Archive for May, 2007

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True Zuhd (Asceticism)

May 31, 2007

Ibn Arabi, who is considered to be the greatest sheikh in Sufism, was traveling to Mecca, and he passed through Tunisia. In Tunisia he was told that there was a holy man living there who he must visit. This holy man was a fisherman who lived in a mud hut on the beach and caught three fish a day, no more, and he gave the bodies of these fish to poor and hungry people. He himself boiled the heads of the fish, and just ate the heads. He did this day after day, year after year. He was living the life of a monastic person, a person who has divorced himself from the world totally, and, of course, Ibn Arabi was very impressed with this discipline. So he talked to the fisherman and the fisherman asked, “Where are you going? Are you going to pass through Cairo?” Ibn Arabi nodded and the fisherman said, “My sheikh lives there. Will you please visit him and ask him for advice for me, because all these years that I have been praying and living humbly like this, I haven’t received any advancement in my spiritual life. Please ask him to give me advice.”

Ibn Arabi promised him that he would, and so when he arrived in Cairo, he asked the people in the city where this sheikh lived and they said, “Do you see the huge palace on the top of the hill? He lives there.” So he went to this beautiful palace on the top of the hill, knocked on the door, and was received very well. They brought him into a large, luxurious waiting room, gave him food to eat, and made him comfortable. But the sheikh had gone to visit the king. And Sufis don’t normally visit kings or people in high positions. It’s forbidden because they can become an additional curtain between us and God, an additional attachment to the world.

While Ibn Arabi was in this luxurious room waiting for the sheikh, he looked out the window and saw a procession coming. The sheikh was riding a beautiful Arabian horse and was wearing a big turban, diamond rings, a fur coat, and had a whole honor guard of soldiers at his side, and he arrived with great pomp at the palace. But he was a very nice man, and came and greeted Ibn Arabi warmly, and they sat down and started talking. At some point in the conversation, Ibn Arabi said, “You have a student in Tunisia.” And the sheikh replied, “Yes, I know.” And Ibn Arabi said, “He asked for your spiritual advice.” “Tell my student,” the sheikh said, “If he’s so attached to this world, he’s never going to get anywhere.”

So this was confusing to Ibn Arabi, but on his trip back, he stopped in Tunisia. He went to the fisherman there, who immediately asked, “Did you see my sheikh?” “Yes, I saw your sheikh,” he replied. “What did he say?” asked the fisherman. And Ibn Arabi, looking uncomfortable, said, “Well, your sheikh, you know, he lives in great pomp and great luxury.” The fisherman replied, “Yes, I know. What did he say?” So Ibn Arabi told him: “He said as long as you’re so attached to this world, you are never going to get anywhere.” And the fisherman cried and cried. “He’s right,” he said, “each day, when I give those three fish bodies to the people, my heart goes with them. Each day, I wish I could have a whole fish instead of just a head, while my sheikh lives in great luxury but doesn’t care at all about it. Whether he has it or not, it doesn’t touch him.”

— Traditional story, as told in an interview by Sheikh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi

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Knowledge of the Self

May 28, 2007

Allah says in the Qur’an:

Do they not reflect within themselves? (30:8)

The Messenger of Allah reportedly saids, “Whoever knows himself knows his Lord.”

A man came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him and his family peace) and said, “O Messenger of Allah, how does one arrive at knowledge of the Real?”

The Prophet replied, “By knowing oneself.”

Amirul-Mu`mineen Ali bin Abi Talib (peace be upon him) once said, “Knowledge of the self is the most useful form of knowledge.”

— from Prophetic Traditions in Islam: On the Authority of the Family of the Prophet compiled by Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri

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Leave me alone

May 26, 2007

I really don’t like MMORPGs. That is all.

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Lanky beanpoles

May 25, 2007

I’ve been ordering shirts from Shukr. My goal is to eventually replace my entire wardrobe (won’t take as long as you might think) with these stylish Islamesque (patent pending) shirts.

