Monday, June 30, 2008

Wanted: A Leisurely Day

It was great to not suffer the "monday blues" - as I began to enjoy my leave today. Had a pure leisurely day - woke up later, went to work out at the gym, had an almost 3 hours lunch with a friend (yes, thank you Italian restaurant again), did some banking and watched a free movie - Wanted, thanks to another friend's complimentary ticket.

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is a neurotic accounts manager who works in a small cubical filling out billing reports day end and day out. He allows his boss and his girlfriend to walk all over him. To cope with his life, he takes anti-anxiety pills by the bottle full. Wesley has no desire to change his humdrum life, but one day while getting more pills at the drug store, he meets a beautiful woman in black, Fox (Angelina Jolie) who changes his life forever. Fox was sent to protect Wesley from the man who had just "killed his father". Wesley, on the other hand, thought his father had died soon after he was born. The twists and turns gets more entangled.

Wesley changes from this meek nobody into a person with confidence and strength and the ability to change his own destiny. James McAvoy did an outstanding job in playing the roll of Wesley. Angelina Jolie didn't have many lines in the movie, but her presence was more for having an intimidating and dangerous killer with good looks. The visual effects of slowing down the speed of curving bullets and bullets crashing into each other are very well done. The movie is entertaining with lots of action and moves at a fast pace. By the end, you see that Wesley has truly become "The Man".

Be warned though: There are an abundance of profanities and over the top action sequences which are extreme but yet is gripping.

Wesley (in the final line): "What the *#@% have you done lately?"

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Quest For Sacred Knowledge

“You have to meet him before his death,” is what the elderly scholar Shaykh Muhammad Ma’moon told me in his humble home in Madinah, the City of the Noble Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be upon him, (in the region that is now called Saudi Arabia). The person whom Shaykh Ma’moon was referring to is the great and noble sage, al-Murabit al-Hajj, of the Mauritanian desert lands. Shaykh Ma’moon himself had studied with him before he left his homeland to take up residence within the sacred precincts here in the blessed city of the Prophet (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him).

Due to my somewhat sheltered American cultural past I had never really heard of Mauritania before meeting Shaykh Muhammad Ma’moon, let alone know where this country was located on the globe. All I knew was that it was in Africa and that it was a Muslim country. During my stay in Madinah I did recall hearing of a great and knowledgeable scholar who lived in the deserts of this region and it turns out that it was this very man that Shaykh Ma’moon spoke of with such great esteem and honor. That was all I knew.

At the time, I was a student at the Islamic University of Madinah and was in my third year of intensive studies (five hours a day, five days a week of class time, not to mention the hours spent studying and reviewing out of class). I had received a full scholarship from the Saudi Ministry of Education after having previously studied in another Saudi-run Islamic Institute not far from my house in the Washington D.C. area. Coming from a typical, middle-class American background, born and raised into a Catholic family, I eventually made the choice to convert to Islam in the summer of 1994 after I had just turned 19. For some time I had felt a void in my chest, which, it turns out, could only be filled with Islam. That journey is a book to itself, which might get written one day, but I will leave you with that for now.

Living in Saudi was a very new and different experience for me. Before becoming Muslim I had never left the United States and I didn’t even have a passport! I had no profound knowledge of what lied beyond our U.S. borders, besides maybe a little bit about Canada and Mexico, but, as most American youth at the time, I didn’t really care that much either. While in Saudi I lived in the blessed city of Madinah, the second most holy city of Islam. I was fortunate to have been a resident there from August of 1996 until May of 1999, minus a few months for vacation during the summers, and some vacations they were, for I had to study full time in a university back in America all summer long as well!

In Madinah I was a student of Arabic and Islamic studies for several years before the time that I was blessed to meet the noble Shaykh Muhammad Ma’moon of Mauritania. The circumstances that led me to him are far too numerous to detail at this point, but what I will say is this: God works in mysterious and wondrous ways. We just have to be awake to see how. Heedlessness is the greatest veil of the heart, isn’t it high time that we remove it?

It turns out that I lived just a few minutes away from Shaykh Muhammad Ma’moon’s home in Madinah. It was located in a very humble part of the city, which his character and demeanor clearly reflected, for ostentation and arrogance where so foreign to his way. He was an elderly man of about 70 years, fairly short and very feeble-bodied, but his faith was as firm as a rock and his heart as vast as an ocean. One could sail the seven seas without ever leaving his presence. When I was first introduced to him I felt as though I was meeting someone from centuries ago. He was in this world, but not of it. He usually dressed in a long, white robe-like garment with a loosely wrapped white or black turban resting upon his noble head. His long white beard was as the clouds cast against a clear blue sky. In a word, he was astonishing.

When he looked at you, you felt as though he was penetrating into the depths of your soul. His gaze was one that could be felt with an indescribable solidity. You didn’t feel violated, merely exposed. When a man looks with the eye of purity and sanctity, he can see a very different world than the rest of us do. That is the vision that I yearned to obtain, and I still yearn to attain it.

Shaykh Muhammad Ma’moon would seldom speak with anything other than wisdom, advice, and heartfelt concern. He never liked to indulge in idle chatter nor in the affairs of the “people of this world”. The Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Let him who believes in God and the Last Day speak good, or remain silent.” Silence was one of the modes of our communication. I remember sitting with him in his home on several occasions without either of us saying a single word. Silence allowed our souls to speak, and to breathe the breath of life between us.

His presence was one of strength and dignity, even though his body was weak and ill. Here was a man. It is ultimately the quality of your soul that determines your true position in existence, not your body. I was beginning to think more and more about the greatness of this man’s teacher whom he spoke so much about, al-Murabit al-Hajj. If Shaykh Muhammad Ma’moon had been his student, then what about the one who taught him?

... by Khalil Moore. For complete text.

Intimate Conversations

Had the privilege of being in close proximity and having intimate conversations with another speaker currently giving a series of lectures in Singapore: Shaykh Khalil Moore. There were just the very few 'usual suspects' and we had dinner together at a friend's house. After that, the Shaykh shared many intimate and personal life stories - about him coming to Islam, about him discovering Islam (and its many derivatives within), about his life's journeys, his lessons learnt and meetings with many blessed men and habaib in our times. Subhan-Allah!

There were many stories which he shared with us, one after the other - way into the night - till he was prompted by his dear wife that it was perhaps time to return to the hotel :) I have not had the opportunity of hearing his lectures for the past 2 days, but I can imagine how interesting it might have been just from the way I was listening to him this evening. He comes across as an affable man, sincere, energized, animated and yet, poetic - all at the same time. This inspires me to make an extra effort to hear him over the next week he is in Singapore, insya-Allah.

There were many stories and lessons learnt from this evening - and it was information overload. But the nur in his face and the earnestness in sharing what he has, was pleasure enough. And if I had to choose just one, I remembered in one of the stories which he conveyed, the main point he said (not verbatim) was: at times, we always underestimate the value and maqam of a person whom we meet - and that is always a regretful thing that we unconsciously do. Most times, we do not have the opportunity to return and accord due respect and thus learn the knowledge that they have within them. And it is true as I reflect on the many people whom I met when I was 'younger' on this path. Subhan-Allah, Allah has been merciful to me that I have been given so much more opportunities to meet so many blessed men and scholars since then, and learnt so much from them. It has indeed been a blessed day - Alhamdulillah!

For those unacquainted with Shaykh Khalil, here is a little information about him:
Khalil Abu Asmaa (Christopher Moore) was born and raised in America into a practicing Christian family. While on the path to becoming a professional musician, he went through a deep spiritual and emotional journey that led to his conversion to Islam in the summer of 1994 at the age of nineteen.

