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dear God

i am so tired

the world’s woes pile up in my heart

which cracks and cracks

until

the idea that i have a heart

seems like a delusion

rather

there is an essence of who i am

somewhere deep below

that i can only reach

if i let You wash away everything

other than it

 

names like al-Naqi

al-Sajjad

and others

are “names along with other names”

but they speak to me of essences

beyond the quark

transcendent yet historical links in a chain

back to the burial of Your Prophet in 632 AD / 10 AH

send him and his family blessings and peace!

back to You beyond time

but also

traveling companions for 2017 AD / 1439 AH

whispering to me

that one day

every tear will make sense

but also

forms encasing meanings

each an ocean

from which every time i take a sip

i am satiated

but also

dreams of another world

the resting place of human hopes

from the time of Adam

unto the end of the world

 

and i long for the one who carries their living legacy

who can speak to fire and make it cool

strike at the sea and provide safe passage

tell the dead to walk

and unfold every meaning of the Qur’an

for behind him

we would have no doubt in our direction

infallible commands

worthy of every cent under our control

more valuable than every drop of blood in our veins

the living leader of billions of embodied essences

attesting to Your oneness

so why suffice

with anyone less

 

my Lord

what i know is insignificant to what i do not

this is the best i have

no

this is how i feel You have washed me away

i planned none of this

wave upon wave of al-thaqalayn

has battered me

and asked me to consider it all

from beginning to end

the whole cosmos

my place in it

the reason we are

and where we hope to be

so that when ‘Allamah says

everything in itself is no more than a tale and a dream”

i feel my heart let go

my entire story

the last 38 years and whatever remains

as my essence gently settles

upon the soft petals of roses

upon them all blessings and peace!

rising upon a Divine wind

carrying me home to You

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When they tell you your life is naught but breath in the passing wind

That your history holds no beauty—show them from your end, you begin

Tell them your soil cradles seeds that when planted in blackened hearts

Are embraced by the sun’s touch, and at once from them darkness departs

That budded mouths that seem muted, blossom with sweet melodies

And hum heartbreaking tunes of a trampled garden’s tragedies

Tunes of beautiful flowers that once lived, looked on all with soft eyes

Gentle lions that in death are immortal, souls to heaven, they rise

But upon passing, broken petals have left a trail, a fluttering scent

Of minds empowered by love, of hearts that to the brim are content

There are gardens, but few roses, and the few that are found

Were long ago buried, abused, crushed deep into the ground

But called true Roses for having rose, risen after every demise

Lost everything but their God, so everything did they find

“Frangrance of the Found” by Aqeela Naqvi

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“The message of Shi’ism to the world can be summarized in one sentence: ‘To know God.’ Or in other words, it is to instruct man to follow the path of Divine realization and the knowledge of God in order to gain felicity and salvation. And this message is contained in the very phrase with which the Holy Prophet commenced his prophetic mission when he said: “Oh men! Know God in His Oneness (and acknowledge Him) so that you will gain salvation.”

As a summary explanation of this message we will add that man is attached by nature to many goals in this worldly life and to material pleasures. He loves tasty food and drink, fashionable dress, attractive palaces and surroundings, a beautiful and pleasing wife, sincere friends and great wealth. And in another direction, he is attracted to political power, position, reputation, the extension of his rule and dominion and the destruction of anything that is opposed to his wishes. But in his inner and primordial God-given nature, man understands that all these are means created for man, but man is not created for all these things. These things should be subservient to man and follow him and not vice versa. To consider the stomach and the region below it as a final end of life is the logic of cattle and sheep. To tear-up, cut and destroy others is the logic of the tiger, the wolf and the fox. The logic inherent in human existence is the attainment of wisdom and nothing else.

This logic based upon wisdom with the power which it possesses to discern between reality and the unreal. It guides us toward the truth and not toward things our emotions demand or toward passions, selfishness and egoism. This logic considers man as a part of the totality of creation without any separate independence or the possibility of a rebellious self-centeredness. In contrast to the current belief that man is the master of creation and tames rebellious nature and conquers it to force it to obey his wishes and desires, we find that in reality man himself is an instrument in the hand of Universal Nature and is ruled and commanded by it.

