Open Discussion: President Obama’s Speech in Cairo

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Also published on Islam on My Side.

President Obama delivered a very moving and powerful speech in Cairo on June 4th, 2009.  The speech focused primarily on improving American and Muslim relations, but also addressed issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I admit that it was heartening and emotional to hear Obama cite so many verses from the Holy Qur’an, as well as referring to the miracle of al-Isra, the Night Journey, in which the Prophet Muhammad journeyed to the seven heavens and met with Jesus, Moses, and Abraham, peace be upon them all.  When Obama said “peace be upon them” after mentioning these Prophets, there was enormous applause from the audience because the attendees, as well as Muslims all around the world, knew exactly what it meant:  Respect.

It was also nice to hear Obama stress on the importance of Islam being part of America.  He acknowledged the contributions of Islamic civilization, particularly in mathematics, science, poetry, architecture, and music.  When he spoke of Israel and Palestine, he emphasized on a two-state solution and recognized the struggles that both Israelis and Palestinians face.  For many Muslims, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is crucial simply because U.S. foreign policy has been overwhelmingly supportive (politically, militarily, and economically) of Israel while vilifying and ignoring the plights of Palestinians.

Although there were many times during the speech where it seemed like Obama was hesitant to acknowledge certain atrocities, such as Israel’s recent airstrike on Gaza, it was at least refreshing to hear a U.S. president recognize the Palestinian humanitarian crisis.  I really liked when he said “children of Abraham,” because that kind of language speaks to the hearts of inter-faith communities around the world.

While citing the Qur’an and reaching out to Muslim majority countries displays the President’s desire to improve relations, it’s important to stay mindful that actions speak louder than words.  As Tariq Ramadan mentions in his recent article, “Obama’s speech to Muslims will mean little if its symbolism is not followed up by concrete measures to restore trust.”  In no way am I trying to deny Obama’s efforts, but rather I’m simply pointing out that I truly hope he follows up on his words.

What are your thoughts?  If you missed the President’s speech, you can watch it below (it’s divided into 6 parts):

Watch Part 2
Watch Part 3
Watch Part 4
Watch Part 5
Watch Part 6

Dunkin’ Donuts, Allah, and Quantum Physics

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So, I’ve been speaking to some of my friends about quantum physics lately (by the way, isn’t the picture above amazing?) and how our thoughts carry vibrations that affect the world around us. As a result, I’ve been thinking deeper about the connections we make with other human beings as well as the world. I have a book called “The Sense of Being Stared At” by Rupert Sheldrake and it argues that our experiences with “coincidences” and “unexplained phenomena” (such as sensing who’s on the phone before answering it) are rooted in our biology. It’s really fascinating because he grounds a lot of his theories in scientific research. These experiences are so common and yet they’re rarely studied or taken seriously. We tend to overlook them too and dismiss them as mere “coincidences.”

I’m sure all of us have had experiences that we can’t explain. I know those who delve into spirituality/mysticism talk a lot about how everything happens for a reason. As the Qur’an says: “And with Allah are the keys of the unseen, no one knows them except Allah. He knows all that is in the ocean and on the land. No leaf falls without His knowledge, nor any particle in the dark recesses of the earth, nor anything green and fresh or dry and withered but that it is in a clear book.” (6:59)

I don’t believe in “coincidences” and I’ve always believed them to be signs. Even with my friends or when I meet new people, I know there is some greater purpose and significance there. We meet people for a reason, we go to certain places for a reason, we experience joy and sorrow for a reason, and so on. Talking about energy, morphic fields, and vibrations is so fascinating because, as a friend put it, it’s “science affirming mystic thought!”

Yesterday, I had one of those experiences. The weather was absolutely beautiful, so my friends and I made plans to play roller hockey. Prior to our game, I oddly felt in the mood for one of those supreme omelet croissants at Dunkin’ Donuts. Yeah, I know. Dunkin’ Donuts, not healthy, not good for you, lol. But I went through the drive thru and, as expected, there was a nice Indian woman who took my order. I drove up to the window and said, “No bacon or meat on it, right?” She shook her head and said, “no.” Then she asked, “From where you are from?” I replied, “Lahore, Pakistan.” She smiled and asked, “Hindi nahi aati?” (You don’t speak Hindi?) I smiled back and replied, “Tori se aati hain” (I know a little bit).

I laughed because I tried to carry a conversation with her in Urdu/Hindi. She asked if I was born here, and I was like, “Nahi, Lahore mein peda howa” (No, I was born in Lahore — I don’t know if I said it right, lol, so feel free to correct me!) She responded, “And you still don’t know how to speak it?” (She said that in Urdu/Hindi, but if I try to transliterate what she said, I’ll butcher it!) Then I had to drop the Urdu/Hindi and tell her that I was born there but never lived in Pakistan since my parents moved us to the United States. “I’m learning though,” I added. “Yeah, you should!” she replied.

When she went to get my food, I said “sobhan’Allah” out loud and laughed. Whenever I go to Dunkin’ Donuts or other stores, the South Asian clerks rarely speak to me in Urdu/Hindi, let alone ask me about where I’m from. Of course it’s happened before, but it’s been a while. I couldn’t help but think about my most recent note, “Searching for My Pakistani Identity,” and how I mentioned feeling bad for not speaking Urdu/Hindi with South Asians. And yesterday, a day after I wrote the note, there I was talking to a South Asian in Urdu/Hindi.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. There is Beauty in these precious moments and experiences we have. They’re filled with so much meaning and, as Shah Nimatullah Wali puts it, “everything throughout the world, everywhere, end to end, is but a reflection of a ray cast from the Face of the Friend.”

After she handed me my food, I said “shukriya” (thank you) and drove away with a smile. I couldn’t help but think Allah was smiling at me :)

Ya Haqq! (Hail the Truth!)

~Broken Mystic~

Late Comment on Hijaab

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I just came from a community cinema event in Philadelphia for an independent film called “Arusi Persian Wedding” directed by Marjan Tehrani. It’s a really beautiful film that follows an Iranian-American and his American wife who travel to Iran and have a traditional Persian wedding. I was not only in awe of how incredibly beautiful Iran is, but also at how I found myself relating to it. The Iranian-American expresses his pride for his Iranian roots, but also feels a distance because of his inability to fully understand the culture and language. It reminded me about how I sometimes struggle with finding my ethnic identity, no matter how much I’m proud of it.

