Thursday, 29 December 2011

2011; for the Journey!

Before penning down this post, I took a look over my reflections at the end of 2010. Surprisingly, they were positive thoughts; much more positive than I was feeling at the time! It all goes to show that affirmations; if made with sincerity can come to pass; even if they are not always felt in their entirety straight off! Perhaps this line alone paraphrases much of what has gone on for me in 2011! The blog has been quiet, but my life has been far from it! where to begin with this year; Alhamdulillah I was blessed with the ability to financially support myself, after one of the most terrifying financial struggles I’ve ever known! My job is not exactly stimulating, but it provides a halal income for which I will be eternally grateful. It also gives me enough free time to study, engage in freelance work/activism and the things that matter to me. Reza and I are sadly still not living together, however our visa application has been submitted and we are awaiting our decision from the British Embassy, which is expected in Late February. I appeal to all of you to pray for a good result; this is all the more pivotal given that the British no longer have a presence in Iran, which has affected my own paperwork being processed. If we cannot live together here, our marital future will be in jeopardy so duas are seriously necessary! I travelled to Georgia and to Azerbaijan this year; 2 truly beautiful trips which brought me nothing but joy! I also travelled to London, and was honoured with an achievement award for my work with disabled Muslims by Ahlulbayt TV, something I will truly never be able to put in to words; an honour, and a humbling experience to share a stage with the outstanding personalities who joined me that night! I have got back in to writing, and am fully engaged in my English literature studies. 2011 has brought many great new friends, and a chance to further nurture some sacred and long-standing relationships. My health has been poor, and is not in a good shape at all, but despite the challenges this brings; I feel reasonably strong, loved, supported and able to deal with it.
So; what of 2012. As you know, I’m not really a fan of New Year! however this year I’ve been looking ahead much more than I do normally. Next year, Insha Allah, I will be 30; and whether relevant or not, this feels immensely significant. It feels like a departure from the past, from my twenties, from the early part of my life in to a new faze! I always used to ponder 30 through the trauma of my twenties, thinking that by this juncture I’d be settled, with children, or a good career, strong achievements. Of course; we plan, and Allah plans better than us! However; I feel that the pain of the last few years has indirectly given me a lisence to dwell on my sorrow and my hurt. We all have baggage; and some we ditch and some we carry on, but 2012 has to be the year of rebirth, of letting go, of looking forward and ahead. With time comes certainty; and though I’ve had my time, I have to make certainty happen. Since 2007, I’ve been mourning the loss of someone I believe should still be in my world. They are not in my world, for all kinds of reasons and I must accept this and move on. I must learn to celebrate my successes and turn the failures in to cause to reflect. During my early twenties I had a wealth of personal/professional achievements and I need to cultivate new ones! A person’s value is in what they generate for the universe; and I’ve not yet generated enough! 2012, Insha Allah, will be the year of more writing, of planning and action; and the realisation of projects I’ve only been planning till now. In the chaos of recent months, I realise I haven’t devoted enough time to the blog! This wasn’t just about juggling commitments; it was also because I realised that certain figures from the past are reading this blog, and lets just say I’d rather they didn’t! there is allot I’d like to say, but disclosure to their eyes feels destructive! The blog might well be going private next year; but to all those who follow me and message on a regular basis; you’ll be notified and be given plenty of time to join me on the private blog; and of course you can bring friends and associates; I have no problem with strangers becoming friends over here; but when the past tries to reinvent itself on here; its time to break the cycles!
If we reflect on the economy, the violence, the politics and injustices of the current time, there really wouldn’t be much to look forward to in 2012! However change begins with the circle around you. I’m sure we will each have our own hopes and prayers for 2012; but my prayer for the year has to be; asking Allah for the courage to face truth and falsehood for what they really are. To embrace the truth and not run from it. To love and be loved, to nurture and be nurtured, to learn to give as I receive and to act upon my heart when it calls me to action!
May 2012 be a year of discovery for you all; and grant you the blessings you desire for yourselves! Thank you for travelling with me through the year that has past; and I look forward to hearing more from each of you in 2012.
With peace, love, prayers and all good things!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Allah, in other words.

