Commentary

Minimalism vs. Versatility

October 16, 2015

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“When the earth is shaken with its [final] earthquake. And the earth discharges its burdens. And man says, “What is with it?” -That Day, it will report its news. Because your Lord has commanded it. That Day, the people will depart separated [into categories] to be shown [the result of] their deeds. So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” 99, 1-8

After reading what I thought to be two excellent articles on the “slow fashion, pay per wear, capsule wardrobe, wear the same thing everyday… movement” I was both surprised and unsurprised by the commentary below both articles. Both had the same basic idea, buy less and get more out of what you wear. One of the articles focused mostly on cost, buy good quality clothes that you love less often and pay a significant price for them forcing yourself to put more thought behind each purchase. The writer specifically suggested not purchasing anything less than $150, just enough to make the spender a bit more self aware. The comments on this article ranged from people who thought the idea was ridiculous and people who thought the writer was out of touch to those who didn’t think it made a difference in terms of what the clothing factory worker would be paid. Is a $150 shirt really guaranteeing the worker get paid more than the $15 shirt or is it merely putting more money in to the designers’ hand? On the second article it emphasized being iconic, less stressed, and less time wasted on choosing from a plethora of outfit choices. I understood the negative feedback on the first article since telling people to spend more money on something they can get for significantly less is never going to be popular, the negative feedback on the second article came in a more interesting form -what about versatility? What about those who enjoy choosing a new outfit every morning?

I was really surprised by the second round of feedback. It’s a good point, if you love fashion then why wouldn’t you want to enjoy a versatile closet and a range of choices? And if, to tie it in to the first batch of commentary, there is nothing to show workers get paid more if you buy less but more expensive items, what’s the real incentive?

Firstly I’d have to say the mistake the first article made was to not also emphasize and encourage buying American made clothes and clothes made from any country in which there are regulatory laws on work environment, places were unions and minimum wage exists. My guess is that anyplace -besides America, in Western Europe would abide by those standards, I’m sure there are other places but that would take some research. The last time I went shopping at a local store in my neighborhood I was pleasantly surprised to find two garments that were ‘made in America’ and both were less than $50. Another issue that should be further emphasized is the environment. The more we continue to produce tons of stuff we don’t need we hurt the environment, buying less allows us not to continue to contribute to the earth’s burden. Something we usually forget and will forever stick with me (God willing) from the documentary ‘No Impact Man‘, “‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is in order of importance”. If we refuse to reduce or reuse at the very least we must recycle and give our old clothes to those in need.

I sometimes think about how much money I spend on myself compared to others and I must say it’s shameful. The amount of money we spend on frivolous things to make our selves feel better, to raise our self esteem, to express our selves, the less money we have to spend on the things that actually matter. Imagine what would happen if we bought just %15 less clothing items and allocated that money to the poor or to a worthy cause. For me that is the greatest motivation behind the movement that can be simply put as “being more intentional with one’s time and money”.

Here are the articles I referred to and one bonus which I also love:

  1. The Case For Expensive Clothes
  2. Wearing The Same Clothes EveryDay

Bonus: hello.jcrew.com/2014-10-oct/alice-gregory

WE NEED OUR SHUYUKH

June 5, 2015

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“There has been nothing greater in my life after the shahada than following the tariq”
-Sheikh Nuh

There are real sheikhs out there who abuse their students. I think most of the abuse is spiritual and sometimes marital –if a student becomes a wife, and despite some reactionaries I think it is rarely sexual. A simple reason is that men and women have such strict boundaries that physically inappropriate behavior is very unlikely. A man and woman being in a closed room together would ring off alarm bells in the Muslim community. And both parties involved know that sex outside of marriage is blatantly impermissible. This is something we take very seriously in the Muslim community. But men do take advantage of their students through emotional and spiritual manipulation. How often does this occur? I don’t know. Many criticized Ustadha Zaynab for not naming names but I think it is as wise of her not to do so. To name names would be to give the false illusion that if we just get rid of a few bad apples the problem will dissolve itself. But the problem isn’t (just) the particular men engaged in spiritual abuses but the behavior that all men in that position and the women in their lives should be very aware of and make the ultimate effort to carry themselves with adab and avoid the pitfalls of “shaykhy crushes”.

