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Elia Abu Madi: Tholasim

Elia Abu Madi

Elia Abu Madi or Elia D. Madey (1889-1957) was a Lebanese-American poet with numerous notable published works. The following is a translation of the first 8 stanzas from his famous work, Al-Tholasim (The Mysteries). The full poem comprises 405 lines.

I have translated (at least, attempted to) the following for your convenience.

الطلاسم
The Mysteries

جئت، لا أعلم من أين، ولكنّي أتيت
ولقد أبصرت قدّامي طريقا فمشيت
وسأبقى ماشيا إن شئت هذا أم أبيت
كيف جئت؟ كيف أبصرت طريقي؟
لست أدري!

I came, I know not from whence, but I arrived,
And before my feet a path lay under my stride,
And I continue to walk be it my will or not,
Whence did I come? And where do I go?
I do not know!

أجديد أم قديم أنا في هذا الوجود
هل أنا حرّ طليق أم أسير في قيود
هل أنا قائد نفسي في حياتي أم مقود
أتمنّى أنّني أدري ولكن…
لست أدري!

Is my part of existence new or old?
Do I walk free or am I shackled?
Am I controlled or do I control?
I wish I knew, but..
… I don’t!”

وطريقي، ما طريقي؟ أطويل أم قصير؟
هل أنا أصعد أم أهبط فيه وأغور
أأنا السّائر في الدّرب أم الدّرب يسير
أم كلاّنا واقف والدّهر يجري؟
لست أدري!

And my path, what is it? Is it long or is it short?
Do I ascend, or am I falling?
Does the path move under me or am I the one moving?
Are we standing still in Time’s flow?
I do not know!

ليت شعري وأنا عالم الغيب الأمين
أتراني كنت أدري أنّني فيه دفين
وبأنّي سوف أبدو وبأنّي سأكون
أم تراني كنت لا أدرك شيئا؟
لست أدري!

If only I knew the secrets of the Unseen,
Do you think I’d know if I was buried within?
And that I will emerge one day and be,
Or do you see nothing but ignorance in me?
I do not know!

أتراني قبلما أصبحت إنسانا سويّا
أتراني كنت محوا أم تراني كنت شيّا
ألهذا اللّغو حلّ أم سيبقى أبديّا
لست أدري… ولماذا لست أدري؟
لست أدري!

What was I, before I became a man so fashioned?
Was I something else or was I nothing of mention?
Is there a conclusion to this folly, am I eternally caught?
I do not know… and why do I know not?
I do not know!

البحر:
قد سألت البحر يوما هل أنا يا بحر منكا؟
هل صحيح ما رواه بعضهم عني وعنكا؟
أم ترى ما زعموا زوار وبهتانا وإفكا؟
ضحكت أمواجه مني وقالت:
لست أدري!

I asked the ocean one day: O Ocean, am I from you?
Is it true what they say about me and about you, too?
Or are their claims all but false and dead?
She laughed her gleeful waves at me and said,
“I don’t know!”

أيّها البحر، أتدري كم مضت ألف عليكا
وهل الشّاطىء يدري أنّه جاث لديكا
وهل الأنهار تدري أنّها منك إليكا
ما الذّي الأمواج قالت حين ثارت؟
لست أدري!

O Ocean, do you know not how many have passed over you?
And do the shores know that they kneel before you?
And do the rivers know they come to you, from you?
The waves stirred, what did they say?
I don’t know!

أنت يا بحر أسير آه ما أعظم أسرك
أنت مثلي أيّها الجبار لا تملك أمرك
أشبهت حالك حالي وحكى عذري عذرك
فمتى أنجو من الأسر وتنجو؟ ..
لست أدري!

O majestic ocean, majestic still your captivity,
You are like me, O great one. You own no ability,
My condition is like yours, and your limits tell of mine,
When will you and I be free of this bind?
I do not know!

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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Poetry, Spirituality

 

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The Conference of The Birds: An Excerpt and Some notes

This was written a while back for a class. The Conference of the Birds is a handbook on Tasawwuf (spirituality) written by Farid Al-Attar, circa 1145. Attar was a Persian poet and the following was taken from an online translation:

Lines 94-108: Bayazid’s annihilation (q.s.)

