Wednesday, 30 December 2009

well sorry but ..., its NY time again!

Slightly off-topic (I know we’ve been focusing on the muherram series, and rightly so), but as its almost that time again, I had to bring it up: the 2 words (that follow Christmas), and are synonymous with the closing of 1 chapter, and the beginning of another (New Year). There: I’ve said it: strike me down in flames all you New Year haters!

As a child, I was always a huge fan of the climax that concluded each 12-month cycle: as most of you will know, Scotland makes a big thing of it, and to be from such a small family as ours sadly is, having a packed house, lots of fun, food and merry-making was a welcome departure from the norm, and a novel yet homely way to see the old year out and the new one in.
The older I got however, I soon began to see through the rose tinted new Year facade: in reality, the false family feelings of togetherness were really alcohol generated highs, which were dead and buried by the morning, when the rough headache set in (My Father is not a cheerful person to be around while in that state!).
Similarly, with the coming of age (and life experience), I soon learnt that the dying of a year is not really something to be celebrated, rather it’s a time to reflect and meditate on the successes and failures of the year gone by. It’s a time to lament your losses, cherish your gains and give thanks to Allah for all of them, while at the same time, praying that the months to come will be periods in time you can be proud of, rather than blunders through darkness that you’d rather forget!
Perhaps that’s why the Islamic concept of a New Year (that is, the real Islamic concept) wasn’t something that felt strange or alien to me. I remember the first time I observed it, or consciously viewed the New Year in that way: it was the year 2000, the great millennium, about which much has been said (most of it untrue), and even more has been written. It was certainly momentous: something that only 1 in say 4/5 generations has the honour of witnessing, but it was also pretty frightening: the media thought that all would stand still, the religious fundamentalists said the world would come to an end, the cult followers made bunkers out of old crates and scrap metal and stored lots of tins of baked beans in them. The Muslims didn’t make much of it, suffice as to say it was a time of quiet reflection and prayer as stated above. That year it happened to be early ramadhan too (think the first fast fell on the 29th December or something like that), I was in school then, with Adil Latif and his gang!! They invited me to their house for eftar, and when it was over, Fozia, Sumaira and myself all retired to Fozia’s to pray tasbih namaz, make dua and read some qur’an. It was beautiful: like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay there: the family wanted me home for midnight! (maybe in case I turned in to a tin of baked beans like the ones in their bunker), but I remember being torn between a new sense of inner peace, coupled with fear of what lay ahead, and pain when I evaluated the complex juggling act my Islam and my life with my parents had brought about. The year 2000 was the year I would leave school, it was the year my cycle of abuse would finally end, it would be the year I would get married (an event that was to change my life forever), and not necessarily for the better! Little did I know as I performed that voluntary salat on that cold, pending night, that in just a few months my world would be turned upside down, and things would never be the same again. Of course, the year 2000 is just an example: each year brings its own peaks and troughs, and doubtless each of you could recount similar experiences from your own lives based on the one given above: e.g., every one knows where they were or what they were doing on the millennium night, just as they know where they were and what they were doing on 9/11.
That’s the thing about time though, it only decreases: the year past will never, ever come again, the mistakes can’t be wiped off, and the time wasted can not ever be reclaimed. The memories of that time however place deep scars on the heart, some of those bleed from time to time (usually at the closing of a year), others just lay open, exposing inner damage and vulnerability within the emotional landscape of the soul, and then there are others, that simply fade with time, allowing just enough time to elapse before a repeat of the same cycle of destruction all over again!
Man can certainly reach for the stars and aspire to perfection, but he is weak, prone to error, regret and a dulling of the senses, which ultimately leads to his downfall or his misguidance if he does not train the nafs to avoid such things as far as he/she can!
The holy Qur’an describes time perfectly in sura asr, when it states: that by time, man is most certainly in loss, accept for those who are patient and exhort one another to truth. Whether you are Muslim or not, the fact remains that through patience comes certainty, and an inner strength to face the hardest of trials, and through patience comes the knowledge that no matter how great the test or how tragic the loss, such things are temporary, fleeting like the time its self, though the essence that makes up time, (the sands), or the creative cement: is ever evolving: from darkness came light, from night came day: and in a few hours, one year shall lead to another, and begin a new period of revival, growth, death and rebirth again. Just as my marriage began in the year 2000 and ended 3 years later, little did I know that the darkness of its ending would be a source towards guiding me to the light of Ahlulbayt (A.S). Today we mourn the death of Imam Hussain (A.S) and his companions, the evil army of Yazeed, who on that fateful day seemed to have all of the dominion in their hands, but who only a few years later would be hiding in toilets fearing for their lives, and gasping for water in a lonely jungle, lost and alone after a fruitless hunt. I don’t think any one will ever nurture a fondness for New year in me, and I don’t want them to, I want my years to end in reflection and begin in humbleness. I don’t want to party, to look ahead with joy and to make all kinds of lofty resolutions that I’ll forget a few moments later. In reality all a person can strive to do is his/her best, to be true to the self and true to the creator in all things, to never lose the strength to try and the flare to climb higher.
Last year, my parents and I (and their then dog) went for a 1st January walk through the remaining fields behind our house. We took in the frosty new Year chill, greeted those we past and enjoyed nature and its ability to blow the cobwebs away. I can’t really think of a better way to mark this day, if landmarks and time elapses matter to you, and if you are Muslim, perhaps take along a musala and pray a couple of nafl rakats for the blessing of each new day, each second, each moment! If there is one thing a New Year can, and should prompt you to do, is to cherish the moments you have, to say the words you don’t say and fulfil the promises you never keep. We walked happily on the 3rd, and we saw our beloved Narjiss Jaffri leave this world on the 3rd, a day that will forever be etched in my mind as one of the hardest and most painful days I’ve ever experienced. Narjiss might have been ill, but she would not have anticipated her own death, and when I look at how her sister and brothers cherish her final moments, I often cry over what Narjiss might have wanted to say, what legacy she might have left and what guidance she might have given her husband about raising their beautiful little daughter. Its not a myth: life really is too short, shorter than you, or I have the wisdom to perceive! So, if the 1st of January 2010 comes, grab it with both hands, live each moment as if it was your last, cherish the beauty in it and celebrate the newness of creation as though you were a child. Imam Ali (A.S) says, “live life in such a way that when you live people long for you, and when you die, they weep over you).

May 2010 bring you health, happiness, spiritual elevation, and all the goodness you wish for yourself, aameen.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Fasting on the day of ashura

I am really tired of receiving Emails and texts about fasting on the day of ashura! While I’ve always known that this belief exists among the suni, (and even participated in it before I knew different!), I seem to have received more Emails and other assorted propaganda about it this year than any other year!

Its true that this year has seen a palpable movement among the suni towards change, I like to think our efforts through Ahlulbayt TV have gone some way towards changing this: there are certainly large numbers of sunis watching the channel judging by the calls we get. We have seen more sunis attending our muherram majliss this year, and we’ve even seen the newly formed ‘umma TV channel producing a documentary series entitled ‘the truth behind Karbala. Regardless of its authenticity, the very fact that a suni Muslim is even referring to Karbala is a massive achievement! Those who read this blog regularly won’t have failed to notice the fact that I normally refer to ‘wahabis, when speaking about those who display sectarian sentiment, and this for the most part is true, but with regards to fasting on Ashura, we see remarkable unity between the various branches of suni Islam with regards to its authenticity!
I find this remarkable given the unreliable hadaith sources that they take their ‘prescribed fast from! Whether I claim to be suni or shia, hadaith (sayings of our Prophet PBUH) are a very precise science! If I am quoting hadaith, or basing my practises upon them, I want to be able to examine the chain of narration, I want to know exactly who said it to who, and who was the original source who heard the hadaith narrated straight from the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). During this critical analysis, it falls to me to not merely rely on secondary sources (some of the Emails I’ve received quote “local mosque” as their hadaith source!), I want to identify each and every one in that chain of narration, to insure myself that they had no agenda behind their narration (or innovation), before I can be sure that the hadaith I am following or implementing in my life is genuinely accurate and correct. In short I want yakeen (certainty), or as close to it as I can get, before I will trust, or act on any hadaith I am shown. I am shocked when I look at Islam today and see the overwhelming lethargy that exists within followers of all branches: no longer is there a desire to study, introspect and reflect, it is enough to quote from 3rd rate books and Emails, and accept blindly what self made leaders and teachers tell us. I am not a scholar by any means, but I came to the path of Ahlulbayt through hard fast facts, through truth and truth alone, no spin pamphlets, no fanatical speakers or indoctrinating TV shows, through basic logic and reasoning, I saw how I had been fooled and fooled some more by those claiming to be on the path of Allah (SWT) and his Prophet (PBUH), yet displaying something different through their actions.

Back to the topic though: even if we are to suppose that the hadaith used to justify fasting on Ashura is correct, surely this would not override the importance of debating and reflecting on the tragedy of Karbala? The sacrifice made on the 10th of Muherram by Imam Hussain (A.S) and his family is one of the most profound sacrifices this world has ever seen. The tragedy of karbala is neither shia nor Suni, neither is it Islamic or Unislamic (the sacrifice might have been performed to purify Islam, but it was not performed for the benefit of Muslims alone!). When we examine the tragedy of Karbala we are faced with a reality that hits the heart on a level which is so elemental: good verses evil, and regardless of the outcome, the truth shall always prevail in the long term: Hussain may have lost his life, but the reality of the good that he stood for lives on and always will by the grace of Allah (SWT) and those who uphold justice and fight against evil. Yet in today’s world, Karbala is almost a curse word within certain suni circles, it is never mentioned, never discussed, never remembered during muherram. The suni say, that they honour the day of ashura because it marks the liberation of the children of Israel, and celebrates a time when good overcame evil! While we wouldn’t “celebrate”, we would most certainly support those principals: after all, aren’t those the precise ideals held by Imam Hussain (A.S) and his family when they fought and died at Karbala? Isn’t Karbala, the very essence that should bind us together as an Umma? Regardless of our sectarian differences? Shouldn’t we be giving thanks for this sacrifice and sharing the message it holds with all we know: Muslim and non-Muslim?
Perhaps we should! But what we see manifested today is a very bitter, very different reality. Saudi funded masjids spend millions on promoting this fast: leaflets, lectures, reminders and the like. The spin doctors get to work generating the accompanying texts and Emails that clutter your inbox at this time of the year, and if you are to visit wahabi run regimes such as Saudi, the propaganda being spouted during muherram with regard to this fast is absolutely phenomenal (stop me if you are seeing a pattern forming here).

Below, I shall try to unpick some of the falsehoods that are attached to this hadaith, and try to encourage my dear readers to take a slightly different view (my purpose for doing so is not to destroy another person’s beliefs, as many do to us, but simply to encourage us to look closer, reflect and study the facts for yourselves, don’t take my word for it, but go back to the sources, read and analyse for yourselves, then draw your own conclusions! And Allah (SWT) knows best.

