Thursday, November 30, 2017

When Hearts Find One Another


One of the most true and beautiful teachings of our faith is that hearts that were close to one another on the day when we were asked "who is your Lord?", are close in this world. It may be that those hearts marry one another or are discovered in our children, they may be best friends or wayfarers on the Path, they can be people separated by time and space as we often feel so connected to someone we have never met or who died physically years before we first stepped foot on this earth. Sometimes, we find those hearts in what are otherwise brief encounters with strangers and sometimes those encounters are so intense they leave an impression on the heart forever.

I remember sixteen years ago when making umrah with my parents, as I came down the escalator in Madina to make wudu, a woman sitting at the bottom there watching me got up as I got off the escalator, embraced me in a long hug, kissed me and said a few words before letting me go. I don't know what she said, but I can still feel that loving hug. May Allah make her affairs blessed and easy.

A couple of months ago in Dubai, we prayed at the masjid of Habib Husayn for Jummah and its barakah was so intense we didn't want to leave and felt compelled to return for the maghrib prayer. As I sat in tashahhud, I felt a strong presence to my right come in. When I completed my prayer and supplications, I looked toward my right and a few spaces over was an elderly, presumably Emirati lady. I went over thinking to shake her hand before leaving and as I did that, she quickly stood up and we embraced in a long hug and traditional exchange of kisses. She smiled with a twinkle in her eye and starting making long duas for me and literally using her hands as if to shower me with them. It was an unexplainable moment that just left me feeling so spiritually full and so loved by someone I didn't know and don't know. I don't know her name or ethnicity and she didn't ask me any questions about who I was or where I came from. Our hearts felt one another, recognized one another, loved one another. And that brief moment was perhaps all we were meant to have in this world. May Allah bless her. Ameen to all her duas.

Recently, we were blessed to make umrah. As I sat with my children at marwa having completed our umrah, exhausted, I found myself next to a group of older Algerian ladies. They seemed intrigued about where I was from and what languages I spoke. Unfortunately, the one closest to me and I had it seems no common language and weren't able to communicate much. When I saw Salik return I finally got up and woke the children who had fallen asleep. As I was leaving, the one who had been furthest from me stopped me, pulled me down to herself, asked me where I came from then gave me a big hug, kisses and duas with eyes overflowing with love. I can still feel that love. May Allah envelope her with His Love.

As we were headed to Makkah, a friend of mine had told me to meet a good friend of hers who lives in Makkah and is of very noble lineage. I was told she has a majlis of dhikr in her home once a week early in the morning and I had been given directions so that we could attend, and we were looking very much forward to it. Having made umrah with the children the day before and losing an entire night of sleep however, had left us all so exhausted that when we woke up we realized we had missed the gathering. It saddened us, and we made our way to the haram for the dhuhr prayer. As we entered the sun was blazing hot so we decided to try and find a shaded area for the children amidst the maze of construction taking place. When we did find shade, we were unable to see the kaba so we headed back out and found spots behind maqam Ibrahim. As the prayer ended I saw my husband heading toward our meeting spot only to turn around and go back because of the call for a janazah prayer. When that was done I went with our girls to find Salik and Salik Jr. at the meeting spot and noticed they were having a jovial conversation with a young man in ihram.  As I approached them, Salik said to me this brother is a descendent of so-and-so. I smiled, stunned as this meant he was from that same noble lineage as the girl I was supposed to have met that morning. As I was having that thought he told us they had a gathering in their home earlier that morning. I quickly took out my phone and showed him the directions to the home we had been invited to and he smiled and said "yes, that's my home!". How on earth can it be that in a blazing hot haram, where one had to squint their eyes and could barely see anyone, a "stranger" sees a "stranger", approaches them amidst his own umrah to ask where they had come from and if they knew such and such a family... How? Because hearts are connected and they find each other even in a sea of hearts. And so, of course, he invited to us to visit their home that evening and meet his uncle who is a great wali Allah.  We went and were enveloped by love as soon as we walked through the doors. On the women's side, not one spoke any English (except one who could string together a few words), but they surrounded me and the girls and with my broken Arabic, their broken English and hearts full of love I had one of the best hangouts of my life. Each of those girls forever etched in my heart and that night, that love, will always be with me. May Allah bless each of them, give them ease in all their affairs, and unite us all in this world again and in Jannatul firdaws forever in the company of our Habib (endless peace and blessings be upon our beautiful Master).

Monday, November 06, 2017

Finding Female Scholars...Off Stage...


Let me start by saying that most of my teachers in faith have been men. I have an abundance of spiritual love for them. They have each shown me an immense amount of respect and dignified love because of their embodied the Prophetic way. Today, I want to speak about female scholars.

Salik and I have had an opportunity the past few months to relocate to the middle east for a few months with our children. Before leaving, we had a beautiful ladies gathering at the zawiyah in Toronto with Anse Tamara and the Hakim Sisters. It was a blessed evening to say the least. Masha'Allah, Anse Tamara is a captivating and engaging speaker who is able to bring herself to the audience as a woman first and foremost and then inspire us to rise up spiritually. The Hakim sisters brought the gathering to life with their voices, getting everyone to join in -- as I looked around, the room was smiling, everyone was uplifted. She comes from a line of female scholars who nurture women. Ustadha Shehnaz Karim from Ottawa is from the same line and carries herself with the same loving humanity as Anse Tamara. She was the first person to speak to me about nurturing circles of sisterly love and learning many years ago. As a concept it was appealing, but as always, there is nothing like experiential knowledge.

As we came to the middle east, I was blessed to be immersed into circles of spiritual women who operate largely without men. Yes, there are sometimes gatherings of dhikr where there are men, but most often we meet without any men present at all. These women are scholars who were literally raised in the laps of scholars and taught from infancy the sciences of our faith. They are spiritually realized. They emanate the Prophetic Light and are almost angelic -- more beautiful, more illuminated each time I see them. They fill the room with a love that seems to hug you as soon as you walk in. Others are advanced students, translators who publish under their kunya because they are that sincere, and others yet are young students or wayfarers. These women are genuinely concerned for one another, care for one another and for anyone that enters their gathering. The very first time I entered a gathering, I felt their love for me. No "cattiness", no judgment, no isolating behaviours. I have found that Islam permeates their veins such that it is so graceful, so natural. They are truly happy.