After the screening, there was a guest panel that led an interesting discussion about the film and then took questions from the audience. My friend got a chance to chime in with a great question, while I decided to sit back and listen. I didn’t feel like I had much to contribute to the conversation since the event seemed to aim at breaking stereotypes about Iran, its people, and its culture. Although one of the panelists spoke very highly of her experience as a White woman in Iran, she admitted that “initially, I was frightened, as a feminist, when I learned I had to wear the veil…”

When I got home tonight, her words replayed in my mind over and over again. I really should have gotten up and said something, even though I just wanted to make a small comment. I think I’ll e-mail her after I write this, but what I wanted to point out is that it’s very important for us to not make an association between oppression and the hijaab, or veil. Her comment seemed to implicate that someone who wears the hijaab could not also be a feminist (I would have asked her to correct me if I was wrong). I’m sure this is not what she meant, but I believe it would have been important for one of the panelists to mention that forcing someone to dress a certain way is very different from someone choosing to dress a certain way. There are plenty of Muslim women in other parts of the world, especially in the West, who wear hijaab by choice; therefore it would be very inaccurate to say that Muslim women who wear hijaab cannot be feminists. I’m glad one of the Iranian panelists said that Iranian women still drive, work, and go to school, contrary to the stereotypes and misconceptions that they’re “so oppressed.”

The other thing I should have commented on was on their usage of the word “Islam” whenever discussing the “Islamic Revolution” in 1979 and the current “Islamic Laws.” The Qur’an clearly states that religion cannot be imposed on people. Doesn’t Allah teach us to use our logic and reasoning? What is so logical about forcing someone to believe a certain way? The true spiritual essence and beauty gets lost when someone is being forced to practice a religion. Spirituality and Faith is personal; it must be felt within. Reciting the Shahada (Islamic declaration of Faith) is simple, while believing in it is something deeper and entirely different altogether.

Later, someone asked a question about whether or not these were the dress codes for Muslim women in all Islamic countries, and one of two Iranian panelists said, “I’m not sure, but I would say ‘yes,’ they are universal.” A friend and I spoke about this later after the discussion and both agreed that we felt a strong anti-Islam vibe from her. I was glad that the other Iranian panelist jumped in and explained that these are not universal dress codes in Islamic countries since most Muslim countries don’t force women to wear hijaab or the burqah.

Anyway, my main point is that the hijaab should not be associated with oppression, and Muslim women who wear it shouldn’t be so quickly judged. Just because some feminists are not familiar with certain manners of dress doesn’t mean that it’s not compatible with feminism. I think it’s important for feminists to understand that feminist thought is very diverse rather than being limited to one group of people, one culture, and one skin color.

Peace

~Broken Mystic~

(Photo credit: davidChief via creative commons)

Sky Garden

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SEEKER LOOKED out her window
Only to see the world crumbling around her
Watching those luminous colors drain to monochrome
And those joy-filled smiles fade into the shadows

Tears rolling down your heavenly-crafted faces
As sweet memories are torn away
Like history altered by a tainted pen
We cannot hear the music begging for that old kingdom to stay

Rage and madness pounding in your head
Screaming so loud that the earth shatters
And yet drowned out by the hate-bombs falling
Only apathy blackens the heart when it sees blood splatter

O’ Palestine, we hear you
You are not alone
O’ Palestine, we mourn with you
With your Soul’s endless cry for home

Seeker shut her windows and wept
Feeling so weak and powerless; forgetting how to smile
A mystic in black robes knocks at the door
He says, “Friend, retreat from the world for a while.”

Know that God does not burden you beyond your means
Travel — Deep within yourself where secrets await
Discover — You are a Flower plucked out from His Garden
Be — The Gift that you are in this world, sent from the Unseen

She shook her head in doubt and uncertainty
She looked at the children she gave refuge to
Sitting in her house; helpless and hungry
“I’m not doing enough” she says

The mystic replies, “Darkness has overwhelmed you”
“And blinded you from seeing all the Love that you share”
“The helpless need you to be strong for them”
“They cannot see you fall into the abyss of despair”

Come to where the Romantics gather
Where the Lovers leap off the highest mountain
And spread their multi-colored wings
To journey into their Elysium sky

Come to where magic is Real
Where children run through the fields
And paint Om Shanti in the clouds
Where beautiful stallions emerge from the Sun
And ride us all to His Jerusalem

Come to where Beauty is heard
Where you can hear recitation of the Qur’an
The Psalms of the Torah, the chant of Christian monks
Spiritual voices from every nation of the world

Come to where revolution marches onward
Never lose hope, even in the heart of a hurricane
Defy the storm of division, your destiny is unity
When you sail on His ship, there is no fear, no pain

Come to where secrets no longer wish to remain hidden
You are a planet kept in balance
By a Sun that will never let you go
Your orbit is your Way to Divine Radiance

Come to where thorns will become roses
Mourning will soon become joyous laughter
The dead will be raised again and carried into His arms
Recite the Great Name and witness wonders

O’ Seeker of Truth
Heavens says: Hand me your tears
And I will show you what Ocean they belong to

Unchain yourself from these worries and fears

O’ Seeker, as you gaze upon those helpless faces
Know that your contributions are never without meaning
You are their House, you are their Sky Garden
You are their Immortal Flame, burning through the darkness

Embrace the wind, breathe in the fragrance of Divine Romance
Throw yourself at the Beloved’s feet — the Friend of the Heart
Become wrapped in this painted cloak of Love
Turning and ascending, the Way of Beauty’s eternal dance

Turning and ascending…
To where my heart calls me…

~Broken Mystic~

Eid Al-Adha (The Festival of Sacrifice)

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When the curtain of mystery
Is drawn asunder
Unforeseen beauty emerges
From the throes of complexity

The light of realization
Shines upon thee
The test becomes a journey
Toward inward illumination

Remember how Abraham roamed the night
Distraught by a haunting revelation
Turning his palms to the sky
Praying for the life of his first son

Shaytaan stood by the road
Only to inflict fear and lead astray
Venture through darkness, O’ Abraham
The Hand of Creation will guide you to Heaven’s abode

Remember Me, says the Merciful One
Anyone who denounces Shaytaan
And believes in Me has grasped the strongest bond
One that never breaks [Qur’an, 2:256]