The hadaith in question says that when entering Medina, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), saw the people fasting, when he asked them why, they said they were fasting in honour of the children of Israel being liberated from Faro. He is alleged to have replied “I have more right over Musa than they do”, and then advised the people to keep this fast. Then, one of the companions is alleged to have asked why the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) who had come to perfect religion, would innovate, and adopt a fast from the Jews in this way (a question I often asked of myself when I read the hadaith), but the Prophet is then alleged to have advised the people to fast both the 9th and the 10th, to avoid “biddah” (innovation), its not like our Prophet to innovate/invent as he goes along now is it? moreover, if he was to adopt this hadaith, there are so many other events narrated in the qur’an which would justify the observance of a fast on this day: i.e., Prophet Yakoob’s eyesight was restored to him on the 10th of Muherram, Prophet Ioube’s illness was cured on the 10th of Muherram, Prophet Abraham was rescued from the fire on the 10th Muherram, and of course, Prophet Noah’s people were rescued from the ark on the 10th Muherram. yet somehow, many of us choose to accept this hadaith!
Fasts in Islam come under various categories: wajib (compulsory fasts), mustahab (preferred/recommended), macru (disliked), or mubbah (days/fasts which are neither one nor the other), and haram (forbidden). You might then expect that, if such a hadaith existed, that the fast might be forbidden/disliked, even indifferent! But this particular fast is said to be ‘mustahab (preferred/recommended).
Moreover, we see that the issue is not even with the source, as the hadaith in question can be found in at least 2 reliable hadaith collections: Bukhari, Muslim and Tirmidhi. As discussed above, when examining the Science of hadaith, we should not only look at the secondary source (the book/collection, or the advice of later narrators), but should examine the chain of narrations for authenticity and accuracy. We all know that after the death of the Prophet of Islam, a great deal of money was generated by the selling/propagation of false hadaith, and so we need to insure the hadaith we are referring to do not fall under this category. If you study the hadaith regarding fasting on Ashura, you’ll notice 4 particular names who appear in one/all of the chains relating to the above hadaith.
1. Ibn Abbas. (who was 4 years old at that time when the hadaith was revealed). According to many scholars, (and understandably so), a 4-year-old is not a reliable source to quote hadaith from (unless he was a Prophet etc: e.g., nabi Eesa who had the gift of speech and intelligence as an infant).
2. 2. Muawiyah Ibn Sufyan. (who didn’t convert to Islam till the 8th year of Hijra, so wouldn’t have been in Medina at this time either). Moreover, we all know who/what Muawiyah went on to become and the vile actions he displayed during the tragedy of Karbala, so he is hardly a credible source for accurate hadaith regarding this particular period in Islamic history!
3. 3. Abu Musa al-ashari (who converted 3 years before hijra, and was then told to go to Yemen and spread Islam there), and therefore, wouldn’t have been in Medina at that time.
4. 4. Abu Hurera, (who was also not found in Medina at that time and was also in Yemen). Historical accounts of the companions, and their links (or lack of them) to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), are unanimous in finding him an unreliable source of hadaith. Some point to this being a consequence of how little time he actually spent with the Prophet (PBUH) during his lifetime, but most point to the fact that following the Prophet’s death, Abu Hurera was a leading light within the practise of inventing/altering hadaith for money (usually bribes), to change the context/commentary or content of a hadaith to reflect the agenda of a particular leader/khalifa at that time.
5. In the book of al-tabari, Omer Ibn Al Khatab chastises Abu Hurera for selling fake hadaith and extorting the ignorance of others: thus making depending on such a chain less than useless. You must have by now noticed the obvious issues with the reliability of this chain of hadaith! But even so, could there still be some truth behind these claims? After all, surely the emphasis placed upon this fast today have to count for something: is there some fact in it somewhere?
6. To answer that question, we need to first look at the meaning of the word ‘ashura. According to most Arabic language scholars and linguists,
The word ashura has an old meaning and a new meaning. The old meaning is the 10th of any month, while the new meaning came after the death of Hussain (A.S) in Karbala. (ibn Akheer), and a statement also found in books of hadaith/Islamic history. Therefore any hadaith recorded before the 61st year of Hijra, must refer to the 10th of any month, not necessarily the 10th of Muherram.
On a practical level, if we want to know about Jewish fasts (past and present), can’t we ask the Jewish community if such a fast exists or not?
The hadaith said that the Jews had a fast on the 10th of the Jewish Month Tishiri, and that at this time it fell on the 10th of Muherram.
The only time 10th Tishiri fell on the 10th of Muherram was on the 28th year after Hijra, (not corresponding with the dates given in the hadaith either). Moreover, the 10th Tishiri fast does not relate to Jews being liberated, rather it is to mark yom Kipoor (Yom Kifara), the day of atonement, the day when Prophet Musa (A.S) found the Jews worshipping a calf and had to seek forgiveness from Allah (SWT).
The Jews were saved from drowning and oppression from Faro on the 15th of Neesan (which fell during the last 10 days of the Islamic month of Ramadhan (23rd ramadhan to be exact!).

When the Prophet of Islam entered Medina, he did not enter during muherram, he entered during rabi-al-awl. The hadaith was clearly written by some one who did not understand the compilation of the Islamic calendar: i.e., the Prophet of Islam said that the Islamic year will begin with the Month of Muherram, rather than from the date of Hijra.

If Abu Hurera is such an important figure, why isn’t money being ploughed in to other hadaith related by him? I.e., he relates hadaith about fasting on the 27th Rajab, (yet no one invests such time and money in promoting this fast). If this man claims to love the Prophet of Islam, why didn’t he speak out about other sunnah acts being changed (the wording of the adhan?). Why is it that he sat back and did nothing when the 2nd Khalifa invented ‘tarawi prayers, the “good biddah”, which were never performed as communal prayers during the time of the Prophet of Islam?

Laws within Islam are generally permanent, fixed and unchanged, though can/have been changed on occasions to perfect/protect the religion: e.g., drinking alcohol was permitted until the qur’an made it heram for the believers. Generally, every one and any one was permitted to meet with the Prophet (PBUH), to converse, study and learn from him, yet there was a time when payment was taken for such visitations, in order to meet with the Prophet, in order to prevent certain people surrounding him, pushing their own agendas. Therefore, if there had been a fast on the day of ashura, wouldn’t it have evolved to include the tragedy of Karbala?
When all is said and done, even if there really was a fast that used to be performed on the day of the 10th of Muherram, we learn from the hadaith of Mohammed Bakir (A.S) the 5th Imam of the shias, and great-grandson of the Prophet (PBUH) who clearly states, that any fast previously performed on the 10th of Muherram was superseded by the death of Hussain (A.S) and is therefore no longer valid. Given that Imam Bakir (A.S) belonged to the family of the Prophet, isn’t he more likely to be acquainted with the real facts of the matter?
This is further emphasised by the 6th Imam, Jaffer Saddiq (A.S), who says, that even if a person fasts on the day of Ashura, he should not fast the whole day, and when he breaks his fast, he should do so with something small (as the people of the Ahlulbayt had empty stomachs on that day). He also says that if you fast, you should break your fast 1 hour before sunset, as this was the time that our beloved Imam Hussain (A.S) was martyred.

Even after reading all the above evidence you still insist on the fast, perhaps you will take the propaganda surrounding it allot more seriously! Even as a shia Muslim, my argument here is not with the act of the fast its self, its with the concerted efforts made to use a weak hadaith and a powerful media machine to divert people away from the tragedy and the evil crime that was performed on that day, and that diversion too being nothing more than a political convenience rather than any thing spiritual!
Today, we see Muslims looking for celebrations, seeking blessings in a day of sorrow, how many of us celebrate funerals, or the deaths of our ancestors? Don’t we generally observe such days as days of mourning for us? As days that force us to reflect on our own mortality, and the need to perfect our lives, character and actions? Imam Jaffer Saddiq (A.S) has said, that any unnecessary actions performed on the day of ashura: i.e., idle chat, work, shopping etc, are all completely fruitless. This is not a day of blessing or forgiveness of sins, it is not a day for sound, for activity or any kind of merry-making. It is a day of great tragedy, a day when even the Western History books report on the sky raining pure blood, and rising and setting in red every day for 40 days. The earth trembled and shook, and people of truth were left to shiver in fear, and marvel at how the deaths of these pure souls signified a protest against all that is evil, and a stand till the very end to protect all that is pure and sacred. When you next listen to a so-called scholar, or are sent a forwarded hadaith Email, investigate the source, research the chains within it, and end all of that study with a dua to ask Allah (SWT) to grant you knowledge of good as it really is, and falsehood as falsehood really is, and may we all be blessed with soundness in judgement, and truthful guides to the path of huq in all matters we encounter through our journey through life, Aameen.
May Allah bless Mohammed (PBUH), and the family of Mohammed (A.S), and the companions of Mohammed and his family (may Allah be pleased with them all), and may Allah curse and dam the evil doers and the killers of Hussain (A.S) and his family, for now and always, and may he grant us the confidence, knowledge and akhlaaq to stand up against those who try to suppress his message, so that we become true representatives of the truth, and servants he can be proud of for all of eternity, in this life, and in the next, Insha Allah!

Otowi: Karbala When Skies Wept Blood

Otowi: Karbala When Skies Wept Blood

This video will always stand out for me as it was the first vehicle through which I shed my first muherram tears, and drew myself yet closer to the tragedy of Karbala. Despite understanding the majority of the Urdu majliss, I still struggled with the language, and there were elements of the speeches I did not understand, co8upled with the fact that generally, if you have been raised and conditioned in a Western, non-Muslim environment, its pretty difficult to open your heart and shed tears when you have an audience. I remember that on the night in question, the martyrdom of Qasim (A.S), nephew of Hussain (A.S), was being commemorated, I remember how the pain of his tragic and violent death at such a tender age moved my heart, I remember how my body trembled when a coffin entered the masjid and how I shook when I placed my hands on the silken bundles placed upon it to represent the pieces of his broken body, and how when I lifted my hands from the cloth they were stained red as though with blood. I remember how I could not eat the dry fruits and other offerings of niyaz as they seemed to remind me of the pieces of his body (probably my lack of understanding). I felt sad, alone and frustrated, so many emotions pent up inside that I could not express and had no where to go with, I felt that I was not a good enough shia, and was doing something very wrong that I could not share the pain of every one else. With a heavy heart, I went home and turned on the TV (at that time, we had no shia channels, but DM digital used to show special broadcasts during muherram), and the below film was being aired: I tuned in at the exact point where Qasim’s martyrdom was being recounted. I fell down on the ground in shock and horror, weeping uncontrollably. The film terrified, shocked and saddened me, but it brought me much closer to the tragedy and deepened my personal attachment to karbala. In his lectures, Sayed Mahdarasi says that in order to draw non-Muslims or new reverts to karbala, we need to repackage the message and take it back out in to the world in a language, culture and packaging that is understood by the natives of that country/community. This film makes an excellent job of doing just that, and should have been promoted much more widely than it was. If you haven’t watched this, then please do, and encourage others to do the same.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

On the night of ashura.

