Monday, July 30, 2012

The blessed at our doorsteps (song)

I have posted this as a poem in a previous post, but this time I have made it into a short song. I hope it can be enjoyed.

The blessed at our doorsteps

You have come you have come, o honorable guest
To wash our sins away
You have come you have come, as a blessing and a test
To reach for His love we may

You prevent us from our evil, and shine bright the good that we have
Locked away are all that’s deceitful, so everything is up for grabs

You have come you have come, o blessed nights
Filled with remembrance
You will come you will come, o night of might
May we not let you pass us away

Therein we received our guidance, the Book which in it there’s doubt
The emergence of a nation, the nation of he who we love

Will you stay will you stay, o blessed days?
In our hearts forever
Will we meet you again in another time and place
Our beautiful Ramadhan

Friday, July 27, 2012

The three types of people seeking sacred knowledge

Sacred knowledge of the religion is no doubt the most important knowledge that any human being could gain. All the physical sciences that one learns, without being coupled by sacred knowledge of the religion, cannot make someone closer to God. And in truth, to get close to, serve and please God is the only reason we exist.

Seeking sacred knowledge is an extremely praised act. However, this act can in fact destroy the person seeking it IF he does it for the wrong reasons. I am paraphrasing from a lecture I heard given by Ustadh Yahya Rhodus (may God preserve him) of Zaytuna, on the categorization of seekers of knowledge according to Imam Al Ghazali (may God have mercy on his soul) in one of his books.

The first type is the one that will be destroyed by his knowledge. These are the types of people who seek for sacred knowledge for purposes of this worldly life. They seek for knowledge for their career, to look good in front of other people, to debate other people with the knowledge that they have, and other worldly gains. These people will not get closeness to God through their knowledge.

The second type is the one that seeks knowledge to get close to God, but sometimes has the tendency or is tempted to use sacred knowledge for worldly matters. This is a dangerous position, because there is a possibility that he will get sucked into becoming the first category.

The third type is the best type, which is the one who seeks knowledge only for the sole purpose of bettering himself and getting closer to God.

Of course we should all aspire to be among the third type. But sometimes we are unsure about what group are we in. One way to check one’s self is through other people’s praises. If we feel good when other people praise us for what we know, then we are most likely in the first or second group, and need to get our acts straight.

May we all be true seekers of sacred knowledge, and have a noble rank with God.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A beautiful palindrome

Playing with palindromes is a fun thing to do. In case you’re not familiar with what a palindrome is; they are words or phrases that read the same in both directions. There are even some instances when the DNA sequences in organisms are palindromic. Several simple words that are palindromes are POP, MOM, EYE, RACECAR, and many others.

As you can see, even if we read the words backwards, they stay the same. However, when it comes to creating a phrase or a sentence, making palindromes can be a bit difficult. Some examples can be found in this website

Talking about palindromes, we can also find some in the Quran. Among them is in Surah (chapter) Al Mudathir (the cloaked one). The phrase is translated as “magnify the greatness of your Lord!” In Arabic, it is:

The letter in the beginning of the sentence means “and”, and is similar to a capital letter in our sentences. So broken down, the phrase becomes:
ر ب ب ك ف ك ب ب ر
which is also a palindrome, and an amazing one indeed, as it goes along with the context of what is being emphasized = to magnify the greatness of your Lord.

When constructing a palindrome, one must at least know the letters he/she is using and form them into a sentence. You can even try making one and find out that it’s not as easy as it seems. However, the palindrome in the Quran that was just mentioned was recited by a man who didn’t even know how to write or read.

Whenever the Prophet received revelation, he would recite it to his companions and it would spread as it is, without any auditing whatsoever. Furthermore, bear in mind that the Quran was orally transferred, not in writing. The palindromes and linguistic marvels in the Quran were not even recognized until linguistic scholars began to delve into it. 

So we can try to make palindromes with the language that we are best at. But no matter how hard we try, or how good we are with the language, we probably would never be able to create a palindrome as beautiful as the one in the Quran that was just mentioned.

Monday, July 23, 2012

And they called him (peace and blessings be upon him) crazy

Preaching something new (or forgotten) can be an overwhelming task. This is especially true for the Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them all). After all, what they preached was something that would radically change the fabrics of the society. It was so simple yet so fundamental that people would understand it, but refuse to accept it because of its consequences. It changes the way people would view the world. That God is one and worship Him, obey Him.

