Saturday, June 30, 2007

Music and al-Kindi

Ya‘qūb ibn Is′ḥāq al-Kindī (يعقوب بن اسحاق الكندي‎) (c. 801–873 CE), also known by the Latinised version of his name Alkindus to the Western world, was a Muslim Arab scientist, philosopher, mathematician, physician, and musician. Al-Kindi was the first of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers, and is best known for his efforts to introduce philosophy to the Arab world.

He was born and educated in Kufa, before going to pursue further studies in Baghdad. Al-Kindi became a prominent figure in the House of Wisdom (a library and translation institute in Abbassid-era Baghdad. It is considered to have been a major intellectual center of the Islamic Golden Age), and a number of Abbasid Caliphs appointed him to oversee the translation of Greek scientific and philosophical texts into the Arabic language. This contact with "the philosophy of the ancients" (as Greek philosophy was often referred to by Muslim scholars) had a profound effect on his intellectual development, and lead him to write a number of original treatises of his own on a range of subjects ranging from metaphysics and ethics to mathematics and pharmacology.

The central theme underpinning al-Kindi's philosophical writings is the compatibility between philosophy and other "orthodox" Islamic sciences, particularly theology. And many of his works deal with subjects that theology had an immediate interest in. These include the nature of God, the soul and prophetic knowledge. But despite the important role he played in making philosophy accessible to Muslim intellectuals, his own philosophical output was largely overshadowed by that of al-Farabi and very few of his texts are available for modern scholars to examine. Despite this, he is still considered to be one of the greatest philosophers of Arab descent, and for this reason is known simply as "The Arab Philosopher".

In the field of mathematics, al-Kindi played an important role in introducing Indian numerals to the Islamic and Christian world. He was a pioneer in cryptanalysis and devised several new methods of breaking ciphers. Using his mathematical and medical expertise, he was able to develop a scale that would allow doctors to quantify the potency of their medication. He also experimented with music therapy.

And this is where it gets interesting: Al-Kindi was the first great theoretician of music in the Arab-Islamic World. He proposed adding a fifth string to the 'ud and discussed the cosmological connotations of music. He surpassed the achievement of the Greek musicians in using the alphabetical annotation for one-eighth of a beat. Al-Kindi realized also the therapeutic value of music and tried to cure a quadriplegic boy with musical therapy. He published fifteen treatises on music theory, but only five of those treatises have survived today. In one of his treaties the word musiqia was used for the first time in Arabic, which today means music in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and several other languages in the world - and is the origin of that word we now know as "music".

I now feel validated with my music entries. Blessed indeed is the benefit of knowledge. Alhamdulillah.

Being Boring

Since the longest of time, I have been wanting to put up something from the Pet Shop Boys, but I have some reservations on people's acceptance to the band, whatever those reservations may be. Over the last few days, I have spoken to some friends and discovered that they are more receptive to it than I have initially feared.

Well, for one, I have been quite a fan of this technopop duo - Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. The longevity of Pet Shop Boys' career is generally attributed to their ability to create melodic pop/dance music with intelligent lyrics and striking style. The duo are one of the most consistently successful duos in pop music, particularly in Europe.

Neil Tennant has consistently labelled Pet Shop Boys' music as "disco." Their music's trademark sound is a combination of pure synthesised pop, with sometimes slightly over-the-top instrumentation, contrasting with Tennant's laconic vocals, sometimes spoken-word or rap. Despite a history of implementing current musical trends from the underground (house, electro, jungle, techno etc.) into their productions, they have always maintained their own specific and defined sound. Their lyrics have been described as articulate, stylish and poetic.

The dynamic of Pet Shop Boys' image lies in the duo's public personalities — Tennant is perceived as an erudite intellectual, articulate, and verbose in speech; while Lowe, now almost always seen in his trademark attire of hat and sunglasses, appears as guarded and terse but nevertheless behaves as casual, flippant and fun-loving.

A defining element of Pet Shop Boys' style is their obsession with extended and remixed versions of their songs. As of 2006, they have been remixed by over eighty different DJs and producers. The vast array of Pet Shop Boys' remixes have made them one of the most collectible bands in the world. Collectors relish the assortment of triple-vinyl limited editions, unique artwork sleeves, and multiple compact disc singles.

Secondly, this entry is dedicated to englishrose, a friend from faraway, whom I am using as an 'excuse' to put up this Pet Shop Boys entry. Thanks pal :-) While you are lying in bed on one of those days and staring at the ceiling listening to this song, and wondering "What have I done to deserve this?" - remember that Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield also said in the same song:

"We don't have to fall apart, we dont have to fight
We don't need to go to hell and back every night
Gonna get through, baby, Im gonna get through it"

This song peak at number two in the UK charts, and at the same position on the Billboard Hot 100, to become the fourth Top Ten hit for Pet Shop Boys as well as the biggest hit of Springfield's career in the States for nothing :-)

I also wish to pay tribute to the British sitcom: Absolutely Fabulous - led by Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley. It aired from 1992-2005 and was affectionately called Ab Fab. Personally, it was the best thing that ever happened on the telly during those years - it was absolutely campy and yet absolutely fabulous!

Edina and Patsy are two immature, prosperous, but preposterous substance-abusing fashion and fad-obsessed Londoners who value fame and style over substance (unless they are controlled substances). Saffron, Edina's daughter, provides the persistently dour voice of Monsoon and Stone's super-ego. Edina and Saffy live in a house in Holland Park, with Patsy spending most of her time there as well.

The sitcom circles around Edina's constant struggle to achieve fame and success amidst the disapproval of her daughter and the constant presence of her increasingly senile mother. Much of the comedy of the show is physical, usually derived from Edina and Patsy's drunken and/or stoned states - and I wonder how it got passed the censors then. The mutual loathing that exists between Saffy and Patsy as each tries to guide Edina's behaviour also makes for many comic situations. A recurring gag found new ways for Edina to fall headfirst out of cars, windows, or down her kitchen stairs at least once every series. Many celebrities have made guest appearance on the show, which included Lulu, Naomi Campbell, Whoopi Goldberg, Christian Lacroix, Twiggy, Elton John, Jean-Paul Gautier and the glamorous list goes on...

The soundtrack was hilariously, yet tastefully done by Pet Shop Boys - and if you missed the show, listening to the song, you will know what I mean.

But, one of my favourite tracks from Pet Shop Boys is simply Being Boring. It was not particularly successful upon release, reaching only number twenty in the UK singles chart and being the first single released by the group not to get into the top ten since Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money four years previously. Despite this, Being Boring has been a regularly-played song at concerts since its release.

This song is concerned with the idea of growing up and how people's perceptions and values change as they grow older. This song is about the ideals that you have when you were young then and how they turned out, eventually.

It is a 'simpler' song with timeless appeal to it but yet evoking times gone by...

"And we were never holding back, or worried that
Time would come to an end
We were always hoping that, looking back
You could always rely on a friend

I never dreamt, that I would get to be
The creature that. I'd always meant to be
But I thought in spite of dreams
You'd be sitting somewhere here with me "

Monday, June 25, 2007

Over The Rainbow

Another song to brighten up the day. A beautiful rendition by Eva Cassidy of a beautiful old classic.

Over The Rainbow - Eva Cassidy

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?

Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?


