Saluting the artist Shua’ib

Assalamu Alaikum Dear Readers,

Peace be with you this beautiful sunny August day. What a blessing to enjoy that ‘glorious morning light’ (Quran 91:1) and be in good health. I pray you who read this, are all in good health, physically, mentally and most importantly, emotionally. I pray your heart is expanded and filled with that sense of true belonging that is the foundation of serenity. And who do we belong to, except to the One who made us.

This is a post about the artist Shu’aib. I was fortunate to meet him when I was in Spain this Spring. He is a beautifully humble man. A delight to be around. The type of person, one feels ennobled by, not in a grandiose manner, but due to his sincere humility and beautiful comportment. Perhaps this is what the artisans and guildsman of old were like. Truly dedicated to a craft and they have a sense of dignity in how they carry themselves. He is a Spaniard, who I believe, like many thousands of others, are discovering that centuries ago their ancestors were Spanish Muslims. Please note, ethnic Spanish Muslims and not Arabs who lived in Spain. I do not know if this is what lead him to Islam. But he converted and unfortunately then faced a lot of hostility from his surroundings. So much that he had to move.

His trade is in ceramic work and he hand crafts some gorgeous pieces. He has commissions from some major mosques around the world I was told. He lives in a complex that is somewhat like a ‘kibbutz’ I think. There is a house that has a prayer hall, his workshop, garden plots and some farm land in the back, and goats! We offered the noon prayer there and then stayed to enjoy a very special tea that he served us out in the garden.

He has a website, Al-Yarrar (linked) but I am not sure you can buy online. A speciality to the kingdom of Granada was the Nasari style pottery, a type of lusterware. Lusterware is a technique developed during the Islamic Golden Age in Iraq (9th or 10th CE / 3rd or 4th Hijri?) and then it soon spread across the Muslim world. It involves reducing elements through a firing process to produce beautiful shining gold-like effects and can be done in other colours too. Here is a nice article with information. One of the most famous remaining examples of this style is the ‘vase of the gazelles’ in the Alhambra palace. Here is a picture, it really is stunning.

To end some pictures I took. Captions on the images. I especially liked the image in the prayer hall – it is the entire quran on one sheet of paper. I could actually read the verses! I am not sure if it is a hand-written Quran or not.

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The entire Quran! And in my reading of it not a single vowel was out of place. The size must have been 1.5 ft by 2.5 ft.

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The 99 names of God in square kufic script calligraphy, the frame was surrounded by the largest rosary (Muslims use these as a means of counting when repeating the names of God in dhikr=remembrance, a common spiritual practice) I’ve ever seen. The frame was about 1.5 ft by 1.5ft

Shuaib1

Collage of the tile making process – from Shuaib’s workshop

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Shuaib pouring tea in the garden. I don’t have his permission to share this, but I hope he won’t mind.

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Items for sale

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Lusterware pieces

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A replica of the famous ‘jar of the Gazelles’ from the Alhambra palace

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Finally, two little pieces to grace my Quran table. MashaAllahu ta’ala

 

May God bless our brother Shu’aib and give him every success here and hereafter.

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Truly it is a beautiful call

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be with you,

The moon is full tonight and it is a ‘supermoon’. Beautiful to behold, quietly radiant, softly white. And it marks the half of the month of Shawwal already passing. Time passes so quickly and how little control we have over time. Which reminds me of the hadith qudsi (narrations from the prophet peace be upon him, where the words are from the prophet though the message is from God, the exalted, the high. This is in difference to the Quran, where the words are from God, the exalted and the messenger peace be upon him, only transmits or utters them. And it is also different to the hadith literature – which are sayings of the blessed messenger himself and not the word of God, the exalted) that goes like this;

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“Allah said:

‘Sons of Adam inveigh against [the vicissitudes of] Time, and I am Time, in My hand is the night and the day.’” (1)


(1) Note from commentator – As the Almighty is the Ordainer of all things, to inveigh against misfortunes that are part of Time is tantamount to inveighing against Him.

It was related by al-Bukhari (also by Muslim).