He later traveled to the Muslim world in search of sacred knowledge and a balanced understanding of the prophetic legacy. He has studied in the blessed city of Madinah (1996 to 1999), the deserts of West Africa, the Atlas Mountains of Southern Morocco, and the Hadramawt Valley of Yemen.

He holds a B.A. in English, with a minor in Religious Studies, from George Mason University (2001) and a M.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland (2007). He has also studied Arabic-English translating and interpreting at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Pasture

I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan't be gone long. -- You come too.

I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan't be gone long. -- You come too.

... Robert Frost

Extinguish Thou My Eyes

Extinguish Thou my eyes:I still can see Thee,
deprive my ears of sound:I still can hear Thee,
and without feet I still can come to Thee,
and without voice I still can call to Thee.

Sever my arms from me, I still will hold Thee
with all my heart as with a single hand,
arrest my heart, my brain will keep on beating,
and should Thy fire at last my brain consume,
the flowing of my blood will carry Thee.

... Rainer Maria Rilke

O My Servants!

"O My servants, I have made oppression unlawful for Me and unlawful for you, so do not commit oppression against one another. O My servants, all of you are liable to err except for those whom I guide on the right path, therefore seek guidance from Me so that I should direct you to the right path. O My servants, all of you are hungry (needy) except for those whom I feed, therefore seek food from Me so that I may feed you. O My servants, all of you are naked (need clothes) except for those whom I provide garments, therefore seek clothing from Me so that I should clothe you. O My servants, you sin by night and by day and I am there to pardon your sins, therefore seek forgiveness from Me so that I should grant you pardon. O My servants, you can neither do Me any harm nor can you do Me any good. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of Jinns become as pious as the most pious heart of any one amongst you, it will not add anything to My Power or Kingdom. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of Jinns become as wicked as the most wicked heart of anyone amongst you, it will not decrease anything from My Power or Kingdom. O My servants, even if the first amongst you and the last amongst you and the whole human race of yours and that of Jinns gather together on a sector of land and all ask of Me and if I were to give everyone of them what they asked, that will not in any way decrease what I have anymore than a needle decreases what is in the ocean when it is put into it. O My servants, these deeds of yours which I am recording for you I shall reward you for them, so he who finds good should praise Allah and he who finds other than that should not blame anyone but himself."

... Sahih Muslim

Solomon, Hoopoe and Queen Sheeba

And he (Solomon) took a muster of the Birds; and he said: "Why is it I see not the Hoopoe? Or is he among the absentees? I will certainly punish him with a severe penalty, or execute him, unless he bring me a clear reason (for absence)." But the Hoopoe tarried not far: he (came up and) said: "I have compassed (territory) which thou hast not compassed, and I have come to thee from Saba with tidings true. I found (there) a woman ruling over them and provided with every requisite; and she has a magnificent throne. I found her and her people worshipping the sun besides Allah: Satan has made their deeds seem pleasing in their eyes, and has kept them away from the Path,- so they receive no guidance,- (Kept them away from the Path), that they should not worship Allah, Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knows what ye hide and what ye reveal. Allah!- there is no god but He!- Lord of the Throne Supreme!.

(Solomon) said: "Soon shall we see whether thou hast told the truth or lied! Go thou, with this letter of mine, and deliver it to them: then draw back from them, and (wait to) see what answer they return"...

(The queen) said: "Ye chiefs! here is delivered to me - a letter worthy of respect. It is from Solomon, and is (as follows): 'In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful: ye not arrogant against me, but come to me in submission (to the true Religion).'"

She said: "Ye chiefs! advise me in (this) my affair: no affair have I decided except in your presence." They said: "We are endued with strength, and given to vehement war: but the command is with thee; so consider what thou wilt command." She said: "Kings, when they enter a country, despoil it, and make the noblest of its people its meanest thus do they behave. But I am going to send him a present, and (wait) to see with what (answer) return (my) ambassadors."

Now when (the embassy) came to Solomon, he said: "Will ye give me abundance in wealth? But that which Allah has given me is better than that which He has given you! Nay it is ye who rejoice in your gift! Go back to them, and be sure we shall come to them with such hosts as they will never be able to meet: We shall expel them from there in disgrace, and they will feel humbled (indeed)."

He said (to his own men): "Ye chiefs! which of you can bring me her throne before they come to me in submission?" Said an 'Ifrit, of the Jinns: "I will bring it to thee before thou rise from thy council: indeed I have full strength for the purpose, and may be trusted."

Said one who had knowledge of the Book: "I will bring it to thee within the twinkling of an eye!" Then when (Solomon) saw it placed firmly before him, he said: "This is by the Grace of my Lord!- to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! and if any is grateful, truly his gratitude is (a gain) for his own soul; but if any is ungrateful, truly my Lord is Free of all Needs, Supreme in Honour!" He said: "Transform her throne out of all recognition by her: let us see whether she is guided (to the truth) or is one of those who receive no guidance."

So when she arrived, she was asked, "Is this thy throne?" She said, "It was just like this; and knowledge was bestowed on us in advance of this, and we have submitted to Allah (in Islam)." And he diverted her from the worship of others besides Allah: for she was (sprung) of a people that had no faith.

She was asked to enter the lofty Palace: but when she saw it, she thought it was a lake of water, and she (tucked up her skirts), uncovering her legs. He said: "This is but a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass." She said: "O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul: I do (now) submit (in Islam), with Solomon, to the Lord of the Worlds."

... The Qur'an, an-Naml (The Ants) 27:20-44

Friday, June 27, 2008

Keep On Trying...

Keep On Trying - by Poco

Another Milestone...

One milestone will be reached by the end of working day this evening: it will be the last of my working day at the office before I begin my super-long leave till August. No more cases to hear, no more divorces to administer, no more hearing parties' family problems, no more making hard decisions of other's personal lifes, no more hearing morbid stories, no more parties to scold etc etc... what a weight off my shoulder :)

Most people will be ... hmmm ... sad to leave their colleagues and work behind. Well, I do - and I have some great colleagues at the office and a few became really good, close friends, Alhamdulillah - but I chose to be positive and look forward to my new and exciting challenges ahead.

It's funny how when I received news about my scholarship 6 months ago - I was going crazy having to wait 6 months to leave. And now, at the wink of an eye, the time has come.

Last day at work is one sign of the beginning of my new journey. Last day officially at the Ministry will be the other. My visa should be approved in the next 2 weeks. So... all set to go :)

My friend suggested that I put up this Graduation Song to accompany my entry. I felt really juvenile putting up this song: but what the heck! My choice would be See You by Depeche Mode. So, I am putting up both of them here...

It's 1730hrs!!! I am outta here!!!! ... yay.........

Graduation Song - by Vitamin C

See You - by Depeche Mode

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Training With The Trainer

Last weekend, my training was notched up a level. While normally I was the one perspiring going through the routines, I was honoured when my trainer trained together with me. I was so inspired and motivated - it made training more fun.

We were doing similar sets of routine the whole morning - I would do my set first before he adds an additional pair of weights for himself. In my turn, I would be counting down for him, "cheer him on" and "act" like I was his trainer. In fact, he even asked me to slow down the routines! It was a fresh change of perspective :) Of course, he sniggered - but it was all done in good spirits.

We felt great training together that weekend - and planned to train together every weekend, or what is left of the remaining of our weekends (he is also flying off to Europe for a new job a month after I leave Singapore). In the meantime, I will have to perspire alone during my weekdays ... but that's alright with me :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Three (+2+1) Musketeers

Today, the three musketeers met up for a (super long) lunch at a relatively new Italian restaurant in the East. It has been a few months since we hang out together - and in those months, there were new additions to our family of musketeers. Today, the missus and the baby-son came along too :)

I am truly blessed to have the privilege of their friendship and companionship. We have spent so many moments together sharing and discussing our views about life and things generally. It is intellectually and spiritually stimulating being around the musketeers.

