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All the small things

“In Egypt, I found something I believe brings many to Islam, namely, the mark of pure monotheism upon its followers, which struck me as more profound than anything I had previously encountered. I met many Muslims in Egypt, good and bad, but all influenced by the teachings of their Book to a greater extent than I had ever seen elsewhere. It has been some fifteen years since then, and I cannot remember them all, or even most of them, but perhaps the ones I can recall will serve to illustrate the impressions made.

One was a man on the side of the Nile near the Miqyas Gardens, where I used to walk. I came upon him praying on a piece of cardboard, facing across the water. I started to pass in front of him, but suddenly checked myself and walked around behind, not wanting to disturb him. As I watched a moment before going my way, I beheld a man absorbed in his relation to God, oblivious to my presence, much less my opinions about him or his religion. To my mind, there was something magnificently detached about this, altogether strange for someone coming from the West, where praying in public was virtually the only thing that remained obscene.

Another was a young boy from secondary school who greeted me near Khan al-Khalili, and because I spoke some Arabic and he spoke some English and wanted to tell me about Islam, he walked with me several miles across town to Giza, explaining as much as he could. When we parted, I think he said a prayer that I might become Muslim.

Another was a Yemeni friend living in Cairo who brought me a copy of the Qur’an at my request to help me learn Arabic. I did not have a table beside the chair where I used to sit and read in my hotel room, and it was my custom to stack the books on the floor. When I set the Qur’an by the others there, he silently stooped and picked it up, out of respect for it. This impressed me because I knew he was not religious, but here was the effect of Islam upon him.

Another was a woman I met while walking beside a bicycle on an unpaved road on the opposite side of the Nile from Luxor. I was dusty, and somewhat shabbily clothed, and she was an old woman dressed in black from head to toe who walked up, and without a word or glance at me, pressed a coin into my hand so suddenly that in my surprise I dropped it. By the time I picked it up, she had hurried away. Because she thought I was poor, even if obviously non-Muslim, she gave me some money without any expectation for it except what was between her and her God. This act made me think a lot about Islam, because nothing seemed to have motivated her but that.

Many other things passed through my mind during the months I stayed in Egypt to learn Arabic. I found myself thinking that a man must have some sort of religion, and I was more impressed by the effect of Islam on the lives of Muslims, a certain nobility of purpose and largesse of soul, than I had ever been by any other religions or even atheisms effect on its followers. The Muslims seemed to have more than we did.

When a friend in Cairo one day asked me, Why don’t you become a Muslim?, I found that Allah had created within me a desire to belong to this religion, which so enriches its followers, from the simplest hearts to the most magisterial intellects. It is not through an act of the mind or will that anyone becomes a Muslim, but rather through the mercy of Allah, and this, in the final analysis, was what brought me to Islam in Cairo in 1977.”

[extract taken from "Becoming Muslim" by Sh. Nuh Keller, published on http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/bmuslim.htm]

 

“Educated Pro-activity”

Alhamdulillah, many of us have been fortunate enough to serve the community in a number of different projects. Others will have been fortunate enough to study the sacred sciences and advance in their religious studies. However, have you ever wondered why there isn’t something which blends the two? Of course there are some dawah initiatives and education projects out there, but my question is why is our activism (e.g. our discussions on economics, medical ethics, family and societal issues) is not rooted in education?
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From my experience, there is little to no established organisations out there which work to address these issues from a rigorously educated position. There is a disconnect between scholars of text and scholars of context. Those which do exist tend to be very academic and have little focus on getting the work out there to the people. I have been involved in a number of organisations and there simply isn’t an organisation working proactively to turn research into action.
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So, this where the Centre for Islam and Medicine (CIM) comes in. 
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Born from our previous work for the MHSN, the CIM is a revolutionary new organisation set up to tackle key issues within medicine, researching each of the key issues andeducating people on the Islamic views about them. From abortion and organ donation to more specialised medical issued etc, we hope to summarise the Islamic opinions out there and educate patients, doctors, imams and health commissioners on the Islamic view around them. Think how much money we can save the NHS by helping people making more informed decisions quicker on all these different healthcare issues.
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“Educated Proactivity” is a new concept which builds of this:
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  • As Muslims, we need to evolve from being reactive to being proactive about the issues that affect our community. For-seeing the problems and addressing them in the key to successful contribution to society
  • But more than that, we need to root our work in academics and education. Too much of our activism today is done with little to no scholarship. Our hope is to turn this around and establish organisations dealing with these things from the firm ground of academia.
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As an organisation, we don’t take a stance on what the ruling is. We simply research and summarise the varying opinions which exist on the issue and present it to people help them make a more informed decision. We have a diverse board of scholars AND doctors to overlook our work from a wide variety of perspectives to make sure things are rigorously researched and accepted. Of the people who have supported our work and worked with us in the past are:
 
 
 
We have also worked on a number of different projects with organisations within the NHS as well as other medical charities including Kidney Research UK. They are really keen on working with us and we have already put in a number of joint bids together. However, what has held us back has been the lack of capacity to take things forward as we don’t have the money.


