Saturday, 31 October 2009

you are beautiful!!

I’ve been so down lately, which is why I’ve not been blogging and why life has felt so dark to me. Reza sent me this beautiful Email today, which made me cry tears of joy! Its so cute, so meaningful and just soo Reza! That’s why I love him! Enjoy; you’ll be touched too!

A water bearer in China had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the
other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the House, the cracked pot arrived only
half full.. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, Perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection.
And miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to
apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.
Because of my Flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have
always known about your flaw. So I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you've watered them. For two years
I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.
Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house?

Moral: Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting
and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent
out of shape.
Remember to appreciate all the different people in your life..

Sunday, 25 October 2009

insightful translations!

If you happen to be Scottish, white, Blind and a Muslim (not my words but the headline used to describe me in a daily record article) (well, it was the daily record; what can one expect!). Well, as I was saying! If you happen to be all of the above, one of the first things you’ll notice is that people say a whole lot of things to you that don’t actually mean what they appear to mean!
Of course, people have integrated double meanings in to almost every aspect of life these days, but never more than when they are dealing with blind convert Muslims!! So, in order to assist those of you who happen to be in this position, (or to inform those of you who have a fetish for parodies), I’m going to interpret some of the sighted meanings to aid you on your way (I don’t know if the double meanings only apply to sighted people, but I’ve only had those with sight use them upon me, so I’m assuming its exclusive to the world of the seeing, but correct me if I’m wrong!).

So; here we go!
When waiting for a taxi outside work, and haling the guy almost 6 times to inform him that the car is for me he says:
“oh? The taxi is for you? Sorry! Its just …, your scarf confused me!”, (sighted translation: “how the hell can you be white, blind and a Muslim? Why do they let you out alone? You’re a Muslim? And your second name is Forrest? Is some one taking the P*** out of me?).
When waiting for a prescription at the doctors reception desk, the women behind the counter shouts at the top of her voice “CAN I HELP YOU????”, (sighted Translation: “I’m shouting because if you are blind, your probably deaf/stupid too and that scarf suggests you don’t speak English any way so I better go slow)”
When informing my mother’s colleague I’m there to meet mum: “oh? You are Jane’s daughter? Really?” (sighted translation: “she didn’t tell us you were disabled! Or a terrorist!)”.
When at a job interview I am asked: “in what ways do you think your faith will affect your job?” (sighted translation: “will you regularly walk in to walls? Will we need to do a health and safety check? Oh and you won’t blow up the building will you?)”
When completing a census form; the adviser helping me asks; “and so what nationality was your mother?” (sighted translation: “one of them must have been foreign; or else why would you dress like that!)”.
When my dad sees me in full hijab (he never has got used to it!), he infrequently asks “aren’t you hot!!!” (sighted translation “must you dress like a freak? Its embarrassing; and especially in the middle of summer!)”.
When Asian friends ask me: “where are your parents from?” (sighted translation: “there is no way a white girl can speak Urdu like you do, so come on; spill!!)”.
When people at the mosque ask “and who helps you?” (sighted translation: “how the hell can a blind person ware colour co-ordinated clean outfits and get herself out of the house on her own? Impossible! Name the carer before we contact the authorities!)”,.
When a shopkeeper looks at my mum instead of me when we are out together (sighted translation: “well? Aren’t you going to tell me what that poor blind Muslim you are caring for wants? Obviously she won’t be able to speak so I’m looking at you oh you with the heart of gold!! Cause be assured, I wouldn’t do what your doing!)”.
When talking to some one I’ve just met on MSN: “are you really blind?” (sighted translation: “but you talk sense! You do normal stuff! You live alone! How can you be blind! THEY can’t do all that! So don’t lie to me!)”.
When meeting a prospective spouse “I can cook; I don’t mind doing every thing” (sighted translation: “I need the brownie points in the next life! Besides, its not like you will be able to do it! oh and I’ll move to a ground floor flat, cause you doubtless can’t walk far either!”). (forgive the coldness but I wonder if there is also a subtext in there about not having much of a personal life; there has to be! That’s why I get so many offers to become a second wife these days!) (apart from my age).
When unknown people say “you are amazing!” (sighted translation: “how do you do all that you do in your condition, if it was me I’d want to die”. (my answer; why wait!!).
When others say “we’ll pray for you”, (sighted translation “cause we hope to God we don’t end up where you are; we feel so sorry for you and hope one day you can see because your existence must be so miserable!”).
When meeting another potential spouse “we are just very different!” (sighted translation “I just can’t see myself with some one like you; I wanted a wife; and wanted to become a husband; not a care giver!”).
Another prospective spouse says “no matter what happens, we’ll always be friends!” (sighted translation “there is no way I’m taking this any further with respect to marriage, so respect the fact I’m letting you down gently!”).
When visiting a friend and asking if there is any thing I can do to help! “no no no!! you just sit and talk to us!” (sighted translation “you wouldn’t be able to do any thing any way so why ask!!”).

