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Monthly Archives: December 2003

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Broken leg. Broken heart. Same Difference.

One day, a man falls off of his horse and breaks his leg. And the man’s neighbors go, “How terrible that you should have broken your leg! Now you won’t be able to ride your horse or even walk.” And the man only says, “Allah knows best.”

The next day, a conscription officer comes around the village and takes all able-bodied men off to war, leaving the man with the broken leg behind. And the man’s neighbor’s go, “How wonderful that you should have broken your leg! Other men will go off to die, but you will be safe at home with your family.” And the man only says, “Allah knows best.”

It is later learnt that many of the men who went to war are returning victorious and rich with the spoils. And the man’s neighbors go, “How terrible that you should have broken your leg! The soldiers are returning rich and happy, and you have had to sit here convalescing while they earn money and honor.” And the man only says, “Allah knows best.”

As it goes, the man’s army loses the war, and soon the enemy soldiers come to take revenge on those men who fought them and killed their comrades. Many houses in the village are burned and many men taken away, but the man with the broken leg is spared. And his neighbors go, “You are the only able-bodied man left alive in this town, how wonderful that you should have broken your leg!” And the man only says, “Allah knows best.”

And the story goes on and on. The moral is that man hasn’t a clue as to what’s good or bad for him. Allah causes things to happen in our lives, and we become happy or sad depending on whether we think those things are good or bad for us. The truth is, that the only good or bad that can come out of something depends on how we react to it. A man can use the riches that Allah has given him (a good thing?) to purchase haram, to buy power and to oppress the people around him. Or, a man can take his poverty (a bad thing?) to build up his patience, his Iman, and maintain a humble generousness to those even less fortunate than he is.

It is not for us to pronounce the will of Allah as either good or bad, and like the man with the broken leg, I, with my broken engagement have nothing to say except that Allah knows best.

There’s a certain mental peace one finds while sitting on the prayer rug. Even after the prayer is finished and the dua has already been concluded, the boundaries of the prayer rug mark a sanctuary, a small space on this busy earth from where the noise, the chaos, and the tension of the world are held at bay. There you are free to stay in sajdah as long as you like, to place your face on the floor and whisper into the softness of the rug, “Here I am Allah.”

And if you happen to fall asleep that way, if the drowsiness from sleepless, worried nights catches up with you on the prayer rug, it’s alright. And if in sleeping, you forget the anxiety that had given way to nausea, and you find five or ten minutes of peace, that’s alright too. You’ll wake up in the same position you fell asleep in, and though your legs may be heavy and numb, your heart will be calm and your pain will have lost its edge.

The only drawback is that eventually, you have to get up. You have to brace yourself and step off of the prayer rug, back into life and the uncertainty that hounds it, back into family and the friction that inevitably results from the politics. Rising from the rug you must go back to work, back to the meaningless grind that nags and preoccupies.

And if in doing so, you find your mind taxed and your nerves frazzled, if you realize you are being driven deeper into distress and distraction than you ever thought possible, that’s alright. And if the world drives you to tears, that’s alright too, because the prayer rug is right where you left it, and its borders still mark the beginning of sanctuary that is always open. You’ll be free to stay as long as you like, to place your face on the floor and whisper into the softness of the rug, “Here I am Allah.”

(Results of the Sensei’s Rhyming Rumble will be announced in three days. ‘Till then, feel free to enter a submission. – Sensei)

The gears that should be working

Should be cranking out the stuff

But they’re busy turning turbines

And they have no time for fluff

So forgive my lack of update

And instead accept this rhyme

And if you enjoyed reading it

And if you have the time

Feel free to leave your own verse

Don’t feel shy you guys

It’s Sensei’s Rhyming Rumble,

And you may win first prize!

(wah wah wah)

(mukarrar mukarrar)

And to get the poultry…err…poetry juices flowing, here are some classic poems that have been recited in my house since time immemorial. Well, here are two that don’t require too much censoring anyway… What can I say, I have two brothers. :p

There once was a man from Pakistan

Who had six fingers on each hand.

He said, “This is great,

But I’d rather have eight!

If I cut two in half, then I can.”
Aniraz/Momma

There once was a man from ‘Pindi

Who habitually et too much bhindi*

And too many greens

And way too much beans.

Of course, they made him, uh…you know.

He broke his wudu a lot, ok?
(Anonymous)

Sensei Presents: Mortally Wound Yourself, In Bed.

I know it sounds hard, but it can be done. And last night, I proved it. Here’s how.

Set your alarm clock for 6 am, the appropriate time for Fajr prayer these days. When it goes off, wait for your roomie to pray first because there’s only one prayer-rug upstairs, and because that’s the way it works. So wait in your warm and comfy bed, and then be woken up five minutes later and pushed in the direction of the bathroom to do wudu.

