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~

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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 ~

Sister

She was dragged out into the street
An angry mob shouting words they didn’t understand
Tearing her clothes off shamelessly
Spitting in her face and beating her with brutal hands

She was seventeen – beautiful and innocent
A radiant smile that became trembling lips
What was my crime, she cannot even ask
What have I done to deserve this torment?

A distant Lover, a young man from a different part of town
Just an innocent pair of Lovers
They pull her hair and call her a disgrace
“Infidel!” “Slut!” “Whore!”

Tears streaming down her face – I’m sorry, she whimpers
Heavy rocks and stones slamming against her body
Blood dripping, bones crushing, such fragile beings we are
Why hurt so much beauty?

You stand in the crowd
Surrounded by a chaotic storm of violence
Unable to hold back your tears
Wanting to bring an end to this madness

I know, me too…

With each violent strike
You watch her life bleed away
Her broken fingers reaching for help, just someone to hold
Just someone to tell her it’s going to be okay

You’re haunted by her helpless eastern eyes
Watching the brutality ensue
One rock thrown at a time like some demonic game
While police officers just stand as spectators
Unyielding to her desperate and painful cries

You want to charge through the crowd
And take the rocks like bullets
You want to bleed and lessen her pain
You want to scream into the sky
And punch the earth until your hand breaks

I know, me too…

Sister, what we would do to help you
If we weren’t so afraid
I’m standing here, bleeding from the inside
Suffocating and blind from all this hatred

Sister, I cannot live like this
Or laugh or sing or dance or smile
I cannot breathe like this
Or talk or eat or walk or sleep

Thinking of all the pain you endured
Of all those years you missed
Those precious days stolen from you
In the early bloom of your being

You want to believe in the Unseen Beauty
Heaven’s Chariot charging through the fields
Divine Light resurrecting her lifeless body
And a warm hand healing her wounds

Fear nothing, says a gentle voice
For Beautiful Muhammad has come
To lead you out of darkness and into Light
To bring you out of sorrow and into rejoice

Ali and Fatima wait at the Gate
Come, Sister
To the Eternal Sky
To the Garden of Souls
To the Love that belongs to you

You want to believe this is how it ended

I know, me too…

~ Broken Mystic ~

Heal

Lost in the mystic garden
You listen to the wounded flowers
And mourn with the song of separation
Arcane violins lamenting the conference of sad Souls

Teardrops in the earth, daggers in the sky
The rain is bleeding your name in each drop
Weak blossoms weep for Beloved
Trembling vines kiss moonlight a painful goodbye

A thousand fallen rose petals for heartbreak
Seven hundred for misery
One million for exile
Sorrow immortalized on a Persian tapestry

Watching from the terrace
You see memories scattered like pearls
Across the silent ocean
Sailing quietly to their black abyss

Your fortress burned to the ground
And you walked away from the ruins – why?
Back to your library, you went
In pursuit of words and the wise

A flute player comes knocking the next day
You have been up all night, shattered from the inside
“Go away!” you shout
“I’m Reading!”

“O Seeker!” he says,
“Like a blind fugitive, you were chased back into your prison
If only you understood the words you read
You would have never closed this door again!”

Tribal nomads arrive with their instruments
And play a melody of sorrow and beauty
With poetry like an Urdu Ghazal
And music like the ethereal

The flute player explains
“Joy and Sorrow are mirrors to each other
Beneath Sorrow, treasures of Joy is what you will always find
When you were in ruins, you left these behind:”

A paintbrush and a bowl of colors

It is the only way out – paint on the prison wall
The vision of your heart – walk into it!
Pass through the Portal of Experience
Be drawn to Love’s sacred call

Tear through the cloak of Reason and step into the Unseen
You have the flame of Zarathustra burning with the soul of the world
You have the staff of Moses transforming all illusion into reality
You have the light of Muhammad shining upon all creation

Keep painting, Soul Painter!
Merge the Visible with the Invisible
Defy the odds like Imam Husayn and ‘Ali
Spears and daggers are no obstacle
In the face of this hidden wonder’s unity

Listen:
The wild dance of the santur
Rhythmic tabla, the strike of the sitar
The cinematic overture

Dance in the Eternal King’s courtyard
Escape the man-made rules and laws of control
Dance! You are a planet orbiting His Beauty
Only He can look into the window of your Soul