Don’t get me wrong, I do know that some of the above might well be said with the right intention at heart, but the majority of it is done without thinking, without concern for the other person’s feelings and how their words might be interpreted. Moreover, to me, it is a reflection on how little people are really valued in the world today, and how face value is what is always given precedence over every thing else, no matter how much people might try to fake other wise!!
I blogged here a few days ago about how difficult marriage can be for disabled people, as no one in our community sees you as equal, but I believe it goes further; prospective spouses will only see you as an equal when others do the same. I admit allot of responsibility for this as well; as the years have rolled on by, its become easier to hide between a long hijab and black abaya and say nothing than stand up and fight these things. I am committed to the disability movement, I’m a born activist and always will be, but when the discrimination turns on me, I’m the one who disappears inside and isn’t willing to be counted! One of my friends even went as far as to say that I ware a look in these situations which says “I’m going inside now; don’t wait; I’ll not be out again for some time!”, sometimes this takes the form of outward hiding; clothes, silence etc, other times its about locking myself at home, turning the phone off and being completely away from the world; I don’t know if in reality it makes any difference to my energy levels and strength, or how I deal with people and situations, but its just something I have to do; because, like it or not, they’ll be another taxi driver, another abusive manager and another freak to stare at me all over again just as soon as Monday morning comes around!
And for the neighbour who didn’t bring a parcel down that was delivered to you by mistake (I know what you meant “I’m too embarrassed to go to that blind women’s door; she doesn’t talk; she wares a scarf and is all weird!!!”).

Friday, 23 October 2009

jummah reminder on active giving

The video below is certainly disturbing! Some of you may have viewed it the first time around when channel 4 first broadcast this documentary. For those who haven’t, the documentary focuses on a horrific practise from Nigeria, where innocent children aged any where between 7 months old and 2 years old are branded as witches. Religious nut Helen Ukpabio preaches a misguided brand of religion mixed with traditional African superstition which acts as tonic enough to whip her followers in to a frenzy, driving them in to the streets to brand as many children as they can. The branding witches/wizards is just the start of it though; once the title has been given, these pure children are forced out of their homes, chained for hours in churches without food in water and endure some of the most horrific physical abuse, sometimes leading to death.

I blogged about this some time ago; since first viewing the below film almost a year ago, the images portrayed of those suffering children haunt me still. There is another reason why I return to this topic though; I was desperate to blog about a number of heresies on TV at the moment (but as I didn’t want to give much profile to the pathetic state of a so-called man who leads the BNP), I thought it prudent to continue the theme of activism we had started the day before.

Every so often, I return to the Nigerian petition set up to end this practise, keen to see how things are coming along; I also chart the movements of the vile woman who continues to promote the abuse of African children through her films. What I notice continuously however, is how few Muslims there are behind such campaigns. Why is this; did Muslims not watch the documentary? Aren’t their Muslims in Nigeria and beyond who care about this? Or is it because the practise has become such an accepted part of African Christianity that no one feels the need to speak up!

Each year, I see Muslims from across the UK, digging deep in to their pockets to support the rebuilding of the local mosque (for the 3rd time this year), the feeding of the poor in Africa, and some other worthy charities that are suitably Muslim and will earn them brownie points in the next world. Only, these charities seem to fade in to insignificance the minute the eid prayer times are announced! Either the charities have earned so much during Ramadhan they need only appeal once a year, or we have placed our own self imposed avoidance of all things charitable outside of ramadhan!

Charity and the giving of zaqat/khumse is one of the corner stones of Islam, it is the raw material which established the thriving Muslim communities at the time of the Prophet (PBUH), and it is what purifies our own wealth and maintains our sustenance and, Insha Allah, increases it!
We know all of this; we hear it at majliss and lectures all the time! But some built-in desensitiser seems to dilute the information away from the portion of the brain that makes us act, because after each reminder, neither does the giving increase, or the awareness of the need for it!
I should stress here that when I talk about giving, I don’t just mean in a financial sense, (though there is allot more we could do there as well!), hadaith tell us, that even a smile is considered charity! A kind word, a little time; even signing a petition to stop the abuse of children in Africa!

Today, I finally got around to watching ‘the end of the wicked in full (the horror movie which lead to the branding of children as witches to be common place), the film would be rather laughable given its poor production and bad acting, were it not for the fact that the terror it created has been so wide spread and worse still, accepted by the masses. The practise of branding children as witches is not restricted to Africa either; Helen Ukpabio has her followers in London, and no doubt here in Scotland too! Her films are available to buy in most street markets located in those areas boasting a significant African population. They are watched, appreciated and acted upon, yet as Muslims we are intent on doing nothing!
Chari within an Islamic context is integrally linked with activism; to give to an International Charity and then expect others to carry out the work on your behalf is of little value! Sure we can’t all travel with aid convoys and cure the ills of the world, but we can protest, we can bang on the right international doors to make change, we can sign petitions and get involved in our own communities!
On one level, I should not be surprised that we do nothing about the witch children of Africa, when we have single parents, homeless people and disabled people among us all needing our time, our activism and our financial support, yet we do nothing for them. Media too has a part to play in this; on one hand, while Ukpabio’s films create hysteria, violence and terror, Western Media bombards us with images of poverty and apparent self-destruction in the developing world, so that we are left believing that poverty is simply inevitable; we can give as much as we want, but we will never eradicate it completely, so why bother!
It is true that we will not eradicate poverty if we continue the way we are going, but as another jummah comes and goes, we are gifted with another opportunity to review our giving and our activism. Giving doesn’t have to take much time, nor money! But if you watched this film and were moved, offer prayers for the children, tell your friends to watch it, post the links to it on your blog and encourage others to do the same. Give a few pounds to the organisations who support these children, or organise a charity bazaar in your local mosque. If you mosque is in an area with a significant population of African and Caribbean residents, perhaps you could speak to the local churches there about what you’ve seen, and what faith communities can do in partnership to stop these evil practises; and there you have it; charity with some dawa thrown in!
As one jummah comes and goes, don’t take for granted that another one will come on by! Reap the reward of this one before magrib and do whatever you can, big or small for those around you; its never too late to change our ways, if only we do it now. Friday night tends to be the night when deliverance services are carried out; these are Christian style services where exorcisms and abuse on children take place in an effort to “cure” them of their evil witch craft initiation. Let this weekend be the one where you shake the foundations of these practises for these innocent children by your duas and the nature of what you do. This change won’t come over night, but its amazing the difference 1 Muslim can make if he acts and continues to act with all his sincerity for the greater good.
So, if you share my pain, and you want a better life for these children, let us join hands and start now; and may Allah (SWT) bless us, protect these children and accept our humble efforts, now, and always, aameen.

you read my earlier blog on this, now here's the film in full!

name="allowFullScreen" value="true">type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="410" height="341" id="veohFlashPlayerEmbed" name="veohFlashPlayerEmbed">/>Watch Saving Africa's Witch
Children
in Activism & Non-Profit  |  View
More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

Thursday, 22 October 2009

why we still need direct action!