Do wudu with cruelly cold water (I could pray faster than it would take the warm water to come into the tap) and then shiver your way over to the prayer rug. Do your best to be worshipful through chattering teeth.

I would like to take a minute here to describe the architecture of Pakistani housing. Most Pakistani houses are composed of plaster on brick, or RCC- reinforced concrete cement. None of them, not a single one, are insulated, and you could find a horned cat before you found one with central heating. What this means is that when it’s 50 F outside (10 C) it’s not much warmer on the inside unless you’re within the immediate vicinity of a heater. For all practical purposes, you live inside of a giant concrete refrigerator until spring comes and you thaw out.

It was 50 F/10 C last night, and foggy, and wet, and bitterly cold. The inside of the house wasn’t much better off. I tell you this so you may understand the blind enthusiasm with which I jumped back into bed after praying and nearly split my head open on a hard, pointed object that turned out to be Aniraz’s elbow lying on my pillow.

Then I died. And I have the bruise to prove it.

Now, there is some dispute as to whether her elbow infiltrated Abezistani territory and ambushed me, or whether my head was violating the border terms that had been decided in previous bilateral talks. (This is my bed, that is your bed. My bed, your bed. See?) . Our two beds have been pushed together so that both of them can be as close to the heater as possible, and there are often border skirmishes. She accuses my head of cross-border infiltration, and argues that her elbow responded with appropriate military measures. I maintain that my head was acting on it preexisting right to use the aforesaid pillow, as it is my ancestral pillow and its usage cannot be curbed based on the arbitrary Line of Control that Anirazistan has drawn up without consideration for the indigenous population. I would also point out that certain unsavory elements, such as Aniraz’s knee, have often made incursions into Abezistani territory to terrorize the native population and then return to the safety of their borders.

If it gets any worse, I will have no choice but to appeal to the third-party intervention for a peaceful and just resolve to the issue. Forget Mom, I’m taking this to the UN.

A very merry unbirthday, to meee!

I’m going to take a quick breather from all this heavy blogging and return to some nonsense, I just wanna say, on Shawwal 27th, 1400 AH., a Sensei was born. And this blog is not just a happy-birthday-to-me post, it’s a quick reminder.

Thank Allah for everything, for the blessing of Islam, for the comfort you live in, the family you love and the family that loves you.

Thank Allah for a year of blessings and ask Him to do the same in the year to come. Pray to Allah to forgive a year of sins and ask His protection from them in the year to come.

In fact, ask Allah to forgive you for all the sins you have committed against others as well as the ones you have committed against your own soul.

More importantly, ask Allah to forgive any and all sins that other people have committed against you. It’s wonderfully refreshing, actually.

Thank Allah for being born, and try to remember it *not* just on your birthday, Abez.

*click here for an absolutely charming story!*

This blog is an elaboration of yesterday’s in light of some comments and questions that have been raised in the comments box.

One thing that came up is that Populo- errr, ok, Democracy, is not to blame for Cuba, for Vietnam, for Korea. You know what, that’s true. The principals of democracy themselves say nothing about waging unjust wars as a matter of policy, in fact, they say basically nothing at all about such matters. That’s the problem. They have no such manifesto or creed that outlines where war can and cannot be justified. There is no concept of approving military measures only under certain circumstances, the motive behind a certain war doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is- can it be supported by popular opinion?

Like in the cases of Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, the motives behind those and other conflicts are unimportant, (regardless of whether they were justifiable or unjustifiable, capitalist or nationalist) the fact is those conflicts were approved, not on the basis of a just cause, but on popular support. The only principle of Democracy is that whatever the majority votes for will happen, and the fact that a majority can be emotionally swayed with government propaganda to support an unjust war is something that should be taken into consideration when looking at the system. On the other hand, a just cause without popular support will go un-fought for unless the populace changes its mind, as in the case of Bosnia (which took years to gather support), and like many places in Africa now where genocide and human rights abuses definitely warrant third-party intervention and peace-keeping action, but there has been no action on the US’s part simply because the average citizen will not approve.

I would ask anyone who stood up for democracy what they would say if suddenly laws were passed against them. What if you, Joe Average Muslim, were suddenly ordered to be deported because new anti-Muslim laws were voted into power? Of course, they might be called something fancier, like Muslim Exclusion Acts, or Homeland Security measures, but these laws would still be calling for you to be arrested and uprooted without compensation because popular opinion decided you were dangerous due solely to your religious inclination. Or what if you, Joe Muslim, were fired from your job because it was illegal to have a beard? What if you, Joe Muslim, had your daughter expelled from school because she refused to remove her head-scarf? What if you were legally forbidden from reading or teaching the Qur’an in Arabic?

