Aleppo's Oldest Bookseller

Monday, December 28, 2015

I don't know much about this man except that he is a bookseller. I will probably never meet him but this elderly Syrian man gave me the hope and inspiration I needed to be resilient. I came across his photos via Mustafa Sultan's Twitter account a few days ago. 

The caption read:
أقدم بائع كتب في حلب يستمر في عملها بعد قصف منزله ومكتبته..
 #حلب #Aleppo

"Aleppo's oldest bookseller continues to work after the bombing of his house and library."

Faith Friday: Rumi on Purposeful & Meaningful Work

Friday, December 18, 2015

Two inspiring Muslims, Muhammad Ali and Peter Sanders, from two very different career fields. (source: Peter Sanders Photography)

The Amir said: “Night and day my heart and Soul are intent upon serving God, but because of my responsibilities with Mongol affairs I have no time for such service.” Rumi answered: Those works too are work done for God, since they are the means of providing peace and security for your country. You sacrifice yourself, your possessions, your time, so the hearts of a few will be lifted to peacefully obeying God’s will. So this too is a good work. God has inclined you towards such good work, and your great love for what you do is proof of God’s blessing. However, if your love of work were to weaken, this would be a sign of grace denied, for God leads only those who are worthy into those right attitudes that will earn spiritual rewards.  
Take the case of a hot bath. Its heat comes from the fuel that is burned, such as dry hay, firewood, dung and the like. In the same way, God uses what to outward appearance looks evil and nasty, yet in reality is the means to cleanliness and purity. Like the bath, the man or woman fired by the efforts of work becomes purified and a benefit to all people. - Jalaludin Rumi, 'Fihi Ma Fihi'

When I was working in the fashion world I enjoyed myself and learned a lot but I also felt that I wasn't fulfilling my purpose. That troubled me, perhaps because of my aspirations and responsibilities as a Muslim. I began asking Muslims of various professions and from numerous industries how they reconciled faith with their work. Many of them said, "I wish I was doing something more meaningful." I could relate to that a lot. At the same time, I also thought, "Hang on, we can't all be imams, sheikhs, teachers, doctors, scientists, counsellors, etc. Muslims can and should make a difference in many industries. We can't all make hijrah to an Islamic country or volunteer in a developing country. If we can, we should try to make a difference and benefit others wherever we are."

Be Unapologetically Muslim: Dealing with Islamophobia & Racism

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

(Listen to the full speech here)

"I always hear people say Islam is a religion of peace. But I always tell people what's more important to me about Islam is that it's a religion of justice. If we don't talk about and don't show that Islam is a religion of justice, it's hard for us to talk about Islam being a religion of peace." — Linda Sarsour 

There is an intense climate of fear surrounding Islam and Muslims that began on 9/11 and it has gradually increased since then. Unfortunately, often times this is due to the acts of people who claim to be committing violence in the name of God and Islam. As a Muslim, I cannot think of anything more blasphemous than to selfishly take the lives of innocent people, Muslim and non-Muslim, in the name of God. How will this create peace in our communities? As a human being, I am sickened by these heartless acts. Overall, I am disturbed by the lack of the use of intellect amongst people who apparently share my faith and those who discriminate against Muslims without considering the complexity of the politics of violence and terrorism. Professor Hamid Dabashi says in his latest Al Jazeera article 'Trump is a Symptom not the Disease', "Today, Muslims around the world face not one but two dangerous fronts: One internal, the other external."

This is why I truly appreciate Linda Sarsour's keynote speech at the 2015 UMMA Benefit Gala on upholding justice and dignity and serving others while being unapologetically Muslim. If I could add to it, I would say:

Yes, we should serve others regardless of their faith but if we, as Muslims, aren't willing to take care of our communities and uphold the rights of our brothers and sisters don't expect others to do the same for us. If you have any consciousness within you, I implore you to reflect on yourself. Being unapologetically Muslim doesn't only mean a resistance towards practicing Islam in a way that appeases non-Muslims but to also practice Islam in a way that pleases Allah and to uphold justice among non-Muslims and also Muslims, regardless of the differences in terms of our skin colour, social status, school of thought, and nuances in our practices.

Two Italians, A Muslim Girl & a Pizza Place: In Honour of Syria & San Bernardino

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Repost from my Instagram account:

"Today, the UK Parliament voted in favour of the bombing of Syria and some alleged criminals, one named Syed Farook, killed at least 14 innocent people and wounded 17 others (some reported to be Muslim) at a centre for people with disabilities in California. When I saw the name 'Syed Farook' I was even more devastated. Can't us Muslims catch a break?! Even if these criminals weren't devout Muslims just their names alone will do enough damage.

In light of these atrocities, I thought I'd share a story that reflects a glimmer of hope. A new pizza place called La Pizzetta recently opened on Willis Street and I decided to check it out yesterday. The lady behind the counter took my order and said to me in a thick Italian accent, "Ah it's very nice! The way you wear your scarf, it's very nice." I grinned and thanked her. "Where are you from?", she asked. I told her I was from Malaysia. The man who was helping her with my order, whom I later found out was her husband, went speechless and looked pleasantly surprised. In fact, both of them did. "Have you been there?", I asked curiously. "Yes! We LOVE Malaysia! We spent one month in Malaysia. We visited KL, Taiping, Penang, Pulau Redang."

We ended up chatting about Malaysia for a good 15 minutes but this is what I want to highlight because I could feel the Italian man's sincerity when he said it: "With so much news on Muslims and war it was very, very important to us that we met Muslims in Malaysia. We are Catholic but we saw that like the Christians, there are good and bad Muslims. And I think the Muslims in Malaysia are better than the people in my country. Malaysia was not just a vacation but an important experience for us."