Each group was trying to get more people around them. I looked and thought, over which stall, if at all, God might be standing.
I was in London a few weeks ago for a Qur'an class. The day after I was sitting in the Leicester Square waiting for my brother to meet me there. On my right hand there was a stall belonged to a couple of Muslims, who were playing a recording of some Muslim singing. On my left there was a Christian Stall holding a verse of the Bible in hand. My right ear was listening to Muslim preaching while my left ear was listening to Christian preaching. Suddenly a group of Hindus marched towards the place chanting and giving out pamphlets.
Each group was trying to get more people around them. I looked and thought, over which stall, if at all, God might be standing.
Never too late!
After many years of well deserved criticism by my family that I never cook a meal, last week I decided to end this forever! The result is as follows:
I actually enjoyed the experience a lot. Getting the ingredients and putting them into right proportion before blending them and heating was amazing. I should also say that by the confession of my family, this was one of the most delicious dish that they ever had (and I should say this is not because we don't have much good food at home, my wife is a proper chef when it comes to cooking).
What you see above is Chicken Stroganoff. Only took me around half an hour. I am in particular proud of the sauce, instead of buying sour cream and make it easy, I made that with milk and yogurt, natural and healthy.
God bless you Jamie Oliver!
For My Daughter!
She asked me today why I did not update my Heart to Heart section of the website. Before I become too excited she clarified that this was the part of the website that she looks at the most!
I took this as enough motivation to update this section on a more regular basis. My daughter has been one of the people who was very influential in formation of my thoughts with regard to religious issues. As a young intelligent keen student of psychology and a typical daughter who likes to always disagree with her father, I have learned a lot from her. For me she is one of the best examples of how the young generation can influence the perspective of the religious scholars/students of their generation (look at point iv of my recent article on open mindedness here).
So I will do my best to update this section at least every week, with a hope that it does its work, that is Heart to Heart, for some, and for my daughter.
I wish ...
When I completed my first PhD (in Organisational Analysis) I promised myself never to do any formal academic studies again. Enough was enough!
It was only six years later that I decided to do another PhD this time in Islamic Studies. Madness never ends!
In my PhD I have compared and analyses the Farahi school of thought with the traditional Shia and Sunni schools of thought in order to better understand the features of the Farahi thought and its strengths as well as areas for consideration. To do this, I carried out four case studies that involved in-depth analysis of the following subjects: Hijab, Stoning, Apostasy, Return of Jesus.
When I started this PhD I thought it was mostly me structuring what I already knew, rather than learning anything new. I was amazed by the number of new dimensions that this PhD opened to me. This was only possible by benefiting from academic work rather than traditional work that I was already aware of.
Any way, the journey is now almost over. I successfully defended my work in the viva a couple of months ago, alhamdulillah, and am now in the process of finalizing my dissertation to submit the final version.
This was the main reason why I was not as active as before in Exploring Islam. My last post in Heart to Heart is about a year old!
Any way, I am now back to normal (whatever it means!) and will try my best to keep the website active and to write more often in this space as well.
Yes, madness never ends, but it does not need to show itself in the same form again, so promise, no third PhD ever!
My kids for a long time wanted to have a pet. Actually they wanted a dog. Although I am of the view that dogs are not impure I did not provide them with this request. I didn't want to make our guests and friends who do consider dogs to be impure, uncomfortable. We started with hamsters and after having a few of them (who died in a few months) they are now asking for a cat!
I know that this will bring lots of troubles in terms of cleaning the house and possible disturbances that cat may occur. At the same time I cannot forget the enjoyable time that I used to have with my cats when I was a child.
I think the experience of caring and loving an innocent animal in our modern industrial time is a precious one and that kids can learn a lot from this. So I am thinking of possibly getting a cat for them.
There is only one milestone to pass: convincing my wife!
Like a breeze
My talk was finished and I was being greeted by some of the members of the audience. I saw him coming towards me with a smile and in a very gentle manner. He said Salamun Alaykum, and then gave me a book that he had written. I opened the book. I found his hand writing on the first page: Baraye Azize Gerami, Farhad Shafti. I thanked him and he left.
I immediately recognised that there was something special about this gentleman. I got a feeling that he was one of those whose presence was precious but also light, like a breeze. I recognised that he belonged to that special category of human beings. We are looking at them and they are so humble and selfless that we tend to forget their presence. We are looking at them and most probably we do not realise that we are looking at one of the God’s beloved servants. Looking at his face during those precious short moments when he approached me, I could see an illustration of piety, devotion and wisdom.
It was only later, when I read the book that he gave me, that I realised that he was also a great scholar and intellectual.
I was very sorry that I did not manage to get to know him better. I had in mind that if I ever again had the privilege of visiting Pakistan I should spend some time with him and benefit from his presence.