Heck, what if Islam was suddenly made illegal because it “promoted terrorism,” as many Americans believe. It wouldn’t matter that you know better, and even some Americans know better, because you guys are a minority and the minority is doomed. Would you still stand up for democracy then? Even though it had betrayed you? It would be no fault of democracy’s, because rule by popular opinion is the foundation of democracy, and the principle then would be no different than it is now.

It is the main principle of democracy, government by popular opinion, that is fundamentally flawed. There are no social guidelines, there are no limits to how low a society can go so long as a majority approves. There is no concept of morality, or right or wrong, and depending on how popular opinion is feeling, the pendulum can swing between the puritanically ferocious (she’s a witch, burn her!) and the irresponsibly lax. It won’t matter if the ozone layer is eroded to an ozone doily, the environmental protection laws won’t be passed unless you can convince at least 51% of people that they shouldn’t be environmentally-unfriendly, and most people don’t like you telling them what to do. Joe American likes his SUV. Good luck.

The alternative to democracy for Muslims is Shariah, which is typically accused of being harsh, brutal, and discriminatory to non-Muslims. But this blog is long enough today already, and I’ll talk about Shariah and these accusations in my next post, InshaAllah.

Now, my comments link is as follows, and I don’t expect everyone to agree, but I do expect all of you guys to behave yourselves!

(Don’t make me give you time in the corner, the English teacher said.)

The comments that people have been leaving for yesterday’s post have brought up some interesting questions and ideas, and one thing that’s come up several times is Shariah. I’m all for it, btw. Why? Man’s proven that he’s a loser, that the he doesn’t know best, and that the systems he invents are flawed. Just look at Communism, at Socialism, at Dictatorship (waves in the direction Parliament building). Read up on Anarchy, Monarchy, Plutocracy, Oligarchy and all the other crazy systems that man has tried to govern society with. They all have their pros, and they all have cons too, and some of them have holes in their logic that you could drive a semi through. Take, for example, my favorite form of government. I call it Populocracy.

In Populocracy, the laws of society are not decided by the society’s educated or qualified, or by people of understanding, they are decided on according to popular support. What this means is that if 80% of the common citizens were in favor of legalizing something like, say…child molestation, it would happen. In countries where Populocracy is practiced, child-murder (abortion), pornography and homosexuality are already legal, and it’s assumed that drugs will soon be too. After all, anything with enough popular support goes, regardless of whether it’s a benefit or a detriment to the society. Similarly, a law that is of obvious benefit to a society, like many conservation and environmental acts, will go unpassed simply due to lack of popular support. There is no right or wrong, there is only popular and unpopular.

Leaders in the populocratic system are picked very much the same way. Instead of putting the question of leadership to who is most qualified, or most experienced, or brilliant enough to be in a position of office, it is put to who is most popular. In some populocratic countries, actors and actresses with no previous experience in civil administration or even leadership are put into positions of power and great responsibility. Just this year, an actor, Arnold Schwarzenegar, was elected to govern millions of people in the fifth largest economy in the world, California.

It’s interesting that populocratic principles apply not only to law, but to justice as well. Innocence or guilt in a populocratic court are not decided by a panel of judges trained in criminology and judicial proceedings, rather, the trial is decided by a group of the defendant’s peers, while a single judge plays the role of referee. Regardless of whether these peers have any knowledge of pathology, or criminal psychology, or any field of knowledge that would help them make the best decision possible, they are still given the task of deciding a defendant’s guilt. In their uninformed, inexperienced hands, they hold the power of life and death. Cases have shown that results can vary when a single case is given two trials (OJ Simpson: Acquitted in a criminal court and guilty in a civil court), and sometimes, the group of peers can be emotionally swayed to make decisions that go against evidence, and sometimes against the very grain of logic. It’s interesting to note that this panel of peers is picked at random, and ones with any prior knowledge of the case are exempted from taking in part of it.

What country of fools, you would ask, what kind of morons would put their country into the hands of mob mentality when popular opinion is by no means a valid indicator of the rightness or wrongness of an action or a law? Were Jim-Crow laws in the southern US not put in place by popular opinion? Never mind that the enlightened, the brilliant, the men of understanding of the time knew that racial discrimination and segregation were baseless and inexcusable, because they had no power. In a Populocracy, there is no power except in numbers, and the might of these superior numbers means right.

It is often minorities who suffer the most in a Populocracy, because they simply lack the numbers it would take to swing laws in their favor. In some populocratic countries, religious groups are marginalized and their religious practices banned by a hostile majority, regardless of the fact that religious discrimination of any sort is inexcusable. There have been instances in populocratic history where ethnic and religious minorities have lost their properties, their civil rights, even their human rights legally and with the government’s blessing, because popular opinion at the time was in favor of such laws and the government acted accordingly.