One Night from out the swarming City Gate

Stept holy Bajazyd, to meditate

Alone amid the breathing Fields that lay

In solitary Silence leagues away,

Beneath a Moon and Stars as bright as Day.

And the Saint wondering such a Temple were,

And so lit up, and scarce one worshipper,

A voice from Heav’n amid the stillness said:

‘The Royal Road is not for all to tread,

Nor is the Royal Palace for the Rout,

Who, even if they reach it, are shut out.

The Blaze that from my Harim window breaks

With fright the Rabble of the Roadside takes;

And ev’n of those that at my Portal din,

Thousands may knock for one that enters in.’

A similar narration in Tazkirat al-Awliya’ quotes, from Bayazid himself –

“one night, when I was a child, I left the city to go to the desert. The moon was shining and the world was at peace. Suddenly I had a vision; I saw an illuminated silhouette. The image was so bright that the light of the sun looked pale compared to this apparition. I fell into a state of rapture and a deep feeling of joy came over me. I whispered to myself, ‘Oh Allah, such a beautiful gate, yet empty, such an almighty realm, yet lonesome!” I heard a voice say, “the doorstep is empty, not because no one comes, but no one is admitted to come. This is not the realm of the impure; not many have the honor of admittance.” I thought, from whom in creation could I call upon to intercede for my admittance? And I remembered that the only one to intercede was the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). I could not call upon anyone but wait for him to give me permission to enter. It was then that I received a message saying, “because of such politeness I will raise your name so you will be remembered as the Sultan al-’Arifeen, Bayazid.”

Here the Almighty realm is empty because no one is granted permission. This is because only Allah exists and for one to reach this realm he must have annihilated in Him. No permission is granted as long as the self is present.  Also, the path to the Divine is through His Beloved, Muhammad s.a.w.

 

 

Lines 109-126

Thus spoke the Tajidar: and the wing’d Crowd,

That underneath his Word in Silence bow’d, 110

Clapp’d Acclamation: and their Hearts and Eyes

Were kindled by the Firebrand of the Wise.

They felt their Degradation: they believed

The word that told them how to be retrieved,

And in that glorious Consummation won

Forgot the Cost at which it must be done.

‘They only long’d to follow: they would go

Whither he led, through Flood, or Fire, or Snow’—

So cried the Multitude. But some there were

Who listen’d with a cold disdainful air, 120

Content with what they were, or grudging Cost

Of Time or Travel that might all be lost;

These, one by one, came forward, and preferr’d

Unwise Objection: which the wiser Word

Shot with direct Reproof, or subtly round

With Argument and Allegory wound.

Bayazid’s account, as told by the Hoopoe (here called the Tajidar, meaning ‘the adorner of the diadem’, a symbol of wisdom), humbles the birds as it becomes a reminder of the journey’s cost. The self is a hefty price to pay for anyone who thinks he is something, and that is most of us. The Nafs al-Ammarah and Nafs al-Lawwamah are susceptible to worldly obsession, which oftentimes becomes the barrier to feeling the sweetness of devotion. A related quote narrates, “verily in your heart sits the daughter of Iblis and that is Dunya, and it is incumbent upon the father to visit his daughter in her home, and his visit brings nothing but destruction”.

Lines 127-150

The Pheasant first would know by what pretence

The Tajidar to that pre-eminence

Was raised—a Bird, but for his lofty Crest

(And such the Pheasant had) like all the Rest—

Who answer’d—’By no Virtue of my own

Sulayman chose me, but by His alone:

Not by the Gold and Silver of my Sighs

Made mine, but the free Largess of his Eyes.

Behold the Grace of Allah comes and goes

As to Itself is good: and no one knows

Which way it turns: in that mysterious Court

Not he most finds who furthest travels for’t.

For one may crawl upon his knees Life-long,

And yet may never reach, or all go wrong:

Another just arriving at the Place

He toil’d for, and—the Door shut in his Face:

Whereas Another, scarcely gone a Stride,

And suddenly—Behold he is Inside!—

But though the Runner win not, he that stands,

No Thorn will turn to Roses in his Hands:

Each one must do his best and all endure,

And all endeavour, hoping but not sure.

