Friday, November 26, 2010

Average Is The New Exceptional

"The point is, we all came to Binghamton University knowing little of what we would become or what we would accomplish. But we will leave knowing who we are: and that is a gift to be treasured and remembered. 

Maybe "average" is the new exceptional.

We live in a culture that emphasizes wealth, power and achievement. We're taught by society that we should strive for fame, fortune and the American dream. I am sorry to say: "average" will never be fame, or fortune or the American dream. 

"Average" is something much more. 

"Average" is the parent who drives their son or daughter to school everyday so that their child will have a better life than the one they had. "Average" is the professor who helps you understand that knowing who you are and owning your own sense of identity will not only make you a stronger individual here, but more importantly, in life...

"Average" is knowing that you don't receive respect; you earn it.
And you aren't given opportunity; you fight for it.
And if anyone tries to tell you different; they're lying.
"Average" is amazing...

Today represents the beginning for all of us. And I encourage you, no, I implore you to say "Thank You." Thank your friends, your professors, your family, even thank your little sisters. And then celebrate the beginning, together. 

As we look ahead into the future, do not forget the lessons of the past...

In the immortal words of Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas: Tonight's gonna be a good night!"

... Anthony Corvino

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Today we walked in melting snow

Here inside making fire and tea

I met you when I was wandering

It's been many worlds since then

All my secrets are wild and deep

And my mind races while I sleep

I will plant my hunger 

Here in you

... Alexa Woodward

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Neither A Muhajir Nor An Ansar, But An Ahl Al-Bayt

This is the story of the pious, mystic, Faqhi, intellectual and ascetic, Salman the Persian. He grew up in the town of Isfahan in Persia, in the village of Jayyan. His father was the Dihqan (chief) of the village. He was the richest person there and had the biggest house. His father loved him, more than he loved any other. As time went by, his love for Salman became so strong and overpowering that he feared to lose him or have anything happen to him. So he kept him at home, a virtual prisoner, in the same way that young girls were kept.

Salman became devoted to the Magian religion, so much so that he attained the position of custodian of the fire, which they worshipped. His duty was to see that the flames of the fire remained burning and that it did not go out for a single hour, day or night.

Salman’s father had a vast estate, which yielded an abundant supply of crops. He himself looked after the estate and gathered harvest. One day as he went about his duties as Dihqan of the village, he said to Salman, ‘My son, as you see, I am too busy to go out to the estate now. Go and look after matters there for me today.

On the way to the estate, Salman passed a Christian church and heard voices raised in prayer, which attracted his attention. He did not know anything about Christianity or, for that matter, about the followers of any other religion. His father had kept him in the house away from people. When he heard the voices of the Christians, he entered the church to see what they were doing. He was impressed by their manner of praying and felt drawn to their religion. He said, ‘This religion is better than ours. I shall not leave them until the sunsets.’

Salman's inclination to Christianity
Salman asked and was told that the Christian religion originated in Syria. He did not go to his father’s estate that day and at night, he returned home. His father met him and asked where he had been. Salman told him about his meeting with the Christians and how he was impressed by their religion. His father was dismayed and said: ‘My son, their is nothing good in that religion. Your religion and the religion of your forefathers is better.”

‘No, their religion is better than ours,’ he insisted. His father became upset and afraid that Salman would leave their religion. So he kept Salman locked up in the house and shackled his feet. Salman managed to send a message to the Christians, asking them to inform him of any caravans going to Syria. Before long they contacted him with the information he wanted. He broke the fetters and escaped his father’s estate to join the caravan to Syria. When he reached Syria, he asked regarding the leading person in the Christian religion and was directed to the bishop of the church. He went up to him and said: ‘I want to become a Christian and would like to attach myself to your service, learn from you and pray with you.’

The bishop agreed and Salman entered the church in his service. Salman soon found out, however, that the bishop was corrupt. He would order his followers to give money in charity while holding out the promise of blessings to them. When they gave the bishop anything to spend in the way of Allah, he would hoard it for himself and not give anything to the poor or needy. In this way, he amassed a vast quantity of gold. When the bishop died and the Christians gathered to bury him, Salman told them of his corrupt practices and, at their request, showed them where the bishop had kept their donations. When they saw the large jars filled with gold and silver they said, ‘By Allah, we shall not bury him.’ They nailed him on a cross and threw stones at him. Not long after, the local people appointed another man in place of the first. Salman stayed on, in the service of this person who replaced him. The new bishop was an ascetic who longed for the Hereafter and engaged in worship day and night. Salman was devoted to him and spent much of the time in his company.

