A lovely listen…

Wow..I haven’t blogged for a really long time. I will have new posts soon insha’Allah, they’ve just been languishing in my Drafts folder for aaages.
For now though, I wanted to share  these two qaseedas from Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad, Habib Umar bin Hafidh and company,  from the Radical Middle way. SubhanAllah, they are so beautiful to hear! The second one is a wonderfully, familiar Rihla favourite. 🙂

Ala Ya Sah

Lamiyyat al-Ziyara
(It’s the same link as above but you can find the qasida title in the corner)


Gratitude recheck

one of those days that warrants thinking about blessings.

so hurrah for: shiny pretty notebooks and patient understanding friends and crisp fall weather and learning and libraries and tidy surroundings and mail by post and random run-ins and kindness and warmth and knowledge and smiles and new experiences and little brothers and strength and growing and courage.

Spiced Spare Ribs :-P

A week or so ago, I stumbled upon a fabulous video of an event titled “Spiced Spare Ribs” organised by the Radical Middle Way. You can watch the video here. It’s about an hour long, and a wonderful, wonderful watch. I found myself nodding along, disagreeing at parts, vigorously agreeing at others, and overall, learning a lot. The four panelists at the event were very very different from one another, which created an environment for active, honest debate that was very cool to witness. And although all the speakers were intriguing, I LOVED Humera Shah’s commentary. Her comments about it being exhausting to fight and more productive to create avenues for women to be healthy and affirmed and whole (why are we so fixated on the mosque?), were thought provoking and inspiring. And the line I loved: “I’m getting old and I want to see a ray of sunshine before I die”, was one that I’ll remember for a while. 🙂

Discover the SunniPath Degree Programs

Last week there were two special events held at SunniPath. I didn’t manage to attend the special lecture on non-Arab imams, but alhamidullah did manage to attend Shaykh Hamza Karamali’s class titled “Discover the Degree”. It was a fabulous session, and I’m really glad I went. The Shaykh went through the different curriculum tracks and gave us a fascinating look on how the different curriculum programs fit together and are composed of courses that successively build on each other. Aside from getting a glimpse of the different curriculum programs, Shaykh Hamza also emphasized the importance of knowing where we are going with the activities that we are doing. Before we embark on something, we need to ask ourselves: where will this take me? So we always need to know our goals are, and then determine the best means is to get us where it is we wish to go. Without knowing where we want to go, and what it is we want though,  it will be hard for us to figure out what the best path is for us personally.

Jumu’ah Mubarak! (make a clear intention)

Jum’ah Mubarak! I hope you all had a fabulous day full of tranquility and peace. As part of today’s Friday celebrations I wanted to share the video below.  Make a pot of tea, grab a pen and a blanket, and sit down to the wonderful words of the shaykh..it’s an investment of 35 minutes that will reap beautiful fruits of smiles and reflection insha’Allah! I’ve never heard Shaykh Abdal Aziz Fredericks speak before this, but am so glad I heard this talk-he is a wonderful teacher and there are beautiful pearls of wisdom in what he says. May Allah increase him and his family in all good. In sum, the shaykh talks about his intention in coming to the lesson, the importance of making clear intentions and how that defines what you get from your actions, the intentions for learning that Imam Haddad advises, entering a marketplace and the duas that are advised to make when you are shopping,  how the way in which you dress are part of the mental framework in which you approach certain tasks, the difference between a hal and a maqam (did you know that the root of maqam is the same as iqama?) and repentence as an experience. And there is so so much more in the lesson that I didn’t even mention! Two things I really loved about this class: the way that Shaykh Abdal Aziz absolutely radiated happiness and contentment, and the way that he translated Arabic phrases. It increased my desire to learn Arabic, because I realised once again that translations into English truly convey only a shadow of the Arabic language. Please keep me in your duas as I start my first Arabic course ever in 7 days insha’Allah!

Gratitude:  a new semester/new challenges and things to learn/patterned prayer rugs/mustard seeds/libraries/useful nasihah/heaters/friendship/carrot cake/smiles from strangers/smiling shuyukh/pens that write well.

Imam Nawawi Hadith #19-Divine Destiny

Last Saturday SunniPath had a special lecture on the 19th Hadith from Imam Nawawi’s Forty Hadith collection. In the spirit of the hadith of the Prophet  (may peace be upon him) “Let him among you who (was present and) saw, inform him who was absent”, here are some gems from my notes of this mubarak event. 😀

Firstly, a bit about Imam Nawawi:

Imam Nawawi is from Syria, and is called Nawawi because he was from the village of Nawa. He was born in 1233 C.E and is an Imam of the later Shafi’i school. He was the scholar of his time, and a master of the hadith sciences in particular. He is known especially for his book Riyad as-saliheen (Gardens of the Righteous), and his Kitab Adkar (a book of invocations). He compiled his collection of Forty Hadith however, because he wanted Muslims to have access to the foundational hadiths of Islam.

The narrator of this hadith is ibn Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet and the son of the Prophet’s paternal uncle. He was born 3 years before the  Hijrah, during the difficult time when the nascent Muslim community was being boycotted.  It was a source of hope for Muslim community to have children born in this time, and the Prophet made dua for ibn Abbas and asked Allah for knowledge and understanding of the deen for him.

The text of Hadith #19 is as follows. (translation from the SP event)

Abu al-Abbas ‘Abdullah bin Abbas (radiyallahu anhuma) reported: I was behind the Prophet  (sallallahu alayhi wasalaam) when he said: Oh young man, I will teach you some words (of wisdom). Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of Allah; if you seek help, seek help of Allah. Know that if the whole community were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already prescribed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”

According to a line of transmission of other than that of al-Tirmidhi, it reads:

“Keep Allah in mind and you will find Him in front of you. Get acquainted with Allah in times of ease and He will know you in days of distress. Know that what missed you could not have hit you, and what hit you could not have missed you. Know that victory comes with patience, relief follows distress, ease follows hardship.

