وَعَادَاهُ لَكَ بِحَقِيقَةِ الْعُبُودِيَّة

shows enmity toward [Shayṭān] through the reality of servanthood



once upon a time

someone knew You

he knew You better than most

he loved You

he worshipped You

the mysteries of the unseen were his

and yet

he did not obey You

he did not affirm the rank of what You created

he did not submit

thinking that his knowledge of You

saved him from You

and so he was banished from Your mercy


even though

he was not banished from knowing You


so we seek Your mercy

for only You are to be feared

and we seek refuge in You from You

for knowing You

does not necessarily save us from You


so grant me the realization of my eternal servitude

by Your mercy

send me where You will

not as i will

engage me in that which You want

not what i want

surround me with those You choose

not those i choose


if you want me to make sajda

to someone You created

i will

for You know that which i do not

and i am Your servant

nothing more

لا إله إلا أنت سبحانك إني كنت من الظالمين



‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.


I don’t remember precisely what year in high school the momentous event took place. But I do remember it quite well.

I had a music stand in my bedroom that I used for a variety of purposes. On it I put a picture of Jesus and a picture of Krishna. I turned the lights down low. Perhaps I lit a candle (although I am not sure).

And I prayed. Perhaps for the first time in my life I really prayed with sincerity, because I actually wanted an answer.

Dear Jesus and Krishna.

People tell me that you are God.

I don’t know what to think.

The pictures of both of you are beautiful

and the stories are moving.

But I am confused.

If one of you is really God

then please show me.

And nothing happened.

My mind could not accept that either were the Creator of everything I had ever known. Even though hundreds of millions believed in them, and some people dedicated their whole lives to serving them, I could not even take the first step. Was it arrogance on my part for not seeing the truth? Was I hesitant because I was addicted to worldly desires? Or was I actually a sincerely searching soul that wanted clarity regarding the mutually contradictory claims of competing religious traditions? I figured praying for an answer made sense.

And then came Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him and his family. He did not say he was God, but that he was the Messenger of God. And the words he uttered made sense to my mind as well as challenged it.



Does man not consider that We created him from a [mere] sperm-drop – then at once he is a clear adversary? 

And he presents for Us an example and forgets his [own] creation. He says, “Who will give life to bones while they are disintegrated?”

Say, “He will give them life who produced them the first time; and He is, of all creation, Knowing.”

To this day, as much as I believe in it, it is hard to imagine being resurrected. But the Qur’an is so clear on this point: I was already dead once. I have already experienced it.


How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him you will be returned.

And so I became a Muslim. I found out that I was willing to take the first step – not a leap, but a step.

But with each step came another step. Pray, even when I prefer to do other things. Fast, even when I am starving and tired. Avoid the forbidden, even when I crave it. Again, the Qur’an let me know what was coming.


Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried?

But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars.

And that is how it has been every day since. When I want to give up, the Qur’an is there to set me straight.


Those who remained behind rejoiced in their staying [at home] after [the departure of] the Messenger of Allah and disliked to strive with their wealth and their lives in the cause of Allah and said, ‘Do not go forth in the heat.” Say, “The fire of Hell is more intensive in heat” – if they would but understand.

I could have remained the secular agnostic I was when I made that prayer, or I could have chosen Christianity or Hinduism due to some sort of metaphysical intervention in my skeptical questioning. Or I could have given up striving a long time ago and just been content to be who I was. But it was the Qur’an that guided my steps.


We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness?

My Lord witnessed me that night, and I eventually found the answer to my prayer. I began taking steps down a certain path, and as I look back on the last 25 years, that made all the difference. As I look ahead 25 years, there is so much left to do. And so now is not the time to stop, for I have a promise to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.


Among the believers are men true to what they promised Allah. Among them is he who has fulfilled his vow [to the death], and among them is he who awaits [his chance]. And they did not alter [the terms of their commitment] by any alteration

10 Years of Mercy

Unexpectedly, I am brought back to reflect on how this blog began 10 years ago. March 2008 to March 2018.

I don’t think anyone knows that the name of this blog, “A Mercy Case,” came from the Hindu story of Jagai and Madhai. In short, two sinful guys (Jagai and Madhai) throw an earthen pot at a religious person named Nityananda, causing his face to bleed. Nityananda’s spiritual master, Chaitanya, is about to kill them in response, but Nityananda intercedes and they are spared. Moved by this act of compassion, Jagai and Madhai reform their lives and follow the teachings of Chaitanya.

Back in March 2008 (when this blog began), a Hindu friend described the incident of Jagai and Madhai as “a mercy case,” and that was my inspiration.