Before he passed away, Salman said to him, “O so and so Priest! The time has come for you to witness Allah Ta'ala's decision (meaning death). I swear by Allah, I have never adored anyone as much as I have adored you! So what would you instruct me to do? And who can you recommend for me to see?”

He replied, “O son! I do not know of anyone except for a certain man living in the city of Mosul. Go to him, for you will find that he is similar to me.”

A short while after he passed away, Salman arrived at Mosul and found the priest he had been sent to, and indeed, he was very much like the one before him in terms of simplicity and striving. After he passed away, Salman was referred to another priest who in turn sent him to a priest in Ammuriyah (Ameria, near Rome) , before his demise. Salman stayed by this Roman priest, and decided to make a living. Eventually hemanaged to acquire some sheep and cows.

When his death was near, Salman told him of my story and asked him for his advice just as he had asked those before him. He said: “There is nobody following our ways of life I can send you to. Nevertheless, your life seems to coincide with the era of the predestined Prophet who will arise from the Haram. His migration will be to a city full of date trees. Moreover, he will certainly have some distinct features: Between his shoulder blades, there will be the Seal of the Prophethood. He will eat food, provided it is a gift and not a donation. If you can reach that city, then do so, because you are very close to his era.”

Salman's inclination to the Arabs and Islam
A group of Arab leaders from the Kalb tribe passed through Ammuriyah. Salman asked them to take him with them to the land of the Arabs, in return for whatever money he had. They agreed to take him along. When they reached Wadi al-Qura (a place between Syria and Madinah), the Arabs broke their agreement and made him a slave, then sold Salman to a Jew. Salman worked as a servant for him but he eventually sold him to a nephew of his, belonging to the tribe of Banu Qurayzah. This nephew took Salman with him to Yathrib, the city of palm groves, which is how the Christian at Ammuriyah had described it.

At that time the Prophet was inviting his people in Makkah to Islam but Salman did not know of this because of the harsh duties slavery imposed upon him. When the Prophet reached Yathrib after his hijrah from Makkah, Salman was on top of a palm tree doing some work. Salman’s master was sitting under the tree. A nephew of Salman’s master came up and said, ‘May Allah declare war on the Aws and the Khazraj (the two main Arab tribes of Yathrib). By Allah, they are now gathering at Quba to meet a man, who has just today, arrived from Makkah and who claims to be Prophet.’

Salman felt light-headed upon hearing these words and began to shiver so violently that he had to climb down, in fear that he may fall. He quickly swung down from the tree and spoke to his master’s nephew.
‘What did you say? Repeat the news for me.’ Salman’s master grew angry at this breach of protocol and struck him a terrible blow. ‘What does this matter to you’? Go back to what you were doing,’ he shouted. 

Hazrat Salman himself narrates: I left the house for a while, making inquiries. I asked a woman I met from the city whose entire family had become Muslim. She showed me the way to the Prophet. When it was evening, I took some food with me and went to the Prophet . The Prophet was in Quba at the time. I said, “Word has reached me that you are a very pious man, and that you have some travellers in your company. I had some charity and thought that you would be most deserving of it. This is it; you may have some to eat.” The Prophet withdrew his own hand, not eating from it, but told his Companions to eat. At the time, I thought, “This is one of the characteristics my Mentor told me of.”

On my way back, I saw that the Prophet was heading to Madinah . Thus, I took the food to him, saying, “I saw that you were not eating from this charity. As a matter of fact, I presented it as a gift and not charity.” This time, the Prophet also ate with his Companions. “That makes two signs,” I thought.

Later on, I approached the Prophet as he was walking behind the corpse in a funeral. I remember that at the time, he was covered in two sheets, and that his Companions were with him. I was trying to steal a look at the Seal on his back, when the Prophet saw me glancing. Realising that I wanted to verify what someone had told me, he let his cloak drop a little, and I managed to see that the Seal between his shoulder blades was exactly the way my Mentor had described it. I threw myself down before the Prophet (sallallahu-alayhi wasallam) kissing (his blessed hands/feet) and started to cry. The Holy Prophet said, “O Salman! Reveal your story.”

