Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Evil Eye and the Blessed Eye

The evil eye is real. Our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) taught us so and also gave us the prevention and cure for it through the recitation of surah al-falaq and surah al-nas, three times in the morning and three times in the evening. Yet, we hear people obsessed with "nazar", even to the point of paranoia.

My Nanni (Allah be pleased with her) was a very righteous woman, masha'Allah. One day her neighbour saw her and in a bout of frustration, shouted "what is with you? I do so much black magic on you and wish you ill, but nothing works!". Imagine that. Most of us would be frightened to our core! My Nanni? She calmly replied, "I say my five prayers and read Quran and have complete certainty that my Lord will protect me".

***

Let us also consider however, that if the eye of the evildoer, a heart filled with greed or envy or hate can be powerful, then what about the heart of the wali, a heart that knows Allah?  How powerful is that blessed eye? Should we not then seek to place ourselves at the feet of such people, exposing ourselves to their blessed gazes?

Surrounding Little Ones with Sacred Symbols

Salik and I have always felt that our immediate spaces should be beautiful because of the affect this has on the soul. When we became parents our consciousness of this became heightened as we looked at the impact all things would have on the pure souls presented to us as a trust from our Lord. When I was expecting Salik Junior I remember sitting in the majlis al-dhikr one night and being overcome with the understanding that this baby soon to be in my arms was coming to me from the Divine Presence and it would be my responsibility to remind him of that Origin and protect him from all that seeks to make him forget that Origin.

Our sensory experiences should not be belittled. As a high school teacher I see how much young people fill their souls with images, sounds, and other sensory experiences with no regard to the impact of these on their heart, and on their soul. They are unaware of the damage they do to themselves and of how much work in the Path is required to undo this damage.

Salik and I were speaking a few days ago to one of the fuqara who has a toddler and he also mentioned that he believes it is so important to surround their little girl with the symbols of worship. Indeed we do this as well. Exposing children to musallas, misbahas, Quran, dhikr, sacred art, and awliya from a young age will, insha'Allah, have a profound affect on their souls because these are the formative years of their lives. Placing these things in their rooms and in our homes is important.  Think of a song your parents played when you were a child and the affect of that song on your heart when you hear it now.

There's something about those early years.

May Allah protect all children from that which distracts from their true purpose. Ameen.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Sacred Spaces in Our Homes

Our homes have a room dedicated to every function of our physical being: a place to prepare food, a place to eat food, a place to sleep, etc. When it comes to prayer, however, we have been largely affected by modernist thinkers into praying "anywhere" (obviously, if we are out and we need to pray we honour the time and pray wherever we are) without acknowledgement that not all places are created equal.

We should likewise have a place dedicated to worship. A sacred space free of distractions, heedlessness, and the day -to-day of life. A space where we go to pray our salah, make dhikr, and have seclusion ('uzla).

The space should ideally not be too large. We should fragrance it with bukhoor.

After some time, the difference between that space and other spaces in the home will be palpable. And the quality of your prayers when made there will also be palpable!

Having done this in all the homes we've lived in over the years, we have seen that even those who are unaware of the purpose of that space feel the difference. Even non-Muslims have commented on the feeling of peace there or said it feels "zen".

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Not Recognizing the Wali

A dear teacher of ours once told us that the first person to be blinded from the Wali is his wife.

The meaning of this is that those closest to a wali see their humanity so much that they often let that blind them from seeing their rank with Allah and the adab that commands.

It is in this light that the Shaykh al-Akbar has advised that one not spend more than three days in a row with their Shaykh because they will be exposed to his bashariyya and as a result may not see him with the same awe and admiration as they previously did.

Monday, April 09, 2018

Don't Let Your Good Looks Fool You...

Excerpt rom a lesson on Shukr, delivered by Sidi Shaykh:

When you admire your appearance you should be grateful and acknowledge the One who has concealed your ugliness under this beauty. You didn't choose it, He did. When you are so in love with your appearance that you begin to look down upon others, you exit 'ubudiyyah because He created them -- they did not choose their appearance, He did.

The human being should reflect on their origin: a thing of filth from a place of filth, inside you all sorts of filth and yet despite all that, Allah concealed this in beauty, made you vicegerents on Earth and placed everything in it for your benefit and ease. Glory be to Him!