Heav’n its own Umpire is; its Bidding do,

And Thou perchance shalt be Sulayman’s too.’

This begins with the Pheasant’s judgment of the hoopoe – questioning his authority and on what grounds he was chosen. This reflects the Hadith, “the believer is a mirror to his brother”. Whatever the pheasant saw in the hoopoe, was what he had in himself. The hoopoe answers that it was not by his virtue alone, his dialogue explains extensively the lessons behind the aforementioned account of Bayazid.  The point here being that the fruits of ‘amal are never granted by one’s own virtue, everything is by the Mercy and Favour of Allah Almighty – dare we question His Wisdom?

Lines 151-191: The story of Shah Mahmud

One day Shah Mahmud, riding with the Wind

A-hunting, left his Retinue behind,

And coming to a River, whose swift Course

Doubled back Game and Dog, and Man and Horse,

Beheld upon the Shore a little Lad

A-fishing, very poor, and Tatter-clad

He was, and weeping as his Heart would break.

So the Great Sultan, for good humour’s sake

Pull’d in his Horse a moment, and drew nigh,

And after making his Salam, ask’d why

He wept—weeping, the Sultan said, so sore

As he had never seen one weep before.

The Boy look’d up, and ‘O Amir,’ he said,

‘Sev’n of us are at home, and Father dead,

And Mother left with scarce a Bit of Bread:

And now since Sunrise have I fish’d—and see!

Caught nothing for our Supper—Woe is Me!’

The Sultan lighted from his horse. ‘Behold,’

Said he, ‘Good Fortune will not be controll’d:

And, since Today yours seems to turn from you,

Suppose we try for once what mine will do,

And we will share alike in all I win.’

So the Shah took, and flung his Fortune in,

The Net; which, cast by the Great Mahmud’s Hand,

A hundred glittering Fishes brought to Land.

The Lad look’d up in Wonder—Mahmud smiled

And vaulted into Saddle. But the Child

Ran after—’Nay, Amir, but half the Haul

Is yours by Bargain’—’Nay, Today take all,’

The Sultan cried, and shook his Bridle free—

‘But mind—Tomorrow All belongs to Me—’

And so rode off. Next morning at Divan

The Sultan’s Mind upon his Bargain ran,

And being somewhat in a mind for sport

Sent for the Lad: who, carried up to Court,

And marching into Royalty’s full Blaze

With such a Catch of Fish as yesterday’s,

The Sultan call’d and set him by his side,

And asking him, ‘What Luck?’ The Boy replied,

This is the Luck that follows every Cast,

Since o’er my Net the Sultan’s Shadow pass’d.’

Here the story of a boy and his encounter with the Sultan is narrated. The boy is in a destitute situation: his father had passed away; his mother barely has a morsel to feed their big family. They now count on the boy, who has had very little luck fishing since sunrise. The Sultan chances upon him and offers to help, and strikes a bargain with the boy:  whatever he (the Sultan) catches today belongs to the boy, but whatever the boy catches tomorrow will be for him.

This story is highly metaphorical in that the boy and is representative of the individual. His situation the Hell he creates for himself when one chooses to rely on his own resources.  In gnosis, the Master of everything is recognized, and one should have no resource other than Him to rely on.  The Sultan’s arrival represents Gnostic recognition and how it is the key to abundance. Abundance is a state of being rather than a physical phenomenon, therefore it is irrelevant what form it comes in. It lies in the satisfaction that accompanies every moment of remembrance, and the awareness of God’s hand in everything.

 

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in Poetry, Rants, Spirituality

 

Bayazid Al-Bastami (q.s.), Sultan al-‘Arifeen

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The saints of God are His brides and none looks upon brides save those of their family. They are veiled in seclusion in His presence by intimacy. No one sees them, neither in the world nor the next.”