I received an Email this morning from Zahid Abdullah, which brought tears of happiness to my eyes; the first tears I’ve shed for the right reasons in a very long time!

You might remember me blogging here some time ago, about my disgust at Pakistan’s refusal to grant ATM cards to visually impaired people! Their reasoning was simple (to them at least!), stating that blind people were more likely to lose the card, damage it, get mugged at cash points or have some one defraud their accounts because of their impairment (if any one knows precisely how you avoid being mugged at a cash point or being defrauded in Pakistan could they send their answers on a postcard please!). Any way, the blatant discrimination was enough to have disabled people in their masses protesting outside the banks in Islamabad and beyond, fighting, shouting; demanding justice. For them (and for me), the argument went much deeper then the refusal to issue ATM cards, the refusal assumed that a disabled person wouldn’t be financially independent any way, nor would they have a job, the ability to earn the money or go out and get it. They would have no need for the money even if they did have it (some one would naturally be funding their existence). They wouldn’t have a family to provide for, (because of course, disabled people can’t marry or have children or run a home or any thing of that sort). If, in the unlikely event a disabled person was doing any of the above, (I stress unlikely), he’d (and it will have to be a he because there is no chance of a female doing any of this), if, he could get out, some one would be managing the money for him, so they would be the one to access the ATM, not the disabled person himself!
It is these barriers taken together, that prevent disabled people in Pakistan (and beyond), living the lives that the non-disabled take for granted. Taking action is not easy; forming movements takes time, conviction, confidence and a profound passion for the equality you are fighting for, which has to be able to support others in their reluctance, and certainly not be afraid of getting locked up!

The direct action protests taking place in Pakistan are not new; they began way back in the sixties in the US, when ‘upias ‘the Union of the Physically Impaired against segregation, lead by Edd Roberts, first took to the streets. Upias, (perhaps not the most politically correct name in today’s climate), certainly shared the principals of the social model. I can’t forget how each hair on my body stood on end, when I first witnessed Edd and his colleagues staging week long sit-ins at government buildings, blocking off public thoroughfares with their wheelchairs and battling relentlessly for the most basic of human rights. Maria Eagle, former minister for disabled people, once described the struggle for disability equality as ‘the world’s last great imancipatory struggle, simply because of the magnitude of the attitudinal changes it will take to bring about true equality. Upias was closely followed by the ‘Pyjama protests in the UK; a group of people with learning difficulties, who were sick and tired of being put to bed at 8 PM, simply because of their impairments! Took to the pub with their PJs on (if only we could still do that!). They were not prepared to give in to what suited their “carers”, because they knew that “care” was not what they needed! Equality was what was sought; and the protests they and organisation’s like Upias undertook, have paid off in more ways than one. Sure we have struggles in this country, but who, as a disabled person, doesn’t thank God daily we were not around in the early sixties when forced sterilisation was common place!

Pakistan has many battles still to be one, but the ATM card saga is thankfully no longer on their list! Cards will now be issued to all visually impaired people; the next challenge shall of course be to find ATMs that are wheelchair accessible, and with speech facilities to aid visually impaired people!
But while Pakistan celebrates this success, a common friend of ours morns the fact that yet another course of infertility treatment failed and she will most certainly face a marriage break-up, or else a forced polygamist marriage against her will. Our friend is blind, married to a prominent figure within the TV industry. Despite theirs being a love marriage, and a match that merged perfectly on the grounds of wealth, class, status and faith (very important factors to consider within Pakistan with respect to marriage, especially among the elite!), never the less, her inability to produce a child on demand makes her apparently useless, ‘surplus to requirement! No doubt they think they already did her an immense favour by accepting her as a blind woman in to their family. My own future in-laws have expressed reluctance to us having children (because of the genetic implications on our children). I worry for my children too, but I worry about how society will view them, I don’t want them to be fighting the same heart wrenching battles I have had to, and I don’t want them to be victims of a family that isn’t educated enough to support them appropriately. On moments like that I am left feeling that the very concept of marriage ought to be forgotten by disabled people, because you won’t ever be yourself, and even if you are, there will always be one within the family who will discount you and you’ll be forced from then on in to have to fight your corner (behind this white stick and hijaab, I am but a humble ordinary woman like any one else!) (well, last time I checked!).
That said, it is way too easy to throw in the towel and cry hopelessness when the painful reality of prejudice and opposition comes knocking. Direct action, whether it be physical or mental resistance to this oppression, can, and does pay off! The eventual outcome may be a long time in coming, but small ripples really do make big waves! This concept is described beautiful in Colin Cameron’s short story, ‘the brick, (reproduced below). Excuse the language in portions of this, but I felt it important to share as it highlights beautifully the subtle yet invaluable changes direct action can bring about. It also illustrates society’s conditioning, which brings about a culture of oppression in the first place, and how working towards changing that has to be comprised of both social and physical elements; only then, will we truly progress towards lasting equality!