Creator says:
You have nothing to fear
I am with you
Show Me your wounds
And I will heal them
Tell Me your sorrows
And I will show you that I am near
Tell Me your hardships
And I will show you the blessed path you travel
Tell Me of those endless halls you wander
And I will guide you through
Hand Me your tears
And I will show you the ocean they belong to

Open your hands
And reach into the sky if you want to be lifted
Let your feet bid farewell to the earth
If you want to soar to infinity

Close your eyes
Breathe – arms out, heart open
Receive the wind, the sea, the spirit of all creation
Embrace this Love that cannot be named

Now open your eyes
Here is the Garden, here is the Sun
To the Fields of Fortune you must go
Leap, with all of your Being

Elysium awaits you, Brave one.

~ 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 ~

Rebirth

I gaze upon the lonely sea
Shadowed by the gloomy clouds
And haunted by forgotten whispers
Through the fog, I set sail into mystery

Love has hovered over me
Waiting for me to submit to its will
Tear through me now, I say
Bring me shipwreck and drown this misery

Let me plummet into the heart of the ocean
Soak the map, slash the sails, crush the mast
Pierce through the wreck with Your Light
Only in Your Sea can the Seeker breathe

Pull me deeper
Until I am nothing
No name, no label, no face
Without want, without fear

Can you hear Bilal on his minaret?
La ilahaaaaa! Il Allaaaaah!
There is no god but God
Listen and be reborn to euphoria

I say:

Emerge – Star Light
Bloom once again – Sky Garden
Launch into Infinity – Wingless Flight
Sing among Angels – Song Bird

Charging out of the hail storm of mystery
Beauty whistles through the sky
A thousand sonnets are sung, a million stars are lit
Listen to your heart – it pounds at the gates of ever-lasting beauty!

Catch the rain of rose petals
Whirl like a fearless cyclone
You are Alpha and Omega
Fire and Water, Flower and Stone

How long will you let the laws govern your life?
Your wings are bleeding and you don’t even know!
The wind blows – turn, look around
Flowers bloom, birds over your head
The music plays – over here!
Unseen Angels by your side – Open your eyes!

O Human, you belong in the Heavens!
Impossibility is all you say
While Beloved is calling your name
A million times, over and over again

I will dance upon a cloud
And then dive into the heart of Beloved
I will spin away from time and space
And lose myself in the portal of grace

I am the Symphony
I am the bow, the string, the trombone
The flute, the santur, the sitar, the tabla
The wailing voice, the Gregorian chant, the mystic ecstasy

I am the bass, the electric guitar
The Buddhist throat singer, the ancient rhythms
The sky, the sea; I am the Earth
The soil, the seed, I am rebirth

I will be murdered a thousand times
Split in half, or in a million pieces
I will rise from the ashes by Merciful Divine
In endless new ways

Like Sohni and Mahiwal, Love is tragedy
Two Lovers drowned at sea
Like Sohni and Mahiwal, Love is forever
Death is the curtain to Eternity

Like Muhammad, step out of darkness
And upon every turn of your head
Only see the Face of Love
Follow it’s Radiance – the way of Transcendence

And in this new song
I am calling out to the Universe in longing:

Rooh mein bharde aagini!
(Fill my Soul with Fire!)
Fill my Life Saga with nothing but Love
Nothing but Love

~ Broken Mystic ~

Biased History

Do not buy this book! Ok, I don’t mean to sound like one of those “boycott (insert alleged anti-Islamic author/corporation)” kind of people, but it’s important to know that this book does not give you a very fair understanding of the Crusades. If you want to read it, that’s fine, but if this is the only book you will read on the Crusades, I strongly urge you to read other books! Specifically Crusades: A Reader (Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures) by S.J. Allen and Emilie Amt.

It doesn’t bother me that the author, Thomas F. Madden, chooses to write from a European perspective, but when he uses dramatic narratives to paint the image of the Crusades as a period of “love” and “chivalry,” one cannot help but question his credibility and intentions. Even more so, Madden begins his book with mentioning September 11th and how the terrorist attacks were religiously motivated. He writes: “…radical Muslims, known as Islamists, have called fellow Muslims to take part in a worldwide jihad against the people of the West, who the Islamists regularly refer to as ‘crusaders’.”