Acknowledge Allah's right to be thanked.



Friday, April 06, 2018

A Love and Blessing Eternal

In times past I had looked upon blessings and asked,
"Are these a test? Will they last?"

Until that blessed day
that my heart did first lay,
eyes upon the one who would show it the Way.

The greatest blessing bestowed upon this impoverished one,
He has illuminated my heart, brighter than the sun.

Given me conviction that his presence is not only a treasure,
But indeed a mark of God's Great Pleasure.

A bond most sublime,
Free from the bounds of space and time.
A blessing, a love, an intercession
Unto the abode of eternal Heaven.

***

May Allah preserve him with health and longevity, and continue to benefit many through him.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thank You, Dear Lord

Dear Lord,

Increase us in knowledge,
Increase us in wisdom.
To our beloved Prophet
Let us pledge our allegiance.

Rules and limits have You created,
not for Your benefit, but that we be aided.
If left to our desires we shan't be satiated.
Left to our thoughts we are but ill-fated.

We thank you, dear Lord, for guidance
For wisdom, discernment and for prudence.



Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Social Media...

...has made the world a very unforgiving place.

The Disease of Being Busy (Omid Safi)

Born and raised in Canada, I had never truly experienced life anywhere else up until a few months ago (because vacations really don't count). I love Canada. It is my home in this world.

Living in the Gulf for a few months felt so great, so different, so relaxing. I had hardly any of my possessions, but felt so at ease. When I came back to Canada people who didn't even know I had left (that's Toronto for you!), remarked at how relaxed I looked. School/work began and we were back in "the rat-race" or "the grind". The fact that we call our daily lives a "rat race" or "the grind" is clearly a problem, no?

It's not normal and it is to one's spiritual detriment (and physical, emotional, psychological). Even when we make good intentions in the work that we do, the busyness takes a toll on the stillness of our heart and the clarity of our minds. The exhaustion takes a toll on the quality of our prayers.

Click here for article by Professor Omid Safi that is spot on. Please take the time to read and share! 

We are so entrenched in our busy lives that we think it is the only way to live. Before I lived in the Gulf I too believed that this was just the reality of life. I have seen many times that when people opt out of this busy life -- moving out of the city and working from home, moving abroad, downsizing to live on one income -- people are so judgmental that they call these people "lazy". As if there is no other purpose in life. No value to having free time.

It does not have to be this way. We need to make changes, especially as these things pertain to our children and our afterlives.

Two Parenting Lessons from My Childhood

Bismillah.

As the mother of young children and as someone who adores her own parents, I have been reflecting a lot lately on my own childhood and how my parents parented.

Alhamdulillah, I grew up in a beautiful home where my parents always made time for us. I never felt that either of them was too busy for us. My mom started working when I was nine years old, but structured her hours around our school day. My father worked very hard, but played with us as soon as he came home and he always made time on the weekend for our family to have a day out together. We would go to the lake to feed the birds bread scraps we picked up from the bakery or had at home, play together at the park, go out for dinner together and then come home and watch The Road to Avonlea together. I remember they made a distinct and conscious decision that they would not spend weekends at their friends' homes for dawats like everyone else did because they wanted to have time for our family to really be together -- not just under the same roof where they would spend time with their friends and leave us to play with their kids, but for us as a family to be close to one another. Those outings are some of my fondest childhood memories.

Lesson One: Make a regular family ritual that you do together. I say ritual because I believe it has to be consistent and regular in order to really impact children and create a bond.