Been reading various friend's Blogs over the weekend and what struck me was the consistent mood of melancholy throughout. So, in order to brighten everybody up, I have decided to choose this song - all through its innocence and message of hope - to put a smile on everyone's face, insya-Allah.

Cheer up, guys. There is a beautiful rainbow out there :-)


The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun!

Just thinkin' about
Clears away the cobwebs,
And the sorrow
'Til there's none!

When I'm stuck in a day
That's gray,
And lonely,
I just stick out my chin
And Grin,
And Say,

The sun'll come out
So you gotta hang on
'Til tomorrow
Come what may

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
I love ya Tomorrow!
You're always
A day ...
A way!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Miss Misery

An awesome singer, Elliot Smith was an American singer-songwriter and musician. His primary instrument was the guitar, but he was also proficient at piano, clarinet, bass, harmonica and drums. Smith had a distinctive vocal style characterized by his "whispery, spiderweb-thin delivery" and use of multi-tracking to create vocal harmonies. Smith rose to mainstream prominence when this song "Miss Misery", written for the film Good Will Hunting, was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Song category in 1998. More than three-quarters of that soundtrack was written and sung by him.

Smith battled with depression, alcoholism and drug addiction for years, and these topics would often appear in his lyrics. At age 34, he died from two stab wounds to the chest. The autopsy evidence was inconclusive as to whether the wounds were self-inflicted.

In any case, this is a great song. Just ignore the visuals, if you like.

Miss Misery - Elliot Smith

I'll fake it through the day
With some help from Johnny Walker red
And the cold pain behind my eyes
It shoots right through my head

With two tickets torn in half
And a lot of nothing to do
But it's alright cos some enchanted night
I'll be with you

Tarrot cards
And the lines in my hand
Tell me I'm wrong
But they're untrue

Got plans for both of us
That involved a trip out of town
To a place I've seen in a magazine
That you left lying around

I can't hold my liquor but
I keep a good attitude
Cos it's alright some enchanted night
I'll be with you

Though you'd rather see me gone
Than to see this
Come the day
I'll be waiting for you anyway

Next door the tv's flashing
Blue frames on the wall
It's a comedy from the 70's
With the lead no one recalls

To vanish into oblivion
Is easy to do
And I cry to see when you talk to me
The day you said we were through

But it's alright some enchanted night
I'll be with you

Mr Bojangles

One of my favourite swings - Mr Bojangles and this version by Robbie Williams. It is surreal with the melancholic overtones in the music and feel of the music.

Mr Bojangles – Robbie Williams

doo d-doo d-doo-d-doo dooo d-doo d-doo d-doodoo
doo d-doo d-doo-d-doo dooo d-doo d-doo d-dooooo

I knew a man Bojangles and he’ll dance for you
in worn out shoes.
With silver hair, a ragged shirt and baggy pants,
he would do the old soft shoe.
He would jump so high - jump so high, and then lightly touch down.

He told me of a time he worked with, With the Minstrel shows,
travelling throughout the south,
Spoke with tears for fifteen years how his, how his dog and him
they would travel about
But his dog up and died. Part of him died, after twenty years he still grieves

He said, "I dance now at every chance in honky tonks
for my drinks and tips.
But most of the time I spend behind these county bars
you see son I, I drinks a bit."
Then he shook his head. Oh Lord when he shook his head,
I could swear I heard someone say please, please

That’s Mister Bo-ojangles. Call him Mister Bo-ojangles.
Mister Bo-ojangles, come back and dance. And dance. And dance - Please dance

Mister Bo-ojang-gles, Mister Bojangles
Mister Bojangles, come back and dance. And dance. And dance. Please dance.

Come back and dance again Mr Bojangles.

doo d-doo d-doo-d-doo dooo d-doo d-doo d-doodoo
doo d-doo d-doo-d-doo dooo d-doo d-doo d-dooooo

The Road To Mandalay

Everything we've ever stolen
Has been lost, returned or broken
No more dragons left to slay
Every mistake I've ever made
Has been rehashed and then replayed
As I got lost along the way

The Road To Mandalay - Robbie Williams

Save me from drowning in the sea
Pick me up from the beach
What a lovely holiday
There's nothing funny left to say

This sombre song would drain the sun
But it won't shine until it's sung
No water running in the stream
The saddest place we've ever seen

Everything I touched was golden
Everything I loved got broken
On the road to Mandalay

Every mistake I've ever made
Has been rehashed and then replayed
As I got lost along the way

There's nothing left for you to give
The truth is all that you're left with
Twenty paces then at dawn
We will die and be reborn

I like to sleep beneath the trees
Have the universe at one with me
Look down the barrel of a gun
And feel the Moon replace the Sun

Everything we've ever stolen
Has been lost returned or broken
No more dragons left to slay

Every mistake I've ever made
Has been rehashed and then replayed
As I got lost along the way

Save me from drowning in the sea
Pick me up from the beach
What a lovely holiday
There's nothing funny left to say

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Only In Dreams

Back to music ... on a lazy hot Sunday afternoon. This song from the self-titled album of Weezer, was a favourite of mine and my brother's way back when he was still in college ... boy, was that way back then. We would just laze by the afternoons listening to the excellent and prominent bass in this song "Only In Dreams" played by Matt Sharp which primarily never resolves to the tonic of the key the song is played until the very last note of the song. Awesome! "Only In Dreams" is the longest track in the Blue (as it was popularly known) album with almost 8 minutes of play time.

When asked in 2006 what guitar solo he is the most proud of/likes the most, he answered "I'd have to go with "Only in Dreams" and (Make Believe track) "Haunt You Every Day" for sheer length. Epic, epic, epic. So few people play these kinds of solos anymore."

Missing my brother who loves this song - who is currently thousands of miles across the ocean. Hope to visit you soon before the year ends, insya-Allah ... Your favourite lines from the song:

"You can't resist her.
She's in your bones.
She is your marrow,
And your ride home."

Only In Dreams - Weezer

You can't resist her.
She's in your bones.
She is your marrow
And your ride home.

You can't avoid her.
She's in the air... in the air
In between molecules of
Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide.

Only in dreams
We see what it means.
Reach out our hands.
Hold onto hers.
But when we wake
It's all been erased.
And so it seems
Only in dreams.

You walk up to her.
Ask her to dance.
She says, "Hey, baby, I just might take the chance."
You say, "It's a good thing
That you float in the air... in the air.
That way there's no way I will crush your pretty toenails into a thousand pieces

Abu Dhar al-Giffari: He Lives Alone And He Dies Alone

Ibn 'Abbas reported that when Abu Dharr heard of the advent of the Apostle (may peace be upon him) in Mecca he said: Brother, ride in this valley and bring information for me about the person who claims that there comes to him information from the Heavens. Listen to his words and then come to me.

So he rode on until he came to Mecca and he heard his words (the sacred words of the Holy Prophet) and then came back to Abu Dharr and said: I have seen him exhorting (people) to develop good morals and his expressions can in no way be termed as poetry. He (Abu Dharr) said: I have not been satisfied with it regarding that which I had in my mind (as I sent you).

So he took up provisions for the journey and a small water-skin containing water (and set forth) until he came to Mecca. He came to the mosque (Ka'ba) and began to find out Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and he did not recognise him (the Holy Prophet) and he did not even like that he should ask about him from anyone until it was night, and he slept.