What’s odd about this is the terminology. “Islamists?” It just baffles me that an author with his PhD would use an invented term coined by President Bush and FOX News. I also do not understand where he gets this “worldwide jihad against the people of the West;” this is a common misconception and fear that right-wing conservatives try to emphasize on as much as possible so that they can justify their opinions or actions. September 11th was not motivated by religion, it was motivated by the U.S. government’s relentless support of the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian settlements. This terrorist attack has been brewing in the Middle-East ever since the first bombing of the World Trade Center and fanatics like Osama bin Laden have been warning the U.S. to stop funding Israel with weapons, tanks, aircraft, and military technology.

Madden also writes: “Americans were shocked not only by the brutality and bloodshed of the terrorist attacks on their country, but by the very fact that the attacks had occurred at all. Who were these people, Americans asked, and why had they done these terrible things? Why were the attacks greeted with joy and dancing in many urban streets of the Middle East? … In search of answers Americans turned to the long history of relations between Muslim and Western worlds. The Islamist themselves pointed to the crusades, asserting that the West had for centuries sought to destroy Islam and continued to do so today.”

I’m still cringing at that “Islamist” word. Imagine reading this in the preface of a book on the Crusades. One cannot help but detect a bias. Later he says the Crusades are one of the most misunderstood events in western history. I wonder what it could be “misunderstood” for? Reading through the book, I was shocked and appalled at how he says Crusaders from Europe marched to Jerusalem with “pious enthusiasm.” Pious? Anyone who studied the Crusades honestly will know that the majority of the Crusaders were no where near pious.

In 1096, Pope Urban II called for the first Crusade in order to capture Jerusalem from the Muslims. Prior to the Crusades, the Christians in Western Europe (Latins) did not get along very well with the Orthodox Christians in Constantinople (Greeks). The Greek Christians thought of themselves as more sophisticated, civilized, and educated, and they perceived the Latin Christians to be barbaric, uncivilized, and unclean. They also regarded one another as blasphemers and heretics because they had conflicting theological beliefs concerning the holy spirit and/or divinity of Jesus (peace be upon him). What heightened the tension even more was that the Emperor in Constantinople wanted to speak for all Christians in the world, while the Pope in Rome wanted to do the same. There was a huge power struggle which led to many excommunications, deception, and persecutions. When the Emperor Alexius I needed assistance to defend against the Turkish forces near Constantinople, he wrote to Pope Urban II. Pope Urban II was so fed up with Christians fighting and killing other Christians that he saw this as an excellent opportunity for Christians to unite and channel their hatred towards the Muslims. What attracted Pope Urban II the most was the prize of Jerusalem — if the Christians could recapture Jerusalem, he would be remembered throughout history as the man who drove out the “infidels” and “saved” the Holy Land!

The Pope’s calling of Holy War was just that. A Holy War. He promised direct salvation; anyone who participated or fought in the Crusades would have their sins remitted and automatically be given entry into Heaven. However, if one should withdraw from the Crusades, he would be considered a coward and never enter Paradise. The Pope used verses from the New Testament to justify the war, and he also exaggerated about the “mistreatment” Christians were experiencing under Muslim rulers. This was very ill-founded since the Greek Christians felt more comfortable in the great Muslim learning cities of Baghdad and Cairo than with the Christians of Western Europe. This makes sense considering the sophistication of the Muslim Empire and the Greeks during that time. Many of the Christians who lived under Islamic rule held respectable and honorable positions, such as translating the Greek texts of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other philosophical giants.

European peasants and knights were so excited about the Crusades because they saw it as an escape out of their brutal lifestyle. The peasant life, for example, was a very demanding and physically laborious one. They weren’t very educated, they traveled mostly for farming, and their medicine wasn’t nearly as advanced as the Islamic world. The nobles (and/or knights) lived a gluttonous and violent lifestyle, where they would not only fight other Christian forces, but also break the pledges of safe-guarding the poor and the women and children. There are accounts where knights have abused their power and raped women. When they learned about the Crusades, they saw many benefits, not just the spiritual rewards, but also the promise of treasures and wealth. To them, it was a time for change, for hope, and for success. Jerusalem was described in the Pope’s speeches as the “land of milk and honey,” “a second paradise” with “fruitful delights”. The Crusaders were so enthused that they felt empowered with divine authority and judgment. On their march towards Jerusalem, the Crusaders encountered a Jewish village, where one of the Crusader leaders, Peter the Hermit, declared them as the “near enemy” (the “far enemy” being the Muslims). The Jews were slaughtered, the women were raped, and the children were shown no mercy. Neither the Pope nor the Patriarch in Constantinople condemned this — it was God’s will.