Of the well-known Sufi masters, whose iconic stories are often narrated and quoted in Suhbaat (study circles), is Sultan al-‘Arifeen Bayazid Al-Bastami (q.s). Also known as Abu Yazid Tayfoor al-Bastami in Arabic, he lived in Bastam, Persia, during the 9th century AD. His grandfather was a Zoroastrian who converted to Islam. Besides this, not much is known of his childhood, although some sources cite Karamaat (miracles) occurring before his birth as an indication of his status.

He is an inheritor of infamous Sufi giants – his teacher was Dhu al-Nun Al Misri, who learnt from Jabir Ibn Hayyan, who learnt from Ja’far As-Sadiq (may Allah preserve them all). The Khwajangan (Persian for ‘master’), who were the Sufi Masters of Central Asia during the 10th-16th century, is also traced back to him.

The doctrine of Fana’ (annihilation) is seldom taught without mentioning him. His sayings in the state of divine intoxication (Shatahah) are well-known, amongst them are:

“سبحاني سبحاني”

“Glory be to me! Glory be to me!”

“I say that, God is the mirror of myself, for with my tongue He speaks and I have ceased to be myself”

Also found in other sources, Adh-Dhahabi (known Muhaddith and historian, d.1348 AD) quoted Al-Bastami in numerous matters, amongst which were “Praise to Me, for My greatest Glory!” and “There is nothing in this robe I am wearing except Allah.” Adh-Dhahabi’s teacher Ibn Taymiyya explained, “He didn’t see himself as existing any longer, but only saw the existence of Allah, due to his self-denial.”

It was mentioned in Tazkirat al-Awliya that someone once asked Bayazid, “how did you become such a great, learned Sufi?” Bayazid replied, “one night, when I was a child, I left the city to go to the desert. The moon was shining and the world was at peace. Suddenly I had a vision; I saw an illuminated silhouette. The image was so bright that the light of the sun looked pale compared to this apparition. I fell into a state of rapture and a deep feeling of joy came over me. I whispered to myself, ‘Oh Allah, such a beautiful gate, yet empty, such an almighty realm, yet lonesome!” I heard a voice say, “the doorstep is empty, not because no one comes, but no one is admitted to come. This is not the realm of the impure; not many have the honor of admittance.” I thought, from whom in creation could I call upon to intercede for my admittance? And I remembered that the only one to intercede was the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). I could not call upon anyone but wait for him to give me permission to enter. It was then that I received a message saying, “because of such politeness I will raise your name so you will be remembered as the Sultan al-‘Arifeen, Bayazid.”

Bayazid Al-Bastami (q.s) died in 874 AD. It was said that when he was dying he made a prayer – “oh Allah, I remembered you as if I was an ignorant. Now that I am dying, I am negligent of worshipping You, and I do not know when I will be in Your presence again”. He passed away in a state of Zikr. At the time of his death one of his students, Abu Musa, dreamt that he carried the universe on his shoulders. In a subsequent dream Bayazid Al-Bastami (q.s) appeared to him, telling him that the universe was indeed his body, as how Abu Musa carried his corpse to the grave earlier that day.

Other sayings by him include:

Someone asked, “show me the shortest way to reach God.” Bayazid said, “love those beloved of Allah and make yourself lovable to them so that they love you, because Allah looks into the hearts of whom He loves seventy times a day. Perchance He will love you, too, and He will forgive you your wrongdoings”

When Bayazid was asked, “how old are you?” he said, “four years!” he was asked, “how can that be?” he answered, “I have been veiled (from God) by this world for seventy years, but I have seen Him during the last four years; the period in which one is veiled does not belong to one’s life”

And Allah knows.

[Written as a supplement to ongoing discussion sessions on Farid al-Attar’s Conference of the Birds.]

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Spirituality

 

Surah Muhammad: Understanding the Command to Fight

Surah Muhammad or Al-Qital is one of the few Chapters in the Qur’an that has two names. Other examples of such chapters include chapters 9 (at-Tawbah or Bara’ah), no. 17 (Al-Isra’ or Bani Isra’il) and no. 40 (Ghafir or Al-Mu’min). Its first name (Muhammad) is derived from from verse 2, which implies that in it the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) is mentioned by name (this occurs 5 times in total in the whole Qur’an). The name Al-Qital, which means ‘battle’, is derived from verse 20 “..and fighting is mentioned therein..” with ‘therein’ referring to the chapter itself.


