The Greater Struggle

As soon as you feel good about yourself, know that the devil has got you, because he is made from fire and he understands the nafs better than you.   -Shaykh Mohammed Amin Kholwadia When I read in the news last week about the inflammatory Defeat Jihad ad campaign hitting New York City buses, I couldn’t help marvel at how poorly Muslim thinking and preoccupation is represented in the media. It made me ponder the widely known story whereby the Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) once welcomed home troops returning after an expedition. “You have returned from the lesser struggle to the greater struggle”, he is reported to have said to them. When the companions asked him what he meant by the “greater struggle”, he clarified: “the struggle against (the desires of) oneself”. This story is so widespread and so well diffused into Muslim discourse that it could very well be one of the most cited traditions (hadith) in our times. It is all about the battle with the nafs, the “urging self”. Libraries of Islamic literature are filled with books written by masters of the subject such as Imam Ghazali, sermons abound with the idea, poets have wrought verse about it for centuries. Even I felt compelled to craft a riddle on it two weeks ago. (Seriously, take a look! 🙂 To better understand the idea of the greater jihad, I’d like to lean on what I think is one of the most beautiful modern day lyrical […]

There is a Face I Long to See

There is a face I long to see, I pray that it will turn to me The day I dread but hope to free My lowly soul. There is a voice I long to hear, I pray that I will find it near The day I lose my own to fear I can’t control. There is a hand I long to touch, I long to touch it very much To drink from it my fill as such; And I’ll be whole. There is a man I long to meet, I long to sit beside his feet, In timeless moments to repeat For evermore. SallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

Thursday Riddle (September 25, 2014)

Waves to me; rapidly dies Between the stars beyond the skies.

A Simple Sermon

I made the Friday prayers today at the Rolling Meadows mosque, and I have to say it was an excellent experience. At a time when sound khutab are hard to come by, it was revealing to me that a Friday sermon can achieve its purpose on the back of either or both of two things: the merit of the message in the khutbah and/or  the merit of the khateeb’s (sermon-giver’s) sincerity  I thought today’s sermon at the Rolling Meadows mosque was a glowing tribute to the latter. A brief explanation is due here. When the unassuming Imam stood up and conveyed in the most mundane tones, a simple and mundane message, nobody knew ( I certainly did not know) how worthwhile the next few minutes of our lives would be. “Remember Allah”, he said. And then a plethora of “the season of the Hajj is upon us”, and “men and women of every color and race and age and intellect will gather together in the worship of one Creator”, and such. Nothing earth-shattering for the regular listener, no hyperbole, the only semblance of any depth coming from a not-so-eloquent narration of a recorded conversation that occurred between a pilgrim and the esteemed Imam Junayd al-Baghdadi. And that was it! So what am I raving about!? I once heard Shaykh Amin say (and I paraphrase) that the whole point of the Jumuah khutbah is to take a break from the dunya and immerse oneself in Allah’s remembrance. That alone is the goal […]

Thursday Riddle (September 18, 2014)

Taller than mountains and wider than skies, Yet never been seen, well hidden from eyes, Survives on appeasement and plentiful lies, And all the corruption that it justifies; It seldom obeys, most often defies, Repressed by the best who inhibit it’s rise Through stratagems wily and formulas wise, A noisy companion that nags till it dies.

The Kindness of Zak Lombardi

My second Zak Lombardi installment. Thanks, AM, for the motivation :-). Little Zak Lombardi Was always late for school, Was exceptionally tardy, Though he followed every rule. He remembered now the words Of Miss Benson yesterday As he smiled up at the birds That he spied along the way. Yes, today Zak would be Right on time to catch the bus, He would give old Miss B. Not a chance to make a fuss. But then just as he got Right about to cross the street, Zak Lombardi came to spot Granny Williams on her feet. And she held in her hands Many bags that were filled To their tops with the groceries Determined to be spilled. As she stumbled on right past him, And he ambled as he did, Little Zak had a glimmer Of what makes a kindly kid. Sure the walk five block south Would not make Miss Benson glad, But a taste in his mouth Said it won’t be all that bad. So around turned Lombardi Took the bags with a smile And that pleased Granny Williams The entire half a mile. There always will be choices That, my friend, you’ll have to make, But a chance to be kind Is the one to ever take.

Thursday Riddle (September 11, 2014)

Born of cowardice and shame, Blackens hearts that love to blame; But when borne by pure intent, Deftly uttered where it’s meant, Softens hearts and binds them true,  To outweigh the good you do.

Thursday Riddle (September 4, 2014)

Four brothers kingly unsurprisingly Unite their four kingdoms as one; Each joins with their subjects, all end up divided, Desired by some, while by others derided, For hours and hours of fun;

Haytham’s Catch

I made up this bed time story for my son about a baby eagle’s first catch. I render it in verse below, with a closing “Note to Parents” couplet ;-). A long time ago, before there were trains, Before electricity or aero planes, There lived at the top of a mountain along The shores of an ocean, a family strong Of eagles: a father, a mother and child, Three proud and remarkable creatures of wild, That well loved each other,  lived happily on And so did it happen one morning at dawn. You see, the young bird, Haytham was his name, He’d learned how to fly, but didn’t know game, And thus he set out with his father this day To listen and learn and to follow his way. They flapped and they glided away from the shore To where little Haytham had not been before, And when they looked down, they spotted a pod Of dolphins that swam in formation unflawed. “Will that be our meal?”, Haytham had to ask So eager to start on his morning time task; “Oh, no”, said his father, “That creature you spy Is too large a beast to carry and fly.” And so they turned shoreward and saw the sun fold The waters in mantles of yellow   and gold, Then dove down together and scouted the beach And noticed a crab on a rock within reach. Asked Haytham, “Will that be our meal?”, as he eyed The two muddy pincers that opened […]