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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Stations’ Category

It was a long and difficult day, as I am sure it was for many.

It was the first day in my life that the news said a Shi’i Muslim American was killed by a Sunni Muslim American because he was Shi’i. Whatever the outcome of this specific court case, it was the perception that mattered. The feeling that the bloodshed that happens so regularly in Pakistan, Nigeria, Saudi, and other nations far away has finally crossed the Atlantic.

I did not tell my son about any of it.

Right before he fell asleep, he said he wanted to tell me something.

Usually, I would say, “no, it’s time to go sleep.”

But for some reason I didn’t.

He started telling me about this story he heard at school, about a fish that granted wishes. Since he was so tired, he wasn’t telling it in a way that was clear. Again, normally I would just let him trail off and say something like, “interesting,” until he fully passed out. But this time, for some unknown reason, I started asking him questions to clarify what he was trying to say. Eventually it became clear that it was a story with a moral not to be greedy with your wishes. And I thought that was it, and he would go to sleep.

But then he said, “Abba, so I thought about what I would do if I had 3 wishes.”

“Oh, what are they,” I said.

“I would wish to go back in time 1400 years, be 40 years old, and fight for Imam Husayn.”

Yes, my son, I wish that too.

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I spend every day as an American the same way I spend every other day.

With the choice to obey God or not.

With the choice to believe in God or not.

With the choice to believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins or not.

With the choice to believe whether Muhammad is a Messenger from God or not.

With the choice to believe whether Krishna is waiting for me in Goloka Vrindavan or not.

With the choice to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or not.

With the choice to believe that the world is flat and George Soros has funded the Great Reset and Q has exposed the Clintons or not.

Whether this is better or worse than the daily reality of other countries is a moot point, because if I truly believed that somewhere was better for me, then wouldn’t I be obliged to move my family there for the sake of Allah (like the Sufi Auntie who gave me the unsolicited advice to move my family to Istanbul and everything would take care of itself)?

America is my country by God’s Decree. God could have created me in the womb of a woman in Botswana or Indonesia, but that was not God’s choice.

I am simply trying to be where God has established me (كن حيث أقامك الله).

Over the years I have learned a lot from studying about and visiting Saudi, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, India, Kuwait, Turkey, Bangladesh, Spain, France, Iraq, Kenya, UK, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Sweden, Syria and Norway. There are places I have yet to visit that I believe it is important for me to learn more about, such as Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, South Korea, Chile, Japan, China, Philippines, Bahrain, Lebanon, Russia, Peru, and Brazil.

But none of them are my country.

I understand this sort of connection to a nation is not how some feel, but it is how I feel. It is my daily reality.

Islamic law is just another choice I face every day, and I choose to follow the best of what I have found, and that currently means I am a muqallid of Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Taqi al-Modarressi of Karbala. In that choice, I am in solidarity with other Americans, Britishers, South Africans, Iraqis and more.

But I can always change my mind. I used to be a Hanafi, and then a Maliki, and now I am a Ja’fari. With each choice, I feel I have moved closer to what God wants from me. But only God knows and only God can judge. May Allah accept from me the deeds I have done trying to be in conformity to Allah’s laws, ameen.

Life is a journey, and if there is anything I have learned, it is to expect the unexpected. I believe Allah constantly tests the sincerity of my belief, often in ways I never foresaw, and I have found Qur’anic proofs for that, such

“Do people think once they say, ‘We believe,’ that they will be left without being put to the test? We certainly tested those before them. And Allah will clearly distinguish between those who are truthful and those who are liars.” (29.2-3)

Whether or not you believe that about yourself is up to you to decide. May Allah make me from the truthful (الصادقون), ameen.

I share this because this is my reality. Every post you have ever read from me has been articulated against this socio-political backdrop. I recognize now very few of my readers share this experience, and often my readers expect me to articulate positions that mirror their realities. But I can’t do that. All I can do is be sensitive to the realities of others, and then act accordingly from the point in space and time in which I exist.

But it is also important that my readers are sensitive to my reality, and the inescapable conclusion that faith/belief/knowledge has always been a choice for me. No one put a Qur’an in my hand and said, “believe or perish!” I chose to read the Qur’an with my own freedom, to determine if I believed that God had spoken to humanity or not. At the same time I was first reading the Qur’an, I was reading the Baha’i scriptures for the same reason.

