On Paris, Jihad and Western Privilege

Sunday, November 15, 2015

'Peace for Paris' by Jean Jullien

Dear Paris:

The crime that was committed against you yesterday was another senseless and heinous act caused by ignorance, greed and the love of power. My heart goes out to the victims and their families who are mourning the loss of innocent loved ones. I have seen what terror has done to Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Nigeria and Lebanon, and I wouldn't wish the same for anyone else in this world regardless of their nationality or faith. Anyone could have been in that crowd - French, Muslims, Americans, Malaysians, atheists, Catholics, Buddhists, agnostics. It doesn't matter. A life is still a life.

At the same time, I fear for my brown-skinned, Arab and/or Muslim brothers and sisters in the West who will bear the brunt of bigotry, discrimination and Islamophobia. However, with campaigns like #IWillRideWithYou in the aftermath of the Sydney attack this year (which was unrelated to ISIS but made by the perpetrator to seem that way due to mental illness) and tweets like the one below, I believe there are informed and rational people out there who will take a stand against bigots, racists and Islamophobes.

Towards An Illuminated Heart

Sunday, November 08, 2015

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ― Oscar Wilde

When you're going through a rough patch it's easy to only focus on all the things that are going wrong instead of all the things that are going right. Sometimes all it takes is a surprise from a friend (like the flowers I received last week), a line in the book you're reading or knowing the smile on your mother's face is because of you to make you realise how blessed you are regardless. Perception is everything and the heart that is filled with Love will always find Light and allow it to shine through and provide clarity. Work on purifying and illuminating the heart. Or even better, realise that the work has already begun through these blessings and trials. Now your task is to respond with Love.

A heart filled with Love is like a phoenix that no cage can imprison. ― Rumi

Love God. Love knowledge and truth. Love ehsan (excellence). Love humility. Love His creations. Desire contentment. Stop wasting time. Fulfill your responsibilities. Spread salaam (peace). Walk away from fights and unnecessary battles.

People are walking contradictions. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. This world is a place of trials. Look out for each other. Leave the judgement to Him. Only then shall you find the echoes of love around you and be free from the anxieties caused by dunya.

A reminder to myself, first and foremost:
In generosity and helping others, be like a river
In compassion and grace, be like the sun
In concealing others' faults, be like the night
In anger and fury, be as if you have died
In modesty and humility, be like the soil
In tolerance and acceptance, be like the sea
In presenting yourself to others, either appear as you are or be as you appear.
―  Rumi


Sunday, November 01, 2015

There is only one word for me to describe my mother: Qalbi (my heart). But her love is a reminder of something bigger. I remember being sad about something and I didn't tell anyone how I felt. One day, a Muslim scholar came to over to the house as a guest and it was as if he looked into my heart because he said:

"Do you believe your mother loves you? God loves you more that. He is al-Latif."

Al-Latif via wahiduddin.net:
"The One who is most subtle and gracious.
The One whose nature is gentle, affectionate, courteous and refined.
The One who is kind, gracious, and understanding, with regard for the subtle details of individual circumstances.
The One whose actions are so fine and subtle that they may be imperceptible, beyond our comprehension.
The One whose delicate perception reveals the subtleties of all things.

From the root l-t-f which has the following classical Arabic connotations: to be thin, delicate, refined, elegant, graceful to be gentle, gracious, courteous, kindly to be subtle, to know the obscurities of all affairs to treat with regard for circumstances to be most soothing and refined in manner to treat with kindness, goodness, gentleness, benevolence, affection."

Faith Friday: Walking in Peace With Those Who Haven't Found It

Friday, October 30, 2015

The mind 
                        can go in a thousand directions,
                                but on this beautiful path, 
I walk in peace. 
             With each step, 
the wind blows. 
             With each step, 
a flower blooms.”
                                         ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

I truly believe in the power of walking in peace. Everything we do has an impact on others. A thoughtful gesture can create ripples of kindness. But what others do has an impact on us too. How do we continue to walk in peace when those around us are not doing the same? Perhaps there is no simple answer but these verses come to mind:

"Seek Allah’s help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard except for those who are humble, who are certain that they will meet their Lord and that they will return to Him." (2:45-46)

May we continue to walk in peace or at least, create a pathway of peace for others so they can use it when they are ready to do so. Jumaah mubarak everyone. 

Sacred Love

Monday, October 26, 2015

sacred love

in a world filled with egocentricity,
it is easy,
to fall in love,
with a person of humility,
again and again. 


"There is a difference between loving for the sake of your own self and loving for the sake of Allah subhana wa taala. There is a very subtle difference... The stronger one's iman becomes and the more these meanings become rooted in the heart the closer it gets to being connected to the sacred type of love. Which is, in a sense, the goal because love is the most powerful emotion of the human being." - Shaykh Yahya Rhodus in 'Imam Al-Ghazzali's Book 36 on Love, Longing, Intimacy and Contentment'

I have been reflecting on Shaykh Yahya Rhodus' contention on the difference between loving a person, be it a family member or  a friend (or any of His other creations), for the sake of ourselves and the sake of God. I suppose when we love a person for the sake of Allah, we love them because they possess the qualities that He loves or we are aware of our amanah (responsibility) to love them. When we love God we love what He loves and when He loves us He makes our hearts drawn towards what He loves. 

"My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him so, I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks." - Hadith Qudsi

Loving someone for the sake of Allah could also mean that even when the situation becomes difficult we will do the right thing, be it to show compassion and patience or speak up against injustice, despite what our nafs (ego) tells us to do. To love is a courageous act, especially when it is done for His sake and not merely our needs and desires. الله اعلم.