Earlier in the year, one of the musketeer was posted to another Ministry - and for a moment left the remaining two feeling rather lost, but we adjusted. Within the next few weeks, it will be my turn to be going away to the US and that remaining musketeer is already feeling 'lost'. But if anything is to go by, I am confident that the strength of our friendship and shared experiences will bind us together still - for a long time to come. Meeting and parting are incidents in the journey of Life, but for those who hold on, these are just a matter of time, space and distance.

During lunch in Ramadhan last year, the musketeers used to gather in my room at the office to perform congregational prayers, memorize the Qur'an or discuss issues together. Those were extraordinary moments. Another magical incident occured during our congregational prayers today. I recited the iqamah, the other led the prayer whilst the third read the doa. At the closing doa, a special recitation was made for me - which evoked our emotions and touched me deeply. And for that moment, I was 'transported' to the time when I was performing the Umrah with one of the musketeers about 3 years ago. A similar gush of emotions overflowed while we were praying our last maghrib prayer before we depart the next day and left the Masjidil Haram. And just as it occurred on that beautiful day, we hugged each other after that prayer in front of the Ka'abah, but today in Singapore, we faced the Ka'abah - as if testifying before it of our bond.

There was nothing left for me to do but to perform the prostration of gratefulness when I reached home.

Thank you dear God, thank you dear Beloved, and thank you dear musketeers.

I will carry fond thoughts of you both wherever I will be in the next few years - it will be my humility-check in times of success and it will serve as my inspiration when I am down. I will enliven the pact we made: that we must excel and be a model in what we individually do best, and with that, we must contribute for the betterment of the community and the world.

And as though symbolic, both musketeers bought me a much-needed digital camera so I can take pictures of the many journeys that lay before me. I know it was based on my request, but just as pictures capture each unique moments in life, our journeys together were earlier captured and stored in my heart.

You are my Abu Bakr and 'Umar.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.

When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.

Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!

How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?

In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.

Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.

In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."

Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

... The Collected Poems, Stanley Kunitz

O, Gather Me The Rose

O, gather me the rose, the rose,
While yet in flower we find it,
For summer smiles, but summer goes,
And winter waits behind it!

For with the dream foregone, foregone,
The deed forborne for ever,
The worm, regret, will canker on,
And time will turn him never.

So well it were to love, my love,
And cheat of any laughter
The death beneath us and above,
The dark before and after.

The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
The sunshine and the swallow,
The dream that comes, the wish that goes,
The memories that follow!

... William Ernest Henley

The Stone Roses

Of late, The Stone Roses has been my constant companion at the treadmill. And not surprisingly, sometimes I would run way, way beyond the required daily 2.4km just by listening to their funky techno rock song entitled Begging You from their second album released in 1994, Second Coming - it absolutely brings me to a high. It blanks my mind and that is a requisite to run longer distances. I kept this song on repeat mode and it would probably repeat 100 times before I eventually stopped running - and that is from someone who actually hates running and finds running boring. I would not attribute the endurance and strength to my improved stamina, but more to the beat of this awesome song Begging You - you are simply blown away. For those runners out there, you know what I mean. For those who don't run, you have no idea what an appropriate song would do to your abilities. And for those trainees like me who sometimes wished that the gym would disappear so that you will not have to go for training, this song will physce you up and put you in the right frame of mind (ie. mindless :)

The Stone Roses were an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1984 and was one of the pioneering groups of the Manchester indie music scene that evolved during the late 1980s and early 1990s. They have unfortunately since disbanded. Their 1989 debut album The Stone Roses quickly achieved the status of a classic in the UK, and topped NME's list of the Greatest British Albums of All Time. The band signed with Geffen Records in 1991, but it wouldn't be until 1994 that they released another album, Second Coming. The album had a heavier sound to it, which was not well received by the press.

Second Coming is an album released on December 5, 1994 in the UK and early 1995 in the US. The album was released on Geffen Records. It went platinum in the UK and sold 1 million copies worldwide. The album was dedicated to Philip Hall, the band's publicist, who died of cancer in 1994. This second album suffered greatly at the time from the sheer weight of expectations generated by both the 5½ years gap between it and the band's eponymous debut, and the band's withdrawal from the live arena for 4½ of those years. In addition, The Stone Roses made their return in a changed musical environment, with the UK newly-ensconced in Brit Pop with Blur and Oasis as the premier rock bands of the day.

And now, the way to listen to Begging You is pure and simple: you MUST have a good earpiece and lock it on your ears, then just blast it away. Don't be surprised if you are inspired to start running, or cycling, or whatever turns you on... Be blown away :)

Due to issues of taste and decency, this is an audio version of the original music video. You have been warned though: it is a funky rock techno song - way matured beyond its genre back in the 90's. Skip if you prefer mushy ballads :p

Reckless Poem

Today again I am hardly myself.
It happens over and over.
It is heaven-sent.

It flows through me
like the blue wave.
Green leaves – you may believe this or not –
have once or twice
emerged from the tips of my fingers

deep in the woods,
in the reckless seizure of spring.

Though, of course, I also know that other song,
the sweet passion of one-ness.

Just yesterday I watched an ant crossing a path, through the
tumbled pine needles she toiled.
And I thought: she will never live another life but this one.
And I thought: if she lives her life with all her strength
is she not wonderful and wise?
And I continued this up the miraculous pyramid of everything
until I came to myself.

And still, even in these northern woods, on these hills of sand,
I have flown from the other window of myself
to become white heron, blue whale,
red fox, hedgehog.
Oh, sometimes already my body has felt like the body of a flower!
Sometimes already my heart is a red parrot, perched
among strange, dark trees, flapping and screaming.

... Mary Oliver

The Present Moment

Ask not the question: what is going to happen?
Let things come upon you as they come.
Be at peace in the Now
That belongs to God; thy faith will reward thee.

If thy thoughts turn to the Most High,
He is with thee; and whatever lies before thee,
In this world or the next, is in His Hands.

... The Present Moment XXXII, Frithjof Schuon

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Lord of the Rings

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them -

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Smiths

This Charming Man


The Cure

The Cure ... forever!

An acoustic version of A Letter to Elise - my favourite The Cure song :)

The ever popular Friday I'm In Love.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD)

Human League


Depeche Mode

When Depeche Mode was hardly known in Singapore many many years back, I was already lapping up their records (the vinyl black round records played at a turntable - that long ago!) from an underground music store and even ordered their music videos (in VCR format!) direct from London - all thanks to Smash Hits and No. 1 magazines :) But of course, everyone knows them now and my interest diminished. But last weekend rekindled some of their songs - some new ones which I will put in this entry. Enjoy the silence...

Enjoy The Silence

Shake The Disease

Everything Counts

Master And Servant


I was at a farewell gathering last weekend to send off some good friends back to the States. Apart from the wonderful company, the music was super awesome. It was sort of a journey back in time - to the 80's to be exact. I am convinced that the 80's with its danceable tunes and synthesizer sounds, were one of music golden moments. All these bands seemed so 'campy' and fun. One that has been humming in my mind is this song Freedom by Wham! - a version seldom heard of now since George Michael did another song of the same name when Wham! disbanded. Enjoy Freedom!

Friday, June 13, 2008

O Drop!

listen, o drop,
give yourself up without regret,
and in exchange gain the ocean.

listen, o drop,
bestow upon yourself the honor,
and in the arms of the sea be secure.
who indeed should be so fortunate?

an ocean wooing a drop
in God's Name, in God's Name,
sell and but at once!

give a drop,
and take this sea full of pearls.