The Brick

by Colin Cameron
List of 13 items
Introduction
Better
Colin Cameron
Sadie
Alwynd
Anne
Conventional Wisdom
Charlie
The Brick
Dr Pillock
Better
Colin Cameron
Better
list end
cartoon af man sitting on a bench with a roll-up

Illustration of Alasdair by Colin Cameron

Alasdair sat on the metal bench outside the ancient town hall and smoked his roll-up. He watched all the people who passed him by: the harassed-looking
young mothers with their wilful, bawling toddlers; the exhausted-looking old ladies who filled their remaining time with regret for days gone; the dejected-looking
middle-aged men with whom life had been sparing in its distribution of half-decent opportunities; the bored-looking school kids who stuffed their spotty
faces with large portions from polystyrene containers.

Then his gaze became fixed upon a sight all too familiar and depressing in this windy seaside town. A support worker from one of the local residential homes
was out with one of her 'clients', a disabled man who sat in his wheelchair staring miserably into the distance as he waited for his 'carer' to finish
her conversation with her pal. He only wanted to get back inside, into the warmth where he might be able to regain some feeling in his toes.

“So, whit's doin' at the weekend?” Alasdair heard the support worker ask her friend.

“Nothin' much,” replied the friend. “Alan's asked me to go doon the club wi' him fer the darts, but I'm no sure. He's been seein' that Kelly behind ma back,
ye ken, Kelly from doon the road, the hoor.”

“Aye, she wis always a brazen little bitch,” agreed the support worker. “I've kent her since primary.”

“Well, I've got tae go,” said the friend. “I'm meetin' Paul in the bar, an' ye ken whit he's like if he's kept waitin'.”

“Paul!” laughed the support worker. “Ye're no' tellin' me ye're seein' Paul as well! I could tell ye a thing or two aboot Paul, so I could!”

“Aye, well, it'll have tae wait. I'll catch up wi' ye!” And the friend headed towards the dingy hotel across the street.

The support worker looked down unenthusiastically at the man in the wheelchair. She did not say anything to him, but resumed pushing, keeping an eye out
for more acquaintances to stop and blether with. She was - Alasdair considered - probably in her mid-twenties. She wore a pair of tight jeans that emphasised
the roundness of a large arse and, underneath a denim jacket, a pink T-shirt through which he could make out her nipples. Her mousy hair was tied in a
pony tail. Alasdair watched her departure with a feeling in which disgust mixed with anger.

An elderly lady sat down next to him, clutching her leather handbag closely. She followed Alasdair's gaze. “It must be awful to be like that,” she said.

“Mm,” agreed Alasdair. He felt pretty sure that they were not thinking about the same person. Having finished his roll-up, Alasdair got up. He smiled at
the elderly lady and crossed the road, wondering to himself how long it would be before the new greengrocer's would go out of business.

As he entered the newsagent's, the grey-haired woman behind the counter turned and regarded him with suspicion. Then she resumed her conversation with the
wee balding gent in an anorak about how the town had been going downhill since all these incomers had started arriving.

Alasdair searched the counter for a copy of the Herald but could not see one in its usual space. He decided to wait. After about three minutes, the grey-haired
woman said to the wee balding man, “Just a minute, Sandy...” and turned to Alasdair. “Were you wanting something?” she addressed him.

“Um,” faltered Alasdair, “I was wondering if you've got any Heralds left? Just… there don't seem to be any more copies on the counter…”

The grey-haired woman shook her head. “I'm sorry, son, I can't understand a word you're saying. What is it you're after?”

“Never mind,” said Alasdair, and left the shop. The grey-haired woman shrugged, and resumed her favourite topic.

At the bus stop outside the bar into which the support worker's pal had disappeared, there was only one other person waiting, another old lady. Alasdair
considered that this was likely to mean either one of two things. Either his bus had come early - which would have been unlikely but, with the perversity
of public transport, not as unlikely as to have been impossible - or there simply weren't very many people wanting this particular bus. For a Thursday
lunchtime, he reflected, this would have been unusual. He thought about the matter for a minute and then decided that he would ask.

“Excuse me, please,” he addressed the old lady. “Do you know if the bus has been?”

The old lady fixed him with a look of pity. “Whit a shame,” she said. “Oor Sadie's Billy was like you. He died, of course.” She reached into one of her
bulging shopping bags and produced a bar of chocolate. “Go on, son,” she said. “Take this.” Alasdair decided that he would walk.

As he progressed up the High Street his gaze was drawn, as it invariably was, to the sign above the charity shop window. “Caring for the Sick and Handicapped
of all ages”, he read. He felt the anger rise within him. It was time, he felt, to make a statement. At three o'clock the next morning the High Street
was still. It had been deserted by even the wind. Alasdair stood on the pavement in front of the charity shop window with the brick in his hand. During
the intervening hours he had given considerable thought to what this moment would be like.

Would he actually go ahead and do it? He had never really engaged in any acts of direct action like this before. Yes, he had been down to Newcastle, on
a number of occasions, to join in some of the demonstrations by disabled people campaigning against the continued provision of segregated education and
for affordable accessible homes; but he had always made sure to stay in the background on such occasions, so that he would not draw upon himself unwanted
attention from the police. He had his reasons.

Would he go ahead and do it? He knew that if he did, he would never be able to tell anyone around here that it had been him. Nobody would understand. His
point would be missed. It would go over their heads, and be dismissed as an act of stupid vandalism. He would be regarded as a crip with a chip. Nothing
would come of it and nothing would change. The support worker would continue to look with cold indifference through the people with whom she worked; the
elderly lady on the bench would continue to imagine that being impaired necessarily represented devastating personal tragedy; the grey haired woman in
the newsagent's would continue to be patronising and condescending; the old lady at the bus stop would continue to find comfort in her own heavy-laden
existence from the knowledge that there was always somebody worse off.