“Whenever Our Revelation is recited to them they say, ‘We have heard all this before – we could say something like this if we wanted – this is nothing but ancient fables.’ They also said, ‘God, if this really is the truth from You, then rain stones on us from the heavens, or send us some other painful punishment.’ But God would not send them punishment while you [Prophet] are in their midst, nor would He punish them if they sought forgiveness.” (8.31-3)

And so every day I invoke blessings upon the Prophet and seek forgiveness:

أستغفر الله وأتوب إليه

اللهم صل على محمد وآل محمد

It is my choice and my tongue, and I try to use it for the sake of the One who gave it me.

Not for my parents, whom I love dearly.

Not for my country, which is a part of me.

But for my Creator (الخالق), the One who made my existence possible (المحيي), the One from whom I seek benefit (النافع), the One in whom I seek protection from harm (الضآر), the One in whom I hope to the utmost extents of hope (الوهاب), the One who I fear more than coming to the end of my own existence (الجبار).

May my Lord accept from me, āmīn.

a book published 90 years ago about our family’s first 300 years in North America

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Like many people, I enjoyed watching the shows of Anthony Bourdain. I can’t speak for others, but for me, I lived vicariously through his adventures. It would be nice to travel that much, and see the world Allah has created, and all of its people. It is not that I wasn’t blessed to have that possibility, but rather that I chose to focus on other things. But he was a reminder that, “dear humanity, we most certainly created all of you from a single male and a single female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may know one another.”

A darker side of me, left over from my days before Islam, subtly wished I could just eat and drink anything like he did. If a people’s food represents something of themselves, he was willing to try almost anything, and thus experience all of what humanity had to offer. I had been that way before Islam, but Islam put a number of restrictions on that process that I sometimes struggled to embrace. Late at night, when I was tired from another day of struggling to address my spiritual wounds, it was fun to fantasize about having “no reservations.”

And so I, like many others, was shocked and hurt by his suicide. How could someone who lived such an interesting life, who was appreciated by so many around the world, take his own life?! For a long time, it didn’t make any sense to me. From what I have read, it seemed that his search for something higher, as expressed through deep love for another human being, fell apart and the pain was just too much to bear.

In a way, the pre-Islamic version of myself feels like it can intuit what he was going through. Perhaps he really felt there was nothing left to live for – he had already done everything he could think to do, and the one thing that filled his heart with joy was being ripped away and there was no hope left and no refuge. But the version of my self that has been shaped by Islam recoils in horror at such a worldview, and thinks of the Qur’an stating, “and the Earth, despite its vastness, seemed to close in on you.”

I am reminded of him now, and my private grappling with his death for the last 4 years, after reading this passage tonight:

“The heart of a believer is like a garden. A believer has to face material difficulties in the world. But he is not aggrieved of these problems. These thorns only prick the body and are confined within the boundaries of the garden. However, the garden of the heart has no place for these thorns. Even in this material world the soul of the believer is safe from all calamities. ‘for such there shall be safety, and they are the rightly guided.

The sole desire of a believer in this world is that his Lord should be pleased with him. Such a person does not despair due to failures and material setbacks. He considers only Allah as his guardian and the guardian of others. He recognizes the power, wisdom and mercy of Allah. He considers Allah his Master and considers himself His slave. ‘That is because Allah is the Protector of those who believe, and because the unbelievers shall have no protector for them.’

Thus a believer does not become sorrowful and aggrieved by the difficulties of this worldly life. They do not even make him angry. Allah keeps the hearts of the believer peaceful in this world also. ‘He it is Who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers.’

A believer always faces adversity with determination. He does not stumble, nor do his feet tremble. He does not fall down on this path. He knows that behind every calamity is hidden wisdom and he alone shall be eligible for the benefit of this hidden wisdom. All that he hopes from Allah is that He removes this difficulty or in this way recompenses it so that even the physical pain does not remain for him. ‘If you suffer pain, then surely they too suffer pain as you suffer pain, yet you hope from Allah that which they do not hope in.’

That is, you hope for salvation from problems, forgiveness and rewards, but the unbelievers have no such hopes. They remain forever in the darkness of hopelessness.”

I suggest listening to the recitation of each verse, available through the links. It reached my heart, and it reminded me of how much hope Islam gives me in the face of so much sorrow on this Earth, even from the sorrows that have nothing to do with war, disease, poverty, and oppression.

