Monday, March 31, 2008

Gustav Holst's "The Planets (Jupiter)"

Verdi's "The Grand March Of Aida"

His Generosity

"When my servants ask thee (O, Muhammad) concerning Me, tell them I am indeed close (to them). I listen to the prayer of every supplicant when he calleth on Me." ... al-Baqarah 2:186


The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If anyone transgresses and receives punishment in this world, God is too just to repeat the punishment of His servant in the next. And if anyone transgresses and God conceals it and forgives him, He is too generous to go back upon a thing He has forgiven." [at-Tirmidhi]

Sears Tower

It has been about one full month since I "climbed" any world landmark. A bout of illness 3 weeks ago and a noticeable absence from the gym for that period, I was now rearing to "climb" again. It was interesting that some friends noticed that I have not been "climbing". Since there was no class to give tonight, I went to the gym and "climbed" the landmark Sears Tower. It was a long, long climb ... half an hour and 2232 steps later, I finally reached the "summit". This is also a personal landmark achievement for me as I went beyond the 2000 steps mark.

Some educational information about this beautiful landmark:
Sears Tower is strategically located on Wacker Drive in the heart of the West Loop, Chicago’s premier submarket and home to its largest corporations and commuter rail stations. Completed in early 1973, Sears Tower is an attractive and contemporary 110-story trophy office tower consisting of steel columns and beams in a “mega-module” system. The building contains approximately 3.8 million rentable square feet. The Property also features a 160-car executive parking garage accessible from Franklin Street. Other amenities include a world-class broadcast platform, tallest skydeck, full-service conference center, fitness facility, and exceptional technology features.

Sears Tower, completed May 3, 1973, rises to a height of 1,450 feet and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Chicago skyline and in the world. Sears Tower held the record for the world’s tallest building for 25 years until the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia were built in 1998. Then in the Fall of 2004 Taipei 101 took all but one title - tallest to the tips of the antennas, which Sears Tower still owns. Including the Sears Tower antennas, the total height of Sears Tower increases to 1,725 feet. Designed by the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill for Sears, Roebuck & Company, the world’s largest retailer at the time, the building is the preeminent office address in Chicago and one of the premier properties in the world.

The above is an expansive and gorgeous view from the Sears Tower Skydeck. The observation deck opened on June 22, 1974 and is located on the 103rd floor of the tower. It is 1,353 feet (412 m) above ground and is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Chicago. Tourists can experience how the building sways on a windy day. They can see far over the plains of Illinois and across Lake Michigan to Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin on a clear day. It takes about 45 seconds to soar to the top in either of two special elevators. The Sears Tower Skydeck competes with the John Hancock Center's observation floor a mile and a half away, which is 323 feet (98 m) lower.

A second Skydeck on the 99th floor is used when the 103rd floor is closed.

The Farewell Sermon

After praising, and thanking God, the Prophet (saw) said:

"O People, listen well to my words, for I do not know whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present today.

O People, just as you regard this month, this day, and this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury (riba), therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due to ... shall henceforth be waived.

Every right arising out of homicide in pre-Islamic days is henceforth waived and the first such right that I waive is that arising from the murder of Rabi`ah ibn al Harith ibn `Abd al Muttalib.

O Men, the Unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calendar in order to make permissible that which God forbade, and to forbid that which God has made permissible. With God the months are twelve in number. Four of them are sacred, three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumadah and Sha`ban. Beware of Shaitan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.

O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, perform your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your financial obligation. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.

All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.

Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

O People, no prophet or messenger will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things: the Qur’an and my example, the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray.

All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people.

As part of this sermon, Prophet Muhammad recited them a Revelation from Allah which he had just received:

This day the disbelievers despair of prevailing against your religion, so fear them not, but fear Me (Allah)! This day have I perfected for you your religion and fulfilled My favor unto you, and it hath been My good pleasure to choose Islam for you as your religion." (Qur'an 5:3)

Toward the end of his sermon, Prophet Muhammad asked "O people, have I faithfully delivered unto you my message?" A powerful murmur of assent "O Allah, yes!", arose from thousands of pilgrims and the vibrant words "Allahumma na’m" rolled like thunder throughout the valley. Muhammad raised his forefinger and said: "Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people."

She Walks In Beauty

She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to the tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One ray the more, one shade the less
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Or softly lightens o'er her face,
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek and o'er that brow
So soft, so calm yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow
But tell of days in goodness spent
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.

... Lord Byron

Cheek To Cheek

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Kingdom of Heaven

"You are not what you were born, but what you have it in yourself to be."

Balian of Ibelin: [to the people of Jerusalem] It has fallen to us, to defend Jerusalem, and we have made our preparations as well as they can be made. None of us took this city from Muslims. No Muslim of the great army now coming against us was born when this city was lost. We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended. What is Jerusalem? Your holy places lie over the Jewish temple that the Romans pulled down. The Muslim places of worship lie over yours. Which is more holy?
Balian of Ibelin: The wall? The Mosque? The Sepulchre? Who has claim? No one has claim.
[raises his voice]
Balian of Ibelin: All have claim!
Bishop, Patriarch of Jerusalem: That is blasphemy!
Almaric: [to the Patriarch] Be quiet.
Balian of Ibelin: We defend this city, not to protect these stones, but the people living within these walls.

And For No Reason

For no reason
I start skipping like a child.

For no reason
I turn into a leaf
That is carried so high
I kiss the sun's mouth
And dissolve.

For no reason
A thousand birds
Choose my head for a conference table,
Start passing their
Cups of wine
And their wild songbooks all around.

For every reason in existence
I begin to eternally,
To eternally laugh and love!

When I turn into a leaf
And start dancing,
I run to kiss our beautiful Friend
And I dissolve in the Truth
That I Am.

... Hafiz of Shiraz

Dead Tree

"... and the dead tree gives no shelter ..."

... The Waste Land, T S Eliot


Babel is mentioned in Genesis 10:10 as the home city of Nimrod:
"And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel (Persia), and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city."

According to Genesis 11:1–9, humankind, after the deluge, travelled from the mountain where the Ark had rested, and settled in "a plain in the land of Shinar." Here, they attempted to build a city and a tower whose top would be in the Heavens, the Tower of Babel.

The attempt to build the city of Babel with its tower, caused God to respond. He confused the language of the people, ultimately halting the project, and scattered them across the earth.

In that framework, the movie Babel was made. Its tagline is therefore: If you want to be understood... Listen - one that could apply aptly to most of us now. One of the most sophisticated movie I watched in 2006 - and it is not surprising that its complexity does not endear this movie to many, but personally, it is a masterpiece nonetheless.

The film has two central themes - culture and communication. It also exposes the connections between these themes in the arenas of politics, religion and geography sensitively and intelligently. The parable is designed to speak to people all over the world who seem to believe that the meaning and importance of political boundaries somehow supersedes the value of humanity.

The film brilliantly weaves four, though seemingly unrelated, but deeply interconnected stories engaging five cultures on three continents. The cultures are North American, Mexican, Islamic, Japanese and Japanese/deaf. At the heart of each tragedy is an inability to communicate. The tragedies begin with bad decisions that spin each plot somewhat out of control once cultural interference and miscommunication kick in. There is a wealth of juxtapositions of culture to be found and much fun and visual stimulation to be had because of it. From the dramatic barren landscapes of Morocco to the fast-paced teen world of Tokyo, Babel treats contrast with remarkable sensitivity and skill of the subject matter. In other words, it gives a nonsentimental yet compassionate insight into the lives of different people whose stories orbit around the kaleidoscope that is 'Babel', sewn together by unsparing and uninhibited performances.

