Awaken

p20

BURNING at the center
of mere being
there is a radiant star
blazing in all of its agony
to reveal a secret
that you never knew existed.

You are asleep
haunted by the phantoms
of illusory dream-world;
caught and entangled
in the chaos
of false liberation.

Awaken
to the sound of
shockwaves tearing
across the sky
as the whirling dervish rotates
with the dance of the universe;
pound the drum that stimulates
the mystery of heart and soul;
listen to the rhythm that pulsates
with mystic solar energy
of time immemorial.

You are dizzy
lost in this ecstatic high
ailing from confusion
the dervish says:
you have been drinking poison
all of your life
you have been a victim
of a sadistic science experiment
reprogrammed by greedy corporations
implanted with falsehood
artificiality of living
you are an android
dreaming to be
human.

Unplug yourself
From the lies
From deceit and deception
From the fear and misery
Unplug
From the system.

Come, this way
to the open field
where the blade of sunlight
pierces through darkness;
open your mouth
and drink some of this
become absorbed
in this hyper trance
turn, spin, whirl
up, down, left, right
let go
and become
nameless, faceless
directionless.

Discover your luminary self
conquer dizziness
burn through the shell
of temporal chrysalis;
radiate like celestial fire
emerge and bloom
into flowery madness.

Yes, you know who you are
You are here to set the world ablaze;
open your eyes
with the flame of ignited stars
and see the universe
that was created with One Divine Breath.

Inhale and exhale with that.

~BM~

With You

normal_46840429fqrfga_ph
I was dreaming of Mecca
The tomb in Medina
The memories in Jerusalem
The shrine in Karbala

Look at the congregations on Friday
Worshipers rushing into the Mosques
Listen to that beautiful call to prayer
It is all for You, my Creator

Believers memorize Your sacred verses
Theologians are absorbed in pursuit of Divine knowledge
Scholars fill endless books about Your Supreme Majesty
Mystics adorn Your Beauty with poetry

I am jealous of all Your Lovers
I want to be the only pilgrim in the holy city
I want to stand before the Kaabah alone
Just You and me

Call me Your slave
Tell me where I belong
Attend to my wounds
Tell me where I am wrong

I am reaching for Elysium
Remove this horrible grief and sorrow
Take me for another dance
And teach me a new lesson

Just You and me

Call it blasphemy, call it selfish
The words of those clerics cannot judge me
For my longings and prayers are only known to One

~Broken Mystic~

Meld in Ecstasy

dar_daman
Submissive on the prayer rug
Inhaling the clean scent of the night
Eyes shut – pulled into deep trance
Listen for that match to strike

There.

The soft glow of candlelight
Glistening on your skin like the moonlit sea
It is time to embrace those open arms
And feel the Beauty of the night

Hush.

Just feel the cool air
Kissing your luscious lips
Just listen for those secret whispers
Hidden in the serenity of prayer

Shhhh.

Touch that flame of desire
Yearning for body and soul to meld in ecstasy
Come – undress in the fire
Become clothed in the Seven Shades of Love

Breathe.

Divinity is Here
Just when you think you’re ready to speak
Beloved claps a hand over your mouth
And pulls you into the passionate sea

Swim with Me.

Now is not the time for words.
Let’s make music all night.

~Broken Mystic~

Checkpoint

checkpoint
You watch me closely
With your sniper rifle
A weapon you call security
An instrument I call fear

I show that I am weaponless
As I pass through your checkpoint
Spinning like a whirling dervish
Fearless in this worldly separation

I want to open your eyes
So you can see the unjust persecution
I want you to look into my soul
And listen to the endless cries of desperation

I want you to watch my heart bleed
Every time I pray for Abraham’s children
I want you to hear me gasp for air
Every time a face and name is forgotten

Why are we, brothers and sisters, so torn apart?
Here I cross again, spinning in my Sufi dance
And dancing to the song of yearning
That plays forever in my heart

Like planets dancing around the sun
This is the dance of the celestial heavens
Where even the gunman is invited
No uniforms, no flags, no bombs, no guns

As you watch, I want you to listen:

My Beloved is Here
My Love is Here

My Home is Here

~Broken Mystic~

Oneness

dietrich_rumi

An old poem I wrote in August of 2007. I recently shared it on one of my friend’s Facebook page, so I decided to share it here as well.

