Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My little boy turns eight today

My little boy turns eight today. All praise be to Allah. Usually the onset of his birth date brought a weepy mess, thick lather in the throat and briny warmth on tap for the face - for all it predicated and indicated about circumstance. That weepy unhinged feeling led to me being advised with words I will never forget: "Allah needs your love too. With so much for a child, where is the space to acknowledge and love Allah? Will Allah not be jealous of this?" Those Al-Hallaj'esqe words were and remain golden words. I wonder today smiling who I wept for: him or me?

There is no umm Abdillah without Abdullah. My love, adoration, wonder for him and in him has taught me how to love Allah and the nature of Allah's love for me.

The most important thing we can teach our kids to say, in my opinion is thank you. The most important emotion we can express to Allah is gratefulness.

The most important thing we can give our children is a welcoming and bidding smile - appreciate what they offer you of themselves without looking too far forward about what they "could be" if they exerted a little more. Is that not Allah's response to us?

I don't know if my Abdullah will grow to be the boy who stands outside the mosque and smokes during jama'at. I don't know if my Abdullah will take drugs. I don't knew if my Abdullah will be a drop out or a low-life thug. I seek this protection from Allah, in His pervasive Mercy, & have ceased worrying about things I have no control in. I focus instead on just the things, like the two mentioned above I can control. Things that don't take too much, but give back endemically.

Wa billah at-taufeeq

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A note on those ‘media’ taalibs

Most who consider themselves talaba, or students of Islamic Sciences, have puristic tendencies. Moths drawn to a flame of the purest of Ulumud Deen - the text of the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the laps of the learned, as a primary occupation. That holds supremacy over any other tainted means, which inevitably weakens us as ‘true’ scholars. We would most definitely want all our time spent serving and gleaning Deen, specialising, translating, amassing etc. via the route of ‘the kitaabs’ over being involved in what lines garbage pails – viz. current affairs and mass media. Worse even, analysing it and reporting on it day in and day out. Thus, being a taalib in the media game already feels enough as if seeking an unrequited Illah. However, when Allah has made this door rather than any other door a pathway to His service, we duly owe every nerve in our body to serve it well.

Following news of the arrest of Moazzam Begg today, “suspected of attending a Syria terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas” I did 3 things. One - verify the story; two - swallow (like many of you) the large jaggered rock that formed from little behind my soft palate to the base of my throat; three - shut my laptop to a mental lithograph of Edvard Munch’s Scream. Sitting on my musalla afterward, I recalled this small-statured, soft-spoken man, who barely 2 months ago patiently answered a question I asked him about Baber Ahmed’s recent "guilty" plea in the US. I recall too a comparitive ungainliness - wearing 'heels' while processing such crippling story. The extended trite metaphor off course: how gala dinners have become an unnecessary ploy in making the public commit to awareness campaigns. His current mission will tell you only one thing: the only offence he is guilty of is daring to speak the truth; daring to expose especially British complicity in rendition, torture and war crimes.

Too soon after Victoria Brittan’s launch of Shadow Lives in South Africa, and a little too close for comfort those harrowing trials of the innocent who have been dehumised by the last season of Homeland, Army Wives or Oprah, we have so much to do, we still owe so much to the cause of Haqq/Truth.

As if a most tender requiem, the words of the Prophet (pbuh): "The best Jihad is to speak the truth before a tyrant ruler", play all too clearly.

However we choose to spread, declare or report the truth dear taalib/taalibah is Allah’s gift. It would be pukka ungratefulness hankering to serve ‘the kitaabs’ than fully engage Truth in an albeit awkward media seat where Allah, in His absolute Wisdom, has chosen to put you right now.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rest in Peace and other urban debates – Why we don’t get past the first round

Image Credit
The quote "expectation is the root of all heartache" often attributed to Shakespeare, is one of the key reasons we are unable to resolve debates. We expect people to know better, we expect them to understand our point of view, and often enough we’re harsher with the supposed religious infringements of others than our own. It’s almost as if we fortify our own Faith by dictating to others. Following the death of any famous person, social media networks launch into a national pastime - post-modern commentary – for the purposes of this post; emotional debates related to the religious affiliations of the dead person. This isn’t curtailed to just one Faith group but across the board, Christianity and Judaism too, stemming from the belief in the afterlife, an important element of Monotheistic and Abrahamic faiths.