So I sat in front of him, relating my story to him and hoping that his Companions could also hear it. When I had finished, the Prophet said, “O Salman! Make a deal with your owner to free you.”

Consequently, my master did agree to free me, but in exchange for the following: ‘Three hundred date trees, as well as one thousand, six hundred silver coins.' Hence, the Sahaba (Radhiallahu anahum) helped by providing around twenty to thirty date plants each, and a tenth of every man's land in accordance to how much he owned. The Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said to me, “Dig a hole for each date-plant. When you are finished, let me know so that I can personally fix all the date-plants into place with my own hands.” Thus, with the help of my friends, I dug holes wherever the date-plants were to be put.

Later on, the Prophet came. We stood by his side holding the plants as he fixed them into the ground. I swear by The Being Who sent the Prophet with the Truth, not a single plant died out.

Nevertheless, I still had the silver to pay. A man came to the Prophet bringing from the mines some gold which was roughly the size of a pigeon's egg. The Prophet said, “O Salman! Take this and pay off whatever you have to.”

I replied, “O Messenger of Allah! How will this be enough for my debt?”

He said, “Allah will surely make it sufficient for your debt.”

As a result to this statement, I swear By Allah, it outweighed the one thousand, six hundred coins. I not only paid off my dues, but what I had left with me was equivalent to what I had given them.

The strict honesty of the Prophet was one of the characteristics that led Salman to believe in him and accept Islam. Salman was released from slavery by the Prophet , who paid his Jewish master a stipulated price, and who himself planted an agreed number of date palms to secure Salman’s manumission. After accepting Islam, Salman would say when asked whose son he was, ‘I am Salman, the son of Islam from the children of Adam.’

Salman's role in Islam
Salman was to play an important role in the struggles of the growing Muslim State. At the battle of Khandaq, he proved to be an innovator in military strategy. It was he who suggested digging a ditch or khandaq around Madinah to keep the Quraysh army at bay. When Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Makkans, saw the ditch, he said, ‘This stratagem has not been employed by the Arabs before.’ Salman participated in all of the other campaigns of the Prophet thereafter. He was also with Saad in the conquest of Iraq. After the grand victory, the Caliph Umar chose him because of his knowledge of the terrain, to select the land upon which Kufa was to be built.

Salman became known as ‘Salman the Good’. Salman was a scholar who lived a rough and ascetic life. He had one cloak, which he wore and slept on. He would not seek the shelter of a roof but stayed under a tree or against a wall. A man once said to him: ‘Shall I not build you a house in which you may live?’ ‘I have no need of a house,’ he replied. The man persisted and said; ‘I know the type of house that would suit you.’ ‘Describe it to me,’ said Salman. ‘I shall build you a house which if you stood up in, the roof would hurt your head and if you were to stretch your legs, the wall would hurt them.’

Later, as a governor of Al-Madain (Ctesiphon) near Baghdad, Salman received a stipend of five thousand dhirhams. This he would distribute as sadaqah. He lived from the work of his own hands. When some people came to Madina and saw him working the palm groves, they said, ‘You are the leader here and your sustenance is guaranteed and yet you do this work?’ ‘I like to eat from the work of my own hands,’ he replied. Salman however was not extreme in his ascetism.

It is related that he visited Abu Dardaa with which the Prophet had joined him in brotherhood. He found Abu Dardaa’s wife in a miserable state and he asked, ‘What is the matter with you.’‘Your brother has no need of anything in this world,’ she replied.

When Abu Dardaa came, he welcomed Salman and gave him food. Salman told him to eat but Abu Dardaa said, ‘I am fasting.’‘I swear to you that I shall not eat until you eat also.’

Salman spent the night there as well. During the night, Abu ad-Dardaa got up but Salman got hold of him and said, ‘O Abu ad-Dardaa, your Lord has a right over you. Your family has a right over you and your body has a right over you. Give to each there due.’

Then in the morning, Abu ad-Dardaa came to the Prophet and narrated the whole story. The Prophet said, "Salman has spoken the truth." (Bukhari)

Salman as a scholar
As a scholar, Salman was noted for his vast knowledge and wisdom. Ali said of him that he was like Luqman the Wise. And Kab al-Ahbar said: ‘Salman is bursting with knowledge and wisdom. He is an ocean that does not dry up.’ Salman had knowledge of both the Christian scripture and the Quraan in addition to his earlier knowledge of the Zoroastrian religion. Salman in fact translated parts of the Quraan into Persian during the lifetime of the Prophet . He was thus the first person to translate the Quraan into a foreign language.