'Ali saw him and found him to be a stranger. So he went with him. He followed hive but one did not make any inquiry from the other about anything until it was morning. He then brought the water and his provisions to the mosque and spent a day there, but he did not see Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) until it was night. He then returned to his bed that there happened to pass 'Ali and he said: This man has not been able to find his destination until this time. He made him stand and he went with him and no one made an inquiry from his companion about anything.

And when it was the third day he did the same. 'Ali made him stand up and brought him along with him. He said: By Him, besides Whom there is no god, why don't you tell me (the reason) which brought you here to this town? He said: (I shall do this) provided you hold me promise and a covenant that you would guide me aright. He then did that. He ('Ali) said: Verily, he Is truthful and he is a Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) and when it is morning, follow me and if I would say anything from which I would sense fear about you I would stand (in a manner) as if I was throwing water and if I move on, you then follow me until I get in (some house).

He did that and I followed him until he came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him). He entered (the house) of Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) along with him and listened to his words and embraced Islam at his very place. Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said to him: Go to your people and inform them until my command reaches you. Thereupon he said: By Him in Whose Hand is my life, I shall say to the people of Mecca this thing at the top of my voice.

So he set forth until he came to the mosque and then spoke at the top of his voice (saying): I bear testimony to the fact that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. The people attacked him and made him fall down when 'Abbas came and he leaned over him and said: Woe be upon you, don't you know that he is from amongst the tribe of Ghifar and your trading route to Syria passes through (the settlements of this tribe), and he rescued him. He (Abu Dharr) did the same on the next day and they (the Meccans) again attacked him and Abbas leaned upon him and he rescued him. [Muslim]

Little is known of his life before his conversion to Islam. Abu Dharr is said to have been a serious young man, an ascetic and a monotheist even before he converted. Popular accounts of Abu Dharr say that his tribe lived by pillaging caravans, but that he preferred to live a poor but honest life as a shepherd.

Abu Dharr al-Ghiffari is reported to be the fourth Muslim in chronological order. He had the exclusive honour to call the Prophet Muhammad (saw) as "Ya Habibi" (my dear friend), while everybody else could only address him as "Ya Rasul Allah." Abu Dharr finally arrived in Madina after the Battle of Ahzab / Battle of the Trench (5th year of Hijra) and spent the rest of the days in the company of the Prophet Muhammad (saw).

In the 9th year of Hijra, the Prophet Muhammad (saw) prepared a large contingent to confront the Romans and moved out towards Tabuk. Ali bin Abi Talib was appointed the administrator of Madina. Abu Dharr also accompanied the Prophet Muhammad (saw). However, at that time, he had a very weak and old camel. It could not keep up with the rest of the group. Finally, when he was left behind by a great distance, he left the camel, took a back-pack and decided to walk. He had with him only a camel-skin of water for the journey but despite collapsing due to the extreme heat, he did not consume a single drop of water. Finally, people saw Abu Dharr approaching the main contingent and they reported to the Prophet Muhammad (saw) that Abu Dharr was joining them on foot. Upon finally reaching the Prophet, he asked whether the Prophet needed the water that he had carried with him first before he eventually collapsed and fainted due to the torturing heat of the desert.

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) then fed him with the water, looked at him and said: "This is Abu Dharr, my companion (Sahabi). He walks alone, he lives alone, and one day, he will die alone. A group of strangers from Iraq will take care of his funeral and will bury him."

Abu Dharr al-Ghiffari lived a pious life and spent his days in prayer and worship. His daily meal used to be a handful of dates. He lived a contented life, always spoke the truth and he was firm in his faith.

Once someone asked him that he was always seen in one pair of clothes. Abu Dharr replied: Yes, I had another pair of clothes but I saw some one who needed it more than I did. How could I keep a second pair of clothes while there was another person who did not have even one? That one episode speaks volumes of the thinking of Abu Dharr.

Abu Dharr al-Ghiffari kept a very low profile after the passing of our Prophet Muhammad (saw) and during the first two Caliphates of both Abu Bakr and Umar ibn Khattab.

Bilal ibn Rabah, The Mu'azzin

Bilâl was a black slave belonging to Umayyah ibn Khalaf. He was tall, thin and slightly hump-backed. Thick grayish hair crowned his head. He moved about silently - speaking only in reply. He was born to two slave parents, making him a slave. He used to travel to ash-Sham for Umayyah's trading caravan, braving the bitter cold of winter and the extreme heat of summer. His only recompense was a handful of dates each day that he ate to strengthen his body. At his master's house he would serve the guests while going hungry. He was overworked and mistreated as were Umayyah's other slaves.

Bilâl would often hear about Prophet Muhammad (saw), and Islâm, through the alarming dicussions between his master and guests. Soon he felt drawn to this religion. He would listen to Abu Bakr calling to Islâm, and slowly his heart was filled with faith. He went with Abu Bakr to the Prophet (saw) and declared his submission to Islâm. This was a daring move from a slave who belonged to a staunch enemy of Muhammad. He was the seventh person to accept Islâm.

Abu Bakr and others of the same tribal status, were spared from harm by the Quraysh. However, the wrath of the disbelievers fell upon the Muslims who had no tribe to defend them. Umayyah ibn Khalaf used to force Bilâl to go outside during the hottest part of the day wearing a suit of armour where he would then be thrown face down in the sand and leave him to bake in the sun. He would not return except to turn him on his back. He would have a gigantic rock placed on his chest and then say, "You will stay here until you die or deny Muhammad and worship Al-Laat and al-Uzzah." Bilâl used to endure this only by saying, "One, One."

Abu Bakr passed by one day while they were torturing him. He said to Umayyah, "Have you no fear of Allâh that you treat this poor man like this?" Umayyah replied, "You are the one who corrupted him, so you save him from his plight!" Abu Bakr replied, "Then sell him to me, you can state your price." Umayah who was not one to let a good deal pass by, sold Bilâl, he added, "I would have sold him to you even if you had offered me but an ounce of gold." Abu Bakr answered, "I would have bought him even if you asked a hundred ounces." Abu Bakr and Bilal went to the Prophet (saw) with the good news. There he announced, "I am setting Bilâl free, O Messenger of Allâh." This greatly pleased the Prophet (saw) not to mention Bilâl himself.

When the Muslims were settled in Madinah, Islâm became firmly established - salah, zakat and fasting were instituted. In the beginning, Muslims gathered for salah at the appointed times without being summoned. Later the Prophet (saw) thought about using a trumpet like that the Jews used to summon for prayers. He disliked the idea and ordered a clapper to be made to be beaten at prayer times.

Then Abdullah ibn Zayd came to him and said, "O Messenger of Allâh, I had a dream last night. A man wearing two green garments came to me holding a bell, so I offered to buy it. When he asked me what I wanted it for, I told him that it was to summon people to salah, whereupon he offered to show me a better way. It was to say four times: 'Allâhu Akbar', then to say twice: 'Ash-hadu allaa ilaaha illa Allâh', then twice: 'ash-hadu anna Muhammadar rasulullah', then twice: 'hayya 'alas-salah', then twice: 'hayya 'alal-falah', then 'Allâhu Akbar, Allâhu Akbar, laa ilaaha illa Allâh."