The characters are deep and insightful, each has a problem to face up to and the subtle, naturalistic way their issues play out make for truly emotional cinema. This is not a film about heroes, it's a film about trying to make the right choices when your back is to the wall, and the doubts that go with this.

The performances are excellent. The directing is exquisite. This is a great film which, despite its commercial pedigree and big budget, achieves a rare level of artistry - proving that blockbusters do not have to be sold short. Babel will make you think, and think well.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Be Guided

The beloved Prophet (saw) said: "O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice] : Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you (have need to) ask, ask of Allah; and if you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that even if the Nation (or the whole community) were to gather together to benefit you with something, they would not benefit you with anything except that which Allah has already recorded for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with something, they would not be able to harm you with anything except that which Allah has already recorded against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried."

And he also said in another hadith: "Advise me! "The Prophet said, "Do not become angry and furious." The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet said in each case, "Do not become angry and furious."

For reasons best known only to themselves, there will be pockets of people who will do unnecessarily unpleasant things to the community, and it will happen again in the future. The recent event this week is a good example.

As one who believes and is guided by Guidance, one must act with such guidance and not be held hostage by raging emotions. As mentioned in my classes, there must be definitive distinction in the actions between those who are guided and the misguided. In this regard, we must always believe in the future possibility that the misguided will soon be guided, by the Will of The Almighty. That is part of Faith.

There are reasons beyond the actions of every individual - and everyone is entitled to that. Muslims are judged not only by their theological conduct with God, but also of their conduct with others. All theoretical knowledge and sermons which they acquired and gave, must be manifested appropriately in the manner which they express themselves to others.

If Muslims do not react emotionally as the perpetrators expected, their ill-intended actions will come to naught. If manifold and sufficient efforts are made to educate the world what Islam and Muslims really are, then the majority populace will be able to discern for themselves what is information and what is garbage - and by then, da'wah is done not only by Muslims but also through the proper understanding of Islam by non-Muslims. There is no instant gratification in conducting these efforts, and Muslims must persevere through patience in responding according to Guidance. Finally, constant unequivocal reminders are required for Muslims to conduct themselves in this manner whenever issues such as this occur - and that is leadership.

In the end, Muslims must not forget that this world and the deen is owned and managed by The Almighty. Through Faith, we must believe that He will take care of His Creation's due course.

Legends Of The Fall

"Look at me. Please, look at me. I'll wait for you. However long it takes. I'll wait for you forever."

Set in the Rocky Mountains of Montana in the early 1900s, this is a tale of love, betrayal, and brotherhood. After being discharged, Colonel Ludlow decides to raise his three sons in the wilds of Montana, where they can grow up away from the government and society he has learned to despise. The three brothers mature and seem to have an unbreakable bond, until Susanna enters their lives. When Samuel, the youngest of the three, returns from college he brings with him his beautiful fiance, Susanna. The eldest son, Alfred, soon finds himself in love with his brother's fiance, and things get worse when he discovers a growing passion between Susanna and Tristan. Colonel Ludlow's favorite son, Tristan is willful and as wild as the mountains. As the brothers set out to fight a war in Europe, suspicion and jelousy threatens to tear apart their once indestructable bond.

"Tristan, I have no where to send this letter and no reason to believe you wish to receive it. I write it only for myself. And so, I will hide it away with all things left unsaid and undone between us."

The Hours

"A woman's whole life in a single day. Just one day. And in that day, her whole life."

The Hours remain one of my eternally favourite movies. It is a 2002 Academy Award-winning film and Best Picture nominee about three women of different generations and times whose lives are interconnected by Virginia Woolf's novel, Mrs Dalloway. All the action takes place within the span of one day. Nicole Kidman is in one of her elements in this movie.

Nicole Kidman is writing a book, Julianne Moore is reading the book, Meryl Streep is the book - all three favourites of mine and women superweights in the business, supported by a perfect ensemble of characters: Ed Harris, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, John C. Reilly, Stephen Dillane, and Miranda Richardson.

The movie, based on a Pulitzer prize winning novel, contains three stories which touch upon each other but rarely actually connect, the common thread being English author Virginia Woolf [Kidman] and her novel, Mrs. Dalloway. Woolf was a brilliant writer who suffered from severe mental illness. She committed suicide in 1941 when she finally could no longer cope with her disease. There is then the story of Laura Brown [Moore], set in 1951, in which the character, who is reading Woolf's book, toys with the idea of suicide. The last story revolves around Clarissa Vaughn [Streep]. Set in present day, it is about her relationship with her ex-lover [Ed Harris], who is dying from AIDS and whose only out seems to be to kill himself. On the surface, all this dallying with suicide may seem grim and depressing, the movie is actually life-affirming but is not meant for mass consumption.

This film moves superbly from one place in time - from one character's growing angst and sense of misgiving - to another, until at last the three separate stories are tied together in astonishing and remarkable fashion. If indeed there is a stream of super-consciousness that literally and figuratively transcends space and time, then such a force is manifested in The Hours, a powerful, gripping examination of three lives over the course of one eventful day.

The Hours is about many things: the magical, transcendent connection between writer and reader; struggling with illness, whether mental or physical; making choices in one's life; etc. The chronologically separate stories are skillfully and seamlessly woven together. The film presents a complex tapestry of human relationships and emotions. It offers no easy answers, but rather challenges the viewer. Yet in the end it is an emotionally full and satisfying journey.

The following quotation is taken from the touching and excruciating last scene while Woolf drowns herself. She left this last note to her husband Leonard - who found her too late, but in that lateness, perhaps liberated her.

"Dear Leonard:
To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face and to know it for what it is.
At last to know it, to love it for what it is, and then, to put it away.
Leonard, always the years between us, always the years.
Always the love.
Always the hours."

Delusion Angel

Daydream, delusion, limousine, eyelash.
Oh baby with your pretty face.
Drop a tear in my wineglass.
Look at those big eyes.
See what you mean to me.
Sweet-cakes and milkshakes.
I'm delusion angel, I'm fantasy parade,
I want you to know what I think.
Don't want you to guess anymore.
You have no idea where I came from.
We have no idea where we're going.
Latched in life, Like branches in a river,
Flowing downstream, Caught in the current,
I'll carry you, You'll carry me.
That's how it could be, Don't you know me?
Don't you know me by now?

...David Jewell, recited in Before Sunrise

The Intellectual

"Actions are only judged by the intentions which accompany them."

This phrase is repeated in mosques and classrooms across the world, and is found in books too numerable to document. At first thought, we might assume that its meaning is obvious and that it is essential to how people think of Islam. However, concepts understood intellectually do not always translate into states of being, which in turn give life to those very concepts. Such is the case in many of the intellectual discussions on Islam that pervade our lives.

Perhaps if you grew up in a country or house devoid of intellectualism, you might protest out of fear that I am decrying intellectualism. This would be a fair response. But for those of us who are stimulated by discussion after discussion and book after book, the situation is often radically different. Rachid al-Ghannouchi reportedly said that Tunisians in Tunis need human rights, while Tunisians in France need mosques. Different points of emphasis for different folks.