In my very first post, I alluded to this:

Guidance can sometimes come from the most unexpected of places. The inspiration to write came from a chance encounter a week ago, and the title of this endeavor came from a phrase used by a friend of mine who is not a Muslim. Wherever we turn, God is there, no matter how often we forget.

The same Truth still holds today.

I have lived the last 10 years in the tension between believing that God is guiding me and admitting the possibility that I am in a state of delusion. The atheist surely believes I am deluded, whereas a Hindu might consider me to be more or less going in the right direction, but with some serious modifications to be made if I want to succeed at the moment of my death. But the most important thing to me is that, if you have lived life through my eyes, then God is surely real and in whom else can I possibly hope except the One who is with me wherever I am. And I can not live life through any eyes but my own, as much as I may wish I were able to experience existence the way millions of others do. Only God can do that.

لَّا تُدْرِكُهُ الْأَبْصَارُ وَهُوَ يُدْرِكُ الْأَبْصَارَ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ

No vision can take Him in, but He takes in all vision. He is the All Subtle, the All Aware.

Over the last 10 years, these posts have contained many many quotes. It is inevitable that our religious ideas are formed by the ideas of others. And so I want to share a quote (see video below) on this special occasion that describes my experience of faith probably better than anything else. Maybe in the next ten years faith will mean something different to me than it does now, but I do not know my future. All I know is my present and what I can remember of the past. It is no surprise to me that this quote comes from Hamza Yusuf, one of my teachers and someone who has had a lasting impact on thousands if not millions. Whenever I speak with him, I am reminded that we are both searchers.

Almost without a doubt, 10 years from now some of us will not be here. Only God knows. Best to keep on doing our best, worshiping our Lord until certainty comes.

May the Most Merciful of those who show mercy lead us all into Eternal Mercy, ameen.



Numerous choices are looming.

حسبنا الله و نعم الوكيل

God is sufficient for us and the best to act on our behalf

There is no way my mind can encompass all the myriad factors relevant to these choices. Past, present and future are lumped together, and I know next to nothing about them all. Better to let the All-Knowing (العليم) lead me.

The other day a friend gave me a dhikr to read, and said I would see the Prophet in my sleep.

صل الله عليه و آله و سلم

blessings and peace be upon him and his family

But I did not. I cannot describe the anticipation I felt lying in bed, and the concomitant disappoint when I awoke. I tried it two nights in a row. But it does not change my reliance (توكل) on Allah. Whether I am given access to the unseen or not does not absolve me of the moral responsibility (تكليف) to do my best. I have to choose – that is what religion is (دين).

I choose that which is best for my child in this world and the next. I choose that which will bring me closer to the pleasure (رضوان) of Allah. I choose that which is most beneficial for humanity, animals, the trees, the water, and the soil. I choose that which will express my gratitude (شكر) to the Creator for the miracle of existence.

The most striking thing I have read in the last few months comes from a commentary on the last 30th of the Qur’an by Shaykh Habib al-Kadhimi.

A person does not need, in order to realize the magnitude of Allah’s generosity, to travel to faraway lands or plumb the depths of their soul. It is sufficient that they consider the contents of their body, especially those incredible signs that Allah has deposited in their heads (“two eyes”) and their wonders. Not only are they organs of perception, but they are also a medium through which we can convey feelings and emotions, or even spiritual influence; “a tongue” that serves amazing purposes, whether in chewing, speaking, or swallowing; “two lips” that are essential for speech, for they are the final instrument for forming sounds after the throat and mouth cavity. It should be obvious that the act of speaking with one’s tongue and lips is one of the most complex processes in existence, as it involves taking thought, which exists beyond the senses, and expressing it in a sensible format. It is through these two processes of thought and expression that all forms of human learning and knowledge are ultimately transmitted. (pp. 188-9)

The fact of the matter is that our own existence is a miracle. Everything else is just details. Whether I am writing something profound or stupid is not nearly as amazing as the fact that I am writing at all. That I am this thing with 10 fingers and ideas in my head and feelings in my heart that manifest as squiggly lines on the computer screen in front of my eyes. And that somewhere out there is another thing with 10 fingers and two eyes who can hear in their head what I am thinking right now as I write this and they read this!

The Qur’an further elaborates this existential truth when it states:

أ أنتم أشد خلقاً أم السماء

Are you more difficult to create or the heavens?!

Just look around you. We are on a planet floating in space around a massive ball of fire surrounded by innumerable other realms.


Work may cause you to forget it. Family life may cause you to forget it. The particularities of religion may even cause you to forget it. But it is the clear and present truth of existence.

