Empty Glass

Some nights you can feel
all the oceans
and mountains
and hot burning stars
inside your head
surging and quaking and pulsing
to break free and explode
and fall onto the pages
of an unwritten book
or into the nearly empty glass
of life
by your bedside
that’s tired of holding
a voidf or so long.

Some nights
you wake up.

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Accidental Art

The abstract art
formed by fallen hair
on white shining tiles.

The dragons and castles
made of white clouds
in afternoon skies.

The dancing figures
made of water blobs
on a green bathroom floor.

All the accidental art
in every corner of the universe
waiting in ambush
to take my breath away.

And yet all I can think about
are a pair of black, black eyes
devoid of color
yet full of all the shades
that ever existed.

What is it about the Quran?

Someone once asked me how I still believe that the Quran is divine considering all the modern cosmological and scientific theories. While answering this I started thinking, when had I exactly started whole-heartedly believing that this Book is divine and not man-made? And what exactly had convinced me of its divinity?

I was taught to recite the Quran as a child, but in my family, like most Muslim-born families, no one really talked about how or *why* this book is undoubtedly extra-worldly. It’s just “our Book”, that’s it. No questions asked, no answers told.

But I don’t remember having a “blind” faith in it either, at least not after a certain age. So something must have convinced me, there must have been some knowledge that nailed it for me, made me realize the magnitude of it. I know the rough time when that happened: I was around 14-15, I got to know more about Islam and history and the Quran and intelligent design and what not… But exactly *what* was it that did it – I keep failing to remember.
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Maybe it was the palindromes in surah Muddatthir and Surah Yasin.

Maybe the event in history where the Romans were unexpectedly defeated by Persia in 615 AD in a land far away, and immediately verses were revealed in the Quran [Surah Rum] about their defeat, much quicker than the news could have humanly reached our Prophet ( ) in Arabia. And the next verses prophecised their next victory along with its timing (which came true).

Maybe the numerical miracles – 25% land and 75% water, 50% fear and 50% hope, 50% day and 50% night, 50% male and 50% female, and so on.

Maybe the unique, epic way this book has been passed on for generations, orally instead of by writing – yet not letting a single letter be changed.

Or maybe how its language is the only language that stayed the same through so many centuries, while languages from even 2 centuries ago – like Victorian English – have gone through such major change that laymen don’t even understand these languages anymore, and people have to spend years studying a single drama or poem.

The use of metaphors, hyperbole, rhyme, sarcasm, imagery, scene-setting, and other literary devices.

How the story of prophet Yusuf and his 11 brothers can be divided into exactly 12 parts, and how it symmetrically builds up a tragedy in the first half, and then relieves it in the second half.

Geographic facts like mountains having underground parts rooting them (like pegs), which have only been discovered later.

The mention of the sun and stars moving in orbits, despite being revealed at a time when people didn’t even believe the *earth* to be moving.

The medical accuracy in the stages of development of the embryo.

The expansion of the universe.

All life starting from water.

Ants having a language.

Iron having come from outer space.

Pharaoh’s body being preserved.

The poetic beauty.

The human rights.

Animal rights.

Plant rights.

And on and on.

But it wasn’t any of these. It just wasn’t. Knowing about all of these kept adding to my faith, made my conviction stronger, but where did it all root back?

I’ll never know. I could have known all of these and more and still disbelieved. So many people do. So there is only one legit answer. One that we read so often in the Quran itself, one we hear so often – at least once each Friday in jumuah khutba – yet ignore:

“Whomever Allah guides, no one can misguide. And whomever Allah misguides, no one can guide.”

Sketching A Soul

Have you ever noticed
That the biggest adventure in life
Is gradually getting to know a person?

It’s like doing an elaborate sketch
Like those tutorials, or your kindergarten drawing books.
First you draw a bunch of shapes –
A circle here and a rectangle there,
A few lines on the sides.
Then inside those you draw more complex shapes
Polygons
Soft edges
Rounded corners.
Now you have an outline
You start building on it.
Now you add details
You add and add
And just when you thought it was enough
You add some more.
.
.
.
You know their name
Age, height, color
Their bachelors major
Their second language.
There you have the shapes:
A circle for the head
A trapezium for the body
Rectangles for the limbs.
Isolated, disproportioned.

You read their 3 am thoughts in vague facebook statuses.
The edges start softening.

A short conversation about where they bought that book from.
The arms are taking shape.

