Or hey.Maybe it’s only a little bit bruised.
Maybe your heart is bruised
It’s just a little bruised.
Or hey.Maybe it’s only a little bit bruised.
Maybe your heart is bruised
It’s just a little bruised.
It’s the end of the year, Christmas and New Year’s time, and for most people, a break from work to travel the world. As I sit in my living room under a furry blanket on my phone, scrolling through my social media feeds, I see glamorous and breathtaking photos of oceans, mountains and colourful skies, historical architecture, mouth-watering dishes, and endless sights of this magnificent world.
I glance out my living room window. White snow, white ice, bare naked trees. I suppose I have to be satisfied with that.
After reflecting briefly on that thought, I decided: you know what?
I am okay with that.
I have outgrown the stage where I used to unconsciously and mentally compare myself to the highlight reel friends post for their network to see. Back in the day, perhaps I’d have felt that my winter break – being spent with just family at home, no new sights to see – was pathetically sad and lacking compared to the whirling adventures everyone else was going through. Perhaps I’d have felt peeved that I’m not really as content as I thought I was before the moment I saw all the Instagram stories.
But I’ve matured. I have learned to listen closely to my heart and carefully avoid falling into the traps of comparing-myself-to-others (which is a dangerous road to envy). I now know that if I was content and at peace before logging into Facebook and Instagram, I sure as hell am still content and at peace. My happiness does not have to take the same form as everyone else’s.
Don’t get me wrong, I think travelling is an unparalleled experience and something worth undertaking for sure. I think travelling opens minds and hearts and is almost like a drug – albeit a legal one and halal, of course! And I think travelling is a sure way for my heart to swell and glow.
What I mean is, simply this: not everyone is at the same place in life to do the same things at the same time. Not everyone is able to use up their short winter break and leave their families, leave weighty responsibilities, or have enough financially to travel. Not everyone is in the right mindset or emotionally ready to explore the world alone without a travelling companion. Not everyone has the right health conditions, or wants to leave a loved one that is ill, to take off for wild adventure. Not everyone has the privilege to travel at this very instant.
If you are in one of the above situations, do not for a moment allow yourself to feel like you are missing out. Happiness is not only what you make of life, but also what you choose of how life makes you. You can still make your heart grow and glow in other ways, but you need to know yourself first.
Right now, my winter break may sound a little lame to some. I’m spending it with my large and wonderful family. We have intimate discussions about faith matters, go out to coffee shops, play board games, watch Netflix and movies together. We make our own New Year’s party, celebrate birthdays with unhealthy sweets, and drive together to go grocery shopping. When I want “me” time, I curl up with a book and hot drink, and read; I write in my diary, journal and blog; I make art in the form of drawings, paintings, geometric patterns, or calligraphy – whatever my mood demands; I communicate with friends; and I also just take the time to contemplate my blessings.
These things make my heart glow.
Whether you are travelling or not leaving your town at all, ask yourself: does my soul feel like it is growing? Is my heart glowing?
That’s the most important ingredient to happiness: your heart glowing. As long as that’s happening, then it makes no difference how your life is being played out.
Be thankful. Always.
There is so much that needs to be said,
But no words able to say it.
There is so much being felt,
But more numbness with being dealt.
Like a pendulum, we swing.
There is so much passion for life
Even with feelings of death on the inside
There is so much knowledge in minds
And yet intolerable ignorance still lies.
Like a pendulum, we swing.
There is so much peace of mind in souls
But still restless anxiety in egos
Overwhelmed just to think of the incredible beauty in the human spirit
But yet such ugliness it can produce with evil twists!
Always swinging from extremes,
From contentment to resentment,
From gratefulness to bitterness,
From leniency to severity…
How much more ways can we say
That our moods from side to side sway?
Like a pendulum, we swing.
Like a pendulum, I swing.
Allah the Knower of hearts Knows Best.
So much weighs her down.
Her morale slipping.
Her positive energy draining.
Many a burden weigh her down.
Which may explain why
At this moment right now,
She isn’t thinking
She deserves love.