This logic based upon wisdom invites man to concentrate more closely upon the apprehension he has of the existence of this world until it becomes clear to him that the world of existence and all that is in it does not issue from itself but rather from an Infinite Source. He will then know that all this beauty and ugliness, all these creatures of the earth and the heavens, which appear outwardly as independent realities, gain reality only through another Reality and are manifested only in Its Light, and not by themselves and through themselves. In the same way that the “realities” as well as the power and grandeur of yesterday have no greater value than tales and legends of today, so are the “realities” of today no more than vaguely remembered dreams in relation to what will appear as “reality” tomorrow.

In the last analysis, everything in itself is no more than a tale and a dream. Only God is Reality in the absolute sense, the One Who does not perish. Under the protection of His Being, everything gains existence and becomes manifested through the Light of His Essence.

If man becomes endowed with such vision and power of apprehension, then the tent of his separative existence will fall down before his eyes like a bubble on the surface of water. He will see with his eyes that the world and all that is in it depend upon an Infinite Being who possesses life, power, knowledge and every perfection to an infinite degree. Man and every other being in the world are like so many windows that display according to their capacity the world of eternity which transcends them and lies beyond them.

It is at this moment that man takes from himself and all creatures the quality of independence and primacy and returns these qualities to their Owner. He detaches himself from all things to attach himself solely to the One God. Before His Majesty and Grandeur he does nothing but bow in humility. Only then does he become guided and directed by God so that whatever he knows he knows in God. Through Divine guidance he becomes adorned with moral and spiritual virtue and pure actions that are the same as Islam itself, the submission to God, the religion that is in the primordial nature of things.

This is the highest degree of human perfection and the rank of the perfect man (the Universal Man; al-Insan al-kamel), namely the impeccable Imam who has reached this rank through Divine grace. Furthermore, those who have reached this rank through the practice of spiritual methods, with the different ranks and stations that they possess, are the true followers of the Imam. It becomes thus clear that the knowledge of God and of the Imam are inseparable in the same way that the knowledge of God is inextricably connected to the knowledge of oneself.

For he who knows his own symbolic existence has already come to know the true existence that belongs solely to God who is independent and without need of anything whatsoever.

“Shi’ite Islam” by ‘Allamah Tabataba’i, pp. 195-6

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speechless

I am so shook by something my friend Trent posted on his blog, I felt I had to share it here:

[A man] once said,

“It is thirty years that I have been seeking forgiveness for one phrase, ‘Praise be God’s’, that I allowed to pass my lips.”

When asked to explain he replied,

“One night the marketplace caught fire, and I left my house to see if the fire had reached my shop. When I heard that my shop was safe, I said, ‘Praise be God’s’. Instantly I was brought to my senses with the realization that, granted my shop was unharmed, should I not have been thinking about others’?

houston-floods

 

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I finished the book about the science of space travel mentioned in my previous post. The level of complexity involved in sending a person to Mars and back is staggering. If one wanted to create human habitations on Mars, the cost would be simply enormous.

But what struck me most was the obvious fact that one can never go outside. I live in Manhattan, one of the most urban environments on Earth. Sometimes, I feel so disconnected from nature that I just need to go for a walk in the park and see some trees. Sometimes I leave the city altogether just to re-center. In space, on the Moon, or on Mars, you can never do that. Instead, incredibly complex and costly human technologies need to surround you to keep you alive. You have to literally be plugged in all the time.

Through this reflection I have come to a greater appreciation for the natural systems that sustains us. The air we breath. The wind in our hair. Running water. It is on Earth, and nowhere else within our reach. It is in the middle of Manhattan, Cairo, or Tokyo just as much as any jungle, forest, or pristine tropical island.

When I was a kid, I saw the movie Total Recall and started fantasizing about the colonization of Mars. The book I read ended with a discussion of this possibility. Yet, the average temperature on Mars is only slightly less cold than the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth! It would make a lot more sense and be a lot less costly to build habitations on Antarctica than in space. On Antarctica, you can breath the air and drink the water. But that doesn’t fit the secular faith in space as our destiny. Mars colonization is a dream born of the terrible secular fear that humanity may never leave Earth, and that the exhilarating drama of human exploration has limits.