A philosophical comment on something seemingly deep that you said.
Jawlines appear.

You see some art they created.
Shoulder blades and pectorals and fingertips emerge.

You hear their voice reciting words of God
Or humming a nostalgic tune.
Biceps get shaded, knuckles are highlighted.

A few months in, you know their taste in books
What videos they watch on youtube
What philosophies they hate
What they say when they’re excited
How they look when they’re nervous
How often they smile
Why they smile
How they smile.

The details are rushing in
Like rain.
A dam has broken and you’re drowning.
Your pencils get shorter and your eraser is wearing out
From drawing and erasing
Sharpening and softening
Shading and highlighting
Too much.

Every conversation
Adds dimensions you didn’t know existed.
From 1D lines to a 2D sketch it’s suddenly a 3D sculpture
And before you know it
It has popped out of your sketchbook and started walking through air
But no it doesn’t stop there
You see layers after layers of
A Homo sapien
Turning into a human
Turning into a person
Turning into a soul.
Physicists might be talking about a 4th or a 5th or even a 10th dimension
But you know there are over a hundred dimensions
Because you’ve seen them all
In this sketch.
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.
If you’ve never noticed this journey
Despite going on it so many times in your life
If you haven’t felt the poetic beauty of
A human becoming a person
I hate to say this but
You’ve missed out on the biggest surprise
That God has left for you.

Because every new person is a mountain to climb
And by the time you climb a mountain
You are not the same person anymore.

So please don’t tell me about how much you want to travel the world
If you have never traveled through
A person.

My Favorite Sounds

“What’s your favorite sound in the world?” you ask.

On Fridays, it’s the sound inside the masjid
When everyone’s clothes rustle in sync
As their faces touch the ground
In awe of their Creator.
It’s less of a sound and more of a feeling
That slowly fades into the euphoria
Of finding the purpose of life again.

On most other days
It’s the crunching of dead leaves
Or the rattling of keyboard keys
The roar of a fresh breeze
A very very loud sneeze
The ‘ting’ of a text message
The rustling when I turn a page
The splash of a waterfall
The clamor in a shopping mall
Thunder right before the rain
The rhythmic chugging of a train
The revving of sport cars
The silence of a million stars.

But at nights
It’s the imaginary laughter
Of an imaginary person
Drowning the rest of the world away
Turning into a blanket
To wrap me in its cocoon
So that all the cold I’m afraid of never finds its way.

 

Escaping The Castle

This was originally written in 2016 for the 2nd edition of Fajr Lifestyle Magazine. It’s the only time I wrote a short story of proper length and Islamic content. So I’ve been reeeally wanting to post it in my blog, but lost the softcopy 😥  Finally after a lot of searching I found it Alhamdulillah!! So here it goes (before I lose it again haha).

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September, 2014.

“It’s 3 am, Fahim. If I can’t wake up in time for class tomorrow, I won’t talk to you for the next two days. I’m not even joking.”
“Okay, okay, calm down. You make even death threats seem insignificant. And anyway, I know you can’t survive two whole days without talking to me.”
“Now hang up!”
“Bye!”

Farah fought off a smile as she glanced at a picture of her and Fahim adorning her phone’s home screen. It was one of the hundreds of selfies they had, and was taken in one of their favorite cafes a month ago. It has been almost a week since their last date and she was trying her best not to make her restlessness too evident. She reluctantly put down her phone, its heat generated from 2 hours of converting emotions into digital signals almost burning her hand. As she prepared to fall asleep, something in the back of her mind put an abrupt halt to her state of euphoria. She remembered something she had heard the other day when a friend of hers had taken her to a sisters’ gathering.

It was a “Halaqa”, as her friend told her – a gathering where some sisters would talk about Islamic matters. She had felt too ashamed to say no to her friend’s request to accompany her there. As she entered the house where it was taking place, she had been engulfed by a mixture of intimidation and embarrassment on seeing so many women wearing hijabs, abayas (burqas) and even niqabs, in contrast to her own not-so-Islamic clothing. They had all been amazingly friendly, and to her own surprise, her initial feeling of intimidation had turned to admiration and awe by the time she had left.