There is a hadith wherein it is mentioned:

When Allah loves a slave, He calls Jibril (Gabriel) and says: 'I love so-and-so; so love him.' And then Jibril loves him. Then he (Jibril) announces in the heavens saying: Allah loves so-and-so; so love him; then the inhabitants of the heavens (the angels) also love him; and then people on earth love him.

And when Allah despises a slave, He calls Jibril and says: 'I hate so- and-so, so hate him.' Then Jibril also hates him. He (Jibril) then announces amongst the inhabitants of heavens: 'Verily, Allah hates so- and-so, so you also hate him.' Thus they also start to hate him. Then he becomes the object of hatred on the earth also".  Prophet Muhammad (S) | Al- Bukhari and Muslim

This statement of our beloved Prophet (S), specifically with regards Justice & Allah being pleased with us (for reasons we challenge mainstream views in the first place) asks us to honestly dig in our heels and question ourselves:

-       How should I debate?
-       When should I debate?
-       With whom should I debate?
-       Which forum should I chose to publicise my thoughts?

Are we among those whom Allah loves, or despises? The teachings of the Prophet (S) are clear: “Indeed a servant (worshipper of Allah) may utter words which he doesn’t realise and they will make him fall into the fire further than the distance between the East and the West.”

And another, wherein the whole body warns the tongue saying, “Fear Allah concerning us, for we are (dependent) upon you. If you are upright, then we will be upright and if you are corrupt, then we will be corrupt.”

With regards the importance of Aqeeda, denoting those matters over which Muslims hold conviction, man will be held to account, and rewarded or punished in the Afterlife. Literally, the word aqeeda is derived from the triconsonantal root (a/qa/da), which means "to tie" or to "knot". If someone has loosely tied their Aqeeda, (root concepts) unintelligent spurts of social media lambasting, logically presupposes more unraveling of it. [The gilted frosting on the rotten banana]. Aqeeda is something that is (built) over time, in the company of the righteous and true, and whittling it away by #RIP debates often serves counter intuitively. Of course, we have an obligation to enjoin what is right and forbid evil, but we’ve also been asked to employ Hikmah - He [Allah] grants wisdom to whom He pleases; and he to whom wisdom is granted indeed receives a benefit overflowing. But none will grasp the Message except men of understanding. Quraan [2:269].

Hikmah, is different to mere knowledge or knowing; it includes the ability of how and when to apply that knowledge.

The reason why not only the youth of the Muslim Ummah don’t get past the first round, is because we’re merely seeking to trend – selling and buying into philosophies, explaining them rather than epitomising them. To embody an aqeeda takes time and vested emotional investment, something rarely achieved by the quick zirconic click of the send button.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Check that ego!

Over a year ago To my newly divorced brothers seeking spouses became a rather popular post on this blog. Subsequently, the need has arisen to write a follow-up.  Very often single women who have been introduced to newly or long-divorced men have little inkling of the unchecked trauma divorced men go through, oversimplified in their own eyes and the eyes of society. We women often translate it as the off-putting ‘huge ego’.

“Often a divorced man has to contend with his entire sense of self worth being tied up with his marriage. He had locked his self worth to marriage. Society’s notions of commitment, love, fatherhood, and the responsibility of being the head of the household then reinforced binding marriage to his ego. A man who has been divorced finds himself adrift without knowing his place or worth because he gained so much of his sense of self from his partner and had not developed a true understanding of his real self. This is what causes the anger, depression, anxiety and often-uncontrollable, strangely manifested desperation. Men recovering from divorce need to put aside the quest to make themselves feel better through short-term self esteem boosting activities, and focus instead on building their self respect. Recovery from divorce for men is about moving through the phases of grief and coming out the end with a new outlook and a new life, not fighting to put your old life back together as your ego wants it. [Paraphrased - Kyle Morrison, Men After Divorce.]
Due to so many men failing to glean the lessons from their failed marriages and consequently never healing their wounds, statistically for men, second marriages fail at a much higher rate than first marriages. These numbers are definitely not in favour of women considering becoming attached to uncounselled and unhealed men. So, while there is enormous Deeni encouragement and blessings in ‘settling down’, proceeding glibly requires patience and deep-rooted self-awareness.