يا حي يا قيوم

O Living! O Self-Subsisting!

And so I am grateful. I am grateful that I am. I am grateful that the Giver of Life (المحي) gave me life. I am grateful that I am surrounded by other beings who have been granted life and that we can communicate with each other. I am grateful that I exist. I am grateful that you exist.

And so I will choose. Imperfect me will choose the best I know how. I have been down this road before.

But there is something different now in this season of choosing – I have been blessed to learn some of the words of the Ahl al-Bayt, upon them peace. Words I didn’t know before when I made important choices about family and career.

لو عرفوا الناس محاسن كلامنا لآتبعونا

If humanity knew the beauty of our words, they would follow us

We are a people of words: Divine Speech, Prophetic Words, and the Wisdom of Wilayah. Without those words, how could I know myself? It is the beauty of those words that make me burn inside with yearning to see those who utter them. It is words that changed my life. And so I close with some of those words, trusting in theirs more than my own.

O God,

I ask from You the best in Your knowledge,

so bless Muhammad and his Household

and decree for me the best!

Inspire us with knowledge to chose the best

and make that a means to being pleased with what You have decreed for us

and submitting to what You have decided!

Banish from us the doubt of misgiving

and confirm us with the certainty of the sincere!

Visit us not with incapacity to know what You have chosen,

lest we despise Your measuring out,

dislike the place of Your good pleasure,

and incline toward that which is further from good outcome

and nearer to the opposite of well-being!

Make us love what we dislike in Your decree

and make easy for us what we find difficult in Your decision!

Inspire us to yield to that which You bring upon us by Your will,

lest we love the delay of what You have hastened

and the hastening of what You have delayed,

dislike what You love,

and choose what You dislike!

Seal us with that which is most praised in outcome

and most generous in issue!

Surely You give generous gain,

bestow the immense,

do what You will,

and You are powerful over everything.


i will never be good enough

i will never know enough

i will never do enough


so in what do i hope


وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِين


my Mother

hold me close

my Father

please be proud of me

my Lover

do not leave me

my Lord

save me from punishment


i have nothing to offer except my neediness

nothing to give that is worthy of You


for what can i give that is not already Yours


i am sorry

a thousand times over

i am sorry


i am sorry i cannot be better

i am sorry i have failed so many times

i am sorry i forget You

and feel entitled to what You have blessed me with


this is me

but You are You

the One that everyone needs

and yet needs no one


يا أرحم الراحمين



Spending a week and a half volunteering at the Rohingya Culture Center (RCC) in Chicago has changed my perspective.

It is as if I can imagine this entire Earth, with all of its abundance flowing from Divine Generosity.

“who made the earth a bed, and the sky a canopy; and it is He who sends down rain from above for the growth of every kind of food for your sustenance…” (2.22)


And from those free gifts, we build societies. Without land and air and water and crops, there would be no skyscrapers and smartphones and hospitals and universities. As Bataille showed so many years ago, it is not scarcity that drives us – it is expenditure of the surplus. We create more and more because our basic needs are met.

But these possibilities are not equally spread across the globe. Building a skyscraper in Chicago is easier to do than in many other places, because there is a concentration of wealth and talent. But what is harder to see is that Chicago is also a place where it is easier to connect people to basic needs. If you can build a skyscraper, the infrastructure already exists to help people in terms of school, health, and work.

I sat with Rohingya kids trying really hard to do their math homework, even though those of us who grew up here would consider the institutions they attend as “bad schools.” But guess what – it is either the best school they have ever gone to or the ONLY school they have ever been allowed to attend. I saw Rohingya elders sit patiently listening to someone translate for them a letter explaining their government-supported health benefits. I listened to Rohingya young adults talk about working at Dunkin Donuts or O’hare airport with pride, because as undocumented refugees in Malaysia their only option would have been the shadow economy. School, health, and work are all available to them, and thus they are now perhaps some of the most privileged Rohingya globally. And they channel that relative privilege into doing everything they can for their friends, family, and community in other countries who are in much worse circumstances.

And in doing so I realized that I had made a mistake in considering something specific like treatable glaucoma to be where I needed to focus my efforts. Rather, there is a more fundamental issue at stake. Will those with access to the global surplus make the effort to help those who are struggling with basic needs? Matters of inequality need to be understood globally, and take into account everything from ecological systems to international refugee politics.

Let us be clear. After seeing how Chicago is handling 1,500 Rohingya refugees who came through Malaysia, I can say with absolute confidence that Saudi Arabia has the capacity to welcome at least 10,000 of the more than 59,000 Rohingya living in Malaysia. Easily. And yet, the Crown Prince boasts about wanting to spend $500 billion to build a new economic hub on the Red Sea.

