Posts from July 2014

A Poem by Imam Al Ghazali

July 25, 2014

Imam Ghazālī woke up one early morning and as usual offered his prayers and then inquired what day it was, his younger brother, Ahmad Ghazālī replied, ”Monday.” He asked him to bring his white shroud, kissed it, stretched himself full length and saying “Lord, I obey willingly,” breathed his last.
And underneath his head rest they found the following verses; composed by him, probably, during the night:

“Say to my friends, when they look upon me, dead
Weeping for me and mourning me in sorrow
Do not believe that this corpse you see is myself
In the name of God, I tell you, it is not I,
I am a spirit, and this is naught but flesh

It was my abode and my garment for a time.
I am a treasure, by a talisman kept hid,
Fashioned of dust, which served me as a shrine,
I am a pearl, which has left it’s shell deserted,
I am a bird, and this body was my cage
Whence I have now floron forth and it is left as a token
Praise to God, who hath now set me free
And prepared for me my place in the highest of the heaven,
Until today I was dead, though alive in your midst.
Now I live in truth, with the grave – clothes discarded.
Today I hold converse with the saints above,
With no veil between, I see God face to face.
I look upon “Loh-i-Mahfuz” and there in I read
Whatever was and is and all that is to be.
Let my house fall in ruins, lay my cage in the ground,
Cast away the talisman, it is a token, no more
Lay aside my cloak, it was but my outer garment.
Place them all in the grave, let them be forgotten,
I have passed on my way and you are left behind
Your place of abode was no deweling place for me.
Think not that death is death, nay, it is life,
A life that surpasses all we could dream of here,
While in this world, here we are granted sleep,
Death is but sleep, sleep that shall be prolonged
Be not frightened when death draweth night,
It is but the departure for this blessed home
Think of the mercy and love of your Lord,
Give thanks for His Grace and come without fear.
What I am now, even so shall you be
For I know that you are even as I am
The souls of all men come forth from God
The bodies of all are compounded alike
Good and evil, alike it was ours
I give you now a message of good cheer
May God’s peace and joy for evermore be yours.”

This is not an Atheist Page

July 21, 2014

I’ve become quite a fan of Instagram (follow me!) I enjoy the pictures of food, fashion and quotes. One feature I quite like about Instagram is the ability to search for hashtags which I suppose you can do on most other social media but somehow it’s more prominent for me on IG. After putting up a picture and writing a bit about women needing to think for themselves when it comes to equating lack of clothes with freedom I ended it with the hashtag ‘thinkforyourself’. Upon finishing I hit the hashtag to see who else in the IG universe was using it. I guess it would come as no surprise, though I didn’t think about it at the time that quite a few picture- quotes about atheism would come up. I’m glad to not count myself amount the atheists, having been born and raised Muslim, but I was nevertheless intrigued to know what else was being hashtagged ‘Thinkforyourself’. A picture from Southpark came up it said “There’s no proof for God or Jesus so why do you believe in them… If I told you there was a big lizard who controlled everything would you believe it?’ Tada there’s your logic for proof against God, besides being an extremely poor attempt at logic it amazed be that the IG user would actually then use this to make fun of the idea of God and His existence. If for nothing else but the fact that Christianity is not the only way to believe in God.

I’m not sure what possessed me but I wrote to this IGer to tell them that turning away from Christianity should not equate to turning away from God. They responded that all religions are the same and proceeded to say that in Islam you are killed if you lose faith. I then proceeded to reply that I was American, my parents being Caribbean, and as deeply as I want all of my Muslim family to preserve their faith and for non-Muslim family members to enter Islam, no one would raise even a finger if someone lost their faith, and we would have no right to. The idea that Islam is a free-for-all religion is a disease that plagues even the Muslim community itself. The greatest example that Islam is not a vigilantly religion is the last messenger himself. When he and his followers were a small group in Mecca there were no mass murders in the night, there no beheadings, there were no terrorist attacks. When the Muslims were a small group oppressed in the city of Mecca they were simply oppressed. They starved, they were killed, they were captured it was not until the prophet, peace to him, established a state in Medina that wars organized fighting, was led against their former oppressors and others. As an Islamic State rules were established that could never be established in Mecca. So the idea that honor killings a man killing his wife, a family killing their daughter, etc. or terrorist attacks or murder can be orchestrated at any time when anyone feels they have the right to do so is against Islam. When we turn to Islam not only as an individual practice but as a state, as Medina was, things change. Just as there are laws for rape, murder, and treason in the US government there are also laws of similar kind in an Islamic state. Someone who lives outside of an Islamic state an “loses their faith” is very different from someone in an Islamic state that commits treason or apostasy. And this is not to say that many Muslim countries where some Islamic law is practiced don’t oppress there people, especially women.

