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Archive for the ‘Ahl al-Bayt’ Category

my Husayn

you are for everyone

but you are also just for me

quiet house

sleeping child

and my thoughts are with you

 

where are you now

what does your consciousness perceive

are you alone

or surrounded by other souls

 

what i know

is the ache in my heart

the yearning

the longing

inexorable

 

i am in a new place

doing different things

surrounded by different people

and yet

it is the same

 

my heart is beating

ya Husayn

 

i don’t need anyone

to be with you

i don’t need any place

to feel the cool metal of your dharih

it is all part of me

ingrained

 

i used to think i understood love

but then you came into my life

and turned everything upside down

but i’d do it all over again

for you

my Husayn

muharram___wallpaper_for_mobile_by_ahmedmakky-d81axtw

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حسبنا الله و نعم الوكيل

In the fall of 1994, I left my parent’s home in Illinois to go to boarding school at Phillips Academy (often referred to as “Andover”) in Massachusetts. From that point up until I moved to our current apartment in Manhattan, I never lived in the same place for more than a couple years. But from December 2013 until August 2018, my wife and I (and subsequently our son) have had no other home except our place in Greenwich Village.

I write this in an empty apartment. The movers came the other day to take our stuff to Oakland, CA, where we will live at least for the next 2 years insha’Allah. My wife and son have gone to Cape Cod to vacation with her brothers. And I am about to board a plane to Bangladesh, to visit the Rohingya refugee camps outside Cox’s Bazar with my friend Khalid Latif. We will return to NYC for Eid, and then move out West.

I am leaving the first place that has truly felt like home in my adult life. It is impossible for me to describe the two-year process that led to this momentous change. There are clearly definable choices made for me, such as my wife’s rejection of my proposal that we move to Oman for a year so that I could become fluent in Arabic. There are structural issues, such as my realization that my career in higher education had to move outside the secular university (such as my past three employers – Dartmouth, Brown, and NYU). And there are audacious hopes, such as the belief that God is guiding me, and closed certain doors and opened others for reasons known only to God.

A friend’s blog said it better than I can, through quoting Imam ‘Ali عليه السلام:

“I attained realization of God, may He be glorified, by the dissolution of resolutions, and by the solution of complexities.”

My resolve has dissolved in the face of the much larger structural and historical complexities that I am a part of. I have inherited the story of “Muslims in the United States” and “Islam and Hinduism” and “the Rohingya Crisis” merely by the billion choices I have made in my life that led me to this moment in August 2018. All three of those phenomena existed before I was born, and I merely found my way to them as I freely explored this Universe to the extent that I have been able to. This is assuredly a matter of “destiny (qadr).” Yes, I chose my path, but my path has led me to confront my lack of agency in the face of realities beyond my ability to control. I may fly to Dhaka to continue working on behalf of my Rohingya brothers, I may move to California to study with Hindu scholars, my wife and I may buy a house together to continue building our American Muslim family, but what can I really accomplish in the long run? It is all so much bigger than me, and I am just one human being.

My friend writes:

Imam Ali (as) is talking about feeling of disorientation, of being pained and agitated – and yet moving. with grace that behind all these events is the face of God – shining beyond what feels like our faltering and collapsing. The trials Imam Ali (as) faced during his own life time were extremely difficult to digest – someone with fervor and love for Truth at heart, and yet a political and community leader that tried his best to preserve and unite the Muslim community, often despite himself. It takes an immensely liberated spirit to take on such roles, and basically – keep it together when so much around you falls apart. From losing your beloved role model, your wife, betrayals, violence and isolation and yet giving a helping hand and honoring unity above all else. Through all this, Imam Ali (as) says that it was through the adversities that he attained realization of God 

Is there any doubt that Imam ‘Ali عليه السلام would tackle these projects if he were here today? Of course he would yearn to liberate the Rohingya from their oppression, to respond to the theological challenges of Hinduism, and call to Islam throughout the United States. In addition, he would confront so many more problems that I cannot work on full-time: Yemen, Iraq, Palestinethe continued theological challenge of Christianity, and so on.