This chapter was sent down after the Hijrah in Madinah. This was during the early years following the Hijrah, so active fighting was not undertaken yet.

This Chapter was sent down during a time when Muslims were the target of persecution – in Makkah as well as the Arabian Peninsula in general. The small settlement of Madinah was surrounded by enemy forces. Thus, there was a need to wage war, for it would be difficult for any new settlement to thrive in such a hostile environment otherwise.

The Muslims were first given permission to fight in Surah Al Hajj, verse 39 :

أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَـٰتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُم ظُلِمُواْ‌ۚ وَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ نَصرِهِم لَقَدِيرٌ (٣٩

“To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged – and verily, Allah is Most Powerful for their aid-”

and then fighting was further enjoined in Surah Al Baqarah, verse 190:

وَقَـٰتِلُواْ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّذِينَ يُقَـٰتِلُونَكُم وَلَا تَعتَدُوٓاْ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلمُعتَدِينَ (١٩٠

“Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors”

Now, a platform has been given for the Muslims to properly establish themselves. Note that there were only a handful of Muslims in Madinah, and they had barely a thousand soldiers; and despite this they were urged to stand up against the pagan forces of the rest of Arabia. Also, being a mere group of emigrants, they were suffering economically and thus lacked the resources for basic needs, much less the resources for battle. It is at times like this that the beauty and majesty of faith is realized, as we will discover.

The theme of this chapter is to prepare the believers for war and to give them preliminary instructions in this regard. This is another reason why it has been titled al-Qital. The following is an outline of the topics addressed in this chapter:-

It begins by illustrating two groups of people, which will become a further topic of discussion later in the chapter. The first is described as those who reject Allah and prevent others from His path, and the second group is described as those who believe in Allah and the revelation sent to Muhammad (pbuh). He renders the deeds of the former group fruitless and in vain, and rectifies the affairs of the latter group.

This is followed by basic guidelines as to what should be employed in the battle against enemy forces. This includes instructions with regards to dealing with captives (as per the example of Badr). The merits of martyrdom are then mentioned. Afterwards, a warning is given to the people of Makkah who have driven out Muhammad (pbuh). This shows that victory is already in the hands of the believers, and that the consequences of incurring injustice (zulm) are dire.

Surah Muhammad is not the only chapter in which the tactics of battle are laid out. It is also mentioned in Surah at-Tawbah, verse 123:

يَـٰأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ قَـٰتِلُواْ ٱلَّذِينَ يَلُونَكُم مِّنَ ٱلكُفَّارِ وَليَجِدُواْ فِيكُم غِلظَةً‌ۚ

“o you who believe! Fight the disbelievers who are close to you, and let them find harshness in you”

(‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali translates ‘يَلُونَكُم ٱلَّذِينَ‘ as ‘those who gird you about’ instead of ‘those who are close to you’)

It is easy to misconstrue this verse without a proper guide. The ‘closeness’ referred to here is in terms of proximity. Thus why the Muslims began by fighting the enemies in the Arabian Peninsula, and afterwards advanced towards the Romans, and so on.

The Muslims did not only face enemies from the outside; there were also enemies within their community. Thus the chapter addresses the hypocrites, giving an accurate description of them (and an even more precise one later in chapter 63). Allah mentions their signs and then says that their secrets are not unknown to Him. This makes up almost half of the contents of this chapter. Put simply, the hypocrites were unwilling to go to war, and conspired with external forces to save themselves. This was definitely unfavourable to the Muslim army and must be dealt with before they can actually go to battle.

Afterwards, the chapter elaborates the differences between the believers and those who reject faith. Such differences only manifest when the Ummah is tried. Those who have faith will persevere and those who do not will flee, thinking that their lives are in their own hands. Those who persevere will be granted victory and those without faith have rendered their own deeds invalid. Thus a lesson in faith is taught in this scenario: one either worships Allah or himself. To have faith in Allah is to know that everything has already been taken care of, and such is the state of Sabr. This is reiterated in verse 35, when Allah says “…when you should be uppermost”, which means that these people have indeed been lifted in ranks.

