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Allah says: “O you who have faith! When the call is made for prayer on Friday, hurry toward the remembrance of Allah, and leave all business. That is better for you, should you know. And when the prayer is finished disperse through the land and seek Allah’s grace, and remember Allah greatly so that you may be felicitous. When they sight a deal or a diversion, they scatter off towards it and leave you standing! Say, ‘What is with Allah is better than diversion and dealing, and Allah is the best of providers.'” (Sūrat al-Jumuʿa (62):9-11)

The Qurʾān considers Friday to be a holiday (ʿīd) for the umma, and emphasizes that Islam is unique not only in its message as compared to previous religious communities, but in its rituals as well. Jews and Christians, for example, have their own messages – the Torah and the Bible – and their own sacred days (Saturday and Sunday), but in Sūrat al-Jumuʿa the Qurʾān gives Friday prayers and the day of Friday itself their true significance in the Islamic way of life. From the outside, this is a symbol of Islam’s independence as a religious tradition, while from the inside it is a symbol of unity and harmony. And it is from these considerations and others that the divine call emanates to hasten to the Friday prayer and leave behind whatever it is you are doing, be it amusement, trade, or the other worldly affairs. Hence, the Friday prayer, for some Muslim sects and scholars, is an obligatory practice when its conditions are met.

However, many Muslim scholars consider the presence of an Islamic government and the Just Imam from the Prophetic Household as prerequisites for establishing the Friday prayer. Perhaps this centers on the fact that the Friday prayer serves both a religious and political function, and oppressors should not be allowed to use it to misguide the people and strengthen their own grip on power. It is one of the clearest and most important occasions for which Muslims gather, which the tyrants can take as a popular platform to misguide society. When we study history, we see how the sermons of Friday prayers were used to wage war against Allah’s awliyāʾ, just as the Umayyad dynasty used them to preach against Imam ʿAlī and the Prophet’s Household. Today, we see corrupt scholars turning the Friday sermons into a mouthpiece for the oppressors to the extent that they receive their sermons pre-written from the government itself and take a salary for this!

Friday is a holiday for the Muslims, and it is the foremost day of the week. Its eve (meaning Thursday night) is a night of worship and prayer, in which it is recommended to increase one’s supplication to Allah, occupy oneself with recommended acts of worship, visit graves in remembrance of death, invoke Allah’s mercy upon their occupants, and learn from their fate. This is especially true for the graves of the Imams of Guidance, and the shrine of the Master of Martyrs, Abū ʿAbd Allah al-Ḥusayn. It is also a time to renew one’s pledge with Allah’s Messenger, his Household, and Imam al-Ḥujja, to remain steadfast on the path of the message of Islam. One should also keep in touch with relatives, attend to the poor, and exchange visits with one’s brethren on this noble day. It is also fitting to hold oneself to account on this day and renew one’s resolve to regularly perform righteous deeds and resist deviation and misguidance.

Generally speaking, Friday is not a day for play and diversion, or a day to be occupied with trivial things. Rather, it is an opportunity for the faithful to dedicate their time to worshipping and remembering Allah with the best of deeds, in that the Friday prayer is distinguished by its duties, sermons and social significance. Thus, every believer is tasked with obeying this divine command so long as he does not have a religiously valid reason for not doing so; and as Allah calls every week for the Friday prayer, this duty remains a measure of the unity of the umma and the strength of their faith, in relation to their undertaking this important religious duty.

From the available legal indicators, it is apparent that the position of the Friday prayer leader is an appointment made by the position of General Authority (al-walāyat al-ʿāmma), which belongs to the Just Imam. The order of priority for one who leads the prayer is as follows: The Infallible Imam, his specifically appointed deputy, his general deputy, and in their absence it is permissible to establish Friday prayers with their general permission for one who does not fear doing so, and who is capable of delivering a sermon to the people.

And Allah knows best.

