We Are All Broken

Sharp Details

Perhaps what every human being shares

Regardless of ethnicity, faith, hue, and no matter where

Is that we are all, in some way, broken.

Some of us are broken physically

And this broken-ness is apparent in treatments and visits medically

No matter the medical issue:

Broken bone, limb, cancerous cells, ripped tissue…

Broken physically.

Some of us are flawless in matters of health

But helplessly drowning in lack of wealth

Broken financially.

Some of us are comfortable materially

But suffering from bad thoughts and unpleasant events

Broken emotionally or mentally.

Some of us appear to be handling everything well

But on long-broken promises their thoughts on still dwell

Some carry in them memories of broken dreams,

Broken hopes, broken expectations.

Broken trusts, broken faith,

Broken will, broken heart,

And that’s why I pray,

O God,

If break I must to fall apart,

Then so be it

Just give me the beautiful patience and endurance

To rise from it

But please, O God, do not let this broken-ness

Be a break from You

Because with You, all broken-ness can mend

Without You, every night is an end.

Floating Lantern-Like

Duaa:

اللهم لا تَجْعَلْ مُصِيبَتَنَا فِي دِينِنَا وَلاَ تَجْعَلِ الدُّنْيَا أَكْبَرَ هَمِّنَا وَلاَ مَبْلَغَ عِلْمِنَا وَلاَ تُسَلِّطْ عَلَيْنَا مَنْ لاَ يرحمنا

“Oh Allah, do not make our affliction in our religion, and do not make this world our greatest concern, nor the limit of our knowledge, and do not give power over us to those who will not have mercy on us.”

Ameen.

And Allah knows Best.

-A.S.

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Protecting Your Heart

“I want to darken in the skies… Open the floodgates up… I want to change my mind… I want to be enough…

I want to let the rain come down, make a brand new ground

Let the rain come down. Let the rain come down, make a brand new ground

Let the rain come down.” (Sara Bareilles)

Around the Corner

Do you know what I think is astonishing?

Never does a “bad” life event – defined as that which gives you unpleasant feelings in the pit of your stomach or emotional injury – occur, than it is rapidly or simultaneously followed by a flurry of goodness moments. The trick to letting the happy sprinkles of delight wash away the hurt needs a bit of practice to master – but once you learn it, it stays. That “trick” is to remain focused and aware on the certainty that right now is its own special gift; it is irrelevant to a month, day or even a minute ago; you are not alive to live it simply so you can relive the past, but to use it as an opportunity to seize whatever wild awesomeness is about to hit you.

Shams Tabrizi’s Rules of Love, Rule 28:

“The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.”

Time and time again, I let “negative” experiences of disappointment, failure or heartbreak shadow the following days so darkly that I couldn’t appreciate sweet luxuries like the warmth of the sun, the soft gentle breeze, or even the blessed rain, on my face… as if I had no choice in the matter. But now, (I think) I know better.

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Over the Highway

There is a pattern, you see – a pattern I have began noticing, a pattern of merciful opposites. No sooner does a heavy burden weigh me downwards than a positive force, in the form of a success, pleasant surprise, or interaction with a kindred spirit, suddenly materializes to lift me back up. Rarely is a deep, painful ache in my heart felt than it is quickly joined by a flock of colourful butterflies, overwhelming gratitude and a resulting serenity with their peaceful coexistence. It’s all about balance.

But none of that will make a difference, really, if you are determined to believe the world is out to get you. Those conflicting emotions in you will not strike an equilibrium if you won’t let them settle; instead, they will form a tornado or chaotic hurricane within. And even if the reality is such that the world really is out to get you, you can’t succumb to the dreaded fear that He is, too. The moment you think that God can’t love you, then simply, it doesn’t matter who else does. Do not believe in what destroys you.

a lie is simply a lie.

it draws its strength from belief.

stop believing in what hurts you.

-power (Nayyirah Waheed)

On the contrary; I believe God wants us to soar above our mediocre aspirations. He makes us grow through conflicting states, so that we may learn balance with our two wings.“We are far too easily pleased. God wants better things for us. He finds our desires not too strong, but too weak” (C. S. Lewis).

Increasingly, when a disappointment befalls me, I try to be more hopeful than ever. The harder the fall, the higher the rise will be, will it not? It’s a blessing to know that my heart is in none other than God’s hands.

He is the only One Who really understands how to best protect it, and so He is the Only One Who has the right to truly hold it. In better hands, my heart can never be.

Trust that God is protecting your heart.