Abraham replied : You are my Lord, my Creator
Only You can release me from such agony
Flame of my Soul, Source of my Being
You demolish and You restore

My Friend, my Beloved, my Constant
When I was frightened, You rescued me
When I was alone, You embraced me
When I was happy, You cherished me

You make me dance, You make me cry
You make me smile, You make me tremble
You make me discover, You make me question
You make me live, You make me die

And so loyal Abraham entered the cypress gardens
Fearless Ismail lay his head beneath his father’s blade
Abraham readied his knife: For You, my Spiritual King
But an Angel of Light intervened and ended the burden

No harm was done to his beloved son
And thus, the message of Faith was revealed
Out of mystery came enlightenment
A lesson to be learned and remembered

Lovers, Believers, Submitters
Whatever names you call them
They, like Abraham, surrender to the call of Love
That is their Faith, their bond with the Eternal Protector

The bond that never breaks

~Broken Mystic~

After Iftar

After the blessed feast, I climb to the lone tower
Where I stare off into the cool night
And watch the world pass by below…
So troubled by its disbelief and destructive power
I see neither the Holy Book in my hand
Nor the stars sparkling above

My heart still reacts to the mute cries of humanity
Where is the Heaven that is near?
What have I learned from the morning of starvation?
Where is the hand to dry these tears?

Like an ethereal dream, a gust of wind flows from the sky
And takes shape of a beauteous translucent Angel
Her luminous fingers gently brush across my face like an art
The healing touch tells me to travel within and close my eyes

The vision of the Sea appears like an elegant Persian tapestry
I listen to the soothing waves crawl towards shore
And watch their pure waters dance like flowing garments
Waiting to enwrap their beloved in this Ocean of Love and Beauty

The fragrance of sweet vanilla maddens me and opens my eyes
To find the Angel’s candle lit beside the Holy Scripture with no abuse
I watch the pages dissolve and liquefy into tiny drops
Dripping into a drinking glass like Heavenly grape juice

The Angel reveals the face of my Beloved and swiftly swoops downward
Quenching my thirst, I consume the elixir of Love
And throw it hard to the concrete behind me,
Listen to the glass shatter and resonate passionately

I plunge off the balcony ledge as if it is my springboard,
And dive towards the depths of the unknown
I straighten my body like an arrow
Spiraling through the vapors of fear like a fearless cyclone

Appearing out of the mist, I see the Ocean my heart so longs for
But at the last moment, a chain tied to my foot catches me unexpectedly
And prevents the union, only a finger’s length away
A mermaid emerges from below to show me the way

She caresses my face softly as I hang upside down
Whispering in my ears, and breathing the warmth of Divine Secrets
Speaking in an unworldly language, She sings:
“Free yourself of the worldly chains without regret”

I gaze into Her eyes and see the Heaven She brought from the Sea
“Take Imam Ali’s sword and be free!” She says
As Rumi once said, ‘When the Ocean of Love comes,
Marry the experience at once!”

Listen to the sword whistle as I swing the blade and strike the shackles
The Music of Angels echo throughout the ocean blue
I splash into the Pure Waters and soak myself in Divine Love
Here my Ego drowns and my Spirit is filled with You

Accompanied by the wondrous sights of my dear Beloved
I swim to the Vision of Holy men and women
Show me the modest woman the Virgin Mary was
So that I may always be reminded of her when I attend my mother

Show me the compassionate Soul of Jesus
So that I may always show kindness and kiss the cheek of a brother
Show me the persistent heart of Moses
So that I always have the courage to endure challenges
Show me the Passionate Lover Muhammad was
So that I may fill my Soul with the Beloved

The Ocean leads me to shore where I find the Field of Unity
Slowly make Your way to this long haired Dervish, O Heart
As my hands stroke the dancing barley
Lift the veil of the Unseen and reveal the Beloved Friend!

Stand behind me and wrap Your arms over my shoulder
Let me collapse in Your arms and drift off into a deep sleep
And let me hear You say:
“The Angels, the Beloved, the Field, it is all Me.”

Silent in this field…
My eyes closed…
Arms open…
Here, so much Beauty is revealed:

I own nothing…
Everything is Yours…

Embrace Me, O Light…
Take Me…

Take Me, Beloved

I am Yours

~ Broken Mystic ~

Divided Muslims

At about 5 PM yesterday, my power just shut off for no apparent reason. There wasn’t a thunder storm or anything, but everyone else on my block had lost power too. It wouldn’t turn back on until 10 PM! In those 4 or 5 hours, I went out with my mom to a local Halal Pizza & Grill restaurant. I usually like going here, not just because of the delicious food, but also because I have a very friendly relationship with the Egyptian, Palestinian, and Hispanic people who work there. I always feel welcomed, I’m always greeted by name, and it’s just impossible to leave the place without a smile.

But last night, as I was enjoying my pizza and halal buffalo wings (lol), a young Muslim man dressed in traditional Arab garb and fashioning a long black beard stormed into the restaurant loudly, “Asalaam ‘alaykoum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu!” Of course, my mom and I returned the “salaam” and then watched him sit at the table in front of us. He was accompanied by another young man who also had an olive complexion, but was wearing a short-sleeved collar shirt and jeans. The Muslim man walked to the counter and gave his order loudly in Arabic — this doesn’t bother me and it’s nothing new either; I mean we Punjabis are very loud too. I don’t like how non-Arabs or non-Muslims think that the Arabic language is an “angry” language. Just because people speak loudly doesn’t mean they’re “angry,” they’re just very passionate about their language.

Anyway, I just wanted to clear up that stereotype/misconception. So, the two young men take their seats and the Muslim man starts giving his friend a lecture about Islam. My guess is that the second man was a convert to Islam, but I don’t know that for sure. My mom and I were silent while we ate because we were listening to the speech that the Muslim man was giving behind us. At first, I liked the things he was saying. He was talking about how Muslims don’t worship Jesus (peace be upon him) and then he explained why. He also spoke about how Allah is everywhere, sees all things, watches over us, etc. He discussed how Allah has no partners, and that associating partners with Him is the greatest sin (“shirk”). He was very passionate and knowledgeable about what he was saying, but then he started bad-mouthing other Muslims. That’s when I really wanted to leave. Did he forget about this verse?

“Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.”
[Qu'ran,
2:62]

He said, “there are a lot of ignorant Muslims out there. Very few Muslims really follow Islam. They think that just accepting the Oneness of God means you are a Muslim. This is false! This is not true! You can believe in the Oneness of God, but it must be Allah subhanna wa ta’ala.” Ok, that wasn’t too offensive, but I started to detect the arrogance in his voice. He continued, “there was an Arabic Sufi — may Allah bring him back to us — who innovated a lot of things, and innovation is a huge sin in Islam. He tried to unite all the monotheistic religions; obviously this is an innovation!” I really couldn’t believe I was hearing this and I honestly felt the urge to interrupt him and ask him why he was so offended by the Sufis. He spoke about how Christians and Jews are “ignorant” and “misguided” and worship “different gods.” I understand that Christians may argue that they do in fact worship a “different god” by worshiping Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we should criticize their faith, especially when teaching a young person. I know I wouldn’t like it if I were in a public place and I heard a priest teaching someone that Muslims are “misguided” or “blind to the Truth.” Then I heard the man talk about the “way of the Salaf,” which is supposedly all about following the way of Muhammad, peace be upon him. The interesting thing is that all the different sects in Islam claim to be following the way of Muhammad!

His complaints against other Muslims continued: “You see so many young Muslims who are ignorant and misguided. They know the stats of Kobe Bryant and other sports players, and they wear their jerseys, when in actuality, when the Day of Judgment comes, those celebrities will want to be in the place of a Muslim.” I think we’re a little unfair to celebrities most of the time; just because they’re famous, does that mean that they’re sinful? Does it mean that they have no spiritual foundation in their lives? Then I heard him speak about the various forms of “polytheism” — one example he provided was someone who prays or gives charity in the Mosque just to show off. This is called “minor polytheism.” I wonder what the man would have thought about me if he saw the black t-shirt I was wearing. The front reads: “I Know My Role Model.” And on the back, it says “He was Merciful, Forgiving, Compassionate, Patient” and the many other attributes of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Would I be accused of “showing off” just for wearing this shirt?

Other than the accusations against other Muslims, this man placed so much emphasis on Islamic scholars. More so than the Holy Qur’an itself. I have read the works of many scholars, but I could never follow every single thing that they preach because I find many things to be innovated. I’m sure I would be accused of blasphemy here by many other Muslims, but God knows what is in my heart. For example, I was debating with a Muslim brother on Facebook, but I was really taken aback about how arrogant he was behaving towards me. Even when I cited other scholars and sources, he would say that their works aren’t “credible.” He gave me a link to the website “SunniPath” where many scholars say the following about Shia and Sufi Muslims: “[They] are without a doubt out of the fold of Islam…therefore, Salat behind a Shia should not be performed. If one did so, it must be repeated, as it may not be valid.”

Wow. Masha’Allah. This is our Ummah (Nation/Community). This is what our Imams and “leaders” teach to build a better, stronger, and united Muslim society. This kind of close-minded attitude is what ruins our Ummah and tears it apart. I would condemn Shia and Sufi scholars who said the same thing about Sunni Muslims. How could I follow a scholar who teaches this kind of separation? I was born Sunni, so does that automatically make me better or superior to another Muslim from a different denomination? I Love the writings of Rumi and I follow much of what he teaches, but even he says things I don’t agree with. Why should I be expected to follow everything that a human scholar teaches? What happened to following the Word of God: The Qur’an?

Just this morning, i saw a shirt on Zazzle.com, and it says “Discrimination against Muslims is racism. Muslim discrimination against others is religion.” Of course this upsets me, but then I think about these scholars and the Muslim man who I saw last night. Are we surprised that non-Muslim people feel this way? What saddens me is that we don’t know how to accept one another. I would rather just call myself “Muslim,” not Sunni, Shia, or Sufi. I can’t swear allegiance to one school of thought, however I believe I can learn a lot from all schools of thought.

Last night, when the power turned back on, I picked up my Islamic book “The Ultimate Action,” which my mother brought from Pakistan, and read something completely related to what happened in the restaurant! Sobhan’Allah! I decided to share an excerpt from the book, but before you read it, keep in mind that this is from a Sufi scholar, and Sufis are often associated with drinking alcholol and using intoxicants. Although this scholar mentions alcohol, he condemns it throughout the book (because it has been declared impermissible in the Qur’an) . He only brings up alcohol to make a point. He first cites a poet and then delivers his commentary:

Ostentation as permissible you consider, while wine as impermissible.
Is this the code of the nation, is this the action
prescribed on the Path?

“He is referring to the dry ascetics who consider intoxicants to be impermissible while a reprehensible sin like show, which has been referred to as minor polytheism, they consider to be permissible and are constantly involved therein and it does not even cause them to flinch even the slightest. Do not be fooled by this self-claim to obedience. Our condition is such that outwardly, we appear to be the epitomes of purity and abstention from sin, we are scholars and men of letters, we are spiritual guides and all else to boot, but our inner state is known to Allah alone. Far greater than our outward accomplishments and capabilities are our souls plagued with spiritual ills.”

I just wish we could learn to accept one another for who we are. We may interpret the Qur’an differently from each other, but does that mean we should be divided and bad-mouth each other? I feel very uncomfortable around fellow Muslims who behave as if they will determine whether or not I go to Heaven. I find myself inclined to Sufi texts, not because I’m Sufi, but because of how spiritually moved I feel after reading. The book I mentioned above asks: “How is salat (prayer) not an act of Love?” It reminds me of how the Universe was created and why Allah created all of us. How is that not Love?

Salaam/Peace

~ Broken Mystic ~

Take Down a Musical Instrument

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with a computer electronic music program I have called FL Studio. Playing piano has been a hobby of mine since my father bought me an electronic keyboard when I was in 6th grade. A good friend of mine also owned a keyboard and he would always try to play melodies from movie soundtracks, so him and I would compete with one another on who could play a certain song first. Sometimes, we’d call each other over the phone and show off with what we figured out. The first tune I played was the “Mission: Impossible” theme, lol. This went on for a while and before I knew it, I could play “Jurassic Park,” “Star Wars,” “James Bond,” “Back to the Future,” and even classics like “Fur Elise.” I don’t remember exactly when I created my own song, but I know it was some time in high school. I guess I got bored of playing other people’s music, and also, I thought about creating music for my short films.