 

And that milky bright moon, whose face beheld that of the blessed messenger…feasting my eyes upon its glorious super-moon splendour tonight, I thank God for the gift of eyesight and for the wondrous creation that is the moon and the sun’s light that it reflects. Isn’t it amazing that a great concentration of earth can become such a shining mirror! Subhahanalllah (=exalted is God)! Truly the methodology of the fashioning of the universe exudes the name of God – Al-Kareem (The Generous). And no generosity is akin to the generosity of the limitless divine. How little we understand of our Maker and how little we are able to in our created state. Subhahanallah.

To continue, feasting my eyes on the beauteous face of this bright pure moon, I echo the prayer our beloved messenger taught us to make, each time he saw the moon. He (peace be upon him) would say ” O moon, as you do worship God, so do I ” (I could not find the source for this narration, and it is my habit to usually give the source-text. However there is scholarly consensus that in certain matters – such as this quote, which is only meant to engender faith in the heart and can do no harm, it is okay to use even if the source is weak. Therefore I am not so worried about not finding the source for this one. Truly I can’t recall where I learnt it, I only remember reading it years ago and perhaps due to its simple joyous expression of faith – it was engraved in my memory). And I recall the numerous hadith from the companions of the blessed prophet (Gods’ pleasure be on them all) who all likened the beauty of Muhammed to that of the moon. I will give one here, and others are nicely compiled in this post

Jaber bin Sumrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “I saw Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on a full-moon night.  His face was radiating with light, I looked at him and looked at the moon repeatedly.  His face was brighter than the moon”

(this hadith is in Imam Tirmidhi’s Shama’il)

Now it is strange, I titled this post on the call to prayer – the Azan. For I have come across a most beautiful azan that I want to share, and yet I am writing about the moon. But perhaps not so strange, for as the moon calls the waters of the oceans in tide-swell, so this azan calls the heart of all who listen to a heart-swell of peace. I pray you feel this peace, and so share this with you.

God bless you all

 

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Wonders of the Heart – Part 1

joymanifest:

A must share! And much needed boost after the inevitable post-ramadan slump we all experience it seems :). As one of my teachers says – you must have your ‘regular diet of ‘ilm (=sacred knowledge)’. The heart almost craves this and feels starved otherwise. No wonder then, we were so energized during Ramadan – a time when the heart is well fed. A time when our physical bodily needs fade into the background and we can hear the hunger pangs of the heart, and then set about feeding it for that one special month. My dear brothers and sisters – lets’ not let our hearts starve now that Ramadan is over. For the Quranic ayat is true and has been testified unto by seekers for centuries past…”Without doubt, in the remembrance of Allaah (=God), do hearts find peace.” – Quran 13:28

Originally posted on Concordia Et Mysterium:

 ‘Self-knowledge is the foundation of the way of the wayfarers’

writes Imam Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111) in his Ihya ‘Ulum ad-Dïn [Revivification of Religious Sciences]. Commenting on this sentence, the 17th century Muslim scholar and theologian, Faidh Al-Kashani, wrote a short treatise titled Maqâmât al-Qalb [Stations of the Heart]. The following text is a translation of Faidh’s introduction to the Stations of the Heart.

 اَلقَلبُ هُوَ العٰالمُ باللّهِ ۞ وَهُوَ العامِلُ للّه ۞ وَالسّٰاعي إلٰی اللّهِ ۞ وَهُوَ المُتِقرّبُ إلَيهِ ۞ وَهُوَ الکٰاشفُ لِمٰا عِندَ اللهِ ۞ وَإنّمٰا الجَوٰارِحُ أَتبٰاعٌ لِلْقَلبِ ۞ والْبَدَنُ آلَةٌ يَسْتَخْدَمُهُ القَلبُ۞ وَيَستَعْمِلُها اسْتِعمٰالَ المٰالکِ لِلْعَبيد ۞ وَاسْتِخدٰام الرٰاعي للرعية ۞ وَالصٰانعُ للآلة

It is the heart that knows God; and performs actions for God; it is the heart that moves towards God; and seeks nearness to God; it is the heart that discovers the divine mysteries. The bodily organs are all subservient to the Heart; the body itself is…

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Looking for Laylathul-Qadr

Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you all

I promised to blog about Laylathul Qadr. Layl means night in Arabic and Qadr is a word hard to translate. It can mean; power, destiny, highly valued, decree,  among other meanings, when used in this context. Laylathul Qadr, can therefore be rendered as ‘the extremely valuable or powerful night of divine determination’ or ‘the night of power’. It comes once in a year, in the month of Ramadan. The Quran was first revealed to the Messenger of God, Muhammed (peace and blessing of God be upon him) during Ramadan, and many believe laylathul Qadr is when it was first revealed.