I literally could not dream up a more grotesque example of injustice in the Ummah, but this is the reality of the world we live in. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya want a clean place to sleep, a simple meal a few times a day, an opportunity to work manual labor, a safe place to give their kids an elementary school education, and the ability to travel freely with a passport. The so-called “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” not only does not provide that because he’d prefer to build skyscrapers in the desert, but then grants citizenship to a robot just to rub it in their face.

It is so sick. So so sick. Like, I can’t even believe that it is true. Like, I am literally writing these words and asking myself if I am dreaming because how could that possibly be real. How could I possibly live in a world like this, and how could a person like this possibly be in control of the most sacred places of worship in my faith??!!

And so the truth of what I wrote on October 30th, 2017 is even more clear now:

Now is the time when zuhd must become central to our lives. To give up our need for this world and what other people have, because there are so many who literally have nothing but memories of their loved ones’ brutal deaths. This world is already a dystopia, and the only way we make it livable is to be people of zuhd. The vast majority of Rohingya have nowhere to go simply because no one is willing to take them in and share with them what they have.

I cannot control the immigration policy of wealthy Muslim countries, but I can greet my Rohingya brothers and sisters in my hometown of Chicago as best I know how. My wife and I have donated money to the RCC and intend to give more insha’Allah. Over the last week and a half I got to know the board, the employees, the many volunteers, and most importantly, the kids. I truly hope that the little girls of the RCC like Lala and Zaynab, and the little boys like Yunus and Yusuf, will grow up safe in Chicago. They are far away from the horrific brutality of the Tatmadaw and the lack of welcome experienced by so many Rohingya around the world. May they always be protected, and may their lives be filled with Love and Light.

Insha’Allah, the RCC will bring great benefit to the Rohingya worldwide and also bring blessings to the city of Chicago. Almost every night, I came home before my parents went to sleep, and they asked me about it. Through me, they learned about the Rohingya and expressed their support and concern. If we had not had these exchanges, at best they would have read a newspaper article somewhere in between debates about the tax bill and the latest sports scores. But now their son knows one of those young Rohingya men from the articles, Abdul Samad, the youngest board member of the RCC. And so what was once just the name of an ethnic group from some faraway place is now transformed in our minds and hearts into real flesh and blood individuals who live only 25 minutes away from where I grew up skateboarding and playing in a band with Pete Wentz.

I feel like God had this all planned a long time ago. The Powerful (al-Qadir) created the conditions for me to make a choice, and The Witness (al-Shaheed) waited and watched as I figured it out over the last few months. As if it was stated, “I am going to turn the son of the former CEO of a Chicago-based investment bank into a Muslim in 1998, and then in 2012 I am going to start bringing Rohingya to Chicago, and then in 2017 I am going to make him aware of it and see what he chooses to do…”

“It is He who has made you successors on the earth, and raised some of you in rank above others so that He may test you in respect to what He has given you. Indeed your Lord is swift in retribution, and indeed He is all-forgiving, all-merciful.” (6.165)

I cannot force the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to use his privilege in the right way. All I can do is use my much lesser privilege as best I know how. Each individual has to figure out how they can spiritually respond to the realities of systemic injustice. At the end of the day, both the Crown Prince and myself ultimately owe our social position to our fathers, and have never once worried about our basic needs. We will be judged justly by the Just (al-‘Adl). For the fundamental global issue is the same, and we both are on the proverbial hot seat. It is in our best interest to constantly remember the prayer attributed to the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him and his family:

Praise is due to Allah Who has fed us, provided us drink, satisfied us and gave us protection. Many are those who have no one to provide for them, or give them shelter.


The Board of the RCC (Allah grant them tawfiq and taysir, ameen!)

there was once a woman named Zaynab

who was more important to God than i will ever be

and she witnessed things far worse than i have ever known

and yet she said

ما رأيت إلا جميلا


there is a Love that never ends

يا ودود

there is a Light that always shines

يا نور

beyond the sadness and darkness


the angels knew we were rapists and killers

but they couldn’t see the secret within

that could know all the Names


how do you know Love

how do you know Light

how can a woman see mutilated bodies

and say

ما رأيت إلا جميلا


“…The fact is that it is not the eyes that turn blind, but what turns blind are the hearts contained in the chests”


there are times when what my heart sees is more real than what is before my eyes


i asked the young Rohingya girl what her name was

“Zaynab,” she said

and she told me that her Play-Doh

was rice and some aloo and an onion

but all i could see

was Beauty


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