But whether one is Sunni or Shi’i, one accepts that one can never be as great as Imam ‘Ali عليه السلام, let alone the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و آله و سلم. I felt that so vividly after my first ziyara in Najaf. I remember it so clearly, as it was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I did my ziyara, prayed two rak’ahs, and just broke down in uncontrollable tears. The entirety of what I knew of Imam ‘Ali’s life came flooding into my heart. All the trials and tribulations and hardships. His loyalty and steadfastness and determination to continue doing what needed to be done, no matter how hard. And I knew then, and I remember now, that if I gave every breath I have in the paths of righteousness, it will be but a drop from the ocean of Abu Turab عليه السلام.

And so I keep moving forward. Where I will die is known only to my Lord. But while I am still blessed with the ability to do so, I set out to work on the challenges I believe Allah wants me to address as best I can.

Just another servant of the servants of the servants of ‘Ali.

Meshed_ali_usnavy_(PD)

 

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If God wants there to be a caliphate, then the Muslim Ummah is in a state of sin because it does not exist.

If God does not want there to be a caliphate, then the early Muslim community innovated something in the religion that was not part of it.

If God alone has the right to appoint the leader of the Muslim community, then that leader is the leader whether or not they are recognized by the Muslim community.

The leader has always been the axis of Muslim unity, the expression of Islam’s universal claims over the Earth, and the focal point of the prophetic legacy. As such, I renew my allegiance to Imam Mahdi. There is no one else who can lead a billion Muslims. There is no one else who can unite over 50 nations. There is no one else who can truly change history.

هُوَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْمُشْرِكُونَ

It is He who has sent His Apostle with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it prevail over all religions, though the polytheists should be averse. (9.33)

This has clearly not come to pass.

So when and how?

The only clear answer in our tradition I have ever found is Imam Mahdi. Left to our own devices, we are miserably failing. How many decent, good Muslims have been killed in violent conflicts over the last 10 years? How many decent, good Muslims are living in exile from their lands? How many decent, good Muslims have no recourse in this world to anything even resembling justice?

Muslim unity is a farce. Muslim power is gone. If a second-rate army, like that of Myanmar, wants to push a million of us out of our homes, then they face no resistance. If they want to gang rape hundreds, if not thousands, of Muslim women, they face no resistance. If they want to burn masjids, they face no resistance.

Spiritually, it should make us sick to our stomachs. It should fill us with righteous anger. It should make us weep for the suffering of our sisters and our brothers, and our own shortcomings in assisting them. And it should drive us closer to Imam Mahdi, for only someone appointed by God can lead this Ummah.

In the meantime, there is more work to do than we have the power to accomplish. There is more injustice than we can ever hope to overcome. There is more struggle to undertake than we can bring our selves to endure.

اَللَّهُمَّ ٱكْشِفْ هٰذِهِ ٱلْغُمَّةَ عَنْ هٰذِهِ ٱلامَّةِ بِحُضُورِهِ

وَعَجِّلْ لَنَا ظُهُورَهُ

«إِنَّهُمْ يَرَوْنَهُ بَعِيداً وَنَرَاهُ قَرِيباً»

بِرَحْمَتِكَ يَا ارْحَمَ ٱلرَّاحِمِينَ

O Allah, relieve this community from grief through presenting him

and expedite his advent for us:

“Surely, they think it to be far off, and We see it nigh.”

In the name of Your mercy; O most merciful of all those who show mercy.

638831main_globe_east_2048

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humanity’s story

from beginning to end

is written in pages

no human can amend

 

from where did we come

and to where shall we go

there are so many details

that only One can know

 

but I do not need

to know the whole plot

for my heart is lost

on the same spot

 

in the sands of Iraq

under the blazing sun

I find deep conviction

in the promise of One

 

at the feet of my Imam

in love with Husayn

the pathway to pleasure

is riddled with pain

 

so I’ll saddle my horse

once again I must ride

in the comfort of friends

I can no longer hide

 

to distant shores I must travel

miles to go before sleep

to offer what I have

for my life is not cheap

 

I will only spend it

on a life without fear

in the abiding trust

he is always near

 

my Husayn come with me

please stand by my side

so that my studies and labors

will fill you with pride

 

the tears I have cried

inspire my work

fighting against whispers

that always lurk

 