Love is an ambiguous word
With many a differently interpreted world
But here’s the “love” she decides
She doesn’t, and won’t ever, deserve…
Of a flimsy but popular kind
The kind that takes your imagination everywhere
But ends up really going nowhere
The kind with metal strings and insecure conditions
That force her to one-sidedly make endless compromises
Of a kind that could make her
No, she does not deserve that kind of less-than-enough love.
She deserves the genuine kind: more than enough.
Of rare but gold-dripping quality
The kind that is boundless in mercy
The kind with many a flaw that is
Forever being addressed and being fixed
The kind that is solid and does not melt at the slightest heat
Of a kind that the more she loves another,
Increases her own self-love.
Genuine soul-quenching love is rare.
She knows it could be right around the corner.
Or right around the decade.
Or perhaps, right around another lifetime.
She knows there is a possibility she may never find it.
But that’s okay.
She knows the kind of love she deserves.
And she could give it to herself.
Finding a sincere lover would be more than enough.
Her present self-love is already enough.
But to settle for less than enough?
“people hate it when you know your worth. you draw the line, you set the precedence, you stand your ground, and they flip the coin on you and make it seem like you’re the one with a problem. “you’re too demanding, you’re too selective, you’re too judgmental, you’re too unrealistic”. no, i’m neither of those things. i just love myself. i love myself enough to know what i need, what will improve me, what will grow me, what i deserve. i’m loving myself, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.” (Billy Chapata, Sour Honey & Soul Food)
And God knows Best.
It’s that time of year again where my inner voice reminds me that I’m not doing a good a job in reading the Qur’an as I should. I read almost daily, but I don’t reflect on it as consistently. So this Ramadan, me and my siblings have begun (and hope to continue, with His grace) a mini “Qur’an Jammin'” discussion circle (halaqa) where we pick a small surah of the Qur’an and let it be the inspiration for discussion.
As an opening to these series, we appropriately chose Al-Fatihah (The Opening) of the Qur’an to be the focus of our first discussion.
Would you know that I have been reciting surat al-Fatiha all my life, multiple times a day. But it’s only when I sat down to analyze it that I realized how blindly I’d been reading it!
The first half of the small chapter is solely describing God. We must worship God, but it’s hard to worship One you don’t know, right? Knowledge is a prerequisite to love.
Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem… Lord of the Worlds. ar-Rahman ar-Raheem… Owner of the Day of Judgement…
It was like my first time reading this. I suddenly realised that in such short a space of lines, two of God’s names were emphasized twice: ar-Rahman and ar-Raheem. While I know that both words stem from the root word rahma, meaning mercy, the exact distinction between them was fuzzy in my mind. So I did a little research by listening to an insightful audio lecture by Sh. Rateb el-Nabulsy. Let me share with you what I learned. 🙂
Both “rahman” and “raheem” come from the word “rahma”, which means mercy. So already we know both these words describe God as being merciful.
كتب الله على نفسه الرحمة
The full verse (ayah) is #54 from surat al-An’am, and it specifically mentions al-Raheem:
So rahman, raheem… what’s the difference? Let’s compare them and dive just a little bit deeper!
Mercy for ALL creation without exception.
Mercy reserved for specific people; the Believers who believe in Him and the last Messenger. Raheem is an exaggerated sense of راحم
2. Metaphor: Graduation Ceremony
It’s a high school graduation. Everyone gets the same high school diploma, regardless who did better overall or worse.
Everyone got their diplomas… but now special awards are given out to those most deserving, who put in the hardest work and it paid off.
Access to warmth from sun, light from moon, water to drink, a loving guardian’s care, etc.
Guidance to faith, baraka in time, enablement of good deeds through you or your offspring, etc.
4. What does it deal with?
Al-Rahman includes clear blessings that give us ease, but it also encompasses ta’deeb (discipline), in the form of disasters, pain, unfortunate circumstances. Sort of like a surgeon cutting someone open for a greater good.
As suggested above, al-Raheem deals with takreem (honouring).
5. Can humans have this quality?
Rahman is a quality unique to God. No one can claim to be as boundlessly merciful as the All-Merciful, All-Compassionate. So you are not allowed to name someone Rahman.
