Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year: Same Old Lang Syne

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how...

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another 'auld lang syne'...

Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain

... Same Old Lang Syne, Dan Fogelberg

Walk Away

We've tried the goodbyes so many days
We walked in the same direction so that we could never stray
They say if you love somebody
Then you have got to set them free
But I would rather be locked to you than live in this pain and misery

They say time will make all this go away
But it's time that has taken my tomorrows and turned them into yesterdays
And once again that rising sun is dropping on down
And once again you my friend are nowhere to be found

And it's so hard to do and so easy to say
But sometimes, sometimes you just have to walk away
Walk away, and head for the door
You just walk away, walk away, walk away...

... Walk Away, Ben Harper

Best Days

I count the steps, the distance to
The time when it was me and you is so far gone
Another face, another friend
Another place, another end, but I'll hang on

It's a winding road
It's a long way home

So don't wait for someone to tell you it's too late
Cuz these are the best days
There's always something tomorrow
So I say let's make the best of tonight
Yeah let's make the best of tonight
Here comes the rest of our lives

... Best Days, Graham Colton

What Do You Want From Me?

Hey, slow it down
What do you want from me?
What do you want from me?

Yeah I’m afraid
what do you want from me?
What do you want from me?

... What Do You Want From Me, Adam Lambert

You Couldn't Have Loved Me Better

I want you to know that it doesn't matter
Where we take this road
Someone's gotta go

And I want you to know
You couldn't have loved me better
But I want you to move on
So I'm already gone

... Already Gone, Kelly Clarkson

It's like I've been awakened
Every rule I had you breakin'
It's the risk that I'm takin'
I ain't never gonna shut you out

Everywhere I'm looking now
I'm surrounded by your embrace
Baby I can see your halo
You know you're my saving grace

... Halo, Beyoncé

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Don't Write Me Off, Just Yet

It's never been easy for me
To find words to go along with a melody
But this time there's actually something on my mind
So please forgive these few brief awkward lines...

And though I know, based on my track record,
I might not seem like the safest bet
All I'm asking you is don't write me off, just yet...

... Music & Lyrics

A Way Back Into Love

I've been watching but the stars refused to shine
I've been searching but I just don't see the signs
I know that it's out there
There's got to be something for my soul somewhere

I've been looking for someone to shed some light
Not somebody just to get me through the night
I could use some direction
And I'm open to your suggestions

All I want to do is find a way back into love
I can't make it through without a way back into love
And if I open my heart again
I guess I'm hoping you'll be there for me in the end

... Music & Lyrics

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

He Has Never Scolded Me

"Indeed I have been sent to perfect noble manners" {Bukhari}

In the corner of the marketplace of Madinah, was a blind Jewish beggar, who would cry out daily to all those who came near him, "O my brothers, don't be near Muhammad! He's a lunatic, he's a liar, a sorcerer! If you are to be close to him, you will be influenced by him!" No matter whoever approached him, the blind Jewish beggar will definitely not waste his chance to incite them to hate Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). All kinds of curses would spew forth from the beggar's lips even though he had never known the Prophet personally.

The news about the blind Jewish beggar's daily cursing and badmouthing him came to the knowledge of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Even then, Prophet Muhammad did not get angry and he ignored the blind Jewish beggar's insults against himself. On the contrary, from that day onwards, at each morning, the Prophet (peace be upon him) visited the blind beggar and brought food for him.

Without saying a single word, the Blessed Messenger (peace be upon him) would feed the beggar with his own hand! The blind beggar would chew the food being fed to him and eat contentedly. Once he was full, he'd express his gratitude without knowing that the one who had fed him was the Prophet of Allah himself, Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) continued to feed the blind beggar without fail each day till the day he died! Throughout his service to the blind beggar, he never identified himself to the blind Jewish beggar! After Prophet Muhammad had passed away, no one brought food to the blind beggar anymore! The blind Jewish beggar waited daily and was perplexed as to why the kind man did no longer come to feed him and provide for him as he had done all this while. The blind beggar waited in vain for the kind gentleman who had never missed visiting him each and every morning all these while .

One day, the closest Companion of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), Saiyidina Abu Bakar As-Siddiq @ The Truthful One (may Allah be pleased with him) visited the home of his daughter, Saiyidatina Aishah, (may Allah be pleased with her), the widow of the Blessed Messenger.