It is the night of ashura: the 9th of muherram, and how hard it truly is to find words on this most tragic of nights. Leading up to this day, I spoke so much on TV about muherram, about Karbala, I began by speaking about how one should prepare for this month, I talked about spreading the message of this month to non-Muslims, and I talked about all the lessons contained within its tragedy, yet today I have no words, only an aching heart, a trembling form and eyes painful, swollen and filled with tears. This is the night that proceeds the most evil act of murder and carnage humanity shall ever see and ever know, yet it is also the night that proceeds the most selfless, most high and perfect of sacrifices that the world will ever witness. This night is enormous, filled with tears, pain and blessings, filled with worship and repentance, yet so few know it for what it really is. I spent days talking on TV, trying to demystify muherram, to draw others closer to the truth of this month, I even planned to launch a series here exploring these concepts (Insha Allah I still will fulfil that promise in the days to come), but now, I only have tears, and the reality of this night. In a few hours, the sun shall fade from the sky, our imam (A.S) and his companions will gather in their tents to reflect and prepare for the painful day that lies ahead. The women will tremble and console each other in quiet voices trying to give hope and patience to one another. In a few hours, my imam (A.S) will dim the lamps of the tents, he will stand before his soldiers and give them the option to stay or to go, to run and seek ease in the land of indifference, or to stay with him, to fight on and seek the honour of martyrdom along-side him. In a few hours, we too will dim the lights, we will embrace sorrow and tears and will once again, grab hold of the rope of Hussain (A.S), refusing this world, denouncing falsehood and disassociating ourselves from the axes of evil, choosing a purer way, reaffirming our allegiance to Imam Hussain (A.S) and his blessed progeny (A.S).

There is so much I have said, that I can say about muherram, so much I want to say about muherram, but it is the 9th of Muherram, the chill and the darkness of the night hang heavy around me and take my words from me, from you and from all of us who feel the magnitude of the pain of Imam Mahdi (A.S) on this night. On this night, we, the shia unite in pure grief and pure worship, may it be accepted from each of us, may it act as a source of intercession for us all and may it elevate us in word, act, thought and deed. I have so many expectations and duas on this day, but for now, my heart only bleeds, and I can only leave you with my prayers, and your own tears and duas which bind us together.
‘Oh Allah, bless Hussain (A.S), the family of Hussain (A.S), and the companions of Hussain (A.S). Oh Allah, make us shia that you and the Ahlulbayt (A.S), may be proud of. Forgive us our sins, and make this night a vehicle of intercession, and a vehicle that brings us closer to you, and to the ahlulbayt (A.S). Surely you are the most forgiving, most merciful to those who strive in your way and the way of your prophet (PBUH), and your Imams (A.S).

Thursday, 17 December 2009

My life post London: and what came next!

I have been hugely neglectful of my blog lately, something I promised myself never ever to do! With good reason though: since London: all has been chaos: let me explain for those of you still listening in!

The trip to London was good, all useless shopping was done, friends were met, dosa was munched, churrian changed: and most importantly, the programme was a huge success by the grace of Allah (SWT).
I was certain it would flop: I was all nerves and fear: so bad in fact were my nerves that we were in Asda only moments earlier having me spew my guts out in the bathroom! But when we reached there I just said ‘bismillah and went for it! though the topic was supposed to be ‘equality in Islamic thought, the presenter tended to focus exclusively on my disability equality and campaigning work. This turned out to be such an unexpected blessing: not only is this the area of work I am most comfortable with, it also seemed to generate a huge amount of interest: more than I ever could have anticipated in fact! I don’t know how many of you managed to check it out, but if you did I’d welcome your feedback: (good, bad or indifferent!).

I must have done something right: as only 2 days later they called me and asked me to come and present some muherram programmes!! I really didn’t want to do this: since returning home, I’ve had a violent attack of food poisoning/gastric flu which I seem unable to shake off completely. Not only that, I couldn’t understand where I would stay, how I’d manage the commutes etc, and with it being so close to Christmas, I was hugely fearful of bad weather high flight prices and what my parent’s reaction would be! After a few short sharp discussions with friends, I was reassured thoroughly and told (quite rightly), that to refuse the opportunity to talk about Imam Hussain (A.S) and Karbala to the world, is a great honour and should not be refused: such things happen for a reason and such opportunities may not come again. Moreover, deep down inside I do pray that these programmes might lead to more structured, continued or sustainable work for the channel. Its not about the money: it never has been! Its to do with having purpose, direction and meaning to your actions, and to the paid work with which you support yourself: nothing would give me more pleasure and satisfaction, than to work for my imam full time, please, please pray for me!

So: with that in mind, I fly off to London tomorrow! This will be a very different muherram for me, (the third I’ve known), and I think this one looks set to be about the will of Allah (SWT) as apposed to the things I try to lead on myself!
Any way, if you want to tune in, the programmes go out between 10 AM and 11 AM daily on Ahlulbayt TV, and I’ll be discussing the following topics:
1. Physical and spiritual preparation for muherram.

2. The Message of muherram: Equality, justice and human rights.

3. Conveying the message of muherram to non-Muslims/misconceptions about muherram.

4. Hijaab, haya and gender segregation.

I’d dearly love your company for a journey of exploration together in to these subjects. Insha Allah on my return, we shall begin a special muherram series here on the blog: a series of perhaps 10 posts discussing various aspects of these months of sorrow. If you are new to what muherram is all about, or if you are just curious, please do check back to read those!

For now, excuse me: need to get back to my packing: wish me luck, offer me your prayers, and join me for the first programme on Saturday, Insha Allah.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

time for ..., time out!!

Well …., I’m off to London!! Tomorrow!! No kidding! …, without warning I hear you ask? …, well yes!! Its strange, because I’d been looking for excuses to visit London for months! I’ve not set foot in the city since arriving back from Iraq, and that too for 1 night, most of which was spent in the bathroom due to all the nasty germs I’d picked up on route! The time before that was for the conference we held in the house of Lords, the time when I had an extended visit with Rubab (this was by far the hardest visit to return from). Over the last year, Rubab and I have bonded in a way I never thought possible, sure I’ve got close friends, but Rubab is truly my soul sister: she understands me at a level that I don’t think any other human can bar family relations, and visiting with her and Shabib and my cute little jaan Shayr Abbas is just like coming home, thus leaving them behind is so very hard! Rubab is in Pakistan now, she’s ill, and having intensive surgery as we speak (please, please make dua for her!), and visiting London without her being there somehow felt like a betrayal! All the same, I desperately needed a change of scene, and wanted a break before muherram badly!
I planned and plotted and engineered, but either I didn’t have free funds, or couldn’t secure a place to crash, or just didn’t have the time (or all of the above!). This visit was initially designed in an attempt to collect my visa for visiting Azerbaijan (yes: the saga continues!). After Reza and his manager being told that ministry clearance was not required, I was then told by London that it was! So, they had to go back to the ministry, spend hours in yet more lines, and pay/bribe the officials to send my invitation, stamped and authorised to London! (not least because London had decided I was some kind of terrorist, all because the clearance wasn’t granted!) (you are glazing over already!). Any way, after all that was done, they casually informed us that the ministry clearance would come through next Monday (the 14th December, and the day I fly back home again! With my passport! Which they need! For the visa!). By that time, I’d booked tickets, and made plans and simply couldn’t allow any more time south of the border, so the whole thing will now have to be submitted by post, which will be a race against the clock if I’m to get the whole lot to London and back before the mail service (and every other service), shuts down for Christmas, and I don’t want to be bothered with it during muherram either!

Back to the aforementioned trip though: while it was fast looking like a self indulgent waste of time (Allah does work in mysterious ways!). The Ahlulbayt satellite channel (Sayed Mahdi Mahderesi’s new venture), have invited me to ‘Ahlulbayt Live this Sunday, to debate ‘equality in Islamic thought, with DR Rebecca Masterton!
I am more nervous about this than the House of Lords conference, than any job interview, exam or any thing else I’ve ever done in my life! Sure it’s a great honour, and sure I’m delighted to be helping out the channel! But me? Next to such a learned scholar? And that too, representing the Ahlulbayt? (A.S). To make matters worse, DR Masterton had requested me to study as much as I could before hand, as the majority of women who have appeared on the programme to date have been weak in referencing and evidencing (so no pressure!). I have had a manic week (aren’t mine always?), so haven’t got as much of this studying in as I’d hoped! Last night was earmarked for it, then I got sick, and got side tracked in to something else (for another post!). Will try to do some tonight in between packing and sorting the house out, tomorrow morning Shaykh Abdal Aziz and I have a meeting with the EHRC, and then I’m off! Will try to get some research in while I’m there, but its unlikely I’ll get any thing meaningful done, so keep me in your prayers please! If you have nothing better to do, you can see me this Sunday afternoon on sky channel 842, and on satellite in North America and Canada on Ahlulbayt TV, between 1400 hours and 1600 hours GMT (would love your feedback: no matter how awful: if its honest, I’ll take it all!).

My London trip won’t be all work though: I wanted a break, and I’ll be sure to take one! I want to check out some Hindi films, want to wonder around aimlessly on Green street buying bangles and other things I don’t need, want to meet friends and sleep allot! The food is also a big pool factor in London: these days, I’m hooked on South Indian food (for any one who hasn’t sampled dosa etc, you are just missing out on life entirely!). Chenai dosa is my new hang-out, and I’m already dreaming longingly of my masala dosa, chicken rice, idlis, sambar and khuthu paratha!! This kathu paratha came about thanks to Rahul who recommended it: basically, it’s a paratha, mashed up and mixed with lots of coconut achaar, mixed spices and yoghurt (has to be tried to be appreciated!), not to mention the famous ginger tea that only they can make (OK I’ll stop going on about food now!).

I’ve also got some house keeping to do: in particular, have gold churrian which are too small and to be exchanged for bigger ones, and sundries to stock up on (most people go to London for Oxford street, to take in a show or to buy unique gifts for Christmas), I go to buy sandalwood soap, hair oils, ayurvedic headache preparations and other assorted Asian delights not available in Glasgow. As last time, I’ll be crashing with Waleed, Rehan and Abhi in their student pad: only, in a new location: they’ve moved to Layton, and have a disused attic space (with on sweet etc!), with ‘Roshni written on it! this will save me sleeping on Maya’s bedroom floor or on a dodgy half baked sofa!