"It is a true vision insha Allâh," said the Prophet (saw) adding, "Go and teach it to Bilâl for he has a more beautiful and far reaching voice." For the first time Madinah resonated with the azan as Bilâl was saying it. It was only fitting that the one who uttered the word of Tawheed under the harshest of torture should utter it during the azan. When Umar heard the azan he rushed to the Prophet and said, "By the One Who has sent you with the Truth I had the same dream about it!" "Revelation has already preceded you," replied the Prophet (saw).

Badr was a day etched in Bilâl's memory. Quraysh was inflicted a heavy defeat and many were taken prisoner. Among them was Umayyah. When Bilâl saw him, the memories of what he, and other Muslims, has endured in Makkah came rushing back to him. He exclaimed, "The arch-enemy of Allâh - Umayyah ibn Khalaf! May I not live if he lives!" Now Umayyah was Abdur-Rahman ibn Auf's prisoner, and this fact dissuaded Bilâl from attacking Umayyah himself. But, because Bilâl kept crying these words, one of the sahabah killed Umayyah with his sword.

The Prophet (saw) entered the conquest of Makkah not as a proud conquerer, but as a humble servant of Allâh. He bowed his head so low that it almost touched his mount. After he ordered that all idols be destroyed, he stood at the door of the Ka'bah and said, "There is no god but Allâh alone. He has no associate..., O Quraysh, Allâh has taken you from the haughtiness of jahillyiah and its veneration of ancestors. Man springs from Adam and Adam sprang from dust," then he recited verses from the Qur'an until he said, "Verily the most noble of you in Allâh's sight is the most pious amongst you." [49:13] He ordered Bilâl to make the adhaan on the rooftop of the Kab'ah. Hearing his voice, a disbeliever exclaimed, "Look at this black man!" His friend replied, "When Allâh hates someone he turns him to the worst." Histroy however attests that Bilâl occupied a distinguised position among the Prophet's companions. Umar would often say, "Abu Bakr is our master and he freed our master." Meaning Bilâl. But Bilâl would say, "I am only a man who used to be a slave."

Bilâl was mu'azzin (the caller to salah) during the time of the Prophet (saw). After he would make azan, he would stand at the Prophet's door and say, "Hayya 'alas-salah, hayya 'alal-falah, the salah O Messenger of Allâh."

The sweet days with the Prophet (saw) soon came to an end. Everyone in Medina wept over the death of the dearest man ever on the earth. Bilâl was asked to make the azan before the burial of the Prophet. He started the call, "Allâhu Akbar...", but when he came to the name of the Prophet (saw) he was sobbing so heavily, he could not continue reciting the azan. He said, "By Allâh I will not say the azan anymore."

Bilâl asked the Caliph, Abu Bakr, to allow him to go to ash-Sham for jihaad, he spent the rest of his life there. He made azan only twice since then. The first was when Umar came to ash-Sham. The second was when he visited the tomb of the Prophet (saw) in Madinah. Upon hearing his voice, people started to cry for it reminded them of the days of the beloved Prophet (saw).

On his death bed, Bilâl's last words were, "Tomorrow I will meet my loved ones: Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his companions."

He died in Aleppo at the age of sixty four. His memory is still alive with us today whenever we hear the azan - for everywhere around the world, there can be heard the azan every second the clock ticks...

That was the honour our beloved Prophet (saw) gave to this blessed man, Sayyidina Bilal (ra).

Friday, June 22, 2007

Seeking Knowledge

"Farewell greetings to her who enslaved me through her elegance,
The splendour of her cheeks, and the furtive glances of her eyes.
A charming young maiden captivated me and filled me with love.
Imagination is confounded in describing her(charms).

But I said to her: "Leave me and excuse me, for indeed
I have become enamored with knowledge and its unveiling.
And for me seeking knowledge, learning, and reverence of God
suffices me over the songs of singing maidens and their perfume."

... Instruction of the Student: The Method of Learning, Imam al-Zarnuji


God said: "God will raise in rank those of you who believe as well as those who are given knowledge."

The Prophet said, "The best of men is the learned believer who, if he is needed, he will be useful; and if dispensed with, he will be self-sufficient." The Prophet also said, "God said unto Abraham, 'O Abraham! Verily I am knowing and I love every knowing person'." Again he said, "Should the day come wherein I increase not in knowledge wherewith to draw nearer to God, let the dawn of that day be accursed."

Concerning the superiority of knowledge to worship and martyrdom, the Prophet said, "The superior rank the learned man holds in relation to the worshipper is like the superior rank I hold in relation to the best of men." See how he placed knowledge on an equal footing with prophethood and belittled the value of practice without knowledge, despite the fact that the worshipper may not be ignorant of the worship he observes. Moreover, without this knowledge there would have been no worship.

'Ali ibn abi Talib said: "Learning is the glory of mankind, The wise are beacons on the road to truth; Man is worth his knowledge, nothing more- The fool will be his inveterate foe, Knowledge is man's hope of life immortal, Man may die but wisdom liveth ever."

Umar said, "O men! Seek ye knowledge. For verily God has a mantle of love for which He casts upon him who seeks knowledge even of a single section. Should he then commit an offence, God will remonstrate with him thrice in order not to rob him of his mantle, even tough that offence may persist with him until he dies."

Fath al-Mawsili said enquiring, "Would not the sick die if he is given no food or drink or medicine?" They said, "Yes". To which he said, "Similarly the heart will perish if it is cut off from wisdom and knowledge for three days." He did indeed speak the truth, for the nourishment of the heart, on which its life depends, is knowledge and wisdom, just as the nourishment of the body is food.

... The Book of Knowledge, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali


Anas [ibn Mâlik] said:

One day when the Messenger of God, may God bless him and give him peace, was seated [amongst us], we saw him laughed and laughed until his teeth were showing. 'Umar asked: "What makes you laugh, O Messenger of God, you for whom I would give my own father and mother?" He replied:

Two men of my community were kneeling before the Lord of Might, ever exalted is He, and one of them said: "O my Lord, retrieve for me what my brother has wrongfully taken from me!"

He said [to the accused]: "Give back to your brother what you have wrongfully taken from him."

But my Lord," he replied, "nothing of merit has been left to me."

"Then my Lord," said [the first], "let him carry some of my burden.

The eyes of the Messenger of God, may God give him blessings and peace, filled with tears, and he said: "Indeed that is a fearful day, when people will need someone to carry part of their burden." Then he continued:

And God, ever mighty and majestic is He, said to the plaintiff: "Raise your head and look towards the Gardens of Paradise."

He raised his eyes and exclaimed: "My Lord, I see cities of silver and palaces of gold, crowned with pearls. To which prophet or martyr does it belong?"

God replied: "It belongs to whoever pays Me the price."

He asked: "And who, my Lord, will own it?"

God replied: "You will."

He asked: "But how shall I do that, my Lord?

God replied: "By pardoning your brother."

He said: "My Lord, I have already pardoned him!"

God, ever exalted is He, said: "Now take your brother by the hand, and lead him into Paradise."

Then the Messenger of God added:

"Fear God, and promote peace and reconciliation amongst yourselves, for surely God shall establish peace among the faithful on the Day of Resurrection."