[Adapted from The Laws of Islam]

yā Laylā

i saw You dancing one day

in Chandni Chowk

and i was never the same again

i knew my father would not approve

You are not important to his business

his culture

his family

his empire

but i didn’t care

because i loved You

the kind of love that keeps one up late at night, burning for connection

and so when push came to shove

we were married

in a ceremony unattended by those from my world

and we had to go far away from where i came from so we could discover deeper levels of our love and commitment to each other

because i chose You

and i would do it all over again

and rededicate my life once more to making You happy

because i can never forget You dancing in Chandni Chowk

for You were the most beautiful

and always will be

preserving a memory

It was a long and difficult day, as I am sure it was for many.

It was the first day in my life that the news said a Shi’i Muslim American was killed by a Sunni Muslim American because he was Shi’i. Whatever the outcome of this specific court case, it was the perception that mattered. The feeling that the bloodshed that happens so regularly in Pakistan, Nigeria, Saudi, and other nations far away has finally crossed the Atlantic.

I did not tell my son about any of it.

Right before he fell asleep, he said he wanted to tell me something.

Usually, I would say, “no, it’s time to go sleep.”

But for some reason I didn’t.

He started telling me about this story he heard at school, about a fish that granted wishes. Since he was so tired, he wasn’t telling it in a way that was clear. Again, normally I would just let him trail off and say something like, “interesting,” until he fully passed out. But this time, for some unknown reason, I started asking him questions to clarify what he was trying to say. Eventually it became clear that it was a story with a moral not to be greedy with your wishes. And I thought that was it, and he would go to sleep.

But then he said, “Abba, so I thought about what I would do if I had 3 wishes.”

“Oh, what are they,” I said.

“I would wish to go back in time 1400 years, be 40 years old, and fight for Imam Husayn.”

Yes, my son, I wish that too.

another american day

I spend every day as an American the same way I spend every other day.

With the choice to obey God or not.

With the choice to believe in God or not.

With the choice to believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins or not.

With the choice to believe whether Muhammad is a Messenger from God or not.

With the choice to believe whether Krishna is waiting for me in Goloka Vrindavan or not.

With the choice to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or not.

With the choice to believe that the world is flat and George Soros has funded the Great Reset and Q has exposed the Clintons or not.

Whether this is better or worse than the daily reality of other countries is a moot point, because if I truly believed that somewhere was better for me, then wouldn’t I be obliged to move my family there for the sake of Allah (like the Sufi Auntie who gave me the unsolicited advice to move my family to Istanbul and everything would take care of itself)?

America is my country by God’s Decree. God could have created me in the womb of a woman in Botswana or Indonesia, but that was not God’s choice.

I am simply trying to be where God has established me (كن حيث أقامك الله).

Over the years I have learned a lot from studying about and visiting Saudi, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, India, Kuwait, Turkey, Bangladesh, Spain, France, Iraq, Kenya, UK, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Sweden, Syria and Norway. There are places I have yet to visit that I believe it is important for me to learn more about, such as Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, South Korea, Chile, Japan, China, Philippines, Bahrain, Lebanon, Russia, Peru, and Brazil.

But none of them are my country.

I understand this sort of connection to a nation is not how some feel, but it is how I feel. It is my daily reality.

Islamic law is just another choice I face every day, and I choose to follow the best of what I have found, and that currently means I am a muqallid of Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Taqi al-Modarressi of Karbala. In that choice, I am in solidarity with other Americans, Britishers, South Africans, Iraqis and more.

But I can always change my mind. I used to be a Hanafi, and then a Maliki, and now I am a Ja’fari. With each choice, I feel I have moved closer to what God wants from me. But only God knows and only God can judge. May Allah accept from me the deeds I have done trying to be in conformity to Allah’s laws, ameen.

Life is a journey, and if there is anything I have learned, it is to expect the unexpected. I believe Allah constantly tests the sincerity of my belief, often in ways I never foresaw, and I have found Qur’anic proofs for that, such

“Do people think once they say, ‘We believe,’ that they will be left without being put to the test? We certainly tested those before them. And Allah will clearly distinguish between those who are truthful and those who are liars.” (29.2-3)

Whether or not you believe that about yourself is up to you to decide. May Allah make me from the truthful (الصادقون), ameen.

I share this because this is my reality. Every post you have ever read from me has been articulated against this socio-political backdrop. I recognize now very few of my readers share this experience, and often my readers expect me to articulate positions that mirror their realities. But I can’t do that. All I can do is be sensitive to the realities of others, and then act accordingly from the point in space and time in which I exist.

