about justice. What the prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) taught us about justice. We have been taught, nay, commanded, that we must stand up for justice, for truth, even if it is against our own selves.

‘O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (Quran 4:135)

This we as Muslims must do. So after this long preamble to come to the point of this post. We must protect the rights of our brothers, no matter what religion, creed or denomination. No matter if they don’t care much for us. The events in Pakistan with the so called ‘blasphemy laws’ (heaven only knows where these came from, I find the whole thing very mind boggling!) and the seemingly open support by many for who can only be called a murderer has been incredibly painful to witness. In fact it is one of those things that one intrinsically can’t stomach so one turns away from. However here are details of the incidents for those of you not yet aware of it.

And that is why I was so especially glad to hear of the candlelight vigil to be held outside the Pakistani embassy in this city organized by ad hoc groups protesting the state Pakistan’s christian minority finds itself in. These efforts need more press I think.

And of this by the good people of Egypt, Muslim and Christians protesting attacks on the coptic community.

So then there is indeed hope. And in whatever way we can, whenever, wherever we are, when we find injustice we must oppose it. Trusting in the rahma of Allah, that trust keeping our hearts full of light and patience. A good struggle, to purify our souls.

Consider this powerful hadith from the messenger of God (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him). What a constant barometer for the condition of our faith it is!

“None of you truly believes until you love for your brother what you love for yourself” (Bukhari)

Thank you for your patience with this long not very well penned piece. Sharing has helped me and I thank you for that help. God bless and help us all.

Peace be upon you.

Signs of the last day

Peace be with you all, Assalamu alaikum,

The news continues to be bad. Not just bad in one sphere, but in many ways and at the same time it seems. The conflicts and political disturbances seem to be growing and the number/scale of natural disaster increasing. I don’t want to seem to be ‘scandal mongering’ or trying to make this post sensational in anyway, but I do wonder what you feel about how all this works in terms of the signs of the last day?

I grew up in a country in conflict (but relatively sheltered from the worst of it masha’Allah) and am not a stranger to hardship, both physical and emotional. Now masha’Allah living in this protected western country sometimes I wonder if I am becoming immune to the suffering of others. Whether the ‘unfamiliarity’ of the suffering keeps me away from a real empathy. Sometimes I wonder if I am really living here. For in the east, it seemed life was more real and consequently death was more real. Suffering and joy was real and empathy was real. And knowing how fragile life really is, our awareness of our place in the universe more real… and somehow, in some strange way, instead of depression by all this, what was the outcome was peace in the heart. Like we didn’t have to wonder, only to live. Only to live. I miss those days and hope I am not too accustomed to the ‘luxury’ of life in the west (e.g., hot water showers, affordable food and a variety of it). On another note, perhaps the east is now full of these luxuries too :), and like here, the people are being rocked in to a false somnambulant state.

I feel that the need to distribute the wealth of the world evenly is becoming urgent and extreme. Having experienced first hand the incredible rift between ‘haves’ (typified by the West) and the ‘have-nots’ (typified by the East) and now with this knowledge so widely spread (that is more people becoming aware of this, or one hopes that is what is happening) that more is not done is a sign of the depravity of the times? Allah protect us. I do however also feel that the good are getting ‘gooder’ and the bad, left to their devices often becoming ‘worse’. The former is a source of strength, hope and joy and should not be underestimated in any way.

It really does seem that things don’t make sense anymore and can’t be made sense of in any comprehensive manner. And that, more than anything else, is why I wonder if the signs of the last day are coming one after the other with increasing frequency. I would love to know anyone’s thoughts on this.

For your reference here is a site that has the signs of the last days with references at least for many of them. Not all the ahadith quoted are sahih, and they don’t confirm if they are hasan. But most seem to be from the ‘sihah sittha’ (the six most rigourous/well regarded books of hadith).

To end, a few lines below, hoping it makes some sense :), but only really wanting to say that prayer is refuge at these times.

Peace through the night in prayer,
My heart feels yet I am unable to utter,
Struck dumb by terror
A glimpse of the immensity of Thy power
Of what could be of us all.
Yet the prayer, unjolted
continues, somehow in my heart, it continues
and soon swells to words on the lips
O Lord, only because of the hope
that knowing You are ar-Rahman brings.
Peace through the night in prayer.

Allah (God) protect and forgive and teach us all.

Copyright 2011. JoyManifest’s blog. F R Zahir

On Leaders

How quickly the world is changing. It seems there is hardly time to take in one reality and then another unfolds, or breaks down, whichever way you want to look at it. First, the fall of one dictator in Tunisia in four short days. Hardly reported by the International media until it was over. Perhaps the pace of it all was too much to catch the attention of the air-wave controllers. Then the long protracted battle in Egypt. Seemingly long when it was going on as we all watched the news endlessly and felt the length of the days in empathy with those camped out in Tahrir square. Only then when the ‘Pharoah’ fell, to realize it was only 18 days. 18 days to end 30 years. Subhahana wa ta’ala. Perhaps Mubarak too celebrated the advent of 2011 without an inkling as to where he would be scarcely two months in to the new year. And now the situation in Libya.