Women are social beings. Much more so than men. As my teacher Hakim once said, it is in Allah's wisdom that the Friday communal prayer is obligatory for men, but not women because men need to be forced to gather in a way that women don't because they naturally incline towards getting together.

For years now I have heard many complain about the lack of female speakers at large scale conferences and seen organizers inviting various women to speak in order to not get a #allmalepanel. To be honest, I find most female speakers at these large scale conferences to not be as compelling as many of the male speakers. I know that's not a popular thing to say, but I have to be honest with myself and that is how I have always felt and when you look around the room during those sessions, that isn't when the room is full. That is not to say it is an issue of inability on the part of female scholars, but many, arguably most who have real training simply would never speak at a mixed gathering because that is not a part of the traditional culture in which they were raised. So what often ends up happening is we are grasping at straws to have women speakers just for the sake of having women speaking, but they are 'speakers' and not scholars most of the time. So you have male scholars who are also gifted orators, juxtaposed with women activists and community leaders, but not very many women scholars because the vast majority of women scholars prefer smaller gatherings or gatherings for women only.

These past few months have led it to dawn on me that when as a community we start demanding "more female speakers" at conferences, we are falling into a mode of thinking that exalts men above us. We somehow believe that having more female speakers will mean we have achieved some form of "equality". As if what men are leading in or excelling in is what is superior and to be admired and achieved. And even most men will tell you that large scale conferences aren't the highest places of learning -- they are gatherings to boost people's himmah and encourage them to go learn stage! Yes, some women are gifted speakers and they naturally are put into those roles, but often, it seems forced and that is what I'm speaking about here. The reality is that Prophets were not women. The One who created us, Knows our differences.

Perhaps this is not the correct cognitive frame. Perhaps we are looking for superificial "equality" at the cost of true spiritual fulfillment. What these past few months have shown me is that we need more communities of sisters. Intimate gatherings where we can learn, sing, share, and love one another. So that as women we feel supported and cared for by one another because that sisterly love is something that cannot be given to us by any other and these are needs that cannot be met at large scale conferences. We must be there for one another, teach one another, know one another, and love one another.

Let us strive for substance and long lasting relationships because as women we are truly the fabric that keeps families and communities together, and only we can understand that role.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Sir Bani Yas Island and the Hidden Manifestation


Perhaps his fatigue overcame him or perhaps he saw in me a longing to contemplate the Divine as we sat on our hotel terrace overlooking the Arabian Gulf while our children slept inside the room, so Salik went inside to allow me to retreat.

As the mother of young children, most often our contemplation of the Divine is through gratitude for the miracle that is life and in fervent prayers for health and longevity -- for our parents, spouses, children, loved ones and ourselves. Most often at the day's end we find ourselves utterly exhausted and drained.

As I sat on the terrace and looked out over the resort into the darkness of the Arabian Gulf behind it, I could hear the strength of its powerful waves crashing onto shore. Its force was frightening the first night I heard it -- how great is Allah's Power and Might. And yet, hidden behind this Jalal is the Beauty of the Sea: its colours, its creatures, its calm. Behind the Jalal is the Jamal and conversely when we see its beauty we often neglect to recall its power, but behind that Jamal is the Jalal: the strength of the predators within and the unforgiving power of the water -- we see it stop at shore, but it only does so by Allah's command and when that is lifted we have seen the devastating results.

Allah's opposites are hidden within one another and depending on the given moment, most of us see either one or the other.

I recalled my daughters' amazement at the star over the Island this evening -- I too have always felt an unquenchable desire to stare at a star studded sky like so many others. I looked up and suddenly my soul was overwhelmed by its limited existence. We see only what is before us at the moment or in the recesses of our memories what remains of what we once saw. He Most High see its all, all the time. Every corner of the Earth, every grain of sand, every leaf, every drop..and in Space...and in the Unseen...and in the Heavens...limitlessly. Glory be to Him.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Protect Your Blessings


When I look back at my youth, I realize how much of a bubble I lived in thanks to selfless parents who gave themselves to us without ever recounting their sacrifices to us -- the stability and peace they provided us.

I still remember the immense pain of the day when that bubble first burst through a heavy trial sent upon us. Since then as I have grown older, I have seen so many devastating events in the lives of people dear to me -- from illnesses, to torture, to friends becoming young widows and widowers, to the deaths of not only people's parents and grandparents, but of young thriving professionals. When one starts to see all of these things, ideally one's perspective of what this life is, should change.

When one witnesses the fragility of life and how in one blink of the eye, everything can change and nothing can stop it -- not wealth, not status, not "power" nor influence, one should stop to reflect.

"And He gives you something of all that you ask of Him, and were you to count the blessings of God, you could not number them. Truly mankind is wrongdoing, ungrateful."

- The Study Quran 14:34

Be grateful. Protect all of those blessings in your life through gratitude to your Lord.

Yet often, we see that it is when we are living comfortably with a stable job, stable marriage, healthy children… that we start to create problems -- may Allah protect us. Our ego satisfied of its basic needs, starts to crave more. It starts to get "offended". We start to demand this that or the other thing from our relatives and friends. We start to meddle. We start to take their peace and happiness away.

Seek refuge in Allah.

Think for a moment how much weight these things would hold on the scales of joy for you, if in an instant Allah sent you a real trial. Would this trivial matter still mean so much to you, if (God forbid) one of your parents died, if illness struck you, or your child got hurt? This person that has so offended you -- if they were being lowered into their grave would you still be yelling at them and loathing them so intensely?

Seek refuge in Allah.