And Allah knows.


 
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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Qur'an, Spirituality

 

On sincerity

In the name of Allah, the turner of hearts.

Such is the world we live in, where every action is defined by motives rather than intentions. Where the pull of divine realization is neglected and the push of the nafs becomes the soul’s focus.

Sincerity is the innermost core of intention. Without it, the intention is a mere husk, empty and whatever that results from it, is empty too. And what better designation for this sincerity than God? It was said that sincerity means to be so engrossed in the supervision of the Creator that the creation is forgotten.

Those are big shoes to fill. Let’s not talk about a full-fledged life dedication to God just yet. When was the last time we did anything simply for the sake of doing it?

Our thoughts are usually either roped onto the past or lost in the future. Barely a second of awareness is spent in that moment itself. And in our neglect, moment after moment, if not by His Mercy perhaps a whole lifetime is wasted. If this is the state of one’s everyday life, how then is the state of his ‘ibadah?

Every act of worship is an opportunity to live in the present, to exist where it matters most – every act of worship is, basically, a chance to simply exist. True existence is only in the Divine presence, and such is the parable of the lamp (God) and the light it emanates (creation); for truly the light itself doesn’t exist – only the lamp does.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Spirituality

 

On Hijab and idiosyncrasies.

In the name of God Almighty.

source: google images

It’s the 21st century – horses are no longer martyred in long-distance journeys, our daily bread usually comes with coke and fries on the side, and technology has advanced so much that we find the most childish reasons to start wars (oh wait- that’s nothing new). But such is the nature of mankind that no matter how many light years he has advanced in the fields of virtual realities and electronic wonderlands, these changes remain skin-deep.

Meaning to say, our tendency to be greedy, vain, judgmental and other idiosyncratic desires has always been, and will forever be, the bane of our own wellbeing. Which is something many of us fail to realize – we feel automatically cultured and civilized the moment we adopt a certain belief system or way of life, forgetting that its very fundamentals aren’t found essentially in the way we dress, or eat, or greet each other even, for instance.

So… what does this have to do with the Hijab, again? Based on my experience and a bit of reflection as I sat on the train the other day, this is what I have to say: –

To put it mildly – I believe we have experienced more than enough of society’s patronizing attitude towards hijab-wearers (or perhaps Muslim women in general). How do we even define ‘Hijab’ in its essence? Its origins lay in the Arabic 3-letter root “حَجَبَ” (rom. “Hajaba“) which means to hide, screen, make something invisible or inaccessible. Its usage traverses numerous fields of Islamic knowledge (e.g Tasawwuf and Faraidh), with varying versions and definitions in each, to suit its context. Pertaining to this, the word ‘Aurah is also often heard, the origins of which lies in the Arabic root “عَارَ” (rom. “‘Aara”), which means shame, disgrace or nudity.

Suffice to say that the literal definition of these terms encompasses a wide variety of meanings and understandings – can its spiritual implications be any less than this?

The hijab is most often related to the topic of modesty and morality. At the mention of the word, one automatically pictures women in flowing, loose gowns carefully tailored not to give away any details of the body, with extra-large jilbabs (head dress) to match, preferably with an extra piece of cloth that covers the face, too.

Yes? You either come from a highly conservative community of highly religious people (perhaps in a desert where the sand necessitates the covering of the face) – in which case, bravo – or you’ve been trying just a little too hard – and perhaps your righteousness is veering dangerously towards self-righteousness.

No? That’s great, let’s try that again.

Man in his variety of beliefs and experiences, cannot be expected to conform to just one standardized view on modesty. An individual whose life has been spent in a brothel and another whose life has been spent in a Mosque may not have the same understanding of decency. In fact, it will be greatly biased and unfair to expect them to. How then is a woman expected to fulfill such contrasting criterions of modesty?

The answer: she doesn’t have to. (what did big dresses and jilbabs have to do with this, anyway?)