Even when it feels like it’s shattering in pieces.

Gush

~
And Allah knows Best.

-A.S.

Leash For My Heart

Staircase Break

I found myself musing this week over the state of my heart when it wanders off.

Sometimes I’m on something I can only liken to a spiritual high. Not the highest, surely… but it is close to what I imagine bliss to feel like. There’s simply nothing that is able to shake me away from this tranquility, happiness and love.

But sometimes it’s not that magical. You wake up and all you can think about is the one topic, the one subject, that you know you shouldn’t even be stressing about… because it’s not in your control. You’ve done all you can do, and what’s left on your part is tawakkul. (Oh, that powerful one word: tawakkul… you’d think it would be as easy to carry out as it is to write.)

The heart is a wondrous thing, it can be pulled in such extremely opposite directions that I often wish I had some sort of mystical leash that I can wrap around it.

(Here, little hearty… come back here! You’ll hurt yourself.)

But sadly, these useful leashes do not exist.

Or do they?

Rope of God

I love metaphors because it gives me an opportunity to reflect deeply on them as my imagination runs wild. Since what popped out instantly to me in this verse is the idea of rope of God, I allowed my thoughts to leap across mountains & fly through the clouds, until something settled and made a little sense in my consciousness.

(Please be aware I am representing no opinions here but my own. And I am not a scholar of any sort.)

What if we were all people stuck at the bottom of a pitt, needing to be rescued? The presence of the rope alone will not benefit you – you must take action, grab the rope and climb it.

Good grip? Still not enough; you have to hold firmly with conviction. You must hold on to it with certainty, without ignorance or blind faith. You may not see what is at the other end of the rope, but you are confident it’s a way out. To do it half-heartedly and without passion is very dangerous; slipping off the rope is always there as a risk, if you don’t believe with all your might that holding on is worth it.

The rope of God”.  

Could the rope be the combination of the Qur’an & the Sunnah? Islam is inward and outward. If you don’t act while knowing something is the truth, you simply won’t benefit and will continue to wallow in your own self-pity. You’ll be stuck at the bottom of the pitt with the rope dangling down to you, but if you don’t have faith that what you have leads you to the Light, to tranquility & bliss, why would you bother holding onto the rope and climbing it to possible disappointment, gaining nothing more than blisters along the way?

Islam is not something you can have blind faith in. Sure, there are certain metaphysical matters you may need to take a leap of faith – with the understanding that humans are souls that are trapped in physical bodies, and thus, we do not and cannot perceive all. Yet we are given enough to see, to observe, and to contemplate whether Islam’s final Prophet (peace & blessings be upon him) is truly a sign from God, and is truly a mercy to mankind. It turns out, for me at least, he is. Grabbing onto that rope is suddenly a means to an end, and not the end goal itself.

Now suppose you are at the bottom of a pitt of hopelessness, but your dilemma is not faith-related. Rather, it is something worldly… your career is going downhill. You are overwhelmed with a million things you have committed to with very little time on your hands. Relationship problems. Health declining. Self-esteem. And much more…

The heart may wander off far away from you seeking reassurance to these things, and the biggest problem is, without control over your heart, you know it’s getting even more lost and in despair. All you can think is how useful it would be to have a rope around it… and drag it back where it should be… Where heart agrees with mind…

That rope. The rope of tawakkul. Are you finding it? Look for it, but remember that it may not only be dangling before your eyes, but it might even be inside of you.

Inward and outward. Hope also comes from within yourself.

Bouquet

And Allah knows Best.

A.S.

Fasting: A Mercy

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Abandoned Orange

Too often people acknowledge that man is weak & forget to point out that there are many reasons for that. One of these reasons, I believe, is so simple & obvious that I’m hesitant to even put it out there. But I shall do so:

(Wo)Man is created weak, so that he can seek the Creator, the source of all strength, and become stronger.

Note I used the term stronger & not strong, and that is deliberate… because man cannot ever be ‘strong’ in the sense that he is completely self-sufficient, completely empty of needs, and in sum, completely independent. No, man cannot be that strong on his own. Yet man may, and should, be getting stronger physically, emotionally, intellectually & spiritually all the time. It is a journey, a progress – not a final worldly destination.

Speaking of strength & weakness, C.S. Lewis has an eloquent saying in relation:

“We are far too easily pleased. God wants better things for us.

He finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.”