10508048_349254951866305_1029832262_nOf course I couldn’t write all of this on IG. So I sufficed it to say that I nor the person I was corresponding with knew enough bout Islamic law to talk about the punishment for apostasy. They again replied that they did not believe in a “magic man in the sky” which was funny because neither do I, I said to the IGer who had now revealed to me their age of 17, that I hoped it would at least be okay for me to say that they shouldn’t close themselves off to the world of possibilities that lay before them. At some point I said “May God give you an opening” and they replied that this (their Instagram) was and atheist page and I was not going to succeed in convincing anyone about God or Islam by asking for God to give them an opening. By which I replied that it wasn’t my hope to convince anyone. Because I can’t convince anyone. How do you convince someone that the stars are not just ball of gas (or fire?) but also a sign of God’s existence? You don’t. The prophet, peace to him, couldn’t convince his own uncle, a man who bore witness to his miracles, to accept Islam. So how can anyone hope for any better? My teacher in tassawuf once said that we should pray for a good ending because we really don’t know what can come of us.

I related this to the IGer that people change. That my teacher in Islamic spirituality was once an agnostic and had a phD in philosophy before becoming Muslim. People change. The IG page may be an atheist page today and a page calling people to Islam tomorrow. I heard too many convert stories to think otherwise. And I’ve seen too many people stop practicing Islam to be secure enough that this is a “Muslim blog”. I’m only a human being hoping to God to earn His good pleasure, I have a great conviction that Islam is the truth, the way and the light but it’s only by God’s grace that I can count myself among the believers.

Are you a non-Muslim who has questions about Islam? If your Muslim what do you think of my response and is their anything you would have added or not said? Look forward to hearing from you, take care <3



July 18, 2014

My heart’s flying, God
Flying towards you
Please keep the debris from my eye

And the wind from my face
And please don’t let the passing storms
Keep me from going straight

A Woman’s Place Within Religion, Society and Culture

July 14, 2014

Shaykh: A male religious figure in Islam, usually someone who is well learned in traditional knowledge.

The term ‘Shaykha’ is probably not one known to many, it means a ‘female shaykh’, i.e. a women who has pursued and acquired sacred knowledge. Islam is often blamed for oppressing women, many point to “wife beating”, veiled women, and the lack of female leadership. Though the idea that Islam promotes wife beating is laughable when looking towards the example of Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, who was the last prophet of Islam and the idea that the veil itself is oppressive is no more of an empty statement then believing wearing a bikini is freedom but the lack of female scholarship… there may be a case to be made. The usual response is to simply say; “Islam has many female scholars” but if any ask their names it would become a stuttering affair. For anyone well versed in history it may become a bit easier, but what of the modern day religious scholars, is there a woman among them?

Though Islamic scholars in the west are incomparable to Christian religious figures in their cultural importance there are a few who stand out in the crowd. Imam Zaid Shakir and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf are two figures that not only hold importance to Muslim Americans but also to their non- Muslim counterparts. Both Imam Zaid and Shaykh Hamza have studied long year’s overseas pursuing Islamic knowledge. Recently they both, along with Hatim Bazian created Zaytuna College, a school dedicated to religious studies as well as liberal arts. Both men and women attend the college, studying sacred and secular knowledge, side by side. Will this be the impetus needed to produce female scholarship?

Though it is a nice thought that men and woman pursuing Islamic knowledge side by side will lead to those same women pursuing Islamic scholarship in the future, it is unclear that the beginning will be as even handed at the end. When I spoke to my sister, a graduate of Zaytuna, a while back she said to me “they want us to wait to get married, and focus on our studies”. Waiting for four years is palpable but serious Islamic studies takes more then a fears years especially when being coupled with liberal arts. Serious Islamic scholarship is far more of a feat, whether it’s 3 or 5 or 10 years of religious study many in pursuit of scholarship may purposefully delay having a family or have a family with the understanding that it will be a struggle. A struggle for whom? And in what way? Al Ghazali and Ibn Arabi are two scholars who come to mind, both left their wives for an extended period of time –years, in the pursuit of sacred knowledge. There is a story of another scholar who left his wife for so long that upon returning she could no longer recognize him. Where are the stories of the women who left their families for years in pursuit of sacred knowledge? Non- existent. And this is not true merely of Islam, any religious tradition would be hard-pressed to find a woman who pursued sacred knowledge for years and upon returning found her loving husband and children waiting for her.

What we do find, sparsely, is a story of a woman like Rabia Al Adawi (a great scholar of Islamic spirituality) who was offered marriage by Hasan Al Basri, one of the greatest Islamic scholars in the tradition, and declined. And yet most women want to be married, the possibility of having both seems implausible. Is this imbalance just a part of the course? Women stay home overseeing household affairs while men pursue sacred knowledge or women forgo family for sacred knowledge? The nice answer would be that woman in the modern day can have it all, but this saying has revealed its pitfalls even in mainstream culture. The issue relates to the bigger unresolved issue of a “woman’s place”. It was once said, in American society, that a women’s place is in the home, then feminist came along and told women ‘No’ women belong in the public space. But since then women have struggled with having it all. Women have been longing to keep their feminine qualities while taking on traditionally male roles, and struggling. Some point to the answer of universal daycare with out dealing with the quintessential issue that women may actually want to be care giver of their children and the real struggle is wanting to and feeling forced to take on traditional male role and feeling like it’s simply all too much.