Accept that you cannot control other people. You cannot force relationships to be the way that you wish they were or that they in fact ought to be. You can only do good to others. You cannot demand them to do good to you. Yes it may hurt sometimes, but you cannot force change with a heavy hand or loud voice. Forgive them, and pray for them…don't dwell in your hurt and allow it to cause you to demand things and in the process make things worse.

“The Muslim does not make a request which contains nothing of sin or the severance of family ties except that God will grant it to him in one of three ways: either his request will be granted to him [in this world], or God will store it away for him for the Afterlife, or He will divert from him an evil equivalent to the request.”
- Musnad of Imam Ahmad and Bayhaqi's Shu'ab al-Iman
(Source: The Study Quran)

Seek refuge in Allah. Pray for protection of your blessings, your peace, your happiness. Request the path of gratitude before you are forced onto the path of patience.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

7 Hours Without My Phone...


Salik and I are both very critical of technology. Yes, it has its necessary uses in our lives -- but we are very aware of its presence in our lives and more so, our children who are growing up in an age where they will have no reference to life without smart phones, tablets, computers and tv.

We have one smartphone for our family. Since I run a business and have clients that are inextricably tied to my having access to my phone, the phone is usually in my possession.

One day last week, the circumstances were such that I needed to be on site with a client and Salik needed to have the phone. For seven hours I had no access to phone, texts, emails.


I read, wrote in my journal, made dhikr, dua…and outside of the moments one has before bed, it was the first prolonged period of time during daylight hours, in a very long time, that I had to be alone with my thoughts. Unencumbered by anyone's phone call, texts, emails. No random google search of a question that might  pop into my mind. No picking up that device I often loathe, but am forced to have in my life.

Smartphones have changed our existence. Yes so many things have been made easier. But is the lack of calm in our minds and in our souls worth that convenience?

I encourage you all to put your phone away. To go to it a few times a day at most to check it. And if your work isn't connected to it, then even less. And if you have kids, please save them -- by avoiding devices in their presence and teaching them that one can exist without being plugged in. 

That devices are not oxygen. We can live without them. Be with your thoughts -- how can we seek to better ourselves when we can't hear ourselves think? When we can't hear the inner chatter of the soul?


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Pain of Childbirth


On the second birthday of my little girl I was reflecting on childbirth. I have often said that I find a great joy hidden in the immense pain of childbirth. The reason for this seemingly absurd pleasure is that the pain is so intense, so consuming that in that moment one is forced to realize the powerlessness of everyone around them. During the pangs of childbirth a mother realizes that none other than Allah can assist her, bring an end to the pain, and have all things go well.

It dawned on me that this is the Mercy of Allah. He puts us in such immense pain that we can be pulled instantly into the Divine Presence. Why? Because it is from that Divine Presence that we are to soon be gifted a new life. So we are pulled there, purified by the difficulty of labour, and gifted a pure child in turn.

Allahu Akbar.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Ten Signs of Good Character: Shaykh Yahya Rhodus

Ten Signs of Good Character
Khutbah by Shaykh Yahya Rhodus
Al-Maqasid Khutbah Series

Bismillah. I was just listening to this on Youtube and felt compelled to share this with everyone. We all need to seek to attain this in all aspects of our lives -- social media culture seems by and large exemplifies the death of good character.

1. Rarely engages in arguments.
          Even regarding religion.

2. Treating people fairly and not discriminating.

3. Not seeking out the faults of others/their mistakes. Covering them up if they are revealed.

4. Cover up sins of others. Think the best of them, give them the benefit of the doubt.

5. Seeking people's forgiveness. 
    Forgiving people when they seek your forgiveness (without discerning their sincerity).

6. Bearing harm from others.
          Meaning don't lash back.

7. Reproaching oneself for shortcomings more than anyone else could possibly do to you.    

8.  Focusing on one's own faults.

9. Having a Cheerful Presence. Not just smiling, but being a source of up-liftment for others.

10. Speaking well. Avoid bad language, but also speak to people in a way that does not dishonour them. Using euphemisms, etc.

Listen to the full khutbah here.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Islam & Being a Real Man - Habib Ali al-Jifri


What does it mean to "be a real man"?

We hear so much machismo around this question. I am blessed alhamdulillah, in that the men in my immediate sphere are the some of the best men out there. They are men who have and who continue to honour me with loving respect and dignity. They are chivalrous men. Men with muruwwa. Men who truly seek to follow the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace).

We often see however, that when a man helps his wife, cares for her, or tends to the children, the comments come in droves: he is whipped, he not a real man, he's scared of his wife. And correspondingly, the woman's worth is diminished: she is controlling, she is not a good wife, she's not a good mom or that somehow this takes away from her worth as a wife/mom.

Some years ago I was in Ottawa at a sisters gathering with a dear teacher of mine. Near the end women (who I largely did not know) began discussing the many difficulties they faced as women. Some of the concerns were rather grave, as pornography destroys an increasing number of marriages or makes those relationships unbearable with the sorts of demands it inspires. As we drove home I remember saying to my teacher that I couldn't believe women would tolerate so much and that they would cater to such undignified treatment as wives.  She being much wiser than I, said to me, "we are incredibly blessed that we have husbands who have come some distance on the path, who have a true sense of justice, whose love for us is respectful and honours us". She went on to make a point that I feel is poignant: if men really believed the hadith that "the best of men is the one who is best to his wife", they would all start competing at being the best to their wives. Instead, what we find when men do seek to follow the Prophetic model is that people belittle them, mock their "manliness", and chide their wives.

In this six minute video Habib Ali al-Jifri talks about what it is to be a real man.

Here's to real men!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Adab of Dua


Recently, someone dear to me asked me if I was sincerely making dua for a particular need in our lives. I responded "yes, I am". They asked "how hard are you making dua?". 

This led me to reflect on a time in my life some odd years ago when there was something I so desperately yearned for. In particular, I vividly remembered one instance when after salah I was making dua for what I wanted. I was broken, begging Allah, crying, pleading. In hindsight, although I can empathize with that past self, it was undignified.  