To his credit, Madden makes a brief mentioning of this incident and he even provides a couple of accounts that confirm the massacre of Jews. However, he states that the anti-Jewish brutality “never made it to the East”. This is wrong. When the Crusaders marched onward to Jerusalem, they marched around the walls singing the psalms of Joshua from the Bible, and then they lay siege to the city. In 1098, Christian Crusaders massacred Muslims and Jews — men had their limbs and heads cut off, women were raped and burned, children were killed. One Crusader account records that the blood was “knee deep” and that body parts were everywhere. Madden leaves out the accounts where the Crusaders wrote that the massacre was a “great glory” from Jesus Christ, and that this victory would “abolish the law of Muhammad, and vindicate the Christian religion.” What is quite distasteful is how Madden tries to argue that the slaughtering of Muslims and Jews was not as bad as its made out to be. He writes:

“It is true that many of the inhabitants, both Muslims and Jews, were killed in the initial fray. Yet many were also allowed to purchase their freedom or were simply expelled from the city. Later stories of the streets of Jerusalem coursing with knee-high rivers of blood were never meant to be taken seriously. Medieval people knew such a thing to be an impossibility. Modern people, unfortunately, do not.”

That’s all he comments on regarding the historical records and accounts. He doesn’t call them accounts, he calls them “stories,” and he never mentions why these “stories” were never meant to be taken seriously. In my opinion, he makes a very poor argument. What’s even more disturbing is the paragraph immediately following the sentences I just cited:

“The dream of Urban II had come true. Against all odds, this struggling, fractious, and naive enterprise had made its way from western Europe to the Middle East and conquered two of the best-defended cities in the western world. From a modern perspective, one can only marvel at the improbable course of events that led to these victories. Medieval men and women did not marvel; they merely thanked God. For them, the agent of the crusade’s victory was God himself, who had worked miracle after miracle for his faithful knights, delivering unto them the land of Christ.”

Yes, these same heroic and faithful knights broke their vows countless times not just by slaughtering Jews, but also bringing prostitutes along with them and then raping foreign women whenever cities were captured. These same medieval Crusaders who “merely thanked God” indulged in the riches that they stole from Jerusalem and took back to Western Europe. But to author Thomas F. Madden, this all is presented as merely “God’s work.”

Probably the most insulting part of this book is how Madden tries to discredit one of the greatest leaders in the history of humankind: Salah Al-Din. The Kurdish Muslim general who united the Muslim world under his Ayyubid Dynasty about 88 years after the Crusaders captured Jerusalem. For 88 years, the Christians had ruled Jerusalem, and the Muslims were so disconnected that they could not organize a resistance against the Crusaders. Muslim survivors fled to the cities of Baghdad during the month of Ramadan and pleaded with the Caliph to organize armies to defend against the Crusaders, but the Caliph scorned these men and reminded them that it was Ramadan. These Muslims from Jerusalem then shouted, “Our city has fallen, our people have been slaughtered! — what is more important? Ramadan or Jerusalem?!” This cry for help would not be heard until about 80 years later, when the first real Islamic war or jihad against the Crusaders was led by Zengi, who captured a crucial Crusader city in Edessa.

Salah Al-Din eventually came to power when another Muslim leader, Nur Al-Din, passed away. Salah Al-Din now ruled over Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Diyar Bakr, Mecca, Hejaz, and northern Iraq. He had a massive Muslim army which consisted of Arabs, Turks, Persians, Kurds; Sunnis, Ismailis, and Shias. This frightened the Crusader ruler in Jerusalem, who did not want a war with Salah Al-Din. But it was the Prince of Antioch, Raynald of Chatillion who wanted a war with the Muslims. First, he attacked a Muslim caravan, which prompted Salah Al-Din to organize his army and march towards Jerusalem. The King of Jerusalem at the time was Baldwin IV, who was known as the Leper King because of his leprosy. Baldwin IV promised Salah Al-Din that he would deal with Raynald and suggested that Salah Al-Din withdraw his soldiers. Salah Al-Din agreed and retreated. Muslims in Salah Al-Din’s camp even disputed with his decision on retreating, but Salah Al-Din ordered them to be patient. Madden tries to present Salah Al-Din as a threatening man who was “looking for an excuse to attack Jerusalem.” This is absurd. If Salah Al-Din was looking for an excuse, then he already had one when Raynald attacked a Muslim caravan — why didn’t he invade Jerusalem then? The truth is, Salah Al-Din was a gentleman, he empathized and listened to his “enemies.” Unlike contemporary politicians, he is willing to listen to the opposition and consider the terms that they offer. Salah Al-Din’s retreat after agreeing on terms with Baldwin IV represents pure medieval chivalry, and respect for the Christian King.

