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: 


A Bronx Tale: After the congregants of an Orthodox synagogue could no longer afford their rent, they found help in the local mosque.

Now this is what we need more of in the world. Love and respect...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Houses: A Reflection of the State of our Hearts

Reading old posts to benefit and saw this one, Punjabi Wisdom right from the village...

The other day my mother was telling me something she'd heard on a Punjabi show she was watching with my father. A Punjabi aunty, was reflecting on families in our times, and what came from her is a testament to the absolute wisdom that people traditionally had ... and when it's Punjabi, wisdom is even more profound! :)

"When we had homes made of mud and clay,
our hearts were soft like them, too.
People sacrificed so much for one another
and were always bound to one another in love and service.
Now our homes are made of bricks and cement,
and our hearts are hard like them.
We don't care for one another
and don't care if relationships are sour or torn."

She went on to talk about how our hearts are so diseased that rather than being happy at the good fortune of others, we are envious and think the worst of how they acquired what they have.

Subhan'Allah. As Shaykh Mokhtar said, "Allah puts wisdom on the tongue of whomsoever He wishes".

Recently my friend's mother commenting on how welcomed she felt in our home, said to me that she felt there wasn't a "Canadian bone" in me. She went on to explain that here she finds that people's homes are not open to others -- often not even to their family and friends. You can't just call and show up, let alone just ring their doorbell because you happen to be in the area. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ultimately, Islam is about hearts...

Ultimately, Islam is about hearts. So the buildings..., the shops that you go to, the bank that you go to are about the hearts that are there...  Madinah is a city of tanwin, which is a connection that is felt more here than anywhere else, more than the haram in Makkah or the haram in Jerusalem, it's about a connection to a perfected human being because we discover more about ourselves when we are with others than we do when we are in situations of solitude or situations in which we are with people that don't really matter because they're on the same railway platform, etc. Islam is a religion of mu'amalah, of interaction, of engaging with others. It's not really a religion for solitarists -- fine you can read books that tell you that on Mount Uhud a thousand years ago there were people who went up to live and to worship for months and then came down to pick up some dates...but that's a particular maqam for a small group of people. Likewise deep under the haram there are these caves that people used in ages past to go in to worship for six months before hajj and found places to do that on their own. That's exceptional and there is a place for it, and of course the precedent for it in the Prophet's going to Mount Hira (Allah bless him and give him peace), but generally, the way of spiritual progress in Islam is through the anjaman, through the company of others. That's why in the city of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) there is so much emphasis on engagement and good character. We are really influenced by the people around us and our engagement with them is the basis for everything else and that's why akhlaq and adab are fundamental.
- paraphrased excerpt from CD 1 of Shaykh Murad's CD set on Prophetic amazing set, masha'Allah.


Sufism: Being weary of how we make others feel.

Babies and Awliya: Lessons for All

*This was written two years ago, but being published now*


On a blessed, sunny Saturday some weeks ago, our beloved guide, Shaykh Abdallah arrived in Montreal having travelled from Fez to visit the fuqara here. We drove out to welcome him at the airport and took BabySalik with us so that he could meet our noble teacher. Seeing BabySalik in Shaykh's arms, I beheld the vision of two of the most beloved men in my life and I began to reflect on their purity.

Babies and awliya have much in common.

There is an old sufi saying, "the Sufi is the son of his moment" (as-Sufi ibnu waqtihi). That is, in one meaning at least, that the Sufi is attached neither to past nor to the future, but rather is present in the moment because of his presence with the Divine. The Sufi lives in the moment. If one observes a baby, it will become clear to them that the baby, too, lives in the moment, for babies are not concerned about what transpired even a moment ago nor at all thinking about what is to come. Rather, they are concerned only with what is taking place at that moment. And so we can learn quite a bit from babies about how to live without attachment so that as we age, we can become like the awliya, insha'Allah.

Another quality of the awliya is that people are drawn to them. We all flock to them because we recognize the innate beauty in them, we love that beauty, and we wish to behold it. Likewise, when a baby comes into the world, everyone is joyous at the news and excited to hear all of the details. Family, friends, and neighbours are all anxious to meet the little one and come baring gifts. Thus both do the good of bringing people together -- something all the more needed in our current culture of individuality and isolation.

Of course, the purity that is found in babies and awliya is clear to any observer -- this magnetic force attracts us to them. To be pure is to be untainted by that which is inferior or base -- to be untouched by the dunya. Another Sufi saying teaches us that "the Sufi is in the world, but not of it". Babies because they have just come from the Divine Presence are pure of the filth of this world and of any personal ego or desire. The awliya having struggled through the various stages of the Spiritual Path, have left their egos and desires and risen above the lowliness of this world, and, having died to themselves, have returned to God (without having actually passed away). This purity of soul is why babies can see much of the unseen world that we cannot, and why the awliya are often granted the same vision.

So we see ourselves as knowing so much more than babies, and yet they have so much to teach us. They live in the moment, bring people together, and are pure of heart. They love without prejudice, pride, or pretension. They are sincere, honest, and true. They are whole and thus closer than we are to the Holy. Sidi Hakim was the first to draw my attention to the hikmah of children many years ago when he taught me observe them if I wanted to know how we are meant to do such "simple" things as sit and breathe properly...and there is so much more we learn in observing these sweet creatures sent to us from above. When I shared these insights with him, he commented that indeed, when we do the tahnik for a baby, the child purifies us.


Bismillah. Salams,

It's been three years since the last post. Insha'Allah, intention to revive this blog.

May Allah give us sincerity in all that we do. Ameen.