In contrast, some years prior to that I had undergone the greatest trial of my life. In those duas, I was dignified. I prayed earnestly, but I was broken, I begged Allah, I wept. I was humbled, but I was dignified.

The difference between those two trials was to be found in my heart. In one trial I fell into despair -- when I asked Allah, part of be had given up on the possibility of the prayer being answered and had conceded to misfortune.  In the other, my heart had hope and trust that Allah would surely assist me and answer my prayer.

When we beseech our Most Generous and Most Loving Lord, we must do so with our neediness manifest, but with the dignity we owe Him---the good opinion He has a right to.

And we should never underestimate the power of a sincere heartfelt dua. Dua is perhaps the most intimate conversation we have with Allah. It is itself a healing for our hearts.

Friday, May 20, 2016


Much wealth is rarely a blessing for people. 
It's a zahmat, not a rahmat.

More often than not, it pulls one deeper and deeper into it's world. A world of no satiation, no mercy, no justice.

As the Blessed Messenger (upon him be abundant peace and blessings) remarked, 

If the son of Adam had a valley full of gold, he would like to have two valleys for nothing fills his mouth except dust. Allah will forgive whoever repents to Him.”

May Allah save us and protect us.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Language of the Heart


Many years ago, through the sheer Mercy and Favour of my Lord upon me, for which I will be eternally grateful (had He bestowed no other blessing upon me, this would have been sufficient), I came to meet Sidi Shaykh Abdellah al-Haddad.

Before his arrival, one of my dearest friends had told me I should "prepare to fall in love". He came and from afar, he was beautiful, the words he spoke were pearls, the spiritual presence he brought to the zawiya, palpable.  I needed to speak with him about a spiritual matter and when I went to see him I looked into his blessed eyes and there was a sea of love, merciful, unadulterated love, like nothing I had seen in any eye before. This is the essence of Sidi Shaykh and it never fails to make me weep. Such purity, such wealth that he gives and gives and gives of his love and yet, somehow, each time I lay eyes upon him, there is more love than before.

At the time I first met him, I was going though a trial that I used to pray in earnest for Allah to lift from me. Once he had accepted me as a faqira under his guidance, I had a beautiful vivid dream in which he was leading myself and that friend of mine in salat-ul maghrib. Upon completion of the prayer, I closed my eyes was in earnest prayer until I felt a strong presence with me, and when I looked his hands were beneath my hands. This was perhaps the first lesson the nisbah taught me. We are bound to our Shaykh. When we beseech our Lord, he beseeches with us. His concern for us is sincere and deep, it never leaves us.

Those who know Sidi Shaykh, know that his jalal is reserved only for what benefits. He is otherwise, jamal, jamal, jamal. And this was the nisbah's second lesson to me. I had always been very shadid in my spirituality, very jalali. Yet literally overnight, I came to espouse that immense mercy that characterizes Sidi Shaykh. Suddenly the students dancing and playing the drum didn't inspire within me a dislike for the ghafla, but rather a realization that this is the search of their soul for Allah. That were they to be guided, they would find a far greater peace and tranquility in the dhikr, in the hadra. And this led me to pray that Allah guide them to that knowledge of Himself.

Each year we are blessed from above, with a visit from Sayyidna Shaykh. He comes, I sit with him and ask his nasiha on one thing or another, and either his daughter or Salik translate between us. In truth, I always feel this is the formality of this world, we go through the motions that are the norms of the life of this world. Yet my greatest questions, those I cannot often even articulate, are communicated in the initial silence that follows the salams and exchange of niceties or in the final silence before we depart. When he looks over at me and smiles and I cannot even bring my lowly eyes to look back at him. It is in those moments that our hearts speak. And it is those moments that have taught me that language of the tongue or the pen, is in reality so impoverished in comparison to the language of the hearts.

Recently, Shaykh Yahya was speaking about the dense nature of this world and its resultant pull on us. And spending some moments with Sidi Shaykh is indeed in such contrast to that density. He is subtle, latif. And what a peace that brings the heart in comparison to the unrest of this dense world.

May we empty our hearts of the hardness, harshness, and density of this world so that we may have our hearts filled with the Light, Lutf and Mercy of our Lord Most High. Sidi Shaykh and those like him, they are calling us to the real purpose of our life in this world. We must pay heed, we must answer that call, for the life of this world is but two days -- it is here today and will be gone tomorrow. All that will be left is the light or darkness that we filled our hearts with. Let us fill our hearts with Light that never extinguishes. Ameen.

May Allah preserve Sidi Shaykh, give him health and strength, and grant him a long life by which he benefits many. Ameen.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Facebook, Twitter and The Study Quran

Arabic, Persian, and Urdu tafasir have had divergent opinions available in them for centuries (varying legal opinions, positions of varying theological schools, many sunni tafasir even sound as though they should be shiite), and nobody has had their back up about that or flooded social media about those or argued they should be confined to scholars or academics. 

Why when this has been done in English are people suddenly so afraid? What are people afraid of? Will people read the SQ and leave Islam? Will Sunnis become Shias or vice versa? Will Asharis suddenly espouse Maturidi positions (gasp!). Seriously, folks, I love the 'ulema, I love to sit at their feet, I love to learn from them, but we do have an intellect as lay people.

Nobody is saying don't study tafsir with local scholars or online. The SQ is not intended to be a manual on aqidah, fiqh, tasawwuf -- it's not meant to give you philosophy or metaphysics. It's tafsir -- it is simply meant to present the context of verses/surahs and the varying ways in which the mufasirs have understood them. It's not devotional in the sense that litanies are, its to assist in one's reflection on the various level of meanings contained in it -- because there are various levels of meanings and to think otherwise is to limit the expanse and depth and great heights of Allah's Words.