So: the tubelight travels again: stay tuned for more adventures of the dosa variety!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Training the trainers: all about Equality!

Despite the fact that the UK has taken to priding its self on its so-called culture, equality, freedom of speech, justice etc, the last week or so has shown me, (yet again!!), just how much “difference” defines our attitudes, choices and voluntary exclusions within Scotland today, and how on the surface we might claim to embrace difference rather than turn it out, to celebrate it rather than cast it off, in reality, the exact opposite is done!
The Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), have just issued a press release promoting their latest venture: “non-sighted tours!”, a bit of a contradiction in terms maybe, but the idea here is that you are either blind folded, or given special (oops I used that word!), simulated spectacles to wear which apparently mimic the experience of those going through sight loss! Some of you, (probably those of you who are fully sighted), might be wondering what my problem is here! After all, isn’t this only going to increase/promote awareness and understanding in the longer term! …, may be, but while you contemplate its benefits, ask yourself why you don’t pile on the boot polish in order to experience the prejudice people of colour face, or why you don’t drag out your pink stockings and tart wear to experience the prejudice faced by those who opt for the drag look! Such things would provoke nothing less than a national outcry: “discrimination” they’d yell, but hey: who cares, its fine for “the blind!”.

Some people reading this might accuse me of having ‘a chip on my shoulder, and perhaps I do, and maybe the chip is responsible for the curiosity that seems to be surrounding me these days “Blind and Muslim? Huh?”, no kidding!! I’ve written about this before, but its getting worse! These days, I’m continually bombarded with requests from researchers, PHD students, anthropologists, social networking professionals, non-governmental change movements and journalists (to name just a few!). I’ve tried to pin point a particular aspect of little old me, that they would find so captivating! …, (I’m still looking!), but from the outset, it seems to be the full package: if they can’t fit you in to one box or another, exploring the choice not to homogenise is a project in its self: (Blind, Muslim, convert, shia, Urdu speaking, divorced, …, whats she all about!).

Curiosity can be beneficial too: while I might sound hostile, in truth I have no objection at all to any one asking questions! But it’s the nature of the questioning, and the motive behind it I have an issue with! Particularly when much of today’s questions come from those who know little, and choose to remain isolated: (a colleague today actually believed that a channel called ‘shia soldier TV existed after a comment I made), and, when asked if such things as ‘florescent hijaabs existed, to help Blind Muslim women when out at night, I retorted “no, we have a choice: glow-in-the-dark scarves, or hijaabs designed with LEDS built-in”, my colleague (bless her!) replied “really? How clever!! I’d love to see one!” I’ve taken to inventing these way-out, cynical responses as a way of breaking the monotony: sure the first few enquiries stir a smile or 2, but when the probing by the ignorant becomes a daily occurrence it starts to be more than a little tiresome! My point behind ranting about all this is that society in the UK encourages it for the most part: “difference” has become a business (I’ve worked for that business, and contributed to it significantly through-out my working life!). Diversity (as they call it), needs to be measured, quantified, put in a box, and in many cases, watered down to meet the needs of the white Anglo-Saxon protestant! (race equality training, LGBT training, equality training, gender equality training, disability equality training), …, to name but a few, though the list goes on, …, and on!
All of these courses are prepared, offered and taught to government officials, private sector staff tasked with preparing ‘equality duties in most cases, or those suckers who “just find diversity fascinating!” They are taught by people, all too willing to showcase their life: “see? I’m ONE of THEM, I’m disabled too”, who apparently see nothing of the blatant contradiction, and seem content to be a worthy freak show for the day (all in the name of the movement!).

I’ve been a disability Equality trainer for the past 3 years now, and while many have claimed to find my courses helpful, I think it has more to do with their own underlying attitudes: if they are open, inclusive and humanitarian in outlook, the need for disability Equality comes as no surprise for them: essentially, giving every one a fair crack of the whip is something they subscribe to already! There are those, for whom the training is nothing more than a policy exercise and a bit of elevator talk for when they return to work: least seen soonest mended! And finally, there are those who don’t get it, who did not get it and who never will get it, the “it”, being equality in general!
A suggestion was made to send my manager (you know, the problem manager), for a few sessions of equality training, to broaden his outlook! But, unless the training incorporated NLP or hypnotherapy in its delivery and style, it would be unlikely to make a lasting impact on some one with such deep routed and aggressive attitudes to others!

The issue of unnecessary emphasis on difference worsens when you hear those who (you think should no better), extorting fame, fortune and recognition out of the same: I’m not just talking about the medical/academic publications the subject generates, but there are now generations of bloggers, people on twitter, self made ambassadors and spokes people for the ‘difference society! Many of these are intercultural blogs: websites and experiences born out of a mixed race relationship etc, and some of them are highly enjoyable, reflective and amusing! But sadly, the majority still hang wearily between the patronising and the world of ‘white Western dilute in my view (how can you compare tinned fruit with the real thing!) (poor analogy but you get the point!).
This whole entry was in fact inspired by something I read on ‘gori girl’s blog, “the 10 questions every intercultural couple should ask before marriage”, (have we become so sterile about difference that we need questionnaires to assist us with analysing whether or not this “difference” would be compatible in our world of white comfort and privilege!). What shocked me, was that allot of the questions draw pretty close parallels with the stuff parents, teachers and professionals are taught about disability in the early stages: “don’t be afraid to talk about watching TV, looking out of the window, or other common sighted activities: blind people use this phraseology too and it is as common place for THEM, as it is for US”, in short (you might have a cane and a vacant stair but you are just the same as me!), and what they don’t say: (if I tell myself that often enough, I will, in all likelihood, start believing it!).

If you too are a part of this industry, or, if you are so far away from it that you still endorse its benefits, you may well think me bitter, unfair and twisted (or all of the above). While it is certainly difficult to quantify the long-term affects of such interventions, or indeed any intervention that requires lasting attitudinal change, a scan of the relevant research on the subject soon reveals that there is absolutely nothing to indicate that these approaches are working, or making any kind of a difference for those they are supposed to be helping/integrating! The reason: simple! They start from a reference point that is inherently unequal in nature: (you don’t fit in, therefore, we need to train people to deal with you).

When I first got acquainted with the disability movement in the US, I was shocked to learn that such training (conditioning), is not a common feature of the employment/development culture over there. Society simply addresses the barriers, thus kerbing (not eradicating of course!), but significantly limiting the possibility of blatant discrimination occurring! Moreover, when I lived and worked in Pakistan, (a country where all such concepts are alien), I didn’t feel the need for them, nor did I feel I was at any kind of a disadvantage for not having them. Sure I faced barriers that I do not face here, but nine times out of 10, those could be resolved through direct communication with line managers, members of the public, or by simply living your life and going about your business as a fully functioning Blind Muslim: by existing, the problems/barriers (which largely exist within the head of the other person), fail to be an issue any more!

Some of you might say: if we were all to take this approach, would we then need to abandon the dynamic disability movement we have today? Is the racial justice struggle over? is gender inequality a figment of the imagination? Answer: of course not! There are mountains to climb and battles to be one! That is sadly a reality which I doubt will change much in my lifetime! My points have more to do with the current work priorities these movements are forced to undertake these days: most of them centring on counteracting the cultural conditioning I spoke about above! Perhaps if the “training” and the “policies” were put to bed, (or at least toned down), the movement could empower disabled people (and non-disabled people), to get on with the business of living, working, existing, rather than justifying that very existence in the first place!
They claim that these very policies were written with the “marginalized” in mind, but in practise that couldn’t be further from the truth! If we were, only for a second, able to throw it all out, write our own history and determine our own futures, the very landscape of equality would change dramatically, might even fail to exist, which should be the ultimate aim of any so-called equality movement any way (disability, race etc). A leap in logic it may be, but the way forward for sure (only, those at the top may require related training on precisely how to let go), I’m told your own box is a pretty comfortable place to permanently reside J

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Eid Gadeer Mubarak!

Salaamun alaykum, my greetings to you and sincere congratulations to all of you on this most auspicious of eids: the event of eid Ghadeer.
It was on the 18th of Dhul Hijjah, 10th Hijrah, in the hot sands of a place called Ghadir Khumm, not far from Mecca, when the Prophet (sa) was returning
from his last Hajj, that the following verse of Quran was revealed:
يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ وَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ وَاللّهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ إِنَّ
اللّهَ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ
[5:67] O Messenger! deliver what bas been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message, and Allah will
protect you from the people; surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving people.
Realizing the importance of the divine command, the Prophet of God (sa) gathered his companions to make the divinely ordained announcement of the wilayat
(leadership) of Imam Ali (as) after him. Prophet (sa) prayed for Imam Ali (as) and the Companions congratulated him.... It was an occasion of joy and
May god bless us all to benefit from the teachings, ideals and words of wisdom of Imam Ali(as), the gate of divine knowledge of Prophet (sa) of God.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

something to fill a stop gap!

So …, I haven’t blogged very much lately! And yes …, I do feel ashamed! Actually, its not just the usual: (health, sleep etc), allot of good things have happened! And many of them deserve blog posts in their own right! I’ve just not been able to focus my mind on writing them up: and when I did have a stab at it on Monday night, I accidentally wiped every thing I had written!! And couldn’t gather the motivation right then to start all over again! So there you have it …, stop gap!
This was inspired by a job interview I had on Tuesday morning! After reaching the office in question, and realizing I’d forgotten my ID and qualifications, and making all relevant embarrassed efforts to cover up my forgetfulness, blushing, and then fretting over when/how I’d come back to them with the required paperwork, one of the interviewers stuck his head in to the reception area …, and then it clicked! (David Riley!!). I’d known David from a previous job, and really loved the hard-line activist that he was, that, coupled with the fact that I’m positively obsessed with Alex Riley these days meant that I couldn’t resist singing “there’s always a big surprise, in MR. Riley’s pies!” (I think its safe to say I’m most definitely not getting that job!! Any way, MR. Riley, (no relation in case you were wondering), then had to return to his fellow grillers to inform them that we knew each other, and to seek their approval to interview me (he was told he could not), and could only observe! The End result was that I interviewed horribly (I just took 1 breath and spouted out rubbish like a clockwork toy unable to pipe down). It was a behavioral based interview (give us an example of) style of questioning, which I’m worst of all at delivering! All the while, MR Riley sat sniggering at all my in-jokes and subversive references concerning the voluntary sector! All very awkward! And outside of the interview pressure, I struggle to work my notice and to juggle every thing else that is going on: oh the pressure! To help you cope, (or maybe just to satisfy my love for the puerile), here’s some more MR Riley to keep you busy till I actually get around to posting regularly again!

Part 1.

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Part 2.

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Saturday, 28 November 2009

is it really eid?