Considering the brutal second-marriage, male divorce statistics, it’s not only a question of being smart, it boils down to the ancient Greek aphorism, one of the Delphic maxims: "Know thyself”. Very few women can accept leaving themselves [and their children] vulnerable to the mood swings, the meanness, the inconsideration, the irrational and hurtful ego trips, the unchecked temper and projection of past experiences on to them. It would serve all of humankind well if divorced men seek thorough counselling before even 'looking' -- and the women (mothers, sisters, cousins, aunts) who care about them encourage them to realise their whole selves.

Wa billah, at'taufeeq.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Widowhood – Love Ever After

We briefly discussed widowhood this past week and herewith, a few of the salient points, mostly about the misconception that remarriage, especially a quick one is betrayal. Please excuse the unpolished nature of the post; a lot of it is cut-copy from the thread. We have such grave misconceptions about love and about staying true to one love. This isn’t the system of Islam, especially after the death of a spouse.

Let us consider the example of Aatikah the daughter of Zaid bin Amr bin Naufal. Aatikah was married to Abdullah the son of Abu Bakr. May Allah be pleased with them all. Abdullah was very enamoured with her. He was so lost in his love for her that he initially failed to participate in various expeditions undertaken by the Muslims. He even neglected to offer his prayers at the mosque. Their love became proverbial. At the battle of Taif, Abdullah was wounded and later he died of his wounds. Aatikah bitterly mourned his death and in an elegy she said:

"Abdullah I have sworn that my eyes
Shall not cease grieving over thee;
And my body shall ever remain,
Covered with dust."

She resolved she would not remarry. She kept her resolve for four or five years. When Umar (ra) became the Caliph he proposed to marry her. After some hesitation she accepted the proposal. At the walima Ali (ra) congratulated Umar, and sought his permission to talk to the bride. Ali (ra) teasingly reminded Aatikah of her resolve not to marry any one after Abdullah. Thereupon Aatikah, embarrassed began weeping. Umar consolingly said:

"Aatikah do not be grieved. All women do that, believing their grief to be eternal. May God bless you. By re-marriage you have conformed to the injunctions of Islam."

After Umar’s martyrdom, she is known to have said:

"Eyes! Let your tears and weeping be abundant,
and never grow weary over the noble leader.”

Once she had completed her iddah, the well-known sahabi Zubair bin Al-Awwam (ra) proposed to her, and they were soon wed. Like his predecessors, he was also granted martyrdom. Finally, the reports differ, either Muhammad bin Abi Bakr (ra)  [martyred in Egypt] or the Prophet’s blessed grandson, Husayn bin Ali (ra), married her until he was martyred at Karbala.

Not only were all of Aatikah’s husbands elite companions of the Prophet (s) but she was honoured by Allah that they all died as martyrs during her marriage to them. It is reported that Abdullah bin Umar said, ‘whoever wants to acquire martyrdom, let him marry Aatikah bint Zaid’.

Next, the meaning of iddah:

1. The meaning of iddah -- 'counting'/'days to wait'. Women and men naturally may go on for years remembering a 'love' with aching fondness. However, an Islamic life is about valuing ourselves and what we have to offer to others too (society, parents, children, relatives etc.). We can't wallow in indeterminate misery, even if pained. Think abt umm Habiba, Ramla bint Abi Sufyan (ra) in her eg. of ceremonious adornment (for her husband) 3 days after her father's death. 

In Sahih Al-Bukhari it is mentioned that 3 days after receiving news of her father's death Umm Habibah applied perfume. She then said there was no need for her to apply perfume that day, but the Prophet (saw) had said,

'It is not permissible for a Muslim lady who believes in Allah and the Last day of Judgment to mourn for more than three days for a dead person, except for her husband. Then she should observe iddah for four months and ten days.'