This hope doesn’t erase the sadness I feel when I think about Anthony Bourdain, but it does clarify why I never took him as a role model. And more than that, it makes me realize that Islam can address the realities of all Americans. The person I was becoming before I became a Muslim was more like Anthony Bourdain than Malcolm X. In fact, with the exception of Islam, I identify far more with Anthony Bourdain than I do with Malcolm X. I was never in an actual prison, needing redemption. I didn’t grow up facing structural oppression that limited my life choices. I was, like so many other White American men, in the prison of my own self, in what another White American Male suicide David Foster Wallace calls a “tiny skull-sized kingdom, alone at the center of all creation.” And it was there that I heard the call of a caller calling towards faith in a Garden whose expanse is vaster than both the heavens and the Earth, and that has made all the difference.

So when all is said and done, thank You God for sending me the Qur’an to guide me out of darknesses and into light, and please provide hope to all those whose hearts feel heavy when they think of Anthony Bourdain.

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Marry one Muslim woman.

Try to make her happy.

Have kids.

Try to be a good father.

Serve your parents and your wife’s parents if they are still alive. Also honor all the aunts/uncles/cousins on your side and your wife’s side, so that you are a source of benefit to both extended families.

Do what is obligatory (farḍ/wājib).

Avoid what is forbidden (ḥarām).

If you have any energy and time left over after doing all this consistently, maybe do some extra fasting (ṣawm), or memorize some more Qurʾān, or pray the recommended night prayer (ṣalāt al-layl), or if you have extra wealth give recommended charity (ṣadaqa) to the best organizations you can find.

It’s not that complicated.

But it isn’t easy.

This is your struggle (jihād).

الله

“The best of you is the one who is best to their family, and I am the best of all to my family.”

Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ

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Hail, Maryam, full of grace,

peace be upon thee.

Blessed art thou amongst women

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, ʿĪsā.

Holy Maryam, Servant of God,

pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death,

ameen.

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i thought i had something then

but i didn’t have you

i thought i was something then

but where were you

our Lord’s Mercy made it possible

so i could enjoy for many years

the hero of my own story

then i was told of Karbala

and my heroics were washed away

in blood and tears

nothing but a child i was

lost in his own fantasy world

dreaming of courage and insight

better to be nothing more

than a dying body riddled with arrows

to keep you safe

noble grandson of humanity’s peak

blessings and peace upon you both

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my dear friends

seth, usama, sohaib

where are you now

what is life like for you

we are still here on earth

and your names still cross our lips

and i can still see your faces

in my minds eye

but i feel so distant from you

i cannot hear you

i cannot see you standing over there

i cannot put my arms around you

so that we can embrace

as we once did

there is no body left for you

that i can perceive

and so i type these words onto the screen

and i hope you just received

the Fātiḥa and Āyat al-Kursī I sent

as a gift

we are still debating and building and giving

worshipping our Lord in community

deeds without recompense

but you are where

there is only recompense and no deeds

so i hope your past deeds give you comfort there

but i also hope my gifts make a difference

and the day that i enter the world where you are

i will know

just as you have known

what i did right and what i did wrong

but you must know now more than you ever did before

and so it would be great if you could come teach me

a little bit about what you have learned

i learned from all of you while you were alive

it would be great to learn from you again

now that you are dead

for Allah is al-Mumīt

and Azrael has scheduled my appointment

so if you can

beseech our Lord

to help me make the most of the time i have left

i would deeply appreciate it

love you all

see you soon

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“The prayer (al-ṣalāt) is the ascension (miʿrāj) of the believer.”

There was a night unlike any other night in the last 2000 thousands years. The night that the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace upon him and his family, journeyed through the heavens and earth. It is known as “The Night Journey and the Ascension (al-isrā wa’l-miʿrāj).”

In the month of Ramadan, when we are focused on our prayers (al-ṣalāt), we are constantly putting ourselves in touch with this special night. This was the night the 5 daily prayers of the Muslims was made obligatory. But it was more than that. It was the moment when the veil was lifted for one of us so that they could see everything we cannot.

Our daily lives in this world sometimes lead us to feel that this Earth is all there really is for us, and that the best we can hope for in the future is Elon Musk’s rhetoric about Mars. But someone has already gone far further. Ayatollah Ja’far Subhani has captured this eloquently in his book on the prophetic biography (sīrah) and I recreate it here (with various edits) for our reflection.

