Monday, November 06, 2017

Finding Female Scholars...Off Stage...

Bismillah.

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 more...off 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

Bismillah.

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

Bismillah.

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...

Bismillah.

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.


It. Was. LIBERATING.

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?

Think.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Pain of Childbirth

Bismillah.

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.    
          Introspection.

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

Bismillah.

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!