We have spent the last few months building the infrastructure around the organisation. Everything is set now and we’re ready to roll things out. We have a clear idea of how we will generate income beyond the donations and we know what steps we need to take. All we need now is:
  • Cash injection - we need both regular direct debits and one off donations to kick this project off. Your money will help take this off the ground. 
  • Networks - We need this work to spread. There is no point doing it all if it doesn’t reach anyone. Please spread the word as far as you can to all medics and non-medics you know. 
Finally, a special mention to the CIM Launch Dinner on Saturday 1st March. This is an intimate event designed to show you precisely what our vision is. Buy your tickets from www.thecimdinner.co.uk before they sell out and come and learn more about it directly from us
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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Main Posts

 

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The Prayer of Rain

For those of you who did not see this, our brothers and sisters gathered together in the Bay Area to pray for rain after a long drought. Within hours Allah opened up the skies.
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Here are some photos taken by local journalists:
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Here is the khutbah by Shaykh Hamza which I highly advise you all to listen to
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There is a deep reflection in this for all of us. How many of our sins are causing Allah’s mercy from descending upon us? All these problems we see in our society, perhaps it is us who are the cause of them?
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Below is a story I heard narrated from my teachers (the extract below if from Sh. Mohammad Al-Shareef). Make a sincere repentance to Allah and He will bring us his victory.
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It was narrated that in the days that Musa (Alahi salaam) wandered with Bani Israel in the desert an intense drought befell them. Together, they raised their hands towards the heavens praying for the blessed rain to come. Then, to the astonishment of Musa (Alahi salaam) and all those watching, the few scattered clouds that were in the sky vanished, the heat poured down, and the drought intensified.
 
It was revealed to Musa that there was a sinner amongst the tribe of Bani Israel whom had disobeyed Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) for more than forty years of his life. “Let him separate himself from the congregation,” Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) told Musa (Alahi salaam). “Only then shall I shower you all with rain.”
 
Musa (Alahi salaam) then called out to the throngs of humanity, “There is a person amongst us who has disobeyed Allah for forty years. Let him separate himself from the congregation and only then shall we be rescued from the drought.” That man, waited, looking left and right, hoping that someone else would step forward, but no one did. Sweat poured forth from his brow and he knew that he was the one.
 
The man knew that if he stayed amongst the congregation all would die of thirst and that if he stepped forward he would be humiliated for all eternity.
 
He raised his hands with a sincerity he had never known before, with a humility he had never tasted, and as tears poured down on both cheeks he said: “O Allah, have mercy on me! O Allah, hide my sins! O Allah, forgive me!”
 
As Musa (Alahi salaam) and the people of Bani Israel awaited for the sinner to step forward, the clouds hugged the sky and the rain poured. Musa (Alahi salaam) asked Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala), “O Allah, you blessed us with rain even though the sinner did not come forward.” And Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) replied, “O Musa, it is for the repentance of that very person that I blessed all of Bani Israel with water.”
 
Musa (Alahi salaam), wanting to know who this blessed man was, asked, “Show him to me O Allah!” Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) replied, “O Musa, I hid his sins for forty years, do you think that after his repentance I shall expose him?”
 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Main Posts

 

The Shattering

The Shattering

I will never forget that moment.

It had been around 3 months since I had first arrived in Cairo. It had been my dream to take time out to study Islam and this was finally the opportunity to do just that. I had always wanted to tread the footsteps of the great men who came before me. I yearned to be closer to Allah, and the only way to do so seemed to be tread the path for sacred knowledge; the sacred path to Allah.

So it was incredibly discomforting when after 3 months of intensive study I was felt more constricted and, surprisingly, more spiritually low than I had ever been before. I couldn’t understand it; wasn’t this what coming closer to Allah was meant to be? How else could I come closer to Him if it wasn’t through learning sacred knowledge? Feeling constrained was incredibly difficult, but what was harder was not knowing what to do about it. But it is in these moments of difficulty that openings come.

Cue Dr Bilal Hassam, world traveler extraordinaire.