Ever since the commencement of Muharram, and even more so since the Christmas period came upon us, I’ve been pondering the question of my own personal connection with God, with Allah (SWT). It’s a question I think we all return to, and all are forced to reflect upon at various junctures during our earthly journey. Sometimes my connection feels good, feels strong and in sink; but more often than not, I feel detached, disconnected, unable to establish what I often think of as that broadband connection with Allah (SWT) that all believers need as a pivotal force for their continued earthly growth and sustenance. Muharram seemed to bring it home to me, because I was spending more time in the mosque. Cramped up against the wall with chatting women and screaming children all around me, I felt defeated, angry at myself for not getting in to the zone or not being so at ease with the environment as they seemed to be. I felt uncomfortable in the mosque, and disjointed when I chose to worship at home, as though I had let the community down by preferring disassociation. These issues are all connected to other issues, possibly warranting posts of their own, but all of them pointed back to one thing for me; prayer! Salat after all, is the driving force; the backbone of the Muslim’s constant communication with Allah (SWT). I perform ablution, I dress in hijab; and I stand reverently reciting the Arabic words, yet it doesn’t feel right, doesn’t feel deep enough to reach the places where my heart yearns to go! Often I feel as though, if I could just find the words, not any words, but the right words, then the connection would feel real. I want to be able to communicate with my Allah in the way I can type on this blog, in the way that I can lift the phone to a dear friend, or share a few lines via twitter! And its twitter that answered my question! How often have you marvelled at all the infinite possibilities you can convey in 140 characters? I used to think that some one who rambles as much as I do would never be able to fit in to such a concise little box (you know me, I’m not good with conforming and boxes!), yet twitter works for me and for billions of others around the world! This theme was further emphasised while listening to ‘Something Understood on Radio 4 this morning, as they discussed the 99 words that summarised life! It was deeply moving listening to the poetry, music and words of choice that people had chosen to illustrate the meanings of their respective journeys. As I listened, I realised that I could place the words in to 2 categories; attributes, such as goodness, love, kindness, passion etc, to nouns like birds, trees, flowers, animals, rain. These attributes must surely feel familiar to you; after all, most of them are encapsulated within the 99 names attributed to Allah (SWT). As for the nature and the nouns; aren’t they all designed by the one who holds all manner of beautiful attributes? And how relevant it was, that they chose 99 words, out of all the numbers they might have chosen! That’s when I realised; that connecting with the creator is not quite the great mystery many religious scholars would have us believe! Hadaith tell us that the qur’an can be summarised in 3 recitations of sura ekhlas! Yet the first word of the Qur’an to be revealed was ‘Iqra (Read). Reading will take you on all manner of journeys, to all kinds of exciting or disturbing places, life changing places and mundane spaces, yet to really connect with the creator is to strip back all of the knowledge we try to hide behind. It is to tare open the heart and connect at an elemental basic level, where words and space and time become irrelevant, and only the relationship, the reality, exist. You don’t need philosophy to tell you that, nor do you need mosques books and academia to take you to that place. Use your own words, and trust the connection that is unique to your own soul; live it, breathe it, speak it and follow it; life, and loving Allah really are that simple!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The vallue Of a teardrop

As you travel through the journey that is Muharram, let the below be your guide for all your interactions with the non-shia and those who neither know, nor respect the Ahlulbayt (A.S). While anger and frustration, even despair may come naturally, our imams in their eternal and infinite wisdom show us there is indeed another way, nay, a yardstick by which we measure our own conduct; and if gentleness, courtesy and humility are good enough for our Imams, surely we will be in error who do not hear and act upon their example!

One day Sheikh Bahjat (ra)talked about the generosity of the Imams (as) saying: ‘In Iraq, there is a small town near the place where the Tigris and Euphrates
rivers meet called al-Musayyab. A Shia man used to pass by this town from time to time whenever he went to perform the Ziyarat of the Commander of the
Faithful Imam Ali (as) in Najaf. A Sunni man, too, was residing in this same town.

The latter quite often used to make fun of the Shia man whenever he saw him going to visit the shrine of the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (as), so
much so that he dared once to speak ill of the Holy Imam (as).

The Shia was very angry and he complained about this matter to the Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali (as) during one of his visits. During that night,
he saw the Imam (as) in his vision and once more complained to him about this matter.

Imam Ali (as) said, ‘He [the Sunni man] has done us a favour, and we cannot punish him in the life of this world no matter what sins he commits.’

The Shia asked, ‘What favour is it? Did he do you a favour when he dared to speak ill of you?’

The Imam (as) said, ‘No, but he was sitting one day at the meeting place of both rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, and he was looking at the Euphrates.
He remembered the story of Karbala and the thirst of Imam al-Husain (as), so he said this to himself: ‘Omer ibn Sa’d was wrong when he killed Imam Hussein
(as) and his followers as they were thirsty, and it was better for him to give them water before killing them.’

A tear trickled down his eyes out of grief for Abu Abdullah Al-Hussein (as); therefore, it became mandatory on us never to punish him in this life.’

The Shia says, I woke up from my sleep and returned to al-Musayyab and met the Sunni man on the road. He said to me in ridicule: ‘Did you visit your Imam,
and did you convey our message to him?!’

I said, ‘Yes, I conveyed your message to him, and I carry his message to you.’

The man laughed and said. ‘What is this message which you carry to me?’

He narrated to him the incident from beginning to end. The Sunni man lowered his head to the ground and kept thinking: ‘O Lord! Nobody at that moment was
near me, and I did not talk about this incident to anyone; so, how did Imam Ali (as) become familiar with it?’

Then he said, ‘I testify that there is no God save Allah, and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and that Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, is a
friend of Allah and the Wasi of the Messenger of Allah.’

From the book: “ Uswat Al-Aarifeen A Look at the Life of Ayatullah Bahjat” under the chapter: Tales Narrated by Grand Ayatullah Sheikh Bahjat, title: Clemency
and Generosity of the Imams (as)