And yet, he recognised that in such an individual act of rebellion, in such an anarchic act of self-expression, there would be something artistic, something
of beauty created. Come the busyness of the High Street in a few hours' time, not one soul would be able to look at the charity shop front and see it in
the same way they had seen it before. They would look up and read the words “Caring for the Sick and Handicapped of all ages” and below they would see
the jagged edges of the desecrated window. Their hallowed, unexamined notion of 'care' would have been affronted. They would be appalled. It would have
to be boarded up.

However temporarily, then, he would have made a difference. The interpretation that others put upon his act was their own affair. Would he do it? After
this night, Alasdair always said that the shattering of glass was his favourite sound.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

An inspiring lecture on our awaited Imam Mahdi (ATF), well worth checking out!

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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

rab janay tay Hussain Janay

I’ve been listening to this kaseeda all afternoon, and the more I listen, the deeper I delve in to it. I first heard this kaseeda when a young revert brother read it at the imambargah. His voice was weak and his Urdu/Punjabi pronunciations were poor but cute! Though what came across most strongly through his recitation was the passion he felt for the imam and for the sentiment he was speaking about “rab janay tay Hussain janay”, this doesn’t translate particularly well (a literal translation would read; God knows or Hussain knows!). The knowing in the context of this kaseeday refers to the unspoken, secret and pure knowledge of the divine creator, Allah (SWT). It also refers to recognising reality for what it really truly is, something that in this mirage type state of the West, is becoming harder and harder to find/differentiate. With particular respect to Imam Hussain (A.S) the knowing also related to his end; the ending of earthly life in horrific circumstances of sacrifice, which would lead to an eternal life of blessing and reward. While all of us live with the reality that we will one day pass away, few of us reflect upon it, embrace it or acknowledge it as being as much a part of our waking, our sleep and our daily activities as, for example, prayer, fasting, working, watching TV etc. Imam Hussain (A.S) despite being infallible, lived with this reality, and made it so much a part of him that it is impossible to smile over the birth of the blessed Imam, without crying over his death, and it is impossible to celebrate his conquering injustice for all time without weeping bitterly over his suffering and that of his pure family (A.S).
“Rab janay tay Hussain Janay”, time, space, relativity and continuity all pivoted on the axes of sacrifice, and the world continued to spin knowing that its rebirth and fertile lands would only bare fruit if and when my blessed imam (A.S) gave his life for the greater good of humanity, of the land and all that dwell on her. All prophets that ever lived were first given the knowledge of Allah (SWT) his prophet and his ahlulbayt (A.S), and the knowledge of Karbala. I remember earlier on this year as I re-read the bible after muherram, my heart almost stopped when I read a passage of the old testament which talked about the sacrifice on the Euphrates! There are only 2 months left till muherram, and getting in to the true meditative and sorrowful spirit of the month will be a challenge for many this year, particularly for those in my position! The Christmas festivities fall slap-bang in the middle of the 10 days. Only yesterday I spent hours trying to define muherram and negotiate a Christmas lunch out instead of an evening event as I’d need to be in the masjid. I sometimes wonder if it is my own failing, weak faith or my neglecting my duties, but while I am happy to skip fasts in ramadhan, knowing that I will make them up later on, I will never ever miss a majliss in muherram, no matter how hard it is for me to get to mosque or get in to the spirit of things. Last year when my home was in pieces and I stayed with my parents, I still attended most of the majliss, and for those I could not, I stayed awake most of the night in order to listen to a live net stream from Sayed Ammar Nakshawani who read in Toronto last year. Muherram might be a time of sadness, a time to cry, ware black, all but drown in an ocean of sorrow with the Ahlulbayt (A.S), with our lord and (SWT) and our imams (A.S), but if you ask any follower of the ahlulbayt (A.S), he will tell you that he/she looks forward to the days of muherram. From Ramadhan onwards he charts the course of the moon, seeking out the piercing darkness that brings red tears, trauma, loneliness and hearts filled with pain and suffering. For many non-Muslims this is hard to comprehend, even for those Muslims who have been lead astray, the visions pumped to the media of shias hitting/cutting themselves have been taken as something of a freak show, poor pathetic ignorant beings who lost the Islamic plot a long time ago! While this woonds me to see, I don’t entirely blame them. To a certain degree, we have lost the plot in that muherram has become the 10 days in which we go to the masjids, crowding them with our tears, our niaz and our money as we beg for forgiveness. We think that the more we read and the more we can cry in public, the greater the favour we will earn in the hereafter. During my first muherram, I could not cry, I would return from the mosque and listen to majliss online, crying silently in the dead of the night, not wanting to be seen or noticed by any one but my Lord. What finally brought me to tears was the arrival of the first taboot of Imam Qasim (A.S), the pieces, delicately wrapped in thin dupatas representing the pieces of his pure and sacred body left me clutching on to the coffin never wanting to let go. Why you might ask did I cry? I cried because, for those moments became at one with the pain of the imam (A.S). I let my heart fly free to merge with the sacrifice and the knowledge of it. Yet, there was a part of me that simply could not absorb the reality of the fact that the imams, (A.S), all of them lived with their martyrdom in an almost seamless walk between the earthly life and the one to come. Each infallible life merging in to the other, the example of which perpetually permeating the hearts of the believers, so that there is a little of this knowledge in all of us, if nothing else, the ability to marvel is what keeps us close to their shining guidance, while the guidance its self keeps us striving for perfection.