Love, A Poem by Rabia Al Adawi

July 11, 2014

I have loved Thee with two loves –
a selfish love and a love that is worthy of Thee.
As for the love which is selfish,
Therein I occupy myself with Thee,
to the exclusion of all others.
But in the love which is worthy of Thee,
Thou dost raise the veil that I may see Thee.
Yet is the praise not mine in this or that,
But the praise is to Thee in both that and this.

After the First Week

July 7, 2014

To be honest this Ramadan sort of crept upon me. I spent a lot of energy for the past two months (if not more) advertising and organizing MCVspeaks 2014 for my company Modern Community Vintage. Ramadan fell the following week and I had little time to prepare, contemplate or even anticipate its arrival. In past years before Ramadan I would make my Ramadan list. It would typically go like this: dress more modestly, watch less/no TV, listen to less/no music. I’m not sure if there were any other consistent goal but those were always on the list. In the past couple of years since taking a spiritual path in Islam I no longer watch TV or listen to music and though I’m sure there’s always room for improvement, I dress fairly modestly with muted colors and a covered style. 

10387981_421289761345982_471875927_nSo the old goals have been achieved year long, but what are the new goals? Over the past weekend I went to an iftaar with my family to a family’s house in New Jersey. As we rode to our destination the city streets and apartment buildings turned into massive stretches of trees as far as the eyes could see, small creeks and upon our destination we were no less impressed, a beautiful home and backyard surrounded by greenery and warm welcomes. We sat in the backyard, greeted the other guests and waited for the beloved time of iftaar (sunset) to come in. Fifteen minutes before iftaar one of the gentlemen stood to give a small lecture. It was no more than fifteen minutes but it was powerful and concise. “The fear…” he said “… is not that you will stop fasting in Ramadan… the fear is that it will lose it’s meaning…” It’s been more difficult for me to come up with a clear Ramadan plan in the past years because my old tried and true plans are no longer relevant. Another thing the gentleman said in his talk was that it’s impressive to know Al Fatiha (the first chapter of the Koran) when you’re younger or have become a new Muslim, but it’s not impressive to only know Al Fatiha when you’ve been Muslim for 10, 20 years.

Maybe at some point it was impressive that I stop listening to music or traded in my “bun” headscarf style and draped it over my shoulders. But it’s not anymore. There has to be some new goal something else to achieve, some higher height to reach. Certainty I haven’t reached perfection but some how dealing with the same old things for so long and finally overcoming it there is an empty feeling of –what’s next?


This Ramadan for me hasn’t been the greatest –yet, because I’m not quite sure what to do with my time and I don’t find I have the energy or stamina to do much of anything. But I guess I do know what to do: more remembrance, more reading the Koran, more prayers and less time wasting. But for some reason this first week was a bit weak for me. Next week I’m heading to Jordan, being in an environment where everyone is living in that place only for the sake God I assume there will be people constantly remembering God, reading the Koran, and praying late at night. I hope this spirit will revive my Ramadan, so the beginning is not like the end.

How about you? How’s your Ramadan going? And if your not Muslim what are some things you’d like to know about this Islamic holy month?

My Lord’s Knowledge, A Poem by Imam Al Haddad

July 4, 2014

My Lords knowledge has sufficed me
from asking or choosing
For my dua and my agonizing supplication
is a witness to my poverty.
For this secret I make supplication
in times of ease and times of difficulty
I am a slave whose pride
is in his poverty and obligation
O my Lord and my King
You know my state
And what has settled in my heart
of agonies and preoccupations
Save me with a gentleness
from You, O Lord of Lords
Oh save me, Most Generous
before I run out of patience

My Lords knowledge has sufficed me
from asking or choosing
O One who is swift in sending aid
I ask for aid that will arrive to me swiftly
It will defeat all difficulty
and it will bring all that I hope for
O Near One Who answers
and All-Knowing and All-Hearing
I have attained realization through my incapacity,
my submission and my brokenness

My Lords knowledge has sufficed me
from asking or choosing
I am still standing by the door, so please my Lord
have mercy on my standing
And in the valley of generosity, I am in itikaf (solitary retreat)
So, Allah, make my retreat here permanent
And Im abiding by good opinion (of You)
For it is my friend and ally
And it is the one that sits by me and keeps me company
All day and night

My Lords knowledge has sufficed me
from asking or choosing
There is a need in my soul, O Allah
so please fulfill it, O Best of Fulfillers
And comfort my secret and my heart
from its burning and its shrapnel
In pleasure and in happiness
and as long as You are pleased with me
For joy and expansion is my state
and my motto and my cover
My Lords knowledge has sufficed me
from asking or choosing

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