Oneness

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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~

Sky Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unchain yourself from these worries and fears

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

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

Turning and ascending…
To where my heart calls me…

~Broken Mystic~

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~

South Asian Unity: A Priority for India and Pakistan

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Like everyone, Muslims are saddened and horrified by the recent Mumbai attacks. However, unlike everyone else, Muslims find themselves defending their religion from stereotypes, misconceptions, and bigoted accusations. It’s not an easy burden to live with — especially in Western countries like the United States — when the media not only scrutinizes and vilifies your religion, but also criticizes you for “not doing enough” to speak out against radicalism.

What’s worse is the division I’m seeing within the South Asian community, Indians and Pakistanis in particular. I was shocked and appalled at the excessive amount of anti-Islamic and anti-Pakistani bigotry written in discussion boards of South Asian internet forums and group pages on Facebook. Not only are fingers being pointed at Pakistan, but also at the religion of Islam, which has been accused continuously for teaching “hatred” and “waging war” on non-Muslims.

First, why is Pakistan being blamed when there is hardly any evidence? As we have seen in the last eight years, jumping to conclusions has resulted in foolish and deadly consequences. The fact that Indian authorities almost immediately accused Pakistan of being behind the attacks indicates that they deny and dismiss the possibility of homegrown terrorism. Tariq Ali, who is a Pakistani novelist, historian, and political campaigner, recently pointed out that the Deccan Mujahedeen — an extremist militant group based in India — made a claim to the Mumbai attacks. In his article on “Counter Punch,” Mr. Ali writes:

“The Deccan Mujahedeen, which claimed the outrage in an e-mail press release, is certainly a new name probably chosen for this single act. But speculation is rife. A senior Indian naval officer has claimed that the attackers (who arrived in a ship, the M V Alpha) were linked to Somali pirates, implying that this was a revenge attack for the Indian Navy’s successful if bloody action against pirates in the Arabian Gulf that led to heavy casualties some weeks ago.”

When I looked at my local newspaper, the article on the Mumbai attacks used the following words to describe Pakistan: “volatile,” “rival,” and “archrival.” And I’m sure many of us remember President-elect Barack Obama warning Pakistan that if they are “unable or unwilling” to fight terrorism, then the U.S. will invade the region (which they already have under the Bush administration).

This hostility and antagonism towards Pakistan is irresponsible. For one, Pakistan has been fighting Taliban militants in North-Western Pakistan since 2004, and according to “Times Online” Pakistan has lost about “1,000 soldiers fighting militants in border mountains that have never come under the control of any government.” Thomas Houlahan wrote a brilliant piece for “The Middle-East Times” titled “Pakistan: Separating the Facts from the Myths” where he criticizes the media for reporting a lot of misinformation about Pakistan. He writes:

“Pakistan has lost more civilians in the war on terror than the United States; Pakistan has lost more troops killed in fighting insurgents than every foreign contingent in Afghanistan combined. These facts fly in the face of the misinformation bandied about that Pakistan is soft on terror.”

Houlahan has also pointed out that “more than one in four insurgents killed in the Afghanistan/Pakistan insurgency (4,500 of 16,500) has been killed by Pakistani security forces.” Last night, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Asif Zardari, appeared on Larry King Live and stated that Pakistan had no involvement with the Mumbai attacks. Furthermore, Zardari insisted that he looked forward to building peaceful relations with their Indian neighbors. Despite these facts and condemnations by Pakistani officials, one must question why the media and even the newly elected President of the United States are skeptical about Pakistan’s commitment to the “War on Terror.” Pakistan has been doing America’s dirty work since September 11th, 2001, and has suffered on several occasions for it. We seem to have forgotten about the recent Marriott Hotel bombing in Pakistan on September 20th, 2008.

To see this kind of division and hostility take shape among every day Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and others is discouraging and unsettling. None of us are responsible for what happened in Mumbai and none of us are trying to justify what happened, but when the media starts to influence our fellow South Asians into thinking that “Islamofascisim” or “Islamic Jihad” is simply about killing non-Muslims, particularly Hindus and Jews, then it is imperative for us to engage in mature and civilized dialogue. Because of the fact that a Jewish Center was attacked in India, many perceive this attack to be an “attack on the West,” but what’s so problematic about this assertion is that it completely ignores and overlooks the real factors involved.

Before I continue, it is important to understand that I am not justifying what happened in Mumbai or anywhere else. It’s not about justification, it’s about understanding, and only through understanding can we find the root cause of the problem and develop real strategies to solve them. Rather than chanting war slogans like “Bomb Pakistan!” why don’t we ask intelligent questions as to why an atrocity like this happened? If there is anything that I expect the West and other nations to learn, it’s this: Bombing another nation will only make matters worse; it radicalizes people and creates more violence. This is evidenced clearly in the Iraq war.