Abu Bakar asked Aishah, "O my child, is there any habit of my beloved (Prophet) that I have yet to carry on?" Aisyah replied, "Dear Father, you are verily a follower of the Sunnah of the Prophet and there is none that you have yet to do except for one deed only!"

"What is that?" asked Abu Bakar. "Every morning, the Prophet of Allah will go to the end of the marketplace, bringing food to a blind old Jewish beggar who lives there and feed him by his hand," said Aishah.

The next day, Abu Bakar As-Siddiq went to the marketplace with food for the blind beggar. Abu Bakar  approached the beggar and started to feed him. At the first handfull of food being fed to him, the blind Jewish beggar became angry and shouted out, "Who are you?"

Abu Bakar answered "I am the one who usually feeds you every morning". "No! Don't you lie to me!" objected the blind beggar. Abu Bakar was shocked, thus he asked "Why do you say so?"

Answered the blind Jewish beggar, "Because when he comes to me, I always felt it easy to hold his hand and found it easy to chew the food he fed me! The man who used to feed me would make the food more delicate (softer) before feeding it to me!"

Abu Bakar As-Siddiq could not hold back his tears anymore and he burst out crying and had to disclose who he actually was to the beggar. "Verily, I am not the one who used to come and feed you. I am one of his Companions for the noble one is alive no more! He was none other than the Blessed Prophet of Allah, Muhammad (peace be upon him)."

"Muhammad?" asked the blind old Jewish beggar, totally shocked with what he had just heard. "You mean to tell me that the one who came each morning without fail and fed me by his hand was Muhammad?" asked the beggar.

"Yes! It was Muhammad!" answered Abu Bakar.

Immediately, the blind old Jewish beggar wailed out in despair and cried so pitifully coming to realise that it was none other than the Holy Prophet who had been feeding him all this while.

"All these while... all these while, I had been cursing him, I had been slandering him. Not once has he ever scolded me! He kept coming every morning to feed me! He is so noble!" cried the old blind Jewish beggar as he wiped away his flowing tears on his cheeks.

The blind beggar reached out to Saiyidina Abu Bakar As-Siddiq, the first Caliph of the Muslims and testified before him the Declaration of Faith: that There Is No God Worthy Of Worship Except Allah And That Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Perhaps All Our Loves Are Merely Hints And Symbols

Perhaps […] all our loves are merely hints and symbols; a hill of many invisible crests; doors that open as in a dream to reveal only a further stretch of carpet and another door; perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.

... Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Search For The Divine In All Of Us

Marcus Brody: The search for the Grail is the search for the divine in all of us. But if you want facts, Indy, I've none to give you. At my age, I'm prepared to take a few things on faith.

Professor Henry Jones: My son, we're pilgrims in an unholy land.

Professor Henry Jones: Elsa never really believed in the grail. She thought she'd found a prize.
Indiana Jones: And what did you find, Dad?
Professor Henry Jones: Illumination.

... Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What Are You Made Of?

Teddy Roosevelt: I'm made of wax, Larry. What are you made of?

... Night At The Museum

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

"When I became a Muslim thirteen years ago this month, I left behind the Christmas traditions my family celebrated every year of my childhood. My mother was able to transform our Southern California home into a Winter Wonderland as soon as we walked in the door; it may have been 75 degrees and sunny outside, but inside we felt we were in a Currier and Ives world of red velvet beribboned pine boughs, twinkling lights and beautiful music. I loved it. The Christmas season and our small traditions remained the same no matter how many years passed. My mother worked extremely hard to build warm, and loving holiday memories, and I sincerely cherish them.

Like many American homes, there wasn't much Christ in my family's Christmas. There would always be some discussion surrounding the reason for our celebration, but we didn't attend church services or talk too much about what my parents believed. The beautiful nativity on the mantle, hand-painted by my grandmother, was flanked by tasteful, secular decorations. This led to a kind of vague confusion between the miraculous birth of Jesus, and the magical feat of Santa Claus zipping around the world in one night.

Nostalgia not withstanding, thinking about Christmas is now far more meaningful to me on a spiritual level than it was when I was young. The fact that Muslims accept and believe in the virgin birth of Jesus has been a golden thread that links my childhood Christmas memories to my very fulfilling adult life as a Muslim.

