Posts from January 2015

|The Description|

January 19, 2015

This poem is an attempt to physically describe one of the greatest saints of our time. I wrote this poem for myself, others and maybe one day my own children in order to hold on to the image of a man that means so much to me and many others. What matters most is of course not his physic but his message, which will be carried on way past his existence, but his image also matters. Remembering the way people appear before us helps us to hold them in our mind’s eye and brings to life the life they lived and the gift their presence gave to humanity.

May God accept this small effort.


The Description
Small eyes
And a modest disposition
From his status,
We all listened
His face was small
Almost shrunken in

His eyes were always focused
On something else
His turban
Wrapped so perfectly
It’s a wonder he got it so neat,
time and time again

His clothes were a cream-white
Maybe even golden
His robe didn’t drag on the floor
Though I never saw his shoes

He stood at maybe 5’9” or 5’10”
Everywhere he went
He went swiftly
It was hard to catch him
Sometimes he walked so swiftly,
We couldn’t stand for him

He always sat on the floor,
Crossed legged
Except for that time he hurt his knee
I almost cried knowing he wouldn’t sit in a chair,
Unless he really had to
His jokes were always forthcoming
Sometimes you might miss them
They were never laugh out loud slap your legs jokes
They were funny

When you entered his room
to sit with him
He stood for you
And when you left he gave
you a small gift

He was like the grandfather
I never knew

His skin was a reddish cream
He couldn’t hide the fact that
he was white
Not as if he tried
Sitting before him I could
never see the typical barrier
Of white and black
Or man and woman
He was just a saint who I’d been looking for but was told didn’t exist

Yet there he was
There he is

His hand movements where always strong
And purposeful
Strokes in the air for emphasis

He didn’t have any kids
But he is like a father to us all
Once I saw him walk up a steep hill

That’s what he was trying to
teach us

Move on
Move ahead

I don’t mean to speak
As if he’s dead
The past allows me to remove
Myself from the inevitable fact
That one-day
Sheikh Nuh will be gone

And what then?
And what then?


Other Recent Poems: Take Care | For Our Mother | Without Innocence

Long Division and Penelope’s Honor

January 10, 2015

I was looking through my blog categories yesterday to see how I could simplify and get rid of a few. I came across “review” and thought -when have I ever done a review? Here’s one and now here’s another. I picked up the book Long Division: A Novel (also titled ‘Miss Harper Can Do It’) by Jane Berentson years ago. I was doing my usual random tour of Barnes and Nobles when I came across this book. I’m not sure what drew me to it but I settled on it found a sit and started reading. I couldn’t put it down, two days in a row I went to the book store to read this book. I was so in to it that I told my self there was no point in buying it and I could just come to the cafe to read (cafe and book store are the same place) but I didn’t and I eventually forgot about the little book.

Fast forward to my technologically enhanced life and I decided to get it on my kindle. The spark, the inability to put the book down, just wasn’t there anymore and so I abandoned it once again. Last night however I opened it back up and read until 3am when I finished. Whether it was the spark or pure insomnia I don’t know but I didn’t put it down until I read every word -with the exclusion of footnotes (why would you put footnotes in a fiction book?). So I will warn by say this book doesn’t get much of a halal rating and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to my fellow muslim. With that out the way, let’s talk about the book.

***Complete Spoiler***
The book is about an American woman, Annie, in her mid twenties whose husband David (it’s her boyfriend but let’s say husband anyway) is off in the Iraqi war. Before he leaves they are madly is love, everything is fine, and everyone supports their union. He leaves for war and she finds support from her parents, an old lady in a nursing home (Loretta), a pet chicken, her colleagues and her best friend Gus. She is alone an lonely. Though her life continues she misses him terribly. As time moves on she depends increasingly upon Loretta and Gus. Her love for David begins to dwindle as time moves on due to their separation, their superficial “How are you? I’m fine” conversations and her growing feeling the they share little in common. It comes as no surprise that old friend Gus increasingly fills the void. Both surprisingly and unsurprisingly her and David do not last and she moves on to Gus.

The story is told in a way you’d expect a typical young white Amrican girl to speak -lots of sarcasm, melodrama and overanalyzing. And that is what makes the book pretty funny. If you’re willing it can also lead to some deeply philosophical questions especially about relationships. When the Gus character first appears on the scenes I tell the character, sometimes out loud, “No, don’t!”. Spending time with someone is an easy trap to making you feel you’re in love with them. Distance can widen the gap between love making you question whether it’s real. Or is it the other way around? Does distance, as the old saying goes, “make the heart grow fonder”? And would you only fall for someone you spend time with if the love is really there? Do you have an obligation to your current relationship no matter how bad or boring it is to try your absolute best before bowing out? I spoke about some of this in The Great Divorce but the questions still rattle inside me. An in this situation in particular -Is it honorable to leave a man at war?

Penelope weavingWhich brings me to Penelope. Penelope you may know, if you’re American and went through high school, is the wife of Odysseus. Without going back in to English class 101 it suffices to say he was off at war (and other adventures) for 10 years with no one knowing whether he was alive or dead and she waited for his return.