God's Kingdom

According to Abû Dharr, the Prophet, may God give him blessings and peace, said, reporting the words of God, ever praised and exalted is He:

O My servants, I have forbidden injustice to Myself and I have
made it forbidden amongst you. So be not unjust to one another.
O My servants, all of you go astray except the one whom I guide.
Ask guidance of Me, and I shall guide you.
O My servants, all of you go hungry except the one whom I feed.
Ask Me for food, and I shall feed you.
O My servants, all of you go naked except the one whom I clothe.
Ask Me for clothing, and I shall clothe you.

O My servants, you transgress by day and night, but I forgive all
misdeeds. Ask forgiveness of Me, and I shall forgive you.
O My servants, harming Me is beyond you, so you cannot harm
Me; and benefiting Me is beyond you, so you cannot benefit Me.
O My servants, if all of you - first and last, man and jinn - were
like the one among you with the most devout heart, that would add
nothing to My kingdom.
O My servants, if all of you – first and last, man and jinn – were
like the one among you with the most ungodly heart, that would
take nothing away from My kingdom.
O My servants, if all of you – first and last, man and jinn – were
to stand on the same level and address Me with your requests, and
if I were to give each one what he had requested, that would not
diminish what is with Me, any more than a needle diminishes the
sea when it enters it.

O My servants, it is solely your deeds that I take account of, and it
is by virtue of them that I will repay you. So let him who finds good,
praise God, and let him who finds other than that, hold none but
himself to blame.

Meeting At The Field In The Middle

A Spanish missionary was visiting an island when he came across three Aztec priests.
“How do you pray?” asked the priest.
“We have only one prayer, “ answered one of the Aztecs. “We say: “God, You are three, we are three. Have mercy on us.”
“Beautiful prayer,” said the missionary. “But it is not exactly the prayer that God hears. I shall teach you a much better one.”
The priest taught them a Catholic prayer and went on his way to spread the Gospel among others.

Years later, on the ship taking him back to Spain, he stopped at that island once more. From the deck he saw the three holy men on the beach – and waved farewell to them.

At that moment the three began to walk on the water towards him.
“Father! Father!” shouted one of them, approaching the ship. “Teach us again the prayer that God hears, because we can’t remember it!”
“It doesn’t matter,” said the missionary, seeing the miracle. And he asked God to forgive him for not understanding before that He spoke all languages.
... Paulo Coelho

"Out there, besides what is right and what is wrong, there is an enormous field.
That is where we will meet"

... Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi

"Oh Allah! I come to you because you know all, even what is hidden.
If what I am doing is good for me and my religion, for my life now and later, then let the task be easy and blessed.
If what I am doing now is bad for me and my religion, for my life now and later, then keep me far from this task"

Story of Salman al-Farsi

I come from the city of Jai (in Isfahan, Persia). One day, Almighty Allah inspired my heart to ponder the question, `Who created the heavens and the earth?'

Hence, prompted by such concerns and inner quest, I sought an old man I knew, who spoke very little and who, out of self-restraint, had kept a distance from the city people. When I reached him, I asked, `What is the best of religions?' He replied, `Why would you want to talk about this subject? Are you seeking a religion other than that of your fathers?' I cautiously answered: `No, I am not, but I would like to know who created the heavens and the earth, and what is the best religion to follow?' The old man said to me, `To my knowledge, only one monk follows the true religion today, and he lives in the city of Mosul, in Iraq.'

Hence, I traveled to Mosul, and I found the monk I was told to meet. Thereat, I stayed with him, and I worshipped what he worshipped. He was an old man, and he lived on little provisions. He fasted all his days, and he prayed all his nights. Approximately three years later, at his deathbed, I asked him, `You must advise me what to do now, and where to go?' The man replied, `I know of no one in the East who believes and worships what I worship. Go West. Find a monk I once knew and who lives at the edge of the Arabian Peninsula, and give him my regards of peace.'

After the monk died, I traveled to where he told me, and I found the man he described. I conveyed to him the greetings of his brother, and I told him of his death. Thereat, I remained in his company for another three years, and again, at his deathbed, I requested him to guide me where to go after he dies. He replied, `I am not acquainted with any one on this earth today who worships what I worship except for a very old monk who lives in the region of Amoriya, in Philistine, and I am not sure whether he is still alive.'

After the monk died, again I traveled to where I was told, and luckily, I found the man he described to me. Thereat, I stayed with him, and this time, the man was financially comfortable. Sometimes later, when he neared his death, I sought his advice, and he replied, `I am not acquainted with any living person who worships what I worship. However, if you happen to live in a time where a man from the descendants of the House of Abraham (upon whom be peace) will appear, -- and I am not sure whether you will live to meet him or not – I myself have had a strong desire to live to meet him. However, if you should meet him, then follow him, for that is the true way and that is the religion of Allah Almighty. Among his signs is that some of his people will label him a magician, and an insane person, and a prognosticator. He accepts and eats from what is given to him as a gift, and he does not eat from charity; and you will also see the seal of prophethood in-between his shoulder blades.'

Salman continued, `I resided in my place for a while, and one day, a caravan of merchants from Medina crossed our path. I inquired from them, `Who are you?' They replied, `We are merchants. We make a living from trading. However, there appeared a man from among the descendants of Abraham in Mecca, and he migrated to Medina, and the entire city is now under his control. As a result, his people from Mecca have declared war on him and on his followers, so we feared for our livelihood, and therefore, we decided to seek shelter and safety somewhere else.'

I asked, `What are they saying about him?' The merchants replied, `They say he is a magician, a prognosticator, or maybe he is an insane person.' Hearing that I said to myself, `These are his signs.' I further inquired, `Who is the leader of this caravan? Would you please guide me to him?' When I came before the leader of the caravan, I requested him, `Would you please take me to Medina?' He replied, `What would you pay me?' I said, `I have nothing to give you, but if you agree to carry me there, I will be indebted to you, and I will be your slave.' The man accepted the barter and he carried me to Medina. Thereat, he placed me to work for him at a date plantation he owned, and I worked there very hard. I seldom had any food, and I mostly lived on water, just like cattle, until the bones of my back protruded, and I could see my pectoral bones. I did not know Arabic then, and not many people in that city spoke my Persian tongue.

One day an old woman of Persian origin came by the date plantation to get some water. When I spoke to her in my mother tongue, she understood me, and as we chatted a little I asked her, `Do you know that man that appeared lately, and would you please point him out to me?' She replied, `He usually passes by here after the dawn prayers, or sometime in mid-morning.'

Salman continued: The next day, I kept some dates aside and I waited for him. As he passed, I followed him to the mosque, and as he sat amidst his companions, I went there, and I presented him with the dates. Allah's messenger (saw) looked at them and then said to me, `What is this? Is it a charity or a gift?' I understood what he meant, and I made a gesture pointing out that it is a charity. He immediately said, `Give it to these people sitting here.' As I did, I said to myself, `This is one of his signs.' The next morning I brought another measure of dates and placed them before him. Allah's messenger (saw) again inquired, `What is this?' I hastened to say, `A gift!' He (saw) then ate one, and he called his companions to share them with him. He then saw me stealthily attempting to look over his shoulders. He recognized my intention and allowed his cloak to slowly drop below his shoulders, and when I saw what I saw, I became bewildered, and I jumped out of my place, I kissed him all over, and I held tight to him. After I sat there for a moment, Allah's messenger (saw) asked me to relate my story. When I told him what happened, he said to me, `Go and buy back your freedom.'