*)

The darkness of night had spread in the horizon and silence reigned over the face of nature. The time had arrived when the living creatures take rest and sleep so that they might recuperate for their activities on the following day. The Prophet was also not an exception to this law of nature and he wished to take rest after offering his prayers. However, he suddenly heard a voice. It was the voice of the Archangel Jibreel who said to him: “This night you have to perform a very unique journey and I have been ordered to remain with you. You will have to traverse different parts of the world mounted on an animal named ‘Buraq’.”

The Prophet commenced his grand journey from the house of Umm Hani (sister of the Commander of the Faithful) and mounted on Buraq proceeded to Baytul Maqdis, situated in Jerusalem, which is also called Masjidul Aqsa. After a very short time he dismounted there and visited different parts of the mosque as well as Bethlehem which is the birth place of ‘Isa and also saw various other places associated with different Prophets. At some of these places he also performed two rak’ats of prayers.

Thereafter he commenced the second part of his journey and proceeded from that place to the skies. He then observed the stars and the system of the world and conversed with the souls of the previous Prophets and also with the angels of the heavens. He saw the centers of blessing and torture (Paradise and Hell) and also saw the places of the dwellers of Hell and Paradise from close quarters, and consequently became fully aware of the secrets of creation, the extent of the Universe and the signs of the Omnipotent.

Then he continued his journey and reached ‘Sidratul-Muntaha’ (the Lote Tree of the Utmost Boundary) and found it fully covered with splendour, magnificence and grandeur. At this time his journey came to an end he returned through the way he had gone. During his return journey also he first came to Baytul Maqdis and then proceeded to Makkah. On the way he met a trading caravan of Quraysh who had lost a camel and were making a search for it. He drank some water from a container of theirs and threw the remainder on the ground and according to another narrative placed a cover on it.

It was before daybreak when he dismounted in the house of Umme Hani from the animal which had taken him to the heavens. She was the first person to whom he related this matter and on the day following that night he made it known to the assemblies of Quraysh as well. The story of his ‘ascension’ and grand journey which was considered by Quraysh to be something impossible spread from mouth to mouth in all centres and made the chiefs of Quraysh all the more perplexed.

According to their old habit Quraysh decided to refute him and said: “Even now there are some persons in Makkah who have seen Baytul Maqdis. If what you say is correct then give an account of its structure”. The Prophet not only described the structure of Baytul Maqdis but also mentioned the incidents which had occurred between Makkah and Baytul Maqdis and said: “On my way I met the caravan of such and such tribe who had lost a camel. They had a container full of water which was a part of their equipment. I drank some water from it and then covered it. At another place I met a group of persons whose camel had run away and had broken its leg”. Quraysh said: “Tell us about the caravan of Quraysh”. The Prophet replied: “I saw them at Tan’im (a place from where the ‘Haram’ commences). A brown camel was going ahead of them and they had placed a litter on it and are now entering Makkah”. Quraysh became very much excited on account of these definite news and said: “We shall now come to know about your truth or falsehood”. However, it was not long before Abu Sufyan, the leader of the caravan, appeared and people made known to him in detail what the Prophet had said.

The above account is a gist of what has been stated in the books of exegeses and traditions.

The event of the miʿrāj of the Prophet in the heavens has been mentioned clearly in two surahs of the Qur’an and has also been alluded to in other surahs. We give here briefly the verses which clearly make a mention of the miʿrāj. In Surah al-lsra’ it has been said: “Glory be to Him Who made His servant go by night from Masjidul Haram to Masjidul Aqsa, whose surroundings We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. He alone hears all and observes all.”

سُبْحَنَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَسْرَىٰ بِعَبْدِهِۦ لَيْلًۭا مِّنَ ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْحَرَامِ إِلَى ٱلْمَسْجِدِ ٱلْأَقْصَا ٱلَّذِى بَرَكْنَا حَوْلَهُۥ لِنُرِيَهُۥ مِنْ ءَايَتِنَآ ۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ

This verse apparently mentions the following points:

1. In order to tell us that the Prophet travelled through these worlds in a short time, not with human strength but through Divine strength, the Almighty commences His statement with “Glory be to Him!” which points to the fact that Allah is free from all defects and needs. He has also not contented Himself with this and has introduced Himself as the Agent of the journey by saying ‘Asra’ (Allah made him perform the journey). This favour was bestowed upon him so that the people might not think that the journey was performed according to natural laws and with usual means, and might, therefore deny its possibility. It has therefore, been clarified that it was undertaken through Divine Will and special favour of the Allmighty.