The world's more than 1.5 billion Muslims would like their Christian neighbors to know that we believe in the Annunciation; in the Quran we read that God sent the angels to Mary:

"When the angels said: O Mary, surely God gives you good news with a Word from Him of one whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who are made near to God. And he shall speak to the people when in the cradle and when of old age, and he shall be one of the good ones." Quran 3:45-46

The Quran has only one chapter named after a woman; Chapter 19 is titled "Mary", or as it is translated in Arabic -- Maryam. The Quran tells us that the infant Jesus, (or Isa as it is translated in Arabic), spoke from Mary's arms:

"...He said: Surely I am a servant of God; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet; And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and charity so long as I live; And dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me insolent, unblessed; And peace on me on the day I was born, and on the day I die, and on the day I am raised to life.'" Quran 19:30-33*

While Muslims don't celebrate Christmas, we believe in the awesome and miraculous birth of Jesus, in the miracles he performed by God's Grace, and in the message of love and peace Jesus brought to the world.

I hope my family knows that I am more attached to the account of Jesus and Mary than I ever was as a child, now that I am a practicing Muslim. It is a vital part of my faith; a faith that I share with over a billion and a half people around the world.

This is my Christmas card to my family, and all my Christian friends and neighbors: Peace on earth and goodwill toward men."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Today You, Tomorrow Me

This past year I have had 3 instances of car trouble. A blow out on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out of gas situation. All of them were while driving other people's cars which, for some reason, makes it worse on an emotional level. It makes it worse on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my car, and know enough not to park, facing downhill, on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Anyway, each of these times this shit happened I was DISGUSTED with how people would not bother to help me. I spent hours on the side of the freeway waiting, watching roadside assistance vehicles blow past me, for AAA to show. The 4 gas stations I asked for a gas can at told me that they couldn't loan them out "for my safety" but I could buy a really shitty 1-gallon one with no cap for $15. It was enough, each time, to make you say shit like "this country is going to hell in a handbasket."

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke a lick of the language. But one of those dudes had a profound affect on me.

He was the guy that stopped to help me with a blow out with his whole family of 6 in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to 4 hours. Big jeep, blown rear tire, had a spare but no jack. I had signs in the windows of the car, big signs that said NEED A JACK and offered money. No dice. Right as I am about to give up and just hitch out there a van pulls over and dude bounds out. He sizes the situation up and calls for his youngest daughter who speaks english. He conveys through her that he has a jack but it is too small for the Jeep so we will need to brace it. He produces a saw from the van and cuts a log out of a downed tree on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top, and bam, in business. I start taking the wheel off and, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones and I wasn't careful and I snapped the head I needed clean off. 

No worries, he runs to the van, gives it to his wife and she is gone in a flash, down the road to buy a tire iron. She is back in 15 minutes, we finish the job with a little sweat and cussing (stupid log was starting to give), and I am a very happy man. We are both filthy and sweaty. The wife produces a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man's hand but he wouldn't take it so I instead gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I could send them a gift for being so awesome. She says they live in Mexico. They are here so mommy and daddy can pick peaches for the next few weeks. After that they are going to pick cherries then go back home. She asks if I have had lunch and when I told her no she gave me a tamale from their cooler, the best fucking tamale I have ever had.

So, to clarify, a family that is undoubtedly poorer than you, me, and just about everyone else on that stretch of road, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took an hour or two out of their day to help some strange dude on the side of the road when people in tow trucks were just passing me by. Wow...

But we aren't done yet. I thank them again and walk back to my car and open the foil on the tamale cause I am starving at this point and what do I find inside? My fucking $20 bill! I whirl around and run up to the van and the guy rolls his window down. He sees the $20 in my hand and just shaking his head no like he won't take it. All I can think to say is "Por Favor, Por Favor, Por Favor" with my hands out. Dude just smiles, shakes his head and, with what looked like great concentration, tried his hardest to speak to me in English:

"Today you.... tomorrow me."

Rolled up his window, drove away, his daughter waving to me in the rear view. I sat in my car eating the best fucking tamale of all time and I just cried. Like a little girl. It has been a rough year and nothing has broke my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn't deal.

In the 5 months since I have changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and, once, went 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won't accept money. Every time I tell them the same thing when we are through: "Today you.... tomorrow me."