We don’t know when the exact night is (and hence the title of this post :) ). There are valid scholarly opinions; it could be any of the nights of Ramadan, it could be in the last 10 nights of Ramadan or it could be among the odd numbered nights of the last 10 nights of Ramadan (i.e., 21st, 23rd, 25th night and so on). The majority favour the last two opinions. Scholars who do tafseer (=interpretation of the Quran) say these ayaath (=signs literally, but translated as verses in English) that open Surah Fajr (=chapter called ‘daybreak/dawn’) refer to laylathul Qadr. Again the English does not capture any of the rhyme or rhythm of the Arabic sadly…

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of God, the most loving, the love-giving
 
By the dawn

 

And [by] ten nights

 

And [by] the even [number] and the odd

 

And [by] the night when it passes,

 

Is there [not] in [all] that an oath [sufficient] for one of perception?

[I have to say the scientist in me is fascinated by numbers and the methodology of numeracy. I find ayah number 3 - 'by the even and odd contrasted' deeply delightful and extremely intriguing. What is it about numbers and divisibility and what does this tell us about 'unity' - that 'one-ness' of God our whole deen or way of life, is so completely based on. So much to ponder on! subhahanallah = exalted be God]

 Reflecting on the fact that we don’t know when laylathul qadr is, there is divine wisdom in that ..for it makes us not lazy to seek it. As in, we don’t just flock to the mosque to remember God on that one night, but rather go everyday hoping to meet ‘her’. Also there is divine wisdom in that it is in the last 10 nights (majority view) as often after 20 days of fasting, the body is tired and the spirit sometimes can vain. But knowing lalthul qadr will come in the last 10 days gives us something very precious to look forward to and so we renew our efforts and rather than a tiring body we find new energy and drive.

 There are ‘signs’ that tell us it was laylathul qadr. Many Muslim cultures have their own pieces of hearsay or you could even say ‘folklore’ about the signs :)…I remember as a kid being told that you won’t see a leaf on a tree move nor hear a dog bark (!). Some say the night will be softly cloudy, some say it will be clear…etc. Of course the messenger of God, peace be upon him, was asked about its signs and he did reply. The most authentic scholarly opinion based on his (peace be upon him) reply is that the sun will rise the next day ‘as if with no rays’, i.e., serenely and it won’t be dazzlingly bright. And more importantly during the night itself every believer’s heart will feel an immense peace. I found this nicely worded reply from Sh. Uthaymeen

From amongst the signs of Laylatul-Qadar is that it is a calm night and the believer’s heart is delighted and at peace with it, and he becomes active in doing good actions, and the sun on the following morning rises clearly without any rays.

Much Quran is recited during these precious nights and the mosques are full of worshippers who stand often through the night in long units of prayer. There is something so tranquil about this ‘standing by night’ (literally what the night prayer is called ‘qiyam ul layl’ = standing by night). When one is joined to one’s sisters and brothers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, row upon row. The lights are dimmed and the voice of the qari (=reciter of Quran) sings the verses of the Quran in soft serenity. Sometimes children will be playing outside or they will come and stand with the older ones in prayer, or they will be sleeping, some baby falling asleep in the arms of the mother standing in prayer. It is very beautiful and a time I long for each year. Some people follow the sunnah (=way, of the blessed prophet) who used to go into spiritual seclusion during the last 10 days, and so they will stay in the mosque in that seclusion – fasting by day and reciting Quran or offering salat (=Muslim ritual worship) and making du’a (=supplications or prayers) by day and night. It is a much needed ‘cleanse’. And I love it that this type of annual retreat is part of the religion and accessible to any ordinary Muslim that wants to take it instead of being only something for a priestly class of people, which does not exist in Islam.

 Finally, chapter 97 in the Quran is entirely devoted to this night. It is a short chapter being only 5 ayath. Reading it tells us why we feel so much peace during this one night. It is the night the angels descend and the arch-angel, Gabrial himself (peace be upon them all) visits the earth. To those unfamiliar with the tafseer of the chapter, in verse 4 ‘the spirit’ is considered to be the arch-angel Gabrial who is called Jibra’eel in Arabic.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the name of God, the most loving, the love-giving
97:1
Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree.
97:2
And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree?
97:3
The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months.
97:4
The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter.
97:5
Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.