As someone in a tariqa I believe in the value of having a personal guide. I think it’s unfortunate for Ustadha Zaynab’s article to be used as an excuse to “cast suspicion over our teachers” or to no longer venerate them. There are few things greater than taking baya (oath) with a sheikh and dedicating one’s self to a spiritual path. It is not for everyone, but for some like myself would be incomplete without it. People will say bad things about any sheikh, especially if he is popular, as a mureed I would advise anyone considering a tariqa to watch their potential sheikh closely for themselves. When I wanted to become a mureed I went to my sheikh’s wife and she advised me to wait; read the sheikh’s book, listen to his lectures and make istikara before making the decision. Our trust is in Allah and following a sheikh –someone more knowledgeable than you who has been on the path longer than you, is a means to do so.

“Whoever thinks the path is closed should wonder if he has not therefore closed it on himself”
-Sheikh Nuh

Some are under the mistaken belief that there simply are no true sheikhs left. That’s not how God works, the doors of mercy are always open and saints are always among us. There are a lot of rotten people who want mureeds to follow them for their own desires but there are still sheikhs who are teachers only for the sake of Allah. I remember before becoming a mureed listening to a lecture with Sheikh Nuh where he said “Ask Allah to guide you, that is one dua that is always answered”. The solution to the problem of spiritual abuse is not to simply “turn away from our sheikhs” as I’ve seen some readers comment on Ustadha Zayab’s article; it is to turn back to Allah. The Sheikh is a means, not an end. Before I left for home (from Jordan) I went to the Zawiya for the Latifiyyah lecture. As I walked up the steps I became almost frightened, “Where is Sheikh Nuh?!?” I thought. The prominent voice broadcasted throughout the Zawiya wasn’t his. I turn back and started to make my way home until I came across a friend who said to me “You’re coming back, right?” In that moment I said to myself “What are you doing? The tariq is not about Sheikh Nuh it’s about Allah” And I went up and made my dhikr.

“The shariah is higher than the sheikh”
-Sheikh Nuh

One of the signs of a true sheikh is his knowing that the law is above him. And you should know the law is above him. We all have, now more than ever, practical means to learn fiqh. If someone claims to be a sheikh (of any kind) and does not sacrilege shariah, leave them. The very least anyone of us can do is avoid the haram and do the obligatory; a sheikh should be an example and avoid the makruh as well. God’s law is higher than any sheikh and if you want to protect yourself from spiritual abuse you must know the law by which to judge the sheikh’s behavior.

Our community is in desperate need of a religious revival. Anyone who takes Ustadha Zaynab’s article as a means to turn away from shuykuh has come to a dangerous conclusion. The solution to poor human interaction is to improve it, not to end it, especially when what’s at stake is the acquisition of Islamic knowledge, and knowledge is the right of every believer, wherever he finds it, he takes it.

How does that make you feel?

May 31, 2015

How does that make you feel?
Introspection is a very important part of the work of a psychological. Talking about king the silence, explaining emotions, reflecting on reactions are all valuable to move the clinical process forward. That does not mean it has a place in life outside the clinician’s room. Even in the clinician’s room the process is frustrating and akward. Having a spouse ask you ‘how that makes you feel’ or to reflect on a given emotional action is less valuable in real life. In real life the primary goal is not merely self reflection but creating better relationships -which self reflection enables you to do. And example is when some says “I’m sorry I you felt that way” instead of acknowledging the hurt you are responsible for, rightly or wrongly, you place the focus on the person who is hurt and their responsibilities for the emotions. Self reflection on why things make you feel the way they make you feel is a valuable to for self growth but in a relationship acknowledging the other person is hurt without acknowledging your role in their hurt can lead to rejection and distance.