Thus, the Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them all) had oppositions. Usually the rich and the powerful would oppose. Sometimes the whole nation would oppose, leave a few who accept the message. Those who oppose would use character assassination to distract people from the message itself. These opponents would call the Prophets and Messengers as magicians, poets, and even worse, they would call them crazy. While in truth, these Prophets and Messengers are from their own people. And the people always knew they were upright, truthful and just. Having better character than everyone else in the society.

This was also the case for the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). He was given the name Al Amin, the truthful, and everyone knew about his noble character. But when he started spreading God’s word, his opposition called him crazy. But, God gave the Prophet consolation. Reassuring him that he is not. In fact, God revealed that for the Prophet, there is endless praise. It may not have made sense for the opposition at the time, but it sure makes sense now.

After more than one and a half millennia, the Prophet (pbuh) is indeed praised without end. There is no human being on earth that is praised more than him (pbuh). Now there are 2.1 billion Muslims all around the world. And all of them (well most of them) when being recited the name of the Prophet will say “Shallallahu ‘alaihi wa salam”, may God honor him and grant him peace. Muslims praise him in their daily prayers, and because of the time difference between different regions, it is most likely that there is always a Muslim praying somewhere, praising him while doing so. And Muslims all around the world, not even ever meeting him, would burst to tears when remembering him, and long to meet him.

What God has promised is the truth. And no, he (peace and blessings be upon him) is not what they said he was (crazy).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gathering with our loved ones… forever

Of all the blessings that God has blessed us, many would say that the blessing of family is one of the greatest. God has put in our hearts immense love for our family, especially our children. The story of Jacob and Joseph (peace be upon them) is one example of such love, where Jacob lost his sight due to extreme sadness of losing Joseph. This love can become so immense, God warned us to not let them (our family and children) distract us from His remembrance.

Parents can do unimaginable things out of love for their young ones. And you need to experience it first hand to truly understand it. Mothers put their lives at risk whenever they give birth to a child. But what happens after that? Despite all the pain and suffering through labor, the mother is overflowed with joy and happiness, so much so that the sight of the baby subdues the pain.

Fathers may not have the same unreal experience. They may not have as much compassion towards the child as the mother. But still, his love to his children will still be intense. And to be separated from the children, and family in general, is an unpleasant experience. And I say this from real life experience.

It would be most ideal if we could be together with the ones that we love forever and ever. But even in the best condition, it will never happen in this worldly life. There will always be the chance to be separated, whether because of job needs, school, business, and of course death.

However, there is one way to be gathered together FOREVER, in the best of places, as mentioned in the Qur’an. What we need to do is to believe and commit ourselves to good deeds. Furthermore, we also need to educate our children so that they do the same. In turn, they will do the same to their children and them to theirs, and it goes on and on until the end of time (by God’s will).

By doing so, we will be brought back together in eternal bliss. And the best part is, not only will we be gathered by our children, but also with our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, and so forth.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The blessed at our doorsteps

You have come you have come 
o honorable guest
to wash our sins away
You have come you have come 
as a blessing and a test
to reach for His love we may

You prevent us from our evil 
and shine bright the good that we have
Locked away are all that’s deceitful 
so everything is up for grabs

You have come you have come 
o blessed nights
filled with remembrance
You will come you will come 
o night of might
may we not let you pass us away

Therein we received our guidance 
the Book which in it there’s no doubt
The emergence of a nation 
the nation of he who we love

Will you stay will you stay 
o blessed days?
in our hearts forever
Will we meet you again in another time and place
our beautiful Ramadhan

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

All of us will whither in the end…

It’s summer time here in Japan. Although hot, the plants are at their full lushness (it’s around 34 degrees here in Kyoto, and it will get hotter in August). It’s hard to imagine that just a few months ago, at the end of winter, all of these plants didn't even exist. Well, they might have existed as roots, being dormant, as seeds ready to germinate or whatever, but to the naked eye, they were literally, dead.

The weather changed, spring came, and suddenly all these plants just came out of nowhere. Showing their beautiful spring colors. The sakura (cherry blossom) flowers bloomed, the tulips bloomed, the ume (plum) flowers bloomed, along with all the other amazing flowers and plants. Everybody loves spring, photographers particularly. They can get amazing shots that would have been impossible to get in other seasons.

But all this beauty and magnificence, they don't last very long. Cherry blossoms (which is often used to symbolize Japan) are in full bloom for only two weeks at maximum. If rain comes, their display of beauty could end even sooner. And that goes the same for other flowers as well. In fact, even though the trees and plants are at their full lushness right now, in another few months, they will eventually wither and “die” all over again.  

Such is a lesson for all of us. Nothing lasts forever. It’s a cycle of creative magnificence. Just as we were brought into this world as babies, grew strong and beautiful, full of “lushness”, we will also wither and come to our time eventually. Some of us won’t even be given the chance to reach old age. So it is not so far fetched if we were to be raised up again, even if it’s as a new creation all together. Isn’t it easy for The One who created us in the beginning?

Friday, July 13, 2012

The disappearance of religiosity

Not very long ago people used to be religious. They used to hold on to religion and make it their life rope. Their lives revolved around religion. Constitutions of countries were based on articles of faith. Not many people denied God nor questioned whether God exists or not, because for them, the answer was obvious. In fact, I just saw a video of Magic Johnson when he gave a speech on behalf of the US basketball dream team, and the first thing that he mentioned was God. Similar to Hakeem Olajuwon when he was admitted into the NBA hall of fame, where the first thing he said was “I thank God.” I believe that we wouldn’t hear that kind of opening from this generation of NBA players.

Look at how degraded we have become. The quality of our religiosity and the religiosity of the society has dropped so far that it has come to the point where many don’t even want to admit/believe in God. Nowadays, by rejecting God, people feel as if they’re cool, smart, and liberated. Feeling a false sense of superiority, believing that they’re modern thinkers, thinking ahead of others. Of course we are free to think what we want to think. But feeling superior because of not believing in God is absurd.

The root of the drop in religiosity is perhaps ignorance (which leads to concluding things with inadequate amount of knowledge), greed, and arrogance (which results in rejecting the truth even if he has inclination towards it).

Nevertheless, God is Merciful and opens some doors of guidance to us from time to time. He gives us opportunities to “snap out of it” at certain periods. These opportunities might come through spiritual experiences, interaction with pious people, or maybe through shock therapies that He gives us.

One story about this is eloquently told in the Qur’an. Although I am paraphrasing, I hope that I don't distort it.

There were people that owned a productive and beautiful garden. They benefited from the garden very much and had overwhelming confidence in their skills. They eventually shifted their mindset from attributing their success to God, to attributing their success to themselves and their garden. This mistaken way of thinking is a result of ignorance and arrogance blended together. Forgetting the true nature of things (that God is the one who gives success) and feeling self-sufficient, not needing God. They also developed a selfish attitude, wanting to have all the harvest to themselves without giving any portion to charity. They had a drop in their religiosity.

But then God, being merciful as He is, reminded them through shock therapy. Just as they were about to harvest their crops, they found their garden burnt to ashes. Through this, they “snapped out of it” and realized their mistake in being ignorant, arrogant, and selfish (greedy).

The disappearance of religiosity is most probably attributed to the mentioned traits. We are indoctrinated that success is the fruit of our effort only and that we are entitled to enjoy it alone without sharing it with others.

When we wake up, prepare for work, how many times do we direct our intentions for serving God? When we look at our career and our successes, how many times do we thank God and see it as a blessing that He has blessed upon us? When we receive our monthly payroll, how often do we think about giving a portion of it to charity? If the answer is in the negative, we should try to get back on track and not make the same mistakes of the people of the garden, lest lose our religiosity and share the same destiny.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Exhalting science

Science is fascinating. No doubt about it. I have always loved science. New findings and inventions have always interested me. Whether it’s new findings in physics, biology, archaeology, or whatever, I always spare some time to read them.

The most recent breakthrough is the discovery of the “god particle” (or the Higgs Boson particle), which gives us a whole different dimension in understanding existence of the universe. It’s said that this particle is the particle that gives us mass, and thus scientists say that it could help us understand how the galaxy was formed. Of course, since I am ignorant of this subject, I might have not properly described it.

But anyway, through science, we find new things everyday, about the world around us and about ourselves. Through science we also find ways to develop new technology that can help us in our interaction with the world, and alter the way we live our lives.

However, there are times when people become too obsessed with science, and think that it is the only option for humanity to understand the world and our existence. So much so that they disregard other ways that can be used to explain the difficult questions that we ask about (life, death, and other matters of the unseen).

Many people would argue that just because something cannot be proven scientifically right now, it doesn’t mean it can’t be proven in the future. But realistically, there are things that can just never be explained by science, forever. But then again, some people won’t be able to accept that notion. Some people have made science absolute; they have made it their god.

For Muslims, religion and spirituality answers many questions of the unseen. Regarding life, death, the soul, what comes after and before life, etc. For Muslims, science actually goes along with spirituality. They do not contradict at all. The Muslims reached the epitome of science in their civilization when spiritualism was also at its peak. Science and spiritualism complete each other. By getting better understanding of God’s creations, it will only increase the awe towards the perfectness of what He created. Whether we study about the laws of physics, biological processes in nature, astronomy, etc.

In truth, science is just one tool of many that can be used to understand things. On top of that, there are still so many things that science cannot explain properly, even things that happen everyday within ourselves such as yawning, adolescence, and blushing. And of course about other things: our soul, life, death, moral truth, etc. So wouldn't it be wise to at least take a look at what religion has to offer before judging it illogical and absurd?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Even the slowest of creatures are given provision

Have you ever heard of the sloth?

It’s an animal that lives in the tropical rain forests of central and South America. It is called the sloth for obvious reasons. It has extremely slow movements (2m per minute while on the ground) and sleeps a lot (10 to 16 hours per day).

Its diet consists of leaf buds, tender shoots, and leaves. It is also reported that some species also eat insects, small reptiles, and even human feces to supplement its diet. But due to this diet, they gain very limited amount of energy from their food.

They compensate for the lack of energy they get from their food by a very slow metabolism rate, in addition to their limited amount of movement. That way, they don't use too much energy to survive. They do occasionally use bursts of energy, for example when they have to escape from a predator or when they need to defecate or urinate (they climb down the tree to do this, make a hole in the ground and cover it when they’re done. Pretty smart don't you think?). But even then, they don’t move very fast.

It’s amazing how an animal that is so sluggish and seems so helpless can survive with no problems. They eat a small amount of food that is just about enough to support their lifestyle of sluggishness and sleep. But then again, don't all living beings get enough food to stay alive? Be it the most dangerous of predators or the slow sloth, (in normal conditions in nature) none will die out of hunger.

It’s another story if there is human intervention, destruction of their natural habitats, or an anomaly in nature. But the rule of the thumb is that all living things get their food that is enough to sustain them, one way or another. These animals get the right food, at the right amount, at the right time and place. That’s something amazing if you ask me. It's too precise to be mere coincidence.

Reflecting on how easy those animals get their provision, the problems of hunger that we face around the world is just beyond comprehension. How did this happen? Everything is readily provided in nature. Perhaps the way we are consuming and exploiting things has taken a toll, and our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are paying the price for our stupidity.

God has set the balance perfectly. He gives provision to even the weakest of creatures. So when there are amongst His creatures that don't get the provision they need, be sure that it’s most likely our fault (in altering the balance). And God knows best.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Envying the glamorous life

As the consequence of being bombarded by materialism through the mainstream media, we are often tempted with all the glamour and glitter that it offers us. From the lifestyle of rich CEO's, Hollywood actors, athletes, political figures, and others, we are convinced to think that their lives are THE lives that we want.

Surrounded by an overwhelming amount of money, beautiful people, exotic food, expensive gadgets and cars, and many other materialistic pleasures, we are made to aspire and envy the lives that they have. Forget about all their unsuccessful marriages, misusage of alcohol and drugs, and even the depression (which often leads to suicide or death) that goes along with it. Their lives are the lives we should want (says the people who are in control).

And unfortunately, we fall into the traps that are sprung. We become milk cows of the ones who are pulling the strings. We think the way they want us to think. And as the consequence, we consume the things that they want us to consume, use the brands they want us to use, and in order to keep us constantly asleep / in delusion, they keep serving us with empty dreams through all the media they control, whether it be by TV, magazines, internet, etc.

It's interesting how human psychology has stayed the same over the millennia. This envy towards richness and comfort is most definitely not a new thing. In the Qur’an, it is told about the story of Qarun. He was amongst the people of the Prophet Moses (AS). He was blessed by God to have immense amount of wealth, so much so that the weight of the keys to his depositories alone would be a burden for several able bodied men.

Qarun had a glamorous life, similar to of those who are in the media that we see. He was also boastful and arrogant with what he had, claiming it was not from God, but rather was a result of his own wits, ability and hard work. Of course, this is not true, as everything is a blessing from God, which is given to us as a test to show whether we can be grateful or not. Qarun forgot that everything he had, his wealth, his hands, his health, his body, his abilities, his will, his life, and everything that he can think of, is a blessing from God.

Many people were envious to what he had, and wished to have the same. However, the people of knowledge were able to see beyond the wealth and riches, and reminded the people that everything that one has, including wealth, is not beneficial in any way if not used for the sake of God (to seek rewards for the next life).

Eventually the earth swallowed Qarun along with his riches, and none of his efforts and wealth were able to save him from what happened. The people then realized their mistaken way of thinking. It is God who distributes wealth and gives it to whomever He wants, and we should be grateful with whatever we have.

Being envious to people who are living glamorous lives is a disease that we must try to get rid of. There is no harm in being wealthy. In fact we should work hard to be able to provide for others and ourselves. By being wealthy, we could have opportunities to help others. What’s important is not to make the wealth and glamour itself as our end goal. Our goal should be God’s pleasure. And by His will, through all our wealth and efforts, we will be admitted to a place where we will definitely live a glamorous life (for eternity). May God make us people who use our wealth for His sake and strive to do goodness throughout our lives.

Friday, July 06, 2012

The people of Saba and Japan

The title may not make sense at all, or maybe it will. It’s just a thought that passed my mind while reading the Quran. I recently read a surah (chapter) in the Quran called surah An Naml / the ant. And in it, there is a story of the Prophet Suleiman’s (AS)* encounter with the Queen of the people of Saba, Queen Balqis.

The kingdom of Saba was a prosperous kingdom, and is among the most advanced civilizations that ever existed. It was rich and the people had advanced technology. They had sophisticated irrigation systems, built 18 meters-high dams that had lengths reaching to 1.6 kilometers (remember, this was 3000 years ago), advanced architecture, and were successful in commerce. Religiously, they were following a type of animism where they worshipped the elements of nature such as the sun (and the moon as well).

I couldn't help but notice that the people of the kingdom of Saba have resemblance with the people of Japan. Namely their religious belief: animism. They have deities derived from natural elements such as the sun god (or goddess) and the moon god (or goddess). In Japan, the worship of the sun goddess (amaterasu) is a part of the Shinto religion. Amaterasu is one of the main deities in Shinto. Of course nowadays, the average Japanese couldn’t care less about religion, as religion is more of a cultural phenomenon rather than belief. They use a mix of religious traditions for different occasions (Shinto for birth, Christian for marriage, Buddhism for death). However, many people still regard Shinto as the national religion.

The other resemblance that the people of Saba have with Japan is their command over advanced technology (in their respective times). As mentioned before, the kingdom of Saba had sophisticated irrigation systems, dams, buildings, and perhaps other technology that we will never know. Similar to Japan whom is (or was) one of the leading countries in the pursuit of advanced technology, according to

Interestingly, in the Quran, it is mentioned about how the Queen finally accepted Islam. She was of course struck in awe by the wisdom, kingdom and power of Prophet Suleiman (AS). But what finally made her submit was the technological marvel that the Prophet Suleiman (AS) displayed through the architectural design of his palace. Which perhaps gives us a glimpse of the future of how the same type of people will accept Islam.

God takes people into the fold of Islam through many doors. Some may come in through spirituality, some may come in through theology, some may come in through the akhlaq (good character) that Muslims (used to) have, some may come in through the scientific marvels that Muslims (used to) achieve, some may come in through the beautiful architecture that our architects (used to) make, some from inheritance (Muslim parents) and many other doors.

So perhaps in the case of Japan, looking at the similarities with the people of Saba, Islam will most likely be successfully introduced through the technological advances that Muslims will hopefully have in the future. I have the utmost respect and love for my Japanese brothers and sisters, and wish them the best of futures. Nevertheless, it’s just a thought that I had, and you can take it with a grain of salt. May guidance be made easy for us, and stay with us until our last breath.

*AS: 'Alaihissalam (Peace be unto him)