And you know what’s sad? This illogical system is one of the most popular in the world, and there are people and governments who are currently in the process of waging war and placing embargoes on non-populocratic countries simply because they refuse to implement Populocracy. And this isn’t the first time, in the 1960’s a militant Populocracy invaded Vietnam for the sole purpose of installing a populocratic government to prevent the spread of Communism, a system highly opposed to Populocracy while simultaneously being just as foolish. This same country also staged a failed invasion of Cuba and a half-takeover in Korea that has split the country between populocratic and non-populocratic governments in a bloody civil war, solely for the purpose of spreading Populocracy in the world, even if by force.

In case no one’s noticed yet, Democr- err, Populocracy is nothing but mob mentality loosely housed within an administrative structure. And people wonder why I, born, raised, and college-educated in a populocratic country (though currently living in a dictatorship) am so in favor of Shariah.

Before I get down to the nitty-gritty of this blog, I want to make a disclaimer. There are good and bad people everywhere in the world, and it is not my intention to discredit or insult Pakistani Muslims. Though Pakistan may be a country of Muslims, Muslims (unfortunately) do not represent Islam, and the fact that there are hyprocrites and losers here doesn’t mean that there aren’t any good Muslims or that there isn’t any benefit in living in a Muslim society. But that’s another blog. Now on with the show.

Right, so today another restaurant opened up next to my father’s restaurant. We’ll call that place Café X. So Café X had their grand opening today. They put up a tent, invited a district Nazim (local council member) and the Nazim gave a nice speech about running an honorable business that’s good for both the owners and community. Then there was a recitation of the Qur’an, and then the owners of the place thanked Allah, without whose help none of this would be possible, etc etc. Then there was free food, and then the restaurant was officially opened, and everything was well and good. Then the guests went home and the owners and the restaurant staff went into the restaurant.

A note about this restaurant, the front of it is all glass, from the ceiling to the floor. It’s brightly lit too, so you can see who’s eating there from a hundred feet away. You can also see who’s drinking there, especially when they break out dozens of huge bottles of liquor and get raging drunk, everyone, all the way from the owner down to the waiters, and during business hours. At eleven o’clock, which is roughly dinner-time in a Pakistani restaurant, they were all sloshed and making quite a fuss. They were also feeling generous, so they invited my father (and anyone who came to the restaurant door) in for drinks. My father gave them an earful of vitriol (tsssss) and then went back to Chez Daddy.

Then, at closing time, midnight, my father passed by Café X again and was nearly shocked out of his socks. The big screen TV that they have in the dining hall (the one that you can see from such and such a distance through that great glass window) was on, and they were watching porn. And of course, they were all still drinking and having a lovely time with their chairs pulled straight up and around the TV set.

So what do you do when you live in Pakistan and the people next door are getting drunk and publicly showing pornography? Do you call the police? No, the police come to the plaza every weekend and get drunk, and they bring their prostitutes too. Do you tell the superintendent of police? No, because he’s the one who throws the parties they’re attending. Who do you tell? The higher up you go, the lower you find people on the scale of morality. Could you even take it to the President? No, because he likes his Johnny Walker, and he doesn’t mind saying so.

So who do you tell? Your daughters. You come home and fume and rage because the country you love, the people that you want to call your own brothers are betraying their religion and their selves. They’re spreading the disease, the internal rot that’s causing our Muslim communities to collapse on themselves in a festering heap of corruption and depravity, in love of sin and weakness of Iman.

And right now, as I’m typing this blog, the guys at Café X are still drinking and still watching filth and they’re still inviting anyone who passes by the restaurant to come in and join them. They’re not just being corrupt &^#%$#’s in private, they’re getting other people to join them, people who might never have drunk before or might never had head their minds polluted with hard-core pornography. Those guys are hurting this community, my community, the people I live with in the place I live in, and there’s nothing I can do about it. The police are useless in this matter, and we’re powerless to do anything to stop them.

I know that there’s no compulsion in religion, but there sure as heck is accountability, and justice, and both are in short order at Café X. People complain about guys with sticks- moral police or militant mullahs or something like that. But you know what? Right now, I’m starting to wonder why we don’t have any.

I don’t know who nominated me, and even more mysteriously, who even voted for me? Whackos. But I do know this, I NEED MORE VOTES! MWAHAAAAAAHAAA!

(“now there’s a shameless self-promotion if I ever saw one“- Aniraz)

I tried to hide, but it was no good.

They’ve found me.

They know where I am.

It’s all over now, and now they’re going to make me go back. Back to- to… work!

NooOoooOOooOOOoooooo!

Alright, that’s enough melodrama, for now. Truth is, I’ve been back in town since the third, but I hadn’t told any of my students that I was back yet. I was enjoying my vacation (the second one, the one after my vacation in Karachi) for as long as I possibly could. I thought I could just blend back into the house after coming back, like I had never left, but eventually my dad noticed that I was home a lot more than usual.