Libya is shocking. One felt one could identify with the people on the streets of Egypt. Not only because I too come from a country with complex power politics and a long (too long) history of corruption, but because I think the world could identify with the ordinary people on Cairo’s streets. But then again we also had a better idea of what was going on in Egypt. And so it was an immense victory and a lesson, a deep lesson to a watching world. But Libya, Libya is so painful it almost numbs the mind. This type of killing of the innocent, that it takes place is numbing, that no one does anything to stop it (myself included)…is this forgivable? God forgive us all. If all we can do is pray, let us raise our hands and pray.

Pray for tyranny to end. For old men to be able to see past their own crusty and old perspective, that has rotted in to a putrid mess long past the time it was cast out. For the bloodshed to stop. For people to stop giving themselves the right to kill other people. What a great sin, are they not afraid? Allah protect us all. I do not know much of the politics of Libya, so I am afraid to comment further. But I do know that what is happening there is a great wake-up call. Not just that it seems these type things can take place. But as to the state of the people of the world.

When the revolution was ongoing, a dear Egyptian friend posted this on facebook, ‘if we are good, we will get good leaders’. A sweet sentiment that holds a very very deep truth. As Allah says to us in His immense communication, in His Holy book
“Truly, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” (Quran 13:11)

So this then what my friend was saying. And how beautifully the people of Egypt upheld that.

Today in the news, we hear of many Libyan top brass, ambassadors, emissaries, army colonels, ministers… all resigning. God bless these people of conscience. It takes great courage to stand up to tyranny anywhere, but more so in a country as autocratic as that, knowing there is not much hope of a way of escape from retribution should it come (God forbid!). May we all be of those people of conscience and join our voice to the voice of reason.

Many great people have said, that the only reason evil triumphs is because good is silent. 2011 seems a year, when Allah azza wa’jal is sending us wake-up call after wake-up call, in the natural world and the working of the human sphere. Sending us opportunity after opportunity to stop being silent and to join our voices to those who need us. One way of doing that is to join your voice to AVAAZ, the global online community. But more so than the outer manifestation of doing our part. I think what we really need to do is to examine our inner beings at this time. After all Allah won’t ask us about why we didn’t solve the global financial crisis or some such, we will only be asked as to our own self. Therefore all that is going on seems to be a great and urgent reminder that we (especially us Muslims, in whose lands all the present tumult seems to concentrate) revisit all we believe in and really make sure we are living in tune with our beliefs. This then a reminder first to myself, for I need to ‘clean up a lot in my cupboard’. Allah help me and help me keep my intention pure.

On another note, but related (to me at least), is a great lesson in how ignorant I am. Today I’ve learned how deeply the tribal system is still rooted in some parts of the world. And I wonder at it. Today I understand once more what a marvel it was that one man, could unite all these tribes under one banner in such a short time. Allah bless and elevate our beloved Muhammed.

May Allah help and guide us all.

Salimhum (grant them peace)

The child is father of the man
Truth upheld
Patiently praying

Water canon roar
drenched backs
They prostrate, only prostrate, only prostrate

A great peace
Settled in the heart

Of a lion rearing its head
A great eagle has taken wing
A great dove above it

Upon this land
The mother of civilization

Salimhum, ya Rabb

Like Pharoah

This poem was a result of many musings stimulated by dear friend’s facebook status posts as the crisis in Egypt unfolded. While that in itself is something to blog about (and inshaAllah reflections on it to come soon) here is in verse form a few of those thoughts; on power and absolute corruption of it, and on arrogance and how it blinds one’s reason.

Dedicated to those beautiful people who have lost their lives being good citizens… God protect them, forgive them, and grant an eternal peace, and God help us be better and help those who need our help.

Like Pharoah

Like Pharoah
who knew the truth
But could not accept
Could not bow.
Shed arrogance for humility
Shed ego to say ‘forgive me’

That his people hated him
Oppressed their lifetime
‘enough’ they cried
‘justice’ they cried
Freedom. Now.

Like Pharoah
Sign upon sign
you ignored, and
puny waves of retaliation
you unleashed
Shock and awe
you thought would muffle a nation.

Like Pharoah
You were wrong.

Truth stands clear from error.
we all know
who read the signs in the times
Your people hate you and you will go.

There is no prophet to lead them
And there is no need.
Prophet upon prophet has come and gone
left history in people’s memory
established lessons in people’s conscience.

Stand up for what you believe in
Stand up. Now.

The world recognizes
Not only your bravery
‘O people of Egypt
Not only your truth,

But the hypocrisy
of those who cloak their tacit approval
in intricate phrasealogy
careful meandering words, that mean nothing.

Speak the truth. Be clear.
Learn a lesson

From those dying on the streets
In honesty.

We can bear no more
‘enough’ they cried
‘justice’ they cried
Freedom. Now.

Copyright 2011. JoyManifest’s Blog. All Rights Reserved