Recalling an old poem

In the last forty-eight hours, three instances of death have me thinking about this post from many years before. On Cancer, Guns, and Hit ‘n Runs The rough similarity of these three unrelated individuals to the three characters in my poem is uncanny to say the least. Reality bites.

Why The One Thing Suicide Bombing Cannot Be Is Islamic

Let me begin with a definition of Islam. Islam is… I’ll give you a second to complete that sentence in your head. If you said peace, then you’re likely getting your knowledge of Islam from main stream media and/or well-intentioned Muslims who likely have Peace Train on loop (love that song). And that’s all very cool. The only problem with it is that it waters down the discourse of Islam as a religion followed by an individual for his/her individual salvation. From an Islam 101 standpoint, Islam does not mean peace. Islam can include a rich discussion of peace. Morphologically, it is very closely linked to the Arabic word for peace. That word is Salaam. In fact, it is so closely linked to Salaam that some say it may as well just mean Peace. But the fact remains: Islam does not mean peace. Let me pause again while you battle with that idea, revel in it, or shrug it off, as may be your case. The word, Islam, is classified as a masdar in Arabic grammar. That is the equivalent of a gerund in English, i.e. a verbal noun. For instance, the verbal noun of “to sleep” is “sleeping”, as used in the sentence: “Sleeping is my favorite pastime.” Islam comes from a four letter verb: As-la-ma (the four letters being Alif Seen Laam Meem). Aslama means to submit. The gerund of Aslama is Islam. Hence Islam means submitting. This works better than submission because submission has a quality of […]

The Ghazali Children’s Project by Fons Vitae & Hamza Yusuf

This is an awesome venture. Support this effort by the amazing Aisha Gray Henry and her team at Fons Vitae. I just did! I would love this for my kids. Getting them exposed to the Ihya at a young age will help prepare their hearts to receive this knowledge more comprehensively in a classroom setting when they’re ready for it – one that immerses them in the great Imam’s magnum opus. I know Darul Qasim has this on their radar. This is such a great service by Fons Vitae and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. Here’s a poem I wrote some years back, inspired by a lecture delivered by Shaykh Amin in an Introductory Theology class at Darul Qasim in which he alluded to Imam Ghazali’s ingenious allegory for tauheed (divine unity). THE ANT AND THE QUILL Behind a generous well of ink,There stood an ant so wee,And nothing was around him thatWas littler than he.He watched with great amazement asA giant feather quillDescended into blackness, thenRemained to drink its fill.And thus the quill withdrew beforeReturning for its sips,Which made the ant to wonder whatTranspired tween the dips;He ventured round the glassy wellAnd out his head did pokeTo find the quill make strokes on whatReminded him of oak,And marveled at the written work,Extolled the feather quill:How utterly magnificentWas its creative skill,But as he watched, his eye did catchFive fingers, slender, longThat grasped the feather quill with care:A grasp so firm and strong,And so the ant was overcomeWith admiration trueFor how the hand […]


This older post seems relevant during these days of Aashoorah marking the liberation of the Children of Israel from the oppression of a tyrant king.

Classical Poetry Lives

I was at the Rivulets 2015 Launch event earlier this afternoon. The Chicago Tribune covered it: I was asked to recite one of my submissions – On Riverside Walks, and that I did. I also learned I was one of the four runners-up to the Founder’s Prize for Poetry for my submission, On Forgetting To Remember. And that was cool. Given the above were both sonnets, I am happy to say <insert post title here>. A good day overall.

Self-righteously Unhypocritical

“That’s just how I feel, Mom. I can’t lie, I’m not a hypocrite.” It was a very matter-of-fact statement, made in Aisle 5 at the grocery store somewhere between the baked beans and tomato paste. The speaker was a girl, probably thirteen, maybe fourteen years of age. Her mother instantly disconnected from her mentally, and the girl reciprocated. As they ambled down the aisle filling their cart, I could sense they were in their separate worlds. And pretty soon, I was in mine. As a father of four, I fully expect to suffer that sort of rejoinder in the coming years. But what got me writing this article was the confidence and self-assurance with which we, adults and children alike, see ourselves above being hypocrites. We are quite vocal about not being hypocrites, are we not? At first blush, that seems quite honorable. In fact, let me be clear. That is honorable. No one should want to be a hypocrite. Nothing good about being hypocritical. Hypocrisy is a universally despicable attribute, best not to have applied to yourself. But we know the world has its share of hypocrites. The trouble is we also seem to know we’re never among them. So, okay…what on earth am I trying to say here? Let’s look back a thousand years in time, at giants of men and women, people of substance, their bodies and souls flushed with a maturity that saw them shoulder responsibility the likes of which very few adults in today’s world can even relate to. I will consider only one example. Umar. May God be pleased with him. Umar […]

Bartering Our Souls For “Peace” – Srebenica Twenty Years On

As we mark twenty years since the brutal killings in a Bosnian town of over 8,000 Muslim boys and men ranging from ages 12 to 77, we are faced with emerging evidence bringing into focus the unfortunate role of the free world in the commission of what has been called the “worst massacre on European soil since the Third Reich”. Details around how a safe area came to be presented to the Serb death-squads are chilling, no doubt. Photo courtesy man praying at the gravesites of Srebenica But there is something even more disturbing than the actual genocide itself. This was clearly not the first time an act of ethnic cleansing had shocked the world. If we restrict ourselves to a simple game of numbers, the killing of 8,000 boys and men is a drop in the ocean of genocide that the twentieth century alone has seen. (Wikipedia List of genocides by death toll.) No, the numbers are not interesting. But the politics is. It is one thing that the Serbian killing machine had overrun Srebenica, and the likes of Mladic had personally overseen the separation of boys as young as twelve and their fathers and grandfathers from their mothers, sisters, daughters and wives. While the women and girls were sent off to “Muslim territory”, a collective term for the horrors that awaited them as they were delivered to their new homes, the boys and their fathers and their grandfathers were transported to the lush fields around the town […]

On Healy’s Insightful Observation

I read of the time they wanted to wave The swastika over a shtetl, I’m oddly impressed the ACLU gave All it could to that storm in a kettle. The union had taken a stand that was strong In seventy-eight, and some called it wrong, Yet well it reflected the grit of the land Of the free and the home of the brave. Understand That the plan didn’t fly, but supposing it had, And further supposing had something gone bad, Can you force an incident, however sad, That MAY just have driven the union mad, To say: “I am Hitler”? I can’t. I get it, the foe of a foe can be friend. How close is a friendship like that in the end? You want the stain gone, break out the bleach, But seek out a pair of good gloves within reach. And do put them on. Just for the record, I am not bleach. I WIll Grieve, I Will Laugh, But I Am Not Charlie, by Josh Healy ACLU History: Taking a Stand for Free Speech in Skokie In an Unequal World, Mocking All Serves the Powerful, by Saladin Ahmed

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 […]

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 […]