But it is also important that my readers are sensitive to my reality, and the inescapable conclusion that faith/belief/knowledge has always been a choice for me. No one put a Qur’an in my hand and said, “believe or perish!” I chose to read the Qur’an with my own freedom, to determine if I believed that God had spoken to humanity or not. At the same time I was first reading the Qur’an, I was reading the Baha’i scriptures for the same reason.

“Whenever Our Revelation is recited to them they say, ‘We have heard all this before – we could say something like this if we wanted – this is nothing but ancient fables.’ They also said, ‘God, if this really is the truth from You, then rain stones on us from the heavens, or send us some other painful punishment.’ But God would not send them punishment while you [Prophet] are in their midst, nor would He punish them if they sought forgiveness.” (8.31-3)

And so every day I invoke blessings upon the Prophet and seek forgiveness:

أستغفر الله وأتوب إليه

اللهم صل على محمد وآل محمد

It is my choice and my tongue, and I try to use it for the sake of the One who gave it me.

Not for my parents, whom I love dearly.

Not for my country, which is a part of me.

But for my Creator (الخالق), the One who made my existence possible (المحيي), the One from whom I seek benefit (النافع), the One in whom I seek protection from harm (الضآر), the One in whom I hope to the utmost extents of hope (الوهاب), the One who I fear more than coming to the end of my own existence (الجبار).

May my Lord accept from me, āmīn.

a book published 90 years ago about our family’s first 300 years in North America

On Anthony Bourdain

Like many people, I enjoyed watching the shows of Anthony Bourdain. I can’t speak for others, but for me, I lived vicariously through his adventures. It would be nice to travel that much, and see the world Allah has created, and all of its people. It is not that I wasn’t blessed to have that possibility, but rather that I chose to focus on other things. But he was a reminder that, “dear humanity, we most certainly created all of you from a single male and a single female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may know one another.”

A darker side of me, left over from my days before Islam, subtly wished I could just eat and drink anything like he did. If a people’s food represents something of themselves, he was willing to try almost anything, and thus experience all of what humanity had to offer. I had been that way before Islam, but Islam put a number of restrictions on that process that I sometimes struggled to embrace. Late at night, when I was tired from another day of struggling to address my spiritual wounds, it was fun to fantasize about having “no reservations.”

And so I, like many others, was shocked and hurt by his suicide. How could someone who lived such an interesting life, who was appreciated by so many around the world, take his own life?! For a long time, it didn’t make any sense to me. From what I have read, it seemed that his search for something higher, as expressed through deep love for another human being, fell apart and the pain was just too much to bear.

In a way, the pre-Islamic version of myself feels like it can intuit what he was going through. Perhaps he really felt there was nothing left to live for – he had already done everything he could think to do, and the one thing that filled his heart with joy was being ripped away and there was no hope left and no refuge. But the version of my self that has been shaped by Islam recoils in horror at such a worldview, and thinks of the Qur’an stating, “and the Earth, despite its vastness, seemed to close in on you.”

I am reminded of him now, and my private grappling with his death for the last 4 years, after reading this passage tonight:

“The heart of a believer is like a garden. A believer has to face material difficulties in the world. But he is not aggrieved of these problems. These thorns only prick the body and are confined within the boundaries of the garden. However, the garden of the heart has no place for these thorns. Even in this material world the soul of the believer is safe from all calamities. ‘for such there shall be safety, and they are the rightly guided.

The sole desire of a believer in this world is that his Lord should be pleased with him. Such a person does not despair due to failures and material setbacks. He considers only Allah as his guardian and the guardian of others. He recognizes the power, wisdom and mercy of Allah. He considers Allah his Master and considers himself His slave. ‘That is because Allah is the Protector of those who believe, and because the unbelievers shall have no protector for them.’

Thus a believer does not become sorrowful and aggrieved by the difficulties of this worldly life. They do not even make him angry. Allah keeps the hearts of the believer peaceful in this world also. ‘He it is Who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers.’