The truth of this quote especially strikes me at the beginning, and indeed throughout, Ramadan. As I eagerly looked forward to fasting in the blessed month of the Qur’an, the month in which the devil is chained & the gates of forgiveness are wide open – still many around me were expecting me to be in opposite spirits: dreading the 17 hours-a-day fasts. Yet I wasn’t. Why should I be?

Ramadan aside, let’s consider fasting on its own. Fasting in and of itself is not, and never was, solely limited to starving oneself. If all one gets out of a day’s fast is an empty stomach and an irritable attitude, then they haven’t really figured out what it’s all about. It would be absurd to believe that fasting is obligated on a believer simply to make him or her “suffer” for their belief.

Fasting, believe me,  is a whole other glorious level than that.

This Ramadan, I confirmed what most people would agree to be true enough –  that fasting as an activity itself, is not easy. But fasting has been a source of ease for me. And I cannot have been the only one…

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In the Qur’an, fasting and intends for you ease appear in the same verse. Allah (God) does not want to make things difficult for us, merely for us to be grateful…

I pondered on how has fasting been a source of ease for me, and surprisingly the list is very long. Here are only a few examples:

  • Easier for me to confront my flaws, with the assurance that He wants & believes that I can overcome them.
  • Easier for me to properly prioritize my responsibilities & duties to my loved ones and communities.
  • Easier for me to let go of empty attachments that has been previously eating away at my attention, which could have been much better served elsewhere.
  • Easier for me to focus on the task at hand, and give it my 100% presence.
  • Easier for me to remember that every moment not spent remembering Him is a wasted opportunity. (Oh, those prayer beads traveled every bus & metro ride with me!)
  • Easier for me to remember that I am a teacher, and whatever knowledge I have, I should definitely pass it down to the younger members of my precious family.
  • Easier for me to spend out of my pocket for others than myself.
  • Easier for me to smile, be unnaturally upbeat & optimistic. How can I not be, when my mind is containing an unusual surge of energy in my sleep-deprived & caffeine-lacking body? This can only mean He wants me awake seeking His pleasure. (How pleasant!)
  • Easier for me to implement goals and ideas I’d been putting off for way too long. Because honestly, if not now in this golden opportunity of a month, then when?

Truly, fasting is not easy…. but it is a source of ease and a means to challenge ourselves to flex our creativity & faith muscles in areas we didn’t have the guts or “time” to do all year long.

Fasting is a mercy.

To those who celebrated Ramadan: may you & I be several steps closer to God as a result. May we live to witness the next Ramadan in 2016. But until then…

Eid Mubarak!

n21

And God knows best.
-A.S.

A Beautiful Quote on Fasting

lantern

From a female Islamic scholar named Fariha Fatima:

“There are as many forms of fasting as there are organs of perception and sensation, and each of these has many different levels. So we ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, and to feast on what the Beloved loves for us.

Let us certainly fast from the limited mind, and all that it conjures up.

Let us fast from fear, apart from fear and awe of Allah’s majesty.

Let us fast from thinking that we know, when Allah alone is the Knower.

Let us fast from thinking negatively of anyone.

Let us fast from our manipulations and strategies.

Let us fast from all complaint about the life experiences that Allah gives us.

Let us fast from our bad habits and our reactions.

Let us fast from desiring what we do not have.

Let us fast from obsession.

Let us fast from despair.

Let us fast from not loving our self, and from denying our heart.

Let us fast from selfishness and self-centered behavior.

Let us fast from thinking that only what serves us is important.

Let us fast from seeing reality only from our own point of view.

Let us fast from seeing any reality other than Allah, and from relying on anything other than Allah.

Let us fast from desiring anything other than Allah and Allah’s Prophets and friends, and our own true self.

Essentially, let us fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah.”

!أمين

 

The Astonishing Thing

 

 

 

The astonishing thing about certain people

Is that they’re not very much like all other people.

Image

Some people are like the sparkling starry sky

Who continue to shine out and reflect in mortals’ eyes

Years long after they’ve gone down the road

Who even in the distance, make an impression bold

A star that persists to burn brightest

Even when the nights are darkest –

Yes,
Some people are like stars.

Some people are like the mountainous landscapes

But whose greatness is determined neither by size nor strength

But rather by noble and quiet deed

Upon the praising of God do their souls deliciously feed

A mountain that maintains its pegs in the mantle below

While peaking upwards to the sky, aspiring further to go –

Yes,

Some people are like mountains.