However, just like a precious stone, these people are not easy to find and keep. He approached me like a breeze and, a few days ago, like a breeze he left our world towards his Creator.
I can only hope that I may be good enough to be allowed to see him in the hereafter.
God bless you Abdus Sattar Ghauri sahib.
Just One Step
The story says that Abu Sa'id Abulkhayr was invited to give a talk in a mosque. When he arrived the mosque was crowded with people who wanted to hear him.
The person who used to say Azan stood up and invited people to come forward so that all could get into the mosque. He kept shouting: "Please advance only a step".
When it was Abu Sa'id's turn, he looked at the crowd and said: "All that I wanted to say was beautifully summarised by this man"!
I used to see her in the corridors of the university almost every week. One thing that was different about her was that she would pay attention when she would pass by you. She would look at you with smile and kindness in a very honest way and would then say a very happy 'Hi' to you with a very generous smile. Like others, she too was very busy and had many deadlines to meet, yet, she would never allow this to take away the pure honesty of her greeting and her genuine question of "how are you". When she would ask you this question you could feel that she really cared and wanted to make sure you were okay.
She passed away a couple of weeks ago and I am thinking of the lessons that I learned from her manners.
God bless you Bernadine and have mercy on your soul.
The effect of games
Like many other parents, we too are concerned about the fact that at our time kids, in particular boys, seem to find nothing as entertaining as computer games. I remember the good old times when I was a boy and much of my time was occupied by playing outside, creating a board game of my own, reading and exercising. Now all I see boys do most is sitting behind a PC or a console and spending hours and hours killing virtual enemies!
Now, I am not an expert in this field and don't want to claim any theories, however common sense tells me that when a boy of 12-14 finds nothing entertaining but sitting in front of a screen and spending hours with games that involve killing and fighting, this cannot be all healthy and positive.
My own son has a certain screen hours per day. Last week I had to take his laptop and store it because after three ultimatums he still could not keep within the limit of the agreed upon screen hours. I made it clear for him that this was not a punishment. This was simply a way to help him get back to control. So for one week he experienced life without laptop and in fact life without any screen, except for a limited TV time.
I was thinking that he would be totally frustrated during that week, however, to our amazement, he actually appeared to become more lively, happier and more involved with us. After a week he himself agreed that he felt much better during the week when he had no screen time.
Of course the era is the era of technology, computer games are part of this and I am not a horrible dad. So after a week I allowed him to have his laptop back. However we both agreed that his screen time needed a revision. We both agreed that more than limited hours per day, it was important to make sure not every day included games. So we (meaning my son and myself, and of course with the support of my wife) agreed that he would only have limited screen time four days a week, which means for three days of the week he will not have any screen time for games and computing.
We told him that for us, the last week, was like we had our innocent and cheering son back. He has promised us that he will not go back to that game trapped situation.
We will see about that!
Dance of Particles
Tonight, I was enchanted by this:
ای روز برا که ذره ها رقص کنند
آن کس که از او چرخ و هوا رقص کنند
جانها ز خوشی بی سر و پا رقص کنند
در گوش تو گویم که کجا رقص کنند
هر ذره که در هوا و در هامون است
نیکو نگرش که همچو ما مفتون است
هر ذره اگر خوش است اگر محزون است
سرگشته خورشید خوش بی چون است
Arise oh day! The particles are dancing!
For the one for whom the universe is dancing
Souls dance ecstatically out of joy
I’ll whisper in your ear where they are dancing
Each particle that is in the wind or desert
Look at it as it is enchanted like us
Each particle, whether happy or sad
Is bewildered by the cheerful unique sun
So almost five months has passed and I have not written anything on this blog. What a shame! I guess it is in the nature of human being to avoid reflecting and writing about his feelings and thoughts.
I have promised myself to keep this blog going. The rest of the Exploring Islam website is my understanding of Islam. This blog is simply 'me', with all its failures, joys, excitements and confusions. While I write the rest of the website for others, I write here for me. The writer, the reader and the critic is the same.
So to get this going:
Did you know that when you want to cook mushrooms, they do not need any oil or water? You just put them in the pan and heat them, after a while water starts to emerge in the pan from no where!
The Hand, The Car
I was about ten years old. My Dad parked the car in a parking and we got out. Suddenly we realised that the hand break was not on. The car started drifting backwards and it was about to hit the car behind. My dad rushed towards the car and put his hand at the back of the car. Our car hit the car behind it but my dad's hand was in between them. This kept the other car safe from any scratches. That was when I learned the importance of Haqq al-Naas (Right of People).
Black and White
I was watching an Iranian movie with my 11 years old son today (The Past). The movie was a bit beyond his understanding.