I never took any piano lessons, which still seems to surprise people when they see me play. I took a “Rudiments of Music” class in my Sophomore year of college and our final project was to write a composition. When I played my piece for my teacher (a song I called “Writing in the Dark”), he was impressed and said that I played like a professional. It was also cool to see him read my musical notes and play my song! It reminded me of the feeling I get when I see actors give life to the dialogue that I write in my screenplays. The more I practiced and played piano in front of guests and family members, the better feedback I received. My friends would tell me “compose your own music for your films,” and I just took it as a compliment and never thought about it seriously. I got my new keyboard when I graduated from high school in 2002, so yeah it’s pretty old, but still decent. Even though I wanted to form a musical band with my friends, it just remained talk and ideas, it was never as serious as our filmmaking.

So recently, I felt a desire to professionally record my music and when I learned that I could do this in my own house, I got excited and did research on what I needed to make this possible. It turned out that all I needed was a MIDI cable, which would enable me to hook my keyboard into my USB drive. FL Studio is an amazing program and I’m just amazed at how much people can do with it. I don’t mean to sound like a cheap advertising commercial, but the possibilities seem to be endless! I have a couple of plug-ins for orchestral and ethnic instruments — acoustic sounds that I would never get from my keyboard. I’m sure we all see the pros and cons of the technology age, but when it comes to creating music and filmmaking, computer programs such as FL Studio provide so many opportunities. Even with YouTube (where I plan to upload some of my short films, insha’Allah), one can share his/her work with so many people in the world.

I think it’s a beautiful thing for people to express themselves through artistic expression such as music. I know there are some Muslims who condemn music as being haram (forbidden), but I really mean no disrespect to their opinions and views on this matter. Prohibition of music is never even mentioned in the Qur’an; on the contrary, the Book of Zabur (Pslams) is mentioned and Muslims are taught that Prophet Dawood (David), peace be upon him, had a beautiful singing voice. I spoke with a contemporary Muslim poet in Philadelphia one year and we discussed the issue of music in Islam, and he told me that it’s a shame so many Muslims condemn it because music is very spiritual. The Qur’an itself, and the way it is recited, is actually very melodious, as is our daily prayers. Even in Islamic history, in the centuries following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, many Muslims theorized about music and even influenced Medieval European music. Give Medieval European music a listen some time, and you will notice how you can find similarities in Arabic music. This is because 11th century Italy used earlier Arabic musical notations from the 9th and 10th century. In his book, Historical Facts of the Arabian Musical Influence, H.G. farmer presents the following comparison of Italian and Arabic notations:

Arabic Alphabet:   Mi    Fa    Sad   La    Sin   Dal   Ra

Italian Notes:          Mi    Fa    Sol    La    Si     Do    Re

It is also interesting to note that the Spanish form of music known as “flamenco” was created by Spanish Muslims who faced expulsion, forced conversion, and even death from the Catholic reconquest of Granada. Many of these Spanish Muslims (or ‘Moors’ as the Europeans called them) joined gypsies on their way out of the country. “Flamenco” derives from the Arabic term “fellah mengu” which means “country vagabonds.” What’s even more fascinating is when one looks at the evolution of musical instruments. From the 8th and 9th centuries, music instruments from the Muslim world spread into Northern Christian Spain, France, and Italy via Muslim entertainers and minstrels. According to historians and authors Dr. Rabah Saoud and Michael H. Morgan: “The Muslim ‘oud will spawn the European lute and later the guitar and mandolin. The Arabic ghaita will evolve into the Scottish bagpipe and Spanish and Portuguese gaita. The Muslim qanum will give birth to the English harp and the German zither. The Persian kamancha and Arab rabab will morph into the fiddle. The Muslim zurna, a woodwind instrument, will lead to the oboe. The Persian santur, an early form of the hammered dulcimer, will give rise to European keyboard instruments.”

Pretty cool, huh? As we consider history and then observe the type of music being produced in the world today (including in the Muslim world) we see less art in the entertainment industry. I’m sure there were Muslim clerics who prohibited music in the past, but I believe it was tolerated overall. I believe we see Muslim clerics condemning music today because of the type of material there is. Mainstream Arabic music, for example, emulates Western pop music. It tries to be unique with its tabla drum rhythms and Arabic scales, but the songs are so formulaic that Arabic originality is lost completely. Even in mainstream Pakistan and Indian music, we see the emulation of mainstream western music, despite the usage of sitars, flutes, and tablas. The emphasis on sexuality especially is very strong and its no wonder why clerics call music “haram.” I understand how music with pornographic and violent lyrics are considered haram, but what about the true artists and musicians out there who are making music to inspire spirituality, social change, unity, and peace? We don’t see the true artists put into the spotlight anymore because maybe these artists aren’t as “attractive” or “pretty” as record companies would like them to be, or maybe their lyrics aren’t as controversial and provocative as they “should” be. I find that there are very few mainstream musicians out there who are creating music for the passion of it. It’s so money driven that I cannot even bring myself to ever listen to the radio. My choice of music is very selective, and many of the musicians I listen to are Muslim, Middle-Eastern, and South Asians who aren’t even well known in their own communities! Musicians like the Iranian female singer/composer Azam Ali, the Indian-American composer Karsh Kale, the Turkish mystical musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Iranian New Age artist Jamshied Sharifi, Moroccan spiritual singer Hassan Hakmoun, the late Nubian traditionalist Hamza Al-Din; or the countless ethno-electronica bands and artists like Samsara Sound System, Afro-Celt Sound System, Dhol Foundation, Al-Pha X, Cheb i Sabbah, Mercan Dede, etc. Let’s not forget the legends like Pakistan’s Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Egypt’s Umm Kalthoum. Non-Muslim musicians like Lisa Gerrard (you may have heard her hauntingly beautiful vocals if you’ve seen the film “Gladiator”) and Elizabeth Fraiser also fit in this category of true artists. There are also many Sufi-inspired bands like Stellamara and Lumin.