“Beta,” my father said to me a few days ago as I sat reading the newspaper in my pajamas, “When are you going to go back to work?”

“Oh, err, um…” I fumbled for an answer, spilling coffee in my lap. “The guy from that website contacted me and said I could start writing for them, and they’d pay too, so I thought maybe I’d just work…from home instead?”

“You mean stay home and wear your pajamas until lunch and play video games all day?”

(Damn, I’d been discovered.)

“I can write in my pajamas…” I offered weakly.

“You should call your students,” my father said, shaking his head. “And tell them you’re back in town. It’s no good for you to sit around the house all day. You need to go back to work.”

Back to work? Nuts. And one of my students called me today, too. So now they know I’m back in town and I don’t have a choice. It’s back to work with me, back to getting dressed (pish-tosh!) and waking up before 10:00. (appalling!) Back to making a daily commute and pretending like I’m a responsible adult and teacher, preparing lesson plans, class work, homework. You know, the silly part is that I *like* my job. It’s interesting, it’s fun, and you meet great people. (I teach mostly adults- embassy staff) I don’t know why I’m so reluctant to go back, except that I’ve just gotten used to being home again, even though it is a bit boring until Aniraz comes back from work. Still though, I get to hang out in my pajamas, and what more could a [hu]man want?

If only I could start going to work in my pajamas. Problem is though, I only have one pair that I like, and if I wore the same ones every day, my students might get suspicious of me. What I really should do, is start sleeping in my work clothes. Then my work clothes would get that great bed-time look, the all-over wrinkles and the fuzz off of the flannel bed sheets. They still wouldn’t be as comfortable though, because no matter how nappy, how wrinkled, and how fuzzy they became, they still wouldn’t be made of flannel. –sigh-

Decisions, decisions.

*****

Right, so that half of the blog was typed yesterday, and today I’m home again after being to work. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be, probably because I kept my long-johns on under my jilbab, and therefore did go to work in my pajamas after all. 🙂

I shouldn’t complain, because I had an interesting day. One of the classes I teach is with the wives of two diplomats from *insert country name here.* And sometimes, their children too. Like Maya, who is eighteen months old, and absolutely enamored with her mother while simultaneously being terrified of me.

Today Maya sat in on our class, pulling a chair up next to her mother and climbing on board. Then, with her head barely showing over the top of the table, she pulled out her copy of ‘Little Red Riding Hood” (it was in Russian) and opened it and lined it up with her mother’s book. When her mother read, Maya very carefully imitated, turning the pages (both forwards and backwards, hmmm) and looking over to her mother every few seconds to make sure she had done it right. Of course, she also looked up at me regularly, and nearly wilted in wide-eyed fear before looking back to her mother for the courage to carry on. (boo!) When Maya’s mother began writing flash cards, Maya grabbed one as well, and after studying her mother’s pens carefully, she picked one up, stared down the barrel intensely, and then put it to the card. Everything that her mother did, Maya did, and she did her best to make sure she was doing it right by turning and checking on her mother every two seconds.

Maya’s was a silent pantomime, until her mother began reading aloud what was written in her grammar book. Maya thought she’d join in, and so every time her mother opened her mouth, Maya opened hers and very solemnly said, “Bdp,dp,bdp dp, pppp, dp, bdp,” a sound not unlike the beginning to Porky Pig’s classic, “Bdp, bdp, bd—That’s all folks!” Well, Maya happens to be very good at it, so she kept on the whole time, giving her mother a most discordant and disturbingly cute accompaniment to the grammar lesson.

“Which of the following (bdp ppp dbp bp bp) best describes (dp dp) the theme of the passage on the (pbbbbb dbp dbd bd) following (ppppbbbbb) page?”

And when class was over, Maya dropped off of her chair and toddled beside her mother as we walked to the door. I waved goodbye, which was apparently just too much, so she gave me one last look of mortal terror, a few more bdp bdp’s, and then tore down the hall shrieking.

SubhanAllah, kids.

So yeah, work might not be so bad after all. 🙂

Hadith: Ask what you wish…

Khalid ibn El Waleed narrated the following hadith:

A Bedouin came one day to the Prophet (Peace & Upon Him) and said to him, “0h, Messenger of Allah! I’ve come to ask you a few questions about the affairs of this Life and the Here After.”

The Prophet replied, “Ask what you wish.”

Q: I’d like to be the most learned of men.

A: Fear Allah, and you will be the most learned of men.

Q: I wish to be the richest man in the world.

A: Be contented, and you will be the richest man in the world.

Q: I’d like to be the most just man.

A: Desire for others what you desire for yourself, and you will be the most just of men.

Q: I want to be the best of men.

A: Do good to others and you will be the best of men.

Q: I wish to be the most favored by Allah.