Unfortunately, Baldwin IV the Leper King died shortly, and his opposer Guy de Lusignan became the King of Jerusalem. Guy released Raynald from prison because he too wanted a war with Salah Al-Din. This time, Raynald attacked another Muslim caravan where he killed Salah Al-Din’s sister. This was the last straw (and understandably) for Salah Al-Din. The great Sultan even swore to kill Raynald with his own hands. Salah Al-Din marched onward to Jerusalem, and he brilliantly lured the Crusaders out to a region known as the “Horns of Hattin” which contained no water wells. The Crusader army was worn out, excessively thirsty, and scorched by the brutal heat. Salah Al-Din’s army wiped out the Crusader forces and even captured Guy and Raynald. There is a famous account where Salah Al-Din offers Guy, the King of Jerusalem, a glass of cold ice for his thirst and wounds. Guy drinks it and then hands the cup to Raynald. Salah Al-Din informs Raynald that the glass was not offered to him. Raynald was decapitated by Salah Al-Din himself, as he had vowed.

Onward to Jerusalem, Salah Al-Din’s army broke through the Crusader defences, and a few moments later, the defender of the city, Balian of Ibelin, approached Salah Al-Din to offer terms. Balian said he would burn down the Mosque and the holy sites before Salah Al-Din could take over the city. Salah Al-Din astonishingly said he would grant every Christian knight safe passage to the sea, and that no Christian citizen would be harmed. No woman would be raped, no child would be killed. Madden gives no credit to Salah Al-Din’s remarkable and unusual amount of tolerance and acceptance during these Medieval times. It is true that Salah Al-Din initially threatened to slaughter all the Christians the same way the Christians slaughtered the Muslims 88 years earlier, but the truth is, a lot of these “threats” were pressured upon him by other Muslims. Other Muslim leaders would heavily criticize Salah Al-Din for being too compassionate and merciful, they criticized him for being too lenient and tolerate with minorities. Not just with Christians and Jews, but with Shia Muslims as well. His own personal physician was a Jewish man named Musa ibn Maymun (or “Maimonides” in Latin), who was one of the greatest philosophers in both Islamic and Jewish history. Regardless, the reality is that there was NO slaughter of Christians or Jews when Salah Al-Din captured the city. On October 2nd, 1187, peace and coexistence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews was finally restored in Jerusalem — the Kingdom of Heaven. The Christian knights faced nothing worse than exile or ransom. Why Madden tries to discredit and downplay Salah Al-Din’s extraordinary act of compassion is beyond me.

After Salah Al-Din captured Jerusalem, Europe went into alarm and quickly organized another Crusade. This time led by the most famous Crusaders of them all: King Richard, the Lionhearted. What’s unsettling is how Madden paints a glorious and heroic picture of King Richard, and doesn’t even mention how atrocious it was for Richard to execute 2,700 to 3,000 Muslim prisoners when he captured Acre. Madden simply writes one sentence of it and avoids discussing it. Every historian, even those who respect Richard acknowledges this as an atrocity. Richard had conquered Acre and tried to negotiate a deal with Salah Al-Din. Salah Al-Din tried to offer a better deal, but Richard got impatient and flew into a rage and then executed the Muslim prisoners. In Medieval times, leaders would not treat their prisoners like this. They would either keep prisoners as slaves or hold them for ransom, not execute them. Clearly, what Richard did was very unorthodox and horrific. Eventually, a long distant friendship would be established between Richard and Salah Al-Din. One day, Richard was sick, and Salah Al-Din sent his personal physician Maimonides to attend Richard, along with a basket of healing fruits. Also, Richard’s horse was killed in battle, and so Salah Al-Din ordered his men to not attack Richard. Richard was allowed to walk through a Muslim phalanx without being attacked! Salah Al-Din then sent him two fresh horses!

