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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pain

Posted by Peace at 2:23 AM 0 comments Links to this post
In the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, we often fail to maintain our well being. We keep running into the maze of endless duties and deadlines, expecting no setbacks or delays. A headache, an aching back or irritated eyes, a skin inflammation or ear pain are usually the least expected and most detested. Who has time for that! Once we are hit by any of that, we rush to pain relievers to be able to go back to what we have to get done with. But have we ever stopped and thought about the blessing of pain?

Yes, pain is always there for a reason. It is the flashing light that something is wrong and that it is high time we attended to that instead of taking the easy way out silencing it. It is usually a sign that we have been careless in safeguarding our health or defense system.

Imagine a life without pain; a condition that actually exists in some children called congenital insensitivity to pain (or congenital analgia) where a child cannot feel (and has never felt) physical pain. Isn’t that the dream of every parent; save his/her child from ever feeling any pain? Well, here is a wake up call for you. When a child cannot feel pain, they may not respond to problems, thus being at a higher risk of more severe diseases. It is documented that such children often suffer fractures to bones, unnoticed infections, etc. Talk about life without pain!

What about our hearts? What does it say when our hearts ache. What is it really then when nothing seems to please us anymore, when we keep swirling in restlessness and agitation. Do we ever pay attention to our hearts trying to listen to their pain in order to heal them? How can’t we give our hearts our utmost attention when the word “heart” was mentioned 158 times in the Qur’aan?

Heartaches are a cry out loud for us to correct misleading frames of thoughts and unhealthy behavior. It is a call for us to retrace our steps to see what went wrong. It is the indication that it is time to seek guidance and help from our All-Merciful Lord.

Be it people who hurt us, our unsatiated thirst for contetment, our unfulfilled aspirations or hopes, all roads should lead us to one Ultimate Destination. He is always there to heal our pain and take us in spite of what He knows about us. He never forsakes us when we seek His help. He is always there to purify our hearts and keep them steadfast; always there waiting for our repentance to forgive and cleanse us from our sins. Where else can we ever go when we are blessed with the pain that takes us back to the pleasure of being with Him?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who am I?

Posted by Watermark at 4:51 AM 2 comments Links to this post
I was four years old. I had just moved to this international school in an Arabic country from home in a Western country. It was just another ordinary day at school. In spite of the fact that it was only a few weeks for me now, I had decided early on that this school was not going to be a fun or easy place for me. There seemed to have been quite a bit of drama between my parents and the school at the start. A latent sort of tug-o-war which translated itself into a feeling I got that they really didn't know what to do with me.

It was that free period again. The bell had just rung and we were getting up to leave the classroom. I tried to recall and understand why we had to do this. It was an hour during regular class hours where our classroom was divided up. I remember that it caused me deep confusion. Why did some kids have to stay in the class and others had to leave? Those who stayed got a different teacher. She looked different too; she wore a scarf. Why was I hurried along with the other group out of the classroom? At first they couldn't decide which group I should go with but the grown ups made quite a quick decision - I was to go with them!

This time I found myself fidgeting at the doorway of the classroom, hesitating to leave. The teacher with the scarf looked at me suspiciously, watching me closely. The other kids had hurried out of the class and were slowly congregating with the grown ups in the corridor. The teacher with the scarf looked at me and smiled. She was about to tell me something when one of the other grown ups noticed my hesitation and called out at me to come and join them.

I looked at the teacher with the scarf. She had soft calm features. She felt like my mother and I was attracted to her face, to her serenity. It seemed like her face was glowing with light. I so wanted to ask her if I could stay just this once. I wanted to find out what they learn, but the grown ups were calling out at me again. I found myself slowly walking out of the classroom towards the group begrudgingly at the insistence of the other grown ups.

It was quiet now in the corridor, except for the murmuring of the grown ups as they decided which empty classroom to pick and parade us in to. All the doors were shut now and I could hear lessons in the other classrooms nearby had already started. I stood there on my own in the group, all the other kids seemed to know each other. Even the grown ups seemed to know each other. Why was there more than one grown up I wondered. This must be some sort of special class where we get more than one teacher. Maybe that's what all the commotion was about between my parents and the school. Maybe I was special! Does that mean all these other kids were special too? I looked at them curiously, they looked quite ordinary to me.

"Miss, are we going to sing again those songs..."
"Shhhh," snapped one of the grown ups at her in a flurry before she even had the chance to finish her question. She looked around her as if she were making sure no one was around, before looking down at the little girl. "Of course we'll sing," she told her in an almost whisper caressing her hair.

We finally found ourselves in a classroom. The teachers contemplated what to do with us for a few seconds and decided that we would do some colouring. I didn't want to draw. I just didn't want to be here. I kept thinking of the teacher with the scarf and the kids in the other classroom. Why do they get to have a proper teacher and a fixed classroom while these teachers didn't know what to do with us!

The grown ups were scrounging around the classroom now looking for paper and enough crayons to hand around to each of us. I ended up with the black crayon - the colour no one else wanted. The other kids were busy drawing pretty pictures and fighting over the red, yellow or orange crayon. The only thing I felt was a knot in my stomach that started to get tighter.