A: Engage much in Allah’s praise, and you will be most favored by Him.

Q: I’d like to complete my faith.

A: If you have good manners you will complete your faith

Q: I wish to be among those who do good.

A: Adore Allah as if you see Him. If you don ‘t see Him, He seeth you. In this way you will be among those who do good.

Q: I wish to be obedient to Allah.

A: If you observe Allah’s commands you will be obedient.

Q: I’d like to be free from all sins.

A: Bathe yourself from impurities and you will be free from all sins.

Q: I’d like to be raised on the Day of Judgment in the light.

A: Don’t wrong yourself or any other creature, and you will be raised on the Day of Judgment in the light.

Q: I’d like Allah to bestow His mercy on me.

A: If you have mercy on yourself and others, Allah will grant you mercy on the Day of Judgment.

Q: I’d like my sins to be very few.

A: If you seek the forgiveness Allah as much as you can, your sins will be very few.

Q: I’d like to be the most honorable man.

A: If you do not complain to any follow creature, you will be the most honorable of men.

Q: I’d like to be the strongest of men.

A: If you put your trust in Allah, you will be the strongest of men.

Q: I’d like to enlarge my provision.

A: If you keep yourself pure, Allah will enlarge your provision.

Q: I’d like to be loved by Allah and His messenger.

A: If you love what Allah and Him messenger love, you will be among their beloved ones.

Q: I wish to be safe from Allah’s wrath on the Day of Judgment.

A: If you do not loose your temper with any of your fellow creatures, you will be safe from the wrath of Allah on the Day of Judgment.

Q: I’d like my prayers to be responded.

A: If you avoid forbidden actions, your prayers will he responded.

Q: I’d like Allah not to disgrace me on the Day of Judgment.

A: If you guard your chastity, Allah will not disgrace you on the Day of Judgment.

Q: I’d like Allah to provide me with a protective covering on the Day of Judgment.

A: Do not uncover your fellow creatures faults, and Allah will provide you with a covering protection on the Day of Judgment.

Q: What will save me from sins?

A: Tears, humility and illness.

Q: What are the best deeds in the eyes of Allah?

A: Gentle manners, modesty and patience.

Q: What are the worst evils in the eyes of Allah?

A: Hot temper and miserliness.

Q: What assuages the wrath of Allah in this life and in the Hereafter?

A: Concealed charity and kindness to relatives.

Q: What extinguishes hell’s fires on the Day of Judgment?

A: Patience in adversity and misfortunes.

 

Related by Imam Ibn Hambal

 

*Sensei sez. no complainin’ about a real update, because this is better than anything I could type! 🙂

“…and she went on and told me all about the good place [Heaven]. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day with a harp and sing for ever and ever. So I didn’t think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.” -Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Mark Twain may not be a legitimate source for Christian theology, and he may have been dead for quite a while now, but I think his bitter and slightly sacrilegious view of religion may still be relevant. After all, I’m sure that everyone knows someone who’s said, “Who wants to go to heaven anyway? It’s all boring, sitting around on clouds and singing.”

As a Muslim, I pitied the Christians and their limited heaven, but at the same time, I could relate to the ones who thought Heaven was absolutely the dullest thing that could happen to you post-mortem. I never said anything about it though, and kept that foolish sentiment to myself. I told myself that even if I wasn’t too enthusiastic about striving for Heaven, I should at least realize that I’d rather not be in hell. So I opted for heaven by process of elimination, and secretly hoped that it would have video games.

I’m not joking, I wish I was, because when I write this out it sounds monumentally stupid, but it’s the truth. I was hoping that Heaven had video games, and roller-blading, and snow-boarding, and anything and everything entertaining that my lil’ heart could possibly desire, because at the time, I wasn’t interested in eternity with a spouse, righteous company, refreshments and the favor of Allah.

My God, I was such an idiot. How long did it take me to realize that video games are an empty, mind-numbing vortex that provide no real happiness. An hour or two of entertainment, yes, but no happiness. It’s the same with all other ‘entertainment,’ it’s empty. It can busy you for a bit, but it can never make you happy. It doesn’t matter what you talk about, whether its video games or fast cars or collecting expensive crap, none of it can make you truly happy. How many people are there in the world that have everything that money can buy, all the entertainment, all the material wealth, and still turn to drugs or suicide out of misery? Things and stuff can’t make man happy, so what does? What would you surround yourself with if you had an eternity to fill?

A loving spouse. The company of good people. The best food you have ever eaten in your entire life.

Does it still sound boring? Not to me anymore. I can think of nothing more beautiful, more peaceful, than reclining in a garden with my head on the shoulder of a loving husband, in a relationship made whole and perfect by Allah, who has removed all enmity, bitterness, or rancor from our hearts. (7:43) I can think of nothing more enjoyable than the company of righteous friends and the righteous members of my family (52:17-24), seated in honor and ease (37:41-49), in perfect security and with no fear of illness, fatigue, or death. (56:11-38) Imagine never again having to feel the heart-breaking ache of watching someone you love suffer, or the people you cherish grow old and near death.