2. This journey was undertaken at night.

3. Notwithstanding the fact that this journey commenced from the house of Umme Hani, daughter of Abu Talib, the Allmighty has mentioned its starting place to be Masjidul Haram. This is perhaps due to the fact that the Arabs consider all of Makkah to be the House of Allah and as such all its places are treated to be ‘Masjid’ and ‘Haram.’ Hence, Allah’s saying that: “He made him journey from Masjidul Haram” is perfectly in order. According to some narratives, however, the journey started from Masjidul Haram itself.

4. The Prophet performed the journey with his body and soul together and not with his soul only. The words ‘to His servant’ bear testimony to this, because the word ‘servant’ applies to ‘body with soul’. In case the miʿrāj had been only spiritual the proper words to be used would have been ‘to His servant’s soul.’

5. The object of this grand journey was to make known to the Prophet the various aspects of the existence of the great Universe. We shall elaborate this point later.

The other surah which clearly mentions the event of is ‘Surah al-Najm’ and the verses which you will read below were revealed in this connection. When the Prophet told the Quraysh that he had physically seen the Archangel Jibreel, when he brought the first revelation, they disputed with him. The Holy Qur’an replies thus to their objection: “Why do you contend with the Prophet about his having seen Jibreel? He beheld him once again near Sidratul Muntaha which is in the proximity of Paradise, which is the abode of good ones. It was when Sidratul Muntaha was covered with grandeur. His eyes did not wander, nor did they turn aside, for he saw some of his Lord’s greatest signs”.

The exegetes and the traditionalists have quoted many things about the miʿrāj and the things observed by the Prophet but all of them are not final and indisputable. The great Shi’ah commentator and expert Qur’anic exegete, the late Allamah Tabrasi, has divided these narratives into four groups:

1. One group of the narratives is final and indisputable, for example, the fact of the miʿrāj and some of its particulars.

2. The reports which have been quoted in a correct manner but have not reached the stage of finality, although they conform to the principles and verdict of wisdom, for example, survey of Paradise and Hell, journey in the skies and conversation with the souls of the Prophets.

3. The reports which are not apparently acceptable but are capable of interpretation, for example, the Prophet’s conversation during the night with the dwellers of Paradise and Hell which can be explained away by saying that he observed their phantoms, figures and qualities.

4. Exaggerated reports coined and circulated by the liars. For example, it is said at times that the Prophet sat that night with the Almighty or that he heard the sound of His pen.

Though it was appropriate that this grand event should have been properly recorded in all respects, yet, for some reasons, differences have risen about it and one of them is about the date of its occurrence. Two great historians of Islam (Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham) say that this event occurred in the tenth year of the Prophet’s prophethood. The renowned historian Bayhaqi believes that it took place in the twelfth year of his prophethood. Some say that it occurred in the early days of his prophetic mission, whereas others say that the time of its occurrence was the middle period of the prophethood. And at times, in order to add up all these statements, it has been said that the miʿrāj of the Prophet took place more than once. However, we are of the view that the miʿrāj in which daily prayers were made compulsory took place after the death of Abu Talib which occurred in the tenth year of the prophethood of the Prophet.

We conclude this, because it is one of the established facts of history and tradition that during the night of miʿrāj the Allmighty ordered that the Prophet’s followers should offer prayers five times a day and it is also learnt from history that prayers had not been made obligatory till the death of Abu Talib, because when he was on his deathbed the chiefs of Quraysh approached him to settle the dispute between them and his nephew and to prevent him from his activities and to take whatever he wanted as a recompense for it. The Prophet who was present there addressed the chiefs thus: “I don’t want anything from you except that you should confirm that there is no god but Allah and give up worshipping the idols”. He uttered these words and did not at all mention ‘salat’ (prayers) or other articles of faith. This in itself shows that prayers had not been made obligatory till then, for, otherwise, mere declaration of faith devoid of a compulsory action like prayers would have been useless. And as regards the fact that he did not mention his own prophethood, it was because witnessing of monotheism implicitly means confirming of his prophethood...