Muslim scholars once studied

more than just their own faith

so embracing diversity

should not feel unsafe

 

a false choice to choose

between mosque and the world

when in history’s pages

Husayn’s flag was unfurled

 

for the whole world’s a stage

and we can never forget

the scene of 680

when two armies met

 

one was for truth

filled with family and friends

and the other for falsehood

seeking the basest of ends

 

and even though death

fell hard upon the first

it left this seeker

with an undying thirst

 

as if Husayn’s absence

is a void in human life

that can only be filled

in that land without strife

 

so what can you give me

o people of Earth

instead of showing me Husayn

you offer far less in worth

 

I was created for Heaven

and my Lord set the price

my life for His Gifts

I don’t have to think twice

 

no matter how much I travel

or read or love

nothing will slake me

except my Master above

 

at the end of my days

with nothing left to give

I hope I’ll look back

at the life I choose to live

 

and see how Husayn

gave me both earth and sky

and promised me victory

through every tear I cry

 

even though the end seems far

soon it will come

and I pray for acceptance

at the work I will have done

 

my dreams can be found

near gardens and rivers that flow

but I will only get there

by being fearless here below

IMG-20160218-WA0006

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choices

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.

woman-staring-at-night-sky

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.

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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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Written for the 2nd Annual ICNYU Grand Mawlid

***

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

اللهم صل على محمد وآل محمد

السلام عليك يا رسول الله

my dear beloved Prophet

ّI was asked to write something for your birthday

how can a man like me speak about a man like you

the day you were born the heavens rejoiced

‘here is the greatest of creation

the culmination of all prophetic realities

after whom there will be no other’

whereas the day our mothers bore us

was just a day amidst other days

 

it is my honor to speak to you

to address you as our Prophet

may blessings and peace be upon you and your family

even though we have never seen you

for the last time we gathered here

one of your servants spoke of love

a love that comes spontaneously

because of the perfection of the beloved

and for a moment

he asked us to imagine that you walked into the room

 

my Lord!

 

all my life would not be equal

to the first moment my eyes were graced with beholding you

 

yā Rasūl Allāh

yā Ḥabīb Allāh

yā Muḥammad al-Muṣṭafā

 

I pray that blessings be showered upon you and your family

to the number of all things that Allah has created

from the first moment that time began throughout all contingent eternity

in every moment that you are denigrated by those who do not believe in you

and every moment you are disrespected by those who are not humble before you

and every moment you are forgotten by those who obey you

and in every moment of reverence filling the hearts of those who love you

 

our Prophet

pray for our forgiveness!

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا لِيُطَاعَ بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ إِذ ظَّلَمُوا أَنفُسَهُمْ جَاءُوكَ فَاسْتَغْفَرُوا اللَّهَ وَاسْتَغْفَرَ لَهُمُ الرَّسُولُ لَوَجَدُوا اللَّهَ تَوَّابًا رَّحِيمًا

We did not send any apostle but to be obeyed by Allah’s leave. Had they, when they wronged themselves, come to you and pleaded to Allah for forgiveness, and the Apostle had pleaded for forgiveness for them, they would have surely found Allah all-clement, all-merciful.

we are all in need of forgiveness

every single one of us!

and sin is nothing other than falling short of your perfection

as a worshipper of God

and a servant to God’s creation

and so who better to lift us up towards a higher state

than you

 

from sin to obedience

from obedience to cautiousness

from cautiousness to detachment

from detachment to never forgetting our Lord

 

steps and stairs and stations

pathways of ascent

to drops from oceans

gathered in you

 

your perfection is not increased by our obedience

it was there before we were born

and will remain after we are buried in the ground

so come to us

in our graves

if the darkness of our hearts should make us fear there

then by the light of your presence give us hope

for every prayer we make in New York City

every fast we undertake during 2017

every American dollar we give as zakat, khums, and sadaqa

every turning away from something haram

every attempt to understand and act upon ethical ideals

every whispered prayer of longing hope to our Creator

is nothing but us collectively expressing

that we want to be like you

 

and so we gather to remember you

to talk to you

to speak about you

and to imagine what it would be like

if you walked in the door

and the tears began to pour

and our hearts burst inside our chests

as we became lost in a love

greater than what we feel for our parents

our spouses

our children

and even our own selves

اللهم صل على محمد وآل محمد

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