Haven’t you ever been somewhere and had such a nice time, such a lovely time, that you sighed, “I wish this would never end?” In Heaven it’s always beautiful, it’s always lovely, it’s more perfect than you could ever imagine, and it never ends. (50:31-35) There is no stress (43:68-73), there are no worries, and what’s more, there is the unbelievable feeling of having accomplished the greatest thing you could possibly have achieved in your life- the Pleasure of Your Creator. There is no fear of sinning or of displeasing Allah. The test is over, you already passed. You have been freed from the trials of your worldly life and your reward- your loving spouse, the good people and family that were separated from you by death, and an eternity of absolute happiness awaits you.

That,” Allah says in the Qur’an, “Will be the Supreme Achievement.” (44:51-57)

Sounds like a good place to me. Too bad nobody every told Mark Twain about Islam…

Pictures removed, I’ll be putting them up one at day at my fotolog instead, because people were having probs. Well, the probs were with villagephotos, but you know what I’m saying. 🙂 Yep. Right, so a pic a day at the fotolog. Peace!

This is blog attempt number 7. I have begun six separate entries and deleted them all, one by one. I have a head-ache, and a head-cold, and a head-scarf (wait, that’s there all the time) and on top of it all, I got a speeding ticket today.

*groan*

And my medication causes sleeplessness, which means I’ve been sleeping very badly for the last two days- waking up every hour, on the hour, the whole time with a pounding headache.

*sigh*

Ok, time to push the reset button. Here we go.

*pokes self in forehead*

All praise is due to Allah, the Most Gracious, Most Generous, my Lord, my Guide, my Protector. He it is who gave me the headache to test my patience and to remove from me some sin, provided I pass the test. The head-cold was by His leave as well, because nothing reminds you what a blessing health is quite as well as illness. The head-scarf, well I rather like this scarf. It’s warm and fuzzy. So Alhamdulillah for it all, even the headache and the headcold, because:

“Any trouble, any sickness or disease, any worry, any grief, any problem or anything sad or painful, even the prick of a thorn to a Muslim results (due to patience) in the forgiveness of his sins.” Hadith according to Abu Hurairah and Abu Sa’eed, on the authority of both Bukhari and Muslim.

I remember this lecture that I attended once, it was about how having the right intention for something can make the difference between blessings and sins. For example, if you go to the Masjid to pray just so that people can see you praying there, that’s a sin. However, if your intention was just to earn extra blessings by joining the Jamaat prayer, going to the Masjid is a blessing. This applies to everything, absolutely everything that we do. Being sick, I can moan and complain and wallow in self-pity, losing blessings, or even earning sin depending on what I moan about (“God, why me?”). Or, I can remind myself that this is a test, and if I pass, I have traded some of my sins in for a mild headache and a cold, neither of which compare to the hell I could have traded them in for instead. And it literally is a trade-off. Or rather, a trade-in. You earn either blessings or sins, depending on what you’ve been up to, and then you cash them in after you die, either for eternal paradise with people you love and the pleasure of Allah, or for eternal inferno (crackle crackle) with the Angels of hell (btw, did you know that there were nine, total?) and Allah’s displeasure.

Yeah, I know you know this. I know it too. And I know, that you know that I know, so there. It’s just that my brain gets addled and I forget it. So I’m reminding myself, first and foremost, to take all stress in a grateful and patient stride, and to remember my Lord in times of both hardship and ease. InshaAllah.

There’s no place like home

What does one do upon coming home after three weeks? I tell you what one does, one walks in the house and gets tackled by one’s dog, that’s what. Then when one finally disentangles one’s self from the clutches of a large, over-enthusiastic and wiggly dog, one trips over one’s suitcase and then falls through the front door and into the house with the dog following close behind. One then scolds the dog for entering forbidden territory (the house), but gently, and closes the door.

Then one wanders up the fridge, opens the door, and grows despondent at the lack of food therein. It is at that point that one learns that one’s father has been living on instant noodles, fried eggs, and canned mithai for the five days he spent in the house alone before you arrived. Then you switch over and get back to typing in first person again.

Right, so 45 minutes ago I got home, was tackled by the dog, and found the fridge to be depressingly empty. So I went into battle-mode: changing into my flannel pajamas, cranking up some nasheed and rummaging around the deep freezer for something edible.