According to the most reliable account, he died in either 31 or 34 A.H, at the age of 250 years, during the caliphate of Uthman, at Ctesiphon.

Abu Hurraira narrates, that the Prophet prayed the following verse: ‘If ye turn back, He will substitute in your stead another people, then they would not be like you.’ (Q47:38) The Sahabah asked the Prophet , ‘O Prophet , who are these people that Allah has mentioned, that he would chose them instead of us? That they will not do as we did?’ The Prophet placed his hand on Salman’s thigh and said, ‘It will be his people. And even if faith is near the Surya (the Pleiads), someone from the Persians would attain it.’

Once Abu Sufyan came to Madinah and passed by Salman, Bilal and Sohayb. The three companions said, ‘Have not the swords of Allah beheaded this accursed man yet?’ Abu Bakr upon hearing this said, ‘Do not say such things of the leader of Quraish.’ After that, Abu Bakr went to the Prophet and told him of this conversation. The Prophet said, ‘Have you annoyed these three? If you have, then you have annoyed Allah.’ Abu Bakr made haste to the three companions and asked them whether they took offence on his words. They told him that they had not and further said, ‘O brother, may Allah forgive you.’ The annoyance of Salman is the annoyance of Allah. Even the likes of Abu Bakr fear to offend him.

During the Battle of the Trench in Khandaq while they were furiously digging the trenches around Medina, everyone began to claim Salman to be of theirs. One of Muhajirun stated "Salman is one of us, Muhajireen", but was challenged by the Muslims of Medina known as the Ansar. A lively argument began between the two groups, each of them claiming that Salman belonged to their group, and not to the other group. Prophet Muhammad arrived on the scene and heard the argument. He was amused by the claims but he soon put an end to their argument by saying: "Salman is neither Muhajir nor Ansar. He is one of us. He is one of the People of the House, ahl al-Bayt." [Bukhari]

Monday, November 22, 2010

Because She Would Ask Me Why I Loved Her

If questioning would make us wise
No eyes would ever gaze in eyes;
If all our tale were told in speech
No mouths would wander each to each.

Were spirits free from mortal mesh
And love not bound in hearts of flesh
No aching breasts would yearn to meet
And find their ecstasy complete.

For who is there that lives and knows
The secret powers by which he grows?
Were knowledge all, what were our need
To thrill and faint and sweetly bleed?.

Then seek not, sweet, the "If" and "Why"
I love you now until I die.
For I must love because I live
And life in me is what you give.

... Christopher Brennan


Alhamdulillah, tonight we completed Chapter VII of Al-Hikam by Ibn 'Ata'illah. The major themes in this chapter deals with raising the himma, being grateful for blessings, having good adab in service, and the resolve to move from constant service to love and gnosis. When Allah wants to choose a slave for His gnosis and to move him from the toil of His service, He strengthens him by divine waridat which attract him to the Presence of the Lord. They are gifts, not acquisitions obtained by actions or devices.

Chapter VII.

And he said (may Allah be pleased with him!):

60. Were it not for the seeds of ambitious desire [tama‘], the branches of disgrace [aghsan dhull] would not be lofty.

61. Nothings leads you like suspicion [al-wahm].

62. In your despairing, you are a free man [hurr]; but in your coveting, you are a slave [‘abd].

63. Whoever does not draw near to Allah as a result of the caresses of love [mulatafat al-ihsan] is shackled to Him with the chains of misfortune [salasil al-imtihan].

64. Whoever is not thankful for graces [an-ni‘am] runs the risk of losing them, and whoever is thankful fetters them with their own cords.

65. Be fearful lest the existence of His generosity towards you and the permanence of your bad behavior towards Him not lead you step by step to ruin. “We shall lead them to ruin step by step from whence they know not.”

66. It is ignorance on the part of the novice [murid] to act improperly, and then, his punishment being delayed, to say, “If this had been improper conduct, He would have cut off help [imdad] and imposed exile [bi‘ad].” Help [al-madad] could be cut off from him without his being aware of it, if only by blocking its increase [al-mazid]. And it could be that you are made to abide at a distance [al-bu‘d] without your knowing it, if only by His leaving you to do as you like.