Somewhere amidst all the positive thoughts and reminders that had enveloped her throughout the brief hour there, one thing had hit her hard as a bullet. It was the way the speaker had mentioned having relationships, as if it was one of the worst things to do. “Whenever a man is alone with a woman, Shaytan is the third one with them.” The words kept ringing in the back of her head. She remembered the numerous times she had hung out with Fahim, laughed like a fanatic at his lame jokes and chattered on about stupid little things over the sound of over-enthusiastic diners in fast food joints. All of these seemed to be purely happy moments; surely, Shaytan hadn’t been with them all those times…she shook her head in denial.

She’d heard her friend say many times that being in a relationship before marriage was Haram, but she had never quite let that sink in. She had never considered that this Haram was the same Haram that described drinking, gambling and even murder.

“But everyone does it,” Farah mumbled to herself as she sunk into the depths of sleep.

***

January, 2015.

Farah folded up her newly bought cotton crepe scarf and put it in the wardrobe, shutting the door with all the energy she could muster. The bang of the wardrobe door wasn’t loud enough to drown out the cries of frustration inside her head. She wasn’t sure what was agitating her more – her mother’s words of dissuasion at her decision to wear the hijab, or her recent argument with Fahim about discontinuing their relationship.

She picked up her phone with rekindled determination and began to dial his number. She stopped right before pressing call and made a quick du’a: “Allah, please don’t let his words make me weak. I can’t do this without Your help. I don’t want to compromise this time, Allah. Please help me through this!”

As the line rang, each ring coming in sharp as a blade to her anxious eardrums, she kept murmuring du’as, begging Allah to keep her strong.

“Hello, Miss I-have-changed-now. How may I help you?” Fahim’s sarcastic tone made her want to hang up immediately. She took a deep breath. And another.

“We need to talk,” Farah muttered out as she cringed at the shakiness of her own voice.

“Isn’t that what we’ve been doing for the last three years, Farah? Look, this better not be about your what-we’re-doing-is-wrong theory again. I’ve had enough of that.”

“I’ve told you I can’t do this anymore. You know quite well that there is only one option left for us, but you never even let me bring it up!”

“Break up and live in distress? Let’s see how long you survive.”

“No, get married.”

There was silence on the other side.

“I’m only twenty-three. Stop making impossible suggestions, Farah. I don’t even get why you’re taking this so seriously. I didn’t say anything when you started wearing hijab. I let you give me uncomfortable lectures on why I should pray five times every day. Damn, I even woke up for fajr last week because you told me to. Why do you have to turn it from hard to impossible? Don’t you see how much I’ve done or you?” His voice was getting edgy from anger.

“It’s not about me! Don’t you have the slightest aspiration to please Allah, to go to Jannah? If you can do so many things for just a girl, why can’t you do them for your Lord? It’s much more important to please Allah, why don’t you get that Fahim?” Her eyes were already burning.

“Calm down, Farah. You’re taking your religion too seriously. Ask anyone around you, they’ll agree. I’m a Muslim too, you don’t see me getting so hyped up over it.”

“Exactly, Fahim. You’re a Muslim too! You’re supposed to take it more seriously than anything else!”

The burning sensation was crawling down her cheek now. He muttered out an incomprehensible reply and hung up.

The next week Farah tried again. And then again. Getting married right then was something Fahim would do anything to avoid. She realized that in just four months, they had become occupants of two completely different worlds. His was a world where one followed only what pleases oneself, not bothering about consequences. Hers was one where nothing was more important than the commands of Allah SWT; where the definition of happiness was not confined to making oneself happy in this life; where life had a much bigger purpose. As soon as she realized how thick the border between the two worlds was, she chose to let go.

***

March, 2015.

It’s been two months since Farah left the haram relationship that had once been the chief source of happiness for her. It was one of the most difficult times in her life – with every other phone call reminding her of all the long hours she had wasted in carefree conversations; and every other chat notification acting as a pingback to all the unrestrained chats she had partaken in. The guilt and remorse merged in with the sudden emptiness was making every day seem more excruciating than the one before. She began to skip the halaqas, and found it increasingly hard to focus in Salah. Her instance of withdrawal extended to her studies and interactions as well, much to her dismay.  She felt caught up in a constant loop of frustration and indolence. Beneath the depths of lethargy and depression, she could almost feel the spiritual void get larger every day. Until, on one fortuitous day, her friend casually told her to read Surah Qaf.

Farah decided to implement that little bit of advice right away, not yet knowing how big an impact it would leave in her life. As she settled in a window seat in the local bus on her way home that day, she opened the Quran app on her phone and began to read the translation of the 50th Surah of the Quran. It had been days since she had read the Quran mindfully. As she read, she felt the world around her fade away into oblivion as the words hit her like a parade of nails.