I logged back on to FB after 5 months (will be deactivating once more) and people are still condemning without reading, spreading without verifying. Get off of this lowest common denominator known as FB, stop reading what other people are saying about a book, or trying to corner the two editors that are on FB about their religious beliefs/positions (even if you "extract" some information -- do you think all the editors have identical positions or affiliations?!), and actually read the book. The first command of the Quran was to read! Muslims have never been afraid of divergent ideas or opinions or even completely foreign ones -- we have a strong intellectual history. Be proud of that, say bismillah and read with a pure heart, this SQ that you are condemning. Or if you don't want to read it, at least get off FB and go memorize the Quran -- Allah knows the amount of time people waste on this waste of time social media, our ummah could be producing huffaz of the Quran by the thousands. Wassalam!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Gift-Giving Expectations


I was listening to a podcast of a talk by our dear brother, Shaykh Yahya Rhodus (may Allah preserve him), as he spoke about the high rank of Sayyida Fatima al-Zahra (radiy Allahu anha), as being the closest to Rasul Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) in both her outward appearance and her character. He then mentioned something that really resonated with me. I do tend to be on the sensitive side so this was a good reminder to my heart in response to the behaviour of others.

He mentioned that whenever Sayyida Fatima (radiy Allahu anha) would send someone a gift she would ask her servant to listen attentively to any dua that person made for her upon receiving the gift. When the servant would tell her of their dua, she would immediately make the same dua for them -- "a dua for a dua", she would say, "for the reward of the gift, I want from my Lord in Heaven".*

How often do we think about the fact that someone didn't say a simple thank you or show their appreciation. This almost makes us wish they don't!  Some food for thought :)


*not a direct quote, but paraphrased.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Newborn to Sage: The Symbolism of the Belt


Salik Junior came down a few months ago dressed for his first day of Karate lessons. As we got out his fresh white belt, Salik had some insight into the symbolism of the belt gradations -- he mentioned them to Sansei who confirmed that there was truth in what he thought. The belts start with white and then through a series of gradations, go to yellow, orange, red, black, and finally that black after many years begins to lose its threads and turn white once again.

This is symbolic of the Spiritual Path.

White. We are born pure, untainted by the world.

As we go through life, its trials, tribulations -- the fire, if you would, of the Spiritual Path which seeks to purify us, begins to burn the ego…yellow…orange…red at its height…until the ego is burnt, annihilated, black.

Look at the belt of the Sansei who has had it for years and you will see the threads coming apart to reveal white once more.  This is it.  That newborn, that pure child, has grown. He has battled his ego through arduous work, and now has that very purity of the newborn, of that pure child -- but the Sage is superior because he has the purity, only now it is with knowledge.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Upshot of "The Study Quran: What Gives?"

Bismillah. AsSalamu'alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu,

It seems that a certain individual who has attempted to leave "comments" on my previous post is upset that I have not approved them.  To this individual, please note that my blog is just that, mine. And I have chosen to make it a place free of hate-speech because my Master, Allah bless him and give him peace, was not a hateful person who found some sick pleasure in imagining other people burning in Hell. When the people of Ta'if did unthinkable things to him, he (Allah bless him and grant him peace), prayed for their guidance and the greatness of their offspring -- he didn't have hate-filled prayers for them. 

Please refrain from attempting to post any further such comments as I will report you for harassment and violent remarks.

Perhaps my post was too lengthy to read, for as I said, our ummah is suffering intellectually. The upshot, you should know, brother, is that it was NOT a defence of perennialism (I don't wish to defend something I don't believe in).  You clearly didn't read the post. 

The Study Quran is NOT a perennialist book. So before you blow your top cursing it, know what it is that you are cursing because you are responsible on the Final Day for what you say and write and harbour in your heart. 


And read my post and the linked statements so that you understand what the work is meant to do. 

May Allah increase us in knowledge. Ameen.


Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Study Quran: What Gives?

Bismillah. AsSalamu'alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu.

Afwan, I am generally concerned on this blog about inward matters and reflections, so please forgive me as I unleash my more jalali side here, but something needs to be said when, as one prominent scholar put it, so much benefit is being withheld from people because of detractors.

The much anticipated HarperCollins The Study Quran (#StudyQuran) came out about two weeks ago and has really captured in many ways, the state of our ummah today. I must say, as a teacher, one thing I note with great sadness is that our world as a whole is in a real state of intellectual decline. I'm not referring to formal academic training or output. I'm speaking of the basic ability to read, think, consider the logic of statements/claims. Our ummah, once a leader in learning and preservation of knowledge, is today, unfortunately, no exception. We've forgotten to read and think for ourselves -- we'd rather read tweets about books by people who themselves aren't reading them.

An immensely detailed work that took five trained academics (with the help of countless graduate students, an indexer, professional cartographer, and numerous scholars who contributed essays) a decade to complete, was released.  Over 2000 pages and nearly a million words of just commentary alone. To be sure, this was a labour of love -- such endeavours don't do much by way of career advancement in the academy -- for that one is better off spewing off short books of their own opinion with lots of footnotes paying homage to other academics.

In less than a week's time, an individual who does not personally know the editors and who does not even own The Study Quran, decided to take it upon himself to tweet to the world, "be aware that the editors do not hold Islam as the only valid religion to be followed today." This of course, was then retweeted by his friends and students, and so the social media fire began. In Punjabi, we have a saying that captures what has transpired on social media over the past week or so -- "Bandar dai hutt matches ahgee" -- "the monkey got a hold of some matches" -- not in reference to any one person, but the entire phenomenon of people thinking aloud on social media. This was followed up, by numerous tweets, comments/replies, Facebook posts and the like, stating that the editors are perennialists and that this is a view that is "outright kufr".


