Archive for February, 2013

for my families

Dear God,

I do not think they want their names on the web, and so that is why I am writing this new prayer. I’ll keep the other one to myself. You know, and i know, that everything always comes back to this. You know, and i now know, that only You can make it so. You are Mercy itself (الرحمان الرحيم). You are Forgiveness and Love (الغفور الودود). Who can i ask but You? What can i do? If i made Hajj 20 times, would that guarantee our place in the Highest Garden (فردوس)? If I fasted every other day, would that save us from the standing before You and accounting (حساب) for our deeds? It is only You, the One, the Only, to whom i can turn. And i have nothing to give but my feeble acknowledgement of the eternal fact that You are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy (أرحم الراحمين). But You already know that. I cannot praise You with anything befitting the reality of You. And as i praise, You look with the vision that encompasses all things, including the flaws and weaknesses and doubts and sins of my inner state. I am just one of billions of souls right now on this earth, and yet You compassionately listen to me.

I am a broken and weak and dependent slave who can do nothing but turn to his Master and simply beg. Beg that you save me and those i love. Beg that You do everything that i cannot do, out of recognition that everything i can do is only an illusion – it is nothing but what You do through me. But i am to blame for all the mistakes and ugliness and imperfection. But my lowliness, ya Allah!, does not detract from Your Beauty and Majesty one iota. My selfishness does not impact Your Mercy. So i ask You, not by my own rank, but by Your own Knowledge of Your own Mercy and its unfathomable manifestations which are uncountable by Your creation, to save my families and me from all suffering (عذاب). Encompass us with and include us in “neither shall they fear nor shall they grieve (لا خوف عليهم ولا هم يحزنون).”

There is no god but You. You are the One sought by all (الصمد). There is no where to turn but You. There is no one to beseech but You. There is no refuge but in You. If i should die tonight, i want it to be that i left no stone unturned in my heart for the sake of the salvation of my families. Through them, I have reached the extent of my ability to love and sacrifice. And how little i love and sacrifice. But You, ya Allah, you can do anything, whereas i can do nothing. You can give and give and give, whereas i get tired and want to sit by myself and regroup. so i leave it all at Your doorstep, on this night, because i have no sense of what the future holds.

You, forever.

You, my hope.

You, because i have nothing left.

You, الله

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Before I was passionate about faith, I was passionate about religion as a social, historical, and cultural phenomenon. In high school, I used to incessantly read this website that described hundreds of different “new religious movements.” Who was the founder? What was the doctrinal structure of the group? Any controversies (embezzlement, sexual misconduct, etc.)? For whatever reason, it just fascinated me more than anything else (ignoring, for the sake of argument, fascinations driven more by my testosterone levels, like skateboarding, punk rock, and cute girls). But as I studied all of this, there was one clear “spiritual” question in my mind – “what does it mean to be truly grateful?” By the time I was 15, I was very aware of how “lucky” I was, and I wanted to know to whom I should show gratitude. My parents, to be sure. My country, without a doubt. But was there something, or someone else?

That search eventually led me to Islam, and in Islam I have found that gratitude is at the core of the experience of faith. On Hajj last year, while casually reading from my wife’s prayer book, I discovered a prayer from the Qur’an which summarized my life goals: “My Lord, enable me to be grateful for Your favor which You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents and to work righteousness of which You approve. And admit me by Your mercy amongst Your righteous servants.” (27.19) And recently, I re-read something which, of all the words in history that come from human beings who are not endowed with prophethood (nubuwwa), may be the most true and beneficial that I have ever found. I would like to think that if the teenage David had read these words, he could have saved himself a lot of time studying, and just gotten down to the real work of trying to live up to this exalted ideal.

“Your condition must always be either a tribulation or a blessing. If it happens to be a trial, you are required to endure it with perseverance (at the lower end of the scale) and patience (which is a higher grade), then cheerful acceptance and compliance, then annihilation [fana’], which is proper to the Abdal. If it is a blessing, on the other hand, it behooves you to be grateful for it. Thanks can be offered with the tongue, the heart, and the limbs and organs of the body.

To give thanks with the tongue means acknowledging that the blessing is from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), and dissociating it from creatures, from your own self and your power, strength and earning capacity, and from any other persons who may have had a hand in it. You and they are only means, tools and instruments for it, while its real allotter, executor and creator, the one responsible for it as active agent and prime mover, is Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). The allotter is Allah, the executor is He, and the creator is He, so He is more deserving of thanks than any other. Attention is paid not to the errand-boy who delivers a present, but to the master, the sender of the gift. Concerning those who lack this correct attitude, Allah (Exalted is He) has said: They know an outward part of this world’s life, and of the hereafter they are heedless. (30.7) If someone notices only the exterior and the apparent cause, and his knowledge and understanding go no further, he is ignorant, defective and lacking in intelligence. An intelligent person is so called on account of his insight into ultimate principles.