Look beyond the illusion of separation
Call me not by labels of the world
Not even “male” or “man”
Do not look at the color of my skin
Or what flag I “belong” to

Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu,
European, African, Middle-Eastern, Asian
Whatever you are, come closer
Love’s flame says, “I can’t take it anymore”

Mystic fire races through the unseen
Burning the walls of separation to ashes
“The gates have been unlocked”, says Divine Love
“And the keys were melted by my passion”

Your maps are wrong, erase those borders
Move closer to each other
Language, culture, religion – these are not barriers
Friendship always finds a way

Throw your labels away for once
And put judgment to rest
Look inside, beneath the skin
Do you see what burns within?
The flame of Being – I am that
You are that

Love has shattered those inner walls
And said, “You will not need these anymore”
Receive with open arms, open heart
Radiate, Shine, and Give

Glow with me, O world!

We belong to the same family
Same Creation, same Source
Take up your instruments
From all corners of the earth
And celebrate this unity!

O Beloved, burn with me!

~Broken Mystic~

Tears for Gaza, Tears for Husayn

husayn

The free world turns a blind eye
The modern-day Yazids laugh in their palaces
The Holy Land bleeds and weeps
When the sons and daughters of Abraham die

Selfish kings are drunk with their riches
Cowards flee at every opportunity to protect
The everyman worries about his daily bread
Peace plans of so-called democracies are in reject

Only those who listen to their inner calling
Will rise for the defenseless and oppressed
Only those learned in the ways of Peace and Love
Can bring Unity to this world so terrifying

Jews, Christians, and Muslims
Are we not of the same family?
O humankind, are we not all human?
Is it so hard to see this truth and beauty?

Remember those black banners in Kerbala
Those blood-soaked flags of dearest Husayn
The endless teardrops in the sand
The Earth that mourned for the Beloved’s name

Ya Husayn, Mountain of Forbearance
Shadow of the Divine, Pearl of Radiance
In the footsteps of the Prophet
You stood boldly in the face of a thousand spears

Ya Husayn, Garden of Truth
Master of the Spirit, Beautiful Friend of God
O’ how your blood was massacred across the lonely hills
Within your immortal sacrifice streams the fountain of youth

Ya Husayn, Martyr of Elysium
Illumination of Mystics, Second Petal of Fatima’s Rose
You forgot about self and bled for union
Fearless you became, a secret blossom for those who reflect

I weep for you, Husayn
I mourn for you, Gaza
In this cruel world that we live in
Your faces will never be forgotten

Remember how Husayn left Medina
In pursuit of uniting the Ummah
He left that material world behind
And entered the abode of selflessness

Free yourself from the chains that bind you
Emerge, peacemakers
Like a new being blooming into color
And like Husayn, say:

“I HAVE RISEN
As I seek to reform
The community of my grandfather
I wish to enjoin the good
And forbid the evil”

~Broken Mystic~

I Weep With the Clouds

My review for the latest “Niyaz” album has been long overdue, but I promise I will write it very soon. From the album, I discovered an amazing poet who lived in the Indian Subcontinent during the 13th century: Amir Khusrau. He wrote primarily in Persian (Farsi), but also in Urdu. Azam Ali sings two of his Persian poems on the latest “Niyaz” album, “Nine Heavens.” Although this is not one of them, I had to share it because as soon as I read it, I reflected on my own separation from a dear friend of mine. Yesterday, I broke into tears because I played an old song that was special to both of us. Sometimes I’m still shocked that we’re separated. After the shock, I get the memories, and after the memories, I feel sad and miserable. I just wonder if things will ever be as beautiful as it was before. I suppose the answer is in having a positive and open heart, and to have faith in the True Friend — The One who will never turn away from us. I know deep down I have faith things will get better, Insha’Allah.