Those who think that the miʿrāj took place earlier than the tenth year of the prophethood of the Prophet are very much mistaken, because from the eighth up to the tenth year he was economically boycotted and sought refuge in the ‘Valley of Abu Talib’ and the pitiable condition of the Muslims did not make it expedient that they should have been subjected to an additional responsibility like ‘prayers‘…

The quality of the miʿrāj of the Prophet has been a subject of discussion for long and much has been said about its being physical or spiritual, although the Qur’an and the traditions clearly state that it was physical. However, some scientific notions have prevented a group of persons from accepting this reality. Consequently they have resorted to their own interpretations and considered the miʿrāj of the Prophet to be purely spiritual and have said that only his spirit travelled through all the worlds and then returned to his sacred body. Some have gone a step further and say that all these events were a vision and the Prophet saw different places and travelled through them in a dream. The statement of the last group is so distant from logic and reality that it should not at all be considered as a part of the traditions and opinions relating to the miʿrāj. The reason for this is that when Quraysh heard that Muhammad had claimed that he had travelled through all these places during a night they became very uneasy and got up seriously to give him the lie, so much so that this event became the subject of discussion in all the assemblies of Quraysh. In the case that his traveling through these worlds had been only a vision there was no point in Quraysh rising up to refute him and to create all the tumult. This is so because if a person says that one night, while asleep, he has dreamt this and that it cannot become an object of dispute and strife, for a dream is after all a dream and many impossible things can be seen in it…

Spiritual miʿrāj means meditation about the things created by the Almighty and observation of His Grandeur and Beauty and absorption in thoughts about Him and glorifying His name and eventual freedom from material ties and worldly interests and crossing through all possibilities and entering into internal and non-material stages. And after going through all this process a special proximity to Allah is acquired, and it is not possible to define it. If spiritual miʿrāj means meditation about the Grandeur of the Almighty and the extent of the creation, such a miʿrāj is undoubtedly not peculiar to the Prophet of Islam as many Prophets and other enlightened and pure-hearted persons have also enjoyed this position, whereas the Qurtan mentions his miʿrāj as something peculiar to him and an extraordinary distinction for him. Furthermore, the Prophet had been in the aforesaid condition during many nights whereas the miʿrāj has been proved to be related to a particular night...

If the scholars of the past have said something on account of their belief in ancient astronomy, they can be excused and are not much to blame, but it is not proper for us, during the present times, to ignore the Qur’anic realities on account of a hypothesis which has been refuted by contemporary science. Some of those interested in natural sciences, who are anxious to fix a natural cause for every event and a physical agent, for every phenomenon, have chosen to deny the very basis of the miʿrāj and think that modern natural and scientific laws do not confirm to the miʿrāj of the Prophet…

But the Prophet of Islam went on the miʿrāj with the blessing of Allah to Whom the entire creation belongs and Who is the Creator of this wonderful system. It is He who has given gravity to the earth and cosmic rays to the sun, and has created different layers in the atmosphere. And He can take these things back and control them whenever He likes. In the event that the historical journey of the Prophet was accomplished under the command of Allah all these laws decidedly surrender before His absolute Will and are in the grip of His power every moment. In these circumstances, what difficulty should there be if the Lord who has given gravity to the earth and cosmic rays to the heavenly bodies should take His chosen servant out of the centre of gravity with His unlimited power and without any apparent means? Allah who has created oxygen can certainly create air for His chosen Prophet in the areas where air does not exist.

The efficacy of a miracle is basically different from that of the natural causes and the strength of man. We should not consider the strength of Allah limited like our own. If we cannot perform a job without means we should not say that the Omnipotent cannot also perform it. From the point of view of difficulty and its solution the bringing to life of the dead, the transformation of a rod into a snake, and keeping Prophet Yunus alive in the belly of a fish in the depth of the sea, the events which have been confirmed by the Heavenly Books and have been narrated for us, are not unlike the miʿrāj of the Prophet of Islam. In short all the natural causes and external impediments are controlled and conquered by the Will of Allah. His Will does not concern only that which is an impossibility, but besides that He can do whatever He likes, whether or not man possesses strength for it or not…

A person asked the fourth Imam: “Is there a particular place for Allah?” He replied: “No”. The man said: “Then why did He make His Prophet journey through the skies?” The Holy Imam replied: “He made him ascend so that he might become aware of the expanse of the Universe and see and hear wonderful things, the like of which had not been seen and heard by the eyes and ears before.”