Salman continued: `When I reached my master, I said to him, `I have come to buy back my freedom.' He replied, `Yes indeed! I will give you back your freedom for the price of planting one hundred seedlings of date palm trees, and when I verify that they all took roots, and that they are free from disease, you also must bring me the weight of a date pit in gold, and only then you may go free.'

Salman said: I went back to Allah's messenger (saw) and I related to him what the man said. He replied, `Give him what he asks of you, and also bring me a bucket of water from the well you will use to irrigate the plants.'

I immediately went to the man, and I made the deal with him following the conditions he stipulated. With his permission, I then filled a bucket of water from the central well in the plantation field, and I took it back to Allah's messenger (saw) who in turn prayed over it. Allah's messenger (saw) also asked the companions to collect and to give me the needed one hundred seedlings, and when they did, I went back, and I planted the seedlings.

Salman continued: I swear by Allah that not a single seedling failed us, and as soon as the man verified that, I went back to Allah's messenger (saw) and told him the same. Allah's messenger (saw) then called upon the companions to bring him a piece of gold of the weight we agreed upon with the man, and again, I immediately went back to the man and placed the piece of gold before him. When the man placed his specified measure on the other scale of the balance, my piece of gold seemed to weigh more, for nothing moved, and the man accepted the barter.

I brought back to Allah's messenger (saw) the date pit that determined the conclusion of the deal, and he looked at it and commented, `I swear by Allah, that even if you had agreed with him to give him the weight of such and such measure of date pits, the piece you gave him would weigh more.'

Salman continued: From that day on, I went to Allah's messenger (saw) and I stayed in his company until the end.

Dust In The Wind

In 1977, this song was born. It was Kansas' only top 10 charting single. It has religious overtones that crossed religions:

"Every soul shall have a taste of death in the end to Us shall ye be brought back" ... al-Ankabut 29:59

"The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: "Be". And he was" ... ali-Imran 3:59

"That is their recompense, because they rejected Our signs, and said, "When we are reduced to bones and broken dust, should we really be raised up (to be) a new Creation?" ... al-Isra' 17:98

"Verily what is on earth we shall make but as dust and dry soil (without growth or herbage)" ... al-Kahf 18:8

"He said: "This is a mercy from my Lord: But when the promise of my Lord comes to pass, He will make it into dust; and the promise of my Lord is true" ... al-Kahf 18:98

"Verily, We have warned you of a Penalty near, the Day when man will see (the deeds) which his hands have sent forth, and the Unbeliever will say, "Woe unto me! Would that I were (mere) dust!" ... an-Naba 78:40

And even in Christianity: "What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever" ... Ecclesiastes 3-4

It speaks of the concept of "nothingness", of being nothing, and of us as nothing...

Dust In The Wind - Kansas

I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind.

Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind

[Now] Don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, and all your money won't another minute buy.

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind, everything is dust in the wind.

Blowing In The Wind

Blowing In The Wind - Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down
Before they call him a "man"
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand
How many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they are forever banned
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

How many years must a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea
How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free
How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky
How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry
How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

Between This And That

"The spiritual path is in one sense not so much a journey as a gradual attunement of the soul to the presence of the Spirit, a gradual reconciliation between the natural and the supernatural, between the lower waters and the upper waters, between mind and intellect, between Prophet Moses and al-Khidr."
... Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din (Martin Lings)

My Soul Is Like A Bride

Let every one upon whose heart desire
For a fair face lies like a burden sore,
That all his hopes may reach their goal unchecked,
Throw branches of wild rue upon his fire.
My soul is like a bride, with a rich store
Of maiden thoughts and jewelled fancies decked,
And in Time's gallery I yet may meet
Some picture meant for me, some image sweet.

Give thanks for nights spent in good company,
And take the gifts a tranquil mind may bring;
No heart is dark when the kind moon doth shine,
And grass-grown river-banks are fair to see.
The Saki's radiant eyes, God favouring,
Are like a wine-cup brimming o'er with wine,
And him my drunken sense goes out to greet,
For e'en the pain he leaves behind is sweet.
... Hafiz of Shiraz

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Through The Barricades

Another defining song of the 80's by a British band known as Spandau Ballet. It has a tinge of sadness in it. Spandau Ballet was a popular English band in the 1980s. Initially inspired by a mixture of funk and synthpop, the genre-defining New Romantic group eventually mellowed into a mainstream pop act. As with their rivals Duran Duran they 'broke America', albeit briefly.

Interestingly, the band was initially called 'The Makers' in the early years, but changed their name after a friend’s (DJ Robert Elms) visit to Spandau, a borough of Berlin, the inspiration being from graffiti he saw in the lavatory of a club there.

Through The Barricades - Spandau Ballet

Mother doesn't know where love has gone,
she says it must be youth that keeps us feeling strong.

See it in her face that's turned to ice,
and when she smiles she shows the lines of sacrifice.

And now I know what they're saying as our sun begins to fade,
and we made our love on wasteland and through the barricades.

Father made my history,
he fought for what he thought would set us somehow free.

They taught me what to say in school,
I learned it off by heart but now that's torn in two.

And now I know what they're saying in the music of the parade,
and we made our love on wasteland and through the barricades.

Born on different sides of life,
but we feel the same and feel all of this strife.

So come to me when I'm asleep,
and we'll cross the line and dance upon the streets.

And now I know what they're saying as the drums begin to fade,
and we made our love on wasteland and through the barricades.

Oh, turn around and I'll be there,
well there's a scar right through my heart but I'll bare it again.

Oh, I thought we were the human race but we were just another borderline case,
and the stars reach down and tell us that there's always one escape.

Oh, I don't know where love has gone,
and in this troubled land desperation keeps us strong.

Friday's child is full of soul,
with nothing left to lose there's everything to go.

And now I know what they're saying,
it's a terrible beauty we've made.

So we make our love on wasteland and through the barricades.
And now I know what they're saying as our hearts go to their graves,
And we made our love on wasteland and through the barricades.

Forever Young

As this is a week of songs, a group of my friends were reminiscing some of our favourite old bands and songs that used to occupy so much of our teenage lives. As some of you may know of my musical history, this was one of the songs that I used to put up in a school concert way back when I was ... oh so very young then :-)

Although I have a great weakness and inclination for British bands, this German synthopop group has 2 songs which I loved then: Forever Young and Big In Japan. But I guess this song will resonate in our ears throughout the ages as many of us have secretly wished for being Forever Young...

Forever Young - Alphaville

Lets dance in style, lets dance for a while
Heaven can wait we're only watching the skies
Hoping for the best but expecting the worst
Are you going to drop the bomb or not?

Let us die young or let us live forever
We don't have the power but we never say never
Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
The music's for the sad men

Can you imagine when this race is won?
Turn our golden faces into the sun
Praising our leaders we're getting in tune
The music's played by the madmen

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever, forever and ever?

Some are like water, some are like the heat
Some are a melody and some are the beat
Sooner or later they all will be gone
Why don't they stay young?

