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Dew Point

This blog is dedicated to sharing my every-day discoveries of how the light and beauty of Islamic spirituality can be part of a modern, well-rounded way of life.

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Patience

Between 33 Beads

My glossy burgundy subha had been dangling there for weeks, unused, upon the embroidered cushion resting casually against the Malaysian wood chair in my living room.

The prayer beads were almost camouflaged as they nestled into a tawny-coloured pillow cover I purchased during a trip to Istanbul six years ago, the image of a traditional Turkish tunic woven upon it in numerous shades of brown, gold, red and grey.

It was almost camouflaged. But mostly just overlooked.

I knew it was there, after all, for that is where I always placed the subha once I’d finished with it following an early-morning or late-night period of worship. Gliding each of the 33 beads slowly and methodically along the string with my index finger and thumb, I would repeat some poignant devotion between each click of a bead: one of the 99 Glorious Names of God, or a Quranic verse, or a phrase of sufi remembrance, all in an earnest effort to draw my attention to the Divine.
prayer beads two.jpgYet supplications, as important as they are in maintaining a consistent state of peace of mind and presence in Islam, are all too often left to fall by the wayside as I get swept up in my life.

I find excuses for being too busy to do more than my daily prayers, and too distracted to remember that dhikr, a form of devotion involving repeated acts of remembrance recited silently or aloud, is just as important to sustaining a well-rounded spiritual routine.

For as many times as I may neglect them, though, those beads always lure me back, usually when a circumstance of life reminds me of my fragility.
Continue reading “Between 33 Beads”

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Everything is a blessing

For the past four years, every time I open the door to leave my apartment, I’ve almost consistently recited three poignant yet simple Islamic phrases in a subtle whisper that’s only audible to me.

“Bismillah” (In the name of God), I say in a quick breath as I rotate the lock to the right and grasp the door nob. I continue with “Tawakkul ‘ala Allah” (I place my complete trust and reliance in God), as I step into the hallway and gently close the door. And “Laa Hawla Wa Laa Quwwata Il-la Bil-laah” (There is neither might nor power except with Allah) glides along my tongue as I turn the key fasten the lock until, by God’s will, I return.

It takes the whole of about seven seconds to recite these lines before dashing to the elevator to rush to work, run an errand, attend a social gathering or take a trip to a grocery store. The words are so simple for the richness and tremendous power they encompass when reflected upon.

They embody the essence of surrendering to God, which is what Islam is all about. When we say them, we are acknowledging that from the moment of utterance, we’re leaving it to the Gracious One to guide, protect and guard us. And by doing so, whatever happens during the course of the day becomes a reflection of that state of surrender, whether it is good or bad, easy or challenging, unpleasant or comforting, agonizing or healing.
Continue reading “Everything is a blessing”

A patient melody

“الصبر من كل الصبر أشتك مني”

“From all of (my) patience, Patience complained about me”

This is a lyric from a song that Egyptian singer and actress Laila Mourad performed in the 1948 film Anbar  (عنبر), which I watched last night with my mom. The poignant words caught my attention and I immediately made note of them. Laila’s character Anbar begins to sing in a room in the basement of her home, where some relatives are holding her captive as they seek to track down her dying father’s hidden fortune. While a lot of the lyrical richness of rhyme and metaphor inherent to the Arabic language gets lost in translation, essentially Anbar is expressing that patience itself had grown impatient with all of the trials that she had endured while awaiting release from her current turmoil. Continue reading “A patient melody”

My mother’s sister

One of my fondest memories of my maternal auntie Sanaa, who passed away yesterday, was observing as she and mom embraced, giggled and gossiped as they sat together upon reuniting following a separation of several years. You couldn’t interrupt their joy and intent focus on one another. It was as though I wasn’t in the room as they sat on my aunt’s bed holding hands and bursting into uproarious laughter, literally, every five minutes. Continue reading “My mother’s sister”

Al-Ghazali’s lessons on patience

 “Truly, God grants breezes in the days of your life. So place yourself in their way.”

I’ve been making my way through a few books that are part of the Revival of the Religious Sciences, a 40-part series regarded as one of the greatest works on Islamic spirituality, written by Islamic theologian-mystic Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali in the 11th and 12th centuries.

A few days ago, I started reading The Book of Patience and Thankfulness, hoping to benefit from Al-Ghazali’s gems of wisdom on how to bear burdens and grief with greater steadfastness and contentment. One can hardly pass 10 pages of Al-Ghazali’s words without being blown away by a precious jewel of insight that I am compelled to read and re-read several times in order to absorb its beauty and understand its applicability to my life.

Patience is considered to be half of faith according to Hadith, the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace. I’ve found this to be true in my own spiritual journey of embracing Islam, which describes a state of mind where a believer strives to live in complete devotion to God by recognising and guiding daily activities around core principles. Aligning oneself with the divine enlivens a powerful spiritual balance that transcends circumstances, and makes natural activities of prayer, fasting, charity, remembrance of God and good deeds. Having faith in practice is not simply a belief, but an embodiment of a way of life. Continue reading “Al-Ghazali’s lessons on patience”

10 Ways to Maintain Ramadan’s Spiritual Momentum

(This article was carried by the Huffington Post)

Many people identifying with the Islamic faith are aware of the unmistakable and inspiring spirit that characterises the month of Ramadan.