It is no doubt necessary that the last Prophet should enjoy such a position that he should rely on this vast information and should be able to send a message to the people of the 21st century, who are still thinking of traveling to Mars, that he did this journey without any means and his Creator was kind to him and made him fully aware of the system of creation.

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There is a lot of passion out there right now.

White people ready to fight and die for “relatively civilized” people.

Palestinians/Rohingya/Kashmiris/etc. and their allies pointing out the hypocrisy that now all of a sudden “the West” pulls out all the stops.

Shi’is suffering yet another attack in a masjid killing dozens of people, and no one really cares.

And myriad other things going on that would just prove my point even further.

So what are we to do?

The same thing we are always called to do by the Qur’an: stand out for justice even if it is against our own selves.

It is wrong for the West to be so hypocritical and so Westerners need to have a more global perspective, stop invading countries and sending drones to blow their people up, and generally be less racist.

It is wrong to back the invasion of another country, the destruction of its infrastructure, and the killing of many civilians simply because it fits your foreign policy agenda, so show solidarity somehow with the Ukrainians who are fighting and dying.

It is wrong to turn a blind eye to Shi’i suffering because you think Shi’i theology is wrong or you just don’t have the time or whataboutism. So just do something – really anything is a good step in the right direction – to affirm that Shi’i Muslims are just as Muslim as Sunni Muslims and are your brothers and sisters in faith and/or humanity.

As a rule, just don’t listen to any government in the world all the time. Russia is sometimes right when they point out the militarism of the West, but that doesn’t make them right when they unilaterally choose to invade Ukraine. The USA is sometimes right when they point out Chinese mistreatment of the Uyghur people, but that doesn’t make them right when they sanction Iran over nuclear weapons that they do not have (but Israel has 200 of them). India is sometimes right when it speaks about the mistreatment of Hindus in neighboring countries, but that doesn’t make them right when they turn a blind eye to violence against Muslims within India and pass laws based on Islamophobic concepts like “Love Jihad.”

No government in the world is the source of perfect justice. They are all flawed institutions that are locked in a system of mutual cooperation and competition, and which seek their own interests in a way that often puts morality aside. In my opinion, this is why the Shi’i and and Sunni legal traditions have historically been skeptical of government service (for example, by serving as a qāḍī [judge] appointed by the ruler). Once you are part of the system, the system may force you to do something that is hard to justify, and no government takes kindly to dissent from its own employees (especially if you are in the military).

Of course, anarchism is not a solution either (just read about the atrocities committed by anarchists on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939). Pure liberation from the system, at least as the last 100 years have proven, has meant just committing more immorality in the name of utopian liberation. So we are stuck where we are by God’s decree, but we still have to be the best we can be.

Since I am not Russian, I don’t have to make amends for the Russian invasion the way I have to for American invasions of Afghanistan, and Vietnam and so on. As a White American, I am morally obliged to grapple with the meaning of my own whiteness. I don’t know what you struggle with, but the point is that we have to look within and struggle. And not just as individuals, but as nations. I can speak to collective American spiritual problems since I am American. Russians will have to teach me what they need to do to correct their nation.

Of course, I and probably you have very little influence. The world moves without our consent and we just react. I may learn something new tomorrow that changes my perspective. But since God is just, God will not judge me based on something I do not yet know. I can only be judged based on what I know today, and this is the best I can do right now.

I hope it has been helpful for you in some way, and you are all welcome to share with me your insights on how to be better.

May Allah make us people who make this Earth a better place to live, and keep us from being people that contribute to injustices upon the land and sea, animals and humans, Muslims and all peoples, āmīn.

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that tree

that tree is older than me

when i entered this world

it was already here

as i journeyed through life

discovering Gita and Qur’an in my teens

it was here

waiting

and now here i am

privileged to gaze upon its beauty and majesty

for God has made this tree

and this poem was written by a fool like me

will it still be here

standing watch

as I exit this life

and begin a new journey

into realms of its Creator’s design

only One knows

and I simply say thank You

for this brief moment

when our paths have crossed

ya Muhyi

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