What I have felt in the core of my being is the fact that I can never know with absolute certainty when I am speaking or writing or teaching or reading for the sake of Allah alone. I can distinguish tasks, such as when I am reading Qur'an for my own benefit or when I am writing an academic paper for the acceptance of my teacher, but I can never truly know what Allah thinks of how I spend my time and energy. I seek the assistance and advice of those who I feel are pious and intelligent and learned, attempting to shade my moral responsibility under the nasihah (advice) of others, but I know that there is no shade except the shade of Allah. I make istikharah (supplication for guidance) in search of Allah's decision, but I can never be totally sure of the outcome.

Yet around me, I see people rushing to be heard, rushing to speak, and rushing to lead. Am I better for taking it slow? Are they better for having the drive to act? I can never know. I do know that Allah will debase the scholar who speaks for his own vainglory, and will honor the one who writes and teaches and learns for His sake alone. Also, I know that the complexity of our lives demands sophisticated intellectual discourse. The mind constructs or deconstructs, and the heart becomes darkened or enlightened. Allah is the One in control.

Perhaps you might object to the insinuation that I might be able to know the intentions of others. This too would be fair. I speak from my experience, and all I can say in my defense is that if I have felt it, and struggled with it, then it must be a reality for others. But even more than that, this struggle has been documented in the works of some of the greatest Muslims who have ever lived. If they felt it too, then at least I know that I am in good company.

Even in writing this article, I may be betraying that which the article intends to promote. But the fear of punishment cannot override the urge to act when one can reasonably justify the action as righteous, and when one has also sincerely attempted to be sincere. For almost a decade, I have contemplated publishing something: Islamic theories on religion, critiques of secular historiography, personal conversion narratives, theoretical perspectives on the nature of subjectivity in intellectual traditions that strive for objectivity, and so on. But something has always held me back. I can only hope that this preliminary attempt is timely and acceptable in the eyes of Allah. If Imams al-Nawawi and al-Bukhari thought it appropriate to begin with the hadith of sincerity, then who am I to begin from a different angle?

This is a struggle we all must face in the core of our souls, and it cannot be avoided. It is immensely hard, but it must be done. Whether one is a graduate student, a professor, a murid (disciple), a talib al-'ilm (student of knowledge), a shaykh, a transnational Muslim intellectual, or whatever, we must face this challenge. If we ignore it and assume we are fine, then we are lost. Of that I am certain, and God knows best.

... R David Coolidge, excerpt from the Islamica Magazine

Thursday, March 27, 2008

O Youth!

"O youth!
Live as you will, you are mortal!
And love what you will, you will leave it!
And do what you will, you will be rewarded accordingly!"

... Dear Beloved Son, Imam al-Ghazali

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nympheas: Waterlily

Robert Genn, author of The Painter's Keys, is traveling and visited Musee de L'Orangerie in Paris where the Claude Monet's waterlily paintings are on display. He shared this experience:

"I've been in these two rooms for so long that my stomach is concerned. A guard has already determined that I'm planning a heist. I'm sure she has alerted her supervisors. And then there's a man who has been in here almost as long as I. He moves from bench to bench. He has a round, friendly face and an honest smile. I find relief in pretending we have met. We talk in hushed, religious tones. He is M. LeClerc, an actuary from Poitiers, in Paris for four days. He thinks I'm an American. I tell him I'm from Canada. "What do you see here?" I ask him.

"I know nothing about art," he tells me, "But every time I come to Paris I enter these rooms. The collection was closed for some six years and Paris was very dull. These are sublime things. They are beyond words or expressions. They cannot be categorized or listed. In winter they take you to spring. They bring my boyhood and my home. Maybe God is in these things. What do I see? I see sadness and I see beauty. What else do we need? What else do we have?" His face is flushed, his eyes moist. "But then, who am I to say?" he asks. "I know nothing about art. Do you have such experiences in Canada?"


Today's session at the gym was a total blur. I tried to remember how many circuits I did - and what I did within that one hour - but all the way from the gym to home, I seriously could not recall them exactly. The only thing certain was that it was absolutely exhausting. I remembered there was the bench press, the shoulder press, the jumping here, the dancing there, the rowing, the dumb-bells, the abs crunches - it is no more 15 cycles per set ... I remembered doing 25 cycles per set! ... it was all a blur and hazy to me now...

I have also noticed that my trainer has limited the resting period between one station to another ... and between circuits. To top it all, the weights have increased exponentially too. That has made the excruciating difference between the circuits for the last two weeks. The only thing I really remembered, was that I did a long and slow stretching by the end of it.

But despite, I love it still :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Don't Surrender

Don't surrender your loneliness so quickly
let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft
my voice so tender
my need of god
absolutely clear.

... Hafiz

Monday, March 24, 2008

Language of God

Silence is the language of God. All else is poor translation.
In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God.

... Thomas Merton

Our Days

The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away.

... Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our Light

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves. Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people will not feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

... A Return To Love, Marianne Williamson

Music, Lots Of It

With the severance of fondness and affiliation to my soccer team, something has so easily taken over its place. After my workout today, I decided to treat myself and bought an iPod Nano. Immediately, 944 songs were transferred to it within the hour. I still have 5GB left. Will be a busy week ahead :P

Went with my trainer and he was trying to cajole me to get the iPod Touch (which he already owned) and friends were displaying their iPod Touch last Saturday at a wedding. But, knowing myself, I will leave most functions unused. So, I chose the simpler iPod Nano to accompany me on my runs and cycling. 2000 tracks should be able to cover it :)

Now, taking a poke at Liverpool, I'll "never walk alone"... hahaha.

From wikipedia: The third generation nano features a 2-inch QVGA (320×240) screen and a shorter, wider, heavier design, with new colors. New features include browsing via Cover Flow, a new user interface, video playback, and support for new iTunes Store games. The nano was announced in a 4 GB version coming only in silver, and an 8 GB version coming in silver, turquoise, mint green, black and Product Red. The battery lasts for approx. 24 hours on audio playback and approx. 5 hours on video playback. On January 22, 2008, Apple released a pink version of the 8GB iPod nano.

Combining elements from previous generations of the iPod nano, the third-generation nano has an aluminum front plate and a stainless steel back plate. The nano also sports a new minimalistic hold switch, similar to the iPod shuffle's power switch, which has been moved to the bottom of the player. The 2 inch screen has the greatest pixel density of any Apple product and has the same resolution of the 2.5 inch iPod classic's display. The iPod Nano 3rd Generation has opened up support games that were created for the next generation of iPods.

Now, let the music play on...

You'll Never Walk Alone

After all these years of being a fan since childhood, after bearing patience with managerial changes, players, owners and a drought for the EPL title for more than 20 years since 1989-1990 season, with a heavy human heart, I am now relinquishing all my interest in my favourite English football team in the EPL.

Although I do not play soccer, I do religiously follow-up but the interest is waning from day to day. The inconsistency is always there, the attacking is blunt, the defence is unpredictable, the tactics are undesirable, they do not even play entertaining soccer anymore...

So, I have decided that it is enough. No more... they played like kids yesterday. They were totally outmanouvered and fooled by the other Reds on the pitch. I could have been easily led to believe that it was an S-League game instead. It is totally pointless.

I will give away whatever Liverpool memorabilias that I have to younger kids (nope actually, they have no young fans anymore - the old ones are there purely for sentimental reasons). I have severed my relationship with them this morning. I choose to move on... Liverpool is not a great club with great men, as they used to be.

It is wiser, for the sake of my blood pressure, to have no interest in Liverpool's development (or for being stagnant) in the league table. I will still be a supporter for them in the Championship League. I hope I will be more faithful in this.

I may live to regret this decision 10 years down the road, but for now, I will have to bite the bullet and move on.

With or without me, Liverpool will never walk alone... I am sure.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Light and Radiance

If ten lamps are in one place,
each differs in form from another;
yet you can't distinguish whose radiance is whose
when you focus on the light.

In the field of spirit there is no division;
no individuals exist.
Sweet is the oneness of the Friend with His friends.

Catch hold of spirit.
Help this headstrong self disintegrate;
that beneath it you may discover unity,
like a buried treasure.

... Mathnawi, Mevlana Jalalludin Rumi

One Year On...

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song" ... Maya Angelou

Alhamdulillah... What seemed to be a blink of an eye - a passage of one full year has passed since I began this Blog. As I re-read my past entries, I saw my life passed by in a flash.

Beyond what may seemingly be entries on sharing of books read, movies watched or even songs sung - therein lies some reasons why those entries were made - known only personally to me. In the public sphere, they may appear as entries detached from personal experiences. It is far from reality.

As I recounted events that have occurred over the past year, with the help of those entries, I realised how much things can happen to oneself without one realising them. And I am grateful to those friends who have convinced me to start this Blog as those memories were immortalised in these entries. I see myself grow from those experiences. And I remember. And I try to be better, insya-Allah.

"Every artist was first an amateur" ... Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, in this entry on my first birthday as a Blogger, I wish to thank all those who have visited this Blog, read the entries and kindly left comments on them. I do wish that you will come by regularly and share with us your experiences so that we can all be enriched by the colours of our varied lives.

By the end of this year, there will be many more passages and journeys which I will undertake and most of them will be new experiences. It will be exciting times ahead, insya-Allah. Let us pray for our successes and for strengths to overcome our challenges in life. There will be friends whom I may have lost contact or due to various reasons we may not be able to meet in the future, so this Blog will serve as our common platform and forum to help update each other on our personal developments.

Thankfully, there are still many "songs" for me to sing, and I hope that I am able to continue singing them, and to sing them well. In the interim, I will end here and leave you with this wonderful quotation that I hold deep in my heart - and according to Robert Frost's famous poem which I have quoted earlier in my entry: that has made the world of a difference, especially to me in my life.

"You see things; and you say 'Why?'
But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?"
... George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Being Alive

People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about ...

... Power of the Myth, Joseph Campbell


I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing
----Nothing happens?
Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

... Oceans, Juan Ramon Jimenez

From Paradise To Paradise

one by one
our friends
filled with joy and quest
begin to arrive

one by one our friends
the worshipers of ecstasy
begin to arrive

more friends and sweethearts
filling you with love
are on their way

darlings of spring
journeying from gardens
begin to arrive

one by one
living their destiny
in this world

the ones who are gone are gone
but the ones who survived
begin to arrive

all their pockets
filled with gold
from endless treasures

bringing gifts
for the needy of the world
begin to arrive

the weak and the exhausted
the frightened by love
will be gone

the rejuvenated
the healthy and happy
begin to arrive

the pure souls
like the spectrums
of the shining sun

descending from the high heavens
to lowly earth
begin to arrive

luscious and happy
the blessed garden
whose heavenly fruits

spring forth
from the virgin winter
begin to arrive

those who are born
from the roots
of generosity and love

taking a journey
from paradise to paradise
begin to arrive

... Ghazal, Mevlana Jalalludin Rumi

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Great Expectations

"I'm not going to tell the story the way it happened. I'm going to tell it the way I remember it."

That was how the movie began. And somehow, I must admit that this is one of those classics-turned-into-movie that I actually enjoyed--and I enjoyed it tremendously that I watched it again and again--more so due to Ethan Hawke, Robert de Niro, Hank Azaria and the forever classy Anne Bancroft (yes, Gwyneth Paltrow is purposely omitted).

This film is a stylish and brilliant remake of a classic by Charles Dickens and could almost be considered timeless. Great Expectations is about love, family, and rejection as Pip and Miss Havisham have both been rejected in certain ways. Pip is the main character, a boy around 13 years old, easy to fright, and goes through his life suffering lots of sadness. He is in love with a girl named Estella and wants her to find his love, but for him being shy and not showing himself to her, makes it very hard for him.

Pip meets an escaped convict, Magwitch, and gives him food, in an encounter that is to haunt both their lives. When Pip receives riches from a mysterious benefactor he snobbishly abandons his friends for London society and his 'great expectations'. He grows through misfortune and suffering to maturity in similar theme of Dicken's best-loved novels. Dickens blends gripping drama with penetrating satire to give a compelling story rich in comedy and pathos: in Great Expectations he has also created two of his finest, most haunting characters in Pip and Miss Havisham.

In a love story that would haunt their whole lives together, after the success of his first sold-out exhibition, Pip, in the movie said:

"I did it! I did it! I am a wild success! I sold them all, all my paintings.
You don't have to be embarrassed by me anymore, I'm rich! Isn't that what you wanted, aren't we happy now?
Don't you understand: that everything I do, I do it for you.
Anything, that might be special in me - is you..."

The Great Gatsby

"Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope."

... The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man

"His throat ached with a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk or eagle on high, to cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds. This was the call of life to his soul not the dull gross voice of the world of duties and despair, not the inhuman voice that had called him to the pale service of the altar. An instant of wild flight had delivered him and the cry of triumph which his lips withheld cleft his brain."

... A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, James Joyce

This passage, from Chapter 4, demonstrates Joyce's contention that becoming a true artist involves a calling, not a conscious decision the artist can make himself. These thoughts fly through Stephen's mind just before he sees a young girl wading at a beach. The sight of her image leads to one of the most important epiphanies in the novel. Stephen sees her not long after he has refused the priesthood, a time when he is unsure of what to do now that he has relinquished his religious devotion. At this moment, Stephen finally feels a strong calling, and determines to celebrate life, humanity, and freedom, ignoring all temptations to turn away from such a celebration. He has already succumbed to temptation twice: first, a "dull gross voice" causes him to sin deeply when he succumbs to the squalor of Dublin; second, an "inhuman voice" invites him into the cold, dull, unfeeling world of the priesthood. Both of these temptations, as well as the calling to become an artist, are forces through which the outside world acts upon Stephen. In this context, the passage suggests that it is as much fate as Stephen's own free will that leads him to become an artist.

Julius Caesar

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears:
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest --
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men --

Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.

He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor had cried, Caesar hath wept.
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honorable man.

You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honorable man.

I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?

O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason! Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

... Julius Caesar (Act III.Scene ii.), William Shakespeare

Sons And Lovers

Was on annual leave since yesterday and had the pleasure of sneaking in to a few good books - although some are re-reads. I was never an Arts student in college, but was fascinated when friends of mine were reading D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers--and I was glad that it was a compulsory text for those studying practical criticism--a book that was spoken in hush tones way back then...

Sons and Lovers was the first modern portrayal of a phenomenon that later, thanks to Sigmund Freud, became easily recognizable as the Oedipus complex. Never was a son more indentured to his mother's love and full of hatred for his father than Paul Morel, D.H. Lawrence's young protagonist. Never, that is, except perhaps Lawrence himself. In his 1913 novel he grappled with the discordant loves that haunted him all his life--for his spiritual childhood sweetheart, here called Miriam, and for his mother, whom he transformed into Mrs. Morel. It is, by Lawrence's own account, a book aimed at depicting this woman's grasp: "as her sons grow up she selects them as lovers--first the eldest, then the second. These sons are urged into life by their reciprocal love of their mother--urged on and on. But when they come to manhood, they can't love, because their mother is the strongest power in their lives."

Of course, Mrs. Morel takes neither of her two elder sons (the first of whom dies early, which further intensifies her grip on Paul) as a literal lover, but nonetheless her psychological snare is immense. She loathes Paul's Miriam from the start, understanding that the girl's deep love of her son will oust her: "She's not like an ordinary woman, who can leave me my share in him. She wants to absorb him." Meanwhile, Paul plays his part with equal fervor, incapable of committing himself in either direction: "Why did his mother sit at home and suffer?... And why did he hate Miriam, and feel so cruel towards her, at the thought of his mother. If Miriam caused his mother suffering, then he hated her--and he easily hated her." Soon thereafter he even confesses to his mother: "I really don't love her. I talk to her, but I want to come home to you."

The result of all this is that Paul throws Miriam over for a married suffragette, Clara Dawes, who fulfills the sexual component of his ascent to manhood but leaves him, as ever, without a complete relationship to challenge his love for his mother. As Paul voyages from the working-class mining world to the spheres of commerce and art (he has fair success as a painter), he accepts that his own achievements must be equally his mother's. "There was so much to come out of him. Life for her was rich with promise. She was to see herself fulfilled... All his work was hers."

The brief concluding chapter is despairing until the very end, when Paul finally releases himself from the hold of his mother due to death and chooses to return to life.

A hold, indeed, for much of Sons and Lovers is about bondage to someone else. Here, Paul refuses to be bound, to belong, to Miriam, but not because he fears bondage. Miriam is too sacrificial and passive; he wants a woman who will claim him as strongly for herself as his mother did. For him, this is the only kind of relationship that can duplicate the intense love he had with his mother. Paul does not seem to understand until the final moments of the novel, however, that his mother's love was smothering, jealous, and ultimately destructive. His release from her feels like a victory; that he may now be able to love someone else.

Flowers reappear here, but now they symbolize Paul's parting from Miriam, and not a bond. The other imagery that is important is the city's "gold phosphorescence" in the final paragraph. Frequently in the novel, Lawrence paints scenes of happiness and love with light colors of the sky. In the concluding paragraph, Paul feels suicidal one night, but changes his mind and resolves not to "give into the darkness." The return of these light colors here signifies Paul's choice of life over the "darkness" of death.

The cycles of Paul's relationships with these three women are terrifying at times, and Lawrence does nothing to dim their intensity. Nor does he shirk in his vivid, sensuous descriptions of the landscape that offers up its blossoms and beasts and "shimmeriness" to Paul's sensitive spirit. Sons and Lovers lays fully bare the souls of men and earth. Few books tell such whole, complicated truths about the permutations of love as resolutely without resolution. It's nothing short of searing to be brushed by humanity in this manner.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

... W B Yeats


It was a pleasant routine departure from the normal circuit training at the gym today. Instead of hitting the weights, we did something else totally bizarre: while I was warming up at the treadmill, my trainer came over with a pair of trainer-trainee boxing gloves.

He knew I had to shelve my plans to join a muay thai class earlier this month, so being (in his own words :) the "only certified boxer/boxing trainer" at the gym, he was kind enough to teach me some boxing skills. I was absolutely elated!

He blasted some edgy music and we had the whole large mirrored aerobics room to ourselves. I learned many stuffs today: the orthodox stance, the jab, the punch, the cross, the uppercut, some footworks and a few other techniques I cannot even remember their names! There are still a lot more to learn and train and I so look forward to more boxing lessons.

I nonetheless should have known better: he would never let me off easy. So, the real killer in this training was the combo - I did a few combo circuits and guess what: I even offered him to run at the treadmill longer in exchange. Boxing is a tough cardio workout as I realised, and I was perspiring as if I just stepped out of the shower - but nonetheless, training was so much fun today! Boxing training is equally, if not more, tougher than training circuits - particularly when it was done together with a "zillion" of crunches with weights and another "zillion" push-ups. I was dead tired by the end of the session. By the end of it, the aches acquired today deluded me to think that I was actually, in my alternate fantasy world, a real life boxer. What a way to go before attending the mawlid at the mosque this evening ... hhmmph.

But, I truly love it ... and you can sense my elation by this haphazard entry.

So .... Thanks, thanks, thanks a lot, Coach! You are the best :)


Praise be to Allah for the blessing of Islam. It is blessing enough. Truly the mere fact of being a Muslim is in itself a gift beyond price. To be able to remember and invoke the Lord of existence when such a large percentage of humanity is floundering about in the pitch darkness of shirk and unbelief is already in itself a great victory. Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib, may Allah cover him with mercy, used to say, "In this time of ours, if a man goes to sleep having prayed his five prayers for Allah, he has won."

Shaykh Ibn 'Ata'llah says in his Hikam, "It is enough reward for an action that He considered you worthy of performing it." So the sheer fact of being able to say, La ilaha illa'llah Muhammadun Rasulullah with sincerity and to act according to it - the great gift of guidance - is, on its own, a treasure beyond estimation; and if we add to it our existence itself, and the generous provision with which it is sustained, and the blessing of our families and companions, and the overwhelming beauty of the world and universe which we inhabit, and all the innumerable other blessings with which our lives are unceasingly filled minute by minute, we can only repeat the ayat in Allah's Book:

If you try to count up the number of the blessings of Allah, you will never be able to calculate it.

There is only one course open to us and that is to give thanks to Allah for them, even though that thanks itself is a further blessing, for as Allah Himself says,

If you are thankful, I will give you increase.

So our giving thanks is itself a means to greater reward.

The question is how can we possibly thank Allah for all this. The people of knowledge have said that thankfulness should be expressed in three ways: with the heart, with the tongue and with the limbs.

Thankfulness of the heart consists in actually being consciously aware of the immeasurable gifts and blessings of Allah and in attributing them to Him and no one else. It lies in understanding that existence in all its varied manifestations is a continuous outpouring and overflowing from a compassionate and generous Creator. It is understanding the sixth pillar of Iman, Acknowledgement of the Decree, both its good and its bad, and understanding that, in reality, even its bad is a blessing. The Prophet, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "How marvellous is the affair of the mu'min! If good comes to him, he is thankful and Allah gives him increase and if bad comes to him he has sabr, acts with patience and fortitude and steadfastness, and Allah rewards him for that." And what is the reward of patience? The companionship of Allah tabaraka wa ta'ala Himself, for Allah says: "Allah is with the steadfast."

And what could possibly be better than the companionship of Allah? ...

This being understood, it is clear that thankfulness, when its reality exists in the heart, must inevitably be expressed outwardly in the two ways mentioned previously, thankfulness of the tongue and thankfulness of the limbs.

It is with our tongues that we give clear expression to what is in our hearts, and genuine thankfulness to Allah tabaraka wa ta'ala will automatically appear on our tongues. Its first expression is to directly thank Allah for His gifts to us - the gift of food, the gift of good health, all the blessings of life we daily receive. Our response to these things will be to directly thank the One to whom we owe them and the words, al-hamdu lillah wa shukru lillah will never be far from our tongues. But thanks with the tongue goes beyond this simple acknowledgement of blessing.