Abr mi barad-o man shovm-e az yar-e-judaa
Choon kunam dil becheneen roz zedildar judaa
Abr baraan wa man-o yar satadah ba-widaa’
Man judaa girya kunaan, abr judaa, yaar judaa…

(Farsi)

The cloud weeps, and I become separated from my friend
How can I separate my heart from my heart’s friend on such a day
The cloud weeping — and I and the friend standing, bidding farewell
I weeping separately, the clouds separately, the friend separately…

~ Amir Khusrau, 13th Century Indian Sufi

Sufism: A Journey Into the Heart of Islam

Lately, I’ve been receiving many questions about Sufism: “What is Sufism?” “Is it Islam?” “What does it teach?” I think there are many misconceptions about Islam’s spiritual dimension, especially from Orthodox Muslims. I decided to share some of my knowledge about Sufism in order to help clarify what it’s really all about. I hope you all find it helpful.

I think the best way to understand Sufism is to know that it is not different or separate from Islam. Sufism is Islamic mysticism (or spirituality). And mysticism is essentially one’s journey for Self, Love, and God. It’s a journey that emphasizes more on the inner struggle and dimensions of a human being, but since we’re not secluded monks, we have to also establish a bond with the outside world, i.e. our purpose. The Qur’an says [28:77] : “Seek — among that which God has bestowed upon you — the Hereafter. But do not forget your portion of this world either.” To me this refers to the balance that we must establish in the inner and outer worlds. If I am too spiritual, then I will miss out on my purpose. If I am too secular, then I will truly be dead. I will have no knowledge about who I am, who I Love, and where I am going.

This is a little something I wrote about Sufism on a discussion board one time: “Sufism” is merely a word if treated like a word. Just like “Islam” is simply a word if treated like one. The meaning is what’s important. Islam is submission, i.e. to the One and Only Eternal God of the Universe. Whatever you may call it, spirituality did not begin at a certain time or place, it has always been Present, even before the creation of the Universe. The Law of Submission exists in all created things, it exists in the Universe, in the air we breathe, in our cells, in everything we touch, feel, and hear. It doesn’t matter what you call it because that Divine Beauty is always Present because its Source is Eternal.

Here is another thing I wrote about it when I was speaking to someone who was asking if Sufism and Islam are different:

Sufism is the heart of Islam, just because something didn’t have a label or name in the past doesn’t mean it never existed. The spiritual teachings of the Sufis always existed, including and especially during Muhammad’s revelations, peace and blessings be upon him.

The way of the Sufi is the way of the Muslim (submitter) – to tear down the walls of separation, to discover one’s Self, to unveil the Secrets of the Universe, and to fuse in union with God. You cannot separate the Qur’an or the Prophet Muhammad from Sufism in the same way you cannot separate Sufism from Islam. “There are many numbers, but only One is counted” says Shabistari, a 13th century Sufi poet.

Like the Sunnis and Shias, the Sufis interpret the Qur’an in a unique way. For example, the Sufis would look deeper into certain verses like the following:

[15:28] Your Lord said to the angels, “I am creating a human being from aged mud, like the potter’s clay.

[15:29] “Once I perfect him, and blow into him from My spirit, you shall fall prostrate before him.”

[15:30] The angels fell prostrate; all of them.

From these verses, the Sufis would emphasize on how Allah’s spirit is within us all and that the Angels admire us because of this innate Gift. If one observes Persian paintings (which are heavily influenced by Sufism), one will see depictions of Angels always smiling and adoring human beings. It comes back to these verses. So the fact that Allah’s spirit is within us, we human beings can all make contact with this inner Divinity — not saying that we are God, but just that we are more than flesh and bone. A lot of us have forgotten about this spirit, we live life without God-consciousness and awareness, and many times, it’s not our fault. We just get caught up in so many things in the world.