Sadly, eid was a bit of a non-starter this year. The last few weeks have been pretty disjointed for me: the new job, poor health (which is something of a regular feature these days), financial pressures and other assorted emotional drains, meant that I was never really in the zone to start with! Then, it all fell apart: I took a blinding migraine yesterday, (no pun intended!!). I went for my ritual acupuncture in the afternoon, which helped to some degree, but the stressed it induced, coupled with all the medication I’d had to consume to keep it at bay, left me exhausted, emotionally tired, mentally empty and extremely depressed! Despite my tiredness, I slept for a total of 3 hours last night, and woke up feeling worse than when I’d fallen asleep. In that condition, the last thing I wanted to do was eid!! Its not the spiritual part that was troubling me: I have written previously about my love for the reflection contained within this festival: it was the social aspect that was troubling me. I’d been asked over by one of my closest friends, her family are like my own family, and have been incredibly good to me! But somehow, I couldn’t face it: Lucky Fatima has written about how she couldn’t be bothered inviting guests this year, and I know I’m not the only one! But its little comfort when I feel so selfish and guilty for not going. I can’t quite explain my reasons: on the surface: I am genuinely not very well, tired and done in: but its more than that: when I’ve been low, very low with illness, I am incredibly self conscious about every thing: and even without being over sensitive, my weight gain means I look truly disgusting in salwar kameez, and there are those within my friend’s family who will make that known to me: joking or not, it still hurts! I figured that eating too much, and stuffing my overweight frame in to a too-tight kameez wasn’t quite the way I wanted to spend my day! Moreover, I have this issue with family at the moment: seeing Muslim families, all together, leaves me feeling so empty: for no matter how close you come to other families, they are still not your own, and there are still huge cross-sections of your being that remain void: and almost certainly will remain so judging by my life’s direction at the moment! Maybe its all me: even as I write this, I feel awkward, and aware of how wretched my words must sound, but this is where I am at, and I have little choice but to go with it for now: after all, why make others miserable when you can just avoid them? I sense a growing separation between those closest to me and myself: I think its about differing directions: like it or not, their direction is set by others, pre-destined and defined: few will fight against it, and even if they don’t like it, they know they are secure! My own life is pretty different! I have no complaints regarding rizq (my creator has been eternally merciful to me), but all the same, the reality is that sometimes, more energy is needed to fight than enjoy: and so when you do finally find some time for yourself, you are done in and just can’t face commonality, life, any thing!
May Allah (SWT) forgive me if I am in the wrong here: but I think this eid and I are destined to vegetate: I remember even when I was married, I’d almost always get ill on eid: one year, I bought a beautiful velvet lehenga to wear on eid day: I was obsessed with that lehenga: from the moment I saw it, I wanted it: eventually persuaded my x-husband to buy it for me, only to get sick and end up wearing it to eid prayer and spending the rest of the day in the bathroom being sick! Happy days!! Ah well: you win some and lose others: guess this one will also be added to the list of those that got away! (BTW, eid mubarak!!).

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Eid clean-out!

I know you’ve heard of spring cleaning, but this somehow feels like the eid version! Eid-al-adha, will fall on either Friday or Saturday Insha Allah (depending on your marjah), and while celebrating wasn’t, (and isn’t) really on my agenda this year, (first eid since Narjiss died, and just generally not feeling up to it!), this eid feels like the ideal opportunity to break free from the shackles of the year gone by! The week started with the long-awaited written confirmation regarding my new job! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put in to words how much relief this brought! I have longed for new jobs in the past, but have never desired to break free quite so much as I have from this situation at Inclusion Scotland, (will explain it later for those not across the case). So, was able to hand in my notice with a very cheeky smile and an air of “get it up ya!”, (Allah forgive me but it soo helped!). I’ve of course got a month to go before I quit, but I’ve told them that if they don’t want me to resign with immediate affect, they’ll have to let me work from home, (for once in my life I am calling the shots this time!). If they agree, (which in reality they’ll have to), I’ll be able to work to my own crazy insomnia driven time schedules (well, they work for me so who cares!), and generally wined down from the chaos and pain this situation has ensued!
Today I woke up, took a bath, did namaz, and set to work hovering and cleaning the house! When my health is poor the house work tends to be the first thing to go, taking my routine and order along with it. Being alone, I don’t tend to entertain over eid, (thankfully I’m still the one that gets asked out by folk), but the notice thing seemed to spark something within: if I’ve been desperately ill over the past year, its largely due to stress and the build-up of toxins, and if I don’t start putting my house in order (both physically and emotionally), I’ll never succeed in the new place.
In January, I’ll take on a poorly paid job and a fully funded degree course. Life will be taxing and busy and difficult, but I won’t be harassed, degraded and bullied by my boss, and I won’t feel like a leper just for being a Muslim! Challenge away! Challenges are healthy and stimulating: intimidation does nothing but queue the self-destruct button! And as an abuse survivor I need no help in that department! The reality is that I do struggle with conflict, and some might argue that all I’ve done here is run away, rather than look the problem in the face and take these people on! But when faced with a choice between saving your own sanity, or battling a racist, sexist asswhole, then sanity has to prevail: I might be able to fight him, and I might get him fired! But none of these will undo the hurt he has caused me, so best to walk away with my head held high, and use the eid/Christmas vacations to shake off the bitter and twisted undertones which lurk lasciviously below the surface!

There is another reason for an eid clear-out though. Until a few days ago, I never understood why for me, this eid always felt less about celebration than eid-al-fitr, and more about reflection and contemplation! This probably has more to do with my lack of knowledge than any thing else, coupled with the fact that I’ve never actually been to hajj! But in an interview for Radio Awaz, Shaykh Abdal Aziz Ahmed hinted at the reasons behind my response to eid: the answer is hidden in the day of Arrafat (before eid). Arrafat, (the day before eid), is the day when the prophet Adam (A.S), after 40 years of walking alone through the earth (both physically and emotionally!), arrived at the flat dry plane that is Arrafat near Makkah, and opened his heart to his creator, expressing his regret for disobeying his Lord, and his desire and need to reconnect with the creator in this new life of his, as he craved only to return to his homeland one day. Just as a refugee or an exile yearns for the familiar lands of his birth, so does the human soul (consciously or unconsciously), crave for closeness to Allah (SWT), and ultimately, to reaching the jannah!
Arrafat is signified by the fasting that most Muslims undertake, thus bringing about a turning back within the human psyche, recognising where we came from, the direction our lives need to take in order to reach our desired destination. This contemplation during Arrafat should, by nature of its practises bring about an eid that is more about reflection, self-discovery and rebirth than revelry! This doesn’t mean that eid cannot be enjoyed and celebrated of course! But when we look at the signature sacrifice of an animal on eid and what it represents, we realise just how close we are to a period of sorrow: (Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice of his son was not required: instead, the intention was what counted: the son, was replaced with a sheep for the creator new that a greater sacrifice was to save humanity: the sacrifice of course being, the sacrifice of Karbala). Realisation of this brings us even closer to muherram: not only in the time sense (less than a month away), but spiritually too. As far as possible, I like muherram to be a time when I can withdraw in to myself, drown in sorrow and pain, not only in order that I connect to the Ahlulbayt (A.S), but in order that I immerge from the suffering a stronger person, recharged and empowered, with a greater sense of being, direction and spiritual energy. So, when you tuck in to your eid dinners this year, and dress up for meetings with family and friends, try to take some time out, even if it be only a second. Think of the year gone by and the one to come, who you are, where you’ve been and where you are going: it might evoke some eid cleaning of your own! But if nothing else it will inspire you to strive further and further to attain the perfection that your soul deserves, Insha Allah.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Something of the Woman I was!!

I had an Email yesterday from a reader of the old blog (perhaps THE reader: as apposed to A reader!), but hey! Its about quality not quantity and all that! I was amazed by this person’s observance and attention to writing style (or maybe lack of it, I don’t know!). They didn’t write to complement the blog, but neither did they put it down in any way! instead they just asked “are you Deeya?”, this might seem like a strange random question to some of you, but Deeya was in fact an identity I used to write under shortly after returning to Pakistan. I don’t really know who/what Deeya was: suffice as to say she was a confused, torn, romantic and angry creature who just wanted to express her feelings: good and bad, painful and indifferent. She helped me through some dark days, the darkest of my life in fact, which proceeded my return to the UK in 2005. Deeya kept me sane through those days and provided me release through her existence, but shortly after securing a new job and a house and a new life for myself, Deeya was quickly forgotten! For reasons unknown to me, people seemed to like this disjointed Zany form of writing she produced, and many asked me to continue with it! but I never could quite get back in to that zone, which is for the most part, a good thing! Deeya drifted quickly and quietly in to some storage volt in my past, moreover, the site that supported my writing (the ground Under, …, any one recall it?), shut down too!! It seemed only fitting that the site should disappear along-side Deeya’s departure, but even more bazaar where the Emails I received asking for copies of Deeya’s work!! I don’t know what exactly people wanted to do with them, read them, reflect on them or pass them off as their own, I just don’t know! But I only hope they brought joy to people rather than negativity, as believe me: they weren’t very cheerful!
Back to the present: you can imagine my amazement after all those years, some one remembered Deeya! The Email author (who didn’t give his/her name), also requested me to post some of Deeya’s old wisdom up here! I struggled allot with this: Deeya’s writings were cold, crude and left little to the imagination. They had a certain charm perhaps, but I wasn’t sure I wanted people to see me in that light over here! But then, on further reflection I realised I was being unfair: sure Deeya had her emotional issues, but she is as much a part of me as Ruth/Roshni are, and to deny Deeya ever happened is like trying to deny the rest of my past as well: (much as I wish I could do that, it is impossible to do so: and rightly so!), the good, but more so the bad, is what makes us the people we are today!

So, in honour of my past, my present: what I was and what I aim to be: here is one of my favourite short Stories composed by Deeya back in the darkness! …, make of it what you will!

Holding it down,
By Deeya.

"But I am already late, very late!" protested Afshan screeching wildly in to the receiver poised in her hand. Her words echoed oppressively through the
long since quietened air of the office. "shouldn't you be going too?" my PA's hand on my shoulder:
"Oh, I have a few things to finish." I offered weakly still staring vacantly at the blank computer screen in front of me. I was devoid of inspiration,
the drive, or the inclination to write, to create, even to copy or paste.
"And they have no driver"; I blurted out clutching at straws now.

