Scenes from my university… Advertisements
I first saw you when I was just 15;
a visit on a school holiday,
tagging along with those much older (in my mind, at least) –
the students of a new era in their lives,
in their first year of the post-high school adventure. Continue reading
The dawning of a new day.
Suburbs lay quiet,
resting under the blanket of morning clouds,
only the tree tops and buildings remain visible.
Morning flights, begin slowly.
Birds alone, birds in flocks.
People in flocks, gathered in the single, man-made vehicle of flight. Continue reading
Continuing from part 1, here’s another section of the book I’m hoping to publish.
Keep the world away.
Don’t turn on the radio.
Keep yourself away from the ideologically-tainted programming that entrenches itself in your home via the TV.
Reject their news media.
Their unhealthy fascination.
Be free of their poison.
They feed it to you: slowly, constantly, unrelentingly;
Headlines; top stories this hour;
chart shows; advertising –
“the right to choose” –
the right to choose what they make available to you:
“This week’s ‘must-have’ DVD”;
Dress like the stars;
Live the high life…
“winners know when to stop”
“enjoy it responsibly!”
Keep your (de)vices of shame and addiction.
I don’t need your modern-day idolatry:
your disease of celebrity obsession;
your hedonistic pursuits of all that delight the senses –
yet suffocate the soul.
I reject your ideas. Your way of life. Your deen*.
Mine may be flawed and faulty – but I’m on the right path.
I don’t drink from your poisoned cup;
I don’t breathe your polluted air.
I exist, I live – hard though it is –
in my own vacuum, with my own boundaries and my own border control.
Stew in the world if you want.
I choose something else.
I choose my own world.
Date written: December 2006
* Deen is an Arabic word meaning “way of life”. Islam is often referred to as such – being far more comprehensive than just a ‘religion’, but an actual way of life encompassing all aspects of our existence.
I was in an airport parking lot one morning, waiting to pick someone up. I’d arrived early, turned on the radio, and after hearing just a few seconds of a news bulletin, switched it off instinctively – as if being burned by a hot stove. The feeling at that instant was really an eruption of sentiments that had been building up for a long time before that. Hearing that news bulletin – however brief – was a catalyst for this emotional release, and I poured them into this piece.
At the time of writing, I was in a somewhat contradictory space in terms of media. I habitually indulged in some forms of entertainment – mostly a few TV series I was hooked on – yet I was also fully aware of the poisoning effect that modern entertainment had. The moral degeneration of society, I believe, has been fueled largely by the growth and dominance of media in our world today. And in many cases, those in charge of the industry push very harmful and spiritually-destructive ideologies through their programming – whether blatantly or in more insidious ways. So while I knew such pastimes weren’t good for me, I justified it by thinking that just a few of these would be fine. It’s not like I was a major TV / entertainment addict – like the many, many people around me at the time (and still, to this day).
One of the targets of this piece is the modern disease of consumerism, and the information overload we get via the constant flow of ‘news’ that never ever ends. At the time, I was anti-news, and really wanted nothing more than to be cocooned away from this world – in a bubble of my own: pure, happy, and free of the manipulation that comes with today’s news media. And for the most part, I actually was kind of living that life. I was living alone, without much exposure to the outside world or people – aside from day to day work and occasional family stuff.
This piece really just expressed my rejection of modern media, and the yearning to be free of it.
While the world goes on below,
I am free, I am calm.
A place, so far from them all – yet
close enough to reach quickly. Continue reading
As I sat there, I was moved by watching my fellow hujjaajj. I reflected on how we were all brought together for this trip: Allah had specifically picked each and every one of us to be His guests at these holy sites in this year. I thought about the bonds had grown between us, and how united we’d been. And soon, this would all end. We’d go back to our own lives at home and our Hajj would fade into history as fond memories – flashes of a past experience that we would so dearly love to hold onto, but wouldn’t be able to, since life would move on, and time would erode the highs of our spiritual peak. Continue reading
I think of how my own life has changed in these six years.
When we got back, the desire to “live my Hajj” meant staying highly spiritual: worshipping a lot; being beautiful in character; and just living a good, clean life.
Six years later, my feeling is that that’s not what it means to live our Hajj. At least not for me. Maybe because I’ve failed miserably by my own initial definition. Continue reading
With this year’s Hajj fast approaching, those who are going can find it hectic getting logistical stuff sorted out, making the social arrangements for departure (the greetings etc before leaving), and – most importantly – their own personal mental and spiritual preparation.
What follows is a compilation of tips and lessons extracted from my own Hajj experience – which I hope will be of benefit to those making the journey of a lifetime this year. Continue reading
I wrote, previously, about how I was taking these final 10 days of Ramadaan off for my own part-time itikaaf, and what I hoped to achieve in that time. Now, as I near the end of that period (which has actually only been 5 days – the working week), I see what I’ve been missing all these years.
One of the speakers I listen to often – Shaykh Hussain Abdul Sattar – once mentioned how the default for a human soul, the natural inclination (“fitra”), is towards spirituality. But for the most part, we live and operate in environments counter to that spirit. And so, our souls can drown in the day-to-day activities of life, and the environments so focused on the outward – which gets much more emphasis than it should. We lack balance, and so our souls are not nourished as they should be, while our bodies and minds are given most of the attention. (More about that here.)
And it’s not easy to get away from that – because we need to live in this world. We need to earn a living, take care of family, and do all the other things that come with the life of this world. But when we get a chance to escape it all, that’s when we can invert the equation. And that comes in the itikaaf period.
By simply removing yourself from the normal routines and environments, your soul naturally rises. Mentally, you no longer have the chains of work to worry about. Then, by placing yourself in solitude in a blessed environment (the masjid), you take another step towards inner peace and purification. Add to that an abundance of extra acts of worship – in these blessed final 10 days of Ramadaan – and it’s an even greater spiritual boost.
I’ve felt it. Even though I’ve done far fewer acts of worship than others, it doesn’t matter. Because it’s not about quantity. I’d venture to say, in this specific context, it’s not even about quality either.
For me, it’s about one thing: connection. Connection to the Almighty. And that comes – for me at least – in isolation from everyone and everything. For me, the few actions of worship – Quran, salaah, dua, dhikr – act as a means of getting to that point of connection; when the heart can once again feel that intimacy with its Creator. It’s a feeling that nothing can match. A goal above all other goals.
And it’s something that can be more easily achieved in times like this.
It’s a freedom – a liberation – from the ordinary. Because even the normal, day to day acts of worship – salaah, Quran, etc – can take on the feeling of routine. They can lack depth and feeling, because they are just scattered fragments floating in an otherwise dominant ocean of everyday life.
But when you consciously leave that ocean, and give your soul the intense attention it needs, the results are beautiful. The heart is uplifted. The spirit is enlivened. You find energy you never had before. You feel alive. You feel connected, once more, to your true purpose. To your most noble ambitions and spirit which got buried under the dust of life.
I haven’t felt it in a long, long time. And, chances are, I’m not going to experience this again for quite some time. But I’m just immensely grateful that I’ve had this window of peace – to reconnect and find that which used to be so close to me all those years ago.
Alhamdullilah – the barakah of Ramadaan is amazing. And I wish this month would never end….