67. If you see a servant whom Allah has made to abide in the recitation of litanies [al-awrad] and prolonged His help therein, do not disdain what his Lord has given him on the score that you do not detect the signs of Gnostics [siyamu’l-‘arifin] on him nor the splendor of Allah’s lovers [bahjat al-muhibbin]. For had there not been an inspiration [warid], there would have been no litany [wird].

68. Allah makes some people abide in the service of Him [li-khidmatihi], and He singles out others to love Him [bi-mahabbatihi]. “All do we aid - these as well as those - out of the bounty of thy Lord, and the bounty of thy Lord is not limited.”

... Al-Hikam, ibn 'Ata'illah As-Sakandari

Twenty Cents

Several years ago an Imam moved to a new town. He often took the bus from his home to the downtown area. Some weeks after he arrived, he had occasion to ride the same bus. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him twenty cents too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself: “You better give the twenty cents back. It would be wrong to keep it. Then he thought, oh forget it, it’s only twenty cents. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company already gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a gift from Almighty Allah and keep quite.” 

When his stop came, the Imam paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the twenty cents back to the driver and said “Here, you gave me too much change.”

The driver with a smile replied: “Aren’t you the new Imam in this area? I have been thinking lately about going to worship at your mosque. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change.” When the Imam stepped off the bus, his knees became weak and soft. He had to grab the nearest light pole and held for support, and looked up to the heavens and cried: “Oh Allah, I almost sold Islam for twenty cents!”

Moral: Remember, we may never see the impact our actions have on people. Sometimes we are the only knowledge of Quran someone will read, or the only Islam a non-Muslim will see. What we need to provide is an example for others to see. Be conscious, be careful, be honest, be true, be sincere - every breathing moment.

Friday, November 19, 2010


"I've had to say good bye more times than I would have like, but everyone can say that. And no matter how many times we do it even when its for the greater good, it still stings. And though we'll never forget what we've given up, we owe it to ourselves to keep moving forward. But what we can't do is live our lives always afraid of the next goodbye because chances are, they are not going to stop. The trick is to recognize when a good bye can be a good thing: when it's a chance to start again."

... Ugly Betty, Season 4 Ep 10

Wherever Your Heart Is, That Is Where You'll Find Your Treasure

“His heart was never quiet, even when the boy and the alchemist had fallen into silence. “Why do we have to listen to our hearts?” the boy asked, when they had made camp that day. “Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you’ll find your treasure.” “But my heart is agitated,” the boy said. “It has its dreams, it gets emotional, and it’s become passionate over a woman of the desert. It asks things of me, and it keeps me from sleeping many nights, when I’m thinking about her.” “Well, that’s good. Your heart is alive. Keep listening to what it has to say.”….”My heart is a traitor,” the boy said to the alchemist when they had paused to rest the horses. “It doesn’t want me to go on.” “That makes sense,” the alchemist answered. “Naturally it’s afraid that, in pursuing your dream, you might lose everything you’ve won.” “Well, then, why should I listen to my heart?” “Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside you, repeating to you what you’re thinking about life and about the world. “You mean I should listen, even if it’s treasonous?” “Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you. Because you’ll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them. You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say. That way, you’ll never have to fear an unanticipated blow”

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.” “Every second of the search is an encounter with God,” the boy told his heart. “When I have been truly searching for my treasure, every day has been luminous, because I’ve known that every hour was a part of the dream that I would find it. When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve.” So his heart was quiet for an entire afternoon. That night, the boy slept deeply, and, when he awoke, his heart began to tell him things that came from the Soul of the World. It said that all people who are happy have God within them. And that happiness could be found in a grain of sand from the desert, as the alchemist had said. Because a grain of sand is a moment of creation, and the universe has taken millions of years to create it. “Everyone on earth has a treasure that awaits him,” his heart said. “We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer whant to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them – the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place. “So, we, their hearts, speak more and more softly. We never stop speaking out, but we begin to hope that our words won’t be heard: we don’t want people to suffer because they don’t follow their hearts.” “why don’t people’s hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?” the boy asked the alchemist. “Because that’s what makes the heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.” From then on, the boy understood his heart. He asked it, please, never stop speaking to him. He asked that, when he wandered far from his dreams, his heart press him and sound the alarm. The boy swore that, every time he heard the alarm, he would heed its message. That night, he told all of this to the alchemist. And the alchemist understood that the boy’s heart had returned to the Soul of the World.“