Madden presents Richard as a stronger military force than Salah Al-Din. He states that Richard’s victories in the Muslim cities of Acre and Arsuf “wiped out Salah Al-Din’s victory at Hattin.” This comparison is really inappropriate. This again shows how Madden is trying to discredit Salah Al-Din. Madden even goes as far as stating the Third Crusade (Richard’s Crusade) was a “successful one,” despite the fact that Richard never conquered Jerusalem. He then writes about how “tempting” it is to envision Richard ruling Jerusalem, as if Salah Al-Din was some kind of tyrannical and oppressive leader. Richard was ignorant for the most part. He didn’t even know that Jerusalem was sacred to Muslims until he met with Salah Al-Din’s brother. Like most medieval European Christians during that time, a huge amount of ignorance towards Islam persisted. I personally believe that Richard was a good man at heart, and if him and Salah Al-Din were not forced to fight one another, they would have seen eye-to-eye. Madden doesn’t bother to mention this. It’s all about Christians versus Muslims; the faithful, pious Christians versus the infidel, evil Muslims.

The bottom line is that this book is extremely biased and strips so many important aspects regarding the personality, character, and policy of certain Muslim leaders, especially Salah Al-Din. European writers, scholars, and historians even state that Salah Al-Din represented the ideal knight, the ideal for medieval chivalry. One European writer even wrote that Salah Al-Din was secretly Christian, in order to explain his extraordinary and unusual amount of tolerance. Of course this is not true, but it’s funny how some of these Europeans tried so hard to explain why Salah Al-Din was so compassionate. The truth is, Salah Al-Din was a devout Muslim, a very religious man, and he was the shinning example of none other than Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. I fear that if someone is simply interested in picking up one book on the Crusades and they choose this one, they are going to miss out on this great figure in the history of humanity. And they certainly are not going to perceive the Muslims any better than how they are depicted in today’s media. I hope that I have helped balance things out a little, but if anyone is interested in what really happened, I recommend the book mentioned above. As well as “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes” by Amin Malouf. I know the title makes it sound biased too, but it is actually quite objective. It is also important to read from the Muslim perspective since we often only hear about the Crusades through European eyes. We need to stop perceiving everything as a clash of civilizations — there has been dialogue throughout the centuries, and history shows us that we can communicate with the opposition. History shows us that we can come to an understanding, that we can build bridges, and that we can coexist. As depicted in the film, “Kingdom of Heaven,” directed by Ridley Scott, Balian of Ibelin is utterly astonished when Salah Al-Din promises that no Christian man, woman, or child would be harmed. He says, “The Christians killed every Muslim behind these walls when they took this city.” Salah Al-Din says, “I am not those men. I am Salah Al-Din. Salah Al-Din.”

Why write a book that reinforces the separation that plagues our world?

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

Supernova

I am alone by the shore
Listening to the soft echoes
Floating upon the sea of memories
What was lost, I ponder, where does time go?

Words became earthbound, joy became tragedy
Eternity faded into ephemere
Rose petals became blood stains
My world fell in ruins, can you not see?

A beauteous field burnt to ashes
Majestic Simorgh fallen on its neck, bleeding from the thorns
Lines on my hand turn to the sky
Where are You, O Healer?

Phantoms from the past reflect in my eyes
Is this what you call ‘True Love’?
Where Faith and Love cannot even save you?
Do you remember nothing from our flight?

Bulleh Shah says I cannot live and I cannot die
Shabistari says I am living an illusion
Rumi says I must bear the pain
Muhammad says I must die before I die

Beshno az ney – listen to the reed pipe – the mystics say
But the reed player’s robes are drenched in blood
Bring me an orchestra instead
Say not that I am lost or gone astray

Say not that I have fallen from the highest mountain
Say not that I have crashed into a valley of thorns
Say not that I have broken into a thousand pieces
Say not that my heart is torn

No, I have exploded into infinity
Infinite rhymes, sonnets, verses, and poems
Infinite feelings, joys, and sorrows
Infinite rays of light shooting into every direction

I am Supernova
And you are Stargazer
Watch the multi-colored flame
Of my being shine again

And as a being with no flag, no label, no emblem
I will emerge from nothing
Riding on the winged-horse of Jerusalem
Sailing with that one Breath that created this Universe