"Let's sing!" said one of the grown ups. The other teacher agreed with her and the kids all left their crayons and jumped excitedly at the propect. One of the grown ups started singing an Arabic song with words I couldn't understand and very soon all the other kids joined in. They all knew the words too! The tune sounded very strange to me and the knot in my stomach kept getting tighter and tighter.

"Come on, sing!" said one of the teachers to me. I just looked at her blankly. "Sing," she smiled at me, mouthing the words slower so I would sing along. I just looked down at the ground.
One of the kids stood up and told me in Arabic, "don't you love Jesus?! How can you not sing for him!"
I looked up at her and wondered who Jesus was. All the other kids stopped singing and looked at me wondering what was wrong with me. It was a moment of sheer claustrophobia. I don't want to sing, I kept thinking to myself. Yet the teacher decided to teach me the words so I could sing along with the rest of the class. She tried to get me to repeat after her with the help of the other teacher while the kids started to get fidgety. I kept my mouth shut; it felt like I had lost my voice. I found myself holding on firmly to my chair, fingers clasped around the edges, darkness enveloping me as they continued singing about Jesus, song after song. The more they sang, the darker I felt it get around me. After a few moments I couldn't contain myself and I started to cry but couldn't understand why I was crying. It was just a song and I did so love to sing. Why couldn't I sing with them or even bring myself to sing with them? Who was Jesus whom they were all singing to?

One of the grown ups came to comfort me, sitting me on her lap and asked me with a smile expecting an obvious answer, "Aren't you a Christian?"
I shook my head from side to side. I didn't know what a Christian was I just knew that if it involved singing those songs then I wasn't going to be one! She looked at me with a sparkle in her eyes and mild suprise, "You're not a Christian?"
The other teacher looked at us and some of the other kids stopped singing. "Why did you stop? Go on!" the teacher urged them and the other teacher turned away, watching from afar. She turned to me and said, "It's ok, it's only a song, sing with us." But I couldn't do it.

Just then and like a miracle, there was a knock on the classroom door. A supervisor stood at the door along with another person - the teacher wearing the scarf from the other classroom! The singing stopped instantly.

"What are you doing?" demanded the supervisor.
"They're colouring, drawing, singing" said the teachers.
"Come here," the scarf-wearing teacher held her hand out at me, "come to me, come here," she coaxed with a smile.

The supervisor had a mean look on his face and I was sure I had done something wrong. All the other kids looked around wondering what was going on.
"Come sweetie, you're not supposed to be in this class," said the scarf-wearing teacher to me. I stood up and went to her with uneasy steps but with utter relief. The kids looked at me bewildered whispering to themselves, "She's a muslim? She's not Christian!? She lied to us!"

I definitely knew I had done something dreadful. That was the first time I had heard the word 'Muslim' and it felt like an accusation more than anything at that moment!

One of the teachers started, "She's been attending this class for weeks now, she's Christian, not Muslim."
The supervisor's mean look became ferocious and I felt the teacher with the scarf hold on to me closer, "No! She's Muslim and you know it and you know she shouldn't be in this class!"

Some words were exchanged between the grown ups and I found myself clinging to the teacher with the scarf as she led me to her classroom. The supervisor and the teacher looked upset and concerned as they spoke to each other dropping looks at me every now and then. What did I do wrong?

When we reached the classroom, the teacher went in and the supervisor stayed outside with me. He knelt down and looked at me with the kindest look ever, "You're a Muslim, don't you know that?" I am? I fidgeted uneasily from one foot to the other.
"How can you not know that? You are a Muslim, didn't your parents tell you? Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise!" I looked up at him in bewilderment. I didn't know what that meant but he repeated it again slower and more seriously that I felt it must be true!
Does that mean I don't have to attend that singing class anymore?
As if sensing my concern he said, "From now on you will attend this religion class with Miss ****," and he pointed to the door of the classroom where the lady with the scarf had just gone through. I smiled in between my teary eyes as he led me in.

All the darkness I had previously felt instantly melted away and I won't exaggerate when I say that with every fleeting moment spent in that classroom, whatever time was left from that long hour, I felt myself being enveloped in serenity and pure light. The kids cheered as I came in the class and the teacher made me sit in the front in an empty seat. It felt like that seat was waiting for me all along.

"Everyone, this is ****," as the teacher introduced me to the class, "she is a Muslim and will be attending the religion class with us," she winked at me with a smile.

I smiled back, even though I didn't know what religion class was but I felt it was a good thing as surprisingly, the knot in my stomach had disappeared. The class started reciting some words (I now recall it was one of the short Surahs of the Quran) and when the teacher came next to me asking me to repeat after her, I miraculously found my voice again.