Raheem is a quality also accessible to man. We can be especially merciful to those we love more than those harming us! You are allowed to name someone Raheem.
God says of Himself:
وسعت رحمتي كل شيء (My Mercy encompasses all things)
IN SUMMARY FOR THIS VERY BRIEF POST THAT DOUBTLESS DIDN’T DO JUSTICE ENOUGH TO THE TOPIC:
Allah is al-Rahman towards all His creation, whether they worship Him or not.
But he is additionally Raheem towards those who strive to please him.
All of us would probably be evil if Allah’s mercy did not stop us from following our darkest desires. Here’s a perfect example from surat Yusuf, ayah 53, when al-Azeez’s wife confesses that she lied about Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, throwing himself on her:
Perhaps the greatest mercy of all is getting to experience paradise twice through al-Raheem’s will. In surat al-Rahman, ayah 46, God tells us:
The person who has taqwa, fears the awesome position of their Lord, receives two jannat (gardens). One is obviously the garden in Paradise, in the afterlife. The other garden is the paradise of this world.
I know what you’re thinking. Not all good-hearted and well-meaning people are living in heavenly bliss here!
But God doesn’t equate “paradise” in the dunya (world) the same way it is in the afterlife. In the afterlife, paradise will really be everything you desire and even more, because there is so much more pleasures there that the human mind cannot even comprehend or imagine. So the Jannah is guaranteed to be bliss in all categories: mind, soul, body, otherworldly sensations – you name it!
But the jannah (paradise) of this world is more on a metaphysical level. This is an inner paradise that anyone truly sincere in his religion can attain… even if they’re in a war zone, in terrible financial situations, stuck between a series of unfortunate events. There are some things simply beyond human control, like these factors. But one thing we have power to do, if we want to do it for our soul and not for show… is get closer to God. Know Him in whatever small capacity you can. Strive hard to be sincere and honest and humble. Through this, and with al-Raheem watching over you, you might attain sweet feelings of closeness with God and certainty in His message.
Imam Hasan al-Basri said, “If the kings and sons of kings knew what joy we experience through this knowledge, they would have fought us over with with swords!”
“يقول الحسن البصري: “لو يعلم الملوك وأبناء الملوك ما نحن فيه من النعيم لجالدونا عليه بالسيوف
May we all be among the blessed people who can experience paradise in this world, before seeing it in the next. Ameen, ameen, ameen!
And Allah knows Best.
This passage really inspired me to truly dive deeper into the Qur’an. I pray that in this month of Ramadan, the month in which the Qur’an was revealed – that you can find more meaning and depth in your readings than ever before.
At once dazzling and disturbing, beautiful and surprising, the Quran challenges our human expectations of what a Book should look like and forces us to abandon our notions and question our frames of thinking. Titus Burckhardt once wrote: “The Quran does not satisfy, it gives and at the same time takes away; it expands the soul by lending it wings, then lays it low and leaves it naked; for the believer, it is both comforting and purifying, like a rainstorm.” Yet, until we are able to let go of our hubris and embrace the “way” of the Quran, we will never truly understand the Book and, by extension, Islam. What follows is one of the best descriptions of the Quran I’ve come across.
The Quran: literally, “that which is often recited.” A web of rhythm and meaning, the words of which throb through Muslim worship and which, at every point in the believer’s life, break surface, sanctifying existence with the scent of eternity. A paradoxical flash of the divine light, penetrating the veil of solid existence into our world. Redolent with symbol, half-hidden meaning and rapier-sharp insight, it transforms the reader by suggestion rather than by formal structures of argument and proof. It demands to be accepted on its own terms: only when the reader is prepared to discard all that he believes a book should be, will he begin to discern its symmetries and its heart-rending power.
Goethe sensed this. In his West-Oestlicher Divan he declares how, after inspiring initial astonishment and fear, the Quran “soon attracts, astounds, and, in the end, enforces our reverence. Its style, in accordance with its contents and aim, is stern, grand, terrible—ever and anon truly sublime. Thus, this book will go on exercising, through the ages, a most potent influence.”