It's so hard to get old without a cause
I don't want to perish like a fading horse
Youth is like diamonds in the sun
And diamonds are forever

So many adventures couldn't happen today
So many songs we forgot to play
So many dreams are swinging out of the blue
We let them come true

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Spanish Entry

An entry to my Spanish friends:

Gracias por una tarde maravillosa. Aunque la película que miramos no era tan grande, realmente gocé de las conversaciones que teníamos después de la película que duró manera hasta mañana temprana. Espero que poder hacer esto regularmente.

Este cuadro del al-Hambra-Hambra realmente me excita para visitar España en el futuro cercano. El edificio tiene dentro de él guardó muchos secretos y la historia para que aprendamos. Tan un día, insyaAllah, espero estar allí pronto.

Para la ventaja de mis muchos amigos de discurso no-Españoles, mejoro subsistencia este cortocircuito y dulce de la entrada. Hasta que satisfacemos otra vez, mis amigos queridos.

Adiós, Don Juan

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Long And Winding Road

It is gonna be a week full of songs. Was reading a friend's Blog and I think we all need to be reminded that the way ahead is a long and winding road. So, to my friend - you know who you are - persevere and remain on the path, for the road ahead is not only long and arduous at times, but it also winds round many bends. Manouvre well, my friend.

Lyrically, The Long and Winding Road is a sad and melancholic song, with an evocation of an as-yet unrequited, though apparently inevitable, love. Paul McCartney, who wrote this song said: "It's rather a sad song. I like writing sad songs, it's a good bag to get into because you can actually acknowledge some deeper feelings of your own and put them in it ... It's a sad song because it's all about the unattainable; the door you never quite reach. This is the road that you never get to the end of."

I know that there is a more popular and original version of this Beatles' song, but this particular version reminded me of a trip I made with a dear old friend to Langkawi a long time ago - the song was playing on the telly when we were about to check-out from our hotel - but alas, sometimes, what is left of life are mere memories - they stay longer and closer to the heart. In any case, I suspect not many people will appreciate this version though. This version of the song spent two weeks at number one in the UK in 2002 as a duet by Pop Idol winner Will Young and runner-up Gareth Gates, having sold 132,500 copies in its first week of release.

This goes out to "popeye" ... and I know this applies to many others as well.

"The Long And Winding Road" by Will Young & Gareth Gates

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I've seen that road before
It always leads me here
Leads me to your door

The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
Why leave me standing here
Let me know the way

Many times I've been alone, many times I've cried
Anyway you'll never know, the many ways I've tried
But still they lead me back to the...

Long, winding road
You left me standing here
A long, long time ago
Don't leave me waiting here
Lead me to you door

Yeah yeah yeah yeah
Still they lead me back
To the long winding road
You left me standing here
A long, long time ago
Don't leave me waiting here
Lead me to your door


Alhamdulillah! I did not realise that 2 days ago was exactly 3 months since I began to exist in this Blog-world. And I am still encouraged that the hits have been ... well, very encouraging. Masya-Allah!

And before I am scorned for writing another tribute for every 1,000 hits, rest assured that this is not that entry. It is just that this particular song has been playing in my mind after visiting one of my friend's Blog, that I wanna put it in my Blog because I love this song too.

The title of the song is "Gravity" - and despite Coldplay/Chris Martin having written it for Embrace and later on recorded it, I prefer the earlier version by the lesser known band called Embrace - I love the underdogs. Anyway, I have been asked about having this mish-mash entries in my Blog. I figured that at the end of the day, I may be remembered for my passion, amongst other many many things, as a man who loves his books, his movies and his songs.

That is good enough for the world to remember me by - the rest is between me and my Creator... So enjoy :-)

Gravity - by Embrace

It's been a long time coming
And I can't stop now
Such a long time running
And I can't stop now

Do you hear my heart beating?
Can you hear the sound?
Cos I can't help thinking
And I don't look down...

And then I looked up at the sun and I could see
Oh the way that gravity turns for you and me
And then I looked up at the sky and saw the sun
And the way that gravity pulls on everyone
On everyone...

Its been a long time waiting
Such a long long time
And I can't stop smiling
No I can't stop now

Do you hear my heart beating?
Oh can you hear that sound?
Cos I can't help crying
And I won't look down...

And then I looked up at the sun and I could see
Oh the way that gravity turns on you and me
And then I looked up at the sun and saw the sky
And the way that gravity pulls on you and I
On you and I

A Night At An Art Exhibition

We had our weekly book-reading session tonight at an art exhibition. It was the first solo exhibition by one of our group members and we had the privilege of having the whole gallery to ourselves. Masya-Allah! I felt proud being there and I am sure the rest of the birds too.

We had a tour of the exhibition with a personal briefing by the artist himself and the curator, who is also a member of our reading group. What a privilege indeed! Instead of reading our book tonight, we discussed about the concept of the exhibition, the art pieces and how it relate to our lifes. I thought it was beautiful and a really fresh approach to learning. Congratulations to all who were there today!

Art is a means of organising experience into an ordered form. The experience thus translated and expressed as a sculpture, painting, song or poem - can then come to life again in the consciousness of the artist and of other people who saw the art. It may truly be said that only when this sharing took place has a work of art been fully realised.

Art's purpose is to inspire us, stir emotions within, and to communicate with the viewer - thus the work of art and the viewer begins to "interact", and is engaged in a "dialogue". The "conversations" one has with a particular piece of art is hence different with the "conversations" that same piece of art is held by another person.

Such "communication" logically leads us to be a more sensitive, more aware, more embracing and more appreciative person (of ourselves and of others around us) when that piece of art begins to speak to us and when it begins to engage us. As a result, we become a better person, someone who is more aware of himself and of his environment - and this must transform us to be that person.

Theologically, an artist captures the beauty of creation in any given moment through his art, and ultimately, it reminds us of the greatness of The Almighty of the beauty in and of His Creations - mostly we took for granted otherwise. So we remain grateful and be reminded of Him, and this results in Him "remembering" us more profoundly than we can imagine. And this circle of blessings gets deeper as our remembrance of Him becomes more constant and more pronounced to ourselves. SubhanAllah!

I hope my other students in this class will believe more in themselves and fly their wings with the talents that they have - for our limits are set only by ourselves.

I further pray that this session was beneficial and art's purpose has left that mark in their lives.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Karen Armstrong

After a string of speaking engagements in Malaysia, Karen Armstrong will be on transit in Singapore for a few hours and will be giving a lecture entitled: "What is Religion?" tomorrow night at the Ritz-Carlton. For those who have registered, see you tomorrow.

A little information on the speaker:
For years she was tagged the "runaway nun," the rebellious ex-Catholic with outspoken opinions about religion - comparing, for example, Pope John Paul II to a Muslim fundamentalist.

Now, with her 12th book, "Islam, a Short History", Karen Armstrong has changed her image. She can still be sharp-tongued, inclined to draw conclusions that get a rise out of critics. But something closer to reconciliation, rather than anger, is propelling her.

Her life in a British convent is 30 years behind her. She spent seven years in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus during the 1960s and later wrote a tell-all book, "Through the Narrow Gate" that bemoaned the restrictive life. (The frightened nuns did not know the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 had ended for several weeks; they were not allowed to inquire about the outside world.) Armstrong is still hearing about the book: "Catholics in England hate me. They've sent me excrement in the mail."