'In Times of Terror, Wage Beauty'

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The moment I saw this book I knew I had to have it. I had been following Mark Gonzales on Twitter for a few months at the time and I was looking forward to reading his contemplations and elaborations on how to love, heal, grow, communicate and inspire. So much has happened and so much will happen. Such is the nature of this worldly life.

Out of all the things that have happened so far this year it was the news of Elizabeth's suicide that shook me the most. I regret not taking her public confessions of suicide attempts on Facebook more seriously. I regret not being a better friend. Until this day, Facebook reminds me of our friendship and her sad demise. I think that is one of the reasons why I often associate the social networking site with negativity these days. As soon as I found out about what happened to Elizabeth I contacted her sister. She informed me that Elizabeth had registered herself as an organ donor and that she had saved the lives of four people. I thought it was inspiring, poignant and ironic all at the same time; a girl who ended her own life had saved the lives of others. 

Inspiration is an Oddisee

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It's been a tumultuous week for me. With so much going on, it's easy for me to lose clarity, focus and balance. Today, Sarina and I were talking about feeling uninspired when I said, "Inspiration: Let it come naturally or seek it".

I was casually browsing Instagram when I found Justin Mashouf's account and mashouf.tv. I eventually stumbled upon his inspiring video of Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) discussing the significance of the late Malcolm X.


The video of Bey led me to the aptly-named Oddisee (a play on the word 'odyssey', if you didn't catch it).

Mind blown.

Oddisee says: "Belong to the World" is a song about making a transition from feeling like I didn't fit into anything, into understanding we belong to everything. It is a song about understanding that the world is bigger than the small things we want to be a part of.  
About the video: Director Zack Kashkett worked to provide a sense of isolation and introspection that often accompanies the physical and metaphorical idea of being inside and alone juxtaposed against spacious shots of Oddisee within the larger world outside. The sense of isolation goes away when the scope gets large enough and the world's size becomes encompassing not enclosing. This is similar to the sense one gets when they realize they are part of something greater.

'Belong to the World' is one of his songs from his latest album 'The Good Fight' but I listened to 'People Hear What They See' and an older instrumental album 'The Beauty in All' which I found to be reminiscent of Jhene Aiko's beats. I was mesmerised. Truth be told, I'm really feeling his recent work too. And guess what? He's coming Auckland and Wellington this December :)

Music, when done right and when it fits, can move, uplift and inspire you.

Moral of the story?

Inspiration: Let it come naturally or seek it, but most of all, be open to it.

Inspiration. Sometimes serendipity but always an odyssey. 

Faith Friday: Dear Anonymous

Friday, October 09, 2015

Recently, an anonymous Australian Muslim woman commented on a few of my blog posts. I was particularly touched by what she said on my post entitled 'The Struggling Muslim: Hijab and Modernity', not because she said kind things about me but because she reached out to me with sincerity. She shared her struggle with me and it was something I could really relate to.

It's been a while since I wrote a 'Faith Friday' post. I have had my apprehensions on writing about Islam in the last one year or so because I don't feel I have the authority to write publicly about something as beautiful and nuanced (and to some extent, contentious too) as the Islamic faith. But even as a flawed Muslim I still love discussing about Islam and asking Muslims how they reconcile their faith with culture or with their line of work. Contemplating and discussing about Islam brings me peace and as much as the stubborn side of me tries to argue against it at times I have found this ayah to be true: "... truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace" (13:28).

Not too long ago, I received a comment that bothered me.

Critiquing Freedom and Islam in Malaysia

Monday, October 05, 2015

Today The Malay Mail Online published an article called 'For some Muslims, life in Malaysia is like living under a microscope'. As one of the people interviewed for the article I could tell from the journalist's questions that she was going to frame this issue in a manner that could make Malaysia sound like a difficult and intolerant country for some Muslims to live in. In fact, one of the reasons why I was selected as an interviewee is due to my status as a Malaysian Muslim who is living abroad. There is truth in the perception that Malaysia can be a restrictive country. I admit I often disagree with the way a number of Malaysian politicians or leaders tackle certain religious issues based on what I understand of Islam.

I also don't always agree with the news framing of some articles by The Malay Mail but I'm usually up for a challenge and I was happy to answer the questions. I saw it as a chance to share my perspective with others, including the journalist herself, who may have strong beliefs about Islam based on the very extreme and/or controversial cases involving Shariah law in Malaysia.

28: A Most Meaningful Birthday

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Birthday girl.

“Richness is not in having many possessions. Rather, true richness is the richness of the soul.” - Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

I turned 28 on the 8th of September (الحَمْد لله). I had a very meaningful birthday because I celebrated differently this year. Let me explain. One of the perks of being a last-born is that your family often spoils you with a lot of love and attention. As a child, getting what you want all the time, especially on your birthday, feels good but as an adult, it doesn't satisfy or pacify the soul as much.

It doesn't help that there is an unnecessary amount of pressure for people to feel happy on their birthday. However, I did think about what would make me genuinely happy on my birthday. Apart from having dinner with my closest friends in Wellington, the answer that came to mind was: seeing the people I love and care about being happy. I think we need to stop teaching ourselves to be so darn narcissistic on our birthday. There's a fine line between being happy and grateful for your existence and trying to convince yourself that you're happy and grateful for your existence. Know what I'm sayin'? Yeah, you know what I'm sayin'.

So I came up with a plan.

1 Day to 28: Moment of Honesty

Monday, September 07, 2015

They ask me, "Are you looking for love?",
                        I tell them, "I am love." 
And that is the story of how I found everything I ever needed,
           Within myself. 
                                                         - shaelaiza

This blog post series was inspired by Mark Gonzales (@ideasbygonzales) of wagebeauty.com who started his 40th birthday countdown by sharing a photo blog of reflections on his Instagram account last week. I view Gonzales as a kindred spirit and my brother in faith whose work not only compels me to be myself but to be the best version of myself.