A believer always faces adversity with determination. He does not stumble, nor do his feet tremble. He does not fall down on this path. He knows that behind every calamity is hidden wisdom and he alone shall be eligible for the benefit of this hidden wisdom. All that he hopes from Allah is that He removes this difficulty or in this way recompenses it so that even the physical pain does not remain for him. ‘If you suffer pain, then surely they too suffer pain as you suffer pain, yet you hope from Allah that which they do not hope in.’

That is, you hope for salvation from problems, forgiveness and rewards, but the unbelievers have no such hopes. They remain forever in the darkness of hopelessness.”

I suggest listening to the recitation of each verse, available through the links. It reached my heart, and it reminded me of how much hope Islam gives me in the face of so much sorrow on this Earth, even from the sorrows that have nothing to do with war, disease, poverty, and oppression.

This hope doesn’t erase the sadness I feel when I think about Anthony Bourdain, but it does clarify why I never took him as a role model. And more than that, it makes me realize that Islam can address the realities of all Americans. The person I was becoming before I became a Muslim was more like Anthony Bourdain than Malcolm X. In fact, with the exception of Islam, I identify far more with Anthony Bourdain than I do with Malcolm X. I was never in an actual prison, needing redemption. I didn’t grow up facing structural oppression that limited my life choices. I was, like so many other White American men, in the prison of my own self, in what another White American Male suicide David Foster Wallace calls a “tiny skull-sized kingdom, alone at the center of all creation.” And it was there that I heard the call of a caller calling towards faith in a Garden whose expanse is vaster than both the heavens and the Earth, and that has made all the difference.

So when all is said and done, thank You God for sending me the Qur’an to guide me out of darknesses and into light, and please provide hope to all those whose hearts feel heavy when they think of Anthony Bourdain.

After 24 years of being a Muslim, what do I consider the central challenge of being Muslim in the 21st century?

The tension between the local and the global.

On the one hand, Islam is supposed to be universal. In theory, some Muslim in Malaysia or Peru and I are part of the same “community.”

But on the other hand, no human being can be both in the USA and Malaysia and Peru at the same time.

Muslim communities function the same way that all human communities function – with the assumption that one person has one body that can only be located in one place on the planet Earth at any given time.

This leads to the intellectual challenge commonly known as postmodernism. “Postmodernism” is a catch-all term for the trend in human intellectual culture to focus on the ways an individual makes sense of reality. Postmodernism highlights the worldview of a single individual in history, and from that basis tries to build up a sense of the aggregate formations of human culture that are built on those individualistic building blocks.

So, for example, what does that Muslim in Peru think about the USA? What do I think about Malaysia? What does the Muslim in Malaysia think about Peru? All three places are created by God, and all three people were placed there by God (according to the most basic and universal Islamic theological concepts). But the fact of the matter is that all three of us might know nothing about the other two! Even though we are all 1) human beings, 2) Muslims, and 3) inhabitants of the planet Earth, we really are living in a state of fundamental ignorance about each other.

My entire adult life has been dedicated to overcoming this problem, and I realize that it has been part of my struggles with Facebook for the last 4 years. I am here to say that even though I have been blessed to study more than most and to travel more than most, the problem is truly daunting. I have met no single Muslim individual anywhere on Earth who is not bound by their individual limitations of study, travel, experience, and global positioning. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I do not know.

I am posting this online because the internet is by far the most accessible international medium that I have access to. But even it has limitations, due to WordPress being based in the USA, and governed by American laws. And I too am an American, governed by American laws and American standards. Because Allah decided that I would be born in the USA, and not Malaysia or Peru or anywhere else, and that I would have white skin, and that my father would be the CEO of an investment bank – all of that means I am who I am. I cannot be other than who I am, but I want to be in a state of submission to the Lord of all the worlds.

I have been to Makkah and Madinah three times to worship my Lord, but each time I have returned here to my homeland. 500 years ago, there was not a single person born on this side of the Earth (North and South America) that had ever visited Makkah even once. But still everyday myself, and the Muslims of Malaysia and Peru, face in that direction for prayer.