I love the store, but there is one problem. Their size charts assume that everyone is a lanky beanpole. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but men in my family have big chests and broad shoulders. I wear a size 44 in chest comfortably. 43 starts to get tight and 42 makes me feel like I have a kid’s shirt on.

According to Shukr, 44, which is an XL (extra large), is for people over 6 feet tall! Imagine the chest on a 6-foot+ guy only being 44 inches, hence the beanpole reference. Anyway, my shirts end up being below my knees, so I have to get my dear mother to hem them (yeah, my wife just doesn’t do that kind of stuff).

There you have it readers: the silliest post I’ve ever written.

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Enforcing Hijab

May 24, 2007

Recently, Iran has begun to “crack down” on violators of hijab.  Specifically, women who are not covered properly must deal with the legal authorities and whatever that entails (fines, jail time, etc.)

I’ve been wondering lately what precedence there is for enforcing hijab.  By precedence, I mean the historical legal framework under which a law can be established.  In this case, I am referring directly to the lifespan of the Messenger of God (May peace and blessings be upon him and his family).  Was there ever an incident during the Prophet’s life of a woman who refused to cover?  If so, how was it handled?  How was it enforced?  Or was it enforced at all?

I once sent an inquiry to the office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatullah Ali Khamene`i regarding whether or not a state could enforce hijab.  His official response was “Situations vary,” and it then referred me to the chapter of his rulings on enjoining the good and forbidding the wrong.

It was not the answer I expected, and it leaves open the question of whether enforcing it is a legal necessity, following the shari’ah, or simply the prerogative of the jurist-led state.  If anyone out there has any insight into this matter, please share.

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The Palestinian Problem

May 23, 2007

The problem for the Palestinians, as it has always been, is not directly Israel or America. It is not the influence of Syria or Iran. It is not the lack of support from neighboring arab countries or their treatment as second-class citizens when they flee to those countries for support.

All of those issues are real and must be remedied, but they will not be addressed until the Palestinians deal with the issue of leadership. For decades, the leadership of the Palestinians has been monopolized by Fatah, mainly under the leadership of Yasser Arafat.

There is little doubt that Arafat loved his people and wanted to eventually see those people liberated, but he was not a good leader, was certainly not qualified to make any of their dreams reality, and eventually drowned himself in his own corruption. Mahmoud Abbas is, unfortunately, even worse. He has remained in a bent-over position for Israel since taking office as “President.”

G.W. Bush and his administration pushed for general elections. In fact, despite everyone else (except the palestinian people) begging him not to, Bush insisted that they be allowed to democratically elect their representatives and their future. Enter: Hamas, a well-organized, well-funded, well-respected, and well-on-their-way-to-liberation…uh, terrorist organization?

Yes, the Palestinian people chose their leadership, undoubtedly the best leadership, but instead of supporting Hamas’ transition from armed resistance to politics, the West punished the people. As a result, the people are more divided, more confused, and more angry at Israel and America than ever before. Fatah al-Islam is only the beginning, and it will only get worst.

Look to any great revolution, and behind it, you will find a great leader. People like Khomeini, Mandela, and many others had all been accused of terrorism, but it was their charisma and unflinching faith, not their controversy, that drove them to success.

It will only get worse before it gets better. The pointless wall that Israel is building around the occupied territories will eventually crumble. The only question is, will it crumble under a wrecking ball or under bombs? Let us pray that the occupiers wise up and opt for a peaceful two-state solution, before those they have oppressed leave them no choice.

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Dead Birds

May 18, 2007

So, we have a dead bird in our yard, and before you comment and say, “Why don’t you just pick it up and throw it in the trash?” you should learn a few things about infectious diseases.

Anyway, the Department of Public Works (i.e. waste management) said that they were no longer picking up dead birds because of the bird flu. So, they told us to call the Health Department…problem is, they don’t answer their phone.

Is that a bad sign?