As for giving thanks with the heart, this means holding the constant belief, the firm, strong and secure conviction, that everything you have in the way of blessings, benefits and enjoyments, outwardly and inwardly, be you active or at rest, comes from Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) and from no other. When you give thanks with your tongue, you will be expressing what you feel in your heart. As He says (Almighty and Glorious is He): And whatever blessing you enjoy, it is from Allah. (16.53) He also says (Exalted is He): And He has lavished on you His blessings, outward and inward. (31.20) He says further (Exalted is He): And if you count the favor of Allah, you will never add it up. (16.18) In the light of all of this, the believer can have no benefactor apart from Allah (Exalted is He).

As for giving thanks with the limbs and organs of the body, you do this by making them move and work in obedience to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) to the exclusion of all creatures. You must not respond to the behest of any creature in anything involving opposition to Allah (Exalted is He). This extends to the self, the passions, self-will, desires, and everything else in the realm of creation. Make obedience to Allah the basic principle, the guide and leader, and everything else the offshoot, the follower and disciple. If you do otherwise you will be a despotic tyrant, applying a rule that is not the rule laid down by Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) for His believing servants, treading a path that is not the way of the righteous.” Revelations of the Unseen by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir, trans. of Futuh al-Ghayb by Muhtar Holland, pp. 140-1


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The following words, written by one of my teachers from the U.K., summarize why I became Muslim in 1998, why I remain Muslim in 2013, and why I hope to always be a Muslim until my last breath on this Earth, if God so wills.

“Further, if man’s nature is not rooted in the metaphysical, if his destiny does not lie in some higher place, then his existence is desolate and meaningless, and can be articulated only through values and artforms which are broken evocations of ugliness and chaos.

No culture since Adam has lived in deeper ignorance of what man truly is: a symmetrical, noble form enshrining a soul, an organ capable of such translucence that it can, when the senses and passions which distract it are stilled, form a window onto that Reality of which this world offers no more than a distorted reflection. For those human beings who have been granted this state of awakening, the real world which they survey is truer than anything they had known here-below. All of us will see the real world, the akhira, at death. But only the Prophets fully know of it before they die, and hence can warn their contemporaries. The revelations which God gives them, and which they give to mankind, are thus the only sources of meaning and understanding which will ever be available. To hold to them is to cling to a rope let down from God, while to let go is to fall ineluctably into chaos.

Muslims are aware that today’s dominant culture (and we should recall that its dominance lies exclusively on the political and economic plane), is built on a single determining fact: the considered rejection of Christianity. This apostasy was the logical result of Europe’s discovery that the Bible was a historical product, a distorted text in which the words of the Prophets could no longer be heard with confidence. Cut off from any reliable access to the transcendent, Europe’s outlook could henceforth seek descriptions of the world only through the physical sciences, which were by definition incapable of yielding information about the akhira, or about man’s meaning rather than his material surroundings. Modern man thus appears as the absolute antithesis of the man of iman [faith], the man of secure awareness of the divine Reality and the tremendous destiny which awaits those who respond to it.” (Abdal Hakim Murad, in the preface to The Lives of Man by Imam al-Haddad, pp. viii-ix)


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My Autobiography Summarized

In loving memory of Nishat Aunti/Ammi/Mumanijan, may Allah have mercy on her and reunite us in the company of the Messenger of God

I always thought I was going to write my spiritual autobiography, but I know now that I cannot. God has veiled so much from the the eyes of others, and it is bad etiquette to disclose the secrets that God has hidden. But I want to share with you the thesis of this unwritten narrative nonetheless.

I have been saved by Mercy, over and over again. There is something inside of me – a selfishness, a pathology, a disease – that has infected my life. It has kept me from being truly grateful for the immense blessings I have been given, and instead preferred base desires, egotistical control, delicious seductions, pleasure-in-pain, and so many other forms of oppression over the pure soul (ruh) that I now know is real. But Mercy (al-Rahman al-Raheem) and Light (al-Nur) are far stronger than the self-oppression and darknesses of this evanescent world. When I remember that, all I can I say is “praise be to God who guided us to this, for never would we have been guided if God had not guided us.”

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir writes, “Three things inevitably demand the attention of every believer under all circumstances. A commandment to be obeyed, a prohibition to be respected, and a divine decree to be accepted with good grace. In even the most trivial situation, at least one of the three is bound to apply. The believer must therefore keep his mind and feelings focused upon them, talk to himself about them, and practice the physical self-discipline they require of him at all times.” [Revelations of the Unseen, trans. of Futuh al-Ghayb by Muhtar Holland, p. 9]

My entire spiritual journey in Islam, since October 1998 until February 2013, has been about my struggle to live up to that paragraph. I am still not there yet, but I’ll keep trying and relying on the Strong (al-Qawi) when I am weak, the All-Knowing (al-Aleem) when I am ignorant, and the Most Merciful of those who show mercy (arham al-rahimeen) when that thing inside me fights back and says, “No! I am in control.” It is proof enough that the the Lord of the worlds is Mercy beyond comprehension when we are not obliterated the first time we talk back. Instead, like our distant ancestors Adam and Hawwa, we are given a chance to say, “Our Lord, we have wronged our own souls. If you do not forgive us and have mercy on us, then truly we will be lost!”