Put simply, the Islamic tradition that existed for the first 1000 years of the Ummah never had to deal with a truly global world. At its best, such as in the famous story of Ibn Battuta رحمة الله عليه, the conversation reached from West Africa to China (but importantly did not yet include Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand, let alone North and South America). In an era of manuscripts and travel by camel or ship, it took a long time for ideas to travel throughout those parts of Earth.

So what is the point of me saying all this?

Let’s be a little more charitable with each other, and less quick to rush to judgement. I have been guilty of this in the past, without a doubt. But I realize now how deeply complex things are, and how few are willing to face it. I am trying to sincerely grapple with it, and I am always looking for other intellects who feel that they are trying as well.

If you don’t want to face it, that is your choice. Maybe you just want to retreat to your little corner of the world where you are certain about what is right and wrong, and true and false. Maybe it is just easier to say these are the good guys/gals and those are the bad guys/gals, and besides, I have more important things to worry about like my job and my family and my health and so on.

But if that is the case, then please don’t listen to me, because what I say is just going to frustrate you, and your comments are going to frustrate me too. You are going to want me to just reaffirm what you already know to be true, and be pissed off when I deviate from the script. In every single instance where I feel that I was dismissed by another Muslim, it was because of this – because they already knew the right way of thinking and acting, and didn’t see any value in what I am trying to do.

I truly appreciate those who have engaged me online, and I want to continue that. But I want to use the internet in the best way possible, and I am realizing now that means that I need readers that understand I am an American who lives in America. I am one body and one mind, and I am located in one particular place on Earth. Perhaps if I was Lebanese and lived in Beirut, I would think differently about a number of different issues. But that’s postmodernism for you – I cannot see the world but through these 21st Century White American Male Upper Class Heterosexual Muslim eyes.

As much as I have tried to see the world through the eyes of others, and to arrive at the unadulterated universal truth and the unmediated command of the Lord, I cannot but be who I am.

Anyone who took the time to read through all the posts since 2008 could see that very clearly. I could even write a postmodern academic article about myself: “Desperately Seeking Objectivity: Epistemological Nostalgia in White American Conversion Performance” or something like that.

May al-Ḥaqq al-Ghanī accept from this faqīr, āmīn yā arḥam al-rāḥimīn!

Advice for Muslim Men

Marry one Muslim woman.

Try to make her happy.

Have kids.

Try to be a good father.

Serve your parents and your wife’s parents if they are still alive. Also honor all the aunts/uncles/cousins on your side and your wife’s side, so that you are a source of benefit to both extended families.

Do what is obligatory (farḍ/wājib).

Avoid what is forbidden (ḥarām).

If you have any energy and time left over after doing all this consistently, maybe do some extra fasting (ṣawm), or memorize some more Qurʾān, or pray the recommended night prayer (ṣalāt al-layl), or if you have extra wealth give recommended charity (ṣadaqa) to the best organizations you can find.

It’s not that complicated.

But it isn’t easy.

This is your struggle (jihād).

الله

“The best of you is the one who is best to their family, and I am the best of all to my family.”

Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ

the undying hope

ya Husayn

my baby is asleep

the night is quiet

a little warm

but there is no thirst here

blessing upon blessing

uncountable

my mind wanders to desert sands

burning and pain

tears and longing

how history treated you differently

there was no quiet for rest

there was where innocence was lost

the young who witnessed the slaughter

had no earthly hope for redress

trauma met only with certainty

tribulation met only with perseverance

i can only hope that my children

use their comfort and ease

to light Husayni fires

and invite all to share

in the light and warmth

you have given us

the undying hope

that dispels all darkness

ya Husayn

Hail, Maryam

Hail, Maryam, full of grace,

peace be upon thee.

Blessed art thou amongst women

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, ʿĪsā.

Holy Maryam, Servant of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death,

ameen.

growing up

i thought i had something then

but i didn’t have you

i thought i was something then

but where were you

our Lord’s Mercy made it possible

so i could enjoy for many years

the hero of my own story

then i was told of Karbala

and my heroics were washed away

in blood and tears

nothing but a child i was

lost in his own fantasy world

dreaming of courage and insight

better to be nothing more

than a dying body riddled with arrows

to keep you safe

noble grandson of humanity’s peak

blessings and peace upon you both

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