Azam Ali’s “Niyaz” album celebrates ancient Sufi poems, and the band describes their album as “folk music for the 21st century.” Azam Ali sings Urdu and Farsi poems that have been penned by divinely inspired poets hundreds of years ago. Should we deny the talent and say that these kind of songs that praise God, the Prophets, and spirituality, are haram? I think the big misunderstanding that people make is that they think music is meant to replace prayer. Music has a place in this world and its not meant to argue that prayer is not a worthy practice. I believe that people are born with beautiful Gifts and if they do not share that Gift, then the world will be missing out on it. We would be denying our purpose in this world. I’m not trying to win a Grammy or anything, but I still consider music to be a special hobby of mine. It has also been a little therapeutic for me. It helps me express myself with all that I’m going through these days. Anyway, I thought about sharing some of my latest recordings on my blog.

The first song is called “Incomplete”. It’s only about a minute and a half, it was just a trial run because I was just testing out the program. This is just a short version too, I have the longer version but I haven’t recorded it yet. Insha’Allah I will soon. Right click on the title below and click “save target as” if you want to save it. You can play it with Winamp or Windows Media Player.

Incomplete – Viola Section.

The second song is called “Ya Nabi.” It can be difficult to record this song because of the two layers of piano and strings. I like the new orchestral sound it has to it, but I still think it sounds much better when I play it live. Anyway, my friends say that this is my best song. I made it for Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. I can’t remember exactly when I came up with it, but I remember that it was after 9/11 when I was upset about Islamophobia and how our beloved Prophet was being vilified in the media (and still is). It has a very cinematic sound to it and sounds a little sad in the beginning, but it symbolizes my sadness at how someone so beautiful can be vilified.

Ya Nabi — Slow Strongs.

In advance, thank you so much for reading and taking the time to listen. The recordings are not the way I would like them to be, but I think they’re nice for a quick trial run. I find music is to be very spiritual and I think we need to encourage the Muslim youth to explore their creative sides more, rather than discourage them.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we Love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

~ Jalaluddin Rumi,
13th Century Islamic mystic and poet

Dixit Algorizmi (So Said Al-Khwarizmi)

Recently, I had to present a speech for one my classes on the achievements and contributions of Islamic civilization. I was so pleased with the response from my peers that I decided to share a portion of my presentation on my blog. I’ve decided this will be a continued discussion on my blog and I will focus on different aspects each time I write about it! Islamic history is one of my favorite subjects, and while it is amazing to note all the achievements that Muslims have contributed over the centuries, it is also disappointing that this is a history often untold, forgotten, and even rewritten. Unfortunately during a time when the U.S. is at war with Muslim nations, people tend to generalize, stereotype, and forget about how the “enemy’s” civilization has also played a significant role in shaping our world. Without acknowledging this lost history, many misconceptions about Islam are bound to persist. Islam and democracy, for example, is considered to be incompatible by harsh critics of Islam. However they neglect the Muslim Empire when it expanded across the Middle-East after the passing of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Tolerance and coexistence was widely practiced and many of the Muslim Caliphs and leaders knew that in order to have a successful and civilized society, free-thinking and freedom of expression was very essential.

The Latin words in the title of this entry are found in 12th century manuscripts and translations of Mohammad Al-Khwarizmi’s work. Al-Khwarizmi was an extraordinary 9th century mathematician who was among many of the great Muslim contributors during the Golden Age of Islamic civilization. His very name “Al-Khwarizmi” is where we get the word “algorithm” from. He also invented algebra (derived from the Arabic word “al-jabir” which means “to restore”) and discovered the Indian numeric system, which he later adopted and systemized into society. These are the same numerals (Indic-Arabic numerals) that we use today: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on. I made a poster board for my presentation and displayed the evolution of these numerals which were used in different parts of the Muslim world – Spain, Baghdad, Cairo, etc. – and eventually in Europe. The Europeans used this numerical system since it was an easier way to compute numbers rather than using Roman Numerals! Could you imagine Roman Numerals on your cell phones or using them to make calculations at the store? This was an enormous achievement which is still evident today, but there are some extremely biased and anti-Islamic historians who say that the Muslims “stole” the brilliance of the numeric system from the Indians. It would be a faulty accusation to state that the Muslims arrogantly claimed that the numerals were an Islamic invention. Anyone who studies the actual history will learn that Al-Khwarizmi was thirsting for knowledge and learning. He was in a library in the great city of Baghdad where he came upon the texts of Indian mathematicians. Al-Khwarizmi ordered the Sanskrit texts to be translated into Arabic and once they were, he acknowledged the genius of the Indian mathematician. One of his works attributed the invention to Indians even in the title: Kitab al-Jam wal tafriq bi-hisab al-Hind – “The Book of Addition and Subtraction to the Hindu Calculation.” Another profound discovery Al-Khwarizmi made from the Hindu mathematicians was the number “zero”, which did not exist in Roman Numerals. The term “zero” started as “sunya” in Sanskrit which means “void” and “empty”. In Arabic it is “sifr”, and in Italian “zefiro”, and finally “zero” in French. Not only was this a huge breakthrough in mathematics, but also in the fields of engineering, technology, astronomy, philosophy, and even in theology. In respect to theology, the “zero” – nothingness – taught Al-Khwarizmi that reason and revelation ultimately leads us to the same source (i.e. God). Reason and revelation, or Intellect and Love, must coexist. This was also a fascinating topic all throughout the Islamic world (and eventually beyond) because it re-confirmed the Qur’anic declaration that God is in the numeral (see Qur’an 72:28 and footnotes below) as well as how God created us out of “nothing”:

“Did the human being forget that we created him already, and he was nothing.(Qur’an19:67)

God reveals Himself in numbers, the physical world, as much as He reveals Himself through the Unseen. This is the way of Islamic living, to use both the practical mind and the feeling heart. Where does Reason and Love spring from? Where is their Source? Certainly God is the Source and He blesses us with these capabilities. If one is simply Loving, then how will he know his boundaries, how will he know his limits? If one is simply Reasoning, then how will he know that to overcome his doubts, he would have to listen to his heart? How will he find Happiness? Certainly, the notion of living forever is not logical or rational; it comes from revelation, from Faith. This intercommunication of Reasoning and Love is the balance that Muslims strive to establish.