Today, we honour the birth of Fatimah Masooma (A.S). Her name synonymous with striving for perfection, her boundless quest for knowledge and her bountiful hands, endless love and care for humanity single her out among earthly women supreme, light upon light, the one who can turn darkness to noor simply by nature of her existence. Her name, made up of 2 pure entities which inspired her, and all of us; Saeeda Fatimah Zahra (A.S), and Saeeda Sakina (A.S). Masooma was the name given to her by her followers of the time. Literally meaning innocent, the Actions of Fatimah Masooma mirrored pure innocence because of their selfless nature, and the eternal link between each action and the hereafter, thus making her every thought, word and deed a source of worship and intercession for her in the next world. This sentiment can be seen in each of the examples of the ahlulbayt (A.S), each one being a natural progression from the predecessor, individual entities, all linked together by the nature of their infallibility, and the qur’an they wished to protect.
While none of us can attain that particular state of being, we can strive for elevation in the same way that Fatimah Masooma craved for it, and obtained it through nurturing the physical and spiritual needs of her soul. We too have embraced the knowledge of Hussain (A.S) and made a pledge to protect it as we fight in his way, so, while we might fall and lose our way in the dark, lets use the event of the birthday of Fatimah Masooma, to reaffirm our knowledge, and the responsibilities that knowledge places upon us
“rab janay tay Hussain Janay”, aren’t we his followers? Aren’t we the ones that he called out to on the battlefield for help? Oh you who cry for Saeeda Zeynab (A.S), isn’t it up to us to preserve her message, and continue to propagate it to the 4 corners of the world in the eloquent way she did?
Take this day, this example of bibi Masooma to reflect on your sate, where we are and where we are going, to fill in the gaps in our own personal missions and to be true to them, no matter how great the obstacles that block our way, and no matter how dark the journey seems from a distance. The knowledge of Hussain lit up his heart, and continues to light the shrines in Karbala; let your heart be your guide too, and the reality whisper secrets of the Imam (A.S) success to guide you on your way, now, and always.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Allan's Rant

A few weeks ago, my dad decided to set up a blog. I don’t really know what convinced him to do it. Perhaps it was an inferiority complex he inherited from richer relations we met at my cousin’s wedding (who simply love to blog about how much money they have, and how much better their lives are when compared to ours). It might have been my own exertions of pressure; since the credit crunch, I find myself (consciously and subconsciously) hunting down ingenious ways of making a quick pound or 2 out of unsuspecting members of my friends and family circle. My father is a self confessed grumpy old man (you don’t believe me? Check out the blog), in fact, he makes those heroes of the series look like a rather cheerful bunch of chaps! His rants about driving (well, women drivers to be exact), Rubbish on TV, going shopping, queues at airports and other public amenities etc, left me certain that if dad could get himself noticed by the producers in the know, we could live rather comfortably off his fame and fortune! Gained simply by nature of him being who he is! Since that discussion took place, he’d commented (jokingly or so I thought), that he was going to set up a blog. I volunteered to do this for him a couple of times, mainly as a gage to work out just how serious he was, but he declined casually, saying he would work it out on his own. I knew he wouldn’t of course; my dad is most certainly very technical (and far more technical than me, which wouldn’t be hard I know!), but the finer points of internet browsing, shopping etc have rather past him by! I wasn’t quite sure where he’d end up with the blog thing (if any where), and just put it down to a momentary whim post our trip to the wedding (my parents have allot of such whims by the way, usually instigated by dad). So, you can imagine my surprise when I got a call from dad the other night, announcing that he’d set up his blog, and wanting to know what I thought of it! “great!”, I said “what is the link? Did you send it to me?”, he calmly said he hadn’t quite worked out how to send links, but he gave me what I thought was the address, and I went off to see what words of wisdom my father had written! I was shocked by the eloquence of the letters, political comment and journalistic spin that emanated from the page that opened up! Could my father really write like this? Had I been blind all my life to the immense creativity and innovation hidden behind that apparent toughened West of Scotland exterior?
As I dreamed some more I happened to scroll down the page, and learnt to my disappointment! That the site I had opened was a blog run by some mate of Boris Johnston, (who isn’t my dad by the way; I think he’d rather be seen dead than do that!). I called dad back then, informing him that he’d given me the wrong link to the blog:
“oh” he said “ you missed out the –“ “but dad” I said incredulously, “ you didn’t tell me about any –“, he said “oh? I thought I did, but does it really make a difference?”, I dread to think what will happen if dad ventures in to the world of following, uploading video, pictures and the like.
Any way, for those burning with a desire to read, you can check it out at: www.allans-rant.blogspot.com (don’t forget the -), there was only 1 post up there before I looked, but it was pretty good for an intro, and suffice as to say my earlier comments on dad’s literary talents may not have been entirely misplaced!
What struck me in particular though were his kind words about me, and how he dedicates his blog, (or rather his rants), to me. I suppose I never thought he would have done that. Its not so much that he acknowledges I giving him the idea, but more his pride in me as his daughter, for the person that I am, and the fact that despite our major differences, and frequent misunderstandings, we have an unspoken bond which, although makes no sense to the world, is understood, nurtured and treasured by both of us in our own special way.
As a child, I was always terrified of dad, he was the one who disciplined me, ruled me with a rod of iron, the one who slapped me if it was needed, who grounded me and laid down the law of our family. My mum never ever challenged him, even when things got rough and she had perfectly valid reasons not to! A short-term family split and a host of other upsets kept dad and I separate for a long time (in spirit more than the physical sense), and my marriage was certainly enough to instil what felt like permanent alienation in both of us. After my foreign trip however, every thing changed! Perhaps it was me, perhaps it was dad! But somehow conversation flowed much more easily! If my dad was getting wide, I had no hesitation in telling him so. Not only that, but I could joke with him, could disagree with him, and didn’t let his moods or rants sway me in any particular direction. Maybe the journey had given me a new sense of self worth, confidence and the courage of my convictions, maybe the absence had softened his heart towards me (its amazing what distance can really do; apart from just making the heart grow fonder), in my case, I think the biggest thing the distance had brought about was an end to the fear I constantly carried around with respect to my dad. We started to go out for lunch, to watch TV together and develop hidden codes and in-jokes with respect to my mum’s crazy relatives! It was nice, it was almost like discovering my father for the very first time. Looking back on it now, I see that it was very much about the almighty setting the scene for what was to come; at that time, dad new he had a unique genetic complaint which would require lifelong monitoring and testing to insure it did not affect him, and just a few months on, shortly after buying my flat, I was to learn I’d have the same thing. Our yearly check-ups, scans, blood tests and visits to the clinic brought us closer in ways that neither of us could articulate. I can’t forget dad’s reaction when he learnt that I too had inherited the corrupted gene. He was devastated, telling my mum and uncle how guilty he felt, and how in some way he believed he was responsible for inflicting this on me. If there was any resentment or anger about the past in my heart right then, it melted away to insignificance. Whatever had gone before, be it childhood or thereafter, it could not be changed, but what could be altered was the future we now found ourselves tangled up in, (dodgy genetics or other wise).