Now, let’s take it from the ultimately more important aspect in question: the wearer herself. Why does she wear a cloth over her head? The reasons every hijabi might give you will differ, without a doubt. It should, however, eventually boil down to one main reason – she chooses to cover up for the sake of God. This will make sense the first time you hear it, and the second, third and fourth, and so on – until you decide to start thinking about it.

It is easy to do many things for the sake of God. It is also easy to develop self-righteousness, arrogance and in cases, fake humility, in the process. It is imperative to be aware that a cloth, no matter how big, never justifies a heart filled with such heinous characteristics. One mistake many of us make is the assumption that donning a hijab immediately transforms a woman into a pure, chaste, God-fearing priestess – the bigger the hijab, the purer. Which is never the case – and apparently this belief is adopted and strongly reinforced within the smaller, more religious communities of the Malay society, inevitably casting an elitist tint on their portrayal to the masses. In which case the act of donning such attire (and this does not apply to everyone) could easily be translated as an attempt to promote superficiality, rather than diminish it, as how it ought to.

Speaking of superficiality, another popular topic is the issue of make-up. All that vitamin B+ foundation, gel eyeliner, UV-protection powders and ultra-moisturizing lip balms, aren’t all these things feminine tools used to allure men to their destruction? Perhaps the best answer I could think to that is: any straight-thinking, upright lady would be the least interested in leading any man to his destruction (unless you were an evil stepmother in an Indonesian drama series seeking revenge on her son’s lover. Now THAT kind of make-up should be haraam) – besides, if men were really so easily aroused that a little powder and blush excites them (pardon me), then I think the problem isn’t in the make-up at all. Of course, I personally think that over-indulging in make-up is an absolute no-no, purely for practical reasons. If praying 5 times a day meant scrubbing everything off and re-painting it all on afterwards every time, a little laziness would be enough to send all my priorities haywire.

There is also quite a lot of discussion on how Muslimah dressing is an attempt of beautification, aimed at making the wearer more attractive to the eye, often interpreted as a cry for attention, too. Perhaps it has hardly occurred to us that it is a woman’s fitrah (nature) to be inclined to beauty and beautification. So, instead of being so obsessed over whether a woman’s self-beautification is obnoxious and attention-seeking, let us simply not deny her her nature. Let’s look at her as a human being with human tendencies and inclinations, and see past these tendencies because it comes naturally in every woman anyway. Value her for her heart that beats with passion and her mind of intellect. Look at her (and everything else) with the eyes of depth and wisdom.

At the end of the day, the whole idea of practicing the hijab is to exercise a level of outward modesty – simply put, particularly one that simply does not make heads turn wherever you go. When the self no longer takes interest in attention and judgement, and no longer feeds itself on the praises and admiration of others. That is my understanding of invisibility and inaccessibility, of covering up nudity. When one allows herself to be affected by every comment and judgement passed off about her, isn’t that exposure and vulnerability too? There is nothing mahjuub (covered up) about a sequin-filled skin-tight dress that attracts stares wherever it goes, and it wouldn’t make a difference whether your hair is covered or not. Just a thought.

Let’s cast away the judgemental looks we bestow so liberally on others and start turning these eyes inwards.

“Honesty is calmness, and lies are doubt, and righteousness is the best of conduct, and sins are that which is woven within your heart, and you would be ashamed lest it would be discovered by the people. Seek your heart’s counsel.” (Hadith)

  • Zaf
 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Rants, Spirituality

 

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Woven.

Bismillaahirrahmaanirraheem.

Such is the incomprehensible Wisdom and Beauty of God, that no paths cross except for a reason, each a thread carefully woven into the intricate, seamless cloth of life.

Little do we realize that we remain in each other’s lives only for as long as we have to, until our role in each other’s development is complete, and then we move on to the next set of threads, and the next, and the next.

For some, the process is quick, while others prefer to take their time. Sometimes we see the same faces over and over again, and others, we only meet once.

Perhaps the only established reality of life is that it changes, constantly and relentlessly, whether we like it or not.

I was waiting by that lone, frosty street,

Hands clasped in misery,

It was sweet.

Just a thought,

Zaf.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Rants, Spirituality

 

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