I found a bag of frozen beef cubes. Mmm, delish. There’s not a lot you can do with a bag of frozen beef cubes, even when you ARE wearing flannel pajamas. You really only have one option when there’s nothing in the house but beef cubes- nihari. Ok then, so I started a pot of nihari. When it was done, I tasted it. And it was disgusting. Tasteless. It was nothing but hot. So I added more spices, some salt, coriander, etc, and tasted it, and it was still disgusting. I was in the process of standing over the pot and menacing it with a box of fish masala when my father came home and dinner had to be served. Time for further improvement (if that’s what you want to call it) was up. He served himself a plate, dipped a piece of fresh bread in it, popped it into his mouth and made a face that looked horrified and morbidly curious at the same time.

“What is this?” he asked, swallowing dramatically, “I thought you were making nihari?”

“It is nihari,” I said feebly. “See, beefcubes?”

“It tastes somewhat…different from how it usually tastes,” my father said, choosing his words tactfully.

“Strong?”

“No,” he said, shaking his head, “Horrible.”

I sighed and dutifully deposited myself at the dining table with my own plate. “I don’t know what happened daddy, maybe it’s because I haven’t cooked at all in the three weeks we spent in Karachi.”

“Or maybe,” Aniraz said, “It’s because you have a cold and you can’t taste anything, you genius. You ruined what might have been perfectly good nihari!”

I sadly concurred. If I had remembered that my head was more stuffed up than a Thanksgiving turkey, I would have let Aniraz do the cooking. I brought back some mean germs from Karachi, evil and sneaky germs that took over before I even realized what was going on. And I brought enough to share, so I’m feeling generous. Hey everybody, imported germs at my place, and free nihari too. So don’t say I never gave you nothin. :p

*cough, cough. teeth*

Back from fishing! Today is our last day in Khandaanville since we’re flying back to ISB tomorrow afternoon. It is also the 35th consecutive computer game free day. I swore off computer games for Ramadan (see Oct 28th post) and I think I’ll stay off of them for as long as I can. I still play Playstation, but only when I’m working out, and I find it almost impossible for me to zone out. In fact, it’s almost impossible to even play properly let alone become engrossed, because you’re trying to jog, stay balanced, maintain a speed of at least 3 miles an hour with level 2 resistance, and yet not trip over the controller cable and die.

However, with computer games, you’re sitting in the comfy chair, your speed is zero miles an hour and there is nothing to distract you from playing, so after five minutes it feels like my brain has been replaced with cream filling, and the minutes turn into hours sometimes. Actually I should be using the past tense here, the minutes USED to turn into hours, because I don’t plan on letting that happen anymore. Having not gone into cream-filling mode for a while, I find that my brain feels more up to thinking creatively. It’s easier for me to concentrate, and I keep having these brilliant ideas. Like how to build my own catapult.

One of my uncles has a cannon, actually. It may surprise you to know that he’s one of my American uncles, not one of the Pathan ones here. (Hi Uncles Les!) He built it himself, and he uses it to launch rolls of toilet paper across the riverbank that his cabin stands on. The trees on the other side of the river take on a kind of ghostly appearance when the toilet paper trailing from their branches catches the moonlight, but still, it’s good clean fun. And impressive, too.

Another one of my uncles built an electricity generator from an old 1960’s Datsun engine. (It may surprise you to know that he’s not one of the American uncles, he’s a Pathan. Amir Hassan Chacha Zindabaad!) Initially it ran on diesel, but then he converted it to natural gas, and since the 1970’s, he’s been constantly upgrading it. It still works, it lives on the roof of the house we’re staying in, and when the electricity goes they crank it up (the key still says Datsun) and we’re the only house on the block with power.

The way I see it, if Uncle Les can build a cannon, and Amir Hassan Chacha can build an electricity generator, then I can build a catapult.

Ok, so a catapult is a little hard. I could at least build a small trebuchet. You know, to fire things off the roof. I figure that all I need is some bamboo poles, something heavy for a counter-weight, some rope, and a scabby horse to launch at my foes, just like in the old days of castles and siege warfare. That whole thing with people launching rocks is all just sugar-coated revisionist history. The truth is they saved all their animal carcasses, old horses and sick cattle, to throw at enemies. As my G-ma would say, I kid you not.

Anyway, I’ve discussed my plan at length with Aniraz (proud inventor of the oat-meal bolo), whose brain is not cream, but peanut-filled, which may explain why she hasn’t tried to discourage me yet. I figure I’ll just carry all of the stuff to the roof and start tying the rods together and go from there. Or I could tie the horse to the counter-weight first and then build the frame around it. Or, maybe I should tie the counterweight to the frame instead, and position the horse only when it’s ready to fire?

I don’t know. If all else fails, I’ll just throw the counter-weight at Aniraz (for not trying to discourage me) and then eat the scabby horse between two mattresses to keep my strength up for the long journey back to the drawing board.*

* “I’m so hungry I could eat a scabby horse between two mattresses!” –Crayon