I guess Manhattan is not so “divorced from nature” as I usually think. It is a far nicer than anything space has to offer. Alhamdulillah.

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I have literally been pondering a question for at least 6 months, without finding anything in “the tradition” that elucidates the issue clearly and without ambiguity. Yesterday, I sat down on my couch, looked at my bookshelf, saw a book, and went and opened it. Without any effort, I found the answer.

The intellectual instinct only develops after the development of the carnal desires, anger, and other blameworthy characteristics which Satan uses as his medium to seduce people. The intellect only reaches perfection around the age of forty years. Its formative stage is only complete at adolescence, and its fundamentals only begin to appear after the age of seven. The carnal desires are the troops of Satan, while intellects are the troops of the angels. When the two meet, they inevitably fight since neither allows the other to persist. They are in opposition, antagonistic – like night and day, light and darkness; when one prevails, it necessarily irks the other. If the carnal desires develop fully in a child or youth before the intellect is perfected, the forces of Satan will have a head start. They will seize the grounds and descend upon the heart, which will incline to them. Without doubt, that person will habitually side with the carnal desires and be overpowered by them; uprooting them will be very difficult.

Then, the intellect – which is the legion of Allah, the saviour of His saints from the hands of His enemies – will appear bit by bit. If it does not develop to full strength, the kingdom of the heart will surrender to Satan, who will carry out what he swore when he said, “I will surely bring his descendants under my sway, all but a few” (17.62). But if the intellect develops to full strength, its first task will be to quell the troops of Satan by breaking the carnal desires, abandoning habits, and fighting inner inclinations so that worshipfulness will prevail…

In all of existence, there is no person whose intellect is not preceded by his carnal desires; the drive which serves as a tool of Satan precedes the drive which serves as a tool for the angels. Returning from that former state, which was reached with the aid of the carnal desires, is essential for every person…

This is from the book “Spiritual Mysteries and Ethical Secrets” by Mulla Muhsin Fayd Kashani (p. 573-4). It comes during a discussion of repentance (tawba). He shows how the intellect is the aspect of the human personality that takes repentance seriously. Its main enemy is a different aspect of the human personality based on desire, which he states in another passage as being founded fundamentally on our yearnings for food and sex (p. 114-5). As he states, “they are in opposition,” and the intellect only develops later in life, yet must fight hard against desires “to erase their traces which have been impressed on the heart” (p. 575).

This is a perfect description of my own experience of converting to Islam at the age of 19, and now continuing to struggle against my self at the age of 38. I literally feel myself grappling with elements of my self that I can clearly see existed within me at least as early as junior high in the early 90s. I am literally trying to become an adult who I have never actually been. Mind boggling.

For me, this is clear and unequivocal “wisdom of the tradition,” and I feel I found it at precisely the moment God intended me to find it. Of course, it is entirely possible that somewhere deep in my brain I knew where it was, since I read this book a year and half ago. But it felt like a “soft miracle” when I found it yesterday, explaining for me the reality of my spiritual journey (suluk). As they say, God works in mysterious ways that I still don’t fully understand. All I know is that I am in need, and God is the Provider.

But as I once reminded myself,

This is the most serious type of knowledge, because it demands that I bring all of myself to its doorstep. I must check my intention, for it demands sincerity. I must be committed to pushing my self, because it demands improvement. I must admit my inevitable limitations, for it demands that I read in the name of “the One who taught by the pen / taught humanity that which they did not know.” This type of knowledge is unique because it has no meaning unless it is embodied – one might read one line that takes years to implement in one’s life.

Indeed, what Fayd Kashani has described in a few paragraphs is the essence of the greatest challenge I have ever faced, unfolding over almost two decades. As I reflect on this, I wonder where I might be two decades hence, at the ripe old age of 58 insha’Allah. Better yet, where will I be 40 days from now, on September 20th? Perhaps with the help of your prayers, I will be better than I am, by God’s Grace.