Years later, I remembered this very early introduction to Islam. It was as if I was being guided by God in a gentle way. I was being taught an early lesson in identity and who I am. I was made to endure the decision of having to make a choice between choosing to follow the straight path and the misguided one (between darkness and light) in quite an elemantary manner. I look back and think that I could've easily chosen to stay with one class or another; one religion or another. No one would have known if it weren't for my hesitation at the door of the classroom that day. It wouldn't have led the religion teacher to check with the school administration whether I was in fact Muslim or not for the purposes of attending that religion class.

Many people go through life inheriting their parent's belief, not questioning, not wondering what lies in their hearts. I was placed in a situation of contemplation at a very early age. A contemplation that manifested itself into a journey of discovery - a journey that I continue to follow till this day.

I remember this experience triggering a million questions at the time about who Jesus was, why the teachers were upset, what it meant to be Christian or Muslim, why we had different classes and why were there differences (though I realised later on the similarities outweighed the differences).

I will never forget the supervisor's kind expression as he told me, "You are a Muslim, don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise." I realise now that those words were only telling me what was already firmly etched in my heart.

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2009 THEME: Islam in the West and Our Children (Discussion & Resources regularly updated)

There is increasing concern that second and third generation Muslims in the West are mostly no longer Muslims so they actually end up adding to the Christian or Atheist population of the West, albeit racially from a non-Western origin. Accordingly, the ratios mentioned in the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-3X5hIFXYU) would be correct in regards to race or ethnicity but not necessarily to religion.

It is a grave danger facing our children and grand children from a real life stand point as statistically only 1/5 of the second generation stay really Muslims when they grow up and are independent and almost non from the third generation are Muslims. And that is why the Western authorities are still permitting the immigration of Muslims inspite of the figures provided in the above video. They know that on the long term the descendants of Muslims in the West leave Islam because their parents raised them up with an Eastern mentality in a Western society instead of an Islamic mentality that encompasses all cultures.

You can see more about that by Jeffrey Lang; an ex-atheist American Mathematics University Professor who reverted to Islam in 1982. He has also written 3 books that I highly recommend; "Struggling to Surrender", "Even Angels Ask" and "Losing my Religion; A Call for Help".
Now I will leave you to enjoy 2 short excerpts from one of his lectures followed by links to his most important full presentation regarding our children.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmqN75NI0xg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XT1KGyxBXC0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMANKaX8khw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgivQJKtQME
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga2rIUWcPPs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYb2v3Yx1LY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhMN_TZavW0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHeM0H0EMAw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD-YefJH9x0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2eVOKjOqHE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBQp7aZjxjc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4_xxQVGU44

Here is a solution that is yet to be implemented.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geRM4AlFBOU&NR=1

Raising children here is not an easy task ofcourse but if we do it the right way they will be true Muslims in shaa Allaah who are "Informed Muslims" rather than "Muslims by inheritance" like their counterparts in the East. Hopefully they will then be a much better generation than ours.

Quickly, I do believe that the best 4 authors (for example, there are many others but these are my favorite) who could guide us through this difficult process are Yahiya Emerick, Jeffrey Lang, Jamal Badawi and Dalia Mogahed.

Here are some links for future reference and for an ongoing learning process that I have started collecting slowly.
Please spread the below information to all your Muslim contacts in the West.

Jeffrey Lang:
http://meccacentric.com/jeffrey_lang.html I highly recommend the lecture titled "The Purpose of Life". It has true meanings that I have not come across in any Arabic literature.

Yahiya Emerick:
Articles:
http://www.islamicedfoundation.com/articles/articles.htm
http://www.islamfortoday.com/yahiyaemerick.htm I highly recommend reading and spreading the last article in this link by the name of "The Confusion of the Scholars"
Books:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?search-alias=stripbooks&unfiltered=1&field-keywords=&field-author=Yahiya+Emerick&field-title=&field-isbn=&field-publisher=&node=&url=&field-feature_browse-bin=&field-binding_browse-bin=&field-subject=&field-language=&field-dateop=&field-datemod=&field-dateyear=&sort=relevancerank&Adv-Srch-Books-Submit.x=29&Adv-Srch-Books-Submit.y=8 There are only 14 books, about half for adults and the other half for kids. The extra are just repetitions.

Jamal Badawi:
Many products including books, articles and lectures mostly for adults. You can find them by searching his name online. My favorite is;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMfWURGcvBI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1HXGRYaUy6g
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyMD_tE6U68
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AixgiXpAFTY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WUgbgLgMXM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3VLRoQ3qUw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5UvvkCDrm4

Dalia Mogahed: (Obama's adviser)
Has one book so far but has a great potential. "Who Speaks for Islam".
You can watch her debate with Irshad Manji (an openly Lesbian Canadian Muslim who is distorting the picture of Islam in the name of "Progressive Islam")http://fora.tv/2008/07/01/Irshad_Manji_and_Dalia_Mogahed_-_Who_Speaks_for_Islam

Finally here is a website for a store that sells lots of Islamic products including Islamic cartoon DVDs in English and Arabic for kids.
http://www.astrolabe.com/category/17/Cartoons_and_KidVid.html?sid=ceb7c5cf8de15b8f1cb92ad29e183a44
 

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