Thankfulness brings with it the desire to please the One from whom a gift has come and so part of thanking Allah with our tongues is to use them in a way that we know is pleasing to Him, such as learning and recitation of His own words in the Qur'an and much dhikrullah. Connected with this is the avoidance of those types of speech that are displeasing to Him such as profanities and idle gossip. A further aspect of thankfulness is the desire to tell others about the qualities and generosity of your benefactor and so the thankful tongue will be eager to talk about Allah and to teach others all it knows about Allah and also about His Messenger, for it is only through the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, that we have access to Allah and knowledge and experience of His qualities and attributes.

The essence of thankfulness of the limbs is in the example of the Prophet, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, who, upon being asked why he stood at night in prayer so that his feet became swollen, when all his past and future wrong actions had been forgiveness, replied, "Should I not be a thankful slave?" It is clear from this that thankfulness entails wearing out the body in the service of and submission to Allah. In practical terms this means first and foremost obedience to all the commands of Allah and avoidance of what He has prohibited and following the Sunna of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and treading in the footsteps of his Companions, may Allah be pleased with all of them. They all wore themselves out in their scrupulous taking on of Allah's deen as its parameters become clear to them and in their implacable struggle to see it established in the world.

I ask Allah ta'ala to fill our hearts with the reality of thankfulness to Him accompanied by the words and actions that flow from it.

O Allah assist us in remembering You and thanking You and worshipping You in the best way!

...excerpts from Thankfulness, Abdalhaqq Bewley

Signs Of Loving The Prophet

Section 1: Concerning the necessity of loving him

Anas reported that the Prophet said, "There are three things which cause anyone who takes refuge in them to experience the sweetness of belief - that Allah and His Messenger are more beloved to him than anything else; that he loves a man only for Allah; and that he dislikes the thought of reverting to disbelief as much as he would dislike being cast into the Fire." (al-Bukhari & Muslim)

'Umar ibn al-Khattab told the Prophet, "I love you more than anything except my soul which is between my two sides." The Prophet replied, "None of you will believe until I am dearer to him than his own soul." 'Umar said, "By the One who sent down the Book on you, I love you more than my soul which is between my two sides." The Prophet said, "'Umar, now you have it!" (al-Bukhari)

Section 2: On the reward for loving the Prophet

Anas said that a man came to the Prophet and asked, "When will the Last Hour come, Messenger of Allah?", "What have you prepared for it?" he asked? He replied, "I have not prepared a lot of prayer or fasting or charity for it, but I love Allah and His Messenger." The Prophet said, "You will be with the one you love." (al-Bukhari)

It is related that a man came to the Prophet and said, "Messenger of Allah, I love you more than my family and my possessions. I remember you and I cannot wait until I can come and look at you. I remember that I will die and you will die and I know that when you enter the Garden, you will be raised up with the Prophets. When I enter it, I will not see you." Allah then revealed, "Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, will be with those whom Allah has blessed: the Prophets, the men of truth, the martyrs and the righteous. And such people are the best of company!" (4:68) The Prophet called the man and recited the verses to him." (at-Tabarani)

Section 4: The signs of love of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace

Know that someone who loves a person prefers them and prefers what they like. Otherwise, he is a pretender, insincere in his love.

Someone who has true love of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, will manifest the following signs.

1) The first sign is that he will emulate him, apply his Sunna, follow his words and deeds, obey his commands and avoid his prohibitions and take on his adab in ease and hardship, joy and despair. Allah testifies to that, "Say: if you love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you." (3:31)

2) He will prefer what the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has laid down as law and encouraged, over his own passions and appetites. Allah said, "Those who were already settled in the abode, and in belief, before they came, love those who have emigrated to them and do not find in their breasts any need for what they have been given and prefer them to themselves even if they themselves are in want." (59:9)

3) His anger against people will only be for the sake of the pleasure of Allah. Anas ibn Malik said, "The Messenger of Allah said to me, 'My son, if you can be without any grudge in your heart against anyone in the morning and evening, be like that.' Then he added, 'My son, that is part of my Sunna. Whoever gives life to my sunna has loved me and whoever loves me is with me in the Garden.'" (at-Tirmidhi)

Anyone who possesses this particular quality has perfect love for Allah and His Messenger. Anyone slightly lacking in it is imperfect in his love, while not entirely devoid of it. The proof of this is in what the Prophet said about the man who was given the punishment for drinking. A man there cursed him and the Prophet said, "Do not curse him. He loves Allah and His Messenger." (al-Bayhaqi)

4) Another of the signs of love for the Prophet is to mention him often. Whoever loves something mentions it a lot.

5) Another is great yearning to meet him. Every lover yearns for their beloved.

When the Ash'arite clan came to Madina, they chanted, "Tomorrow we will meet those we love, Muhammad and his Companions!"

6) One of its signs is that as well as mentioning him often, someone who loves him will exalt and respect him when he mentions him and display humility and abasement when he hears his name. Ishaq at-Tujibi said, "Whenever the Companions of the Prophet heard his name after he died, they were humbled, their skins trembled and they wept. It was the same with many of the Followers. Some of them act like that out of love and yearning for him, others out of respect and esteem."

7) Another sign is love for those who love the Prophet and the people of his house and his Companions, both of the Muhajirun and Ansar, for his sake. Such a person will also be hostile to those who hate them and curse them. Whoever loves anyone, loves those he loves.

... selections from Ash-Shifa', Qadi 'Iyad

Happy Birthday

In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, Most Compassionate,
May Allah bless our master Muhammad, and his family and grant them peace.

O Allah, bless and grant peace and blessing to the spirit of our master Muhammad among the spirits, and to his bodies among the bodies, and to his grave among the graves, and to his position among positions, and to his witnessing in witnessings, and to his mention when he is mentioned: a prayer from us on our Prophet. O Allah, convey the greeting to him from us when the greeting of peace is mentioned! Peace be upon the Prophet, and the mercy of Allah and His blessings.

Peace be upon you, O Messenger of Allah. Peace be upon you, O beloved of Allah. Peace be upon you, O our master Muhammad ibn 'Abdullah. Peace be upon you and your pure, good family. Peace be upon you and your wives, the Mothers of the Believers. Peace be upon you and all your Companions. Peace be upon us and on the righteous slaves of Allah.

Peace be upon a grave which is visited from afar.
Peace be upon the Rawda where Muhammad is.

Peace be upon the one who visited his Lord in the night
and reached the desire in every aim.

Peace be upon the one who said to the lizard, "Who am I?"
and it replied, "The Messenger of Allah. You are Muhammad."

Peace be upon the one who is buried in a good land
and who the All-Merciful singled out for excellence and glory.

A Prophet to whom Allah have good and radiance.
Good fortune to the person who visits the graves of Muhammad!

If there is any riding making for Madina,
convey my greeting to the beloved Muhammad.

His excellent meadow is my hope and my desire,
and it contains the healing of my heart and its rest and repose.

If it is far from me and it rare that it can be visited
and so its picture is the best image with me.

I run my eyes over the beauty of its meadow
and by it there is solace for my core, my secret and my heart.

Here I am, O Qutb of all the words.
I kiss it, yearning to heal my illness.

May Allah bless the Qutb of existence, Muhammad,
with a prayer which effaces every mistake of mine.

