Archive for April, 2021


I am really writing this for myself. I pray that those who read it find benefit, and if they notice something off, let me know.

But I want to write it down so I don’t forget. The first Ramaḍān with two kids has made it harder to maintain focus on matters of the mind, so I hope that by writing down my thoughts they may reach deeper into my heart. I will refrain from detailed references in the interest of time.

First, the tafsīr of Sūrah al-ʾAʿla mentioned that one of the ways we honor (sabbih) the Name (ismi) of our Lord (Rabbika) is by not denigrating the names of other gods. This teaching comes straight from another Qur’anic verse. Muslims who mock Gaṇeśa, Rāma, Kṛṣṇa and other Hindu deities are going against the Qur’anic verse which reminds the Muslims that such behavior may lead others to not take Allah seriously or even mock Allah, al-Raḥmān, al-Raḥīm, and so on.

Secondly, Sūrah al-Zumar directly describes gratitude (shukr) as faith. That feeling I have had since my youth – that gratitude towards parents, community and ultimately Allah is the foundation of Islam – is made clear in this verse.

Thirdly, the “illā mā shāʾ Allāh (except what Allah wills)” verse in Sūrah al-ʾAlaʿ was meant to remind the Prophet (blessings and peace upon him and his family) that even something that was promised to him was contingent on the Divine Will. This produced deeper hope and fear in his heart for his Lord. The mufassir connects this to another verse that uses the same phrase in regards the Hereafter. This is an answer to my question about contingent eternity – that if we are too rooted in the awareness that we exist forever, we may come to disregard our status as ultimately utterly dependent upon Allah for everything. I think this can be seen in the less theistic Hindu philosophical systems (darśana-s) that accept the eternity of the soul as a fact without the need to ascribe the existence of that soul as utterly dependent upon the Lord (īśvara). So if even the Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace upon him and his family) can feel increased spiritual hope and fear at the reminder that all of the promises he is given are contingent, then of course so do we. It is a subtle point, to be sure, but I think deeply important for reflection.

Lastly, the immense joy at the guilty verdict in the George Floyd case was a powerful reminder of the fiṭrī human love for justice on Earth, as opposed to in the Hereafter. I felt like all my Sunnī and non-Muslim friends were implicitly chanting, “Labbayka yā Mahdī!” yesterday. In particular, Attorney General Ellison’s remarks about accountability leading to the “restoration” in which true justice is rooted was just so striking.

Subḥān Allāh, even in the past few minutes I have written this, I feel like there are a few more realizations that I cannot recall. But as the verse in Sūrah al-ʾAlaʿ says, “and you shall not forget, except what Allah wills!”

May Allah allow beneficial truths to penetrate my being such that I carry them with me wherever I go and embody them in my behaviors in all situations, āmīn yā Walī al-Tawfīq!

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ya Husayn

we lost our friend this week

and our grief is real

but we know it will pass

and the world will return to what it was


he died at home

surrounded by family

and a whole community mourned him

and raised money for his legacy


but where was the outpouring when you died

O Master of the Martyrs*

where was the community when your head was raised on a lance

and paraded through the streets of Kufa and Damascus

where were the donations to take care of Zaynab and Sakina

when your unburied body lay on the sands of Karbala

who was there to lament the deaths of Qasim and Ali al-Akbar

who couldn’t bear to see you hurt and betrayed

ya Aba Abdillah*


for we loved our friend

and respected our friend

but he was not you

he was not the grandson of the Messenger of Allah

blessings and peace upon him and his family

he was not the Lamp of Guidance*

and the Ark of Salvation*

he was not Husayn ibn Ali

nor are any of us


and he was not killed in the name of “Islam”

as a punishment for wanting to rectify the community of his grandfather

as a warning to any who would pledge allegiance to the children of Fatima

set upon by a darkening mass

of cowards and hypocrites and yes men of the caliphs


our friend was simply taken back

by natural means

at the time that Allah decreed while he was still in the womb of his mother

in peace and security

and yet

we feel what we feel


so we know

perhaps now more than ever

ya Husayn

that our grief for you will never end

it is not lessened by knowing that you exist in peace and bliss

a guarantee our friend does not have

so may Allah’s Mercy be upon him

but flows from the awareness that recognition of your sacrifice

and your beauty

and your guidance

and your truth

is still fought against

is still reviled

is still obfuscated

is still ignored

by the same community that you loved so much

as to lay before it not only your own life

but also the lives of your children

and your nephews

and your friends

and your own brother and sister

without any doubt in your heart

to let us know how much we strayed

from the Sunnah

and still do


But that sad legacy was not our friend’s

for when I turned to you

ya Husayn

our friend listened patiently

and never threw shade

and in a few years

allowed your name to be honored

at the school which had such an impact

on both our lives

and allowed me to share a message to those in his community

and invited alums who are dedicated to you

to share your story

during the Muharram nights which we hold so dear


in time

I had hoped he would have more opportunities

to learn about that which he had never been taught

but that cannot happen now in this dunya

so I leave it up to you now

ya Husayn

in the barzakh

to take my friend by the hand

and lead him home

O Master of the Youth of Paradise*

for he was only 40

and so had yet to know

the fullness of adulthood

by Allah’s Decree

اللهم صل على محمد و آل محمد

*Names of Imam Husayn mentioned in hadith: Sayyid al-Shuhadāʾ, Abū ʿAbd-Allāh, Miṣbāḥ al-Hudā, Safīnat al-Najāt, Sayyid Shabāb Ahl al-Jannah

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“People are asleep. When they die, they awaken.”

Back in 2009, when I started working at Brown University, there were only three full-time Muslim chaplains in the Ivy League: myself, Omer Bajwa at Yale, and Sohaib Sultan at Princeton. The three of us worked together and coordinated many things, recognizing the privilege and responsibility our positions entailed. We each hosted an annual gathering of university Muslim chaplains at our respective campuses. Sohaib hosted a retreat for our students at a summer camp style facility that Princeton owned (picture below, where Sohaib was doing something silly – telling a jinn story? – and I had to capture it on camera). Omer hosted the Ivy League Muslims conference and Sohaib drove his students from the West and I drove my students from the East to converge on New Haven. It was a beautiful experience of starting something new, something that I had never experienced as both a Muslim undergrad at Brown and graduate student at Princeton.

I left my position at the end of 2013 right before our son was born, as my wife had a job in New Jersey at the time. Both Omer and Sohaib stayed in their positions, and as long as they were still working together I felt a sense of nostalgia and connection to “the old days.” But now I know those days are over forever. When I look back at it, it truly feels like a dream. When I look through my old pictures, I hardly feel like it was real.

And strangely enough, that is what gives my heart the most comfort at all. To hope that I will wake up in the next life, and Sohaib, Omer and I will be together in the company of the men and women we each tried to emulate and serve to the best of our ability. And we’ll think about our short time in this dunya and laugh at the beautiful dream it was, as we awaken to eternal possibilities in gardens underneath which rivers flow.

Our Lord! Admit them into the Gardens of Eternity which You have promised them, along with the righteous among their parents, spouses, and descendants. You are truly the Almighty, All-Wise. (40.8)

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