2. Mourning - if ever this word is/should be used in its true sense (given the fiqh rulings about curtailing physical adornment) what are we mourning? 
It is the loss, not of a man - rather of the blessings of nikah. 
Hence, if another opportunity arises to regain those blessings via another (hinted) proposal, the Quran encourages it, even during the iddah! This is for a widow and a divorcee in an irrevocable divorce. 
This would explain too why there is no iddah for a man -- not because he doesn't grieve/mourn the loss of a wife, but because nikah is a such a mighty blessing, and all he can provide in so far as physical, mental, emotional and financial support/intimacy to another woman/her family must be hastened. He doesn't need the time to physically check his womb.

3. Reexamining marriage and its purposes is paramount. While earthly love between man and a woman may seem to propel these unions, the very khutbah of nikah with the opening ayaat of surah Nisa indicate something much deeper -- a love for Allah. This goes on, eternally, no matter who the man/woman is, so it’s the opposite of 'betrayal' to marry very soon after being widowed.

The capitalist definition of love is based on the fetishisation of human relationships turning it into a hyper-individualistic possession. Love is not about turning human relationships into billions of isolated couples, love is not about weddings and engagements - it is about paving the path to the communalisation of society. Secondly, love is not a psychological condition, it is not mental desperation, and it is not emotional anxiety. Love is there to liberate us from our obsessions with the egotistical self.

The opening verse of Surah Nisa recited at the nikah khutba reminds us that TAQWA (a deep veneration of Allah, fear to disappoint Him) propels us to remain faithful and all the other 'tough stuff' that comes with marriage, rather than love for a hu/man. It is because we LOVE Allah, rather than a secondary love for a hu/man that we accept the yoke of marriage, no? "O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship) . Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you."

May Allah grant us the understanding.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

In praise of active poetry

Like millions around the world who appreciate the literary and poetic devices employed in the Holy Qur’an, I am in awe of the opening verses of Surah Rahman.

Allah begins with His name of al-Rahman in order to give it primacy and to indicate to the reader that everything that will follow in this Surah is purely from His mercy and benevolence.

Verse 3. {Taught him the bayan}: here the pronoun him/-hu can refer to either:

1. All human beings;
2. The Prophet Adam (as), or
3. The Prophet Muhammad (saw).

If –hu refers to all human beings, then bayan could mean:

[1] Speech (al-nutq).
[2] Distinguishing between things (al-tamayyuz).
[3] halal wa’l-haram.
[4] Good and bad (khayr wa sharr).
[5] The path to guidance (turuq ila’l-huda).
[6] Writing (al-kataba).
[7] Logic.

Hence, the ability to use words (in whatever capacity) is a gift from Al-Rahman.

Often we come across articles that state poetry is haram and wrong, or that the Prophet (saw) had a love-hate relationship with poetry, or that poetry and the appreciation of words and language itself detracts from serving Allah. This is true on many levels – we all could stand witness to many intoxicating moments emotionally swayed by the sheer power of the words or the poets' genius. Beyond these emotions, there is seldom relative or qualitative action, hence the Truth of the Quraan - "statements devoid of action" highlighting our weak and jaundiced lustrations. Allah tells us that words should invite to action, not merely describe the actions. If they don't, is it the fault of the listener, or the poet?

This lends to a foundational principal of our Faith: "If anyone summons others to follow right guidance, his reward will be equivalent to those of the people who follow him without their rewards being diminished in any respect on that account; and if anyone summons others to follow error, the sin of which he is guilty will be equivalent to those of the people who follow him without their sins being diminished in any respect on that account." (Muslim)

Two weeks ago I was asked not to teach any Shakespeare in an English class [for fear it would lead astray] from core Islamic values and lest it would mean that such a class would fall out of the purview of pure Islamic thought. Moments like this make me wonder how far we’ve strayed from understanding the Quran, via literalist interpretations and utter close-mindedness. A veil of deception, for a well-intentioned and well-trained educator can easily tear apart fisq to create a compounded lesson in Haqq.