  • Let's stop right at the start of this social media mess. When this was tweeted, many people it seems, failed to ask a few simple questions of said tweeter.
    • Do you know the editors? (Answer: Nope.)
    • Did you contact them to find out their religious views? (Answer: Nope.)
    • Exactly what kind of training do you have that entitles you to "warn" the world about what you have assumed to be the religious views of four people who you don't know? (Answer: None, except that he studied with the Editor-in-chief, and then decided that anyone that works on a project with him must espouse all of his religious and philosophical views/perspectives/beliefs).
      • All of this alone, should have ended the discussion at its inception because it started with a faulty, baseless claim. In fact, being someone that might just know something about the editors, I can tell you that they are not all perennialists nor do they all have identical views on everything.
      • When one of the editors objected to being called a kafir, said tweeter denied it. Really? Well, when your tweets say that 1) the editors are perennialists; and 2) perennialism is kufr; well then, the basic syllogism would conclude that the editors are kafirs. I will assume as someone with academic training from the very academic institutions which he derides, listed on his social media as the places he earned degrees, that this much "A is B, B is C, therefore A is C" logic he must understand. And then recently, said tweeter posted saying that no matter how heated discussions get, they shouldn't become personal (even a hadith to support this assertion). I agree -- we have an entire genre of writings called the etiquettes of disagreement (and sufism itself is adab and akhlaq). I don't know about you, but if you accused me of kufr, I'd consider that pretty personal. Maybe said tweeter is just that much more "chill" than me.
Perennialist Book?

Shortly after this initial tweet, were posts with screenshots of pages of The Study Quran claiming that these clearly show perennialist thought being craftily inserted / camouflaged into the commentary.
  • Clearly, craftily camouflaged? If it's craftily inserted/camouflaged…it's done in a fashion that is clear? So is it overt or covert? I'm having a hard time understanding. Here's what is really muddling my understanding:
    • Others who retweeted/shared, said that The Study Quran "clearly and actively promotes perennialism". If it's clear and active this sounds to me like it's literally on every other page and stands out like a sore thumb. Yet, other tweets by these folks claim X or Y verse shows perennialism, though still "not clearly" or that it is "camouflaged" or "craftily inserted".
      • Hmmm…so it's everywhere, intentionally inserted in a "disingenuine" manner that is hidden but clearly all over the place. Does this make sense? Seems about as clear as mud to me.
"Critical Reviews". 

One might wonder (I would hope), how did these folks draw such conclusions about this dense work so soon after it was released? I mean to have enough conviction that their assessment is correct that they felt compelled to take to social media to warn the masses and save their faith! If you actually read what these folks are saying, one thing is very clear. One scholar told me he was "expecting the strong perennialist tone that pervades the works of the editors". The tweeter cited twelve examples as being places he (who does not own The Study Quran) was sure were misinterpreted -- before he even saw the work.
  • It's as though this group was waiting for The Study Quran to be released so that they could start to spew venom about it. Nobody can honestly say they read even a considerable portion of the work in so short a time. Here, the tweeter clearly doesn't have a high opinion of the intellectual capacity of his followers because he actually readily admits that he does not own a copy of the very text for which he is offering this "critical review" via social media (and no, because something was marketed via social media doe not legitimize criticizing it on social media because the work was not published on this medium -- rather, write a real review once you've read the work and then publicize your review on social media).
  • There's a hikm of ibn Ata'illah that one of my teachers often quoted to us, "he whose beginning is light, his end is light". I would venture to say also, that "he who begins with suspicion, ends with suspicion". The Quran warns us against suspicion and the Sufis (who these people proport to be/follow), pride themselves in having husn al-dhann (a good opinion) not su al-dhann (a bad opinion).
  • Again, the assumption that all the editors are perennialists because the editor-in-chief is? And that perennialism pervades their work? Not all of Dr. Nasr's books do -- and definitely not all of the works of the other editors! But how does one believe this assessment anyhow? Was the reading those works anything like the reading of The Study Quran -- i.e. opinions formed on the basis of perceived knowledge of the authors?
  • Coming to any work searching for a particular philosophy/perspective, one can surely find some way of locating it. As an English teacher I always drive that point home to students, we can easily read into any text and that is something to be weary of... That said, are people actually reading the translation and commentary of those twelve verses? You'd have to be searching harder than a Qadiyani looking for their creed in the Quran. The alleged perennialism just isn't there. What is there is a respect for the People of the Book, which is part and parcel of our faith. The Quran is also very particular in its language. For instance, "a guidance" is not the same as "the guidance". Respect for other faiths isn't acceptance nor is it perennialism. I've looked up all of the references. Sometimes their issue is with the actual verse because if you look at the commentary, often it's just reiterating what is in the verse itself.
  • We always tell non-Muslims not to take verses out of context. Well let's not do that either. The Study Quran is meant to be studied as a whole…they have copious cross-references -- read all of the related discussions. That said, if you find in all the related discussions the fiqh position given is wrong etc., make a note of it and send the editors a note or politely tweet/post what you have learned as the correct, ahlan wa sahlan, but there is no need to dismiss the entire work. Nobody should be taking fiqh from tafsir anyways, its not a fiqh matn it's tafsir :)
Another issue in its own right which I will not get into in detail about here, is the entire notion of having these "sincere" discussions on social media. The very nature of social media is such that it easily lends itself to assumptions, over-simplification, and divisiveness. There is too much distance and misinterpretation, and its public nature elevates egos in a dangerous way. As many commenters on social media have made clear, all this "scholarly" chatter is confusing people. Is that what is desired here? To deter people from reading tafsir? There has then been a claim that the intention isn't to do this because there "is much benefit" in the work, it just needs to be looked at "with caution". In reality however, the exaggeration of the alleged dangers in The Study Quran has frightened many away from it all together. As someone who is reading the work and often moved to tears because of the beauty of the Quran that is revealed to me, this saddens me.

Universal Validity of Religions vs. Salvation. 