Some people are like a luscious forest of trees

Whose roots are firmly grounded to earth, in humility

Whose hearts experience rebirth, seeking His Majesty

A tree that starts from a seed, and soon, behold

Its mysteries contained of beauty and stories of old –

Yes,

Some people are like trees.

Some people are like the soothing wind

A cool gentle breeze, just as soon as you please

A wind that takes one’s breath away

Whose wisdom makes one’s thoughts joyfully stray

(And since the breeze don’t show it,

Of its awesomeness, it don’t know it) –

Yes,

Some people are like the wind.

All people are like people,

But some people are beyond

Some people are like the guiding stars,

The glorious mountains,

The fruitful trees,

The merciful breeze,

And all things in this world that God makes beautiful.

Yes,

Some people are all these things,

And some people are more, too

For what’s most astonishing of all,

Is that some people,

Are you.

Image

A.S.

Reflections from Surat Al-Baqarah {Part 2}

This is the final reflection series from the second chapter of the Holy Quran. My next Quran reflection series will likely be accompanied with a less obvious but more creative title. 

Bismilleh.

wisp of fairy

Verse 2:170

Just Because

It’s often easy for us Muslims, particularly those of us born into Muslim families, to forget we are at risk of the same things the Quran warns the disbelievers or hypocrites of. Sometimes we use the label “Islam” as an antidote to all evil by even our own fathers- you know, inserting the word “Islam” before something to halal-ify it [i.e. such as speaking of an Islamic economy without first challenging the notion of capitalism.]

But isn’t doing what everyone else is doing, regardless if it’s good or bad, still almost the same thing? Isn’t neglecting to use your faculty of thinking, not pondering, not understanding, not being sincere, the same evil whether the act is good or bad?

If you’re just doing things “just because”, then you need to contemplate if maybe all you’re doing is taqlid… and maybe, who knows!- if you were in a different context, perhaps you may not have been a Muslim by name either.

Many of us are assured that since our fathers, alhamdulileh, didn’t worship idols, we are safe from ever being misguided. But the verse above does not only imply to the past: if you extract the morals from it, it can equally apply to the present. If you are not praying to a million fictional gods but you worship your lower nafs’ desires in any case, then know that you are still doing what humans have been doing forever, and you have not risen above that.

Again, if one was blessed with a wonderful upbringing by intellectual parents, yet does not use the act of thinking for themselves, then their good deeds will be labelled under the umbrella of taqlid and imitation. What good has that done?

God wants us to be people of understanding.  أفلا تعقلون؟

stormy days ahead

Verse 2:219

Benefit Even With Sin

How often do you hear someone ask a question with a certain answer already stapled in mind, but they merely want just one person to validate it for them?

If you think about it, you can justify up to a certain extent just about anything your nafs desires. Even wine and gambling has some benefit! But as God warns us, the sin is much greater than the benefit in these circumstances, as it is with many other cases.

Although it may seem hard to believe living in the societies we live in today, in which the sinful has been mainstreamed while the beneficial has roughly been sidetracked- in general, the halal (permissible) is in so much more abundance than what God has made haram. If you just think about the food we’re allowed to eat, for example, the range of what is permissible is so much greater than what is forbidden. And there is always wisdom behind everything.

So why do some people simply insist on sinful things on account of their ‘benefit’ or by downplaying their harm?

If I had to reply to that, the first thought that pops to mind is the classic Arabic expression:

كل ممنوع مرغوب

The equivalent English expression to that, I believe, is getting the forbidden fruit.

contemplation-ghetto-techyt-wall

Verse 2:231

You Hurt Yourself Before You Hurt Others

Ah, this verse. I am sure almost every Muslim has read this; I am equally sure not every Muslim has internalized this. I am going to focus on a certain aspect of it:

“…and do not keep them, intending harm, to transgress against them. And whoever does that has certainly wronged himself.”

There are sadly many people who can only feel good about themselves if they are certain those around them are feeling crappy. The misconception that it is a sign of confidence (as opposed to arrogance) to believe one is better than others because they have more, be it in wealth, power or social control.

For example: there are women who only feel they look glamorous if the girls around them are supposedly less beautiful (at least, according to ever evolving social norm standards). There are men who only feel like real men if they have control on everything- especially on other people, primarily women.

Simply, there are those who only feel whole if others are lacking. This is a great irony because it is out of the perfected faith of a Muslim that he should wish for others what he wishes for himself. Anything less than that is incompletion on his part, and what else could be worse than an unsound character in the long run? If not so in the short term, too.