Ubayy Ibn Ka'ab, (rad), reports Rasulullah (s.a.w) as having said:

The words of the Qur'an viz. "(As for) the Poets, only the misguided follow them. Can you not see their (aimless) wandering in the valleys, their statements devoid of action?" As-Shu'araa: 224-226,

Mullah Ali Qari (r.a), a renowned Muhaddith explains that poetry containing truth, wise words, advices, useful parables, etc. that are of benefit to mankind, as well as those containing praises of Allah and Nabi, promoting abstinence from worldly luxuries, exhortation towards the Aakhirah and other aspects of Deen are indeed praiseworthy. Poetry devoid of these things is malignant and disliked. (e.g. songs containing lewdness or depictive of sins etc.)

Thereafter he mentions that poetry is a form of speech and must be judged by the same standard, i.e. beneficial poetry is like beneficial speech and useless and evil poetry like useless and evil speech. (Source)

A man once came to Imām Ahmad bin Hanbal and asked him, “O Imām, what is your opinion on poetry?”

He replied, “Which poetry do you refer to?” to which the man responded by reciting the following couplets:

إذا ما قال لي ربي اما استحييت تعصيني
If my Lord asks me, “Have you shyness in disobeying me?

وتخفي الذنب عن خلقي وبالعصيان تأتيني
You conceal your sins from my creation – and with sins you come to me.”

Imām Ahmad took these lines and repeated them over and over again, and wept profusely to such an extent that one his students said that he almost perished due to him crying so much. [Source: P.205 Manāqib Imām Ahmad by Ibn al-Jawzi]

إذا ما قال لي ربي اما استحييت تعصيني

If my Lord asks me, “Have you shyness in disobeying me?
وتخفي الذنب عن خلقي وبالعصيان تأتيني

You conceal your sins from my creation – and with sins you come to me.”

فكيف أجيبُ يا ويحي ومن ذا سوف يحميني؟
So how will I answer? O woe to me – and who shall protect me?

أسُلي النفس بالآمالِ من حينٍ الى حيني

I keep averting my soul with thoughts of hope – from time to time.
وأنسى ما وراءُ الموت ماذا بعد تكفيني

And I forget what is to come after death – and what is to come after I am shrouded.

كأني قد ضّمنتُ العيش ليس الموت يأتيني
As if I am guaranteed life (eternally) – and that death will not come to me.
وجائت سكرة الموتُ الشديدة من سيحميني

And when the severe stupor of death overtakes me – who will protect me?

نظرتُ الى الوُجوهِ أليـس منُهم من سيفدينـــي
I looked at the faces; is there not from amongst them who will ransom me?

سأسأل ما الذي قدمت في دنياي ينجيني

I will be asked regarding what I have prepared in my life to save me (on the Day of Judgement).
فكيف إجابتي من بعد ما فرطت في ديني

Then how will I answer – after I have neglected my religion.
ويا ويحي ألــــم أسمع كلام الله يدعوني

Woe to me! Did I not hear the Speech of Allāh inviting me?
ألــــم أسمع لما قد جاء في قاف ويسِ

Did I not hear what came in (the chapters of) Qāf and Yā-Sīn?

ألـــم أسمع بيوم الحشر يوم الجمع و الديني

Did I not hear about the Day of Gathering, the Day of Assemble and the Day of Judgement?

ألـــم أسمع مُنادي الموت يدعوني يناديني

Did I not hear the crier of death inviting me, calling me?

فيا ربــــاه عبدُ تــائبُ من ذا سيؤويني
So O my Lord, a slave (turning to you) I have repented – so who then shall shelter me?

سوى رب غفور واسعُ للحقِ يهديني

Except a Lord extensive in forgiveness – to the truth He will guide me.

أتيتُ إليكَ فارحمني وثقــّـل في موازيني
I have come to you (in repentance) – so have mercy on me, and make heavy my scales (with good deeds).

وخفَفَ في جزائي أنتَ أرجـى من يجازيني

And lighten my account – You are the best of who will bring me to account.