Many people write off this bit as misogynist because Odysseus was not faithful (physically) to his wife while she was, they claim this sets up an unfair standard that women must be chase and male chastity is of no importance. While there’s value to that argument the misfortune is Odysseus’s not Penelope’s. It’s not unfortunate that Penelope didn’t get to live by the same (low) standards of Odysseus’s infidelity. If their should be any equality created it should be that his standards are raised to her level of fidelity. But more than that I see the act of Penelope in and of itself as honorable. How honorable it is to wait on the love of your life instead of giving up and jumping on any of the many suitable suitors who came seeking her hand. The honor is her honor. It not simply an act of loyalty but an act of honoring her heart, her body and her household instead of selling it to the highest bidder. Would it be wrong if she did decided to get married after 2 years of missing Odysseus? No but there would be nothing honorable about that, it would be acceptable run of the mill that’s life kind of stuff, it wouldn’t be worth thinking about, contemplating or theorizing.

So the woman, Annie, in Long Division didn’t get this honor. But I didn’t think she was a bad person for falling out of love and moving on. It just felt very “basic”. It was what anyone would do, it wasn’t an exceptional act it was just typical. I don’t think anyone will be talking about or analyzing Long Division for hundreds of years to come because in the end it’s not that interesting. David moves away, his girl gets close to her male best friend, her and David are not more, she moves on to best friend. Nothing quite remarkable about that and though Gus, the male best friend is quite the catch, I think we’re clued in willingly or not that this won’t last either, Gus says in speaking about his last break up, “I was tired of her. Isn’t that the reason? I mean, unless one person does something particularly evil to the other person, most relationships end at the pasty hands of boredom”. Boredom.

Previous Reviews: Her Movie

The Moon

January 5, 2015


Sometimes I quote hadith or quran and don’t bother looking for the source or putting a citation. Partly out of laziness but also because I feel it comes across more naturally and personally. I posted this picture on Facebook and wanted to give some context: Jaabir Ibn Samurah, may Allaah be pleased with him, narrated: “I saw the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, on a brightly moonlit night wearing a red garment. Then I started looking at him and at the moon. And for me, he was more beautiful than the moon [At-Tirmithi and Ad-Daarimi].” This Islamic month is now Rabi Al Awwal. All over the world for many years this is the month Muslims try their best to do more than usual to celebrate the prophet, peace to him. The least of which is to do a maulid on the 12th which is the day many believe him to be born (for discussion on the maulid read here). For various reasons many Muslims in the west don’t celebrate the maulid for myself I went to my first maulid in my twenties. I think that’s unfortunate because the maulid is a time for celebration and remembering the life of the man who has given us so much.

I’ve now been to four maulid celebrations and tried once to orchestrate one in my home. So what is a maulid? The common thread I’ve experience is simply remembrance. The most recent maulid I attended (and the best one I’ve attended so far) has been here in Amman, Jordan. We had a grand maulid for women only. A few women took the lead of singing but we all sang together. Songbooks were passed out so everyone could sing along and sweets were handed out after. Joy is another common thread running through each maulid I’ve attended. When people are together remembering Allah and his prophet how can there be anything but joy? I also loved the maulids I went to back home but because they were with men and women (with appropriate separation) the comfort of singing along wasn’t there. But there was also a lecture on loving the prophet given by my fiqh teacher and another sheikh in one maulid I attend which was lovely.

In another, actually the first I ever attended, I honestly didn’t enjoy it. One man sang in the front and we all listened. Was it ok to sing along? Was it ok to clap my hands? Move my head? I didn’t know and it seemed no one else did either so it became more of an experience of watching a performer (never mind that he had a cold so he wasn’t on his A-game, lol).

In my self hosted mini maulid I really enjoyed remembering the prophet, peace to him, with my family and hope we can do it again when I get back home. This month is a chance to do more, our whole life is a chance. Moments like this -the maulid, the month of Rabi Al Awwal, the month of Ramadan, etc. are ways to remember why we are here. Sometimes we get so caught up in our day to day life that our only worship becomes only our five prayers a day. Maybe if we’re in a tariqa our worship is our obligatory dhikrs and our five prayers. But we easily forget to strive. The maulid and Rabi Al Awwal isn’t about anything in particular, big gatherings, salawats on the prophet, group dhikr, small gathering, reading hadith, singing, etc. are all just options, the point is to take the opportunity to remember why we’re here, which is to worship God. And we wouldn’t be here to worship God if it wasn’t for An Nabi, peace and blessings to him.

I don’t write these type of posts because I’m right. I’m under no delusion that I’m a good practitioner of Islam or tassawuf but what I know for sure in that Allah has given me an abundance of opportunities to be mindful, to be conscience, and to remember. And so I share them with you.

*In sha Allah I want to start getting back in to writing every Monday or at least two Monday out of the month to share whatever beneficial knowledge I can. And I hope to start “The how of the Prophet (peace to him)” series in my next post. I’m excited to write it because it also gives me a reason to delve in to the prophet’s life, peace to him, and I take up a class on seerah, in sha Allah… to know him is to love him

Was Salaam


Previous Essays: The Great Divorce | Debunking The Theory Of… | Finding God And…

Take care of yourself

January 4, 2015

Like a baby
I watched you grow
And though it’s hard to say
I think you know
Take care of yourself when I’m not around

I really meant it
When I said that the moonlight
Shines in your eyes
And though space threatens to
Estrange us
With me you’ll never be
A stranger

Take care of yourself
When I’m not around

I know you tried your best
And still you failed hard
I know you were depressed
And still
I cared for you
I hope you’ll hold your head
Towards the sky light
I look in to your eyes your future is bright

You won’t see me cry
Won’t even say goodbye

Take care of yourself
When I’m not around

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