“This is why alchemy exists,” the boy said. “So that everyone will search for his treasure, find it, and then want to be better than he was in his former life. Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for lead; and then lead will have to turn itself to gold. “That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.” “Well, why did you say that I don’t know about love?” the sun asked the boy. “Because it’s not love to be static like the desert, nor is it love to roam the world like the wind. And it’s not love to see everything from a distance, like you do. Love is the force that transforms and improves the Soul of the World. When I first reached through to it, I thought the Soul of the World was perfect. But later, I could see that it was like other aspects of creation, and had its own passions and wars. It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in with be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse. And that’s where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are.”

... The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Who'll Stop The Rain?

Long as I remember, the rain been coming down.
Clouds of mystery pouring confusion on the ground.
Good men through the ages, trying to find the sun;
And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?...

Heard the singers playing, how we cheered for more.
The crowd then rushed together trying to keep warm.
Still the rain kept pouring, falling on my ears.
And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?

... Courtney Jaye

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hajj - An Inward Voyage

Such a place is held in fear and awe. But in our Abrahamic religion, we move towards that place, through our fear and awe, to find love and stillness. Where the greatest crowds on earth come together, we find peace. The faces of those who have just returned from Hajj reawaken the desire for the House in all who see them. ‘And truly with hardship comes ease.’ Abraham is told this: ‘And announce the Hajj to mankind! They will come on foot, on every lean beast, from every narrow ravine.’ God commanded, and promised; and the Hajj shows how He honours His promises. The ‘valley without crops’ is sterile and austere, ringed by jagged peaks: Uqhuwana, Khandama, Thawr, Hira’. The culmination of Hajj, at Arafat, is the simplest and most ancient of rituals: simply standing ‘where tears fall and prayers rise’, with two million broken hearts. The beauty is in the rigorous ancient austerity of the rites, but also in the faces of a thousand races, all filled, as the sun sets, with the light of knowledge, and the hope for forgiveness.

The City draws in these lovers of God each year, and then sends them home, like a heart pumping blood through the body. Most pilgrims have not come before, and as they approach, chanting the reply to God’s command to Abraham: ‘At Your service, here I am!’, their hearts begin to melt at the unfamiliar sights and rituals. Stripping away all their pretentiousness, they wind on the ihram, as though ready for the grave and its questioning angels. At once, memories long suppressed bubble up to the surface. The light of the Ka’bah makes us see our sins, and as we look within we are horrified by what we see. Forgetfulness, stupidity, laziness, cruelty, and more, in sins repeated year after year. Wrongs never put right, hearts still unhealed, come to mind painfully. The entry to the City is a time of fear, for there is no fear greater than that we might go to our graves unforgiven. The forms of Hajj must be obeyed; but acceptance is God’s alone and is not in our power...

‘The accepted Hajj has no reward other than the Garden’, the hadith tells us. The Hajj is a purgation: uncomfortable and physically exhausting. Following the rules crushes the ego. Once round the Ka’bah can take an hour, but the pilgrim must circle it seven times. The crowds are immense, the heat staggering, the accommodation basic. Many who find a scrap of cardboard on which to sleep consider themselves fortunate. But at the end: a new birth, as the successful pilgrim ‘leaves his sins behind like a newborn child.’

Part of the spiritual power of the Hajj lies in its inculcation of wisdom. We may return to many of our ugly habits. But the memory of a sudden encounter with the ‘clear signs of God’, and of the power of repentance, stays with the pilgrim, as a reminder of the urgency of our need to remain pure of heart, and close to our Lord. Often, decades later, a memory of the Hajj can pull a sinful man or woman out of apparently hopeless vice. In that sense, the Hajj never comes to an end.

... Hajj - An Inward Voyage, Abdal Hakim Murad

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lesson Of Mount Merapi

Abu Huraira reported that the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “The nearest a servant comes to his Lord is when he is prostrating himself, so make supplication (in this state)”

... Sahih al-Bukhari

... Mbah Marijan was among the victims of the recent eruptions. He was eighty-three years old, and the juri cunci of the volcano, a "guardian of the key," responsible for maintaining a relationship to the spirits of the mountain, and caring for the paths leading from the base to holy places near the summit. He was also one of the local leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia's largest Muslim organization...