Its 11 PM, and I am still at my desk, with every thing and nothing to do. Loads I need to say yet my lips remain still, subtly parted, lost in dreams of
last night. Life always seems cold and uninviting the morning after the night before, only, one night on I had anticipated on regaining some degree of
composure to get through my daily tasks, only I remained transfixed by his scent, each atom of his being as he past over me, his words, his essence, treasuring
and savouring every moment like priceless joules and for all the wrong reasons.
"What is the matter?" Afshan stood red faced in front of the control desk, waving a pen franticly in the direction of the studio window to add extra weight
to her every expression.
"Its the third time this week" she complained.
"they know our position, they know my mum is alone, but still the driver does not come, why won't he come!" I looked around the tiny room slowly slipping
back in to my conventional authoritarian pose:
"can't you take her?" I asked Fesil; a senior producer hailing from the UK who was too up his own ass, too European to integrate in to this so obviously
Asian landscape:
"na man, am about to go on air!"

"I can't do it!" I told myself as I swung on my long, black coat. I performed each action with painful accuracy and calculated movements: dragging the brush
seductively through my long hair, pulling it up quickly and sticking a colourful hair clasp sharply and aggressively through it.
"Get the keys" I called to Afshan, "will be down in a minute."
I collected my bag, organiser and work files, while on the way past the library, carefully selected a few good CDs to drive to. Just as I rounded the last
flight of stairs my mobile sounded a message had arrived:
"am recording all night, see you tomorrow; probably in the evening?" so there you had it, Ali would not be coming home to me. I shouldn't be doing this,
but already tiny beads of sweat were forming on my back and the intoxicating kick of adrenaline had begun its slow and exhilarating takeover of my soul.
Sure I felt guilt, but it wasn't all my doing: I would have done the right thing, but he had done me wrong again and again. Here was another example, I
needed an excuse and he had given it to me gold plated!

I swung the van skilfully out of the parking lot and began cruising down familiar routes. I selected my journey map carefully: avoiding check points, police
hangouts and heavily populated domestic sidewalks.
"You are so brave"; marvelled Afshan:
"I would never drive, doesn't your husband mind?" oh why the fuck had she reminded me! But then it wasn't her, it was me who was at fault. She was in the
mood to talk and I would not, could not hear! I slotted in my Indian remix collection and wound down the window letting the crisp and vibrant air of the
night caress my hair. I jerked the vehicle to an abrupt stop a few yards from her front door, she looked at me quizzically as she slowly stepped in to
the road:
"why don't you come in for tea, you can always stay here tonight?"
"no, thank you" I said hurriedly.
"are you sure your husband won't..." Her voice trailed off as I raved the engine and took off again, I knew exactly what I was going to do.

I hurtled through the defence housing authority and the posher ends of town. I past the tower blocks, the elitist meeting points and the exquisite marble
architecture of the newly erected rich mens villas. I didnt have to ring, to make an appointment: it was a casual passing by and it had paid off. He raised
one finger towards me and slipped comfortably in to the seat beside me. I drove on blindly, enjoying the feel of his arm around me stroking my back, the
scent of his freshly showered body, shining hair and gleaming white teeth. I was thinking on and on, light years ahead of any thing he could have anticipated:
as I drove along the beech front he indicated a perfect concealed space for me to store the van.

I surveyed our options, why did he want to stop here? Surely he wasn't expecting a horizontal collaboration here, in the back of the office van? We got
out, and began walking down the cool tiled steps towards the water. We walked along hidden paths and water channels infested with rubbish and hissing mosquitoes,
saying nothing until suddenly we came across a clearing festooned with a few stand-alone beech huts. Right on queue, he produced a rusty key and opened
the door.

Wordlessly we undressed, and began the violent and urgent erotic rituals of consuming and absorbing each others passion. Sex with Ayaz was good, his physique
was an instrument of wonder and he knew how to use each inch of it to pleasure me and take me higher. He was a Grosse departure from the traditional Asian
male who wants it all and recoils at the idea of surrendering himself to a woman's desires. I gave in, gave all that I had unashamedly seduced by his unassuming
demeanour: laying back contented, satisfied as he flowed in to me nuzzling my neck: this, this was all.

He got up suddenly:
"Get dressed" he said sharply. were those the first words he had uttered all evening? I wondered as I, shaken, trembled to my feet and fumbled around in the
darkness for my crumpled clothes.

Outside all was quiet, still, accept for a single tiny search light casting shadows through the huts and in to the clearing. I began walking urgently and
mechanically towards the van. The passion had left now and the melancholy was starting to erode my glittering fleeting fantasy. Ali was recording, he would
be working till dawn while I had purged myself on a tall, dark handsom stranger whom I barely knew! I would go home, raid the fridge and take a bath, scrubbing,
washing, scrubbing till I bleed and removed each and every trace of my sinful interlude. Drowning in bubbles and fresh water till every trace of Ayaz was
gone from my person.
"I guess I'll see you around" I said collapsing exhausted in to the driving seat.
"oh? And how the fuck did you suppose I would get home?" he demanded. This was a side to him I had not witnessed before; he was trying to get me off guard,
just like he had charmed me the first night I gave myself up:
"I can drop you at your office?" I volunteered still shaking in the late night chill. I would not take him home, to the house he shared with his mother,
small son and kid sister, surely even he could see that this was too much to ask. He climbed in to the van and shut the door surveying my dishevelled hair
and fading exterior:
"you think too far ahead jaani" he smiled playfully running his fingers through my loose hair. I turned the key in the ignition, and caught a glimpse of
2 perfectly positioned scratches flanking the knuckles of my right hand. Ali would notice; he was a stickler for detail and regularity. Any thing remotely
out of the norm was scrutinised to the point where he freaked if he did not shit his morning load at exactly 8.35
Ayaz kissed my hand:
"honey, you don't look up to driving, should I get you a cab?"
"Oh no, no!" I said flailing around to regain my grip of the situation. We drove off wordlessly, again, and as he left the van a few minutes later, the
horrid realisation of our unions began to hit home. This was who I was and what I wanted. This was all it meant, and all it would ever be: a senseless
screw, a fucking stab in the dark, hidden deep within the night for fear that day light would reveal its true colours for all to see. The gilt would be
just the beginning and it was up to me to work hard, play good and keep it under wraps.

I sat in the dimly lit flat still revelling in the after glow and munching cake as I contemplated my deception some more.
I said out loud licking the chocolate from my long fingers:
"it really was that good"

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Random: why I Love apnay!!

Was just listening to the radio and munching some secret midnight cake!! (as you do!), when I heard an add for a new 99P shop to be opened this Monday on Wembly High Street! “Excellent!”, I hear you cry! Even better when you hear about the free gifts and offers awarded to the first 499 people entering (what did the 500th person ever do to them I wonder!), but! (and here’s the random part!), they will be serving free samosay and pacoray and desi chai from 7 AM!! Who in their right mind (and stomach!), would want to eat samosay for breakfast! Forgive me, but unless you’d done a night shift, or had a night on the tiles would you desire such a start to your morning!
This reminded me of other random issues involving apnay which I thought would bring a smile to your face, or, if you are not familiar with the desi Diaspora, will simply make you go, …, HUH????

Me and Sangeev, (remember Sangeev?), used to make a habit of chatting for 30 minutes or so around 6 AM (before he went to do his breakfast show at the old ‘Asian gold), and we used to always see this apni Auntie, clad in a sari, walking around with a small container of what looked like rice (I later thought it might have been bird seed), and she then proceeded to sprinkle it along King Street while mumbling franticly to herself! (either King Street has become a nature reserve for creatures other than mice and cockroaches, or the rice helps her find her way back!) (its been known!).

I do know that there is such a thing as distance heeling, and I know that technology has worked to bring us closer to one another than ever before! But only a money spinning molvi would have thought of this one: a TV channel (which shall remain nameless), employed a molvi who used to come on every afternoon and run a phone-in programme (callers paid £1 per minute to talk with him), they called in mainly to talk about nazr and related personal/financial difficulties: his advice? Take a bottle of water, and one of oil: sit them in front of the TV, and he’d do ‘dum (bless them) for you!! Nice one! May the force (or the tayl!), be with you!

The last time I was in Birmingham, I actually saw bottles of ‘cow urine, all brightly coloured, complete with pictures, branding and instructions which pertained to using the aforementioned waste product as a medicinal cure for every thing from lice through to hypertension! (sick bucket, any one?)

Finally (my favourite piece of desi randomness of all!), a local desi politician (who again, shall remain nameless!), has just employed a photographer to accompany him to any important events involving more senior celebrities/politicians than himself: the idea being that he can have the photographer picture him next to the unwitting “known” others, and have the pictures displayed in his office/home, giving him an increased sense of self importance, generated by his visitors! (I want some of that man’s ego!). I also learnt recently that this man is referred to by his family members as ‘shaadi wala uncle! The title came from the fact that owing to his status (self proclaimed or not!), he is constantly receiving invitations to desi weddings from those he knows (and those he doesn’t!), their aim: to invite a politician and start the whole ego game for themselves!
Naturally, such a pillar of the community has no time for all these frivolities, so he dishes out the invites to his friends and relations based on their locality, and they get to go along, enjoy a free meal, and do a bit of PR for their favourite uncle! (I guess if you don’t get out much, attending a wedding ceremony for a couple you don’t know beats ‘strictly come dancing any day!).

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Here Awards, ..., There Awards!

As most of you know, I’m not a huge fan of awards! (especially the largely tokenistic kind that disabled people like myself tend to receive for achievements such as remembering to pick our noses at a given time of the day!). That said, I’m here to tell you about 2 particularly special awards running right now, in which you really should participate in order to encourage, motivate and empower the brightest and best among our activists today.

Beginning at home, the ‘young Scottish Ethnic Awards exist to promote leadership, citizenship and achievement among young minority ethnic people in Scotland. If you know some one who’s hard work, passion and talent warrants rewarding, surf on down to where you can download a nomination form! Do get them in ASAP in order that your chosen nominee gets counted!

Further afield now, yet so incredibly close to my heart! Are the Brass Crescent awards! I stumbled across these just the other day purely by accident: a blog that I truly adore has been nominated for one of these, so I took a look at the website and the concept behind the awards. The Brass Crescent awards (quoting from the website),
“is an annual awards ceremony that honours the best writers and thinkers of the emerging Muslim blogosphere (aka the Islamsphere). Nominations are taken from
blog readers, who then vote for the winners.

What are the Brass Crescent Awards? They are named for the Story of the City of Brass in the Thousand and One Nights. Today, the Islamsphere is forging
a new synthesis of Islam and modernity, and is the intellectual heir to the traditions of philosophy and learning that was once the hallmark of Islamic
civilization - a heritage scarcely recognizable today in the Islamic world after a century's ravages of colonialism, tyrants, and religious fundamentalism.
We believe that Islam transcends history, and we are forging history anew for tomorrow's Islam. These awards are a means to honour ourselves and celebrate
our nascent community, and promote its growth.”
How awesome is that? Interested? Then surf on down to to vote for your favourites: you have about 14 days left to nominate and counting! Be warned though: you need to take a day or so out for nominating: the blogs up for awards are simply too good to pass by, and deserve your time, pondering and deliberation before casting your vote! Not that I’d try to sway you in any way, but keep an eye open for ‘a slice of lemon, ‘the Gori wife life, Muslima Media watch, and my all time favourite blogger, Lucky Fatima!