O Allah, Our Lord, by the rank of Your Prophet and Chosen one, Your beloved and selected one, and the best of those who answered Your summons and obeyed You, make our actions sincere and purify our hearts! Let us act in both abodes as is pleasing to You. Save us from all temptations and do not entrust us to ourselves for a single glance nor less than that. Forgive us and our parents and our shaykhs and those to whom we have a duty and to all the Muslims. Glory be to your Lord, the Lord the Might, above what they describe and peace be upon the Messengers. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

... Waymarks of Benefits (Dala'il al-Khayrat), Imam Muhammad al-Jazuli

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Commemorating My Beloved's Birth

"I transgressed the sunnat of him (Nabi, Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) who passed the night (in worship).
Until his feet complained of injury due to being swollen.
And he tied and folded, on account of hunger, around his stomach.
A stone beneath which is his delicate skin.
And high mountains of gold (tried to) tempt him.
Towards it, but he was (completely) disinclined due to his high courage.
His piety increased inspite of his need.
For verily need never prevails (overpowers) the infallible.
How can the necessities of such a noble personality incline him towards this world?
For had it not been for him this world would not have come out of non-existence.

Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) is the leader of both worlds and both creations (man and jinn).
And of both groups, Arabs and non Arabs.
Our Nabi, the one who commands (good), forbids (evil). There is non (parallel to him).
More truthful than him in saying "No" or "Yes".
He is (Allah’s) most beloved, whose intercession is hoped for.
For every fear (and distress) that is going to come (on the day) of agony (and fears).
He called (people) towards Allah, so those who cling to him.
Clinging to a rope which will never snap."

... excerpts from Poem of the Scarf (Qasida Burdah), Imam al-Busiri

I'm Yours

The Gift

You've no idea how hard I've looked
for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.

What's the point of bringing gold to the gold mine,
or water to the Ocean.
Everything I came up with
was like taking spices to the Orient.

It's no good giving my heart and my soul
because you already have these.

So - I've brought you a mirror.

Look at yourself and remember me.

... Mevlana Jalalludin Rumi

Time Spent

Was at The Coffee Bean this afternoon having coffee with some good friends after lunch. While waiting for my drinks to be made, I noticed the tray liner which I normally would not take a second look. It was an interesting tie-up with the Yellow Ribbon project. Details of it can be found on this website:

Anyway, what caught my attention was the beautiful winning poem written by a prison inmate for the Yellow Ribbon Poetry Competition. "The gift of acceptance, forgiveness and second chances can transform the lives of ex-offenders and their families."

Time Spent

It's not the nights, I have to bear
It's not the days I have to serve
By time I wait, while I am lost
It's the weight of sin I have to bear
The ones I love, but fail to serve
By time I know, I'm in a loss
These are the seals upon my heart
That's trapped within a hardened shell
Hiding a shame I'll never tell
But enters this shell, a grain of sand
Layered coatings of lessons learned
Reflections of itself back then
A new found grace, polished with faith
Patience reveals a glow within
A beautiful pearl as black as sin
In fear of thunder, there's promise of rain
For evey loss, a hidden gain
Faith and patience: remedies for pain
So to my Lord, I do repent
To my love, I'll make amends
For all my sins, my faults. Amen
To gain what's lost, when time was spent.

Monday, March 17, 2008


"Purification is half of iman (faith). Saying 'Al-Hamdulillah' (Praise be to Allah) fills the scales. Saying 'Subhanallah wa al-Hamdulillahi' (Exhalted be Allah and Praise be to Allah) fills the space between the heavens and the earth. Salah (prayer) is a light. Sadaqah (charity) is a proof. Sabr (patience) is a shining glory. The Qur'an is an argument either for you or against you. Everybody goes out in the morning and sell themselves, thereby setting themselves free or destroying themselves."


Sunday, March 16, 2008

First Love

"The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end."

... Benjamin Disraeli

Excessively Conscious

"Ours is an excessively conscious age.
We know so much, we feel so little"

... D H Lawrence

Ask Not

Ask not what sorrows for love I endure
Ask not of parting poisons that make me impure.

I have traveled the world and in the end
Ask not what lover I willingly allure.

Longing for a vision, at his door
Ask not of the tears that I pour.

With my own ears I heard his last night
Ask not of his words, harsh yet demure.

Bite not your upper lip and speak not
Ask not what sweet lips I may secure.

In my mendicant state without you
Ask not of my pain and need for a cure.

On the path of Love, Hafiz, lost & traceless
Ask not of my standing, high and pure.

... Hafiz of Shiraz


"I have learned that my relationship with God is an interaction. My prayer is ascending to God, full of adoration for the Beloved Eternal One. At the same time God is descending, answering my prayer and gently meeting me in my heart.

I feel this as an inner wholeness. It is a purification of the self and becoming empty. Meister Eckhart would call it Gelassenheit. It is letting go, a process of dying. Only then there is the experience of real Love and for a moment a mystical unification with divinity is unfolding."

... Contemplations, Kees Voorhoeve

21st Singapore International Film Festival

The 21st Singapore International Film Festival will begin screening in April 2008. Here are some interesting offerings:

My Home, My Heaven
Muhammad EySham Ali/Singapore 2006/14 mins/TBA
Ahmad, a juvenile delinquent, is released from his time in a Boy’s Home. After his return home, Ahmad finds himself at crossroads again despite his efforts to redeem himself from the past. Ahmad is still trying to find his way home.

Road to Mecca
Harman Hussin/Singapore 2007/60 mins/PG
Inspired by the travelogue The Difficult Journey by Ahmad Thomson, Harman Hussin embarks on an overland pilgrimage from Singapore to Mecca. This documentary is about this journey, which was made with little support, but with immense conviction. Witness an unforgettable journey into the heart of the human spirit, through the myriad beauty of countries and cultures along the way.

To Speak
Craig Ower Cambodia/Australia/Singapore 2007/104 mins/PG
Based on a true story, To Speak takes us on a journey into a land haunted by a horrific past, a place where millions struggle daily against desperate poverty. Yet in the midst of this pessimism, lies a voice that will speak hope to its people.Twelve-year-old Ratana lives in an impoverished rural village but refuses to accept that her fate is pre-determined by her circumstances. She dreams of a better life, and of building a new house for her fractured family. But a better future seems impossible until a local development agency suggests a radical plan for achieving her dream. She seizes the opportunity but finds herself on a collision course with her family, the village and even Mother Nature herself. To succeed, Ratana will need to rise above the daily grind of survival and also grapple with the terrible legacy of the Khmer Rouge and the Killing Fields.Shot with a small independent team and budget, the film was initiated by director Craig Ower who conceived the story after repeated visits to the country. Featuring stunning images and heartfelt performances, To Speak is a film that speaks with much heart.

Veil of Dreams
Zaihirat Banu Codelli/Singapore 2007/64 mins/TBA/WORLD PREMIERE
Enter a world where deep-rooted sacred customs meet contemporary athletic aspirations. Football in Iran has gained much popularity among women out of their passion towards the game. Wearing the traditional Islamic veils, they would play it with an atmosphere of unbridled joy and limitless energy. Veil of Dreams documents Iran’s women soccer team as they compete against other international footballers. Meet the women, who dare to push customary limits in pursuit of a simple ambition to take part in a sport where there are no restrictions, but only freedom to express themselves in a game that used to be for men only. Find out how this journey will affect their lives and provide unforgettable memories for these young women.From the rigorous preparations for an overseas trip, from their place of safety out into the open world, these women will go wherever the game takes them.