It is also worth mentioning the significance of algorithms. They are a set of numerical calculations and instructions that produce various kinds of results when carried out. Algorithms are critical to computers, programming, engineering, and software design. Without algorithms, typing this blog entry (or using a computer at that) would not be possible! As mentioned earlier, Algebra is probably the greatest of all of Al-Khwarizmi’s achievements because it is considered the first step into moving mathematics from the physical to the abstract. In other words, mathematics wasn’t just about counting how many items you purchased or calculating the cost anymore, it would extend far beyond physicality. As stated by Michael H. Morgan, author of “Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers, and Artists”, Al-Khwarizmi’s new ways of calculating will “enable the building of a 100 story towers and mile-long buildings, calculating the point at which a space probe will intersect with the orbits of one of Jupiter’s moons, the reactions of nuclear physics… intelligence of software, and the confidentiality of a mobile phone conversation.”

His other achievements included writings on astronomy and a treatise on the Jewish/Hebrew calender. A lot of Al-Khwarizmi’s contributions to the world as we know it has been forgotten. Many historians agree that the European Renaissance would not have shaped in the way it did if it were not for the accomplishments of great Muslim thinkers like Al-Khwarizmi. Nowadays, when we watch anything about the war, we tend to see a clash of civilizations, but we do not see the forgotten history; we do not see how both East and West have learned and developed from one another. Insha’Allah, if others have found this entry intriguing and enjoyable, I will continue to post more about the great Islamic contributions to the world.

It’s sad at how the Muslim world is crumbling these days because of war and disunity. The fact that Al-Khwarizmi was Persian and a Shia Muslim represents the level of tolerance and coexistence that was enjoyed during the reign of the Abbasid dynasty in Baghdad. This is the kind of unity that needs to be established in the current Muslim world. I believe the young Muslims, especially in the West, have serious potential to resurrect the spirit of our ancestors! Insha’Allah, may we all strive for that.

A Call for Unity in Islam

“You shall hold fast to the rope of GOD, all of you, and do not be divided. Recall GOD’s blessings upon you – you used to be enemies and He reconciled your hearts. By His grace, you became brethren. You were at the brink of a pit of fire, and He saved you therefrom. GOD thus explains His revelations for you, that you may be guided.

Holy Qur’an (3:103)

I’m sure that Muslims and non-Muslims alike would agree that the verse above teaches a beautiful and valuable lesson that could benefit all of humankind if followed wholeheartedly. Many times when I have discussions with other Muslims, we tend to emphasize on how there is a serious lack of unity in Islam. Whether it’s about Sunnis versus Shias, Salafis versus Sufis, or Arabs versus Persians, these are problems that are very prevalent in today’s world and they need to be addressed in our communities. However, the ridiculous sectarian violence that ensues throughout the Muslim world isn’t the only issue that needs to be examined, but also the way we treat our fellow Muslims in our own communities. Conflicts are never solved through name calling, slandering, condemning, or hating one another based upon faulty generalizations and misunderstandings, they are solved when there is mutual respect and acceptance of one another.

Others have heard me say this before, but I often wonder that if the Prophet (peace be upon him) were alive today, would he recognize this Ummah that we’ve become? The Wahabbi extremists that govern the Holy City of Mecca are delivering fatwas for Sunni Muslims to kill Shia Muslims, destroy their Mosques and Shrines, and call them “kaffir” (infidel). The Palestinians continue to suffer at the hands of the brutal Israeli occupation and yet the so-called Muslim nations have done nothing to help carve out a Palestinian state for their brothers/sisters in Islam. Would the Prophet neglect fellow Muslims killing one another, would he tolerate the way Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban are oppressing women, would he remain silent whenever Muslims kill innocent people vengefully? The disturbing truth is that there are extremist Muslims out there who really believe that oppressing women, vengeance, and killing Shias or Sufis is actually what the Prophet would do. Their arguments are based on the fact that the Prophet engaged in battles, but the reason why this argument is weak is because they ignore how fighting in Islam is only permitted out of self-defense. There are strict rules regarding fighting that these extremists obviously don’t adhere to (i.e. innocent men, women, and children shall not be killed). The tragic part is that most Muslims who align themselves with this kind of mentality have never even read the Qur’an in its entirety. Instead, they just take the Mullah or Sheikh’s word for it. I don’t have a problem with listening to elders, but when these elders preach arrogantly and pompously about Islam, I cannot help but feel like this is completely contradictory to the peaceful teachings of Islam. I remember one Imam was literally screaming at us for not waking up on time for Fajr and how we will burn in hellfire for it. He was shouting so much that spit would fly out of his mouth and his face would turn red. I chose to ignore his khutbah (speech) and read the Qur’an instead. After the prayer, I decided that I would never return to that Masjid again, and I haven’t. Why do we focus so much on the negative? Why always about hellfire, punishment, and torture when the Qur’an is mostly about Mercy and Compassion? As the Qur’an says:

Don’t you see how God sets forth a parable? A Good Word is like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches reach to the Heavens, it brings forth its fruits at all times by the leave of its Lord. So God sets forth parables for men in order that they may receive admonition (Ibrahim, 14:24-25).

Unfortunately, this type of mentality makes a huge impact upon the Muslim youth. They develop this belief that anyone who doesn’t follow their religion to a “t” is a deviant or even an “infidel”. I’ve known some of these people who won’t even allow themselves to befriend Christians, Jews, or other non-Muslims. When they speak to other Muslims, they are very quick to criticize them on things like praying five times a day, memorizing Surahs (chapters), and learning the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet). While these are honorable and important practices that all Muslims should aspire to do, the beauty of it can get lost when individuals use them as a measure of another’s person’s faith. Is a person really a bad Muslim if they don’t pray five times a day or doesn’t memorize enough Surahs as you do? Is Islam really about who is better and who is not? Is it really about competition and seeing who has a stronger Iman (Faith)? This kind of separation not only distracts us from larger issues that concern our community, such as improving our relations and image in the eyes of the non-Muslim world, but also from learning about Islam, ourselves, and from each other.

The Faith part draws a lot of confusion, at least to my mind, because its certainly not something you can measure. Consider the body and the mind; they both can be measured with time because they have limitations. The body ages, physical beauty fades, bones become weak, people lose their hair and get bald (that’s a scary thought), etc. The mind also grows old and loses its storage capacities, people’s memories start to fade, they forget things, etc., but what about the Soul? What about the Heart and other Unseen qualities, including Faith? How do you measure such intangible things? I certainly can’t look into the Soul of another human being and say he/she doesn’t believe in God, or he/she is a good or bad Muslim. Can you?

