Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

sister and nephew

“There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.”

I have this dull pain in my chest. At first, I thought it was just a vestige of the emotional intensity of the first 10 days of Muharram. And then an image appeared in my mind that gave form to what I was feeling: ‘Ali b. Husayn and Zaynab b. ‘Ali remaining after Karbala.

اللهم صل على محمد و آل محمد

How can I possibly imagine what they felt? After shedding a few tears in majalis, I spent a relaxing weekend with my wife and son. Whereas they had to endure with the vivid memory of what their own eyes had witnessed.

As a chaplain, I saw how people being abused in the name of Islam drove faith out of their hearts. But it is as if the pulsating hearts of Imam al-Sajjad and Zaynab echo through the centuries, as if I can feel their faith beating in my own heart. For they faced the entire ordeal with faith and by faith.

That is where I stop in complete awe.

For there was no earthly victory for the sister of Husayn and her nephew. No “Conquest of Makkah” when they marched into Damascus triumphantly. They simply remained, full of memories, overflowing with faith. When they left the world, their oppressors were still in power.

Their victory is otherworldly. Beyond the sadness and injustice of this world, there is light and beauty that never fades. Reflecting on the faith of these two individuals leads us there, by the grace of God.

“Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.”

This is a story that really matters.

The story of a sister and a nephew who remained.

For we remain too.

لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله


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Umm al-Banin

this morning i woke up with one goal

to worship God and care for my son

by isha time i was exhausted

relieved that my work was done


and then God reminded me of you

mother of 4 boys like mine

you raised them from when they were little

devoting all of your time


but they left you alone on this earth

for the love of their brother Husayn

as hard as I try to imagine

I can’t even imagine your pain


your faith is the type that moves mountains

and inspires men like me to climb

to prepare for the ascent to Heaven

and follow your lead until it is my time


so Umm al-Banin please teach me

how to raise up a son like yours

so that no matter what happens on Earth

forever with Husayn he will soar

اللهم صل على محمد و آل محمد



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Secular historians do not believe that Noah existed, upon him peace. There is no evidence for his existence other than the scriptures of the Abrahamic religions. As such, Hindus and Buddhists also have little reason to believe in him. But the Qur’an narrates his story on many occasions.

I used to think that historiography was about proof – hard, tangible proof. But I realize now that, as a Muslim, it is more about faith. I believe in Noah, upon him peace, and I hope to meet him in the next life, by the Mercy of God. That distinguishes me from many billions of human beings living now on the face of the Earth.

Of course, there are also Jews and Christians who still believe in Noah, due to his critical role in the Bible. But due to the quasi-historical format of the Bible, many from these communities have lost faith in Noah once they have come to believe that the Bible is a flawed document. If the Bible is the only basis to know Noah, then if the Bible cannot be trusted, then the story of Noah cannot be believed.

But faith in Noah based on the Qur’an is different. It is not a faith based on historical proofs, but simply trust that Muhammad was the Messenger of God, blessings and peace be upon him and his family. So if a man who lived in the 7th century preached that Noah was one of the Messengers who came before him, even if it was tens of thousands of years before, that is enough.

That fundamentally changes our understanding of how history works.

And what it is the story of Noah, upon him peace? At its base, is the story of the interplay of God’s Mercy and Justice. Unlike anyone else in the Qur’an, we hear of Noah’s unnaturally long life:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ فَلَبِثَ فِيهِمْ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ إِلَّا خَمْسِينَ عَامًا فَأَخَذَهُمُ الطُّوفَانُ وَهُمْ ظَالِمُونَ

“We sent Noah to his people and he lived among them for fifty short of a thousand years; then the deluge overtook them, for they were wrongdoers.” (29.14, Wahiddudin Khan translation)

For so long, God put up with disbelief and disobedience. All they had to do was attach themselves to God’s Messenger:

قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ إِنِّي لَكُمْ نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاتَّقُوهُ وَأَطِيعُونِ

“And so he said, ‘My people, I am here to warn you plainly. Worship Allah, and fear Him, and obey me.'” (71.23,  Abdel Haleem translation)

And yet they did not. So then God’s justice came, and only those who had stuck with Noah were saved. Even his own son was drowned for his unwillingness to heed his father’s advice.

This is a paradigmatic moment in human history that can only be perceived with faith. It was so central that the Qur’an made it a point to attach Abraham to it, peace be upon him, even though he was not directly connected to it historically.

وَإِنَّ مِن شِيعَتِهِ لَإِبْرَاهِيمَ

“and surely Abraham was one of [Noah’s] shi’a.” (37.83, my translation)

The word shi’a can justifiably be translated as “partisan,” “adherent,” or “follower.” It brings to mind the idea that Abraham was on the same path of guidance as Noah, upon them both peace. Although Abraham did not face the Flood, had he been there, he would have succeeded. In short, the spirit of “submission to God (al-Islam)” was the same, although the context differed.

And just as Abraham’s time was different from Noah’s, our time is different. But the spirit of al-Islam is the same. We have to be willing to attach ourselves wholeheartedly to guidance. For if we had faced the Flood, would we have succeeded had we been tested in that way? Would our hearts have been full of enough faith to board the Ark? Or would we have wanted to do things our own way, like the son of Noah?

But there was only one way – to be from the shi’a of Noah. When he said to board the Ark, one must board the ark. When he said to get off, one must get off.

When I reflect on that spiritual legacy today, I marvel at the Mercy of God that holds back the proverbial floodwaters that surround us, and I fear the inevitable manifestation of Divine Justice in this world and the next.

May God prepare us, despite our weaknesses and doubts, to board the Ark when we are commanded to do so.