The profound works of the 13th Century Persian Muslim poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, are so beautiful and Divinely-inspired that he is often synonymous with the word, “Sufism.” However, it’s not like he started his “own religion.” On the contrary, Sufism sprung in the same way that Shia Islam came about — these Muslims like Rumi noticed that the Muslim rulers were becoming more and more corrupt, emphasizing too much on the material, while the extremist and so-called “religious” Muslims were calling everything haram (forbidden). The Sufis expressed themselves through poetry and they wrote about how Muslims needed to bring Islam back to its True and Spiritual roots. Here are some beautiful verses from Rumi:

The thousand spears of Pharaoh, Moses knew,
With just one rod how to split them in two;
Medical sciences once Galen taught
But next to Jesus’s breath they’re worth naught;
The finest poetry was put to shame
The day illiterate Muhammad came

~ Rumi

This next one is especially important since it shows that Sufism is not separate from Islam:

I am the servant of the Qur’an as long as I have life.
I am the dust on the path of Muhammad, the Chosen one.
If anyone quotes anything except this from my sayings,
I am quit of him and outraged by these words.

~ Rumi

Another interesting aspect about Sufism is that learning is not just about reading books or memorizing verses. Learning is also about experiencing — in fact, a lot of emphasis is based on one experiencing the Beauty from Allah’s Divine Love. As exemplified here in a Punjabi poem by the great 17th-18th century Sufi poet, Bulleh Shah:

paRh paRh ilm hazaar kitaabaN
qaddi apnay aap nou paRhiya naee
jaaN jaaN waRhday mandir maseedi
qaddi mann apnay wich waRhiya naee
aa-vaiN laRda aye shaitan de naal bandeaa
qaddi nafss apnay naal laRiya naee

(Punjabi)

Yes, yes, you have read thousands of books
But you have never tried to read your own self
You rush in, into your Temples,
Into your Mosques,
But you have never tried to enter your own heart
Futile are all your battles with Satan
For you have never tried to fight your own desires

~ Bulleh Shah

There is a movement art in Sufism that is quite famous: The Whirling Dervishes (as you can see depicted in the Persian painting above). Many strict Muslims misunderstand whirling meditation, and they find it to be blasphemous since there is singing and dancing involved. However, as I mentioned, the whirling meditation is a movement art, and it is in no way meant to replace prayer. It is a form of zikr (or dhikr) which, in Arabic, means “remembrance/mindfulness of God.” The Sufis emphasize heavily on being mindful of God at all times, so that one journeys through life with a clear and less-conflicted mind. No one is expected to learn how to whirl because it is not compulsory. It is something that must be acted upon, something that must be a choice, and something that a person needs to feel. In South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.), there is a popular Sufi music tradition called Qawwalis, which are best described as Love and Devotion Songs. But these Love songs are not sung in praise of romantic relationships; they are sung in praise of God, the Prophets (mainly Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), Imams (like ‘Ali, peace be upon him), and Sufi mystics (any song about romantic relationships will always incorporate God). The songs are traditionally sung live with acoustic-only instruments (tabla, guitars, harmonium, sitars, flutes, etc.) and they are mainly driven by ecstatic and passionate wailing, which symbolizes the human longing to be reunited with the Divine. From mystical poetry and music to dancing, the Sufis find these forms of art as a way to absorb themselves in God’s Love. It is also a way to empty one’s self of longings and desires, so that one becomes free of the ego and empty. God fills the void with His Beauties.

In conclusion, it’s important to understand that Sufism is not different than Islam, but rather the inward dimension of Islam. The Qur’an, of course, is the basis for everything, but there are deeper meanings and secrets that are embedded in the Message. Since we are not Prophets, we cannot communicate directly with Allah, however we can follow the Prophetic Light. There is always going to be more to learn in Life — that is one of Life’s Hidden Joys. The most unhearing people are those who think they know everything.

As Muhammad, peace be upon him, once said, “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” The more we learn about ourselves, the closer we are to God. The further away we are from who we truly are, the further we are from God. This journey is not just one of learning, but of experiencing; to feel Divine Love with your mind, body, and soul — your Entire Being. It is a journey of self-discovery, and self-discovery ultimately leads to a state of Oneness, Peace, and Ever-Lasting Love. May we all acheive that with the help and guidance of our All-Loving Creator. Ameen.

~ 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 ~

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!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers