Wednesday, June 28, 2006

New Technology: Who Benefits?

Peace, one and all,
I was watching an Open University programme this morning after Fajr. The subject was the development of new communication technologies. Specifically, they were referring mainly to newly emerging technologies such as VSDL and a range of mobile and satellite networks. Now it has to be said that I'm no techie: wyzywig (if I've spelt it correctly) sounds like a tellytubby to me!
However, one thing that did interest me was the idea that new handheld computers could use each other to develop a network, thereby making communication much cheaper. The programme raised the possibility that these computers could make education much more freely available for school children in the developing world. An interesting and noble thought for sure. Would it really happen though?
Such technological revolutions often seem (to me) to be in some way dependent upon the poverty of the developing world. In other words, if we were spending much more money helping our brethren to develop themselves, would we have had the money to develop these new technologies? I don't know, but I do seriously doubt that multinational corporations are really altruistic enough to give such gadgets away. Well, perhaps I'm just being cynical (though I hope not).
This reminds of another programme I watched recently about new ecologically sound housing. You know, the kind that has its own solar panels, low water-use toilets and so on. It looked absolutely fantastic and I'd be really interested in having such an advanced home myself. However, as useful as such new homes are in showing the way forward, how much impact do they really have? That is, if these remain isolated examples then how much good are they doing?
Such homes seem to be mainly for a certain wealthy elite. Things will really start to change when such technology becomes cheap enough for most people (or even all people) to use. I'd love to have such gadgets; but, I simply cannot afford them (al hamdu lillah, I'm happy with the rizq which Allah has given me).
Organic food often seems the same. Vastly over-priced (when using less stuff) and it always seems to look like its been kicked around the warehouse floor. Make it cheaper and more people will buy it.
I think I'll get off my soapbox now!
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A New Home?

Peace, one and all...
This is a quick note to say that I'm currently trying out wordpress.com. It seems to have nicer templates and fonts. So, if you're interested, you'll find my new blog here. I'll still be posting here, though, until I've made up my mind.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Monday, June 26, 2006

England Win (Though Only Just)!

Peace, one and all...
England go marching on! England's 1-0 win over Ecuador was hardly the most invigorating display, but we're still in the tournament. We'll be playing Portugal on Saturday, led by 'Big Phil'. Should be a good game. Insha Allah, England will be up for the game and put in a good performance. The strange thing about England is that we usually do put in a decent performance for difficult games, it's the 'easy' ones we struggle with. So, optimistically, I predict a 2-1 win on Saturday, insha Allah of course.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Sunday, June 25, 2006

World Cup Highlights

Peace, one and all...
If World Cup fatigue has already set in, you won't find a cure here...! Joking aside, it's proving to be an amazing tournament, full of excitement, incident and great football. Al hamdu lillah.
It's England's turn today. England play Ecuador in their first knock-out match. Now we'll see what England have to offer, insha Allah. England's performance so far hasn't exctly set the world on fire, though they're undefeated. But, I'm hoping that England finally come out their shell. Insha Allah, they will. If they win, there's the prospect of a quarter final game against either Portugal or Holland. If England go through today (insha Allah), either team would be difficult; but I fancy England to take revenge on Portugal for Euro 2004.
I watched both matches yesterday. Germany destroyed Sweden, who seemed to lack belief and purpose. Argentina narrowly beat Mexico with an absolutely brilliant goal in extra time: amazing. I fancy Argentina to win the tournament after that win: they just seem to have that extra edge. Their match against Germany should be good.
Come on England!!!!!!
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sincerity in Worship

Peace, one and all...
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim wa al-salatu wa al-salamu `ala rasul Allah...
In tonight's post, I wanted to offer a few Quranic ayat (verses) on the subject of sincerity in worship. Sincerity, or ikhlas, is an absolutely fundamental concept in Islam. The sincerity of one's worship relates directly to the intention behind it. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta`ala says in the Quran regarding ikhlas:
'And they have been commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer; and to practise regular charity; and that is the religion right and straight' (98:5)
This verse is beautiful in its simplicity: true religion is not complicated theology, nor is it detached philosophy; it is righteous action, or practice. And again...
'It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah. It is your piety that reaches Him' (22:37)
These verses relate to sacrifice I believe. In the pagan faiths of the ancient world (as in pre-Islamic Arabia), 'deities' were believed to derive sustenance from the sacrifices of their worshippers. The 'gods' of ancient Sumer (Mesopotamia) for example would be given special meals and drinks. Here, we discover that God is far exalted above such things.
'Cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by hurting [others] - like those who spend their substance to be seen of men' (2:264)
And finally...
'Is it not to Allah that sincere devotion is due?' (39: 3)
Indeed, sincere devotion is due to God, the Lord of all the Worlds (there is none worthy of worship except Him). These ayat were drawn from Tahdhib al-Akhlaq, compiled by Sayyed `Abd al-Hayy al-Hasani.
Imam Hamza Yusuf, in his commentary on Imam al-Mawlud's excellent Matharat al-Qulub, has this to say regarding sincerity:
'It is recommended to recite often Surat al-Ikhlas (the 112th sura of the Quran), which affirms the oneness of God and negates the possibility of their being anything comparable to Him. The Arabic word for sincerity, ikhlas, comes from the root khalusa, which means to be pure, as in pure honey or pure milk. As for one's piety, it can never be pure unless free of ostentation' (page 60)
One one level, we all know what sincerity is; we know when we really mean it, when we really feel it. However, understanding the deeper workings of the heart takes subtlety, insight and a piety which is beyond me (may Allah grant me the tawfiq to understand my own intentions clearly and then to follow the best of them).
Ya Rabb! The road is long and I have no hope of reahing Home, if you do not lead me.
Wa akhiru da`wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen...
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What is True Value?

Peace, one and all...
I was listening to a talk by Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani al-Kibrisi recently (provided by the excellent Mind, Body & Soul) and an interesting question occured to me. What is true value?
Shaykh Nazim pointed out that living a life for Allah brings blessings, whilst living for other than Allah brings nothing but curses. How true!
How then can I see the truly valuable within my own life? Hmmm...now that's the real question.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Value of Silence...

Peace, one and all...
I was making wudu this evening for my Isha prayer and my wife called me, as she needed something from me. Often, in the past, I would have called back (possibly being angered by the interruption). Tonight, by contrast, it occured to me that I should keep silent whilst making wudu.
Al hamdu lillah, it made a real difference. Not only was I able to concentrate better on my wudu, it also meant that I didn't repsond without thinking.
There is, indeed, value in silence.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sami Yusuf's Response...

Peace, one and all...
Follow the link above for Sami's excellent response to Yvonne Ridley's recent criticisms (I offered a few thoughts of my own). This follows on from Mecca 2 Medina's own unique response. Insha Allah, the furore caused by these unfortunate remarks will now die down and we can all get on with the serious business before us: attaining Allah's pleasure through good deeds and worship.
However, if you follow the link to the article (on hahmeed.com, I'm tipping my hat as I type!), you'll see an unfortunate comment by someone called Big Ali C: 'When white people convert to Islam, it worries me'. A very strange comment indeed. Why should it be threatening?
I've heard this kind of view before. I've even been told that my genetic background makes me inherently less of a Muslim. Now, whilst my deeds are poor and I'm in need of Allah's mercy, this is not genetic. Indeed, how could it be when 'No soul shall bear the burden of another'?
This kind of thinking lies behind my own rejection of the ideas of the Nation of Islam (and other groups influenced by them). Namely, that white people are genetically inclined to wickedness. A learned man once told me that thought that any philosophy built upon genetic ideas (as determining salvation) was haram and that certainly made sense to me.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Friday, June 16, 2006

Stray Thoughts...

Peace, one and all...
I've got 5 minutes before Jumuah and I've just been looking at Islamic educational sites (such as Dar al-Mustafa and Zaytuna Institute). I feel the need to study Islam properly, from the ground up. This has been a recurring thought since becoming Muslim and one which seems to be getting stronger with age. I thought, 'why don't you stop thinking and daydreaming and start doing? You'll never know what the water's like unless you jump in!'
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Corner Culture: Creative Writing with Rumi

Peace, one and all...
Although, unfortunately, I won't be able to attend (Qadar Allah wa ma sha fa`ala), Caravanseray.org are holding a Creative Writing workshop on Saturday 5th July 2006. The workshop aims to use the beautiful poems of Rumi as a springboard for 'creative responses'.
It sounds intriguing and promises to be both useful and fun. So, go if you have time.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Corner Culture: Sufi Music Festival

Peace, one and all...
From 28th - 31st July 2006, Caravanseray.org are holding a Sufi Music Festival. A large number of concerts, workshops and meditation sessions (dhikr) have been arranged and are open to the general public.
Insha Allah Ta'ala, I intend to go myself. So, bi ithnillah, I'll see you there!
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

A Quarrel About Grapes...

Peace, one and all...
I wanted to post something from the wisdoms of Mevlana Jalaluddin. This passage comes from A. Harvey's Rumi anthology, Teachings of Rumi, published by Shambhala.
'A man gave a coin to four different people. One of them, a Persian, said, "I want to buy some anghur with that!" The second man was an Arab and he said, "I want `inab not anghur, you worthless fool!" The third was a Turk and he said, "This is my money and I don't want `inab. I want `uzum". The fourth, a Greek, shouted, "Shut up all of you! I want `israfil!"
In their madness, the four started to argue and hit each other because they didn't know the hidden meaning of names. They battered each other with their fists because they were empty of true knowledge and filled with ignorance.
If an authentic mystic master, proficient in many languages, had been there, they would have been pacified. He would have said, "I can give you everything you want with this one coin; if you give me your heart sincerely and without dissimulation, this one coin will accomplish all you want. Your one coin will become four; four enemies will become one heart. All you say only produces struggle and separation; what I tell you brings harmony. So be quiet now, so I can talk for you'
(Teachings of Rumi, edited & translated by Andrew Harvey, 1999, Shambala Publications)
Ma sha Allah! Wisdom indeed!
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

One Day...

Peace, one and all...
Bismillahi wa tawakkaltu `ala Allah
Here's a second offering for your enjoyment (not sure that's the right word). Enjoy!
One day I shall leave this place,

Following a well-trodden path,

to a place beyond the stars.

Though the journey is inevitable,

Still I am afraid.

Having been here for so long, this realm is all I know

Yet this is a day long promised,

Standing on the Day before days,

Before Him,

Alastu bi rabbikum?

Yes, in all Truth.

Yet still I am afraid
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Beyond Words...

Peace, one and all...

Here's another of my recent 'poetic' offerings. I say 'poetic' simply because it's been so long since I've even wanted to write in this fashion, I feel as though I've never written like this before. I make no claims for inspiration. These poems just represent attempts to scratch an emerging itch. Anyway, enjoy!
There is an essence beyond words,

A meaning for which I stumble, but ever fail to grasp.

Emotion dissolved in sound,

A beauty rarely glimpsed,

Secrets, just out of reach.

My heart seeks meaning without language,

Yet my mind thinks only in code
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Monday, June 12, 2006

In-ger-land, In-ger-land, In-ger-land...!

Peace, one and all...
The World Cup is once again upon us! The entire globe has gone football crazy and people everywhere are frantically following the progress of their national team.

I'm no exception and, as you can probably tell from the title, I'm an England fan! Although I'm not sure I expect England to win the tournament, I am watching their progress avidly.

England's opening game was a rather strange affair. A terrific first half performance: controlled, energetic, dominating and positive. A lack-lustre second half offering: pensive, uncertain, tired and lacking in ideas (so it seemed). Everybody seems to be blaming the weather. For sure, playing in 90 degrees is tiring, but don't they train it such heat? Moreover, it's not so much the tiredness that got on my nerves, but the apparent lack of effort in the 2nd half. Don't sit back, anxiously protecting a one goal lead. Get out there and try to get the second, third...fiftyseventh(!)
The problem in the infamous game against Brazil 4 years ago was that we seemed to give up in the second half. Come on guys, play with some passion! And, the whole world doesn't revolve around Rooney: if we can't win without him, we're not going to go very far. Not sure I agree with Mujahideen Ryder's anaylsis, but the graphics are cool.
Well, al hamdu lillah, thanks to the win and Trindad & Tobago's amazing 0-0 draw with Sweden (nice one lads!), England are now in a very strong group position. Having said that, we mustn't take anything for granted: T&T are clearly serious and we need to account for that. I'm hoping for a much better all-round performace, with more committment and positive play.
The rest of the tournament has been good too. I enjoyed Holland beating Serbia and Ivory Coast's positive attitude. Iran were very unfortunate: 65 minutes of good work ruined by a very silly mistake (Qadar Allah wa ma sha fa'ala). Portugal's performance seemed a lot like England's; a great first half followed by a nervy, stuttering second.
Today sees the USA go head to head with the Czech Republic (go Czechs), Italy v Ghana (I'd like Ghana to win) and Japan v Australia (not sure who I'm supporting here, but it should be a cracking game).
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

The Conduct of `Umar...

Peace, one and all...

I'm currently preparing for Day 2 of my course (Islamic History: the first 150 years). I thought I'd share this little gem with you all.

This comes from al-Mas`udi who remarks that Umar and his son Abdullah were travelling to Hajj. Their total expenditure amounted to some 16 dinars for the trip (from Medina to Mecca). `Umar (may God be pleased with him) is related to have said: 'We were wasteful on this journey'.

Ma sha Allah! A fine example of `Umar's attitude to the world (zuhd) and a model to follow indeed.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Friday, June 09, 2006

Here on Earth...

Peace, one and all...
Here are some reflections. Not so much a poem, as some stray sentences.
I am an ingrate! Needing my Lord's favour, but doing little to earn it! Loving You with a selfish love, which demands little of me!.
Here on earth, in this small corner of God's vast kingdom, I can see His hand in all things, but still I stubbornly resist; my deeds ill become me.
Ya Allah! My betters have declared that You dwell in the hearts of Your believers: what an unworthy home my heart truly is!
The sun shines for both saint and sinner, scholar and fool, and yet my deeds fall short.
Allah Karim they say, but reckoning comes eventually, the ultimate leveller. O God of my heart! I beg Your pardon.
If even the 'Ornament of the Worshippers' can complain of his ugly misdeeds, what of my own soul and its unworthy desires?
You have scattered Your signs throughout Creation. I see them and acknowledge that they point towards You, yet how crippled my soul feels!
O God of my understanding! Grant me Your aid! Turn not from me, lest I stumble into darkness.
My Lord, life of my soul, delight of my heart! Turn to me and help me. Heal me.

O Lord! The veils I have drawn over my heart pain me deeply. O Merciful One! Draw me close to You.
And grant Your beloved Messenger the best of rewards, along with his noble family and companions, and all those who follow him in righteousness until that awful Hour comes.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman
(in hope of His mercy)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Words of Hope from the Mevlana...

Peace, one and all...
In this world, falling into despair is easy. If that happens, dwell on these words...
This poem is taken from khamush.com
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

More Amusing Exam Answers

Peace, one and all...
Follow the link for some more funny exam answers.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Amusing Exam Error

Peace, one and all...
Follow the link above for an amusing exam answer. Oh a little humour goes a long way on a day as hot as this one!
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Abdal Hakim Murad on Islam & Gender Issues

Peace, one and all...
I was recently reading 'Islam, Irigaray, and the Retrieval of Gender' by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad. As is usually the case with the Shaykh's work, I enjoyed this article immensely and thought I'd post a link to it here. We don't hear these kinds of voices often enough at present and so this is a small effort in this direction.
The article is drawn from Masud.co.uk, as ever, a veritable goldmine of interesting and thought-provoking essays. So, a hat tip is definitely due.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

New Material on Matters Academic...

Peace, one and all...
I've recently added the Introduction to my MA dissertation on Septimius Severus (a Roman emperor of the late second/early third century). Follow the link above to check it out! Insha Allah, I'll be adding the remaining chapters in the next few weeks. I also aim to add other essays from my postgrad and undergrad days (with some suitable reworking). If Roman history doesn't 'float your boat' (which I quite understand), then probably not worth it! This is all leading up to some new material (insha Allah) in the summer on Islamic history.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Congratulations and Mabruk...

Peace, one and all...
I just wanted to offer my congratulations to a good friend of mine who has recently been awarded his doctorate. So, Dr. Amjad Hussein, mabruk wa ma sha Allah alayk.
Couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke, as we say in London!
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

The Number of the Beast!

Peace, one and all...
As you're no doubt aware, today's date is June 6th 2006. In other words, it's 6/6/06. 666 is widely supposed to be the number of the Beast (Shaytan) in the Christian tradition. As such, the papers are full of 'devilish' articles today. This is all based on the Book of Revelations (the final book of the New Testament canon according to most Christian churches).
Actually the passage in question is as follows:
'Here is wisdom. Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred threescore and six'
This passage (in a heavily symbolic and allegorical book) has given rise to a truly astounding number of interpretations. Some have identified this character with Nero, President Reagan and so on. Our own beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) was also believed to have been this figure (the Anti-Christ).
On the popular level, this is the stuff of superstition. However, Islam has its own traditions about the coming Imposter (al-Masih al-Dajjal, may Allah protect us all from him). Interestingly, he is said to be one-eyed (lacking the depth of bi-ocular vision perhaps?) As I understand 666, it is drawn from Jewish/Early Christian thought which understood 777 to be the perfect number. 666 is thus less than that.
At the end of the day, God knows best (Allahu alim).
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Let Them Eat Chips!

Peace, one and all...
I was listening to Radio 4 today. There was a brief debate on the issue of obesity and the NHS. In other words, one commentator was arguing that we should impose a kind of 'fat tax' on chronically obese people.
Whilst I think that it is important to promote responsible behaviour and participation in society, I think that this suggestion is a bit off of the wall, to say the least. The interviewee (whose name I didn't catch) said, in essence, that he objected to paying for other people's laziness and greed. 'I'm a responsible person and though I enjoy a bag of chips once in a while, I don't overindulge' he opined.
Ma sha Allah! What a deep insight into the problem! The other interviewee made the perfectly valid point that obesity often goes hand in hand with other issues such as poverty, lack of education and other such forms of social deprivation. 'What middle class drivel' was the objection. Again, a profound insight (not)!
Obesity is a complex issue and needs to be tackled sensitively and appropriately. Creating a kind of fat underclass isn't going to help. Whilst we're on the topic of greed, why don't we include the greed and over-consumption of our entire society: the kind of society in which footballers can earn £90,000 per week, and status is defined by how many things you can acquire.
Allah says in the Quran: al-hakum al-takathur, hatta zurtum al-maqabir... 'The mutual piling up of wealth diverts you, until you come to the graves...'. Now, that's the definitive answer to the problem.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Monday, June 05, 2006

New Material on Matters Educational: Widening Access?

Peace, one and all...
Follow the link for some ramblings on the widening access agenda in UK HE.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

The Whispered Prayer of the Penitent

Peace, one and all...
In my first post for about a week, I wanted to discuss a topic of immense importance: repentance. Tauba in Islamic parlance means to turn back to God in repentance for a sin committed. As God knows, sin is a part of human nature (it's certainly a part of mine, at any rate). We need to constantly turn back to God. O Allah! Forgive me my Lord. Help me and turn to me in Your mercy.
There are many beautiful prayers from the Islamic tradition which focus on tauba. Here's one such example, from Imam Zayn al-`Abideen Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Ali ibn Abi Talib. The link above will take you to the appropriate home page. It's well worth checking out. It's worth noting that this is a Shia site. Now, for me personally, this isn't problematic in the slightest. After all, even for Sunnis (and I am one), Imam Zayn al-`Abideen is an exalted figure and worthy of respect. And, in any case, the Imam is the great-grandson of Prophet Muhammad (saw) and so as a member of the Ahl al-Bait shares the blood of his exalted forefather.
In any event, repentance is so crucial, please enjoy the du'a...

1
My God, offenses have clothed me in the garment of my lowliness, separation from Thee has wrapped me in the clothing of my misery! My dreadful crimes have deadened my heart, so bring it to life by a repentance from Thee! O my hope and my aim! O my wish and my want! By Thy might, I find no one but Thee to forgive my sins and I see none but Thee to mend my brokenness! I have subjected myself to Thee in repeated turning, I have humbled myself to Thee in abasement. If Thou castest me out from Thy door, in whom shall I take shelter? If Thou repellest me from Thy side, in whom shall I seek refuge? O my grief at my ignominy and disgrace! O my sorrow at my evil works and what I have committed!
2
I ask Thee, O Forgiver of great sins, O Mender of broken bones, to overlook my ruinous misdeeds and cover my disgraceful secret thoughts! At the witnessing place of the Resurrection, empty me not of the coolness of Thy pardon and forgiveness, and strip me not of Thy beautiful forbearance and covering!
3
My God, let the cloud of Thy mercy cast its shadow upon my sins and send the billow of Thy clemency flowing over my faults!
4
Verse 4 translation missing in original book!
5
My God, if remorse for sins is a repentance,
I - by Thy might - am one of the remorseful! If praying forgiveness for offenses is an alleviation, I am one of those who pray forgiveness! To Thee I return that Thou may be well pleased!
6
My God, through Thy power over me, turn toward me, through Thy clemency toward me, pardon me, and through Thy knowledge of me, be gentle toward me!
7
My God, Thou art He who hast opened a door to Thy pardon and named it 'repentance', for Thou said, Repent to God with unswerving repentance.
What is the excuse of him who remains heedless of entering the door after its opening?
8
My God, though the sins of Thy servant are ugly, Thy pardon is beautiful.
9
My God, I am not the first to have disobeyed Thee, and Thou turned toward him, or to have sought to attain Thy favour, and Thou wert munificent toward him. O Responder to the distressed! O Remover of injury! O Great in goodness! O Knower of everything secret! O Beautiful through covering over! I seek Thy munificence and Thy generosity to intercede with Thee, I seek Thy side and Thy showing mercy to mediate with Thee, so grant my supplication, disappoint not my hope in Thee, accept my repentance, and hide my offense, through Thy kindness and mercy, O Most Merciful of the merciful!
(The Whispered Prayer of the Repenters, Imam Zayn al-`Abideen Ali ibn al-Husayn)

Subhan Allah! What a beautiful prayer. Ya Allah! I make the same prayer to You and I too ask You for Your beautiful forgiveness. Astaghfiruka wa atubu ilaik.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman
(a penitent 'Servant of the the Most Merciful')