Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For how much longer will we be content to be discontented?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

More Dhikr, Less Fikr

Don't let your special character and values, the secret that you know and no one else does, the truth -- don't let that get swallowed up by the great chewing complacency.

Have you ever had the experience where you had so much to do that you didn't do anything?

If you have, then you've experience what I now dub "the fikr syndrome". As Sheikh Nuh says, our society has triumphed the mind over all other aspects of the human condition. Science is exalted over all other disciplines, and top scientist are now forming the new priesthood of the Church of Science.

But in reality, intelligence and rational thought are only two of the many gifts that we have been given. There are other, less acceptable qualities to our modern civilization that are perhaps more important, such as compassion, empathy, and trust. Certainly, in a world where the relationships between people are fracturing, where conflicts are escalating, where simple truths are convoluted through the lens of desire, it is no longer easy to consciously let go and trust.

Traditionally, when people would apprentice themselves to a master in order to learn his or her art, they knew that in order to learn, they had to hand over control to their master. Especially in the spiritual disciplines (for me, that includes martial arts), disciples were sometimes asked to do things that they thought were impossible or perhaps even wrong-but the master sees things that the student cannot see.

So for those who have the fikr syndrome, trust he who was sent to us with the truth (SA) and just remember the One. Although I certainly am not able to do it very well, the few times I have tried it I have felt a lot better and a lot less stressed. I think for university students it is especially important to never lose sight of the big picture in our quest for excellence. If we cannot enjoy the best moments of our lives because we are stressed out, what are we really achieving?

And remember the two truths that will set you free:

All things that live must die.

Death is the morning of life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I always used to think that the old stories were metaphors for student/teacher relationships. Movies like Star Wars romanticized the idea of the ambitious student abandoning his wise, small, green teacher in order to gain power from the Dark Side. I always thought it was just a metaphor, but it is surprising how closely that metaphor materializes in real life.

Although I can understand why someone would leave their teacher if they felt that their teacher was no longer someone they could respect-but the alternative should at least be better, right?

On the other hand, teachers should never be the people holding their students back from growing and expanding. In fact, it should be the opposite: teachers should be the ones to see the potential in their students and nurture that talent. Teachers should be the ones to encourage the student or sometimes reprimand him; whatever is necessary to ensure his continued development. Great teachers can see what their students could be, not simply what they are.

And a student, having found the right teacher, has to be willing to put away his own thoughts and ideas and listen to his teacher's instructions. In order to learn anything, we have to be open receptacles.

It is difficult to resist the path of glory and accolades. It is difficult to believe in what you are doing, especially if very few people believe in what you do.

I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.
-Martin Luther King

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Death and Flight

I do not need to prove to anyone who I am or what I can do. I will simply look to improve-no, uncover the potential that lies within.

Have you ever put your hand on your chest and felt your heart beating? With every beat our allotted time expires.

I think it is time to throw away what I really don't want to do, and stop living on the crutch of things that merely hold me up but do not take me higher. As Allama Iqbal says in his metaphor of the hawk, "Death is better than the food that does not let you fly."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Have you ever met people that seemed to be impenetrable, like they are bubble-boys, protected/trapped under a plastic cover as hard as steel? It is both their greatest strength and greatest weakness. Their inviolability gives them the strength to go into any situation and come out completely mentally and psychologically unscathed. But energy and matter do not enter a closed system.

And perhaps it is a myth to think that anyone can really go through something and come out unscathed. Like university. Honestly, I feel like it takes two weeks for all the haraam to dissipate from my system. And I'm not just talking about eye treachery--I mean the constant rat-race, the desecration of the sacred and the confusion that swirls around our minds.

A good friend of mine, Haji, said to me, "Use your university days well. They are the best of the times." Somehow, sitting at home while my little brother reads Macbeth, I feel more hopeful. I will try, Haji.

And listen to this:


Don't ask me why I like this, I don't know why. But somehow Sami Yusuf and Outlandish manage to combine in a way that really seems to make my heart ache.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Once there was a very poor, poor man who worked outside all day.

One day after a tiring day at the fields, the man had enough money to buy three small loaves of bread and one tiny pretzel.

He was hungry so he ate the first loaf.

He was still hungry so he ate the second loaf.

He was still hungry so he ate the third loaf.

He was still hungry so he ate the pretzel.

After eating the pretzel he felt full. "What a fool I've been," he said to himself. "I should have just eaten the pretzel first!"

-a parable from Tolstoy (quoted in David Mamet's Three Uses for the Knife)

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Grade 4 and 5 students in North Bay ontario were asked to respond to the question, What does poverty mean? Following are their responses.

Poverty is...

Not being able to go to McDonald's.

Getting a basket from the Santa Fund.

Feeling ashamed when my dad can't get a job.

Not buying books at the book fair.

Not getting to go to birthday parties.

Hearing my mom and dad fight over money.

Not ever getting a pet because it costs too much.

Wishing you had a nice house.

Not being able to go camping.

Not being able to have your friends sleep over.

Pretending you forgot your lunch.

Being afraid to tell your mom that you need gym shoes.

Not having breakfast sometimes.

Not being able to play hockey.

Sometimes really hard because my mom gets scared and she cries.

Not being able to go to Cubs or play soccer.

Not being able to take swimming lessons.

Not being able to afford a holiday.

Not having pretty barettes for your hair.

Not having your own private backyard.

Being teased for the way you are dressed.

Not getting to go on school trips.
-Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, 1998.

Quoted in "Sociology in Our Times" (Sociology 100 textbook)