I met Mbah Marijan only once, less than two months ago. He was a very deeply religious man in a very Javanese way. He was a pious Muslim and at the same time deeply attached to Javanese tradition. He felt that his fate was closely tied to the mountain, and that he was obligated to remain there no matter what the risk...

It is said that when Mbah Marijan’s body was discovered that he was prostrated in prayer. Many people have mentioned that this is probably how he wanted to die and that it was a good way for a Muslim to die. Many other stories are now circulating about his death. One is that the hot gases came into his house while Mbah Marijan was praying and that they could not enter his room until he had finished. Others state that he was fully aware that he would die as the result of the eruption, and that he chose to remain on the mountain so that his prayers might save others...

Despite dangerous conditions more than a thousand people including national and local political figure, one of the Sultan’s bothers and representatives of major Muslim organizations joined in funeral prayers in the village cemetery near his home. Special prayer services were also held in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital and in cities and villages across the country. His grave will almost certainly become a pilgrimage site.

The mayor of the village of Umbulharjo, close to Mbah Marijan’s compound stated: “We have lost the figure who has been a ‘role model', who we could always ask for advice. We pray that the spirit Mbah Maridjan is acceptable in the sight of Allah, that his charity and worship be acknowledged and his sins forgiven."

These sentiments have been echoed on testimonials broadcast repeatedly on Indonesian television. The theme of these messages is that the nation has much to learn from his dedication to principle and simple life style. This is often contrasted with the extravagance, corruption and single-minded dedication to self-promotion of political and business elites. Even Islamist groups who normally denounce beliefs like Mbah Marijan’s as “unbelief” rushed to embrace his memory.

This is a face of Islam that people in the United States and other western countries too rarely see. News of Islam too often repeats stereotypes of violence and extremism, projecting the views and acts of a tiny minority onto approximately twenty percent of the world’s population. Mbah Marijan’s Islam was local. Few Muslims outside Yogyakarta share his concern with Merapi.

There are many, including some in Yogyakarta that regard his, and similar local interpretations of Islam as heretical or deviant. This view is especially common among modernists and fundamentalist who tend to understand Islam in global terms and as a single, unified system of doctrine and ritual practice.

There are, at the same time, hundreds of millions of Muslims for whom Islam is as much a local as it is a universal faith and for whom devotion to God and concern with local modes of spiritual and religious practice are inextricably linked.

... Religion Dispatches, Mark Woodward

Of Wasted Time

"Learn to say no to people that are wasting your time. Be polite, but say no. You have your goals, your commitments, and you still take time to be helpful. However everyone has their limits. Learn to say no to those things that are clearly out of your area: you will save time for yourself and you will let the person asking for your help move on to someone that can really help them. Time is all you have, so learn to guard it carefully and of course use it wisely. Say no to people and things when you need to."

... Sixty Seconds To Success, Edward W. Smith

"Dwell not on the past. Use it to illustrate a point, then leave it behind. Nothing really matters except what you do now in this instant of time. From this moment onwards you can be an entirely different person, filled with love and understanding, ready with an outstretched hand, uplifted and positive in every thought and deed."

... Eileen Caddy

"Waste no time on situations that aren't worth your precious time. Lord, may I recognize pettiness for what it is and move on so that my imagination doesn't take over and give pettiness more value than it deserves."

... Author Unknown

"The chief beauty about time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoiled, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your life. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose."

... Arnold Bennett

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Fault ... Is Not In Our Stars

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

... Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Quiet Life

Happy the man whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixt, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

... Alexander Pope


I need some distraction
Oh beautiful release
Memory seeps from my veins
Let me be empty
And weightless and maybe
I'll find some peace tonight

In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold hotel room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort there

... Sarah McLachlan

O Soothest Sleep!

O soft embalmer of the still midnight!
Shutting with careful fingers and benign
Our gloom-pleased eyes, embower'd from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine;
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes,
Or wait the amen, ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities;
Then save me, or the passèd day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes;
Save me from curious conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oilèd wards,
And seal the hushèd casket of my soul.

... To Sleep, John Keats

Hope Is The Thing With Feathers

"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of Me.