A few days before Eid Al-Adha I receive a random call from him informing me that he will be in Cairo in a week and would he be able to stay at my place. I had long been used to him staying over at my place in London, but this felt incredibly discomforting. I was here to study and didn’t want distractions. Taking a week out of my 7 month stay was too long. But Allah had planned something different. Having lived in the West all my life, I didnt realise that Eid Al-Adha was an official holiday in Egypt and all teaching would stop for that period. Whether I liked it or not, I had to take time off, and Bilal’s charm won me over.

So he arrived the night before Eid and we began our adventures around Cairo. We made the obligatory visit to Halal KFC, visited some other friends in Cairo and met many new ones, but the whole time I was not my usual self. The constrained feeling I had built up was hard to shake off and taking time out of studying wasn’t helping. It was as if a wall had built around my heart which I could not penetrate. As we planned our week ahead I was told by a dear friend Sayyidi Samer Dajani that there would be a procession on the second day of Eid to visit the graves of each of the Awliyaa (Saints) of Cairo beginning in the mosque of Sayyidah Zainab, the great grand daughter of the prophet ﷺ. Seeing this as a great opportunity to see Cairo, we happily agreed and arranged to be there for 7am the next day.

Being the second day of Eid, I didn’t expect more than 15 people to be there as I assumed everyone would be spending the time with their families. Egyptian culture is notorious for its late night sahrahs in the coffee houses, and Eid was the perfect excuse to do just that. Everyone must be sleeping in by now and I began to regret my decision for such an early morning excursion. But what was most difficult was the realisation that I had missed Eid with my own family. Seeing everyone celebrating made me feel incredibly home sick. I had never been so far away from them on the day of Eid. As my thoughts preoccupied me, the cab rolled up to the mosque. We paid the driver and made our way over to the entrance…

سبحان من أعطاكم
علي الورى ولاكم
يــا سادتي حاشاكم
أن تتركوا الأحباب

How Sublime is He Who gave you,
Who made you masters over all people,
O my masters, far be it from you-
To leave those who love you!

The chorus hit me like a wall; my heart shattered. The entire mosque resonated in the praise of Allah and his Messenger ﷺ. If I was looking for an answer, here it was singing to me in unison: Love.

Love is the most powerful drive for any action. What you can teach through love cannot be taught with a thousand lashes. Endless warnings of climate change are heard every day, but it takes the love of a David Attenborough documentary to really move people about it. Love motivates and moves the very essence of a human being. Lovers remember. Lovers seek. Lovers yearn. In my vigor to study I had neglected the most crucial ingredient of all. I had forgotten that none of it is to any avail if love of Allah does not manifest in your heart, and in order to manifest, it must remember.

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The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children

26_89But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart.”

[Al-Shu'araa 26:88-89]

Hundreds of people, young and old, gathered and marched on foot around the city of Cairo. Sayyidi Samer was kind enough to explain the significance of each place we visited in English and show us the correct adab (manners) in each of the gatherings. I met people whose faces radiated with light and voices rung with praises of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ. I will never forget that gathering. 

 

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This is why I write

Mark Gonzales summarises my feelings about writing in a way I never could. Beautiful.

 

Amusing ourselves to death

This is perhaps one of the most striking passages I have read for a while. It describes the modern world with startling accuracy. In our fear of an increasingly authoritarian rule, we have allowed a far more dangerous vision to come true: heedlessness

Below is the foreward of Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business“, accompanied by a comic illustration of the two ideas. It gives a concise comparison of the two authors views and what they foresaw society will become. But perhaps the remarkable part of this whole story passage lies beyond its lines with us:

Most of us will read this and continue living our life exactly the same way as before

…wake up

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We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions”. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right

[Neil Postman - Amusing ourselves to death]

[The comic is Stuart McMillen’s interpretation of media theorist Niel Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), subtitled “Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business”]

 

Hamster

It’s funny.

We look at hamsters running on their wheels with amusement; why do they spend so much time and energy running after nothing? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to spend all that effort on something more tangible or meaningful?

But so long as you keep on feeding it, the hamster won’t care. It doesn’t need to know who provides its food nor how it gets it. Why does it matter what else is out there - it’s happy where it is. So long as it gets its sustenance, it will contently live on in its cage, running, eating, sleeping and running again. Ignorance is bliss, right?

The thing is, it’s not just hamsters. We chase after money, cars, women etc, running in the insatiable wheel of life. Don’t bother troubling yourself with questions about your existence. There’s no need to ask what is really out there. So long as you get what you need – so long as you are happy – who cares, right? This has to be the best thing for you…

But there will come a time when you will ask yourself the same question you asked of the hamster. When death comes knocking on your doorstep, you will wonder why you couldn’t you just wake up and realise what was out there. Why could you see this was all for nothing…

Funny, right?

(Moving Image: click to animate)

Skeleton Wheel

 
 

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