Childhood connection
Lots of people I the psychological field *don’t* care about a person’s childhood and don’t think it’s necessary in understanding someone or helping them change. Not everything is connected to your childhood and trying to connect everyone’s bad behavior to that time long ago is not only painfully annoying but shallow and deterministic. Over the course of several sessions -sometimes lasting years, psychologists concerned with childhood connection can do so in a valuable way that frees the client and help them to reflect and heal. Casual conversations about so and so being like such and such because of their childhood do neither and are too often and excuse rather than a starting point for change.

Psychological parlance in everyday language
Islamopobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Why?!? A phobia is a psychological disorder, none of the “phobias” listed above are. I suppose people think they’ll be taken more seriously if they use scientific language. People may very well be afraid of Islam, homosexuality or transgender and I’m not against it having a word but why conflate clinical psychological disorder and the everyday dislike or even hate for a particular group.

In short, be a normal person and just make things better when you’ve hurt someone instead of assessing their psychological state, be empathetic with the person you have in front of you instead of with their assumed childhood, hate can be taken seriously without giving it pseudo scientific names….

Some Commentary

May 29, 2015

tumblr_np1w181Lwq1qapk2qo1_500I saw this on my FB friend Ben’s status and wanted to give some commentary on it, he’s quoted fully in italics and my comments are underneath.

“Just some thoughts I wanted to share. I apologize ahead of time for the length. To know and understand the degree to which a painting has been marred and disfigured must be based on knowing and understanding what the painting was designed to look like in the first place.

Similarly, human beings should properly understand themselves as image bearers of God – hence have intrinsic value – in order to understand the gravity and perversion of sin and its effects on the human person.”

The 99 names of God –though there are more, are reflected in humanity. His names like The Merciful, The Compassionate, The Beautiful, though you will not find its exact likeness in humanity there are similar attributes within humanity. The difference is God’s attributes are absolute and not dependent on His creation or even His action. He was The Merciful before the existence of creation whereas a human being would only be said to be merciful after showing themselves to be so.

“We are valuable intrinsically because God made us in His image. He pursued and died for us because we were worth dying for unlike the rest of creation. If our value and worth cannot be quantified, then it’s of a complete different kind of value from other objects in the universe.”

The human being has certainly been elevated above other creation as the “vicegerent”. When God told the angels he would create humans on earth they responded, “will you create those who spill blood on earth?” He said you know not what I know, he gave the human being a level of intellectual capacity he did not give the angels and he gave us the ability to worship him through free choice, which he did not give the angels, this elevated us above all creation. The reference to death is, I believe to Jesus Christ. God further explains to us in the Quran that Jesus Christ did not die but God made him appear to die, took him up to heaven, and that he is waiting to be sent down in the last days. This of course does not belittle Christ’s sacrifice for us in his life, but a clarification that God did not allow him to die. In the fundamentals of Aqidah, faith, we know that God does not die, one of his attributes is that he is All Living, Eternal.

“Hence God didn’t pursue us because some or most of us behaved well. If our value and redemption and representation in Christ at the cross were exemplified and based on our behaviors, Christ could _not_ have died for all humanity or represented every human being in the Incarnation. Why? Not all human beings have equal instances of behavior. But all do share one thing in common without differentiation: bearing God’s image.”

This is a valuable point, the differential treatment/ outlook we must apply to human behavior and the intrinsic human self. My own spiritual guide, may God preserve him, was born a Christian, became agnostic and later became Muslim. The reality of a person is never truly known through the mere observing eye. God’s mercy for a person is not solely based on behavior. Yes God has mercy for all human life, and he has another for particular human beings in the next life. Christ on the cross is a powerful image and though an image of Jesus is disagreeable from a law standpoint the power of the image is undeniable and a reminder of his sacrifice. Jesus Christ and all prophets did in fact “die for our sins” in that they gave their lives to save us from them. The literally death of one person to free many souls from sins is inconsistent with the accountability we must all have to God. Intercession, prayer, and great sacrifice can alleviate sins from others but a savior who completely washes our sins doesn’t seem compatible with our individual responsibility to God.