Honouring the marriage Anniversary of Imam Ali (A.S), and Fatimah Zahra (A.S).

My greetings and congratulations to you on this most auspicious of days, the anniversary of the marriage between amir-al-mohmineen, Ali ibn Abbu talib (A.S), and saeeda Fatimah Zahra (A.S). My greetings to you on this day worthy of your smiles and celebrating: this day, that focuses on the sacred nature of not only the institution of marriage, but the indispensable nature of a true life companion, who is as the qur’an states: a garment for you: and you a garment for them. There are many examples from the lives of these 2 sacred and blessed personalities for us to meditate and reflect on. Today also marks the celebration of my dear friend and sister, Rizwana with her husband-to-be, Rizwan. From childhood, Rizwana desired that her marriage be held on this date, but of course she had no idea that her life would take her far across the world to find the man of her dreams and her reality too: now those dreams come true for her mashallah, and here I sit in a dark damp Glasgow wishing I was there to hug her tight and share her happiness on the most special day of her life! For now, I can only make dua, and ask you to do the same, for Rizwan and Rizwana, for your own married life and for the lives of those of us yet to find that person who completes our reality.

I leave you with a beautiful account of the most perfect marriage of all: between Imam Ali (A.S) and bibi Fatimah Zahra (A.S), May All our marriages contain even a fraction of the humbleness, dignity and pure divine love that governed their relationship Insha Allah.

When Hazrat Fatima(s.a.) attained the age of maturity and was ready to get married, the Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) started receiving proposals from various
people for his daughter. Hazrat Salman Farsi(r.a.) and Hazrat Umm-e-Salma(r.a.) narrate that "When Hazrat Fatima(s.a.) attained the marriageable age, the
important people among the tribe of Quraish started sending proposals to the Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) but the Prophet (sawaw) did not accept any proposal
saying that he was waiting for the order of Allah(swt) to decide this matter". Among the aspirants for the marriage was Umar ibn-e-Khattab as well but
he received the same reply.

<< Imam Ali(a.s.) makes the proposal >>
Hazrat Umm-e-Salma(r.a.) narrates that : One day Imam Ali(a.s.) approached the Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) at his house. Imam Ali(a.s.) entered and greeted
the Prophet(sawaw) and the Prophet(sawaw) replied in the same kind manner. Imam Ali(a.s.) sat down and he was so much shy that he continued staring at
the ground and could not utter a word. The Prophet(sawaw) smiled and said to Imam Ali(a.s.) that he knew what Imam Ali(a.s.) had to say but he wanted to
hear it from him. He told Imam Ali(a.s.) that he does not need to be shy and to say whatever he wanted to say.

With this encouragement and soft tone from the Prophet(sawaw), Imam Ali(a.s.) said "My parents be ransom for you, you know that since my childhood, I have
dedicated myself for your service. You have educated me from the beginning and brought me to this status. It was because of your influence and training
that Allah(swt) saved me from all sins and guided me to the Sirat-e-Mustaqeem. It is because of your encouragement that I feel this courage in myself to
express my heartfelt wish that you give me the honor of becoming your son-in-law. I have concealed his wish in my heart for a long time thinking that this
might not be according to your wishes. Is there a possibility that this could happen?".

<< Proposal accepted >>
Hazrat Umm-e-Salma(r.a.) narrates that "I was watching this affair from a distance and I saw that as soon as Imam Ali(a.s.) completed his request, the face
of Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) lit up and he asked Imam Ali(a.s.) - what have you got to realize this act?". Imam Ali(a.s.) said "O Prophet of Allah(swt),
you know my condition very well, I have only a sword, an armor and a camel". Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) said: "Ali, you definitely need your sword for fighting
Jihad and camel for traveling, however, you armor could work. O Abul Hassan(a.s.), I want to give you the good news that Allah(swt) has made the decision
and already recited your Nikah with my daughter Fatima(s.a.) in the Arsh. Just before your arrival, Allah(swt) sent an angel to give me this good news."

This event has been narrated in "Maarij an-Nabuwwah" of Moeen Kashfi, "Sifwatul Safada" of ibn-e-Jozi, "Madarij an-Nabywwah" on 2:75 of Shah Abdul Haq Dehalvi.

<< Nikah recited on the Arsh >>
"Maarij an-Nabuwwah" also states that Hazrat Jabreel(a.s.) narrated the story of the Nikah recited on the Arsh. He said "O Prophet of Allah(swt), Allah(swt)
has chosen you and made you the most respected and high among his creatures and has selected Ali(a.s.) as your brother and has decided that the Nikah of
your daughter and the servant of Allah(swt), Fatima(s.a.) would be with Ali(a.s.). Allah(swt) arranged for their Nikah in such a manner that he addressed
the dwellers of Jannah to dress themselves with ornaments of Jannah and then ordered all the angels to assemble together on the 4th Sky. He then filled
the 4th sky with Noor and then appointed Hazrat Adam(a.s.) to recite Khutba to begin the Nikah ceremony. After khutba of Hazrat Adam(a.s.), Allah(swt)
ordered an angel named Raheel to recite Hamd. Raheel is the most beautiful of angels and possesses the most beautiful voice. After recitation of Hamd,
Allah(swt) informed me (Jabreel(a.s.)) that He has performed the Nikah of His servant Hazrat Fatima(s.a.) with His chosen person Imam Ali(a.s.) and that
I should spread this news among the angels. I acted accordingly and made all the angels testify the event. Allah(swt) then ordered me to write all this
event on this silk cloth of Jannah and present it to you."

After mentioning this event, Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) said "O Abul Hasan(a.s.), the order of Allah(swt) has been served and I invite you to come to the mosque
so that this Aqd should be formalized on the earth as well among witnesses."

Such was the importance of this marriage that Allah(swt) arranged the ceremony on Arsh and then Himself decided and recited the Nikah of Imam al-Muttaqeen,
Amir-ul-momineen Ali ibn-e-Abi Talib(a.s.) with the leader of the women of this world and in paradise Hazrat Fatima(s.a.).

The above event has been mentioned in various other books as follows:

- Muaraj an-Nabuwwah
- Al asaba fee tameez as-Sahaba
- Sawaeq-e-muharriqa by Ibn-e-Hajr Makki
- Al Bayan wal Bateen by Allam Jaahiz
- Nuzhat-ul-Majalis by Allama Abdur Rehman Safori
- Riyaz un-Nazrah fee Manaqib-ul-Ashra by Allama Muhib Tabri

<< Nikah recited on Earth >>
Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) led Imam Ali(a.s.) into the mosque and asked him to sell off his armor and present that money to the Prophet(sawaw). The dress was
sold in 400 dirhams according to some traditions, and the proceeds were presented to the Prophet Mohammmd(sawaw) who gave them to Hazrat Salman Farsi(a.r.)
and Hazrat Bilal(a.r.) and asked them to buy some articles of use from the market. They went to the market and bought the following items as jahez (dowry)
of Hazrat Fatima(s.a.)

- Two mattresses made of Egyptian canvas. (One stuffed with fiber and the other with sheep wool).
- A leather mat.
- A pillow made of skin, filled with palm tree fiber.
- A Khaibarion cloak.
- An animal skin for water.
- Some jugs and jars also for water.
- A pitcher painted with tar.
- A thin curtain made of wool.
- A shirt costing seven (7) dirhams.
- A veil costing four (4) dirhams.
- Black plush cloak.
- A bed embellished with ,ribbon.
- Four cushions made of skin imported from Ta ‘ef stuffed with a good smelling plant.
- A mat from Hajar.
- A hand-mill.
- A special copper container used for dyestuff
- A pestle for grinding coffee.
- A (water) skin.

When the items of Jahez were received, Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) went to Hazrat Fatima(s.a.) and said "Your Nikah has been recited on the Arsh by Allah(swt)
with my cousin Ali(a.s.) and He(swt) has ordered me to recite your Nikah on the earth as well. I have gathered my companions to do so and now seek your
agreement and permission to recite this Nikah." Hearing this, Hazrat Fatima Zahra(s.a.) bowed her head with shyness which indicated her agreement. The
Prophet(sawaw) came out of her hujra and ordered Hazrat Bilal(a.r.) to gather all Ansaar and Muhajireen. Once the companions were gathered, Prophet Mohammad(sawaw)
recited Hamd of Allah(swt) and narrated to his companions that Jibreel(a.s.) had informed him that Allah(swt) has performed the Nikah of Hazrat Ali(a.s.)
with his daughter on the Arsh and has ordered him to recite the same on the earth as well. He asked Imam Ali(a.s.) to formally request for the marriage
in front of the witnesses. After reciting greatness of Allah(swt) and presenting his profound gratitude to him and reciting darood for Prophet Mohammad(sawaw),
Imam Ali(a.s.) formally requested for the marriage. Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) accepted the request and made all the companions witnesses. Upon hearing this
all the companions greeted Imam Ali(a.s.) and the Prophet(sawaw).

Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) recited the Nikah himself and asked Imam Ali(a.s.) if he accepted the Nikah for a Mehr of 400 Misqaal of Silver. Imam Ali(a.s.)
accepted and then the Nikah was formally concluded. Both offered Sajda-e-Shukr to Allah(swt) and all the companions present there congratulated and greeted
both Imam Ali(a.s.) and the Prophet Mohammad(sawaw).

<< Marriage and move of Hazrat Fatima(s.a.) >>
A non-planned period of time elapsed between the nikah and the wedding ceremony, because Imam Ali(a.s.) was too shy to ask the Prophet to assign a day for
the wedding, while He(sawaw) wanted to protect Fatima’s pride by refraining from asking Imam Ali(a.s.) to do so.

A month or more passed by before Imam Ali(a.s.) said anything regarding the wedding. Aqeel (Imam Ali(a.s.)’s brother) asked him about the reason for the
delay in holding the wedding ceremony and encouraged him to prepare for the wedding and to ask the Prophet(sawaw) to assign a date for it. Despite Imam
Ali(a.s.)’s shyness, he accompanied Aqeel to the Prophet’s house to fulfill his wishes. On their way to the Prophet’s house, they met Um Ayman(r.a.) who,
when told the reason for their visit, asked them to leave the matter to her. She, in turn, informed Um Salama(r.a.) who brought the matter to the attention
of the Prophet(sawaw) who called for Imam Ali(a.s.) and asked his opinion. Imam Ali(a.s.) expressed his desire to bring Hazrat Fatima(s.a.) to his home
which was donated by one of his followers. The Prophet(sawaw) asked Imam Ali(a.s.) to hold a dinner (walima) because Allah(swt) is pleased with those who
do so; for the social good it does-such as bringing people together and implementing love and harmony among them.

Imam Ali(a.s.) arranged for the dinner and invited the people to the feast. Men and women from all around Medina gathered in the house. They ate, drank
and even took food to their homes. The blessings of the Prophet(sawaw) were obvious on that day, for not only the food was enough to feed everyone, but
also it did not decrease at all. The Prophet(sawaw) asked for food containers to be brought and filled them and sent them to his wives and left a special
container for Hazrat Fatima(s.a.) and her husband.

By sunset, the wedding night had begun; it was time for Hazrat Fatima(s.a.) to depart to her new home. Everything went well, for the Prophet(sawaw) had
made all the necessary preparation for the wedding. Despite the simplicity and modesty of her wedding, Hazrat Fatima(s.a.)’s marriage ceremony was surrounded
by signs of greatness, excellence, and beauty.

The Messenger of Allah(sawaw) ordered his wives to embellish Hazrat Fatima(s.a.) before the wedding; they perfumed and dressed her with jewelry. They all
helped her to get ready; some combed her hair while others embellished and dressed her in the dress brought by Gabriel from the Paradise. Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi
in Tareekh Baghdad V.5, P.7, Al-Hamvini in Durar Al-Simtain, Al-Dhahabi in Mizan Al-Etedal, Garani in Akhbar Al-Dowal, and Qandouzi in Yanabi’ Al-Mawaddah
have narrated that Ibn Abbas said:
‘When Fatima was taken to Ali’s house on her wedding night, the Prophet(sawaw) preceded her, Jibraeel was on her right, and Mikaeel on her left, and seventy
thousand angels followed her. These angels praised and glorified Allah(swt) until dawn!

The Hashemite men, Abdul Muttalib’s daughters, and Muhajarin and Ansar’s women all accompanied Fatima’s caravan that night. The Prophet’s wives joyfully
led the caravan; they were also the first to enter the house.

Upon arriving, the Prophet(sawaw) placed Hazrat Fatima(s.a.)’s hand in Imam Ali(a.s.)’s hand and said:

"May Allah bless his Messenger’s daughter;
Ali! this is Fatima, you are responsible for her (or I entrust her to you)
Ali, what an excellent wife Fatima is!
Fatima, what an excellent husband Ali is!
O Allah, bless them, bless their lives, and bless their children.
O Allah, surely they are the most beloved to me from among your creatures, so love them too, and assign for them a guardian.
I place them and their progeny under your protection from the curse devil."

Monday, 16 November 2009

Reunited? ...?

Before I begin, forgive me if this post appears as nothing more than an emotional meltdown, but I simply felt the need to try and expel something of what I feel right now in actual words, that is, if I’m to get any sleep tonight, and if I want to save myself from simply dissolving in to a never ending pool of tears!

I’ve said it many times, but for good measure I’ll say it again: the best days of my life happened when I worked for the BBC! I was young, ambitious, driven, and passionate about media: my creator had blessed me with a career I never thought I’d ever have in my wildest of dreams: and there I was, working on a radio pilot project, making and shaping radio programming, meeting and rubbing shoulders with those at the cutting edge in programme making, people who, up to that point, I’d only admired from a distance or fantasised about, and here I was, in the thick of it, living my dreams and making new dreams happen!
The director general of the Beeb at that time had made that very catchphrase “make it happen”, his very own, and that’s exactly what I was doing, in every second of the day! Each moment held new opportunities for me, there was baraqa in all that I did, even though to a certain degree I took those moments of rapture for granted. Each apparent co-incidence held new promise and purpose for me, and that’s why, when I heard an Asian presenter on a little known Sky Satellite station presenting his drivetime show, (and was blown away by his phenomenal wit and skill) I knew I’d stumbled across this for a reason. What I didn’t know though, was that when I would subsequently summon enough courage to call the said presenter and share my admiration with him, that it would change both of our lives forever!
For the purposes of protecting his anonymity, we shall call him Sangeev (his own pen name). Sangeev and I were to hit it off instantly, and to become soul mates in a matter of moments! Caught up together in a connection so beautiful and so intense, neither of us were to understand it. Many people experience momentary infatuation, desire or other related feelings close to that, but this was something different. There was a sense that we had known each other forever, and more than that: there was a force that held us together: a drive and a passion that was greater than both of us, and greater than what we believed we felt for each other, and that was radio! Unless you work in radio, or are something of an anorak in this area, you will find the passion that governs the lives of radio producers very complex to understand. You may meet some of the most influential writers, TV staff and film producers of the world, but you will for certain struggle to see the spark in them that just emanates from a dedicated radio presenter. Radio has the power to reach out to people regardless of their age, race, state, class, religion and so on. It has the power to stretch the deepest darkest recesses of the idle mind, turning it in to something creative and active once again. Radio has the power to unify people, through audio pictures painted eloquently and with intricate delivery painted on the canvass of the airwaves, in a way that neither television, nor the written word can ever hope to convey. Both Sangeev and myself shared this passion in more than standard measures of enthusiasm: we could debate the inequality that governed the licence process, the decline of quality Asian radio and the hilarious idiosyncrasies displayed in our so-called seniors at the BBC! We became best friends, yet we were so much more than that: perhaps we were soul mates, perhaps we were just overactive enthusiasts lost in a bazaar mutual admiration ritual: I don’t know: and we didn’t know then either! At the time when we first met, there were many truths we omitted to share with each other, Sangeev “forgot” to tell me he was married, and I subconsciously created an identity for myself: who was beautiful, from a background other than my own, and certainly not visually impaired!! The later revelations of these truths sent our unique relationship in to disarray, but not ending it: rather it revealed just how intimately our lives were connected! We discovered that what we felt for one another was more than just friendship, was more than the facade we had tried to create around it in order to save face. The challenge however, was how to make that work in reality: we knew we could not be together: Sangeev had a wife, a young child and a strong moral code and a stronger Asian family! My own ethics did not allow me to ask him to leave his wife or to divide his family! What we soon realised was that we had to find a level at which we could retain the good that was in our connection, without upsetting his family, or unbalancing my own life’s journey. As you might expect, this became almost impossible! We spent nights on end debating, crying, breaking up and making up, but through it all, the sun seemed to shine, the days seemed full of joy and laughter, and the nights were long, decorated with love, longing and introspection (of the helpful kind this time), a powerful angry debate which left us both disagreeing passionately and making up aggressively!
Its true to say we were desperately in love, but desperately holding on to something so fragile, so great, yet so infinitesimally small, that containing it was like trying to hold the sky in your arms: trying to gather the sands of the world in the palms of your hand! Our moments of pleasure were somehow beyond the earth: it was as though we were living a Hindi film: complete with our own songs, our own laughter and tears and sayings: and those moments when it failed were like falling from the highest star in to the depths of the deepest hell!
But, as all juggling acts do, ours too fell apart! We went from being deeply in love, to regularly in love, then to indifference, and later to resentment! The resentment its self usually came from stupid things, but as every thing about us was so finite, so intense, that an argument about generic political issues or religious difference would usually result in us going our own separate ways! After all, when I met Sangeev, I was young, foolish and certain that I knew it all: and was stubborn enough to eternally hold my ground, even when I knew deep down I was wrong. Some of our arguments saw us out of communication for a morning, then a day, then a few days, then weeks and later months! I think in the end the longest we stayed without talking was 2 years! Usually I’d be the one to finally walk away, despite Sangeev indicating that he’d had enough: but just as I was the one to call time, I was also the one to call a truce: I was the one who’d call and make amends and the one who would try to put the past behind us and try again.
Until last Thursday, we’d not been speaking for around 18 months, after another non-descript row, the origins of which I still can’t recall precisely. In all this time, I’d never forgotten about Sangeev: how could I! He was my best friend and more! We’d shared what felt like a lifetime together, and more than that, we’d shared what I still believe were the best moments of my life, moments that will never come my way again! I often recount to friends those silly yet sweet moments we spent together, and they all comment on how sad it is that we parted ways, though they all seem to think it was for the best: I don’t know if its my arrogance, or just the way I tell it! but they always conclude that Sangeev was a complete waste of space: a no one that I was better off without! Though deep down I know differently!
As I said above, until last Thursday, we hadn’t been talking: it sounds thick, but it was ‘the family, on Channel 4 that finally broke the proverbial camel’s back! The hilariously funny eccentric Asian family from Southall featured in the documentary reminded me of Sangeev, his stories of Asian life, and all the fun and laughter that we represented: and before I gave myself time to think, I sent him a sms expressing the same! At first, he did not recognise my number, which in reality gave me time to pool out, but my heart was moving too fast for me, and I replied before I knew what I was doing, sharing my identity with him. Subsequent news filled messages were exchanged, filling in the gaps that the last 18 months had brought about! Sangeev ended by promising to call me this evening, and he did! His voice brought tears to my eyes (which I of course held back from him!), but there was joy too: all week I’ve fretted over how this conversation would take place: in the past, when we’ve made up, there has always been bitterness on one or both sides, and a knowledge that whatever we say or do now, it all only serves as a patch-up job till the next great bust-up! But there were no such feelings this time! There was a formality, combined with friendship, and above all, a sense of resilience that was new to us! The passion seemed as though it had gone, and despite my logical self telling me that’s good, I find it sad, (hence the tears). One thing we did talk about was how much we both seemed to hold on to from those days: for the first time, I told him that I believed what had ultimately broken us apart was our mutual earnestness in trying to hold on to what had gone before: a time, space and state of being which cannot be relived or recaptured, no matter how much we crave it to be so! The present is where we are, it might not be as we wished, but such is the reality and the irony of life. I heard my voice speaking, telling him that we must be content, give thanks for the fact that we ever had the chance to live those moments: we experienced friendship, and love too, (or something higher than love its self), emotions that very few in this fleeting world ever do! But deep down, I felt torn, lost in a space between what I know I should do to make our relationship work this time, and between what my lower self wishes would happen. Part of me cries, yearns for the past, another chance to love, live and be happy like I did back then, while part of me fears for the repercussions of sending that text message last week. Part of me analyses over and over what we said and didn’t say, while another part of me smiles hopefully, preparing to get out the nineties Hindi songs and smile just one more time: just for a moment, if only to depart the sadness that the last year has brought with it.
I really don’t know if Sangeev and I will ever find our place in this world (if we even have one!). Some relationships are to be cherished, others are to be thrown out with the trash: and in general terms I’m not very good at working out the difference! But as I was writing this post, ‘kabhi alvida na kehna was playing on the radio: I rather think that sums us up perfectly: too people who are not, and cannot be together, but despite the barriers of love, and life and family and circumstance, just can’t bring themselves to say the final ‘alvida!