My mother wasn't a "no machine" and she is quite honestly the sweetest, most selfless lady I know masha'Allah, but there were a few things she really quite adamantly forbade me:
  • The Phone. When all my friends began talking on the phone after school, my mother forbade me from ever giving our phone number to anyone. She simply said to me, "you spend your entire day at school with your friends. So when you come home, I want you to talk to all of us." When I became a teen and it was sometimes uncomfortable to tell girls I couldn't give them my number, I remember my mom telling me quite frankly that all young girls talk about on the phone is boys and that boys this age aren't serious or in a position to marry you. She told me when I got to University she would ease up a little because then I'd have friends that were mature and had education as a top priority.
  • Hangouts. A natural extension of that was that I wasn't allowed to hangout with my friends after school or on weekends either. I didn't have my own social life, birthday parties and outings. I knew when I left school, I came home to my truest friends. As I grew up into a teenager, my mom became my best friend -- the one who took me shopping and to the movies, and that is where she imparted to me so much of her worldview.
  • Clothing. My parents were traditional Pakistanis who came here in the 70s and had the culture of their childhood as their guide. They didn't force me to wear hijab, but my clothing had strict rules embedded in my thinking from a young age. Even at home, I always wore traditional shalwar kameez. I went shopping with my mom who did that deliberately so that she would be the one telling me what looked good and what didn't (as opposed to my friends),  and she always told me the honest truth, explaining that she couldn't let me make a fool of myself to spare my feelings at the moment. She also often told me that her mother used to tell her that "people look at models and wear whatever is trendy, but not everything suits everyone so don't be a part of the herd -- examine clothes to see if they meet your own style and suit you." All of this deeply embedded in me a sense of haya' (modesty). 
  • Closed Doors. We were only allowed to close our bedroom doors for the few minutes it took us to change our clothes. "Privacy" is something that is really over-hyped in our times. Traditionally, people didn't have enough rooms in a house to be closing doors to their "own space". What are kids doing on their own that requires a closed door anyways? We were one unit. If one person were to close themselves off, the others would miss them.

Lesson Two: Rather than a long list of rules, teach children principles that will help guide their independent lives in the future and explain to them the wisdom for which you are giving them any given rule.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Strength Borne of Vulnerability

Why is that with some people, our bond is stronger than it is with others? That despite seeing some friends a fraction of the time we see or spend with others, we still feel a greater comfort with them? Many a reason can be given for this experience that most of us can relate to, but one has, over the years resonated most with me.

Vulnerability.

The friends with whom we can be vulnerable, are our closest friends. They are the friends that even if we see them once a year, we always feel connected to. There is a certain strength in a relationship that is borne out of the ability for two people to be vulnerable with one another. To share their fears, their difficulties, their challenges, their weaknesses and their deepest secrets. Perhaps this is because there needs to be an incredible amount of love and trust for us to allow someone to know us in our entirety, to feel safe from being judged, dismissed, exposed, or worse.


Shaykh Hamza once said that if we have one truly good friend we should be incredibly grateful. And if we have two we should make a sajda of shukr. Such friends are hard to find. May Allah bless them.

O My Servant! I am Allah!

Many years ago, a teacher of ours once gave us a qasida from Tarim. It was a beautiful rendition of the nasheed "Kullama na dayt ya Hu". Different from the more popular versions, I found that it was sung in a manner that evoked more thought on what is actually being said -- much like how the stops in the warsh recitation of the Quran almost force a unique type of reflection. He didn't realize that at the time I was going through a trial in which I would often beseech My Lord in supplication. Hearing the words,


Whenever I call out, "O Lord!"

He replies, "O My Servant, I am here for you!"


These words brought and still bring my heart a tranquility that is hard to put into words. When we make dua, do we realize Who we are calling on? We are calling on ALLAH. Lord of All the Worlds!
Reflect on that. He is Allah. Nothing is beyond His Control. Ask and you shall surely be granted.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Teaching Little Ones About Their Invisible Hearts

Bismillah.

About a year ago I began reading the Fons Vitae Ghazali Children's Series to our son.  The concept of having an "invisible heart" is an incredibly powerful tool with which to teach little ones about akhlaq, the impact of good and bad actions/behaviours, and to set them on the spiritual path through early muhasaba (taking account of one's actions and thoughts). I wanted to take a moment to encourage people to take advantage of this incredible resource that is available to us as it has quite literally changed how we parent and how our children view themselves.

Since children are naturally so drawn to that which is invisible, the concept immediately catches their attention. Once this simple idea of the invisible heart (and its being like a mirror) has been grasped, disciplining children actually takes on a very different character because now everything is understood in light of the invisible heart and keeping it as clean as a sparkling mirror. The seeds of vices can be easily thrown away -- for instance, when a child displays jealousy over something their sibling receives, they can be taught to be aware of that feeling and know that it is from shaytaan and that they should make istighfar (have them do it 10x or on a tasbih depending on their level of focus) as a way of erasing the "smudge" of jealousy from the mirror that is their invisible heart, and that the way to keep it from coming back is to be happy that their sibling was given a blessing from Allah. It goes without saying then, that we also must exemplify this in our own lives by vocalizing our happiness at the good fortune and blessings bestowed upon others around us and in our own lives (so that the children can hear it and see it).

Likewise, knowledge of the invisible heart helps us sow the seeds of virtues such that preferring others over ourselves, service, charity, kind words, and sharing all make so much more sense in light of this invisible heart that we are polishing, as opposed to when they are abstract virtues.

The concept of the invisible heart is such a refreshing and  impactful way of teaching children to be mindful of their actions and thoughts. May Allah bless those who have put their time, hearts, minds, and good intentions into this project and may He facilitate its completion with tawfiq and taysir.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Expansive Souls of the Ahl al-Bayt

Bismillah.

When I first met our beloved guide, Sidi Shaykh Abdellah al-Haddad, what stood out to me was the love and warmth with which he embraced the variety of souls that came his way. I have written previously about how even passersby have commented on the love that emanates from his very being. He gives and gives, yet only grows in what he has to offer.

During our months in the Gulf, we were blessed to spend some time with the Habaib. As I saw what their own cultural and lifestyle are like, and then juxtaposed that with the interactions I've witnessed them having in North America, I was amazed. Although in their own homes they live a very traditional and conservative lifestyle where men and women don't really interact, in North America I have experienced first-hand how naturally they will address questions from sisters, exchange salams, etc. That despite their own limited exposure to the social worlds online and on the ground in the West, the mercy and forbearance with which they field questions from people at various ends of faith. And I've seen the warmth with which they do so: smiling with no sign of being uncomfortable or awkward, but with impeccable adab and respect.

Reflecting on this, it occurred to me that what Sidi Shaykh and the Habaib have in common is that they are all ahl al-bayt -- descendants of the noble lineage of our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).

I believe with my heart that this is why they are able to take in so many different hearts, personalities, and cultures with such ease, grace, love, and mercy. They have in their blood the expansive soul of our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). The Mercy to All the Worlds. They look at all of us with the eye of love and mercy. They don't harbour pride because of their piety, knowledge or the stringent positions they may take themselves. They are in practice, hard on themselves, but easy on others. This is the Prophetic way. Take people as they are, and guide them gently, one soul at a time with your love, prayers, sincerity, and example.

We have much to learn from these noble and blessed souls. Salik has often said that the human soul has a sanctity that must be respected. That the feelings of the human being must be considered because far too often in our piety, there is a subtle pride or self-righteousness that causes us to make others feel inferior, awkward and uncomfortable.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

When Hearts Find One Another

Bismillah.

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...

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 embodiment 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.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

When Did Islam Lose its Culture?

Bismillah.

I'm a first generation Canadian -- born and bred in the True North Strong and Free. As I grew up and alongside that learned about Islam in a North American context, Islam had no culture of its own. It was comprised of the various races and nationalities that formed the congregation of my local masjid. We were often taught to dichotomize "religion" and "culture" with the latter being derided as jahl.

My parents had given me all the key ingredients of our culture: languages, attire, cuisine, etiquette, morals and ethics -- essentially, worldview. But because they weren't very social people, we were not surrounded by Pakistanis. As I entered my late twenties/early thirties, the mother of little children in a smaller city where I didn't have my family or desi friends to joke around with in Urdu/Punjabi, I began to long for my language in a way that exposed to me how important it really was to who I am as a person. I would go to an Indian doctor or to the Indian Grocery Store just so I could converse for those few minutes in my mother tongue. A few years into this, a good friend of mine was staying with me and sat down next to me turning on a Pakistani "drama" she was watching. Hearing my language, seeing the attire, the culture, the "homeland" -- I wanted to leap into the screen. It was also very good, as halal-as-it-gets entertainment. I was hooked in the sense that I haven't gone back to non-Pakistani television since. The usual responses of fellow first generation Canadians of Pakistani descent is a laughing "you're such a FOB!". Really? Why because I prefer non-English entertainment? The people have their clothes on, they don't curse, there aren't scenes of intimacy or nudity. One can generally see some character or another praying, doing tasbih or visiting a maqam. And there is generally some moral lesson (the end of those who have envy, greed, etc.). Because I have all the core ingredients of my culture, I have naturally felt very at home with it as I come into greater contact with it through media (television/music).

Music?! Well, yes. Why is that we have no qualms with English "nasheeds" -- I have a lot of love for the likes of Yusuf Islam, Sami Yusuf, and Dawud Wharnsby -- but other than that much of what is being pumped out is just an empty form of music (with some Arabic words or Islamic notions thrown in) that seeks to identify with pop culture which is itself rooted in a secular worldview and presents all the lower possibilities of the ego and the world to a person as the only way of thinking and living, and to the total detriment of higher things, including the quality and taste of the sacred that is quickly suffocated by this form of "egotistical invocation".  My five year old who hears Quran, qawwalis, naats, dhikr and never hears us saying anything about other forms of music has said on more than one occasion when sitting in a restaurant where secular music is being played, "I don't like this music -- it's so bad -- can they turn it off?" -- I never realized that at such a young age he would be able to discern beauty from grotesque, but this is what it is to be rooted in the Sacred. Yet when we talk about Qawwalis however, we think "no, no -- too many instruments" and ignore completely how deeply enriched it is with sufism, love of Allah and the Rasul (alayhi salam) and rooted in a sacred Islamic world. And quite frankly, there is major ikhtilaf on the use of instruments and there always has been. Do we really believe the Spaniards, North Africans, Yemenis, Turks, Persians, Indo-Paks, and so many other cultures were just ignoring a basic prohibition of the religion? If this were the case, instruments would have been avoided the way pork and alcohol have been. So long as the soul isn't taken to ghafla or anything haram because of the lyrics, many many ulema have said there is no harm in it -- but rather there is even benefit.

What actually got me thinking about all of this is the fact that for centuries Subcontinent and Central Asian Muslims named their children Persian (as well as Arabic) names, but my generation seems to feel that Muslim names are synonymous with Arabic names.  Where did we get that idea? Recently a very sweet Lebanese mom at my kids' school asked my name and when I told her, she replied "Oh you don't have a Muslim name?". My name is Persian -- everyone I know with that name is a Muslim -- it is a name that has been used for centuries in Iran, Afghanistan, and the subcontinent.

I read a piece recently (which I can't locate so if someone knows of it please post in the comments or email me), that also highlighted the fact that many beautiful Persian words and phrases are being erased from Pakistani culture and replaced with Arabic words/phrases. Again, when it comes to secular phrases we seem to have no issues saying things like "to each his own" which is relativism in a nutshell.

That led me to think about the fact that even at Muslim events, masjids, majalis we all wear Arab clothes…yes, sometimes the shalwar kameez fashion of the moment isn't the most conducive to those gatherings but those of us who adhere to the shariah parameters on modest garb do have lots of halal shalwar kameez. And it's beautiful! Islamic stores too, carry Arab clothing, but not modest options from other cultures -- why?

My Shaykh is Arab -- I love him more than anything.  Our majlis of dhikr is in Arabic without any instruments and is incredibly powerful -- Sh Alawi's poetry can move any heart that is even remotely alive. If I could choose where to die outside of Makkah and Madinah, it would be in that majlis. But not all souls are Arab and Sidi Shaykh understands that and has allowed me to really understand that. That's the the beauty of Allah's creation and the manifestation of His various Blessed Names. We must not let Salafis and Salafi-minded Sufis (for lack of a better term) which arose from the middle east to negate and seek to eradicate our centuries old, deep, rich, beautiful and inherently Muslim culture. Islam is not a monolith. Traditionally, Muslims did not see it this way. Our ancestors took the dictates of the religion and expressed their faith in a way that was true to who they were as inhabitants of the subcontinent and lovers of Allah and the Rasul (alayhi salam). Connecting with that part of my history is so heart-warming.

Embrace that. Love it. Allow your soul to be itself so that it can love Allah in its totality.

Salik recently said to me that seeing me listen to qawwalis is like watching me come back to myself again.

Have a listen:

Tajdar-e-haram by Atif Aslam

Ya Rahem, Maula Maula by Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan


Khuda Hafiz 

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!




Monday, December 26, 2016

Adab of Dua

Bismillah.

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 me 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

Wealth

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


Bismillah.



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


Bismillah.

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 :)

Wassalam,
Salikah

*not a direct quote, but paraphrased.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Newborn to Sage: The Symbolism of the Belt


Bismillah.

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. 

READ THE BOOK!!!

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.

Wassalam.