As we attended the clinic yesterday for yet another check-up, (all was fine by the way), I pondered over just how similar we both are, though we might loathe to admit it; the quiet way we worry about things, often taking our fear out on those closest to us, how we disappear off and cry in secret rather than share our pain. How both of us have a degree of difficulty in expressing ourselves, particularly with respect to love. Above all however, I smile at how much both of us love to rant, and how my dad was the one intuitive enough to recognise the need for an appropriate outlet for that ranting, hence the blog!

Needless to say, I love it, for what it represents, for the fact that my dad has been open enough, strong enough and creative enough to actually take it forward, and I love it for the fact that something in his blog speaks loudly from between the lines about the bonds we share and the rants we revel in.
Do check it out, and do leave some comments; both of us have fragile egos, and both of us love a little praise once in a while (even if its not entirely justified, praise is praise for all that and always makes the heart fly!).

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

overview of the life of Imam Jaffer Sadiq, (A.S), from ziyerat.com

Name : Jaffer (a.s.) - the 6th Holy Imam
Title : As-Sadiq, Sadiq-e-Aal-e-Mohammad(a.s.)
Agnomen : Abu-Abdullah
Father : Imam Mohammad Baqir(a.s.) - the 5th Holy Imam
Mother : Umm-e-Farwa(a.s.)
Birth : At Madina on 17th of Rabi-al-Awwal 83 AH (702 AD)
Martyred : In Madina at age 65, on Monday, 15th Rajab 148 AH (765 AD)
according to some traditions - 15th of Shawwal 148 AH (765 AD)

Cause of Death/Burial : Buried in the cemetry of Baqi in Madina

honouring the shahadat of Imam Jaffer Sadiq (A.S)

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remembering Imran Sabir

Something powerful, beautiful and truly unique took place in Glasgow this week. Some may call it a miracle: a group of mainly Muslim individuals gathering together to talk about disability?
A miracle indeed! Others may think it surreal, but for me, it is merely testament to the inspirational character who was being honoured on the 5th of October at the destiny centre, namely my friend, colleague, brother and teacher, Imran Sabir. Imran was a disabled Muslim, born and raised in Glasgow who developed a rare genetic condition known as ‘logic syndrome. The condition brought with it a visual impairment, mobility/breathing and communication difficulties and issues with walking long distances. The little known nature of Imran’s impairment resulted in limited treatment, and a chronic inability on the part of service providers to deliver the appropriate tailored support, accounting for Imran’s ethnic, Cultural and physical needs, but he didn’t allow any of this to stand in his way. Imran went on to become a powerful advocate for social justice and the wider disability movement, setting up 2 user lead organisations based on his own experiences and the barriers he faced when attempting to engage with service providers. Ethnic enable is a user lead organisation with a national remit, designed to support minority ethnic disabled people from across Scotland. They do this through creating social opportunities, providing welfare rights information, access to direct payments and sign posting to other relevant stakeholders and DPOs. Kitaba is the most recent of Imran’s ventures, and arguably the one most close to his heart. Set up in 2007, the organisation aims to provide Islamic educational support to visually impaired people, through translating books, making religious institutions accessible and providing disability equality training to faith leaders, teachers and other community activists.

Despite there being an estimated 11000 disabled Muslims across the UK, and even larger numbers of minority ethnic disabled people in Scotland alone, the needs of the community are all too often ignored or misunderstood, both by minority ethnic support organisations and by DPOs alike. Torn between mythical culture fuelled misconceptions, and a range of multiple yet complex stigma which have come to surround disabled people in the Asian community, disabled people often remain isolated, stuck at home, ignored and cut off from the religious and cultural life of the community. It is taken as a matter of course that a disabled person will not be able to study, to work, to live independently, and certainly never to marry for fear that more disabled children will result from the union. Imran’s work was the first of its kind in the country; it was unique, not just in its style in content, but because it dared to challenge these prejudices and, for the first time, offer disabled Muslims a ray of hope, and a glimpse of another life. Kitaba in particular, was born out of Imran’s despair and frustration when attempting to seek Islamic knowledge. After being turned away by a multitude of teachers and mosques, Imran sought refuge in radio ramadhan, and a wealth of other internet resources. These ultimately lead him to Glasgow’s own Shaykh Abdal Aziz, who would later become Imran’s spiritual teacher, thus beginning a beautiful friendship and partnership. Imran knew that not every one would have this opportunity, and so wanted Kitaba to act as a vehicle to take Islamic knowledge to those disabled Muslims who needed it most. He also wanted the project to empower mainstream faith leaders in order that they could better support disabled people, thus creating truly inclusive communities.