So please pray for me. I need it, for even though the road has been long, I am still only in the middle of my journey.

حسبي الله

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These words are written as advice for my own intellect. If you have something to share in regards to the same theme, I would very much like to benefit from you!

***

There are 4 verses in the Qur’an where the word “the trusting (al-mutawakkilun)” is used.

It is by Allah’s mercy that you are gentle to them; and had you been harsh and hardhearted, surely they would have scattered from around you. So excuse them, and plead for forgiveness for them, and consult them in the affairs, and once you are resolved, put your trust in Allah. Indeed Allah loves those who trust in Him. (3.159)

Commentators say this verse refers to the aftermath of the Battle of Uhud.

And he said, ‘My sons, do not enter by one gate, but enter by separate gates, though I cannot avail you anything against Allah. Sovereignty belongs only to Allah. In Him I have put my trust; and in Him let all the trusting put their trust.’ (12.67)

Commentators say that Jacob’s advice, upon him peace, to enter by separate gates was meant to protect his sons from those who might intend to do them harm.

And why should we not put our trust in Allah, seeing that He has guided us in our ways? Surely, we will put up patiently with whatever torment you may inflict upon us, and in Allah let all the trusting put their trust.’ (14.12)

The surrounding verses indicate that these are words of previous prophets, upon them peace, in response to the dismissals and threats of their people.

If you ask them, ‘Who created the heavens and the earth?’ they will surely say, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘Have you considered what you invoke besides Allah? Should Allah desire some distress for me, can they remove the distress visited by Him? Or should He desire some mercy for me, can they withhold His mercy?’ Say, ‘Allah is sufficient for me. In Him let all the trusting put their trust.’  (39.38)

The surrounding verses indicate that this conversation happened between the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him and his family, and his people in regards to their polytheistic culture.

In all of these verses, the exemplars of “the trusting (al-mutawakkilun)” are the prophets, upon them peace. When we reflect on their lives and missions, what they were able to confront is remarkable. In regards to the first verse, the context is warfare and politics. In the second, we witness an elderly man worried about the fate of his children as they travel to a foreign land in response to a famine. In the third, social weakness is a reality and threats from those with power are real. Finally, the fourth verse reminds us that the Prophet, upon him and his family peace, was tasked with changing the fundamental basis of an entire culture.

Needless to say, the challenges that I face are not comparable. But the anxiety that I feel about them is real nonetheless. Listening to the words of the Qur’an reminds me that “Allah is sufficient for me” and is the One in whom I should place my trust.

Reflecting on how I got to this moment deepens my awareness of God’s arrangement of the Universe, and increases my trust in God in regards to the unknown future. As stated by a writer from long ago:

Satisfaction with that which God does and causes to happen is attained by reflecting on one’s past condition, when He brought one into existence when one knew nothing. Then He fashioned numerous signs of His wisdom in his creation, so much so that one would not be able to know one out of a thousand of them in a lifetime. Then, without any prior request, He brought him up taking care of everything related to his inward and outward aspects, wherewith he can survive and grow from deficiency to perfection. [Were one to reflect upon these facts], he would know that whatever will happen in the future also will not be without His providence and will. Thence he would trust Him, the Exalted, and would not worry regarding the remaining matters…

How true this is!

May God make us from amongst those who trust in God!

اللهم اجعلنا من المتوكلين

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I just completed re-reading the Qur’an translation I had been using in the months before I converted to Islam in 1998. I formulated this personal goal in response to a question that consumes me: how does God guide people?

When I face reality as clearly as I can see it, I accept that I was not guided to Islam by a Muslim with beautiful clothing and impeccable manners. I did not travel abroad and experience a “traditional” culture. There were no scholars who had spent decades studying at the feet of bearded masters, nor mystics performing miracles and serving the downtrodden. Rather, there was a book in my hand as I sat in the Canadian wilderness. Surrounded by myriad signs of the Creator, this one book made me feel that The Author of the universe has a Voice.