 

I will leave you with a 45 second clip so you can enjoy listening to the recitation of this beautiful chapter. I especially love the last ayah. Anyone who has had the good fortune to witness a laylathul qadr in their lives will know exactly what this means. May we all be granted the felicity to witness or to have witnessed laylathul qadr

Peace be with you all

 

 

 

 

 

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The miracle of water

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be upon you all

Half of this blessed month has already left us, never to return, and one can’t help but be sad at that thought. But indeed then also still happy that the month is still in our midst and that the last ten days are soon to begin. Bi ithnillahi ta’ala (=with the permission of God, the Most High) I will blog about the last ten nights of Ramadan later on.

Many of my Muslim readers who have been fasting, and perhaps some of my non-Muslim friends who joined the fast this year, would have gotten a renewed appreciation for water the past few days. Here in Canada the days are long and where I live, we are having a spell of warm weather. There is nothing as delightful as that first sip of cool refreshing water at sunset when we break our fast. Indeed the du’a (=prayer/supplication) of the blessed beloved (peace of God be upon him) when he broke his fast is heartfelt by us as we also utter it. [He made other du'a when opening the fast, that we also say]

‘The thirst has gone and the veins are quenched, and reward is confirmed, if Allaah wills.’

While fasting has many esoteric benefits, one among them is  truly a deeper understanding of the suffering there is in the world. Some things just have to be felt to be understood! And yet, as I write this, I know it is true that the suffering of thirst and hunger we undergo is very different to that of people who really are suffering these tribulations. For we, we have some assurance in our heart of food and drink that will come at the end of the day. But for many thousands this is not an assured thing. Indeed this month reminds us that for many in the world, even in our post-modern context, starvation/malnourishment/lack of potable water is still a stark reality.

It is remarkable how much more energized I feel just after drinking that glass of water. It always strikes me how amazing it is, that this substance can bring about such a complete change in a matter of moments.

As a scientist-in-training I am mesmerized by water. It’s such a perfect molecule. I forget, but I recall reading that had not the bond angle between H-O-H (the two hydrogen atoms and the one oxygen atom) being the precise angle it is, all of life would not have existed. It is an amazing molecule – that when it is frozen, it weighs less than when liquid… one could go on and on about it.

So I looked up an old post that I want to share. It is taken from here. This was shared with us by one of my dear sisters, herself a post-doctoral fellow now mashaAllah (=by the grace of Allah). It was when we had been studying the water cycle as it is given in the Quran during our Quran study halaqa (=circle/group/class). It was blogged 4 years ago. A reminder of the 4th anniversary of our Quran study group and also of this blog, bi barakathiallah! (=by the blessing of Allah). A useful collection of ayaath (literally ‘signs’, meaning ‘verses’ in the Quran..as each verse is considered a sign of God)

 

“Also, since we were discussing the fact that Quran mentions that fresh and salt water do not mix. The reference to it is in the Surah 25 Al-Furqan: Ayat 53: “And it is He who has released [simultaneously] the two seas, one fresh and sweet and one salty and bitter, and He placed between them a barrier and prohibiting partition”

It is also in Surah 55 Ar-Rahman, Ayat 19 & 20.

 

I think we were all fascinated by water and how it sustains life.
Ayat 54 of Al Furqan is the one that says that humans are created from water: It is He Who has created man from water: then has He established relationships of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord has power (over all things). 

Surah 21 Al Anbiya Ayat 30: “We made from water every living thing”

 

I wanted to share this video (http://videos.howstuffworks.com/hsw/17265-the-water-cycle-where-fresh-water-comes-from-video.htm) about the cycle of water which is also mentioned in the Quran at several places:

- Surah 23 Al-Mumenoon Ayat 18: “And We send down water from the sky according to (due) measure, and We cause it to soak in the soil; and We certainly are able to drain it off (with ease).”