As we refrain from food and drink, which can become luxuries we unconsciously take for granted, greater time is spent in quiet concentration, reflection and prayer to God in an effort to de-clutter our minds and revitalise our faith. Since the entire month centres on expressions of worship, namely fasting, prayer, dispensing charity and better guiding our emotions, Ramadan offers a kind of spiritual reboot that helps us ‘force quit’ the numerous complications that muddle our minds. It invites Muslims to re-visit the source of their faith by sidelining various distractions and clearing up as much spiritual space as possible to nourish our relationship with the Almighty.

Islam is Arabic for Submission, or Complete Devotion, to God and can only be achieved through a human’s free will. It embodies a state of mind whereby consciousness of God, or Allah in Arabic, guides all of our actions. We integrate different acts of worship into everything we do, such that expressions of remembrance and gratitude to God become the goal of each activity. Submission places in a human’s grasp peace of mind. It offers a level of understanding that positions human experience within the greater design of existence; where all realities have divine input and purpose. Continue reading “10 Ways to Maintain Ramadan’s Spiritual Momentum”

In loving memory

(A version of this article was carried by The Huffington Post)

One of my favourite pastimes while visiting British Columbia during my summer holiday is taking morning strolls down the meandering gravel trail that stretches alongside the Fraser River situated about 10 minutes from our house in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, Canada.

A walk along the pathway in the early morning isn’t particularly elaborate; its beauty is much more unassuming and steeped in nostalgia. The gravel path glides along an untrimmed shoreline of marshes, scattered clusters of wildflowers and trees both drooped and willowy. A backdrop of sounds combine the crunch of the gravel, singing birds, lapping waves, the occasional seaplane landing and the imbued silence and freshness of the open air. On the river’s edge, one may find a man sitting on one of the rocks or wooden logs resting against the slanted cliff of the waterbody, his fishing rod dunked into the freshwater in hopes of catching a Pacific salmon, trout or flounder. A family of ducks, meanwhile, may be gliding its way across the water nearby.

An elderly couple may be standing at the edge of the riverbank, performing tai chi as the water behind them stretches out into the Pacific Ocean in the distance. When the skies are clear, as they often are in July, it can be difficult to distinguish the horizon where the blue of the ocean ends and the sky begins. The couple will remain intently engaged in their martial art as residents pass by, alone or in pairs, jogging, walking or cycling across the multi-kilometre trail that stretches much of the length of the city. Almost everyone is ready to greet with a friendly ‘good morning’.

This winding ecological trail is evidently teeming with life, and yet across the length of it are reminders about death embedded on a sequence of wooden benches situated all along the pathway, overlooking the waterfront. Continue reading “In loving memory”

My Five Fs (+1) for Fulfilment

This entry will be a bit different. It is perhaps – well, probably – slightly cheesy. But a bit of ‘cheesy’ is not necessarily a bad thing; I think cheese in moderation, much like a creamy slice of Havarti, can often add some much-needed satisfaction to a daily routine of unsalted crackers.

I have been thinking lately about what brings me fulfilment in life, and I discovered that the key components of my general satisfaction and happiness at this moment in time could be summed up in five words, all of which start with the letter F. So below I outline a list of my FIVE Fs (+1) for FULFILMENT as I see them unfold in my daily life. Continue reading “My Five Fs (+1) for Fulfilment”

Relief around the corner

(A version of this article was published by the Huffington Post)

Often when I get overwhelmed by circumstances in my life I imagine circling around the Kaaba, the cube-shaped emblem of Islam that stands in the centre court of the Great Mosque, Masjid Al Haram, in Mecca. Performing the short pilgrimage, known as umrah, involves as a first step walking seven times around the Kaaba, literally meaning “cube” to describe the approximate shape of the structure whose corners are positioned toward the four points of a compass.

I first visited the Kaaba during Ramadan three years ago. For my entire life, the stone edifice draped in an elaborate black-silk- and gold-embroidered cloth, or Kiswah, had seemed accessible only through images in books or the woven depictions of it on velvet prayer rugs. Muslims pray in the direction of the Kaaba regardless of where they are in the world. Always conscious of its importance, I couldn’t envisage seeing it before me and praying at its side.

The Kaaba during my first visit to Mecca in 2008

Standing in the hall of the Great Mosque, the Kaaba in immediate view for the first time, moved me to tears instantly. I arrived just after sunrise with my cousin and her son in earnest hopes we could get near enough to the Kaaba for me to lay my hands on this sanctuary that God had first instructed Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael, peace and blessings upon them, to erect in His honour. Muslims are drawn by the millions to Mecca in Ramadan to perform umrah, which carries the same excellence as the hajj pilgrammage if performed in the course of the month of fasting, according to Prophetic teachings.

Continue reading “Relief around the corner”

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