And ever since then, I have listened for that Voice as best I can. I am not a scholar of the Qur’an by any standard, but I have read and pondered it far more than anything else in my time on Earth. While there is much that I desire to learn and experience, the Qur’an always triumphs in the long term, like a deep love from the past that can never be replaced. We were meant for each other, from time immemorial and for time everlasting.

For what is faith but a feeling you have when you hold a book in your hand?

Allah has (now) revealed the fairest of statements, a Scripture consistent, (wherein promises of reward are) paired (with threats of punishment), whereat does tremble the skins of those who fear their Lord, then their skins and their hearts soften to Allah’s reminder. Such is Allah’s guidance, wherewith He guides whom He will. And him whom Allah sends astray, for him there is no guide.*

When God tells us about a place of everlasting beauty where all sadness will disappear like a dream, do we feel motivation in our hearts to change our lives for it?

And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil)

When a place of just retribution filled with pain and suffering is described, do our eyes shed tears at the possibility we and our loved ones may end up there?

O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire whereof the fuel is men and stones, over which are set angels strong, severe, who resist not Allah in that which He commands them, but do that which they are commanded

When the fact that we once did not exist is mentioned to prove that we will live again after we die, can we taste that certain truth?

How disbelieve you in Allah when you were dead and He gave life to you! then he will give you death, then life again, and then unto Him you will return

When stories of men and women from ancient civilizations are brought forth to show us the sacrifice it takes to succeed, are we inspired to walk in their footsteps?

In their history verily there is a lesson for men of understanding. It is no invented story but a confirmation of the existing (Scripture) and a detailed explanation of everything, and a guidance and a mercy for folk who believe

In 1998, I was probably sitting in a cafe at some point reading these same pages, and feeling the whisper of faith enter my heart. It is now 2017, and I again sit in a cafe feeling the reality of God. Human history is coming to an end. Final Judgement is real. July 16th, 2017 is just a moment, and then it will be gone. But our intentions, choices, and deeds will remain. Forever.

When Earth is shaken with her (final) earthquake

And Earth yields up her burdens,

and man said: What ails her?

That day she will relate her chronicles,

Because your Lord inspires her.

That day mankind will issue forth in scattered groups to be shown their deeds.

And who does good an atom’s weight will see it then,

And who does ill an atom’s weight will see it then.

The Qur’an confounds our humanly-constructed notions of time and space. Pre-creation, the distant past, the present, and the eternal future are all weaved together. God knows everything there is to know, and what we understand is so little.

And with Him are the keys of the invisible. None but He knows them. And He knows what is in the land and the sea. Not a leaf falls but He knows it, not a grain amid the darkness of the earth, nothing of wet or dry but (it is noted) in a clear record.

It is not my intention to tell you what the Qur’an means. I have but one goal: to encourage you to pick up the Qur’an again for yourself. To embrace it into your being as best you can. It is meant for you in a unique way that I will never know. What verses will cause your heart to burn inside your chest and your body to shake are not up to me. As far as I can tell, that is God’s domain alone.

He it is Who sends down clear revelations unto His slave, that He may bring you forth from darkness unto light; and lo! for you, Allah is full of Pity, Merciful

May the Author of the universe and the Qur’an bring us from darkness unto light.

*all translations of Qur’anic verses from the text in the picture

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Muhammad is only a messenger before whom many messengers have been and gone. If he died or was killed, would you revert to your old ways? If anyone did so, he would not harm God in the least. God will reward the grateful. (3.144)

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Dear Messenger of God

May the peace and blessings of God be upon you and your family

I am longing for you

In this night my heart sinks at the memory of how far away I am from you

It is not that I want to revert to my old ways

As there is so much for which to be grateful

But is it okay to simply say that I wish I could see you

I wish I could hear you

I wish I could walk beside you

For when my friend spoke of you

He spoke of the love that is both a means and an end

And every day I take the means that you called us to take

Like fasting

Like prayer

Like avoiding the forbidden

But there is a place in my heart whose end is simply your face

The face of the man who has changed my life more than any other

The face that God chose for you

And I yearn to see that face

for no other reason than my love for you

My Messenger

My Prophet

My Master

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