Along the Way
Haobam Paban Kumar/India 2006/19 mins/PG
Manileima is an independent 35-year old woman, the second wife of a contractor, who lives separately from her alcoholic husband with her mother and son. One day, her son, Bungo, has an accident and is hospitalized. While many people offer her their assistance in the hospital, an unnamed stranger offers the most help. At the same time, this stranger develops a close relationship with her nephew, Geet. While Manileima never meets this stranger while her son is in hospital, she develops an attraction for him through Geet’s stories about his care and affection for Bungo.Finally, Bungo recovers sufficiently to be discharged – and at this point Manileima has to decide what to do about the kind-hearted stranger. Set in Manipur, a North Eastern state of India where decades of insurgency have thrown the society into disarray, this film depicts how unrest has caused many people to cloister off their self-expression and how Manileima, a simple woman, finds a new meaning in her life.

Angels Die In the Soil
Babak Amini/Kurdistan 2007/30 mins/TBA
A young Iraqi Kurdish girl struggles to survive by pillaging remains from the Iran-Iraq war. She meets an American Soldier who is trapped in a terrorist attack and is entrusted with the choice of whether to help him or leave him to die.

Breathing in Mud
James Lee/Malaysia 2007/ 78 mins/PG/INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
Azman, a photographer, marries the strong and quiet Lina, but their lives change when Lina’s first husband, Meor, returns from Thailand, where he has been taking refuge these past years. The three of them find out that their lives overlap with love and past friendships, bonds that they fear to break and ones that cannot break.

Children of the Prophet
Sudabeh Mortezai/Iran 2007/90 mins/PG
Children of the Prophet offers an intimate insight into the everyday life and the expression of religious practice in contemporary Iran, where the archaic and the post-modern co-exist surprisingly. The film follows four groups of people in Tehran during the Shiite mourning rituals of Moharram, commemorating the death of Imam Hossein, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad. It explores the role of religion in different people’s lives and how traditions are codified, kept alive and transformed to accommodate the needs of modern times.We follow the protagonists closely with unbiased curiosity. It is their perspective, motivation, expression of faith or doubt, sense of humor and voices that make an otherwise enigmatic, and dramatic mass event palpable and familiar. This utterly personal approach offers a rare and often surprising insight into what is usually obscured by politicized Islam hyped by Islamists and Western media alike.

Denias, Singing on the Cloud
John De Rantau/Indonesia 2007/110 mins/NC16
A boy’s deep desire to get an education leads him to traverse fields, mountains and rivers for days to reach a school in the nearest city. Based on a true story, this film tells the tale of Denias (Albert Fakdawer), who is from a small village in Jayawijaya Mountain in Western Papua Island and his determination to leave ignorance behind and fulfill his dream. But the physical challenges of his journey pale in comparison to the discrimination he faces at school for being a lowly peasant. With the help of his two friends, he finds the strength to press on and surmount these obstacles. The real Denias eventually won a scholarship and now attends senior high school in Darwin, Australia.Denias was awarded Best Indonesian Feature at the Jakarta International Film Festival in 2007 as well as Best Children’s Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in the same year. It also won Most Favorite Film at the Indonesian Movie Awards. It has been selected as the official Indonesian entry to the 2008 80th Academy Awards, in the Best Foreign Language Film category.Shot against the rugged beauty of Papua Island, Denias sings of a vision and resolve that rises above ignorance, fear and adversity.

If You Were Me: Anima Vision 2
Ann Dong-hee et al./Korea 2007/93 mins/R21
In 2003, the Human Rights Commission of Korea funded six promising directors to make short films about issues of discrimination. The result was If You Were Me, an insightful collection of works which received critical acclaim. Despite a noticeable lack of commercial success, the commission decided to fund two sequels to the project: If You Were Me 2 and If You Were Me: Anima Vision 2.Comprising of six short films, If You Were Me: Anima Vision 2 is an innovative and heartfelt feature-length animation film. Diverse issues relating to discrimination in all its forms are featured, such as the plight of the disabled wishing to have children (The Third Wish ,dir. ANN Dong-hee, RYU Jung-oo); a working mother’s difficulties in bringing up her child (Baby, dir. LEE Hong-soo, LEE Hong-min), the fate of a homosexual forced to marry a woman by his overbearing parents (Lies, dir. PARK Yong-jae), the challenges today faced by men with aspirations of greatness (Peeling, dir Hong Deok-pyo), the widespread discrimination prevalent in today’s societies (Merry Golasmas, dir Jung Min-Young) ; and the troubles of international marriage faced by migrant women (Shine Shine Shining, dir. GWON Mi-jeong)

In The Name Of God
Shoaib Mansoor/Pakistan 2007/170 mins/NC16
Winner of the Silver Pyramid Award at the 2007 Cairo International Film Festival, In the Name of God has been widely lauded as a revival of the Pakistani film industry. Spanning across three continents, it tells the moving story of one Pakistani family and how the events of 9/11 have changed what it means to be a Pakistani abroad. Mansoor tells the story of two brothers, both accomplished musicians. One is convinced by an extremist imam that his career is immoral, and decides to fight for the mujahideen. Meanwhile, his brother enrolls in an American university to further his music studies, falling in love with an American girl, and ironically falling under suspicion for the sort of activities his brother is involved in, in the aftermath of 9/11. A third subplot, in which the brother's young niece, born and bred in England, is tricked by her father into marrying the extremist brother in an elaborate maneuver to frustrate her romance with her Christian boyfriend.Ambitious both in scope and depth, Mansoor's film is a timely one which resonates with the dilemma Muslims face today, offering an intimate glimpse into the complexities of adaptation and assimilation in the post-9/11 world. It also offers a fascinating glimpse into Pakistan as a nation increasingly pressured to choose between religious anachronism and modernity.

Abai Kulbai/Kazakhstan 2007/80 mins/NC16
Abai Kulbai’s Strizh (Swift) is a coming-of-age film that draws an intimate portrait of a young girl, Ainur, who struggles with forces beyond her control – a drunken stepfather, a pregnant mother, drugs and violence at school – to find her place in an ice-cold, impersonal, and uncaring Almaty. She wrestles with a myriad of obstacles - schoolmates who tease her at school, an unaffectionate mother who pays more attention to her alcoholic lover, and her best friend who falsely accuses her of something she did not do. Life has tougher lessons in store for Ainur, and the world seems lonelier than ever before.Kublai's debut feature film is shot in the tradition of modern Kazakh cinema, and offers a rare insight into the youngest generation in Almaty- one that is unaware of the Soviet past and in search of its own identity.The film won two awards – the NETPAC Award and the Grand Prize in the Central Asian and Turkic Competition at the Eurasia Int'l Film Festival 2007.

Khadija Al-Salami/Yemen 2007/75 mins/PG
Amina is a chilling documentary portraying the legal and societal injustices faced by Yemeni women. The film tells the story of Yemenite Amina al-Tuhaif, who at 11 years old was married off to a man many years her senior, and at 14, sentenced to death for the murder of her husband after being tried without legal representation. Scheduled for execution in 2002, when she would be of legal age to hang under Yemen laws, Amina was found to be pregnant after being raped by a prison guard and her execution was pushed to 2005. Khadija Al-Salami, an award-winning filmmaker from Yemen, became aware of Amina's tragic story through newspaper reports and began conducting interviews with the young woman while visiting her in prison. Using first-hand accounts and dramatic reconstruction, the film chronicles Amina's daily prison life, her last-minute reprieves and her persistent appeals to clear her name for a crime she says she did not commit.