And so it does. More so for the Muslim than for the most committed Protestant, holy writ is studied, memorized, and quoted. More than four million men and women in the world today have memorized the entire Quran: over six thousand verses. A far greater number have memorized shorter sections for use in their five daily Prayers. Throughout the Muslim world, from Senegal to Indonesia, to ride any bus or train is to see one’s fellow passengers quietly reading from a miniature copy of God’s Book or reciting it to themselves, enjoying a breath of the transcendent to relieve the tedium of their journey. The same Book, in intricate calligraphy, adorns the rear window of passing cars. Short, aphoristic verses are painted on the walls and doors of houses. The conversation of city businessman and rustic peasant alike is peppered with allusions and direct quotations from the Book. Everywhere human life is anchored to the hidden world by the Quran.
For the Muslim, God’s Book is much more than a source of liturgical and social rules; indeed, such topics occupy less than one tenth of the Quranic text; and it is more even than a revelatory declaration of man’s origin and his fate, an exposition of the truths of man’s spiritual nature and of judgement. The Quran is oft-recited, at the most profound possible level, because it is of God. Its text reveals God’s will for His creation, but is also a revelation of HImself. It is uncreated, timeless, a dimension of God’s pre-existent attribute of speech, communication: it is the Logos, which is the interface between the Absolute and the contingent realms. It is the pre-existent light which becomes manifest in history as prophethood. […]
One of the most surprising features of the Quran to the Western reader coming to it for the first time is the way in which subjects of many kinds may be found together in a single chapter, or even in the course of a few verses. This is an essential aspect of the Book’s message. It is human nature to endeavor to categorize and label our experience of the world, and we feel disconcerted when our familiar expectations of such an ordering are not fulfilled. The Quran, both in its literary style and in its internal arrangement, conforms to no human norms. It is a message which has broken through the veil of the unseen and causes us to look upwards, bringing us suddenly into a new dimension, a new mode of perception. The Quran is from the One, and it belongs to a higher order of creation than our own, where unity and differentiation begin to coalesce, and where our perception of a world dispersed into multiple states and forms loses its validity. But despite this unique feature, the formal message, the outward meaning of the Book, is in no way compromised; indeed, it gains in cogency, for each of its teachings and guiding principles is meaningful only in the context of the transcendent unity of God.
The question of the sequence of topics found in the Quran blends into another issue: the miraculous quality of the Book’s semantics and diction. For Muslims, it is an article of faith that the prose style with which its meaning patterns are articulated is inimitable in its beauty, precision, and moving grandeur, and that this constitutes the greatest of the miracles with which God confirmed the message of His last Prophet. This quality, known in Arabic as the I’jaz, comes over only very imperfectly even in the best translations; nevertheless it is still possible for the European or American reader to sense something of the breathless, insistent rhythms of the original. To the Arab, whether Muslim or Christian, the Quran has always remained the summit of eloquence which every stylist should aspire to emulate. Perhaps the greatest of all the arts evolved by Islamic civilization is that of the formal, virtuoso recitation of the Book before an audience, which is frequently moved to tears by the majestic cadences of a favourite passage, faithfully rendered by some master craftsman of the human voice.
— Abdul Wadod Shalabi and Abdal Hakim Murad, Islam: Religion of Life
I am weary
Of being told not to be weary
Yet when I am at ease
I’m told to put my relaxation on freeze…
For there is much that calls my attention
So I am aware and go everywhere
Then I am told, as a friendly recommendation
To ease up a bit and take a vacation.
So I pack up for it only to be told
There are pressing matters here – put your plans on hold!
You can imagine how weary I get
When told not to be such
For when I take it light-heartedly,
It still seems to be too much!
I was cleaning out some books and stumbled upon some short poems I wrote in 2015. Here is one of them!
Oh, sweet rain
Do what rain does…
my needless worries away
my heart with gratitude throughout the day
my thoughts that from importance stray
upon me realisations of wise insights implanted
Let every droplet of water
alert me to a blessing I have taken for granted
Oh sweet rain, in all that you do
Rain upon me what the merciful rain can do.
August 26, 2015