God in His wisdom reminds us that oppressing others is first and foremost an oppression of the self. May God give us all the best of characters for the sake of humanity, starting with the sake of our own souls!

red old school feld

Verse 2:255

The All-Knowing

What does a human being need most in this world? I am not talking physical needs like water and food, I am speaking emotional ones: isn’t love the strongest need anyone can have?

But love of anything stems from knowledge of the loved. You cannot love a person without knowing anything about him/her. You cannot love a country having no knowledge of its history, culture or peoples. Simply, you cannot love what you do not understand.

Every time I am feeling down, especially in those inexplicable moments where the reason for being down is not a tangible reason, nothing comforts me more than knowing that He knows me better than I know myself.

This wonderful verse is called ayat al-kursi (The Throne Verse):

If that is not raw pure love at its ultimate, I do not know what is.

May God allow the Quran itself to be at the center of the throne of our hearts!

worship

I will conclude with an interesting quote from a Salaf a friend recently shared with me:

“If I am afflicted with a calamity, I praise Allaah for it four times: I praise Him because it wasn’t worse than it was, I praise Him when He gives me the patience to bear it, I praise Him for enabling me to say al-istirjâ’ in hope of a great reward, and I praise Him for not making it a calamity in my religion.”

-Shurayh Al-Qadi

Allah knows best.

Salamu alaikum/ peace be upon you,

A.S.

[Translation: http://quran.com/2]

Timelessly Perfect

~

I’ve been saving an absolutely wonderful wise quote to write a lengthy blog post on for months now. But more often than not, less can be more… and I really don’t think there is more to elaborate on this.

“As I look back on life, I realize that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better. You must convince your heart that whatever God has decreed for you is the most appropriate and beneficial to you.”

– Imam Al Ghazali

Looking over the horizon. (Image from swissre.com ad.)

Isn’t it just timelessly perfect? Truly God knows best.

-A.S.

Her Beauty Quest

~

I was asked to perform some spoken word at the Pearls of the World Fashion Show this evening. I realized none of my poetry is really girly-orientated… so I whipped this up on the city bus yesterday (trying to ignore the fact the woman next to me was reading every word I wrote over my shoulder the whole time). 

Her Beauty Quest

beauty quest

She spends her entire life seeking it

Searching, dreaming,

Paying all she has for it–

But she still hasn’t found it.

She can’t find it

By looking in the wrong place

Some misconceptions won’t let her move forward

Unless them she’d erase–

Now:

Allow

Me to tell you

What

They tell her.

They tell her

True beauty means she must

Look like that girl, that actress

Always compare herself to them

And always them to impress

Be as skinny as a twig

Change hair styles like a wig

Eyeshadow colors that gives off a look of bruised eyes

Seems ugly is the new beauty –  magazines can’t lie!

They tell her

She would be more kissable if she puffed up those lips

Practically grow claws on her fingertips

Be more successful with a little cleavage showing

Wear super short skirts even when it’s snowing–

When they told her such

She obeyed them, pretty much

She read up on every fashion news feed

Spent SO much money on cosmetics in greed

But so much time passes, and she sees no result

She still feels so insecure; could she be at fault?

Why wasn’t there improvement, even slight as sprinkles?

Nothing to show her efforts except, well– some early wrinkles

They told her to be beautiful

She must embark on this superficial beauty quest

But a wise man once said that physical beauty

Is merely a stepping stone to pass the real test

If she’d only say,

With an open heart everyday:

Oh Allah, as You have made my appearance beautiful, make my character beautiful.”

Now this begs the question:

How could you find something you don’t know you already have?

drop perfect

Physical beautiful will eventually pass

Unless it’s retained with good character in a tight grasp

So why would she want what fades

Without seeking also what lasts?

And she is beautiful now

If she would only allow

Herself to embark on a real beauty quest

To seek out the type that will outshine the rest…

BEAUTY

Comes from confidence in herself

Because she knows Who’s got her back

Comes from a nurtured intellect

To keep her on the right track

BEAUTY

Comes from eyes that see blessings

That shed tears when she repents from sinning

Comes from a heart that can empathize, and deeply feel

A heart that results in actions sincere, genuine and real

BEAUTY

Comes from a tongue that speaks kindness

That won’t allow any filth to touch it like gossip

Comes with a wise spirit, from listening and acting right

With a sharp mind that won’t accept being manipulated without a fight

It comes from contemplation, self-knowledge and strong faith

BEAUTY comes in so many forms that all combine to create…

— YOU.

red-vector-beauty-wallpaper

–A.S.