I've seen numerous people asking the editors to answer the "simple question" of whether they believe people of other faiths can attain salvation -- this "simple" question of course is meant to "reveal" whether they are perennialists or not. The question however, is flawed. Now, for the record, I'm not at all a perennialist (not even close). I learned my aqidah according the Ashari school from a very staunch Ashari scholar who I respect greatly so please don't start labelling me here as well. That said, a number of my own teachers taught me years ago that these are two separate issues. Universal validity of religions is one thing (an absolutely heterodox view) and salvation for people of other faiths is an entirely different issue (fatra doctrine of the likes of Imam Ghazali or the teaching that our Master, Rasul Allah, God bless him and grant him peace, will intercede for other communities once his intercession for us has been accepted because he is a mercy to all the worlds). This is a key distinction for the masses on social media to grasp. That others may attain salvation does not validate their religion in this world. Not to mention that most people don't seem to know much about what perennialism is anyhow -- perhaps said tweeter has actually just done lots of dawah for the perennialists since I'm sure more people have looked them up in the last week than have done so for years since their popularity waned. In fact, I can confidently say, that more people have looked into it prompted by all the chatter on social media than would have based on reading The Study Quran with no such prior "warnings".
  • Which brings me to another contention I have with all these warnings of perennialism being in The Study Quran. The average Muslim has not heard of this philosophy (particularly prior to last week) and it is so foreign to the Muslim psyche, and so well-hidden (read: absent) in The Study Quran, that nobody coming to it with a clear heart and mind would be led astray in their aqidah based on the commentary found in it.
  • I first encountered perennialist thought at the tender age of 19 with no warnings and little knowledge of the religion other than what I knew by growing up Muslim. I knew immediately that this was not a mainstream perspective or one I wished to adhere to. Have more faith in yourself, folks -- why are you suddenly afraid to touch your copies of the Study Quran?! It's not a textbook on perennialism :)
  • Look at all the endorsements. Did they managed to pull a fast one on that many highly learned people? After its release many shuyukh who are not amongst the endorsers have also called this work "a victory for Muslims", and a "historical event". They've encouraged everyone to get one and are teaching from it themselves.
  • The editors have made a statement clearly indicated that they had no agenda in putting it together and that this is in fact what their methodology was:
  • Also, this:
Know too, that when Imam al-Ghazali's Ihya Ulum al-Din first came out, it was condemned and even burned in al-Andalus. Today it is the go-to orthodox work on Islamic spirituality and the Path. 

So my parting advice, readers, is this:

Do not allow yourselves to be herded like sheep by those who are the self-proclaimed shepherds of knowledge and orthodoxy. Instead, pay heed to the very first command of our faith: READ. "Read in the Name of Your Lord", and trust that you have enough of an intellect that you will not be led to kufr or heterodoxy by doing so… Read. Read. Read.

And Allah Ta'Ala knows best.

Friday, November 27, 2015

"Still clutching the standard of the Muslims" - The Study Quran, Surah 80 Introduction

Bismillah. If you haven't actually seen The Study Quran, do get yourself a copy of this incredible resource (its at most booksellers online or in-store!).  Here is an example of the first instance that made me weep!

The Khushu' of Newborns

Bismillah. For Sophia, who taught me how to be with my Lord in prayer.

A baby comes into the world, as Anse Tamara says, "bursting with the Glory of God". As she leaves her home and enters the dunya, she immediately cries out. 

Listen to the reed as it tells its tale, 
complaining of separation.

"Ever since I was cut from the reed bed,
I have made this crying sound.

Anyone who is apart from who he loves,
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source,
longs to go back."
(Rumi, Masnavi)

Her first instinct is to suckle. Why? Because it is the only connection she has to that home from which she has come. She learns quickly that she can no longer be inside that home, but must suffice herself now by latching on from the outside in order to drink of what is inside -- her source.

In the first days and weeks of life, she is more soul than she is body. So when she latches on to nurse, she has complete presence in this act. Look at her. Nothing and nobody can distract her. Older siblings crying of jealousy beside her. Firetrucks blasting their sirens. She doesn't flinch, she doesn't look, and she certainly doesn't unlatch. Look at her. It is as if none of this is taking place around her. She is connected to her source and nothing could be sweeter. Nothing more worthy of her, than her source. She connects with every ounce of her being. She is more soul than she is body.

As months begin to pass, as she slowly comes into her body a wee bit more with each passing day, her presence in the act of nursing slowly, but surely is diminishing. At first, she begins to notice whilst nursing that she can look up with her eyes and see mine smiling down at her. She smiles back, continuing to nourish herself all the while. She is ever so slowly, becoming less soul, increasingly body.

With time, she begins to actually unlatch to look towards sound. As she starts to roll over, crawl, cruise…as she is increasingly body, she finds it harder and harder to focus on suckling to nourish herself. Now she benefits from having quiet while she nurses. It's easier for her if she's in a dimly lit room. 

She begins to walk and is thus even more body now. And now? Now she can also benefit from secondary nourishment. She can eat and gain satiation through secondary sources. It no longer has to be  directly from the source. But even then, when she's not feeling well. When she gets hurt. When she's tired. Nothing soothes her like that direct connection to the source.

Indeed there is much to be gleaned from this for those who reflect. Suckling is the salat of a baby. The womb is her source. Milk is knowledge of that source.

Let us pray as if we were born today. Let us have khushu'!

Back to Blogging!

Bismillah. AsSalamu'alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuhu,

Not sure how many of you will come across this now as I return from a hiatus of over two years. In any case, whoever reads these words, I pray they do so enveloped by the Mercy of the All-Merciful.

Two years ago I deactivated by Facebook account and had felt life was so much better that way. A few months ago I reactivated it for a work related purpose, but the past few days were such that I was reminded of my reasons for leaving it two years ago. 

Blogging is back, bi idhnillah.


Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Ramadan Kareem!

I pray this month finds you in the best of health and happiness. May we all make the most of the many blessings and opportunities that await us this month!

Many find it difficult to adjust to the changes life brings. For instance, Ramadan may once have been defined by fasting, going to the mosque for tarawih, and staying up all night in worship. Pregnancy, nursing, and children can drastically alter this definition for moms of wee little ones.  