Of course there is nothing wrong with praying five times a day or memorizing Surahs as I mentioned above, but when one turns these traits into a form of competition (i.e. annoying, condemning, and judging other people for not doing the same), then what is the value or purpose of those prayers and practices? If you pray five times a day on a consistent level, then masha’Allah, may Allah reward you, but why remove this Beautiful quality from yourself and hurt a fellow brother/sister just because they don’t do the same thing you do. Sadly, many young Muslims think too outwardly and less inwardly; they forget about how these things should purify their internal qualities, they forget about self-cleansing, purification of heart, modesty, humbleness, kindness, generosity, and the many other qualities that made up the Prophet Muhammad’s true character, peace be upon him. If you are praying steadfastly, then please make sure that your outward actions reflect that. Don’t you think the Beauty of what you do gets drained when your faith becomes competition?? Think about what Prophet Muhammad said, “He who lets the people hear of his good deeds intentionally, to win their praise, Allah will let the people know his real intention (on the Day of Ressurection) and he who does good things in public to show off and win the praise of the people, Allah will disclose his real intention and humiliate him.”

The Holy Qur’an says: “And swell not your cheek for pride at men, nor walk in insolence through the Earth, for Allah Loves not any arrogant boaster(Luqman, 31:18-19).

The other issue at large is the superiority complex among various ethnic groups. One mistake people generally make is that they associate Islam with a particular culture, namely Arabic culture. Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, finds its home in the hearts of people with many different backgrounds. A Korean Christian, for example, will differ culturally from an American Christian, and the same can be said about the cultural diversity that exists in Islam. A Moroccan Muslim and an Indonesian Muslim will differ in many areas in respect to culture, but it doesn’t mean one is a “better” Muslim. Although there are different cultures in Islam, no matter what part of the world they’re from, all Muslims read their prayers in Arabic. I think this is where the association with Islam being a “non-white” religion comes from (along with other reasons of course). As some of my other fellow bloggers pointed out, there is an Arabization of Islam, i.e. most Muslims follow the dress code and cultural practices that are distinctly Middle-Eastern. It’s almost as if being Pakistani, Indian, Indonesian, Nigerian, or Bosnian doesn’t have any value anymore because those cultures “distort” the religion of Islam. Sadly, I’ve met many Pakistani Muslims who don’t find anything special about being Pakistani, but they’ve adopted to a culture that is either Egyptian, Palestinian, or Saudi (I’m aware that these cultures are different from one another too). Being Pakistani myself, there are certain practices in my culture that are different than Middle-Eastern cultures, but being Muslim doesn’t mean I have to give up being Pakistani or the language of Urdu. The beauty about Islam is that it is compatible with all cultures and all human beings. As the Qur’an says: Among His proofs are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors. In these, there are signs for the knowledgeable (Al-Rum, 30:22).

I remember being criticized by a fellow Arabic-speaking Muslim brother just because I cannot speak Arabic. I was really insulted and offended by his words because all it made me think afterwards was: do I have to speak Arabic to be a good Muslim? Thankfully, this experience didn’t stop me from learning Arabic, it just made me more aware of how Muslims of different cultures perceive one another. I personally want to learn Arabic, but I don’t believe that speaking Arabic fluently is going to make someone a better Muslim. To say that God only speaks Arabic is not only insulting, but also a very prejudice and backwards way of thinking. During the time of Jesus (peace be upon him), the extremist Rabbis would say that Angels only understand Hebrew, and not Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus as his followers). This kind of ethnocentrism tears our community apart and it can be very frustrating that people don’t learn from their history. The Ummayad dynasty was known for this kind of ethnocentrism and their unfair treatment of non-Arab Muslims like the Persians and Turks. The Abbassid dynasty which reigned in Baghdad would eliminate Arab nationalism from their empire and was very tolerant towards the non-Arab and non-Muslim minorities. They also displayed more tolerance towards Shia Muslims. Those who are familiar with their Islamic history know that civilization and achievements in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, philosophy, and medicine flourished. Now look at the state of the Muslim Ummah and look at how much Muslim nations have “accomplished” from fighting and discriminating against one another.

I think we would all agree that non-Arab Muslims at least take the effort to understand Arabic, and a large portion of them actually end up learning how to speak it fluently, but how many times do we see Arab Muslims learning the languages of Urdu/Hindi, Farsi, Turkish, Kurdish, Senegalese, or Bahasa? Just because the Qur’an was not written in these languages, must we think that Arabic is the only Divine language? I know that the guards in Saudi Arabia will familiarize themselves with some Urdu in order to speak with the South Asian immigrants, but they’re not doing it out of personal interest. This is the same problem I have with American soldiers who take Arabic classes in the United States; they’re not doing it out of personal interest, they’re doing it so they can speak the “enemy’s” language. Non-Arab Muslims learn Arabic so that they can attain a better and richer understanding of the Qur’an, but the way extremist Mullahs and Sheikhs perceive this is that the non-Arab Muslims are inferior.

We need to eliminate the divide that exists between Muslims – whether it’s about who is the “better” Muslim or who hails from a “better” culture/civilization. It doesn’t matter in the eyes of God. God is not going to judge you differently just because you descend from a group of people who invented algebra or built some of the world’s first hospitals and universities, He’s going to look at you as the individual. I also believe that we should speak to our fellow Muslims (and ultimately, all human beings) in a respectful and mature manner. I was on someone else’s blog recently and was really outraged at the way we speak to one another. It’s a horrible feeling when someone comes along and says you’re not worthy enough of being a Muslim just because you don’t pray five times a day, memorize Surahs, speak Arabic, or descend from an honorable family. Who are we to say that we are better when no one can ever possibly be better than God? Who are we to judge when that power only belongs to God?

Let’s start building unity in our communities. Let’s stop separating ourselves in the Mosque. Get to know the Pakistanis, the Palestinians, the Egyptians, the Nigerians, the Iranians, the Turks, the Indonesians, the Europeans, or whatever nationality your fellow brother/sister in Islam belongs to. In Truth, we are born with different cultures, in different countries, but we all come from the same place, and that is from God. Is that really so hard to see?

By the way, the beautiful picture in this post was created by ~Proama, you can see more of his work on Deviant Art!

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