~ BM ~

Separation is an Illusion of Reality

When Muhammad, peace be upon him, received his first revelation from the Archangel Gabriel, he was terrified and stormed out of Cave Hira. Wherever he looked, he would see Gabriel and his beautiful massive wingspan stretching to infinite horizons. As Muhammad raced through the streets of Mecca, frightening thoughts of being possessed filled his mind. What did this mystical experience mean? Where would he go? Who would he turn to? Who would comfort his fears? It was his beloved wife, Khadijah – may Allah be pleased with her – who brought ease to the new and last Prophet of God. She was more than a wife in the eyes of Muhammad, she was his Soul Mate, his Friend, and a Beautiful Sign from his Lord. Many Orthodox teachings fail to inform Muslims about how much of an important role Khadijah played in the Prophet’s life. If we Muslims are to believe that God is Perfect and that everything happens for a reason, then we must also emphasize on the significant placement of all things in the Universe. For example (as meaningless as it may sound), a tree that may be in your backyard exists for a specific reason and purpose, and the same applies to the moon or a distant planet that we may have no knowledge of. When we consider the presence of Khadijah in Muhammad’s life, we see a comforter, a healer, and a voice of Truth. She stood by her husband and never ceased to support him in his mission to teach the message of Islam. Many people say that God will always be there for people — this is indeed True since God is Omni-Present — but we must also acknowledge that our friends, family, and other people around us are there because God created them to be there for us. Without Khadija’s Love, it is very difficult to see Muhammad developing the courage and strength he needed to reveal God’s Message to Mecca.

And how unfortunate is it that Muslims today know about Muhammad and Khadija, and yet they still don’t believe True Love exists. We still separate ourselves from one another based upon nationality, ethnicity, race, age, and even gender. How often do we hear about gender wars and how men are superior to women, or how women don’t need men? I remember I was in the bookstore once, and my eye happened to catch a book titled “Are Men Necessary?” and apparently, there are many Muslim feminists who share the belief that men are not necessary. My immediate reaction was: “Is this kind of thinking really necessary?” If we say that men are not necessary – no matter in what sense we say it – then are we suggesting that men serve no purpose at all in a woman’s life? At the same time, we see men treating their women like sexual possessions in extreme Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, and the fathers would rather marry off their daughters than see them graduate college with a degree or pursue an independent career. I know I only highlighted a brief portion of Muhammad and Khadijah’s relationship, but take a moment to reflect upon it now and consider the gender war that is so prevalent in today’s world. Why do we separate from each other when there is so much beauty that awaits to be experienced? Why has it become such a regressive thing to believe that men and women need each other? Are we trying to be tougher and more independent, while sacrificing companionship and community? Or are we conforming to the norms and expectations that have been set by our societies?

The Qur’an constantly encourages us to reflect and to immerse ourselves with the Beautiful Truths that it teaches. As described in Surah An-Nisa (Chapter of Women):

“Oh humankind, revere your Guardian Lord, the One who created you from one being, created of like nature, its mate and then spread from the two many men and women. You shall regard God, by whom you swear, and regard the parents. God is watching over you.” (4:1)

Of course men and women have their physiological and psychological differences, but it should not divide them in the sense that one gender is superior to the other. Differences should be celebrated. Imagine how beautiful a marriage would flourish if men and women saw one another as Beings and Friends. Instead, we see many extremist interpretations of the Qur’an and teachings where getting married sounds like a business transaction or a contract. It should be understood that every marriage is bound to have problems, but it doesn’t mean that these problems are unsolvable. As the verse states above, God created us all from a single being. We all have an outer appearance, but consider for a moment: Who is the voice speaking when you talk? Who is controlling your body? Who is the one that lives inside? Who is the Soul? This “who” is essentially the Being that God created. That is who we are. We are not the “male/female” of separation, but the “male/female” of unity.

Jalaluddin Rumi, the great 13th Century Islamic mystic and poet once wrote: “Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” I believe that when we are able to destroy these barriers, which may be feelings of aversion, separation, guilt, self-doubt, lack of confidence, or even fear, we are bound to find the doorways that are open to us. Like Khadija’s Love for Muhammad, we may also realize the beautiful significance that exists in the presence of the ones we Love. We can choose to follow these dreams, or we can choose to live the illusion of separation, where beings are divided and distanced from beauty for superficial reasons. Fairy tales and romance novels exist because writers express how the world and/or Love should be. The more we say that True Love is just “make believe”, the further away we get from finding what our hearts desire.

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