... Mevlana Rumi

Inner Life

Give me, oh God
Deep thoughts
High dreams
Few words
Much silence
The narrow path
The wide outlook
The end in peace.

... The Inner Life, Pir Inayat Khan

Realizing The Value

To realize the value of one year,
ask a student who has failed a grade.

To realize the value of one month,
ask a mother who has given birth to a pre-mature baby.

To realize the value of one week,
ask an editor of a weekly newspaper.

To realize the value of one day,
ask a daily wage laborer who has kids to feed.

To realize the value of one hour,
ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.

To realize the value of one minute,
ask a person who has missed the train.

To realize the value of one second,
ask a person who has avoided an accident.

To realize the value of one milli-second,
ask the person who has won a silver medal in the Olympics ...

Author Unknown

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ever Thine, Ever Mine, Ever Ours

Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us ...

Yes, I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home with you, and can send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits ...

No one else can ever possess my heart - never - never - Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves ... Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men ...

My angel, I have just been told that the mailcoach goes every day - therefore I must close at once so that you may receive the letter at once ...

Be calm - love me - today - yesterday - what tearful longings for you - you - you - my life - my all - farewell. Oh continue to love me - never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.

Ever thine,

Ever mine,

Ever ours.

... The Immortal Beloved Letters, Ludwig van Beethoven

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Passing Time

Your skin like dawn
Mine like musk

One paints the beginning
of a certain end.

The other, the end of a
sure beginning.

... Maya Angelou

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Story of Sheikh Sam'an - Part 7 (Final)

The sheikh’s heart spoke: “The Christian is no more;
The girl you loved knocks at religion’s door –
It is our way she follows now; go back
And be the comforter her sorrows lack.”
Like wind he ran, and his disciples cried:
“Has your repentant vow so quickly died?
Will you slip back, a shameless reprobate?”
But when the sheikh explained the girl’s sad state,
Compassion moved their hearts and they agreed
To search for her and serve her every need.
They found her with hair draggled in the dirt,
Prone on the earth as if a corpse, her skirt
Torn from her limbs, barefoot, her face death-pale.
She saw the sheikh and felt her last strength fail;
She fainted at his feet, and as she slept
The sheikh hung over her dear face and wept.

She woke, and seeing tears like rain in spring
Knew he’d kept faith with her through everything.
She knelt before him, took his hands and said
“The shame I brought on your respected head
Burns me with shame; how long must I remain
Behind this veil of ignorance? Make plain
The mysteries of Islam to me here,
And I shall tread its highway without fear.”
The sheikh spelt out the faith to her; the crowd
Of gratified disciples cried aloud,
Weeping to see the lovely child embrace
The search for Truth. Then, as her comely face
Bent to his words, her heart began to feel
An inexpressible and troubling zeal;
Slowly she felt the pall of grief descend,
Knowing herself still absent from the Friend.
“Dear sheikh,” she said, “I cannot bear such pain;
Absence undoes me and my spirits wane.
I go from this unhappy world; farewell
World’s sheikh and mine – further I cannot tell,
Exhaustion weakens me; O sheikh, forgive…”
And saying this the dear child ceased to live.
The sun was hidden by a mist – her flesh
Yielded the sweet soul from its weakening mesh.
She was a drop returned to Truth’s great sea;
She left this world, and so, like wind, must we.

Whoever knows love’s path is soon aware
That stories such as this are far from rare.
All things are possible, and you may meet
Despair, forgiveness, certainty, deceit.
The Self ignores the secrets of the Way,
The mysteries no mortal speech can say;
Assurance whispers in the heart’s dark core,
Not in the muddied Self – a bitter war
Must rage between these two. Turn now and mourn
That your existence is so deeply torn!’

... The Conference of the Birds (Mantiq-ut-Tair), Shaykh Farid-ud-din 'Attar

The Story of Sheikh Sam'an - Part 6

With grateful happiness the friend cried out;
The heavens echoed his triumphant shout.
He told the good news to the group; again
They set out eagerly across the plain.
Weeping they ran to where the swineherd-sheikh,
Now cured of his unnatural mistake,
Had cast aside his Christian clothes, the bell,
The belt, the cap, freed from the strange faith’s spell.
Seeing his friends approach his hiding-place,
He saw how he had forfeited God’s grace;
He ripped his clothes in frenzies of distress;
He grovelled in the dust with wretchedness.
Tears flowed like rain; he longed for death; his sighs’
Great heat consumed the curtain of the skies;
Grief dried the blood within him when he saw
How he had lost all knowledge of God’s law;
All he had once abandoned now returned
And he escaped the hell in which he’d burned.
He came back to himself, and on his knees
Wept bitterly for past iniquities.
When his disciples saw him weeping there,
Bathed in shame’s sweat, they reeled between despair
And joy – bewildered they drew near and sighed;
From gratitude they gladly would have died.
They said: “The mist has fled that hid your sun;
Faith has returned and blasphemy is gone;
Truth has defeated Rome’s idolatry;
Grace has surged onward like a mighty sea.
The Prophet interceded for your soul;
The world sends up its thanks from pole to pole.
Why should you mourn? You should thank God instead
That out of darkness you’ve been safely led;
God who can turn the day to darkest night
Can turn black sin to pure repentant light –
He kindles a repentant spark, the flame
Burns all our sins and all sin’s burning shame.”

I will be brief: the sheikh was purified
According to the faith; his old self died –
He put the dervish cloak on as before.
The group set out for Mecca’s gates once more.

And then the Christian girl whom he had loved
Dreamed in her sleep; a shaft of sunlight moved
Before her eyes, and from the dazzling ray
A voice said: “Rise, follow your lost sheikh’s way;
Accept his faith, beneath his feet be dust;
You tricked him once, be pure to him and just,
And, as he took your path without pretence,
Take his path now in truth and innocence.
Follow his lead; you once led him astray –
Be his companion as he points the Way;
You were a robber preying on the road
Where you should seek to share the traveller’s load.
Wake now, emerge from superstition’s night.”
She woke, and in her heart a steady light
Beat like the sun, and an unwonted pain
Throbbed there, a longing she could not restrain;
Desire flared up in her; she felt her soul
Slip gently from the intellect’s control.
As yet she did not know what seed was sown –
She had no friend and found herself alone
In an uncharted world; no tongue can tell
What then she saw – her pride and triumph fell
Like rain from her; with an unearthly shout
She tore the garments from her back, ran out
And heaped the dust of mourning on her head.
Her frame was weak, the heart within her bled,
But she began the journey to her sheikh,
And like a cloud that seems about to break
And shed its downpour of torrential rain
(The heart’s rich blood) she ran across the plain.
But soon the desert’s endless vacancy
Bewildered her; wild with uncertainty,
She wept and pressed her face against the sand.
“O God,” she cried, “extend your saving hand
To one who is an outcast of the earth,
To one who tricked a saint of unmatched worth –
Do not abandon me; my evil crime
Was perpetrated in a thoughtless time;
I did not know what I know now – accept
The prayers of one who ignorantly slept.”

The Story of Sheikh Sam'an - Part 5

They skulked in corners, shameful and afraid.
A close companion of the sheikh had stayed
In Mecca while the group had journeyed west –
A man of wisdom, fit for any test,
Who, seeing now the vacant oratory
Where once his friend had worshipped faithfully,
Asked after their lost sheikh. In tears then they
Described what had occurred along the way;
How he had bound his fortunes to her hair,
And blocked the path of faith with love’s despair;
How curls usurped belief and how his cloak
Had been consumed in passion’s blackening smoke;
How he’d become a swineherd, how the four
Acts contrary to all Islamic law
Had been performed by him, how this great sheikh
Lived like a pagan for his lover’s sake.
Amazement seized the friend – his face grew pale,
He wept and felt the heart within him fail.
“O criminals!” he cried. “O frailer than
Weak women in your faith – when does a man
Need faithful friends but in adversity?
You should be there, not prattling here to me.
Is this devoted love? Shame on you all,
Fair-weather friends who run when great men fall.
He put on Christian garments – so should you;
He took their faith – what else had you to do?
This was no friendship, to forsake your friend,
To promise your support and at the end
Abandon him – this was sheer treachery.
Friend follows friend to hell and blasphemy –
When sorrows come a man’s true friends are found;
In times of joy ten thousand gather round.
Our sheikh is savaged by some shark – you race
To separate yourselves from his disgrace.
Love’s built on readiness to share love’s shame;
Such self-regarding love usurps love’s name.”
“Repeatedly we told him all you say,”
They cried. “We were companions of the Way,
Sworn to a common happiness or grief;
We should exchange the honours of belief
For odium and scorn; we should accept
The Christian cult our sheikh could not reject.
But he insisted that we leave – our love
Seemed pointless then; he ordered us to move.
At his express command we journeyed here
To tell his story plainly, without fear.”

He answered them: “However hard the fight,
You should have fought for what was clearly right.
Truth struggled there with error; when you went
You only worsened his predicament.
You have abandoned him; how could you dare
To enter Mecca’s uncorrupted air?”
They heard his speech; not one would raise his head.
And then, “There is no point in shame,” he said.
“What’s done is done; we must act justly now,
Bury this sin, seek out the sheikh and bow
Before him once again.” They left their home
And made their way a second time to Rome;
They prayed a hundred thousand prayers – at times
With hope, at times disheartened by their crimes.
They neither ate nor slept but kept their gaze
Unswerving throughout forty nights and days.
Their wailing lamentations filled the sky,
Moving the green-robed angels ranked on high
To clothe themselves with black, and in the end
The leader of the group, the sheikh’s true friend,
His heart consumed by sympathetic grief
Let loose the well-aimed arrows of belief.
For forty nights he had prayed privately,
Rapt in devotion’s holy ecstasy –
At dawn there came a musk-diffusing breeze,
And in his heart he knew all mysteries.
He saw the Prophet, lovely as the moon,
Whose face, Truth’s shadow, was the sun at noon,
Whose hair in two black heavy braids was curled –
Each hair, a hundred times, outpriced the world.
As he approached with his unruffled pace,
A smile of haunting beauty lit his face.
The sheikh’s friend rose and said: “God’s Messenger,
Vouchsafe your help. Our sheikh has wandered far;
You are our Guide; guide him to Truth again.”
The Prophet answered: “I have loosed the chain
Which bound your sheikh – your prayer is answered, go.
Thick clouds of dust have been allowed to blow
Between his sight and Truth – those clouds have gone;
I did not leave him to endure alone.
I sprinkled on the fortunes of your sheikh
A cleansing dew for intercession’s sake –
The dust is laid; sin disappeared before
His new-made vow. A world of sin, be sure,
Shall with contrition’s spittle be made pure.
The sea of righteousness drowns in its waves
The sins of those sincere repentance saves.”

The Story of Sheikh Sam'an - Part 4

News spread among the Christians that this sheikh
Had chosen their religion for love’s sake.
They took him to a nearby monastery,
Where he accepted their theology;
He burnt his dervish cloak and set his face
Against the faith and Mecca’s holy place –
After so many years of true belief,
A young girl brought this learned sheikh to grief.
He said: “This dervish has been well betrayed;
The agent was mere passion for a maid.
I must obey her now – what I have done
Is worse than any crime beneath the sun.”
(How many leave the faith through wine! It is
The mother of such evil vagaries.)
“Whatever you required is done,” he said.
“What more remains? I have bowed down my head
In love’s idolatry, I have drunk wine;
May no one pass through wretchedness like mine!
Love ruins one like me, and black disgrace
Now stares a once-loved dervish in the face.
For fifty years I walked an open road
While in my heart high seas of worship flowed;
Love ambushed me and at its sudden stroke
For Christian garments I gave up my cloak;
The Ka’abah has become love’s secret sign,
And homeless love interprets the Divine.
Consider what, for your sake, I have done –
Then tell me, when shall we two be as one?
Hope for that moment justifies my pain;
Have all my troubles been endured in vain?”
The girl replied: “But you are poor, and I
Cannot be cheaply won – the price is high;
Bring gold, and silver too, you are innocent –
Then I might pity your predicament;
But you have neither, therefore go – and take
A beggar’s alms from me; be off, old sheikh!
Be on your travels like the sun – alone;
Be manly now and patient, do not groan!”
“A fine interpretation of your vow,”
The sheikh replied; “my love, look at me now –
I have no one but you; your cypress gait,
Your silver form, decide my wretched fate.
Take back your cruel commands; each moment you
Confuse me by demanding something new.
I have endured your absence, promptly done
All you have asked – what profit have I won?
I’ve passed beyond loss, profit, Islam, crime,
For how much longer must I bide my time?
Is this what we agreed? My friends have gone,
Despising me, and I am here alone.
They follow one way, you another – I
Stand witless here uncertain where to fly;
I know without you heaven would be hell,
Hell heaven with you; more I cannot tell.”
At last his protestations moved her heart.
“You are too poor to play the bridegroom’s part,”
She said, “but be my swineherd for a year
And then we’ll stay together, never fear.”
The sheikh did not refuse – a fractious way
Estranges love; he hurried to obey.
This reverend sheikh kept swine – but who does not
Keep something swinish in his nature’s plot?
Do not imagine only he could fall;
This hidden danger lurks within us all,
Rearing its bestial head when we begin
To tread salvation’s path – if you think sin
Has no place in your nature, you can stay
Content at home; you are excused the Way.
But if you start our journey you will find
That countless swine and idols tease the mind –
Destroy these hindrances to love or you
Must suffer that disgrace the sad sheikh knew.

Despair unmanned his friends; they saw his plight
And turned in helpless horror from the sight –
The dust of grief anointed each bowed head;
But one approached the hapless man and said:
“We leave for Mecca now, O weak-willed sheikh;
Is there some message you would have us take?
Or should we all turn Christians and embrace
This faith men call a blasphemous disgrace?
We get no pleasure from the thought of you
Left here alone – shall we be Christians too?
Or since we cannot bear your state should we,
Deserting you, incontinently flee;
Forget that you exist and live in prayer
Beside the Ka’abah’s stone without a care?”
The sheikh replied: “What grief has filled my heart!
Go where you please – but quickly, now, depart;
Only the Christian keeps my soul alive,
And I shall stay with her while I survive.
Though you are wise your wisdom cannot know
The wild frustrations through which lovers go.
If for one moment you could share my pain,
We could be old companions once again.
But now go back, dear friends; if anyone
Asks after me explain what I have done –
Say that my eyes swim blood, that parched I wait
Trapped in the gullet of a monstrous fate.
Say Islam’s elder has outsinned the whole
Of heathen blasphemy, that self-control
Slipped from him when he saw the Christian’s hair,
That faith was conquered by insane despair.
Should anyone reproach my actions, say
That countless others have pursued this Way,
This endless Way where no one is secure,
Where danger waits and issues are unsure.”
He turned from them; a swineherd sought his swine.
His friends wept vehemently – their sheikh’s decline
Seemed death to them. Sadly they journeyed home,
Resigning their apostate sheikh to Rome.

The Story of Sheikh Sam'an - Part 3

At last white day displayed her golden shield;
Black night declined his head, compelled to yield –
The world lay drowned in sparkling light, and dawn
Disclosed the sheikh, still wretched and forlorn,
Disputing with stray dogs the place before
His unattainable beloved’s door.
There in the dust he knelt, till constant prayers
Made him resemble one of her darks hairs;
A patient month he waited day and night
To glimpse the radiance of her beauty’s light.
At last fatigue and sorrow made him ill –
Her street became his bed and he lay still.
When she perceived he would – and could – not move,
She understood the fury of his love,
But she pretended ignorance and said:
“What is it, sheikh? Why is our street your bed?
How can a Moslem sleep where Christians tread?”
He answered her: “I have no need to speak;
You know why I am wasted, pale and weak.
Restore the heart you stole, or let me see
Some glimmer in your heart of sympathy;
In all your pride find some affection for
The grey-haired, lovesick stranger at your door.
Accept my love or kill me now – your breath
Revives me or consigns me here to death.
Your face and curls command my life; beware
Of how the breeze displays your vagrant hair;
The sight breeds fever in me, and your deep
Hypnotic eyes induce love’s restless sleep.
Love mists my eyes, love burns my heart – alone,
Impatient and unloved, I weep and groan;
See what a sack of sorrow I have sewn!
I give my soul and all the world to burn,
And endless tears are all I hope to earn.
My eyes beheld your face, my heart despaired;
What I have seen and suffered none have shared.
My heart has turned to blood; how long must I
Subsist on misery? You need not try
To humble wretchedness, or kick the foe
Who in the dust submissively bows low.
It is my fortune to lament and wait –
When, if, love answers me depends on Fate.
My soul is ambushed here, and in your street
Relives each night the anguish of defeat;
Your threshold’s dust receives my prayers – I give
As cheap as dust the soul by which I live.
How long outside your door must I complain?
Relent a moment and relieve my pain.
You are the sun and I a shadow thrown
By you – how then can I survive alone?
Though pain has worn me to a shadow’s edge,
Like sunlight I shall leap your window’s ledge;
Let me come in and I shall secretly
Bring seven heavens’ happiness with me.
My soul is burnt to ash; my passion’s fire
Destroys the world with unappeased desire.
Love binds my feet and I cannot depart;
Love holds the hand pressed hard against my heart.
My fainting soul dissolves in deathly sighs –
How long must you stay hidden from my eyes?”

She laughed: “You shameless fool, take my advice –
Prepare yourself for death and paradise!
Forget flirtatious games, your breath is cold;
Stop chasing love, remember you are old.
It is a shroud you need, not me! How could
You hope for wealth when you must beg for food?”
He answered her: “Say what you will, but I
In love’s unhappy torments live and die;
To Love, both young and old are one – his dart
Strikes with unequalled strength in every heart.”
The girl replied: “There are four things you must
Perform to show that you deserve my trust:
Burn the Koran, drink wine, seel up Faith’s eye,
Bow down to images.” And in reply
The sheikh declared: “Wine I will drink with you;
The rest are things that I could never do.”
She said: “If you agree to my commands,
To start with, you must wholly wash your hands
Of Islam’s faith – the love which does not care
To bend to love’s requests is empty air.”
He yielded then: “I must and will obey;
I’ll do whatever you are pleased to say.
Your slave submits – lead me with ringlets twined
As chains about my neck; I am resigned!”
She smiled: “Come then and drink”, and he allowed
Her to escort him to a hall (the crowd
Of scholars followed, weeping and afraid)
Where Christians banqueted, and there a maid
Of matchless beauty passed the cup around.
Love humbled our poor sheikh – without a sound
He gave his heart into the Christian’s hands;
His mind had fled, he bowed to her commands,
And from those hands he took the proffered bowl;
He drank, oblivion overwhelmed his soul.
Wine mingled with his love – her laughter seemed
To challenge him to take the bliss he dreamed.
Passion flared up in him; again he drank,
And slave-like at her feet contented sank –
This sheikh who had the whole Koran by heart
Felt wine spread through him and his faith depart;
Whatever he had known deserted him,
Wine conquered and his intellect grew dim;
Wine sluiced away his conscience; she alone
Lived in his heart, all other thoughts had flown.
Now love grew violent as an angry sea,
He watched her drink and moved instinctively –
Half-fuddled with the wine – to touch her neck.
But she drew back and held his hand in check,
Deriding him: “What do you want, old man?
Old hypocrite of love, who talks but can
Do nothing else? To prove your love, declare
That your religion is my rippling hair.
Love’s more than childish games, if you agree –
For love – to imitate my blasphemy
You can embrace me here; if not, you may
Take up your stick and hobble on your way.”
The abject sheikh had sunk to such a state
That he could not resist his wretched fate;
Now ignorant of shame and unafraid,
He heard the Christian’s wishes and obeyed –
The old wine sidled through the old man’s veins
And like a twisting compass turned his brains;
Old wine, young love, a lover far too old,
Her soft arms welcoming – could he be cold?
Beside himself with love and drink he cried:
“Command me now; whatever you decide
I will perform. I spurned idolatry
When sober, but your beauty is to me
An idol for whose sake I’ll gladly burn
My faith’s Koran.” “Now you begin to learn,
Now you are mine, dear sheikh,” she said. “Sleep well,
Sweet dreams; our ripening fruit begins to swell.”

The Story of Sheikh Sam'an - Part 2

When gloomy twilight spread its darkening shrouds –
Like blasphemy concealed by guilty clouds –
His ardent heart gave out the only light,
And love increased a hundredfold that night.
He put aside the Self and selfish lust;
In grief he smeared his locks with filth and dust
And kept his haunted vigil, watched and wept,
Lay trembling in love’s grip and never slept.
“O Lord, when will this darkness end?” he cried,
“Or is it that the heavenly sun has died?
Those nights I passed in faith’s austerities
Cannot compare with this night’s agonies;
But like a candle now my flame burns high
To weep all night and in the daylight die.
Ambush and blood have been my lot this night;
Who knows what torments day will bring to light?
This fevered darkness and my wretched state
Were made when I was made, and are my fate;
The night continues and the hours delay –
Perhaps the world has reached its Judgement Day;
Perhaps the sun’s extinguished with my sighs,
Or hides in shame from my beloved’s eyes.
This long, dark night is like her flowing hair –
The thought in absence comforts my despair,
But love consumes me through this endless night –
I yield to love, unequal to the fight.
Where is there time enough to tell my grief?
Where is the patience to regain belief?
Where is the luck to waken me, or move
Love’s idol to reciprocate my love?
Where is the reason that could rescue me,
Or by some trick prove my auxiliary?
Where is the hand to pour dust on my head,
Or lift me from the dust where I lie dead?
Where is the foot that seeks the longed-for place?
Where is the eye to show me her fair face?
Where is the loved one to relieve my pain?
Where is the guide to help me turn again?
Where is the strength to utter my complaint?
Where is the mind to counsel calm restraint?
The loved one, reason, patience – all are gone
And I remain to suffer love alone.”