- Surah 30 Ar-Room Ayat 48: “It is Allah Who sends the Winds, and they raise the Clouds: then does He spread them in the sky as He wills, and break them into fragments, until thou seest rain-drops issue from the midst thereof: then when He has made them reach such of his servants as He wills behold, they do rejoice! “

- Surah 7 Al-Araf Ayat 57: “It is He Who sendeth the winds like heralds of glad tidings, going before His mercy: when they have carried the heavy-laden clouds, We drive them to a land that is dead, make rain to descend thereon, and produce every kind of harvest therewith: thus shall We raise up the dead: perchance ye may remember.”

- Surah 39 Az-Zumar Ayat 39: “Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and leads it through springs in the earth? Then He causes to grow, therewith, produce of various colours: then it withers; thou wilt see it grow yellow; then He makes it dry up and crumble away. Truly, in this, is a Message of remembrance to men of understanding.”

Let’s renew our appreciation of water, our thanks for it, and implement the sunnah (=way/habits/practices) of the beloved Messenger of God (peace be upon him) in how careful he was in using water and not wasting it.

Ramadan Kareem! (=May Ramadan be generous for you/wish you a generous Ramadan/God’s generosity be with you this Ramadan)

 

 

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‘Fathima Knight in shining armour’!

Assalamu alaikum, peace be with you dear readers,

A few weeks ago, I was greatly delighted to ‘attend’ online, the first commencement ceremony of Zaytuna college. Zaytuna (=Olive/Olive tree) college is North America’s first academic Muslim liberal arts college. I believe it’s degree certification is from UC Berkeley. It was set-up by Sh. Hamza Yusuf Hanson, the scholar interviewed in the series I blogged recently.

I have been following the budding and growth of this institution keenly the past four years and it was  a proud moment to be able to witness its first commencement. The occasion was graced by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, one of the few remaining ‘giant scholars’ in the Muslim world. He is a master of many spheres, speaks fluent French in addition to a very high caliber of Arabic and has a CV I have no words to describe, so I won’t. Suffice to say, that in his demenour and service he has come to embody what a true scholar is, and he is one of the teachers of Sh. Hamza. It is a great compliment to Zaytuna college that Sh. Bin Bayyah made the trip out for the commencement despite his 80+ years and difficulty with travel. He did it due to his heartfelt support of the endeavor. And indeed, it is a desperately needed endeavor. You may catch a glimpse of him in the clip, the elderly gentleman in traditional garb with his scholars turban. Knowledge has always been a prized possession for the Muslim, and God bless Sh. Hamza and his likes, who are fighting hard to bring back the light of learning to the Muslim world.

Faatimah Knight is a shining example of what a young person schooled in such an environment of sound knowledge and real scholarship can produce. Imam Zaid Shakir, is a well known and well beloved figure in the North American Muslim world. He is an African American ex-US marine (if I’m not mistaken) who converted to Islam several decades ago, and then schooled in traditional Islamic scholarship, who is now a teacher at Zaytuna. Imam Zaid mentions that whenever he sees Faatimah walking down the aisle, he calls out to her as ‘Fathima Knight in shining armour’. A compliment this young lady well deserves. This young lady is just that – someone inspiring for her truthfulness, sincerity and determination to follow her true heart.

I was so inspired and ‘taken’ by the depth and wisdom of her commencement address, delivered with such obvious sincerity that I wanted to share it with you. It is a 9.5 min clip. I hope you will be able to listen and be as inspired as I was. I pray for this young lady and may there be many more like her. She is well named by wise parents, after the daughter of the beloved Messenger of God, Fathima az Zahra (=the resplendent one… a title given to her by the people out of love. The world’s second oldest continuously running university, Al-Azhar in Cairo is actually named after her)

May God protect and increase this beautiful young lady. I am happy to note she has been offered a full scholarship to grad school in the illustrious University of Chicago Islamic studies program. I believe she refused a full scholarship for undergraduate study in U of Chicago to go to Zaytuna. She is one of the 14 students of the class of 2014. May God bless them all, their teachers and all who have supported this difficult and challenging endeavor.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Current affairs, Interfaith, Talks -general, Talks on Islam | 5 Comments

Being Environment-friendly is so rewarding!

- Here is a Big joy jot for Ramadan 6th -alleviates some of the sadness that Ramadan is going by so quickly  Being Environment-friendly is so rewarding!. 200-golden-hadiths_34

 

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