He asked me: "Who is the good guy, who is the bad guy?"
I replied: "They are all a bit good and a bit bad"
Not being satisfied with my answer he then asked me: "so who is the one that we are supporting?"
I replied: "We are not supporting any of them, we are just observing them"
My son then realized that taking a nap is his best option. Meanwhile, I was thinking, from where our kids learn that there should always be a goody and a bady and from where they learn that we always need to support one of the sides!
My daughter has started a very strict discipline of Healthy Eating. It is not like a diet, it's about choosing the right food, and then doing regular exercise.
I have also started to learn from her and to follow some (not all!) of her advice. Did you know that too much salt, beside other damages, can even make you fat?
I am also thinking, this body will one day perish in a grave, my soul however will remain. Do I use healthy food for my soul and do I have enough spiritual exercise?
I wish my daughter could advise me on that side as well!
I was complaining to my uncle that we were all separate from each other due to inevitable factors. He answered: "We are born to be separated till when we meet our creator in the hereafter".
Don't be in-debt
So I was watching this movie (not a Hollywood type!) last night. In the last scene the hero is dying while his head is on his wife's laps.
The last thing he says is: "Any one dies. What matters is that when you die you do not be in debt to yourself!"
That summarizes the whole thing for me!
The Blood on the Machete
The blood on the machete in the hand of that madman was not just the blood of that innocent soldier, it was my blood too; it was, in fact, the blood of every man and woman who are doing their best to live like true Muslims, in peace and harmony within their community.
As a student of Islam I am doing all I can to show the true message of Islam to those around me, yet, stupid, savage and inhumane behaviour like this ruins all that I am doing in a matter of seconds, and to top it off, it makes me a target for some of those who are upset by this outrageous event.
To be honest, I do not care much about being a target and being harassed by those who, based on my appearance, may associate me with these murderers. This is nothing compared to the atrocity that took place in Woolwich yesterday.
I am also not after proving that this is NOT Islam. I feel stupid trying to prove what I consider obvious and I don’t want this writing to be an academic or scholarly one.
What I really care about is first and foremost the innocent soldier who was murdered, and his family and friends. As a fellow human being my thoughts and prayers are with them and I share their grief.
On a more personal level what I care about is to make my stance as a writer, preacher and a student of Islam very clear. I will try to do this by the following eight statements:
1. I have many reservations and objections about British foreign policy; however, I do not believe that Britain or British soldiers are in war with Islam or Muslims.
2. As a Muslim who is now living in Britain, I am grateful to the British people and the British government for their hospitality. I think all Muslims in my situation should have the same attitude.
3. As a proud British Muslim, I can see many things in both Eastern and Western cultures that are very much in line with the teachings of Islam.
4. I believe that even a shallow adherence to the true message of Islam, which is heavily based on purification of the soul and good morals, can make a human being among the most decent, law obedient and valuable citizens of his/her country of residence.
5. As a Muslim I believe that at present our worse enemy is within our own community, that is, ignorance and arrogance.
6. As a Muslim and a student of Islam, I believe the only way that killing a person could be justified is if it is a judgment passed down through the judicial system of the state or on the battlefield. Anything less than this is, as in the words of the Qur'an, tantamount to killing all humanity.
7. As one who has studied the penal law of Islam for a long time, I can say that by the rules of Islam, those machete attackers should be punished in the most exemplary way, within the British legal framework.
8. As one who loves the message of Islam, I announce: I am in war with those attackers and anyone who may in any way try to justify their actions or any similar actions. My weapon is nothing but my writings and my only ammunition is my knowledge.
I appreciate that no one may care what a humble student of Islam thinks about this whole thing. However this is what prompted me to write this:
"Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; and if he cannot, then with his heart, and that is the weakest of faith". (Narrated from Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him)
I do not necessarily agree with all that Dr. Muhammad Shahrur, the Syrian Islamic thinker says. In fact I have not even read any of his works in its entirely. However I found this quote from him very true and fascinating:
“It is easier to build a skyscraper or a tunnel under the sea than to teach people how to read the book of the Lord with their own eyes. They have been used to reading this book with borrowed eyes for hundreds of years”
I totally agree!
Which One Is Greater?
Lord, my sins, your Kindness, which one is greater?
I burned My Finger!
and it hurts a lot. However interesting thing is that although I only burned one finger of my left hand, all the fingers on my left hand are now feeling it.
This reminds me of a nice poem by Sa'di:
The sons of Adam are limbs of each other, Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a human
One last thing: Never put the kettle on a fire that is bigger than the size of the kettle!