At this the fond disciples gathered round,
Bewildered by his groans’ pathetic sound.
“My sheikh,” urged one, “forget this evil sight;
Rise, cleanse yourself according to our rite.”
“In blood I cleanse myself,” the sheikh replied;
“In blood, a hundred times, my life is dyed.”
Another asked: “Where is your rosary?”
He said: “I fling the beads away from me;
The Christian’s belt is my sole sanctuary!”
One urged him to repent; he said: “I do,
Of all that I was, all that belonged thereto.”
One counseled prayer; he said: “Where is her face
That I may pray toward that blessed place?”
Another cried: “Enough of this; you must
Seek solitude and in repentant dust
Bow down to God.” “I will,” replied the sheikh,
“Bow down in dust, but for my idol’s sake.”
And one reproached him: “Have you no regret
For Islam and those rites you would forget?”
He said: “No man repents past folly more;
Why is it I was not in love before?”
Another said: “A demon’s poisoned dart –
Unknown to you – has pierced your trusting heart.”
The sheikh said: “If a demon straight from hell
Deceives me, I rejoice and wish her well.”
One said: “Our noble sheikh has lost his way;
Passion has led his wandering wits astray.”
“True, I have lost the fame I once held dear,”
Replied their sheikh, “and fraud as well, and fear.”
One said: “You break our hearts with this disgrace.”
He laughed: “The Christian’s heart will take their place.”
One said: “Stay with old friends awhile, and come –
We’ll seek the Ka’abah’s shade and journey home.”
The sheikh replied: “A Christian monastery
And not the Ka’abah’s shade suffices me.”
One said: “Return to Mecca and repent!”
He answered: “Leave me here, I am content.”
One said: “You travel on hell’s road.” “This sigh
Would shrivel seven hells.” Was his reply.
One said: “In hope of heaven turn again.”
He said: “Her face is heaven; I remain.”
One said: “Before our God confess your shame.”
He answered: “God Himself has lit this flame.”
One said: “Stop vacillating now and fight;
Defend the ways our faith proclaims as right.”
He said: “Prepare your ears for blasphemy;
An infidel does not prate piety.”
Their words could not recall him to belief,
And slowly they grew silent, sunk in grief.
They watched; each felt the heart within him fail,
Fearful of deeds Fate hid beneath her veil.

The Story of Sheikh Sam'an - Part 1

Sam’an was once the first man of his time.
Whatever praise can be expressed in rhyme
Belonged to him: for fifty years this sheikh
Kept Mecca’s holy place, and for his sake
Four hundred pupils entered learning’s way.
He mortified his body night and day,
Knew theory, practice, mysteries of great age,
And fifty times had made the Pilgrimage.
He fasted, prayed, observed all sacred laws –
Astonished saints and clerics thronged his doors.
He split religious hairs in argument;
His breath revived the sick and impotent.
He knew the people’s hearts in joy and grief
And was their living symbol of Belief.
Though conscious of his credit in their sight,
A strange dream troubled him, night after night;
Mecca was left behind; he lived in Rome,
The temple where he worshipped was his home,
And to an idol he bowed down his head.
“Alas!” he cried, when he awoke in dread,
“Like Joseph I am in a well of need
And have no notion when I shall be freed.
But every man meets problems on the Way,
And I shall conquer if I watch and pray.
If I can shift this rock my path is clear;
If not, then I must wait and suffer here.”
Then suddenly he burst out: “It would seem
That Rome could show the meaning of this dream;
There I must go!” And off the old man strode;
Four hundred followed him along the road.
They left the Ka’abah for Rome’s boundaries,
A gentle landscape of low hills and trees,
Where, infinitely lovelier than the view,
There sat a girl, a Christian girl who knew
The secrets of her faith’s theology.
A fairer child no man could hope to see –
In beauty’s mansion she was like a sun
That never set – indeed the spoils she won
Were headed by the sun himself, whose face
Was pale with jealousy and sour disgrace.
The man about whose heart her ringlets curled
Became a Christian and renounced the world;
The man who saw her lips and knew defeat
Embraced the earth before her bonny feet;
And as the breeze passed through her musky hair
The men of Rome watched wondering in despair.
Her eyes spoke promises to those in love,
Their fine brows arched coquettishly above –
Those brows sent glancing messages that seemed
To offer everything her lovers dreamed.
The pupils of her eyes grew wide and smiled,
And countless souls were glad to be beguiled;
The face beneath her curls glowed like soft fire;
Her honeyed lips provoked the world’s desire;
But those who thought to feast there found her eyes
Held pointed daggers to protect the prize,
And since she kept her counsel no one knew –
Despite the claims of some – what she would do.
Her mouth was tiny as a needle’s eye,
Her breath as quickening as Jesus’ sigh;
Her chin was dimpled with a silver well
In which a thousand drowning Josephs fell;
A glistering jewel secured her hair in place,
Which like a veil obscured her lovely face.
The Christian turned, the dark veil was removed,
A fire flashed through the old man’s joints – he loved!
One hair converted hundreds; how could he
Resist that idol’s face shown openly?
He did not know himself; in sudden fire
He knelt abjectly as the flames beat higher;
In that sad instant all he had been fled
And passion’s smoke obscured his heart and head.
Love sacked his heart; the girl’s bewitching hair
Twined round his faith impiety’s smooth snare.
The sheikh exchanged religion’s wealth for shame,
A hopeless heart submitted to love’s fame.
“I have no faith,” he cried. “The heart I gave
Is useless now; I am the Christian’s slave.”
When his disciples saw him weeping there
And understood the truth of the affair,
They stared, confounded by his frantic grief,
And strove to call him back to his belief.
Their remonstrations fell on deafened ears;
Advice has no effect when no one hears.
In turn the sheikh’s disciples had their say;
Love has no cure, and he could not obey.
(When did a lover listen to advice?
When did a nostrum cool love’s flames to ice?)
Till evening came he could not move but gazed
With stupefaction in his face, amazed.

A Star Without A Name

When a baby is taken from the wet nurse,
it easily forgets her
and starts eating solid food.

Seeds feed awhile on ground,
then lift up into the sun.

So you should taste the filtered light
and work your way toward wisdom
with no personal covering.

That's how you came here, like a star
without a name. Move across the night sky
with those anonymous lights.

... Mevlana Rumi

Look! This Is Love

Look! This Is Love

Oh, if a tree could wander
and move with foot and wings!
It would not suffer the axe blows
and not the pain of saws!
For would the sun not wander
away in every night?
How could at every morning
the world be lighted up?
And if the ocean's water
would not rise to the sky,
How would the plants be quickened
by streams and gentle rain?
The drop that left its homeland,
the sea, and then returned?
It found an oyster waiting
and grew into a pearl.

Did Yusuf not leave his father,
in grief and tears and despair?
Did he not, by such a journey,
gain kingdom and fortune wide?
Did not the Prophet travel
to far Medina, friend?
And there he found a new kingdom
and ruled a hundred lands.

You lack a foot to travel?
Then journey into yourself!
And like a mine of rubies
receive the sunbeams? Sprint!
Out of yourself? such a journey
will lead you to your self,
It leads to transformation
of dust into pure gold!

... Mevlana Rumi

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

"Everything you know is about to change..."

Search For Beauty

As people of faith, we believe that God created a code of conduct. As Abou El Fadl says in his book "The Search for Beauty In Islam: A Conference of the Books" whom I have had the honour of meeting a few years ago in Singapore:

“From that single divine Book [was] created a civilization. From an inspiration, an idea, then a thought, then a system, then roads and signs. Why do Muslims insist on reinventing the wheel on every journey?… Are there any people who dare limit God’s manifestations to a single Golden Age and then live enslaved to the illusion of a re-created history as much as we do? Can’t we see that every age is God’s age and that every age is to be honored, studied, and absorbed but never reproduced?”

It seems to me that one of our responsibilities is also, not to recreate the code, but to learn deeply so that we are capable of finding that code again within and for every age and circumstance.

The people of the Books (the Abrahamic religions) each look at themselves as “chosen” in some way - Jews as the Chosen people, Christians as the saved, Muslims as those given the perfected religion.

What’s strange to me is how so many of us take this to mean that we can rest on our laurels - or rather, the laurels of those in the past - and stop exercising our intellect or seeking to excel in serving humanity.

I look at being “chosen” as something not to instill a sense of superiority in myself over others, co-religionists or not, but rather as a deeply humbling awareness imbued with great responsibility to God and humanity.