(please also read other inspiring stories in the thread)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Farah Pandith

I had the privilege of a private meeting with Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the United States Department of State yesterday. It is an amazing work that she is doing and I applaud her efforts in engaging particularly youths through the new media. Youths themselves must be the agents of change for a better world ahead. For those who are not familiar with her, this is a short introduction:

"I was born in India and grew up in Massachusetts. I did all my education in Massachusetts. I went to Milton Academy, I went to Smith College, and I went to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. I have had experience working in both the public and private sector. I was vice president of international business for a company outside of – in Boston and had a chance to really think about the international marketplace, so to speak, from a lot of different perspectives. And I think that’s important when you think about the way in which we’re looking at this role: How do you harness the different sectors and how do you think about things in a creative way?

This unique perspective has allowed me to think about what’s possible. And I have worked since 19 – excuse me, since 2003 in three different sectors, three different parts of the United States Government. I was in the U.S. Agency for International Development. I was at the National Security Council at the White House. And for the last two years, I’ve been at the Department of State working in the Europe Bureau.

The role that was created for me in the Europe Bureau was the first of its kind in U.S. history. And it was an opportunity for me to engage with our embassies with Muslims across Western Europe, and I did that for two years. And I’m mentioning it because I think it’s very important when we think about how we’re doing things globally now.

A strong part of thinking about engagement is to understand the nuances that are taking place in different regions. And while I did have a European portfolio, I did have an opportunity over the course of the last couple of years to work with our embassies in South Asia and Africa and in the Middle East. And what that brings to the table, I think, is an opportunity to think about the grassroots level, to think about what mainstream Muslims are thinking and doing and how they want to figure out ways to create dialogue. And that is where this leads us.

This new role is a historic role, and it’s the Secretary’s vision for engagement through our embassies overseas. I had the opportunity to brief her at the end of January on the work we had done in Europe. And in that briefing, she completely got it. She understood the nuances. She understood the need for our country to build relationships with Muslims overseas in Europe in that context.

She is somebody who has been doing engagement for a very long time. This is not just new to her. After all, when she was First Lady, she was the person who created the Iftar at the White House. So this is a long-term interest of hers, and it’s something that she got when we talked.

What she asked me to do is to leverage my experience in Europe and in other parts of the world, to think about how we could have the Department work on Muslim engagement in a way that is out of the box, that is innovative, that is dynamic, that works with embassies so that we’re getting to know the next generation of thinkers. And in this role, I’ll be doing that.

So the Office of the Special Representative to Muslim Communities is a way for us at the State Department to execute her vision. And certainly on the heels of Cairo, when we heard the President talk about the need and his commitment to engage with Muslims, this is our effort to work on that important agenda.

So that’s the history behind this. That’s a little bit about me. And I know that through the questions we have today, you’re going to ask far, far deeper questions than that. But I do want to say I hope that this is one of many briefings that we have. And you’re just getting to know me now, and I look forward to an opportunity to get to know you over the months and years ahead..."

In a speech at a conference sponsored by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy on April 28, 2010, she spoke about what has changed and what remains to be done. Watch excerpts of her speech.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Three Fishes

This is a story of the lake and the three big fishes that were in it, one of them intelligent, another half-intelligent, and the third, not-intelligent.

Some fisherman came to the edge of the lake with their nets. The three fishes saw them.

The intelligent fish decided at once to leave, to make the long, difficult trip to the ocean. He thought, "I won't consult with these two on this. They will only weaken my resolve, because they love this place so. They call it home. Their ignorance will keep them here."

The half-intelligent fish thought, "My guide has gone. I ought to have gone with him, but I didn't, and now I've lost my chance to escape. I wish I'd gone with him. He mourns the absence of his guide for a while, and then thinks, "What can I do to save myself from these men and their nets? Perhaps if I pretend to be already dead! I'll belly up on the surface and float like weeds float, just giving myself totally to the water. To die before I die." So he did that. He bobbed up and down, helpless, within arm's reach of the fishermen.

"Look at this! The best and biggest fish is dead." One of the men lifted him by the tail, spat on him, and threw him up on the ground. He rolled over and over and slid secretly near the water, and then, back in.

Meanwhile, the third fish, the not-intelligent one, was agitatedly jumping about, trying to escape with his agility and cleverness.

The net, of course, finally closed around him, and as he lay in the terrible frying-pan bed, he thought, "If I get out of this, I'll never live again in the limits of the lake and next time, I will be in the ocean! I'll make the infinite my home."

... Mevlana Rumi

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Father Becomes The Son

You will be different. Sometimes, you will feel like an outcast, but you will never be alone. You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son.

... Superman Returns