“God pursued us because His image is borne in our natures. If God wanted restoration and redemption for us, He’d need to come with a complete, unadulterated nature of the divine as well as a complete, unadulterated nature of human beings. Both God and man had to be simultaneously present in the God-man Jesus Christ.”

It is a good explanation of the concept. One attribute of God is that he is not like anything in his creation. Divinity, Godliness, etc. embodied in sainthood and prophet-hood is possible. Jesus Christ was a man, a prophet, which makes him a highly refined version of a human being, one might even say he reached the heights of humanity surpassing even the angels. God is not imitable and so Jesus Christ could neither be nor become God. God gives us a chance at redemption in every instance of prophet-hood, sainthood, and messenger. Also in ever prayer and ever act of worship; the chance for redemption is available.

“Sin wasn’t brought to justice at the cross and death at the resurrection because bad and wicked behavior was rampant. Sin was put on Christ because He bore the impact – concerning the totality of the human race – of the damage on the imago dei that sin had wrought.”

Jesus Christ certainly bared the sins of humanity as every prophet did; it was their sole job to save us from our selves. They truly bore our entire burdens on their back, though this alleviated much of our sins -God warns the prophet about worrying himself to death. Through their prayers for us, we still has the freedom to adhere or not to their message, the ultimate relationship and responsibility is with God and each individual human being, something the prophets cannot alleviate us from.

“Hence not mere behavior modification will do the trick but a reorientation of the spiritual component of man that was originally designed to relate to and know God. Since God designed it, only God can fix it and He calls sinners to repent and yield themselves to Him by allowing Christ to re-orchestrate that part of human nature. Sin is so perverse because of what it does to something that good.”

This is a beautiful reminder. My spiritual guide has said to us many times, it is not about doing something but about being something. Someone can outwardly be a saint but inwardly be ruined if they don’t embody (or strive to embody) the spirit and servant-hood of Christ (or Muhammad, or Mary or Asiyah, or several other of our saints and prophets). Doing is not the only task but being, being someone in alignment with God’s will.

“I hope NOBODY thinks I’m elevating man above what he actually is. Man, while much more valuable than the rest of creation, is finite and limited. While human beings are the crown of God’s creation and design, they are also very sinful.”

Another important point. Human beings while being the Caliph (leaders) on earth are still human beings. We are not God; we are imperfect and flawed both in ability and character.

“I’m just trying to give a picture of how we can understand the effects of sin in light of our understanding of the imago dei. Mankind is that valuable that God should pursue him unsolicited. Man is that wicked that God isn’t obligated to rescue him given man’s deliberate and conscious choice to reject Him. But God esteemed and valued man regardless of his condition and deemed man worth pursuing, dying for, and being raised from the dead.”

Seeking understanding is a valuable part of being a human being. Taking sin seriously and attempting to understand it and avoid it is one of our most valuable purposes on earth. Islam is a continuation of monotheism on the same path of Christianity and Judaism and whatever other names were given to the belief in one God. As a Muslim, one accepting this final form of monotheism, I don’t see myself at odds with Christianity I simply believed there is an error in their belief that Jesus is the literal son of God (or God himself) and in their rejection or ignoring of the final messenger who came with what Jesus Christ came with. I will end with the words of negus, an Ethiopian king who provides safety to the Muslims who were being persecuted in their homelands he was at the time Christian. This is his reaction when learning of the prophet’s teaching about Jesus Christ.

“We say about him that which our prophet, peace be upon him, has brought, saying, he is the servant of God, His Prophet, His Spirit, His Word, which he breathed in to Mary the Virgin”

The Negus took a stick from the ground and said, “By God, Jesus, the son of Mary, does not exceed what you have said by the length of this stick” (Seerah of Ibn Hisham)

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