[50:16] And indeed We have created man, and We know what his ownself whispers to him. And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.

[50:17] (Remember!) that the two receivers (recording angels) receive, one sitting on the right and one on the left.

She read on, past the spine-chilling ayahs about the reality of Hellfire and through the heart-warming ayahs of Paradise, coming to a halt at the 34th ayah.

[50:34] Enter it in peace. This is the Day of Eternity.

She whispered it out to herself, then repeated it again and again, letting it sink in, letting it absorb all the haunting memories, letting it evacuate the darkness she held too dear. Enter it in peace. This is the day of Eternity.

By the time she got home and stood for the next Salah, she had memorized the ayah, along with a few more ayahs before and after it. It was the first time she recited Ayahs from a Surah outside the last Juz or surah Fatiha in Salah. It was also the first time in months that she made through an entire Salah without being distracted by a disturbing memory or trivial noise. She found herself making du’a to Allah in every sajdah to make it easy for her to memorize the Quran.

In the next few weeks, she memorized Surah Qaf in its entirety. The joy of the feat made her more ecstatic than an addict high on drugs. It became almost like an addiction for her to repeat a few ayahs, glance over their translation and then recite them in each subsequent Salah. When she told her friend about her new practice and the rush of excitement and satisfaction it was giving her, her friend advised her to check out the Tafsir of what she was reading once in a while. That was another life-changing advice for Farah. The in-depth analyses of surahs that she read in Tafsir Ibn Katheer or heard in online podcasts left her mesmerized for hours, sometimes even days. She felt more connected to Allah than she had ever imagined feeling.

She found herself involuntarily getting closer to her friend, discussing anything and everything from an Islamic viewpoint whenever they got time. It was as if the Quran had created a resilient chain-link between their souls. As she subconsciously rose from the depths of depression, she kept learning new things and making new friends for the sake of Allah in the Halaqas and sisters’ groups on social networks.

Farah passed each day amidst memorization of the Quran, reading Tafsir, listening to lectures, discussing what she read and how she felt with her sisters in faith, taking online short courses and attempting to become a better person. Amidst all of these, she nearly forgot about her past, relinquished all remaining agony and to her own amazement, became a more contented person than she had ever been in life. Before long, every little frustration she once had became mere jokes between her and her friends. It felt like magic; she felt like Rapunzel let free from her apparently grand castle that had locked her in for years; once she had escaped, the castle seemed infinitely insignificant compared to the open sky. She felt freer than ever before for not having to depend on a man for her happiness, or on someone’s approval for her contentment. Once she centered her life around pleasing Allah SWT, she felt every other fetter breaking away. Once she contently submitted to Allah, all her desires and whims became irrelevant.

The apparently grand castle of abandoned pleasures was nothing compared to the infinite open skies of Allah’s blessings, and the hope of a perfect happily-ever-after. She finally knew what it felt like to be free.

 

Switch

There’s a light switch
Constantly being turned on
And off
And on
Inside me.

Flick.
Too much noise in my head
Flick.
A void in my soul.
Flick.
What a colorful universe!
Flick.
Full of black holes.
Flick.
I’m laughing like a maniac
Flick.
Talk to me and you’re dead.
Flick.
Let’s go for a run
Flick.
I’ll just lie in my bed.
Flick.
Pretty shop windows!
Flick.
Grey metal gates.
Flick.
I want to go home.
Flick.
I want to escape.
Flick.
I make garlands from words.
Flick.
I tear them off.
Flick.
Butterflies in my stomach
Flick.
I don’t believe in love.

 

Hobbies

My hobbies include
Staring at the sun
Walking through glass
Playing with fire
Running into tsunamis
And placing my heart on windowsills
To savor the adrenaline rush
As I watch it fall.

Let The Darkness Guide You

[Something I found among my old notes from a long time ago]

Our Prophet (saw) faced every single affliction a human soul can emotionally take. He didn’t even get a chance to properly know his mother, let alone feel her love when growing up. He lost Khadija (ra) at the most vulnerable point of his life. Let’s not even get to all the things he faced from people. If anyone can be said to have been filled with darkness from all sides, isn’t it him? But all that pain had purpose. All that was prepared by Allah Himself.