Has anyone bothered to ask, “who were the militants” or “who was in that hotel” or “what drives such people to attack innocent people?” Many right-wing pundits will simply say these militants are driven by the teachings of Islam. This kind of ignorance generates mythologies. Mythologies such as “Hindus and Muslims have been fighting for centuries.” Really? Since when? Widespread violence between Hindus and Muslims didn’t start until the 19th century. Prior to that, Muslims, Hindus, and others enjoyed coexistence in multi-cultural and multi-religious societies. This is not to say there wasn’t any violence – of course there were under particular Muslim rulers – but for the most part, large scale violence between the communities occurred after British colonialism. Other mythologies formulate, such as “Jews and Muslims have been fighting forever.” Again, since when? Much of the antagonism and wars between Muslims and Jews started during and after the creation of Israel. Prior to that, Muslims and Jews coexisted for centuries, especially in Jerusalem. Before Muslims ruled the city, Jews were exiled out of Jerusalem. Muslim leaders like Umar ibn al-Khattab and Salah Al-Din invited the Jews back into the city (may God be pleased with them).

Without understanding the struggles of Muslims in regions like Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even India, we won’t be about to solve the problems. But what’s frustrating for many Muslims is that the media only uses the word “terrorism” for one group of people: Muslims. In 2002, over 2,000 Muslims were massacred in the Indian State of Gujarat, while hundreds of Muslim women were gang raped. The worst part is that the government was complicit in these horrible crimes and many of the victims have yet to receive justice. Where was the mainstream western media when those atrocities were committed? Did we hear the media call the assailants “Hindu extremists?” Over 200,000 Muslims were butchered in the Serbian genocide against Muslims in Kosovo, but the Serbians were never called “Christian terrorists.” When over 700,000 indigenous Palestinians were forcefully evicted out of their homes by the Israeli military, the Israeli soldiers were never called “Jewish terrorists.” When Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City, the media neglected to report that he was a member of the extremist “Christian Identity Movement.” The Columbine and Virginia Tech school shootings never provoked people to point fingers at a religion or even use the word “terrorist” to describe the shooters, but if the perpetrators were Muslim, you could count on the media to label them “Muslim terrorists.”

So why does the media ignore horrible acts of violence when they are committed against Muslims? Why does our government refuse to make efforts to understand why terrorism occurs in the first place? What is probably more disturbing than anything else is government-sponsored terrorism because it hides behind the guise of “freedom,” “liberty,” and “justice.” When things are made more systematic and acceptable, the more chances it has of being unnoticed.

Lastly, more than anything, Indians and Pakistanis have to stop pointing fingers and blaming each other. We can’t allow that kind of hatred and prejudice to present itself in our communities. We have to stand together, ask the right questions, and find the root cause of the problems. Only then will we be able to effectively prevent horrible atrocities – committed by all groups of people – from happening again.

Salaam, Namaste, Sat Sri Akal, Peace.

~Broken Mystic~

After Iftar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I own nothing…
Everything is Yours…

Embrace Me, O Light…
Take Me…

Take Me, Beloved

I am Yours

~ Broken Mystic ~

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~

Soul Sings Malayalam

I am not Malayali, and I do not speak Malayalam
Yet I am singing with the mystics in this tongue
These words, Mind does not understand
But Soul dances to the tune of mystery!

They show us maps, borders, and dividers
Grasp a hold of your sanity, they say!
China does not need the tongue of Senegal
Egyptians do not sing Japanese!
The Pashtun does not read in Hebrew!
Mongolians do not understand Lebanese
What purpose do you have in this song?

Ya insaan (O humankind), with your prejudices
No wonder you do not see the Soul’s gift of colors
Deaf to the music, you dwell in your prison
Walled off from beauty in your ethno-centricism

O Soul, the Mind says you are mad
But all you want is to dance freely in the wind
And tonight, the Song of the Soul is Malayali
And so I sing:

He kuruvaani kiliyae-aeee!
Kuruvaani kiliyae!

Kukkuru kurukuru koovik kurugik kunnimanaththai
Ooyal aadi kooduvagukkik koottu vilikkunnae
Maaran ninnaik koogik kurugik koottu vilikkunnae-aeeee!

~ Broken Mystic~

(Malayalam lyrics from “Jiya Jale” by A.R. Rahman and Gulzar)

Away with Separation

This is an old poem I wrote a few years ago. I felt like sharing it here. It was written for no one in particular, just for my fellow companions in this world. I’ve written this many times before, but we live in a world where there is more individuality and less community. It is important to establish independence, but at the same time, we shouldn’t feel that relying on our friends and Loved ones is a bad thing. On the contrary, we were created as social beings; we are all on this journey together and we need each other.

A Vision of the Universe awakens the Soul
Life soars, dives, spins, and rolls
Discover how small we are
Yet how precious at the same time

Sparkling dust reveals splendid gems
Leave your world behind
And pass through the Rose Portal
For it is Love from which you stem

Your world is of duality
People of colors, races, and genders divided
Ours is a world of unity
It is here where you feel alive!

Here, we do not say black or white
Here, we do not argue and fight
Here, we celebrate diversity
How wonderfully this delights the King!

Do not crush Flowers by saying “man” or “woman”
We believe in no such division!
The Prophet preached we are One
Fill your heart with this Truth and witness Divine union

After challenges, Lovers rest in arms, young
They listen to the mourning violin
And how it longs for the reward of patience
They are reminded of music they once strummed

By the Heavenly Rivers, they will marry
They will merge into a single Spirit
This is your destiny too, dear companions
To here, the Angels will carry

Beyond this Glorious Universe, we transcend
We can discover its blessed Secrets
Take my hand, I beg you, friend
And pass through this Portal with me

Let us become 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 ~

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!