The Taxi Driver
After a five hour journey I was in a taxi, in my way to where I was supposed to give a talk. I was very tired and a bit low in motivation. The taxi driver out of no where started lecturing me, and it did not take me more than a couple of minutes to learn that I was in for a serious inspirational speech. He shared with me his own experience of finding God. Among many good things that he said were:
- Remain a servant of God and all your problems will perish
- I don't understand an atheist, I see God when I look around
- We need to aim high, we need to become as good as the Prophet
I asked him twice to come to the place with me and suggested seriously that he should give the talk instead of me. He very humbly said that his time had not yet arrived.
Well, my friend, your time might have not arrived yet but you managed to inspire and motivate me after a very tiring journey and a sleepless night. Consider this as a humble thank you note!
God bless you and take care.
Art Is Precious!
I was invited to attend a meeting as an "Islamic scholar" (help me God!). At the end of the meeting they had invited a singer who played keyboard and sang very soft and soothing songs in praise of love. I could see that he was feeling uncomfortable and a bit shy to play and sing in front of me (not that I had a scary look!).
When his singing ended and he was trying to collect his things quickly and escape, I approached him. I could see in his eyes that he was thinking "this man with long beard is now going to tell me about the forbiddance and evil of music and singing". I think he was quite surprised to hear what I said to him: "Brother, take pride in what you are doing, art is precious and those who see or hear it should feel privileged", and I meant every word of it.
I wrote some where: "Expressing artistic works in my view is one of the most powerful and beautiful illustrations of the love of a servant for his Creator."
Art is a handicap version of creation. The biggest artist of all times is God. I find expressions like
الَّذِى خَلَقَكَ فَسَوَّئكَ فَعَدَلَكَ
فىِ أَىِّ صُورَةٍ مَّا شَاءَ رَكَّبَك
very artistic expressions.
Beside many other things, one of the differences between human being and animals is that human beings can be artists, and can appreciate art, animals can't!
When I see an artist or see a piece of art, I am reminded of the Hadith that says God made human being in His own image. Every piece of art and its beauty, accuracy, glory and harmony points towards the one who is the source of art.
Ability to relate to art (either creating it, or appreciating it or both), to me, is a signature of our Creator on our soul.
The King and the Tailors
There is an old story known as the King and the Tailors.
Very briefly it goes like this:
There was a very arrogant but stupid king who loved to wear the most expensive dresses possible. Once a group of tailors visited the king and said that they wanted to make him a magical dress. The magic of the dress is that only innocent people will be able to see it and sinful people will not be able to see it.
The king obviously was very keen to wear such a dress and gave the tailors a room in the palace to make the dress for him. The king could hear the noise of the tailors apparently making the dress behind the closed door. He once visited them to see how they were doing. The tailors said that the dress was going to be ready in a week time and showed their work in progress to the king. Obviously the king could not see anything! Knowing that this could imply that he was a sinful person he pretended that he could see the dress that was being made and started making comments on it.
After ten days the tailors announced that the dress was ready. The king entered the room and wore what he thought was a dress. He then came out from the room and stood in front of his guards, servants and deputies and ask them what they thought. Obviously no one could see any dress on the king, what they could see was the king with his under wears! However, fearing that they may be accused of being sinful, they all praised the king and the dress.
Being happy about all the praises, the king announced that he would go out in the public to show his new dress to his people. Two days later the king appeared in the high street of the capital of his country. When he came out of the curtains people first were shocked, however, being fearful from the king and also being told that only innocent people can see the dress, they immediately put themselves together and started cheering.
The king was walking in front of people and would stop every now and then to show off his 'dress'. Among all those people, there was a small boy who was trying to stand on his toes and see the king. As soon as he saw the king he couldn't stop laughing. He laughed and laughed and then shouted, 'look, the king is in his under wears!'
At this point people could not resist and they started laughing as well. It was only then that the king realised how the tailors - who were now long gone - made fun of him.
Every one who narrates this story finds one of the characters of the story to be interesting. Some emphasize on the cleverness of the tailors, some on the stupidity and arrogance of the king and some point out to the submissive behaviour of the king's servants.
To me, the most interesting characters are first the public, who by their initial silence and compliance contributed to the stupidity and the arrogance that was going on. The second interesting character to me is that kid, the one and the only one who said the truth without any hesitations and therefore made the public coming back to their senses.
The Art of Aikido
Aikido is a very interesting martial art. The whole philosophy of it is based on the principle that you use your opponent's energy to control him and to keep him and yourself safe.
I often think that one of the effective ways of debating an issue with a person is to follow the above principle of Aikido. Instead of confronting the person directly, we can use his own assumptions and reasoning to show any inconsistencies and illogical results. This of course does not always work, but when it works, it works very nice, just like Aikido! Arigatou Gozaimasu Ueshiba Sensei!