To be from the shi’a of Noah, like Abraham before us, peace upon them both.




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dear son

dear son

peace be upon you

first off

i want you to know with certainty

that you were an answer to a prayer

made before you were ever conceived


i want you to know that i am not always being truthful

because in ways that i act

and will continue to act

in your presence

i am making the claim that i am good and that i know

but the real truth is that

whatever good you may perceive

is because God has veiled from you my faults

and whatever i know

is because God granted me a tiny drop

from the shoreless ocean of Knowledge

there is nothing i can actually offer you

if i protect you from harm

it is because God is the Protector

if i give you something that benefits you

it is because God is the Benefactor

for when i face God

the invocation attributed to Imam ‘Ali

expresses everything i have ever learned

إِلٰهِي إِنْ كَانَ صَغُرَ فِي جَنْبِ طَاعَتِكَ عَمَلِي
فَقَدْ كَبُرَ فِي جَنْبِ رَجَائِكَ امَلِي

“My God, if my deeds appear small in respect to obedience to You

then my hope is great in respect to pure hopefulness in You”

for this blog is entitled “A Mercy Case” for a reason

and that is because at the end of the day

i am hoping in Mercy

have hoped in Mercy

and God willing

will continue to hope in Mercy

for as that prayer continues

“If my time of death is approaching while my deeds are still too short to approach me to You

I am then considering my confession of being guilty to be my means towards You”

But I need to be explicit that my hope is not unconnected to my love for you

for as Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq has reported to have said

as translated in the book of Ayatollah Modarresi

“Verily Allah Almighty will have mercy upon a man by the strength of his love for his son”



when i close my eyes

i can see us hand in hand

in a place more beautiful than i have the words to express

where no fear nor grief exists

and we can discover forever

what it means that God made me your father

and you my son


i love you


dear angels,

pray for us

رَبَّنَا وَأَدْخِلْهُمْ جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ الَّتِي وَعَدتَّهُمْ وَمَن صَلَحَ مِنْ آبَائِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجِهِمْ وَذُرِّيَّاتِهِمْ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

“Our Lord! Admit them into the Gardens of Eden, which You have promised them, along with whoever is righteous among their forebears, their spouses and their descendants. Indeed You are the All-mighty, the All-wise.”


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You are the One who created my grandfather Adam and brought him to Earth

You drowned all the unbelievers of Noah’s time

You made fire cool for Abraham

You split the sea for Moses

You revived the dead for Jesus

and You gave victory to Muhammad over the entire Arabian peninsula

and spread Your Book through him to every corner of the world

Dearest God!

I am one of the believers in You

and in Your prophets

peace be upon them all

and in the Life that You have promised after our earthly death

make me from the people of the Garden

in the company of the Prophets of days gone past

and save me from the Fire

which most of humanity takes for a joke

we bear witness to this

publicly and privately

and strive to implement it as best we understand

please forgive us our ignorance and doubts and confusions and misunderstandings

please wipe away the sins from our records and protect us from ever returning to them

please inspire faith in the hearts of all of our families and friends

for we are all Your servants

created by You

manifested into this cosmos by a Will other than our own will

subject to ups and downs by a Wisdom other than our own wisdom

and we submit to You in Islam

following Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad

may Your peace be upon them all



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It just hit me: orphan sponsorship is a serious spiritual practice. The aspirations of the spiritual path in Islam can be summarized in two goals. The first is being with the Prophet, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family. He is considered to be the best of creation, and mystics long to know him and be in his company. Obviously, walking this path involves saying salawat and other forms of devotion. But reflect on the meaning of this hadith: “‘I and the one who looks after an orphan will be like this in Paradise,’ showing his middle and index fingers and separating them.” (related in Sahih al-Bukhari) What more vivid illustration could the Messenger of Allah give us of the path leading to his companionship, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family!

The second goal is intimate experience of Allah directly. So reflect on this verse: “The one who gives from his wealth in order to purify himself, not giving for anyone who has done him a favor to be rewarded, but only seeking the countenance (wajh) of his Lord, Most High. He is going to be satisfied.” (92.18-21) The seeker wants to see the face (wajh) of God, and God is promising that the seeker will be satisfied. Orphan sponsorship involves giving to someone that the donor will probably never meet in this life, thus increasing the likelihood that one gives with a pure intention.

This is another reminder of the practical nature of Islamic spirituality, which flows from the balanced example of the Prophet Muhammad, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family. May Allah accept the orphan sponsorships of every Muslim in the United States, whether done through Helping Hand, Islamic Relief, Zakat Foundation, NuDay Syria, or any other institution which facilitates this act of worship, and may the facilitators be granted the same, and may the orphans all have long lives full of good deeds, ameen.

Organizations facilitating orphan sponsorships:


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My paternal grandfather was a male and my paternal grandmother was a female. They engaged in sexual intercourse, and through that Allah created my father.

My maternal grandfather was a male and my maternal grandmother was a female. They engaged in sexual intercourse, and through that Allah created my mother.

My father is a male and my mother is a female. They engaged in sexual intercourse, and through that Allah created me.

My wife’s dadajaan was a male, and my wife’s dadijaan was a female. They engaged in sexual intercourse, and through that Allah created my wife’s abba.

My wife’s nanajaan was a male, and my wife’s nanijaan was a female. They engaged in sexual intercourse, and through that Allah created my wife’s ammi.

My wife’s abba and was a male, and my wife’s ammi was a female. They engaged in sexual intercourse, and through that Allah created my wife.

I am a male and my wife is a female. We engaged in sexual intercourse, and through that Allah created my son.

My entire existence, and the existence of the most important people in my life, is entirely due to “gender and sexuality,” by the decree of Allah.


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