If one is chosen, then one has the highest ethical and moral standards of behavior to live up to - and much to answer for to God.

We are each chosen to serve in our own capacity - and that’s a very great, and possibly beautiful, responsibility indeed.

Virtues of Abu Bakr

Once the Prophet (saw) asked the congregation right after the fajr prayers: “Who began this day fasting?” Abu Bakr said: “I did.” The Prophet (saw) said: “Who participated in a funeral procession today?” Abu Bakr said: “I did”. The Prophet (saw) said: “Who fed a needy person today?” Abu Bakr said: “I did”. He (saw) said: “Who visited a sick person today?” Abu Bakr said: “I did”. "Then", the Prophet said: “These things cannot all meet in a single person but that he will enter Paradise.” [Muslim]

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Moses and the Shepherd

A voice came from God to Moses, "Why hast thou sent My servant away? Thou hast come to draw men to union with Me, not to drive them far away from Me. So far as possible, engage not in dissevering [disuniting]. 'The thing most repugnant to Me is divorce.' To each person have I allotted peculiar forms. To each have I given particular usages. What is praiseworthy in thee is blameable in him, what is poison for thee is honey for him. What is good in him is bad in thee. What is fair in him is repulsive in thee. I am exempt from all purity and impurity. I need not the laziness or alacrity of My people. I created not men to gain a profit from them, but to shower My beneficence upon them.

In the men of Hind, the usages of Hind are praiseworthy. In the men of Sind, those of Sind. I am not purified by their praises,

'tis they who become pure and shining thereby. I regard not the outside and the words, I regard the inside and the state of heart. I look at the heart if it be humble, though the words may be the reverse of humble. Because the heart is substance, and words accidents. Accidents are only a means, substance is the final cause. How long wilt thou dwell on words and superficialities? A burning heart is what I want, [therefore] consort with [the] burning [heart]! Kindle in thy heart the flame of love, and burn up utterly thoughts and fine expressions. O Moses! the lovers of fair rites are one class, they whose hearts and souls burn with love are another.

Lovers must burn every moment, as tax and tithe are levied on a ruined village. If they speak amiss, call them not sinners.

If a martyr be stained with blood, wash it not away. Blood is better than water for martyrs, this fault is better than a thousand correct forms. No need to turn to the Ka'ba when one is in it and divers have no need of shoes. One does not take a drunken man as a guide on the way nor speak of darns to torn garments. The sect of lovers is distinct from all others. Lovers have a religion and a faith of their own. Though the ruby has no stamp, what matters it?

Love is fearless in the midst of the sea of fear. Beware, if thou offerest praises or thanksgivings and know them to be even as the babble of that shepherd. Though thy praises be better compared with his, yet in regard to God they are full of defects. How long wilt thou say, 'They obscure the truth, for it is not such as they fancy'? Thy own prayers are accepted only through mercy, they are suffered as the prayers of an impure woman. If her prayers are made impure by the flow of blood, thine are stained with metaphors and similitudes. Blood is impure, yet its stain is removed by water. But that impurity of ignorance is more lasting, seeing that without the blessed water of God it is not banished from the man who is subject to it.

O that thou wouldst turn thy face to thy own prayers, and become cognizant of the meaning of thy ejaculations, and say, 'Ah! my prayers are as defective as my being. O requite me good for evil!'

Moses questions God as to the reason of the flourishing state of the wicked

Moses said, "O beneficent Creator, with whom a moment's remembrance is as long ages. I see Thy plan distorted in this world of earth and water. My heart, like the angel's, feels a difficulty thereat. With what object hast Thou framed this plan, and sowed therein the seeds of evil? Why hast Thou kindled the fire of violence and wrong? Why burn up mosques and them who worship therein?

Paradise is attached to requirements unpleasant to us. Hell is attached to things flattering our lusts. The branch full of sap is the main fuel of thy fire. 'They that are burnt with fire are near to Kausar.' Whoso is in prison and acquainted with troubles, that is in requital for his gluttony and lusts. Whoso is in a palace and enjoying wealth, that is in reward for toils and troubles. Whoso is seen enjoying uncounted gold and silver, know that he strove patiently to acquire it. He, whose soul is exempt from natural conditions, and who possesses the power of overriding causes, can see without causes, like eyes that pierce night. But thou, who art dependent on sense attend to causes, having left Jesus, thou cherishest an ass (lust), and art perforce excluded like an ass.

The portion of Jesus is knowledge and wisdom, not so the portion of an ass, O asinine one! Thou pitiest thine ass when it complains, so art thou ignorant, thy ass makes thee asinine. Keep thy pity for Jesus, not for the ass. Make not thy lust to vanquish thy reason. Leave thy natural lusts to whine and howl. Tear thee from them, escape that snare of the soul!

... Mathnawi, Mevlana Rumi

Monday, June 2, 2008

Portland, Oregon

After a few days in Washington, I will be spending about a week in Portland, Oregon for an introductory programme before proceeding to my eventual destination. It is good to know a few friends in both states to spend time together.

From wikipedia: Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It joined the Union on February 14, 1859 as the 33rd state. Previously, the region was part of the Oregon Territory that was created in 1848 after American settlement began in earnest in the 1840s. The state lies on the Pacific coast between Washington on the north and California and Nevada on the south; Idaho lies to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers form much of its northern and eastern boundaries, respectively. Salem, the state's third most populous city, is the state capital, while the most populous city is Portland.

The highest point in Oregon is the summit of Mount Hood, at 11,239 feet (3,428 m), and its lowest point is sea level of the Pacific Ocean along the Oregon coast. Its mean elevation is 3,300 feet (1,006 m). Crater Lake National Park is the state's only National Park, and the site of Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S. at 1,943 feet (592 m). Oregon claims the D River is the shortest river in the world, though the American state of Montana makes the same claim of its Roe River. Oregon is also home to Mill Ends Park (in Portland), the smallest park in the world at 452 square inches (0.29 m²).

The state has 199 public school districts, with Portland Public Schools as the largest. There are 17 community colleges, and seven publicly financed colleges in the Oregon University System. Oregon Health & Science University, the state's only medical school, is affiliated with the system. Oregon State University in Corvallis and the University of Oregon in Eugene are the two flagship universities of the state, while Portland State University has the largest enrollment. Willamette University in Salem is the oldest college in Oregon.

Oregon has a diverse landscape with tall, dense forests that stretch a third of the way across the state in the north and halfway across the state in the south; and its accessible and scenic Pacific coastline and its rugged, glaciated Cascade volcanoes. Other areas include semi-arid scrublands, prairies, and deserts that cover approximately half the state in eastern and north-central Oregon, and sparser pine forests in the northeast. Mount Hood is the highest point in the state at 11,239 feet (3,425 m) above sea-level. Crater Lake National Park is the only National Park in Oregon.

The Oregon University System supports seven public universities and one affiliate in the state. The University of Oregon in Eugene is Oregon's flagship liberal arts institution, and was the state's only nationally ranked university by US News & World Reports. Oregon State University is located in Corvallis and holds the distinction of being the state's flagship in science, engineering and agricultural research and academics. The university is also the state's highest ranking university/college in a world survey of academic merit.

The State has three regional universities: Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Southern Oregon University in Ashland, and Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. Portland State University is Oregon's largest. The Oregon Institute of Technology has its campus in Klamath Falls. The affiliate Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) comprises a medical, dental, and nursing school in Portland and a science and engineering school in Hillsboro.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


People of the world don't look at themselves, and so they blame one another.

... Mevlana Rumi


"... but I'm not the super-hero kind of guy"

The movie was good, but the company was extraordinary and so much more astounding :)