... Emily Dickinson

Always On Your Side

Well everything was easy then, so sweet and innocent
My demons and my angels reappeared
Leaving only traces of the man you thought I'd be
Too afraid to hear the words I'd always feared
Leaving you with only questions all these years.

Is there some place far away, some place where all is clear?
Easy to start over with the ones you hold so dear?
Or are you left to wander, all alone, eternally?
This isn't how it's really meant to be
No, it isn't how it's really meant to be.

Well they say that love is in the air, but never is it clear,
How to pull it close and make it stay?
Butterflies are free to fly, and so they fly away
And I'm left to carry on and wonder why
Even through it all, I'm always on your side.

... Sheryl Crow, feat. Sting


Something always brings me back to you.
It never takes too long.
No matter what I say or do
I'll still feel you here till the moment I'm gone.

You hold me without touch.
You keep me without chains.
I never wanted anything so much
Than to drown in your love and not feel your rain.

... Sara Bareilles

Ozymandias Of Egypt

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

... Percy B Shelley

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ta'lim al-Muta'allim-Tariq at-Ta'-allum

“In traditional learning circles, the preface or forward of scholars, commentators, annotators etc. placed as addendum to the classical text being studied, are not to be neglected – as these may help to even place us in the proper frame and approach; forewarns us of certain aspects; highlighting to us important background and overview; especially linking what is in the text with relevant contemporary circumstances... Remember and be grateful, for it is there to illuminate and not merely to decorate.”

... Forward by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson

Earnestness, perseverance, and assiduity are indispensable in the quest for knowledge. This is indicated in the Quran, in the very words of God, the Exalted, Those who have earnestly striven in Our cause, We shall surely guide them to Our ways (29:69); and O John [Yahya], take the Book with power (19:12). It is said that he who seeks something and is industrious [in so doing] shall find it; and he who knocks at the door and is persistent shall enter. And it is said that you will reach what you desire [only] to the extent that you pursue it. It is said as well that the industriousness of three kinds of people is essential in [the pursuit of] knowledge and understanding: the student, the teacher, and the father, if he is among the living.

The most influential factors in [strengthening] memory are industriousness and commitment. Reducing one's consumption, [increasing] prayer at night, and reading the Quran are also factors for [improving] one's memory. It is said that nothing increases memory retention more than reading the Quran silently; and reading the Quran silently is most excellent, for [the Prophet] said, "The most excellent among the works of my community is the reading of the Quran silently." Al-Shaddad ibn Hakim saw one of his deceased brothers in his dream and said to him, "What thing did you find the most useful [for your Afterlife]?" He replied, "Reading the Quran silently." One should say when lifting the Quran, "In the name of God, and glory be to God, and praise be to God, and there is no God but God, and God is the greatest, and there is no power or strength except in God, the Exalted, the Mighty, who knows the number of all the letters that ever were [written] and that ever shall be written throughout the centuries and ages." And let it be said after each prescribed [prayer], "I believe in God, the One, the Unique, the Truth, who has no companion; and I do not believe in any [deity] besides Him." [One] should also pray much [that God send] blessings and peace upon the Prophet (peace be upon him), for he is a mercy for the worlds.

... Ta'lim al-Muta'allim-Tariq at-Ta'-allum, Imam al-Zarnuji

Monday, November 1, 2010

Of Strangers And Return To Being Strange

"Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers." It was asked: "O Messenger of Allah! Who are the strangers?" He replied: "Those who perform good deeds while others make mischief."

"The Deen will shrink back to the Hijaz as a snake shrinks back to its hole, and the Deen shall find refuge in the Hijaz in the same manner that mountain-goats find refuge on the tops of mountains. Indeed, the Deen began as something uncommon and strange and it shall certainly return again to be something uncommon and strange. Therefore, Tuba (glad tidings) awaits the strangers, those who have set aright, after I am gone, that of my Sunnah which the people have corrupted."

"A people will come on the Day of Judgment whose light will be like that of the sun. Abu Bakr said: "Will that be us, O Messenger of Allah?" He said: "No, You have a great reward but they will be the poor immigrants who will be raised from all regions of the earth." Then he said: "Blessed are the strangers, blessed are the strangers, and blessed are the strangers." He was asked: "Who are the strangers?" He said: "The righteous people who will be few amongst many bad people; those who disobey them are more than those who obey them.”