Given the pioneering nature of Imran’s work, his colleagues and family felt it was important to chart his unique journey and how this influenced the formation of his organisations. ‘living with Blindness, Lessons from the life of Imran Sabir, is a moving tribute to a unique individual, compiled by Shaykh Abdal Aziz Ahmed. The book celebrates Imran’s innovation, determination and strength as he battled discrimination, ignorance and a wealth of stereotypes in a community still very reluctant to embrace disability equality. Glasgow’s destiny centre played host to the first of 3 national events to commemorate Imran’s life and the launch of the book. The event was co-ordinated by the ‘Kitaba project, its main aim being to educate the Muslim community on disability equality and their responsibility for making that a reality. The evening was made up of lectures from Imran’s friends and colleagues, along with a moving tribute by Abdal Aziz Ahmed, Kitaba chair person and Imran’s spiritual teacher and main author of the book. There were also presentations from Ethnic Enable and the Kitaba project, and the evening ended with a powerful lecture by Imam Zaid Shakir of the US who talked about the minorities within the Muslim minority and how important the role of faith communities ought to be in terms of eradicating stereotypes, discrimination and ignorance. The event was entitled ‘the marginalised in society, and highlighted how as Muslims, we have, be it knowingly or unknowingly, marginalised huge cross sections of our population, either because we don’t agree with their viewpoints, or because fear leads us to believe we cannot support them, so to shut the door on them is easier than moving outside of our own comfort zones! E learnt above all that to support and to empower the marginalised is not about doing people a favour, it is simply about being true to our own rights and responsibilities, while at the same time, taking steps towards a truly Inclusive umma as existed during the life of our Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

Imran past away at the beginning of March this year, leaving an invaluable legacy, but also leaving a great void in the lives of those who knew and loved him. We hope that the book and the series of programmes being held in his memory will go some way to continuing the equality work Imran was so passionate about, do remember his family in your thoughts and prayers, and support his organisations in any way you can.

One of Imran’s most notable pieces of writing is ‘a disabled society. Biographical in nature, it talks about the challenges facing Minority Ethnic disabled people, and is in many ways, a manifesto for the Inclusive objectives Imran was fighting for.


A Disabled Society
Born eighteen years ago
To a Scot and a Pakistani,
First cousins vowing to be true,
Joined in holy matrimony.
His coming having no portent—
All being well in his infancy.
Only a couple of years later
Realising his pathology.
Parents seeking treatment near and far.
Yet finding its incurability.
Only then becoming distraught
At life’s apparent duplicity,
Ending joyous expectations
Seeing his growing dependency.
Hearts shredded asunder
At his decay and atrophy.
The father withdrawing into work,
Disappointed and angry.
Unable to face the truth.
Hiding away from reality.
Knowing no English or sources of help,
Having no coping or caring strategy,
The mother laboured on,
Through love and maternal duty.
Mother and child unsupported
By friends or family.
Some comment on their special ness
And their chance to gain piety,
Others whispered at a hidden truth
At some long passed infidelity.
The supposed sins of the father
Punished by the mighty deity.
Not accepting a disabled child,
Or any responsibility.
Leaving love and self-respect
Guided not by rationality
He left wife and son to start afresh
To prove his masculinity.
Mother and child living off the state,
So close to poverty.
Seeking assistance for her child—
From any statutory body.
Communicating without English
Only leading to ambiguity.
Their impersonal services
Just Promoting conformity—
At school and home
Facing true marginality,
Colour and creed making him distinct
From the white majority.
Situation separating him
From the disabled minority.
Impairments causing rejection
From his own ethnic community.
All attempts at participation—
Manifest futility—
Feared and stigmatised—
Shunned by peers and society.
Thinking his condition contagious
They show only animosity.
His difference too strange—
An unsurpassable enormity.
Turning to service providers—
Main stream and voluntary—
Experts and places of worship—
Or those working for equality—
Despite the child’s clear-cut needs
Or personal priority
They single out impairment,
Culture or ethnicity
Now, at the doorway of death,
At the threshold of maturity,
Unable to communicate,
And with breathing difficulty—
Requiring constant ventilation
And remedial therapy.
Confined, restrained, straight-jacketed
By his muscular dystrophy.
Bedridden hours expended
In examining history.
He tries hard to understand
Life’s justice and equity.
Seeking meaningful answers,
Solace and serenity,
Yet ever returning to despair,
Wholesale regret and uncertainty
The barriers posed by impairment
And an indifferent society—
Invisible but hard as concrete
Abounding in their multiplicity,
Nurturing rejection and isolation
And all manners of impropriety.
Conveying the world’s begrudgement
Of deviance to normality.
Barriers restricting life’s joys—
Life unfulfilled incomplete empty,
Time spent in futile struggles
In seeking meaning and identity.
Not belonging to any world,
Lacking wholeness and integrity,
That is the lot of a south-Asian
Person with a disability.

(to purchase copies of ‘lessons from the life of Imran Sabir in a variety of formats, log on to www.kitaba.org

Friday, 2 October 2009

here's the actual video this time!

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Friday funnies: pantsman revisited! enjoy!

It's the morning of the fifth task and Kimberly and her team brainstorm ideas to promote their new cereal product. Lorraine's enthusiasm for the task is quickly dampened as the team go with Philip's idea over hers, for a pants man character.

See also:Philip and Lorraine bicker again The first Apprentice wedding? Philip's 'hormone hijack' Philip and Lorraine clash Philip's exit interview In this episode: Previous
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amazing gora Urdu speaker!

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