Deepest thanks go to those who have played an unambiguously positive role, through word and deed, in helping me to grapple with this. Without them, I do not know where I would be. Some are very close to me, like Nishat. Others I met only once, like this young scholar named Omar. Still others, like Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir, I have known only through their words. But all of them have been manifestations of “they encourage one another to Truth and they encourage one another to patience.”

The narrative will not end until I die, and I pray that God grants me, by Mercy, the death of “those brought near (al-muqarrabun)” as described in the end of Surah al-Waqi’a. I will always need to ask for forgiveness for my rebellions against the Possessor of Sovereignty (Malik al-Mulk), for the Prophet Muhammad, the best human being that there will ever be from the first to the last, said, “O people, repent to your Lord, for verily I seek forgiveness from Allah and repent to him more than seventy times in a day.” May blessings and peace be upon him and his family for all eternity!


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My Golden Pelydryn

Human beings are religious creatures because they are imaginative

– Karen Armstrong


In these words I am free, under the watch of my Lord.

No one comes here but by choice, and for that I rejoice.

I do not want to burden you.

There is enough pain already – may my words heal.

May I be a vessel for a Mercy vast –

the same Mercy in which my dreams are stored,

the same Mercy by which I hope my imperfection is kept at bay.

There is a shift happening –

from a prayer that each day bring me good,

to a prayer that each day others are brought good through me.

So I write these words with that hope.

May my self displayed on your screen,

by which I travel beyond the confines of my daily routine,

be something that makes this world a better place.

No one will read this but those who choose to,

saving me from the worry of burdening others –

my missive to whomever God chooses to spend moments in communion with me.


What matters is that right now I can do something.

I can write.

That is what has been given to me.

And so I pour every good that I can muster into this task,

hoping that trying to think of others more than my self,

will cause these words to shine brightly –

a protection from harm

a way out of darkness

a sign of love

revealing words that were written

in a book unlike any other

in a time before time

when our story was composed

with ink from shoreless seas.

لا إله إلا انت سبحانك إني كنت من الظالمين

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Dear David

Dear David,

When will you abandon all your concerns and flee to Me? When will you renounce your need for any-thing or any-one except the One (al-Ahad)? When will you remember that everything you have that gives you a sense of possibility in your life is on loan from Me? Have you not heard My words: “Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwelling in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving hard in His cause, then wait until Allah brings about His Decision. And Allah guides not the people who are disobedient.” (Surah al-Tawba, verse 24) When will you stand up and be counted?! Do you think that I cannot suffice You? Do you think that any-one or any-thing could give you any happiness at all were I to turn away from you? If I love you, then you do not need anything else, and if I do not love you, then even if I were to put love for you in the heart of every human being you have ever known and will know, it would lead you only to sadness.

You sit there amidst the blessings I have given you, and you even type these words because of the health, free time, and sustenance which comes only from Me. Yet, in your heart there remains attachment to that which is other than Me. All of that will wither, and you have yet to let My words fully enter your heart: “Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose resulting plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes scattered debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment, as well as forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion.” (Surah al-Hadid, verse 20) In this life, I will give you what I give you. If I have not chosen it for you, then all of your psychological scheming and physical efforts will not bring it to you. If I have chosen it for you, then relax, for it will reach you in due time. You have not yet embraced in your heart the words of my servant, who taught you, “Give yourself a rest from managing! When Someone Else is doing it for you, don’t you start doing it for yourself!” (Ibn Ata’illah, Hikam #5)

I do not say all of this to be harsh, for you know that I am the Most Merciful of those who show mercy (arham al-rahimin). I say it for your own good. You will die, you know that. Everyone you love will die. You know that too. So rely on Me, “the Living who does not die,” (Surah al-Furqan, verse 58) “the First and the Last, the Outward and the Inward,” (Surah al-Hadid, verse 3) for I am knowing of all things. And believe Me with all your heart when I say, “…and with Us is even more.” (Surah Qaf, verse 35)

Listen to the words of the one I sent to call you back to Me: “Allah says: ‘I have prepared for My righteous slaves that which no eye has seen, no ear has heard and has never crossed the mind of human beings. All of that is reserved, besides which all that you have known is as nothing.’ Then he recited: ‘No person knows what is kept hidden for them of joy as a reward for what they used to do’ [Surah al-Sajdah, verse 17].” This was narrated by My servant al-Bukhari.

I will suffice you, for all eternity, for I am the One who created you, and I know everything you need, want, imagine, and have even yet to imagine. “There is no god but I, so worship Me.” (Surah al-Anbiya, verse 25)

For your benefit,

The Lord of all things, Who revealed the Qur’an, and Who speaks to you in your mind, heart, and soul

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