We see in this hadith the Prophet in the role of a father figure, as ibn Abbas is very young when this incident occurs.  There are so many images in the media of the Prophet that are not favourable, and with representations it is important to be conversant with the hadith collections of the Prophet so we are able to counter these images with knowledge.

There are two different versions of this hadith, and it is important to reflect on the meanings of these two different narrations.

We brainstormed as a class about these differences, but one key difference is in the manner that the hadith talks about divine destiny. Each hadith gives us a different understanding of destiny. This is noteworthy because qada and qadr are fascinating topics that have fascinated Muslim theologians for centuries, and in this hadith we have a couple of different glimpses of this concept.

(Refer back to the hadith of Jibril to get an explanation of Qada and Qadr)

This hadith explain  divine decree as knowing that  what has passed you by was not going to benefit you. In other words, Allah is in control of our affairs and creates means and outcomes. This does not mean that Muslims are fatalists, but that with complete and total trust in Allah, whenever difficulties/sadness occurs, we have trust in Allah although we take the means available to us.

This hadith offers encouragement, something that is a common feature of the hadiths of the Prophet. We have many examples of hadiths where the Prophet lays out appropriate behaviour and encourages believers. Rarely do you find statements where the Prophet prohibits actions and does not offer alternatives. Here for example, we see the Prophet saying be mindful, and mindfulness has its own reward.

In this hadith we are taught about proper adab (etiquette) which is that as Muslims we rely on Allah in all affairs. This means that we take the best means possible, but we leave the outcome to Allah. Supplication is a powerful tool however, and it is possible that through supplication Allah will cause our destiny to unfold in different ways. Through supplication it is possible that Allah may ward off harm or cause some benefit.  Which is why when we ask, we ask Allah.

Book recommendation: Reflections of Pearls.

What is Mindfulness?

To be truly mindful, one is cognizant and conscious. It means to respect Allah’s limits, and adhere to the sacred law and have taqwa. At the highest levels, it is to have scrupulousness, (wara’a).

Mindfulness is a covenant between us and Allah. If we remember Allah, Allah will remember us. Deeply reflected upon, this hadith acts as a balm for troubled hearts.

Verse for contemplation: Ali Imran: Verse 186 (3:186)

Spare me the Sermon on Muslim Women

I read this article in the WashingtonPost recently and it’s a wonderful read.  One of the main reasons: it challenges common perceptions of Muslim women with concrete examples from the faith/lived experience. Too too often, we discuss how representations of women/islam are inappropriate, but don’t counter common understandings with an explanation of Islam. We cry out: “People don’t understand Muslims! Can you believe the stereotypes that people hold about Islam?”, but then we don’t give people the tools to learn more about the faith. One thing I’m learning more and more (and have been spending a lot of time thinking about) is that you can’t really improve the image/understanding people have of Islam without delving into the religion/theological conversations- the way to combat Islamophobia and the low knowledge of Islam that currently exists, is to improve our own knowledge and practice of the religion. And it’s not fair to evaluate Islam based on practices of people, we need to turn to the teachings of Islam and see what they are for themselves. In every time, there are people who  polish their hearts and illuminate their communities with the light of Islam and the failure of others to do so doesn’t negate Islam as a viable way of life. I mention this because many times when people celebrate Muslim men and women they are knocked down/attacked because not all women are treated properly. That is true, and it is important that we all undergo a process of critical evaluation to ensure we have equitable communities, but where we find gaps doesn’t have anything to do with faults in Islam..if anything it indicates a lapse in emulating the Prophetic model.

Side note about the hijab: Please if you don’t wear the hijab, let’s stop talking about it. I promise to not criticize/bother you about your choice to not wear it, (none of my business) and please show me the same courtesy.  I’m so so tired of discussions where women who don’t wear the scarf rail against it, and go on and on..it’s offensive and makes me want to run away!  Even if your intentions are good, unless you wear the hijab it’s really hard to understand what wearing it is like. I’ve had several conversations with friends about this topic. During one conversation in particular, a friend was discussing about how it is hard coping with people’s comments/perceptions of the hijab, but also especially hard when other muslims are so critical/vocal about it. Support outside of Muslims can sometimes be hard to find, and when you can’t find support among Muslim sisters, it can be an alienating and isolating experience.

Case in point: I was taking part in a class about representations of Islam a few months ago, and the first class was a general introduction to the topic. We spoke about common perceptions of Muslim women (oppressed, powerless etc etc) and went over some ways that Muslim women deal with these stereotypes. At one point in the class, one of the participants (the students was predominately non-muslim) turned and said, “hang on, is the scarf required in Islam?”.  I was the only hijabi in the room, and the teacher basically said, “no, it’s more about having a scarf around your shoulders, although there are people who take the verses more literally”.  A few moments later, she asked me to share my parents response to my decision to wear the scarf, and asked what that journey has been like. A very personal question and not one that I could really avoid answering..though I pretty much spoke in generalities. More importantly, when you have someone in authority making definitive statements like that to an audience that really doesn’t know much about Islam, it’s not fair because other people don’t understand where that opinion is coming from. And the hijabi seems like a crazy person with an ‘ultra-conservative’  understanding of Islam. The next day I wasn’t well, but even when I felt better, I didn’t return because of my discomfort and disappointment in that first session. And such experiences are all too common.

And that’s all! Going to try and post some happy positive stuff to counter this rant.cos I’d really like to keep rants OFF this blog.