Despite all that pain, he had a core full of light that had the potential to change everyone else’s cores. The entire world’s core. Did the darkness affect his mission? Of course. It was that darkness he faced all his life that helped him change history, change hearts, minds, countries, worlds! (The jinn were changed too, I’ll call that a different world). When we quote ahadith or follow him in order to please Allah, do we always think about his pain and sufferings? Maybe we should, but we hardly do. Because even if that was one of the most significant parts of his life, to us, that is a minor part of the whole picture.

Maybe human cores just work this way. The person himself sees/feels the surface – the darkness. Everyone else sees the core – the light. But only if the person himself unlocks the core first.

Think about all the other prophets. Every single one of them. Think about the salaaf. I personally don’t think imam Bukhari or imam Tabari etc were perfectly happy people. Most of them were surrounded by darkness too – the darkness of societal obstacles, financial hardships, emotional hardships, what not. But that didn’t stop them from writing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of pages of knowledge. Or changing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of lives, hearts. Because maybe, just maybe, Allah chooses the souls most tainted by darkness to serve Him best. How else can you explain why every Prophet faced such difficult lives and such extreme emotional trauma? Even if not, I’m sure of one thing at least: the darkness is a clue to what tremendous light lies inside. You might not care, but it’s there.

A Recurring Epiphany

Do you ever have those days
With those sudden moments
When you can feel the taste of life on your tongue and it nearly makes you cry?

A feeling so old that it takes you by surprise.

Like an epiphany
Wrapped in a déja vu
An exclusive gift
From Allah to you.

I’m sitting in a cafe
Reading a book about suicide.
There’s an almost disturbing aroma of coffee and I’m a second hand addict for the moment
They play something that sounds familiar
But it’s so low that i can’t quite make it out
And for some reason I feel nostalgic
For every moment I ever lived
Every moment I never lived
Every kind of love I felt
Every little dream I dreamt
Everything
And nothing
And everything.

I remember this book I once read
About spiders and scars
And armies and wars
And islands and stars
So much of time and existence
Wrapped up in a few hundred pages
Where each and every word once belonged
Inside a thin tube of ink
In some writer’s hand
And now it’s ended up
Inside me.

And it hits me.
This life?
All these tiny beautiful beings
And all these giant beautiful things
They exist.
It’s real.
It’s too good to be real.
But it’s real. It’s real. It’s real.

That’s how the taste of life feels on my tongue.
And every single time, it nearly makes me cry.

Iman Levels: Expectations and Frustrations

FailE

When I first started getting serious about my faith, I thought I had the whole picture figured out. I saw my upcoming journey as a gradual climb in my level of faith – a clean graph with an exponentially increasing slope. I knew it would be smooth, because why would I ever weaken in my faith or ibadah, right? I was so wrong; if I only knew. This journey is just like any other journey. It isn’t a constant rise; it isn’t clean; it isn’t smooth. But what I never foresaw in the beginning is how bad it could get at certain points. Sometimes I feel like I am on a never-ending decline that I don’t know how to stop. Some days I feel like I am an awful excuse for a Muslim – with a spotless exterior holding a rotten, hardened heart at the core. A heart that sometimes gets so attached to this world, to things and people, that it would rather spend all of its time doing nothing, thinking nothing…than to indulge in ibadah and ponder over the afterlife.

In life, there are things you want and there are things you need. If you are a practicing Muslim, oftentimes the two do not coincide – especially if you are at an early stage of faith. And sometimes it gets extremely difficult to accept the fact that what you need is so different from what you want; to accept that you aren’t being able to fully want what you should be wanting. I’m writing this random rant because right now I’m going through one of the most severe cases of that feeling in my life so far. It’s a feeling of helplessness – to realize you have no control over the things you desire and crave. The cynic in you might constantly tell you that it’s unnatural to force yourself to not have what you want – is it even worth it? Why are you even doing this? You deserve good things in life! – it keeps whispering and then shouting and then screeching at an unbearable pitch until you really start doubting yourself.

But wait, could I say that to a diabetic patient when they crave sweets? Would I tell them, “If it’s what you want, why not just have it? Stop being so stuck up, it’s just sweets. You deserve good things in life, you deserve the sweetest of sweets. Stop holding yourself back, that’s just unnatural!” Would I have said that to my 4 year old brother when he wanted to jump off the window ledge to reveal his flying skills?

Between being a 4 year old kid trying to fly and a 60 year old diabetic wanting sweets, we humans never really change. Deep inside, we are still the comfortably irrational beings who are at a constant conflict between wanting the right thing and wanting the fun thing. Swinging between being an “instant gratification monkey” and a seeker of eternal happiness – most days I have a hard time accepting my own thoughts. One of my favorite ayahs in the Quran is this profound statement by prophet Yusuf (AS):

“And I do not declare myself free (from blame). Indeed, the soul constantly commands to evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.”
– Surah Yusuf, 12:53

Basically, as a human, I’ll never be able to NOT want what I shouldn’t, *unless* Allah SWT shows mercy on me and guides my heart to rise above. Which also means, I cannot stay away from evil or immorality by sheer willpower: it just isn’t enough. I need to constantly ask Allah for help as well.

This is comforting and scary at the same time. Comforting because now I know that my difficulty in always wanting or doing the right thing is actually natural, that’s how the soul is supposed to act – it inclines towards evil. And the fact that my Lord is always there to help me through it, that He will keep being Merciful and forgiving, as long as I ask Him, is the most comforting thing ever. Why scary? Because despite knowing this, I’m not praying enough to Allah, I’m not pouring out my heart in dua to ask Him for guidance. I’m still relying too much on myself, and disregarding the only way out – Allah’s mercy.

We’re either too confident that we are already guided enough, that we don’t need help (which is ironic, because an arrogant person cannot enter Jannah), or we are too convinced that it’s too big of a task to change for the better, to become more practicing, to get more regular and sincere in ibadah. We are constantly so busy either overestimating or underestimating our souls – that we forget the biggest piece of the puzzle – Allah’s power to change our state. Do we realize how narcissistic we are? We are practically placing our state of mind over the power of Allah SWT. Maybe we humans just really like to stay in a rut, even when we know the way out.

Five times a day, we are supposed to forget everything else and sincerely say to Allah – “ihdinaa as-Siraat al-mustaqeem”Guide us to the straight path! The most important thing in life we could ask for, and we skim through it as if it’s nothing. In fact, most times we don’t even mean it when we say it. Heck, we don’t even REALIZE that we’re saying it. How do I expect to be guided if I’m deliberately skipping my chance to ask Allah for guidance, day after day, every single time? Do we really think we don’t need His mercy and guidance? If this isn’t the worst sort of arrogance, I don’t know what is.

Anyhow, back to where I started: ups and downs in the faith-graph. There is one hadith that gives me hope about this hopeless state:

Sahih Muslim Book 037, Hadith Number 6623:

Hanzala Usayyidi, who was amongst the scribes of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), reported: I met Abu Bakr. He said: Who are you? He (Hanzala) said: Hanzala has turned to be a hypocrite. He (Abu Bakr) said: Hallowed be Allah, what are you saying? Thereupon he said: I say that when we are in the company of Allah’s Messenger ( ) we ponder over Hell-Fire and Paradise as if we are seeing them with our very eyes and when we are away from Allah’s Messenger ( ) we attend to our wives, our children, our business; most of these things (pertaining to After-life) slip out of our minds. Abu Bakr said: By Allah, I also experience the same. So I and Abu Bakr went to Allah’s Messenger ( ) and said to him: Allah’s Messenger, Hanzala has turned to be a hypocrite. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger ( ) said: What has happened to you? I said: Allah’s Messenger, when we are in your company, we are reminded of Hell-Fire and Paradise as if we are seeing them with our own eyes, but whenever we go away from you and attend to our wives, children and business, much of these things go out of our minds. Thereupon Allah’s Messenger ( ) said: By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always busy in remembrance (of Allah), the Angels will shake hands with you in your beds and in your paths but, Hanzala, time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and time (should be devoted to prayer and meditation). He (the Holy Prophet) said this thrice.

Takeaway:
If we want to keep our faith up, we gotta give regular time to prayer, and to think, and converse about the deen – about Paradise and Hell-fire, about our Lord. We need to attend halaqas, discussions, lectures, whatever we can find, or maybe at least watch videos and read things – Hadith, Tafsir, books, articles (apart from the regular Quran reading of course). Because you know what? Iman doesn’t appear magically in the heart, neither does it stay there magically once it arrives. It is hard to find and easy to lose. We have to set away time for our souls – call it soul workouts if you may. Because if we lose our faith, nothing else we achieve on earth would mean a thing. And we can’t afford to lose it all, not when we know and realize the consequences; not when we’ve been given the blessing to understand.

 

He gives wisdom to whom He wills, and whoever has been given wisdom has certainly been given much good. And none will remember except those of understanding.
– Surah Baqara, 2:269

And the worldly life is not but amusement and diversion; but the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah, so will you not the understand?
– Surah Anam, 6:32

Bittersweet

Some days
You’ll have a bitter taste in your mouth
From something someone said
Something someone didn’t say
A memory coming out of nowhere
The thought of a missed chance
The guilt of living too less
The guilt of living too much
The guilt, guilt, guilt, guilt
For anything and everything
And something and nothing
And more.

Some days, you’ll feel every atom in your soul
Weighing you down
From the guilt of existing.

And you’ll know how it really tastes
To be alive.

Campfire

You
are like
sitting by a campfire
in the darkest of nights
and the softest of breezes.
As warm as I could get
yet not warm enough.
And as I slowly drown in this cosiness
i know i can never get too close
without burning myself.

The Mercy Behind Allah’s Commands

When we hear a religious rule, the first thing we tend to ask is “How does this help me?” Apologetics are always busy explaining how every rule has a social or personal benefit.

“Zakah is the fastest way to remove poverty.”
“Salah is like meditation, it brings calm to your mind.”
“Hijab prevents people from objectifying you and putting your looks above your character.”
“Wine or narcotics are haram so that society can have less crimes and chaos.”
“Look at the trillions of dollars of worldwide debt because of interest based finances. No wonder it’s haram.”

Yes, all of that is true and that’s great. BUT, these are not the main reasons we have these commands from Allah. These are side effects. Added benefits.

The reason behind every ibadah is one and the same – our Lord told us.
Nothing less, nothing more.
The one who created us so perfectly, placed us in this perfect universe and gave us everything we need in life and more – told us to do and not do certain things. By following these, we prove our submission to our Creator, express our loyalty and gratitude to Him. BUT out of His mercy, each of these commands ALSO happen to have certain benefits – whether physical, spiritual, or social. Do you realize the magnitude of this? It’s definitely not something to take for granted!

We could have been told to kill ourselves after reaching a certain age. To eat the most bitter leaves that grow on earth (thank God eating korolla isn’t sunnah or fard :v ). To give away our kids to monks or leave them in jungles to fend for themselves. To live on only insects. To cut off a finger every 10 years. To live without houses. To become vegetarians for life (oh mannn, imagine no meat). He could have forbidden people from growing long hair. Forbidden marrying outside the extended family.

Not just Islam, barely did any of the originally divine religions – Christianity, Judaism, etc have commandments that harmed the society or person. What greater proof is there of the Mercy of Allah? Because even if we had rules like this, we would still have to obey those. But He made it easier for us. He made the acts of submission towards Him a means of a better society, a better relationship with family, and a better life in general.

“Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship”

– Surah Baqarah, 2:185

So the next time you seek the *reason* behind a rule, stop yourself. Allah does not have to justify His commands to you. Rather seek the mercy behind that rule. Seek the Love behind each and everything our Lord tells us to do. You’ll be amazed.

 

Quran Journal #1: Surah Kahf 18:28

KAHF_28

Okay,  I’m attempting to start a new series (inner me: haha here we go again), which I hope to write at least once per week. This will be about any ayah(s) I come across which deeply influences me, or makes me feel that it needs to be written about. Bismillah!

Why this ayah hit me like a truck:

Since the start of university (which was about 6 months ago), I have had a massive downfall in terms of good company. Most of the friends (lol friends?) I made are not particularly religious. Or even believers. At first I thought – well that’s always been the case and what could really go wrong? I’m a strong independent minded human who is NOT affected by other people’s thoughts or views. Hah, guess what Shaytan, you were (as usual) wrong. I did start to get influenced by everyone else’s astaghfirullah mindsets. As if my iman wasn’t low enough, I now have newer, stronger, shinier issues deep down inside my heart. Did NOT see that coming. Hey, fitnah, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE BRO?

So this week I read this ayah – which I usually skim over, cause it makes me feel guilty (meta conscience in action, damn) – and I realized i REALLY need to make some changes. Okay, I think that exact thought twice per typical day and then keep going without making any changes (ermm..) but THIS time it’s different. Because I’m writing about it. On my blog. Nuff said. (Yess that’s the secret to success, my boiz. Writing public posts stating your vague personal issues.)

Actions to be taken in shaa Allah:

  • Cut down talking too much to people who don’t have meaningful contribution in my life
  • The world sucks. Do not crave it. I repeat DO NOT CRAVE THE WORLD, IT SHALL BREAK YOU.
  • Stop wanting material things that others have. It’s never as good as it looks wallah.
  • Try to get more practicing friends.
  • Stay off social media as much as possible.
  • m o r e    i b a d a h

Now let me go back to reading the novel about jinn and hackers. Salaam.

The Paradox of Everchanging Truths – Why I’m Not Ashamed of My Beliefs

I was reading a Harry Potter fan fiction where Harry is a “rationalist” – in all implications of the word’s present day definition – and tries to justify every new thing he learns in the magic world from the point of his existing knowledge and beliefs. When something doesn’t fit, he upgrades/modifies his beliefs and theories (note to wannabe rationalists who “blindly” follow certain schools of thought). This one quote suddenly hit me hard, and i just had to write *something* about it. I haven’t written in a while so excuse my jumbled thoughts.

Professor McGonagall’s eyes were alight. “After you graduate, or possibly even before, you really must teach some of these Muggle theories at Hogwarts, Mr. Potter. They sound quite fascinating, even if they’re all wrong.”

So here McGonagall casually says that Harry’s muggle theories (i.e years of human acquired knowledge) are obviously wrong. He had been talking about some good stuff, like causality and temporal order (a cause having to occur *before* its effect, in the observable timeline), and Turing Computations (going back into a defined moment of the past and computing a different future from there) and things like that. He couldn’t explain the Time Turner based on his existing knowledge of how cause and effect works. So he accepted that it could work backwards too – something that happens *later* in time might control something that happened *before* it.

See, whenever we read or hear about something that doesn’t make sense according to our established scientific theories, we immediately dismiss the phenomenon as “impossible” or just fantasies made up by humans or superstitions. Or religion. While that is true in many cases, it doesn’t always have to be. There could be – and quite definitely are – laws that are beyond our understanding yet. For all we know, all the basic scientific theories we know now could be false in some way, or at least *incomplete* – which is why they fail to explain many things.

The mind projection fallacy, as described by physicist and Bayesian philosopher E. T. Jaynes, says that that if you are ignorant about a phenomenon, that is a fact about your own state of mind, not a fact about the phenomenon itself; your uncertainty is a fact about you, not a fact about whatever you are uncertain about; gnorance exists in the mind, not in reality; a blank map does not correspond to a blank territory.

In this particular book the people of the magic world know for a fact that most muggle theories are wrong, and hence they have no problem accepting the reality of magic. Meanwhile Harry Potter, a sort of child prodigy back in the muggle world, just CANNOT come to terms with the apparent unbelievable-ness of magic world laws – which allow things like time turning, mind control, trapping a “large space” inside a “small space”, etc.

The lesson to take from this is, just because we don’t find something believable, doesn’t always mean it is false. We are a species that’s SO arrogant that we are never ready to believe anything that the currently most-credible institution in human society hasn’t declared believable. In the present world this institution is Western rationalist science. For a long time this institution was the Church (which followed different interpretations at different times, based on what suited the current emperor). During Moses’s time (ancient Egypt) it was the Pharaoh. Sometimes it was aristocrats, sometimes philosophers. Keeps changing, is the point.

The only constant throughout history is that we were always too arrogant to think outside the box. Pre-Copernicus scientists were too arrogant to believe that the earth wasn’t at the center of everything. 18th century biologists were too arrogant to believe that plants have life. Descartes was too arrogant to believe that atoms couldn’t be broken down. Hume was too arrogant to believe in the existence of anything we can not see. Non-Darwinians are too arrogant to believe in evolution. Darwinians are too arrogant to disbelieve in evolution. Present day rationalists are too arrogant to believe in the existence of a soul, or an intelligent designer of everything in the universe. Present day scientists are too arrogant to believe in anything that doesn’t show up in existing man-made measurement devices. And on and on and on.

The point is, we think we know. At every point in history, we thought we knew. And this, the present, is also a point in our history. That’s the part we always forgot.

And that is why when someone asks me how I believe in such “backdated, flawed” theories i.e Islamic beliefs (and that too, as a conscious decision) – I can’t expect them to understand what they’re too arrogant to understand. Yes, I believe in divine entities, higher dimensions, eternal consequences, an intelligent designer, and much more. I believe in a bigger reality. And I’m not ashamed of it.

.

.

[Reference: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, by Eliezer Yudkowsky]

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