Readers who have followed her lately are learning her more optimistic ideas about what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common. Three of these books--"A History of God" (Ballantine, 1993), "Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths" (Knopf, 1996) and "The Battle for God" (Knopf, 2000) - show what unites the faiths. Each, Armstrong writes, has developed the image of one Supreme Being who was first revealed to the prophet Abraham. All have historic links to Jerusalem. And more recently, each has built up a rigid conservative strain as a reaction against the modern world.

Excerpts from her book: "Islam, a Short History"
"But however spiritual their aspirations, religious people have to seek God or the sacred in this world. They often feel that they have a duty to bring their ideals to bear upon society. Even if they lock themselves away, they are inescapably men and women of their time and are affected by what goes on outside the monastery, although they do not fully realize this. Wars, plagues, famines, economic recession and the internal politics of their nation will intrude upon their cloistered existence and qualify their religious vision. Indeed, the tragedies of history often goad people into the spiritual quest, in order to find some ultimate meaning in what often seems to be a succession of random, arbitrary and dispiriting incidents. There is a symbiotic relationship between history and religion, therefore. It is, as the Buddha remarked, our perception that existence is awry that forces us to find an alternative which will prevent us from falling into despair.

Perhaps the central paradox of the religious life is that it seeks transcendence, a dimension of existence that goes beyond our mundane lives, but that human beings can only experience this transcendent reality in earthly, physical phenomena. People have sensed the divine in rocks, mountains, temple buildings, law codes, written texts, or in other men and women. We never experience transcendence directly: our ecstasy is always "earthed," enshrined in something or someone here below. Religious people are trained to look beneath the unpromising surface to find the sacred within it. They have to use their creative imaginations. Jean-Paul Sartre defined the imagination as the ability to think of what is not present. Human beings are religious creatures because they are imaginative; they are so constituted that they are compelled to search for hidden meaning and to achieve an ecstasy that makes them feel fully alive. Each tradition encourages the faithful to focus their attention on an earthly symbol that is peculiarly its own, and to teach themselves to see the divine in it.

In Islam, Muslims have looked for God in history. Their sacred scripture, the Koran, gave them a historical mission. Their chief duty was to create a just community in which all members, even the most weak and vulnerable, were treated with absolute respect. The experience of building such a society and living in it would give them intimations of the divine, because they would be living in accordance with God's Will. A Muslim had to redeem history, and that meant that state affairs were not a distraction from spirituality but the stuff of religion itself. The political wellbeing of the Muslim community was a matter of supreme importance. Like any religious ideal, it was almost impossibly difficult to implement in the flawed and tragic conditions of history, but after each failure Muslims had to get up and begin again..."

The Qur'an

The Qur'an defines itself specifically as an 'Arabic scripture', and the message is shaped to the complex structure of the chosen language, a structure fundamentally different to that of any European tongue. Even if one understands no Arabic - as in the case with the vast majority of Muslims - it is essential to know how meaning and language, essence and form, are married in the text of the Qur'an.

Every Arabic word may be traced back to a verbal root consisting of three consonants from which are derived up to twelve different verbal modes, together with a number of nouns and adjectives. This is referred to as the triliteral root, and specific words are formed from it by the insertion of long or short vowels and by the addition of suffixes and prefixes. The root as such is 'dead' - unpronounceable - until brought to life, that is to say vocalised, by the vowels, and it is according to their placing that the basic meaning is developed in a number of different directions.

The root has sometimes been described as the 'body' while the vowelling is the 'soul'; or again, it is from the root that a great tree grows. "In Arabic," says Titus Burckhardt, "the 'tree' of verbal forms, of derivations from certain roots, is quite inexhaustible; it can always bring forth new leaves, new expressions to represent hitherto dormant variations of the basic idea - or action. This explains why this Bedouin tongue was able to become the linguistic vehicle of an entire civilization intellectually very rich and differentiated." [from Art of Islam: Language and Meaning, Titus Burckhardt]

A certain ambiguity is inherent in language as such because it is alive and forms a bridge between living and thinking beings. The opposite to the bare precision of mathematics is not vagueness of definition but a wealth of interconnected meanings, sometimes merging into one another, always enriching each other, which cluster around a single basic idea (or, in Arabic, a simple action) - in this case the triliteral root. Such variations upon a single theme may give rise to words which appear, on the surface, unconnected. Awareness of their relationship to their root makes the connection apparent, so that the whole 'extended family' or words is illuminated.

This may be illustrated in terms of a word referred to in my earlier entry in this Blog, Fitrah (meaning primordial nature, natural disposition). The root word, F-T-R gives us, in the first place, the verb fatara, meaning 'he split', 'he broke apart', 'he brought forth' or 'he created'. The connection between 'splitting' and 'creating' is interesting, particularly if we bear in mind the element of continuity so characteristic of Islam; ancient traditions from many different cultures describe the first step in creation as the 'breaking apart' of heaven and earth. God is referred to in the Qur'an as fatir as-samawati wa'l-ardh, Creator (or, 'Originator') of the heavens and the earth. From the same root we have the 'Id ul-Fitr, the festival which marks the end of the sacred month of Ramadhan, and iftar, meaning 'breaking of fast'. Among other derivations, there are fatr, a 'crack' or 'fissure', fitri, 'natural' or 'instinctive' and fatirah, 'unleavened bread or pastry', fresh and life-giving.

It is as though each individual word emerged from a matrix which contains, potentially, a variety of meanings that are all subtly interrelated, or as though, when one string is plucked, many others vibrate in the background; and it is precisely through such interrelationships that tawhid - the 'unity' which is the basic principle of Islam - finds expression in the midst of limitless diversity.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lovesong & Friday I'm In Love

As a tribute to The Cure, I will be posting 2 great songs for your listening pleasure. The first one is another of their iconic song entitled: "Lovesong." Robert Smith wrote this modern ballad and it was originally released on their Disintegration album. He originally wrote this song as a gift to his longtime girlfriend, Mary, shortly before their eventual marriage.


Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am young again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am fun again

However far away I will always love you
However long I stay I will always love you
Whatever words I say I will always love you
I will always love you

Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am free again
Whenever I'm alone with you
You make me feel like I am clean again

However far away I will always love you
However long I stay I will always love you
Whatever words I say I will always love you
I will always love you

And I am sure this second song is familiar to most as it did well in the US charts: "Friday I'm In Love". It was nominated for a Grammy Award and won the best Music Video from MTV. Now, for some visuals as well:

Friday I'm In Love

I don't care if Monday's blue
Tuesday's grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don't care about you
It's Friday I'm in love
Monday you can fall apart
Tuesday Wednesday break my heart
Thursday doesn't even start
It's Friday i'm in love

Saturday wait
And Sunday always comes too late
But Friday never hesitate...

I don't care if Monday's black
Tuesday Wednesday heart attack
Thursday never looking back
It's Friday I'm in love

Monday you can hold your head
Tuesday Wednesday stay in bed
Or Thursday watch the walls instead
It's Friday I'm in love

Saturday wait
And Sunday always comes too late
But Friday never hesitate...

Dressed up to the eyes
It's a wonderful surprise
To see your shoes and your spirits rise
Throwing out your frown
And just smiling at the sound
And as sleek as a shriek
Spinning round and round
Always take a big bite
It's such a gorgeous sight
To see you eat in the middle of the night
You can never get enough
Enough of this stuff
It's Friday
I'm in love