So let us brainstorm some ways of making the most of Ramadan when we cannot fast or go out to the mosque for night prayers:
  • Make an explicit intention each day that your eating is not for yourself, but for the nourishment of the baby entrusted to you by Allah. Therefore, during fasting hours, avoid "indulging" in unhealthy foods that are not nutritious for your baby (candy, junk, chocolate, sweets, etc.) and only eat good foods in necessary amounts.
  • Create a wird of Qur'an or adhkar that you can do with your children (or aloud around them if they are too little to sit still). It doesn't have to be long so that they become impatient. A little can go a long way.
  • Come up with a schedule that works for you and your family. For instance, once the kids are sleeping, getting up and giving yourself 1-2 hours for ibaadah, maybe even in their room if they won't let you leave. You may not be able to get out for tarawih, but you can still keep the sunnah alive in your life by praying on your own.  20 rakats can easily be completed in as little as 30 minutes. Allah knows your heart's desire and insha'Allah, in a few years those little munchkins will be old enough to join you at the masjid!
  • Not fasting? Invite people who are fasting to come to your home for iftar! Honour members of your household who are fasting by facilitating things for them during these long, hot summer fasts. Donate to your local Muslim food bank!
  • There's nothing like a little introspection! Look at your character and choose one bad quality you'd like to rid yourself of or one good quality you'd like to improve upon. Make that your focus this month!
  • Also look at your outward actions and do the same. Maybe you spend too much time on your phone, or Facebook. Maybe you don't smile and say hello to your neighbours. Choose a bad action you'd like to eliminate or a good action you'd like to start doing. Make that your focus this month!
If you have other suggestions, ahlan! Please share :)

Please keep this faqirah in your prayers this month.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Thoughts on "How to Miss a Childhood" (Hands Free Mama)


All across the world, a great loss is taking place. Once gone, what is lost will never be recaptured. And one day, people will lay on their death beds, full of regret. 

It is a loss unlike anything humankind has ever seen before or that our forefathers would ever have imagined: parents missing out on the childhood of their own children. Older children/adults missing out on the wisdom of their parents and elders. Friends missing out on real friendship (not to be mistaken with the virtual friendship of FB and texting). Family sitting in the same room, and yet not really being with one another.

At the start of this year, I re-read an article I had bookmarked months earlier.  I had loved it when I first read it.  When I re-read it, I noticed that since then, I had somehow gotten caught up in some of the techno-obsession that now pervades our global culture. It literally moved me to tears -- let me tell you why.

I know people that are glued to their phones. That's not me. But the cell phone, at some point in the months leading up to my re-reading that article, had creeped it's way into the room -- in retrospect, all it took was a couple of friends who were avid texters. It sat somewhere on the ledge, beeping now and then...and being used as a watch. But that's all that needed to happen for my son to become so aware of it. Technology has this strange pull on us -- babies, children, adults -- on various levels and to differing degrees. When I read the line about your child picking up the phone if you left it in the other room and running to give you that beloved device of yours to win your good pleasure and gratitude, I thought "BabySalik has done that a couple of times recently"...and I began to weep. The lines warning us to not miss our children's glimpses for approval, filled me with fear of regret.

I may have thought I had a passing relationship with my phone. It was just "there". I wasn't obsessed with it, didn't have it on my person all the time or even next to me.  And I most definitely never gave it to my children to distract or busy them even for a moment because I am aware not only of the negative health-effects, but am an ardent believer in no screen time (not just TV, but tablets, phones...all screens...all techy things...the medium really is the message, but somehow we overlook that when we're told there are "educational" apps...there are also "educational" programs...but in the end, we all know that there are far superior forms of education through more traditional, tried, tested and true mediums...but I digress).  The reality from my son's perspective hit me in the face like a tonne of bricks.

I started to look critically at my day from BabySalik's perspective. I decided to make some changes.

When my husband came down, I asked him to immediately change the password on my Facebook account and only log me in when requested, once a week max when the kids were asleep. Again, I don't post my every breath on FB as many might. I don't put pictures of my kids up because I don't feel that their pure presence need have a virtual presence. I believe strongly that FB attracts a great deal of 'ayn in people's lives -- google search "Facebook Envy" or "Facebook Depression" and a flurry of articles to back that up will fill your screen and hopefully cause you to think twice about what you post. Salik doesn't even have a FB account so he was thrilled, but I keep mine to "stay in touch" with people though I'm fully aware of the faultiness in even that logic.

I also decided I would not check my email in the presence of my kids. And that I would only respond to text messages first thing in the morning, during nap, or after their bedtime. In essence, I decided to remove the visual of technology from their pure, blessed eyes. And I decided to fill my eyes, with absorbing their childhood and allowing them to purify my tarnished heart.

A week of no FB passed and I realized how much happier I was not to have it "there" all the time. I also realized what a waste of my down-time it was in the evenings and decided, I'd rather read a book, so I picked up CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters -- a brilliant read. I didn't ask to be logged in for literally weeks. When I did, five minutes was enough. Months later, something brought me to it one day where I wanted to check on some feedback for something I had asked about so I kept checking my FB. As the day progressed, I told my husband I had been feeling so "heavy" all day. And then I realized was FB! The brainless clicking from one page to the next, one link leading to another...emptiness. So I logged off.

And there's that nagging phone. We seem to be obsessed with our phones, and the "smarter" the phone, the more we use it (perhaps in lieu of our own brain).  Look around you and you will see that people are doing one thing or another on their phones while they: walk, drive, "watch" their kids at the park or anywhere for that matter, "talk" to people they're sitting in the same room with, even people at the mosque, or in a majlis of dhikr!  There is no critical thought given to the apps we download, either. Tactile doesn't matter. The sanctity of a mushaf of Quran or the scent of a fine wood misbaha doesn't matter to us anymore -- Quran on screen is fine, as is a "virtual" tasbih...tap, tap, tap your dhikr away! Has anyone ever thought about the fact that this is the first time in history that people read Qur'an from other than a mushaf they are holding in their hands and feeling?

Let us take a look at our lives. Let us limit our distractions. Let us live on earth and be with the people Allah has put directly in our lives (physically present with us!) instead of giving our attention primarily to the virtual world we have created for ourselves.

Read the article. Allah gives wisdom to whomsoever He pleases: