Saturday, 18 July 2009

some hadaith on the importance of azadari

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) has said: Those people from amongst my ummah, who memorise forty traditions pertaining to those issues of religion, which they are in need of, Allah shall resurrect them on the Day of Judgment as jurisprudents and scholars. (Bihar al-Anwaar, vol. 2, p. 156; Al-Ikhtasaas, p.2)

Hadith No.1
The Heat of Husaini Love

The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said: Surely, there exists in the hearts of the Mu' mineen, with respect to the martyrdom of Husain (A.S.), a heat that never subsides.

(Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 10,pg. 318)

Hadith No.2
A'ashura- A Day of Grief

Imam Reza (A.S.) said: The one for whom the day of A'shura is a day of tragedy, grief and weeping, Allah The Mighty, The Glorious, shall make the Day of Judgment, a day of joy and happiness for him.

(Bihar al-Anwar, vol,: 44,pg: 284)

Hadith No.3
Muharram - The Month of Mourning

Imam Reza (A.S.) said: With the advent of the month of Muharram, my father Imam Kazim (A.S.) would never be seen laughing; gloom and sadness would overcome him for (the first) ten days of the month; and when the tenth day of the month would dawn, it would be a day of tragedy, grief and weeping for him.

(Amaali Saduq, pg,:111)

Hadith No.4
Laughing Eyes

The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said: O' Fatimah! Every eye shall be weeping on the Day of Judgment except the eye which has shed tears over the tragedy of Husain (A.S.) for surely, that eye shall be laughing and shall be given the glad tidings of the bounties and comforts of Paradise.

(Bihar al-Anwar, vol,: 44;pg,:293.)

Hadith No. 5
Reward of the Martyred Companions

Imam Reza (A.S.) said (to one of his companions): If you desire that for you be the reward equivalent to that of those martyred along with Husain (A.S.), then whenever you remember him say: 'Oh! Would that I had been with them! A great achievement would I have achieved'.

(Wasaail al-Shia'h, vol.14, pg. 502)

Hadith No. 6
The Customary Mourning

Abu Haroon al-Makfoof said: I presented myself before Imam Sadiq (A.S.) whereupon he said to me: "Recite for me a poetry" and so I recited for him. He said "Not in this manner. Recite for me as you recite poems and elegies over the grave of Husain (A.S.)" and so I recited for him (again).

(Bihar al-Anwar,Vol.:44, pg.: 287.)

Hadith No.7
Reward for Reciting Poetry about Husain (A.S.)

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: There is none who recites poetry about Husain (A.S.) and weeps and makes others weep by means of it, except that Allah makes Paradise incumbent upon him and forgives his sins.

(Rijal al-Shaikh al-Tusi, pg.: 289).

Hadith No.8
People of Eulogies and Elegies

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: All praise is for Allah, who has placed amongst the people, those who arrive in our presence, eulogizing us and reciting elegies about us.

(Wasail al-Shia'h Vol.: 10, pg.: 469)

Hadith No. 9
Poetry Recitation During the Period of Mourning

Imam Reza (A.S.) said (to De'bil, a poet sincereiy devoted to the Ahlul bayt (A.S.)): I desire that you recite for me poetry, for surely, these days (of the month of Muharram) are the days of grief and sorrow, which have passed over us, Ahlul Bayt (A.S.).

(Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 10, pg. 386.)

Hadith No. 10
Shi'ites- The Companions and Associates

Imam 'Ali (A.S.) said: Surely, Allah has chosen for us followers (Shi'ites), who assist us and are happy at our happiness and are sad in our sadness.

(Ghurar al-Hikam, Vol: 1/ pg.: 235.)

Hadith No. 11
Paradise - The Recompense of A'zadari

Imam 'Ali Ibn al-Husain (A.S) used to say: Every Mu'min, whose eyes shed tears upon the killing of Husain Ibn' Ali (A.S.) and his companions, such that the tears roll down his cheeks, Allah shall accommodate him in the elevated rooms of paradise.

(Yannaabe' al-Mawaddah, pg.: 429.)

Hadith No.12
In Remembrance of the Children of Fatimah (A.S.)

Imam Sajjad (A.S.) said: Surely, I have never brought to mind the martyrdom of the children of Fatimah (A.S.) except that I have been choked with tears due to it.

(Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.: 46, Pg.: 109.)

Hadith No. 13
Mourning in the Houses

For those unable to go for the ziyarat of Imam Husain (A.S.) on the day of A'shura, Imam Baqir (A.S.) mentions the manner of performing A'zadari as follows: He should mourn over Husain (A.S.), weep for him and instruct the members of the house to weep for him. He should establish the mourning ceremony in the house by exhibiting lamentions and grief over him; the people should meet one another in their homes and offer condolences and consolations to each other over the calamities which befell him.

(Kaamil al-Ziyaraat, Pg.: 175.)

Hadith No. 14
'Ali (A.S.) Weeps Grieving the Martyrs of Karbala

Imam Baqir (A.S.) said: Amirul Mu'mineen Ali (A.S.), along with two of his companions, happened to pass by Karbala and as he did so, tears filled his eyes. He said (to them), "This is the resting place of their animals; and this is where their luggage shall be laid down; and it is here that their blood shall be shed. Blessed are you O' Earth, that the blood of the beloved shall be spilled upon you."

(Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.: 44, pg.: 258)

Hadith No. 15
Tears - Barrier of Hell

Imam Baqir (A.S.) said: He who remembers us, or in whose presence, we are remembered, and (as a result) tears flow from his eyes, even though they may be in the measure of a wing of a mosquito, Allah shall construct for him a house in paradise and make the tears a barrier between him and the fire (of hell).

(Al-Ghadeer, Vol.: 2, pg.: 202)

Hadith No. 16
Twenty Years of Weeping!

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: As for A'li Ibn al-Husain (A.S.), he cried over Husain (A.S.) for twenty years (after the tragedy of Karbala); never would any food be placed before him except that he would begin to weep.

(Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.: 46, Pg.: 108)

Hadith No. 17
The Etiquette of Mourning

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: When Ibrahim, the son of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) died, tears filled the eyes of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.), whereupon he said, "The eyes are tearful and the heart is anguished…"

(Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.: 22,Pg.: 157.)

Hadith No. 18
Tearful Eyes

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: He in whose presence we (and our miseries) are mentioned and, as a result, his eyes pour out tears, Allah shall make his face forbidden upon the fire of hell.

(Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.: 44, Pg., 285.)

Hadith No. 19
Hussaini Gatherings

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said to Fudhail: Do you sit together, talk and discuss amongst yourselves? Fudhail replied: Yes. The Imam then said: I approve of these sittings. So keep our 'issue' (Imamate) alive. May Allah exhibit mercy on those who revive our issue and mission!

(Wasail al-Shia'h, vol.:10, Pg.: 392)

Hadith No. 20
Invaluable Tears

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said (to Masma', one of those who mourned over Imam Husain (A.S.)): May Allah have mercy upon your tears! Do know that you are regarded as being of those who are deeply concerned about us and of those who are happy at our happiness and aggrieved at our sorrow. Do know that you shall witness the presence of my fathers near you at the time of your death.

(Wasail al-Shia'h, Vol.: 10, Pg.:397)

Hadith No. 21
Scalded Hearts

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) (while sitting on the prayer mat prayed for the mourners and those going for the ziyarat of the Ahlul Bayt (A.S.) as follows): O' Lord, have mercy upon those eyes, which have shed tears in compassion for us; and upon those hearts, which have been restless and blistered for us; and upon those wailings, which have been for us.

(Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.:98, Pg.:8.)

Hadith No. 22

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: He whose eyes shed tears for our blood which has been shed, or for our rights which have been usurped, or for the humiliation meted out to us or to one of our Shiites, Allah shall accomodate him in paradise for a long time.

(Amali al-Shaikh al-Mufid, Pg.: 175.)

Hadith No. 23
Weeping of the Sky

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: O' Zurarah! The sky had cried for forty days over (the martyrdom of) Husain (A.S.).

(Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 1, pg. 391)

Hadith No. 24
The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) and Weeping over the Martyrs

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: After the news of the martyrdom of Ja'far Ibn Abi Talib (A.S.) and Zaid Ibn Harithah reached the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.), whenever he entered his house, he would weep profusely for them and say:'' They used to converse with me and were intimate with me and (now) both of them have departed together''.

(Man La Yahdhuruhu al-Faqih, Vol.: 1, pg.: 177.)

Hadith No. 25
Sympathy for Ahlubayt (A.S.)

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: The breath of one who is aggrieved upon the injustice and oppression subjected to us, is tasbeeh (glorification of Allah)… The Imam (A.S.) then added: This tradition ought to be written in gold.

(Amali al-Shaikh al-Mufid, pg.: 338.)

Hadith No. 26
Mourning Angels

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: Allah has appionted to the grave of Imam Husain (A.S.), four thousand anguished and grief-stricken angels, who weep over him (and shall continue to do so) up to the Day of Judgment.

(Kamil al-Ziyaraat, pg.: 119.)

Hadith No. 27
Weeping over Husain (A.S.)

Imam Reza (A.S.) said (to Reyyan Ibn Shabib): O' Son of Shabib! If you have to cry over something, then do so over Husain Ibn 'Ali (A.S.) for surely, he was slaughtered in the manner in which a ram is slaughtered.

(Bhar al-Anwar/ Vol.: 44/ pg.: 286.)

Hadith No.28
Gatherings in Remembrance of the Imams

Imam Reza (A.S.) said: He who sits in a gathering in which our affairs (and our path and aims) are discussed and revived, his heart shall not die on the day (Day of Judgment) when hearts shall die (of fear).

(Bihar al-Anwar Vol.: 44, pg.:278)

Hadith No. 29
Benefits of Weeping over Husain (A.S.)

Imam Reza (A.S.) said: Those who weep should weep over the likes of Husain (A.S.) for surely, weeping over him does away with one's great sins.

(Bihar al-Anwar, Vol.: 44/ pg.: 284.)

Hadith No. 30
Forgiveness of Sins

Imam Reza (A.S.) said: O' Son of Shabib! Should you weep for Husain (A.S.) in the measure that tears roll down your cheeks, Allah would forgive all the sins committed by you, whether they be the great sins or the small sins and whether they be meagre or immense.

(Amaali al-Saduq, pg.:112.)

Hadith No. 31
Intimacy with the Progeny

Imam Reza (A.S.) said (to Ibn Shabib): O' Son of Shabib! If it makes you happy (and you desire) to be with us in the elevated ranks of paradise, then be sad in our grief and happy at our happiness.

(Wasaail al-Shia'h, Vol. 14, pg. 502)

Hadith No. 32
Day of Ashura

Imam Reza (A.S.) said: One who refrains from seeking his (worldly) desires on the day of Ashura, Allah shall grant him his desires of this world and the hereafter.

(Wasail al-Shia'h, vol. 14,pg.504.)

Hadith No. 33
Pilgrim of Husain (A.S.)

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: The zaair (pilgrim) of Imam Husain (A.S.) turns back (from his pilgrimage) such that not a single sin remains upon him.

(Wasail al-shia'h, vol. 14,pg. 422.)

Hadith No. 34
Husain (A.S.) Seeks Forgiveness for his Pilgrims

(Regarding someone who goes for pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Husain (A.S.), Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: One who weeps for Imam Husain (A.S.), surely, the Imam (A.S.) observes him and seeks forgiveness for him and requests his holy fathers to (also) seek forgiveness for him.

(Bihar al-Anwar vol. 44,pg. 281)

Hadith No. 35
Intercession on the Day of Judgment

The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said (to Hadrat Fatimah (A.S.)): On the Day of Judgment, you shall intercede for the ladies and I shall intercede for the men; every person who has wept over the tragedy of Husain (A.S.), we shall take him by the hand and lead him into Paradise.

(Bihar al-Anwar vol. 44,pg. 292.)

Hadith No.36
Imam Sadiq (A.S.) on Day of Ashura

A'bdullah Ibn Sinaan says: I arrived in the presence of my master, Imam Sadiq (A.S.) on the day of Ashura and found him pale and grief-stricken, with tears streaming from his eyes like falling pearls.

(Musadrak al-wasail,vol.6, pg. 279.)

Hadith No.37
Neither Angels nor Prophets

The Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) said: (On the Day of Judgment, a group would be seen in the most excellent and honourable of states. They would be asked if they were of the Angels or of the Prophets. In reply they would state): "We are neither Angels nor Prophets but of the indigent ones from the ummah of Muhammad (S.A.W.)". They would then be asked: "How then did you achieve this lofty and honourable status?" They would reply: "We did not perform very many good deeds nor did we pass all the days in a state of fasting or all the nights in a state of worship but yes, we used to offer our (daily) prayers (regularly) and whenever we used to hear the mention of Muhammad (S.A.W.), tears would roll down our cheeks".

(Mustadrak al-Wasail, vol. 10, pg. 318.)

Hadith No. 38
Visiting the Shrine of Imam Husain (A.S.)

Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: He (Imam Husain) sees those, who come to his shrine and he knows them by their names, their father's names and their ranks in the eyes of Allah, The Glorious, better than you know your own children!

(Wasaail al-Shia'h, vol. 14, pg. 422.)

Hadith No. 39
Isa (Jesus) (A.S.) weeps

Imam A'li (A.S.) said to Ibn A'bbas: (Once when he happened to pass by Karbala), Isa Jesus (A.S.) sat down and began to weep. His disciples who were observing him, followed suit and began weeping too, but not comprehending the reason for this behaviour, they asked him: "O' Spirit of God! What is it that makes you weep?" Isa Jesus (A.S.) said: "Do you know what land this is?" The disciples replied: "No." He then said: "This is the land on which the son of the Prophet Ahmad (S.A.W.) shall be killed.

(Bihar al-Anwar vol. 44,g. 252.)

Hadith No. 40
All Creatures Weep over Imam Husain (A.S.)

Abu Baseer narrates that Imam Baqir (A.S.) said: The humans, the jinn, the birds and the wild beasts (all) mourned and wept over (the tragedy which befell) Husain Ibn A'li (A.S.)
(Kaamil al-Ziyaraat, Pg. 79.)

Just how Important is Azadari any way?

Azadari is the jugular vein of Islam, it is the embodiment of the shared pain of all those who fight against injustice and campaign for justice, equality and dignity for humanity. Azadari, is a pure, physically and spiritually nurtured form of supreme worship, through tears comes joy, success, prosperity and spiritual elevation. Through sorrow comes peace, the ability to introspect and to attain pure perfection. Azadari is a kind of detox, particularly during muherram, it is a chance to meditate, to act and cry out all of the negative and once again, to return back to our fitra, to those defining elements that categorise us as ‘Hussaini, as Muslims, as human beings. Azadari is release from captivity, through tears comes release from the lower self, and the shackles of materialism, the poverty and injustice of our own minds, bodies and deeds. Through Azadari we open the doors of repentance in order that we may begin a fresh, renewed and rejuvenated to face the challenges that lay in wait for us.

Azadari, is the most talked about, the most debated, and in some respects, the most controversial form of Islamic worship. Little known by the wider world, Azadari is singled out by extreme groups of Suni Muslims (mainly wahabis), as being ‘biddat (blind following). At worst, they say azadari is stupid, innovation, and worse still, an act of kufr (one who disbelieves).
When I first became shia, I juggled the stereotypes I had been indoctrinated to believe regarding Azadari. I was told by my shia brothers and sisters, that Azadari mattered, but was optional; that I shouldn’t be pressured in to performing it if I did not wish to. They were also quick to point out that Azadari with the use of Zanjeer (chains and blades) was strictly forbidden and that the majority of the mujtahids ( Supreme law makers/religious scholars had publicly declared this impermissible).
Noting their warnings, I went to the majliss for the first time with a very open mind, I did not weep loudly or shed tears (not because I wasn’t moved, but because I’ve never been the type to cry in public!), but, when the time came to perform Azadari (matam), I was the first on my feet! Standing in a powerful congregation with men and women, all united by the same pain, the grief of Imam Hussain (A.S), his family and companions martyred at Karbala, seemed to shake my very insides. It made me sad, brought tears to sting my eyes and made goosebumps appear all over my skin shaking me to my core. It was more than that though; it stirred a passion like molten lava which stirred my heart in a way I’d never been moved before. I began to see the full enormity of the responsibilities I had taken on as a self proclaimed follower of the ahlulbayte (A.S). My mission, was not to come to majliss each week, shed tears, do matam, pray, munch niaz and sleep! Rather it was to hold fast to the passion I had just ignited. To use the flames of that new fire in my soul to propel me forward, to continue the equality work I was doing, to work on turning each and every action of mine (Big or small), in to a statement against injustice, and an invitation for humanity towards good. The majliss and azadari I would attend/perform each week, was much more than a ritualistic outing to a religious building, or my way of guaranteeing myself an Insurance policy to heaven, rather it was a light, a flame; a vehicle to keep the fire burning inside me, and to heighten my struggle, my patience, my ability to sacrifice, to tolerate, to educate and above all, to strive in the way of my creator, enjoin good, and forbid evil. One of Islam’s universal teachings and founding principals is unity, not just in a communal/social sense, but rather that the unity in question should begin with the individual; when there is unity in word, thought and deed, then there is true harmony, contentment and empowerment. For me, these 3 elements came together in the form of Azadari. Each week, the tears I began to shed (even in public!), and the azadari I offered to my Imam (A.S) took me higher and higher, becoming a more powerful force of air beneath my new found wings. I saw for the first time, that the real “jihad” (literally translated as struggle), was about striving for the truth, striving in the way of my lord and his blessed ahlulbayte (A.S), rather than converting people by fear and blowing up underground trains!

As my first muherram drew near, I began to see other forms of Azadari being performed around me. The Iranian community read long, slow, sorrowful eulogies to Imam Hussain (A.S), accompanied by equally slow, rhythmical matam, which, even if you do not understand linguistically, will bring you to tears because of the heart’s blood that the reciter seems to shed while reading it. The Iraqi community read loud, fast energetic ‘latmiet accompanied by matam faster than the fastest heartbeat, their cries of “ya Hussain” could be heard 2/3 streets away from our centre. Their recitations would make me tremble, and it was common to see the women in particular beating the face or the upper part of the head while reciting. This kind of face/head beating is documented in the bible; in particular, when Sara learnt that she was to become a mother to Prophet Abraham’s child. It is an expression of grief, but also a method of releasing pent up anger, pain and frustration. It is sometimes also performed by one person on another as a means of affirming an unacceptable reality (documented in ancient medical texts on treatment of those with depression/shock).
On the nights of the 7th, 8th, and 9th Muherram, tazias were also prepared, decorated and placed in the azadari congregation. Tazias are real sized models, effigies honouring and commemorating the martyrs of Karbala. The first Tazia to enter is a coffin like table, with large misshaped objects upon it, covered with cloth and streaked with red die. This tazia honours the martyrdom of Qasim (the son of Imam Hasan (A.S), and nephew of Imam Hussain (A.S).
Qasim was an orphan at the time of Karbala, and when he was eventually granted permission to fight in the battle by his uncle, his body was mutilated so brutally by the evil army of Yazeed, that his body parts littered the battlefield, and had to be gathered together in a cloth bundle for burial (as seen in the Tazia).
The second Tazia to be brought is an unrevealed figure which appears to be headless. This is the tazia of Ali Akbar, the young, hansom and most intelligent son of our Imam (A.S). It is said, that Ali Akbar most resembled the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) himself by his voice, his words and his actions. At the time of his martyrdom, he was beheaded and carelessly massacred by the cursed army. The next tazia is the alam of Abbas, perhaps the most prominent cymbal of shias across the world. The standard of Abbas is integrally linked with hope, justice, safety, protection and immense bravery in the face of the most extreme oppression. Abbas did not fight on the battlefields of Karbala, but his exquisitely soft heart could not bare the piercing arrow like cries of the children, begging for water. He set out to collect water from the Euphrates for the children of the camp, only to be ambushed on the way back by the enemy, they in turn severed each of his arms, till he struggled on horseback with the water container lodged between his teeth, his only motivation to bring water back to the parched and weak children. The next poisoned arrow was to strike the water container, sending the water spilling down on to the hot desert sands. As Abbas surrenders all hope of reaching the camp, he falls from his horse, taking the standard with him. The final, and by far the most heart rendering of them all, is the empty cradle of Ali Asger, the 6-month-old son of Hussain (A.S). The Imam brought his son and placed him on the burning sands of Karbala, requesting the army to do what they had to with the Imam, but to at least show their decency by granting some water to the dying child. In the worst act of cruelty, they shot the innocent, dehydrated child in the neck with a three-pointed arrow, the kind used to hunt and kill wild animals.

These tazias are taken out on the 10th of Muherram, along with a decorated horse (to represent Hussain’s brave steed), and a decorated coffin, an effigy displaying Hussain on his steed. These are paraded through the streets, accompanied by men performing Azadari, with valed women following behind them. The 10th of Muherram is a tragic day for the Muslims, but it is a chance to demonstrate to the world, the power that can be generated through unity and standing for the truth, rather than simply blowing aimlessly in the winds of unsatisfied desires.

Even if Azadari, as an ideology is new to you, the above will doubtless have moved your heart and the principals behind this act are perhaps already leading you to draw parallels with the outpouring of grief Catholics show at Easter, how the Spanish faithful re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus by nailing a young man to the cross. You might instead be thinking of the Muslim festival of eid, and how Muslims of all denominations sacrifice a sheep in honour of the great sacrifice of Prophet Abraham. Or maybe the Jewish festival of atonement is what rings in your head, as Jews morn their exit from their lands. Shias weep for the passing of muherram too, just as much as the sorrow it brings, but the recharging it gives us serves us through-out the year, and, if we observe our fard acts; prayer, fasting in Ramadhan, and observing the important anniversaries of the Ahlulbayte (A.S), we maintain the spiritual energy we need to sustain us (just as we eat to strengthen the body, worship is food for the soul).

Long as the above may have appeared, I felt it appropriate to outline just what/how azadari is implemented, its purpose and the benefits gained thus. Its expected that a non-shia or a non-Muslim may not be acquainted with the ins and outs of azadari, but, you can imagine my shock when I read a shia, and a sayed at that! (sayed being, those people directly descended from our holly prophet and his family), condemning azadari. His point was that, the money we invest in niaz (food given to the poor or shared among the faithful in honour of the imams and their generosity), the decorating of the tazias and the blessings we believe we gain from them, are all elaborate falsehoods, diseases which he felt required “eradication.” His justification for this statement, stems from a concept I wrote about at the beginning of this blog entry “biddat” or blind following. Biddat, literally translated, means innovation, and, in the case of Azadari, wahabis, (and apparently some shia!) protest against it, saying it is not something which was practised by our Prophet (PBUH) or his family (AS).

To examine this statement, we must first understand what biddat actually manifests as in practise, and in terms of how we use it as a yard stick towards adopting/discarding elements from our religion. The qur’an states that, the ‘deen’ (faith or lifestyle of Islam), should not be adulterated, the deen is complete, and that the deen should not be altered. Meaning therefore, that what the qur’an and the lifestyle of our Prophet (PBUH) and his family (A.S) is complete, and that we should live according to the boundaries they set, the lessons they taught and the practises they followed. Now! The issue comes when you measure this against the backdrop of modern capitalist civilisations, and how new Muslims practise their faith within them. If one studies Islamic history, we see that people got around on camels, they slept on the floor, did not have running water, they would grind corn with a hand grinder and often died of minor ailments which could easily be treated and made extinct from the environment around us. Does this then mean that we should give up our homes, insulation and scientific progression, for fear of breaking rules regarding biddat? (we have seen the consequence of this in regimes such as Afghanistan and Somalia). In modern day Islamic societies, we have mujtahids, (supreme law makers and scholars) who, by deducing laws from qur’an and hadaith can determine the most appropriate course of action, and, while some of them have condemned unnecessary expense during muherram commemorations, or Zanjeer zaani; not one has described azadari its self as being biddat!
Saeeda Zeynab (A.S) was the first to begin reciting majliss and observance of Azadari amongst women following her release from Shaam and return to Madeena. While there is not any evidence of her taking out tazia processions, the principals of Azadari are reflected in our practises today. The qur’an demands that we honour its teachings, that we give due rights to creation, and that we reflect its principals in all that we do. The hadaith of the Imams that followed Imam Hussain (A.S) all point towards the importance of honouring the martyrs of Karbala and performing Azadari. While the exact origins of Tazia processions is not known, my research has taught me that, for the most part, they were used in India as a means to educate the illiterate regarding the tragedy of karbala. This might have been narrated by the Muslims themselves, or possibly the first accounts would have come from the Hussaini Brahman (a little known cast of Hindus who honour Hussain in Muherram, take out tazias and tell proudly of how their forefathers were companions of the ahlulbayte at Karbala) (a statement which shows that, tawheed too as a concept, which underpins Azadari and all that came before it, is indeed a much wider concept than the extremists of today would like to admit!).

As a visually impaired person, I draw great comfort, closeness and bonding with the pain of Karbala through the tazias we take out. They draw looks of curiosity, sadness, sympathy or ridicule from those who pass by us, but their every look/comment (hostile or other wise) is a beautiful gift for us to enter in to dialogue regarding what/why we believe the things we do.
Many of those who cry biddat are often unacquainted with the false and fabricated hadaith their scholars make money out of propagating even today, and so I press them for Allah’s sake, (not to convert!), but to study, reflect, affirm and open their eyes for their own selves! And, to our shia brethren, perhaps it is time we looked within; we might cry biddat in order to justify our inaction, but if there is something lacking in our Azadari, it perhaps stems from the fact that we’ve forgotten the principals outlined in the above, and, like all the blind followers around us, we see muherram as a 10-day wonder, we come, we listen to majliss, we cry, do matam, and leave! (job done; for another year!). Biddat might seem like a justification for trying to insure our faith is not corrupted (your interpretation of ‘deen, might be different from mine, yet we may both be correct in different contexts!). That said, the principals of justice, equality and dignity, the values Karbala teaches, and which Azadari implements are for all people, forever and for all time. So, the next time you are about to cry Biddat as a tazia walks past, first close your eyes, let them wonder over the pieces of Qasim’s body, let them be coated in the red colouring, and let your nostrils absorbed the heavenly scent of oils and incense, symbolising the masoomiet (innocence) of those pure souls who were martyred, listen to the weeping, the Azadari around you, feel the salt tears stain your skin as they leek from beneath closed lashes, taste the salt and remember the blood that soaked the sands of Karbala, the blood that was shed for you. Open your eyes; you are still here, the tazia is still there and the jaloos is moving forward, only, you have changed, for a few minutes, the power of your senses; touch, smell, hearing and insight, transported you to the battlefield of Karbala, you said salaam to your Imam and his family (A.S) and returned, all through the channel of a simple tazia, something so infinitesimally insignificant, a material option, worth nothing, yet more valuable than all of creation.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

hot air draining me out!!

Have been particularly drained out over the last few days; sleeping way too much and raging headaches! I got in from work today and crashed the moment I entered, not waking till around 10 PM!!! What’s up with that! I should be preparing for ziyarat, but it feels like such a long way off as work is so frantic and my entire being is so heavy; I pray it is not the nazr I fear, and is just exhaustion, nothing else!
It kind of started on Tuesday, after I had arranged to meet with a few Muslim groups, to see if we could get some disability Equality training set up within mosques and other community settings. The model we are proposing, if we do manage to pool it off, will be hugely successful Insha Allah; we want to take it to a range of faith institutions, and hope that in the longer term, it really will work some way towards changing attitudes!
I first began to flap when certain attendees were floating lame excuses for not turning up, organising the meeting was a battle in its self! Then, hours before the meeting, our friends from SIF decided they wouldn’t be putting in an appearance after all!! The SIF thing upset me allot not just because they couldn’t be bothered to attend, but because I feel I’ve already invested so much of myself and my beliefs in this board, if it turns out to be just as the conspirators say (or worse!) it will drain me in ways I really don’t want to think about just now.
Any way, in the end, I did manage to get a few of them in a room; we came up with a plan as such (and I think I did remain relatively diplomatic through-out!). Only time will tell if they do actually carry out what they have promised to, but even during the meeting, it was very apparent that each has his agenda; politics, positions within mosque committees, community prestige (what is even more hilarious is, the images they have of themselves are so dramatically different to those the community have of them!), in short, the agenda shines through and few are keen on backing them up! But before we could sign up mosques or fix dates, they had to debate among themselves who would present in the labour backed mosques and who would deal with the more SNP friendly ones! What crap!! As a Scottish Nationalist myself, (and a proud one at that!), I have absolutely no issue with any one’s political affiliations, whether I agree with them or not! However, I fail to see why/how they should cloud one’s ability to get a piece of work done! A piece of work, which transcends politics, cast, creed or community, and is about justice, dignity and equality, principals of humanity and basic human rights underpinning all religions, and possibly political parties (excluding the BNP and the conservatives!).
Some one once pointed out, that the biggest enemies of Islam are the Muslims themselves, and I’m so inclined to agree with that! How do I explain this lethargy to my non-Muslim peers in the disability movement, why do I perpetually turn up at mosque thinking the best of my leaders and my community, who fail to get the point no matter how many times I make it. Insha Allah, agendas and all we will get these sessions done, but my tired, euphemistic tendencies tell me they will have very little impact in the longer term, and that’s what breaks my heart most of all! As an activist, I was not born to give up, but I wonder just how much even the strongest activists take before they burn out completely!

Monday, 13 July 2009

beautiful reminder about fajar prayers

As you all know, I’m really not in to forwarded Emails! I’ve seen this one before, but at this time of the night, and after the wahabi experience, it really touched my heart! Read, reflect and remind others; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today, and never under estimate the power of ‘try, try again! For truly we do not know how much reward Allah (SWT) places on our every effort to try and make things better as we strive for perfection. When I remember back to the early days before I became Muslim, it was ultimately the call to fajar prayer that moved my heart; the sound, the indescribable beauty of the adhan, and the familiarity contained within it; I had found my origins, I knew where I came from, and where I was going, and the feeling gave me a purpose, a direction and unity of thought, word and deed I’d never known before. Yet, how many of us let fajar slip by? How often do we sleep through one night prayer and one fajar, promising to try tomorrow and simply brushing off our laziness, justifying it with work and other commitments, vowing to pray it later, and try harder next time, but do we really mean it? May Allah (SWT) grant us all the strength to perform those acts that are required of us, but which also bring us closer to our creator Insha Allah.

Wake up for Fajr Salaah A man woke up early in order to Pray the Fajr Prayer in the masjid. He got dressed, made his ablution and was on his way to the
masjid. On his way to the masjid, the man fell and his clothes got dirty.

He got up, brushed himself off, and headed home. At home, He changed His Clothes, made his ablution, and was, again, on his way to the masjid.

On his way to the masjid, He Fell again and at the Same Spot!

He, again, got up, brushed himself off and headed home.

At home he, once again, Changed His Clothes,

made his ablution and was on his way to the masjid.

On his way to the masjid, He Met a Man Holding a Lamp.

He asked the man of his identity and the man replied 'I Saw You Fall Twice

on your way to the masjid,

So I Brought a Lamp so I can Light Your Way.'

The first man thanked him profusively and the

two where on their way to the masjid.

Once at the masjid, the first man asked the man with

the lamp to come in and pray Fajr with him.

The second man refused.

The first man asked him a couple more times and,

again, the answer was the same.

The first man asked him why he did not wish to come in and pray.

He man replied

I am Shetaan(devil/ evil)

The man was shocked at this reply.

Shetan went on to explain,

'I saw you on your way to the masjid

and it was I who made you fall. When you went home,

cleaned yourself and went back on your way to the masjid,

Allah forgave all of your sins.

I made you fall a second time, and even that

did not encourage you to stay home,

but rather, you went back on your way to the masjid.

Because of that, Allah forgave all the sins

of the people of your household .

I was AFRAID if i made you fall one more time,

then Allah will forgive the sins of the people of your village,

so I made sure that you reached the masjid safely..'

So do not let Shetan benefit from his actions.

Do not put off a good that you intended to do as

you never know how much reward

you might receive from the hardships you encounter

while trying to achieve that good.

If forwarding this message will bother you, or take

too much time from you, then don't do it, but you will not

get the reward of it.

May Allah (Subhana Ho Wataallah) grant us perfect Muslim Heart n we

all do Prayers with our Heart and Soul...

.............. ......... ......Ameen

on wahabi issues

I found myself chatting to some one online this evening (as you do!), who initially appeared pretty polite, generous and innocent! Not shia, but what the hell does that matter? (ah haa!! Queue the world of wahabis!!).

I hate to go on and on about them, but the fact is that this is a poisonous ideology which Muslims of all communities need to be aware of, as this is what is tearing us apart, this is where terrorism comes from, and these are the very people that are holding us back!! (yazeediet lives on!!).

I had initially spoken to this brother on Sunday, but had to rush off on account of guests visiting my home, so I came online today primarily to apologise to him and see how he was doing. I explained that I was going to ziyarat, and was very busy in preparations, meeting friends before my departure etc. He didn’t seem to know what ziyarat was, so I explained that, and said I was going to Karbala; which quickly prompted a discussion of shia and suni! The brother began by telling me that he doesn’t believe in sects (my sentiments exactly or so I thought!).
He then proceeded to send me one of the most inflammatory links I’ve ever seen! Talking about how the shia are all kafrs, that we worship Ali (A.S) (may Allah forgive him!). I did my best to keep my cool with him (not easy in such circumstances), but tried to diplomatically point out that such inflammatory views are not at all helpful in terms of trying to promote unity and harmony in our communities. After all, we are all Muslims, and a culture of understanding is what we should be aiming for at all times. I sent him some references which I keep to hand for such people, (it should be noted, that the references in his link were all produced by Pakistanis who appeared to spend their time writing against shia, rather than authentic qur’an and hadaith books!). He refused to read through the file I sent him, and insisted there were references I needed to see (ain’t seen them yet!). His “logic” for what he believed was thus:
“Shia call on Ali and Hussain allot, I prefer to follow Allah and the Prophet, rather than their kids!”.

Right!! This makes perfect sense!! After all, our beloved Prophet (PBUH), only built his sunnah and his ahlulbayte in order that they guide us to the truth, that they ease our path towards Allah (SWT) and elevate our spiritual journey! Most Muslims are united behind these views, wahabis do make up a small minority (for now!), but why, you might ask, did this upset me so much? After all, for us Shia, such things are common place; the insults, the sectarian inspired rhetoric, the degradation and vile propaganda they spread (especially in muherram), I’ve heard it all and know of friends who have witnessed worse! So why was I so sensitive to it this time? I felt my anger boil inside as I responded to him, I found it hard to keep my cool, and even as I compose this blog entry as an attempt to get it out of my system, it still burns and kills me inside! But why? What in the world drove me to get so heated and act so harshly?

Well, I guess over the past few weeks and months, you could say I’ve been pretty protected from these things. We held a conference marking the birth of Saeeda Fatimah Zahra (A.S) in the house of Lords which went wonderfully well, with participation from all faith communities, (never mind just different branches of Islam!), we then had a subsequent seminar marking the birth of Imam Ali (A.S) which was lead by the suni rather than the shia!! Here in Glasgow, we had a similar event attended by all communities last Monday, and on Friday, as you all know, I was made a director of the Scottish Islamic foundation (the first shia to do so!). Cloistered in my own little world! I’ve been cushioned from the cruel realities of wahabi venom which, whether we choose to admit it or not, is on the rise, and is damaging to all Muslims; regardless of which school of thought they belong to. What they forget is, for reverts like myself who have to battle with non-Muslim relatives on a daily basis, who do not have the knowledge or wisdom to differentiate between a shia or a fundamentalist, such daily spats become hell for us! The backward ways of the wahabi leave us struggling to justify our existence to non-Muslim parents, and in moments of solitude, mourn the connections that are being severed in our lives because of the media, not because of the faith its self!
This so-called Muslims words did make me cry, and perhaps they are even more poignant as I prepare for ziyarat, to stand on that blessed and sacred land where truth and falsehood were finally made clear for all of Humanity and all of time. Perhaps it is a lesson for me, part of the preparation, a test of patience (which I dearly wish I possessed!). Ultimately, I reiterated to the brother that I personally, have no issue at all with whatever any one chooses to believe, but at the very least, if we live and breath the air of this country we should be able to love, respect and tolerate one another, for Allah’s sake, after all, isn’t that what we claim to believe as Muslims?

Finally, just in case you have any wahabis of your own to challenge, I am pasting this article below. We wrote this article for RMA, as an attempt to put some of the most popular and the most inflammatory filth spread about the shia to rest! Insha Allah, you will find it useful.

Surely We have revealed the Reminder (Qur'an) and

We most surely are its Guardian.

(Qur'an: Chapter 15, Verse 9)

Do the Shi'ah Believe in

a Different Qur'an?

The Shi'ah are frequently accused of belief in Tahrif in Qur'an which means believing that the Qur'an has been tampered with and is not the same as the
one revealed to the Prophet (s).

THIS IS not true !!!

All great Twelver Shi'ah scholars from the earliest period to the present century have believed in the complete preservation of the Qur'an. Some famous
early Shi'ah scholars who have clearly stated this belief in their books include:

q Shaykh al-Saduq (d. 381 AH), Kitabu'l-Itiqadat, (Tehran, 1370) p. 63.

q Shaykh al-Mufid (d. 413 AH), Awa'ilu l-Maqalat, pp. 55-6;

q Sharif al-Murtada (d. 436 AH), Bahru 'l-Fawa'id (Tehran, 1314) p. 69;

q Shaykh at-Tusi (d. 460 AH), Tafsir at-Tibyan, (Najaf, 1376), vol 1 p. 3;

q Shaykh at-Tabrasi (d. 548), Majma'u 'l-Bayan, (Lebanon), vol. 1 p. 15.

Some of the later scholars who spelt out the same views include:

q Muhammad Muhsin al-Fayd al-Kashani (d. 1019 AH), Al-Wafi, vol. 1 pp. 273-4, and al-'Asfa fi Tafsir al-Qur'an, p. 348;

q Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (d. 1111 AH), Bihar al-'Anwar, vol. 89 p. 75

This belief has continued uninterrupted up to the present time. Shi'ah scholars of this century who have reiterated the belief that the Qur'an is completely
protected and unchanged include such famous names as Sayyid Muhsin al-Amin al-'Amili (d. 1371 AH); Sayyid Sharaf al-Din al-Musawi (d. 1377 AH.); Shaykh
Muhammad Husayn Kashif al-Ghita' (d. 1373 AH); Sayyid Muhsin al-Hakim (d. 1390 AH); 'Allamah al-Tabataba'i (d. 1402 AH); Sayyid Ruhullah al-Khumayni (d.
1409 AH); Sayyid Abu al-Qasim al-Khu'i (d. 1413 AH) and Sayyid Muhammad Rida al-Gulpaygani (d. 1414 AH).

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list.

Q: But what about the Shi'ah before these scholars, didn't they all believe in tahrif?

Not at all! Consider the example of 'Ubaydullah b. Musa al-'Absi (120-213 AH), a devoted Shi'ah scholar whose narrations from the Imams can be found in
the famous Shi'ah hadith collections such as al-Tahdhib and al-Istibsar. Now let's see what some Sunni scholars have to say about him:

q "... a pious person, one of the important Shi'ah scholars ... he was considered reliable by Yahya b. Ma'in, Abu Hatim said he was reliable, trustworthy
... al-'Ijli said that he was an authority on the Qur'an..."

[Al-Dhahabi, Tadhkirat al-Huffaz (Haydarabad, 1333 AH), vol. 1 p. 322]

q "... he was an imam in fiqh and hadith and Qur'an characterized by piety and righteousness, but he was one of the chiefs of the Shi'ah."

[Ibn al-'Imad al-Hanbali, Shadharat al-Dhahab (Cairo, 1350 AH), vol. 2 p. 29]

None of these Sunni scholars would have praised him for his knowledge of the Qur'an if they thought he believed in a different Qur'an!!!

And 'Ubaydullah was considered so trustworthy, despite being a Shi'ah, that the famous Sunni traditionists al-Bukhari and Muslim as well as many others
narrated scores of traditions from him in their hadith collections!

[The Creed of the Imaam of Hadeeth al-Bukhari (Salafi Publications, UK, 1997), pp. 87-89]

Q: Don't the Shi'ah believe in Mushaf Fatimah which is three times the size of the Qur'an?

The Qur'an is a Mushaf (book), but any book is not necessarily the Qur'an! There is no Qur'an of Fatimah! Mushaf Fatimah was a book written or dictated
by Fatimah (a) after the Prophet's (s) death. It is not a part of Qur'an and has nothing to do with Allah's commandments or legal rulings.

Q: But are there not traditions in Shi'ah collections that mention verses of the Qur'an containing extra words than what we have today?

There are some instances where extra words are indicated only by way of explanation, they do not imply that the original Qur'anic text is being distorted.
This happens in both Shi'ah and Sunni sources. Consider the following two examples, both from famous Sunni commentaries of the Qur'an:

q "Ubayy b. Ka'b used to read '… then as to those whom you profit by for an appointed period give them their dowries as appointed…' (Qur'an Chapter
4, Verse 24) and this was also the recitation of Ibn 'Abbas."

[Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb (Beirut, 1981), vol. 9 p. 53]

[Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim (Beirut, 1987), vol. 2 p. 244]

A footnote in Ibn Kathir's Tafsir explains that the additional words indicated above, which are not part of the Qur'an, were recited by these Companions
of the Prophet (s) only by way of tafsir and explanation.

q "Ibn Mas'ud said: In the days of the Prophet (s) we used to recite, 'O our Messenger (Muhammad) deliver what has been sent down to you from your
Lord that 'Ali is the master of the believers if you do not, then you have not delivered His message.' (Qur'an Chapter 5, Verse 67)

[Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Durr al-Manthur, vol. 2 p. 298]

In this case as well, the part in italics is certainly not part of the Qur'anic text, however the Companion Ibn Mas'ud used to recite it in this way to
explain the context of its revelation.

Q: But what about those traditions that say a number of revealed verses are no longer part of the Qur'an?

The Shi'ah do not believe in the immunity of any writer, commentator or narrator from mistakes, and, therefore, they do not take any collection of hadith
to be completely valid and correct. The only book which is completely immune from any mistake is the Qur'an. These traditions are mostly considered as
weak or interpreted as referring to non-Qur'anic revelation.

q It is interesting to point out that there are numerous traditions reported in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim which allege that many verses of
Qur'an are missing. [Al-Bukhari, Al-Sahih, vol. 8 p. 208; Muslim, Al-Sahih, vol. 3 p. 1317]

q Not only that, these Sunni reports allege that two chapters from the Qur'an are missing with one of them similar to the Chapter of al-Bara'ah (chapter
9) in length!!! [Muslim, Al-Sahih, Kitab al-Zakat, vol. 2 p. 726]

q Some Sunni traditions even claim that the Chapter al-Ahzab (chapter 33) was as lengthy as the Chapter of al-Baqarah (chapter 2)!!! The Chapter of
al-Baqarah is the biggest Chapter of the Qur'an. The traditions in Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim even detail some of the missing verses. [Al-Bukhari, Al-Sahih,
vol. 8 p. 208]

Yet, fortunately the Shi'ah never accuse the Sunni brothers and sisters of believing that the Quran is incomplete. We say that either these Sunni reports
are weak or fabricated.


"It is our belief that the Qur'an which Allah revealed to His Prophet Muhammad (s) is (the same as) the one between the two covers (daffatayn). And it
is that which is in the hands of the people, and is not greater in extent than that… And he who asserts that we say that it is greater in extent than this
(the present text) is a liar."

[As-Saduq, Kitabu'l-I`tiqadat (Tehran: 1370 AH) p. 63; English translation, The Shi'ite Creed, tr. A.A.A. Fyzee (Calcutta: 1942) p. 85]

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Saturday, 11 July 2009

an imperfect day

Today has been one of those non-descript days, the kind you can’t put in to one box or another! Last night, I slept straight after the SIF meeting (which wasn’t as bad as I expected), and woke up at fajr time! I prayed, and realised I was starving, so I cooked parathas and had them with some achaar (random I know, but I had some shaana specials in the freezer, and I was craving mirch at the time!). I then spent some time online, and didn’t sleep till around 7.30 AM!! Stayed in bed all day, and only properly surfaced just now. It wasn’t so much the exhaustion that made me crash as the pain in my head and behind my eyes! In general, I’ve kept fairly well over the past couple of weeks, but I tend to Over work so much that when I get a free window in my weekend my body tends to crash and all the stored up fatigue and illness comes spilling out! It scares me, as I don’t want this to hinder my ziyarat trip. I also feel that while the whole world, (well, at least the whole of the UK!) is down with swine flu, there is a chance that today’s episode might be alluding to that, but I am praying with all my heart it is not!
I am seriously craving pizza, and if I can’t get it out of my system, it shall have to be ordered by the time this post is completed! The worst thing that ever happened to me was pizza hut having an online order system! Somehow, ordering online makes you feel less gilty about said pizza munching, as you don’t actually have to hand over cash or interact much with the person bringing it to you, (well, that’s lightshade logic for ya!!).

Sif meeting! Wasn’t too bad all things considered! A few more women present than I expected, but only half of the new board turned out, which I thought odd considering that the bulk of last night’s proceedings concerned elections for office bearers!
I was almost elected vice chair by a young parliamentary researcher who impressed me greatly with both his wit and sharpened intellect at such a tender age! He is leaving the board in August and will, in my view, be a real loss to management (and to me!), as last night made it clear he is one of my few allies over there! Any way, they eventually opted on electing this guy’s wife, who has never been to Glasgow, and who knows little about the organisation, (the bazaar workings of the wahabi world!) (BTW I didn’t know there were so many in Nottingham?). Kher; credit where credit is due, there are certainly some impressive passionate members with good ideas, and SIF is without a doubt the most dedicated and realistic platform through which Scottish Muslims can be represented. One of the first challenges for the board will be to kick start a membership drive during ramadhan (like all voluntary organisations, and especially faith based ones, SIF has no money!!), without becoming the saleswoman, £2 per month for such representation is really not much to ask in my view! So get yourselves signed up! UK citizens or not! You can still donate!

Right! I’m still in pain and tired, and if I write more its set to be rubbish, so the tube light is switching off for tonight, and off to pizzaland!
Love and chillies!

Friday, 10 July 2009

a politicians poem

See below; this is absolutely wonderful!!!

Politician's Poem
I want a floating duck house
I want to clear my moat
I need to mend my tennis court
That's why I need your vote.
I have to build a portico
My swimming pool needs mending
My lovely plants need horse manure
And the Aga needs much tending.
A chandelier is vital
Mock Tudor boards are great
My hanging baskets won awards
And I've earned a tax rebate.
I need a glitter toilet seat.
My piano so needs tuning
Maltesers help me stay awake
And my orchard must need pruning.
I could have said the rules were wrong
And often thought I should,
But somehow it was easier
To profit all I could.
The public really have to see
That the rules are there to test
And by defrauding taxpayers
We just were doing our best.
The Speaker of the House has gone,
Our sacrificial beast,
But the public are still braying
For our corpses at the feast.
What do the public want from us,
Those vote-wielding ingrates?
They really should be grateful
To be financing our estates.
The message is so very clear,
(we're merely learning late)
That the British way of living well
Is to screw the  state.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

fans, frolics and ..., SIF

Time to celebrate!! My internet has finally been restored to me!! Mashallah!! All the thanks in the world to Bro Zafar, who wasted 2 hours of his day off here sorting it out, most of which was spent trying to get sense of the internet help desk in India! (not fun!). Not only is it back, but their generosity, (or pity!), meant that Zafar and Fizza returned to my place late in the evening with a wonderful stand-alone-fan, so the temperatures and the medications no longer keep me awake at night! The wonders of cooling devices!
That said, no matter how affective your UK made fan might be, nothing can compare to the wonderful sealing fans we had in Karachi! Maybe they do get filthy, and hurt like hell when they fall on your head! (this did happen one day when I took it upon myself to try and get the muck off the blades!), but the air circulation they can offer is incredible!
Right! Now I’ve got that out of my system, I’ll stop talking about fans! (…, Remember that millat fan add?).

My first SIF board meeting is tomorrow!! I know nothing more than its aim is to elect office bearers! Do I think I will be one of them? (probably not!). When I analyse the make-up of the board, its certainly allot more promising than I had originally anticipated in terms of diversity; we have women! (we really do!!), we have 2 reverts now (Including myself), and 1 disabled person (yours truly!). How that works out in practise re: the grand power balance; I think it’s a dead cert. to say that it will be safely in the hands of the men! I don’t know the 2 new females who are to join tomorrow, but those I do know are pretty passive, moreover, I thought there would have been some constitutional rule banning too many family members from holding office on the same board? (we got 3 at my last count!!). Part of me says I should not be cynical, especially not so early on, neither should I close my mind to the possibilities of transparency (maybe us Muslims will actually get there 1 day!), but past experience has shown me that when it comes to such things, its in their interest to have me there; I am a white revert, shia, and blind! (3 equality strands safely in the bag!!), (oh! And divorce might also count as an equality strand within Islamic thought!). While I might be more feisty than they hoped, will I really have the authority to make an impact in the long term? Keep in mind, I applied for a place; I was not asked to join!
In her blog, Lucky Fatima often refers to a concept she terms as “white privilege”, the idea being that white reverts receive a bazaar form of elevation within the Muslim community, simply by nature of the fact they are white, that they have found the path on their own, and that white somehow validates the faith. No one will have their kids marry them, and no one wants too much of a gora influence penetrating their family! But hey; inspirational they are! When you add disability to that you got “BBW Privilege!” (don’t be running away with something dodgy now will you!! BBW=BIG BLIND WHITE privilege!). No kidding! It does exist, and seriously stunts your ability to work out whether or not your contributions are genuinely valid. When you are constantly being told how wonderful it is that you are blind and can go to the toilet on your own, can live alone, can dress yourself and manage to get a spoon full of rice to your mouth without wearing it, you tend to find that actions such as sitting on management boards and campaigning for equality rather get lost in translation. I’ve recently been presenting some shows on Hidayat TV; some on issues facing new Muslims, and the rest on disability; (you know the kind of thing; “hey! We might be blind but we can do all that you can and maybe more!”). So many have come up to me in material shops, on the street and in the masjid, congratulating me on the programmes and telling me how nice they are; and, heart warming though that may seem, if I probe further and ask them which points they felt were best made, which ones I should emphasise on and which should be left out, they will quickly change the subject or find some one else to be talking to! I.e., “we didn’t hear what you said; we were too busy getting over the fact you are blind!”.
The folks who will serve on the board with me are acquaintances; quite a few of them have known of me, at arms length for a few years, but none are my friends, and I worry that my BBW Privilege, coupled with my being shia and my overall zany approach to life in general might make me a bit of a misfit! Heyho; all’s good in love and SIF!! Watch this space for more tomorrow, (which is Friday: woohooo!!), how long has this week been!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Reflections on the Shahadat of Saeeda Zeynab (A.S)

Saeeda Zeynab (A.S), we honor you on this your day. A day of sadness, morning and tragedy for Muslim women, but equally, a day where we proclaim the respect, beauty and dignity that your hijaab gave us. Zeynab was the female embodiment of her father’s supreme knowledge, intellect and justice. Moreover, she was an activist, who, contrary to the shy retiring Muslimas of today, was not afraid to speak out in the court of Yazeed (may he be cursed) regarding his atrocities and injustices. She was prepared to lay down her life for the protection and preservation of hijaab. No testament to her passion for hijaab is more potent then when she approaches her imam on the night of shaam-e-ghariba, asking whether she should stay in the tent and be burnt to death, or else walk out of the tent although she was without her head covering. It was the hijaab of Zeynab that moved my soul to tears, and finally taught me to take the illuminated footsteps she took in light of the vale. Hijaab is a barrier of light, through which a woman preserves her beauty, her modesty and respect in the eyes of others. Just as a purl remains hidden in its shell, just as precious jewels are polished and hidden away in safe and secret places, the charms of a woman are guarded and raised in the eyes of the world through her vale.
Here in the west, where it is taken for granted that a woman will display her ornaments to the world, that in fact, her value is measured by how much (or how little) she shows to the world, never before has there been a greater need for hijaab. This lack of understanding regarding the vale has reached many of our countries in the east too, and it is common place to see young girls in tight trousers with sleeveless tops and a short scarf covering the back of the hair. We make a mockery of religion, of the vale of Zeynab (A.S), yet we expect tolerance and understanding from others.
Since I took on hijaab 3 years ago, I’ve faced a whole barrage of insults, aggression, amazement, bullying and more often than not, indifference from those who see me valed. The only individuals in my life who have not embraced this change are, (you guessed it!), my parents! They are ashamed to be seen out with me clothed in hijaab, and feel that I am unreasonable for expecting them to do so!
It is tough to challenge one’s parents, it is harder still to see your family, your community and all that you held dear slipping further and further away from you, simply by nature of who you are! But unless as women we start to ware our hijaab with pride, unless we begin to celebrate the freedom, justice and liberation that hijaab gives us, we will be forever oppressed and degraded by the media, the state and the establishment. What is it that prevents us from taking those to task who spit at us in the street, who create childish online surveys filled with hatred attempting to ban the hijaab? After all, isn’t it common sense that feminists were done with the clothing debate years and years ago! If we’ve accepted that a woman’s skirt can’t be too short, then do we really want to return to an age of ignorance where we can’t be clear about how long a woman’s vale ought to be?
Sure the west has allot to answer for with regards to Muslim female empowerment and identity, but in order to reclaim rights, you must have first owned and practiced them in the first place, other wise, how do you know what you want, and how can you raise the bar for future generations of women to follow. If we look back at history, Saeeda Zeynab (A.S) gave us perfection through her hijaab, through her eloquence and the fearlessness with which she defended her family and her beloved martyred brother Hussain Ibn Ali (A.S). Zeynab’s march, from Koofa to Shaam, can easily be categorized as the most successful long march in history. She could have given up, refused to walk or succumbed to the hunger, thirst, extreme exhaustion, the heat and the woonds which troubled her, or the intolerable cruelty little Sakina faced at the brutal inhumane hands of Yazeed’s army (may Allah dam each and every one of them eternally). Never the less, Zeynab soldiered on, not just for herself and for her family, but for the whole of humanity. The moment she returned to Madeena, she did not lose herself in her own grief and pain, (which would have been perfectly justified!), rather she made it her business to establish the majliss and azadari traditions that we commemorate today. Our debt to Saeeda Zeynab (A.S) is great, and as human beings we can hardly begin to redress that balance. Do we remember her and her beloved brother only in Muherram? Do we act upon the supreme lessons behind their sacrifices for us, sharing that mercy with the rest of humanity? And, as women, do we represent Zeynab through our hijaab, our words, actions and deeds? At least if you do not ware hijaab, take some time on this day to try. Close your eyes and surround yourself with the soft folds of protection a hijaab affords you. Try to perceive the entire ahlulbayte surrounding you in the form of that vale, putting a protective arm around you to shield you from the pain of this world. Hijaab elevates a woman in order that her heart and soul can be seen; the outer body is valed, while the heart is unveiled; before the creator, before the beloved, and before creation. Hijaab is more than a piece of cloth one puts over her hair, it is what sets you apart from all other women in the world, the light that raises you higher and singles you out as followers of Saeeda Zeynab (A.S). On this night as we mark this great lady’s shahadat, do not just see this as a time to cry, make some promises in your own way to this noble Saeeda, take at least one of her footsteps and make that step your life’s mission to implement, that one trembling step could be the one that takes you home to your lord. Not only will your lord run towards you, but you too will run towards him, so that your life becomes a source of acceptable worship to your creator, and a comfort to others.
I leave you with the below article; a modern day shaheeda, in honor of her vale! May Allah (SWT) bless her and grant her piece. I request you all to recite sura Fatiha for her, and may we be guided to only become a little more like this fearless and exceptionally inspirational woman.

Egypt mourns 'headscarf martyr'

Demonstration in Cairo proclaiming Marwa Sherbini the Hijaab Martyr

Marwa Sherbini is being hailed as the shahida, or martyr, of the Hijaab

The body of a Muslim woman, killed in a German courtroom by a man convicted of insulting her religion, has been taken back to her native Egypt for burial.

Marwa Sherbini, 31, was stabbed 18 times by Axel W, who is now under arrest in Dresden for suspected murder.

Husband Elwi Okaz is also in a critical condition in hospital, after being injured as he tried to save his wife.

Ms Sherbini had sued her killer after he called her a "terrorist" because of her headscarf.

The case has attracted much attention in Egypt and the Muslim world.

German prosecutors have said the 28-year-old attacker, identified only as Axel W, was driven by a deep hatred of foreigners and Muslims.


Medics were unable to save Ms Sherbini who was three months pregnant with her second child. Her three-year-old son was with the family in court when she
was killed.

Axel W and Ms Sherbini and family were in court for his appeal against a fine of 750 euros ($1,050) for insulting her in 2008, apparently because she was
wearing the Muslim headscarf or Hijaab.

Newspapers in Egypt have expressed outrage at the case, asking how it was allowed to happen and dubbing Ms Sherbini "the martyr of the Hijaab".

Senior Egyptian officials and German diplomatic staff attended the funeral in Alexandria along with hundreds of mourners.

Media reports say Mr Okaz was injured both by the attacker and when a policeman opened fire in the courtroom.

Monday, 6 July 2009

13th Rajab

I tried (and failed!), to find a nice but rousing English poem to mark 13th Rajab for this blog! Over the weekend, I saw 2 interviews with 2 budding shia poets working in English, and it heightened my awareness for the real urgency with which this needs to take hold. As some one who can work across both the English and the Urdu mediums, I often forget about it, moreover, I actually prefer my religious poetry in Urdu; Muherram would not be complete without Urdu nohay, but in reality, our communities are changing; people are reverting, and they demand more and more by way of English mediums through which to express their emotions. Language is needed to help people unlock their tears during muherram, it is the only way that one can actually build relationships with the sacred souls we morn during this month. When language becomes tears, then tears become blood that pours from your heart, then your very pulse becomes remembrance of the Ahlulbayte (A.S). Something beautiful happened to me on Friday; there was an English youth programme showing on Hidayat TV, honouring the birth of Imam Ali (A.S), and they talked about how the mission of the father shaped his son’s strength to meet his destiny (Hussain’s fate in Karbala). At the very mention of Hussain, I began to weep uncontrollably, I don’t know if it is perhaps because my awareness is heightened given my forthcoming trip to Ziyarat, but I like to think it is because I’ve finally nurtured that connection with the ahlulbayte (A.S) that I crave so much. As I prepare for ziyarat and prepare to celebrate 13th Rajab, I am overcome with a real sense of how inadequate I am in reality. My prayers are never on time, often missed and not perfected, I work tirelessly on my career, but my Islamic education and spiritual growth leaves every thing to be desired. There are times, (muherram in particular, or the period following my ziyarat trip), here I felt immensely in tune with my creator; I would study, pray and meditate regularly. I had a routine, slept on time, ate enough to survive and had a good balance, but now, every thing is out of sink and I don’t really know how to get it back. I find myself incredibly stressed, about whether I deserve to go for ziyarat at all, whether or not I’ll make it there safely, and can I really make the changes the trip warrants on my return? Sometimes you know what you need to do, but can’t find a way to do it, and at other times, you just don’t know what to do, so just muddle through doing what you think to be right at the time in order to survive and progress.
On this, the 13th of Rajab, I ask forgiveness of my Imam and my Lord, and ask him to grant me, (and all those of you who are directionless), with the passion, drive, creativity, knowledge and self sacrifice that characterised the mission of Imam Ali (A.S). May we never lose sight of the blessings we have been given, simply by nature of the fact that we are his shia, and may we continue to raise the bar for ourselves so that we aspire to perfection in all that we do, so that our whole lives become instruments of elevation, charity and light.
13th Rajab mubarak!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

After insomnia

The big 1st July post didn’t happen! Mainly because I was not here; and I’ve been too busy, (or is that lazy?) to get the home internet connection repaired. Perhaps in hindsight if I’d written it, I’d have got all that pain and emotion off my chest, but I didn’t; Instead, got horribly sick the night before and took way too much morphine, slept like a log and attended Amena’s jinaza in a bewildered state of drugged up nothingness. My heart still aches when I contemplate what that family are going through. I came home feeling dark and dejected, only to learn that my best friend has swine flu, and that another close friend and spiritual guide of mine was critically ill in hospital!! The last few days have been so dark that I often wonder if I should actually pick up the phone or not. Because of my contact with aforementioned friend, I too had to be checked over, so I spent the afternoon holding my head in my hands and moaning with pain while I stood in line in a packed, hot waiting room to have swabs taken. It struck me that if one did not have the virus before entering such an environment, they sure as hell would have it when they left! Any way, the good news is that I am all clear (for now!), but I’ve been told I must report to hospital as soon as any dodgy symptoms show themselves; (what symptoms do they mean? Since the tumour, I am rarely on top form health wise!). Should I call them when I’ve a headache, when I’m sick? Or when I get dizzy and faint, or when I am short of breath, …, the list goes on! Any way, the 1st of July came and went, long, hot and painful, but without event, without a phone call, I got excited when I noted the object of my desires had posted an article on his blog that day, but was gutted to read it was only a rant about American patriotism! It was interesting though; I wonder if after a battle to secure citizenship for a particular nation you suddenly become patriotic, (or brain washed?), or is it that informing its self creates this; (Zaf Khan at the house of Lords seminar being a case in point!). Certainly, working in Pakistan made me the Scottish Nationalist I am today, but that nationalism manifests its self in a very different way from the unconditional allegiance most Americans pledge to their president and their country! It troubles me to see Muslims doing this; call me paranoid, but it makes me understand why Rubab talks so much about agency people!
The world is a crazy place, and this was affirmed during my 1st July insomnia! While flicking through TV channels and trying to find an insightful way to spend a sleepless night, I found myself watching allim online! Any one who knows me well knows I’ve never made a secret of my intense dislike of Ammar Liaqat Hussain and his bazaar MQM laced wahabi perspective on Islam, but last night he decided to strengthen this viewpoint by inviting pop star Ali Haider on to his show. Unknown to me at that juncture, Haider had been in the news talking about his decision to quit music and acting. This came as a huge shock to me; ever since I got in to Pakistani pop, Ali Haider has been a staple for me. His music is soft, melodious, innocent tunes about love, life, youth, dreams and humanity. His acting, while not up to much, reflected allot of him as a person, and as he grew in maturity, his music/TV appearances took on a new freshness; still youthful, but sharp and searching; a legend in the making, and an entertainer Pakistan ought to be proud of. Now though, for reasons best known to himself, he is quitting music, a decision he claims has been on his mind for almost 3 years now. After signing an Album deal with Aag, he handed over his new completed recordings and talked through new marketing strategies for his latest album; only to terminate the contract and withdraw the tracks days later. He says he always knew this would be his last album, but something inside ultimately told him it was time to quit, not least because in these troubled times, he wonders how any one can dance or sing (a point which touched me deeply!).

While you might dispute his reasons; (I for one feel great sadness at the reality that he will sing no more), what bothered me the most was Liaqat Hussain and his band of qur’an bashers, all of whom took it upon themselves for congratulating him for giving up music, and asked him when his first album of “religious songs” will be on the shelves!! This was the preferred tactic of Junaid Jamshed, who, after quitting vital signs and a multi million international music career went all religious!! In a matter of days his beard reached his knees and his salwar was safely above his ankles! He churns out religious albums, while running a successful brand of designer clothing outlets across Pakistan. Haider has neither a business lined up, nor a desire to enter religious selling, but I guess he did not bargain for the religious zealots who would jump on the non-musical band wagon! Ammar Liaqat and co seem to think this is a great victory, ‘mubaraks are abound, and apparently the mothers of the country are ecstatic about his decision! The same mothers who doubtless danced to Ali Haider at their own mehendis many years ago; either the menopause has drawn them towards noori and Ali Azmit, or pop stars turned priests are the new in! Call me a bad Muslim if you must, but there is something deeply troubling at this delight in musicians giving up their careers in this manner, not to mention the congrats of the nation that follow these dramatic TV departures! When I was in Pakistan, 75% of the youths I met had some interest or other in music, which varied from listening to it, to writing or performing it. They might study, pray, they might even recite qur’an, but to them, these various fascist of life’s journey were the soundtrack to their world; study was incomplete without a CD in the background, and in the depth of a Karachi night you’ll never fail to hear a beautifully painted truck trundling along the road to the gritty tones of an old Noor Jehan cassette. Pakistan runs on music; the chat, the roads, the indescribable beauty of the calls to prayer. Vulgarity may have crept in during recent years, but generally, Pakistani music stems from ancient Persian/Arabic traditions. Poetry based on love, religion, sacrifice, human growth/spirit and the journey of life, sentiments which live on even in the pop of today. For Pakistani youth, music is away to cleanse the soul, to elevate themselves above their sufferings and to instil hope in their hearts for a brighter tomorrow. When I returned from Karachi, broken, dejected and lost after the torment which led to my return home, I found respite only after my dear friend and renowned composer Salman Anwer (AKA Musicarian) wrote a song especially for me, drawing on the strength of my past and the lessons learned through pain which would serve as building blocks to my future. Music might distract and misguide, but it can also heel, elevate, educate and encourage others to aspire to perfection in all realms of their lives. To strip Pakistan of her musicians is to violate her dignity, her culture and uniqueness, and to celebrate in their disillusionment with the world or the music industry is to conspire with those who wish to bring the country down. Ammar Liaqat and others justify this ignorance in the name of religion; but in reality if all our leaders/imams have to do is whinge about a few young men playing guitar, then the country will continue on the spiral of destruction upon which it has embarked. My friend, Salman often used to talk of the death of Pakistani music; at the time I violently disagreed with him, stating that I saw a new era, a new blend of musicians rising up from the ashes to develop a new sound, bring a musical light to the dawn of a new day within sound, but if Ammar Liaqat and others like him have their way, this death may be sooner than we think. They call music vulgar, but they don’t realise that their own low expectations of artists mean that artists too have to stoop lower in order to become noticed, because that is the language and the intellect of the people today, fed to them like greying baby food by Liaqat and fundamentalists like him. Ali Haider has followed his heart or so he says, he has given up music and left his career behind, but does he really understand the can of worms his exit opens up? Moreover, will he be able to remain true to this decision in a few months/years when he sees how it has pigeonholed him? (watched out for a longer beard and a higher salwar!).

Ah the frailties of the heart! In his own words!
“dil ki baatay, dil he jaanay,
May kya jaanu
May kya jaanu!.”