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What do you see?


[posted by abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed]
Innalhamdolillah, wa bismillah, was salamu alaykum.

[If you scroll down a bit further there is an image. You will only see what you can see. And as far as I know, all you will see is good. :)

But a lot of people have not been sure what there was to see. For those people, try (1) scrolling up and down a few times quickly, (2) highlighting or dragging the picture with your mouse, or (3) go check the comments quickly and race right back — I’ll wait for you here. ;) (Edited in response to awesome comments.)]

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Please take a few moments, and look at the image that follows.
what do you see? what are you looking for?
What do you see?

When i went for Hajj, alhamdolillah, I had never met or even heard the shaykh who was our Hajj guide. Most of our group assembled in Abu Dhabi from points all over Canada and America. Alhamdolillah, we met up in a nicely-appointed hotel that had a truly massive conference room. A giant oval table — maybe 15 feet across at its narrowest point, alhamdolillah.

So we are some 50 people sitting around this table. And the shaykh walks in, sits down, and I think he apologized for being late. :)

Then he started talking, and Allah is Witness that I have almost no recollection what he said at the start…

But I distinctly remember the point at which he took a piece of paper out of his backpack, borrowed a pen, and wrote. When he picked up the piece of paper, he held it for all the room to look at it, and he asked “what do you see?” The page looked very much like the image above.

Many people called out their responses.

This is what he said: “if all you see on this page is a black dot, you might as well not go for Hajj.” Alhamdolillah, i did not stop paying attention to him after that! I’m a lawyer: scrutinizing documents and facts for their flaws and idiosyncrasies, either to protect a client by covering the flaw or to exploit an opponent’s error for some advantage to a client — that’s a fair summary of most legal work. I saw both the paper and the dot, alhamdolillah.

But I wanted to know what this shaykh saw.

“This page is clean. It is composed of millions of ‘white dots’.” (In the case of my image, that’s literally true — yes, that is a super-geek-comment, even for me.)

“If all you see on this page is the black dot, or if your eye goes first to the black dot, then you’re in trouble…” (From here I am merely paraphrasing, partly because I’ve heard the shaykh give this example on other occasions, and partly because I’ve recited this example on even more occasions! The shaykh’s advice continued…) …You’re in trouble because everywhere you go during Hajj you will be surrounded by white dots, and all you may see are the few black dots.

You will be surrounded by people in the most important physical journey of their lives, all of them here only to seek the pleasure and Forgiveness of Allah, and you may be complaining that someone left a can on the side of the road.

And Allah is testing each and every person whom He has permitted to come for Hajj. And that can is a test for you. And for millions of other hujjaaj. And some of you will fail because you dwelled on the can, and never noticed the stranger who offered the cold beverage as refreshment for someone who was struggling with the heat.

You may fail because you complain about the traffic on the way from Madinah to Makkah, but you fail because you could have been making talbiyah all that time. You could have been making dhikr. You could have been thanking Allah that you did not have to walk.

And when the bus cannot reach its destination, on whichever day that inevitably happens, you may fail because someone comes up to you and complains about the bus driver, and you may join him in his complaint and be lost with him.

And I was afraid because I needed my Hajj to be accepted.

By now, you probably know the shaykh is Muhammad Alshareef. But you should realize that the advice he gave was not just about success in Hajj. Any day that I think about that example in the morning is usually a day when I have appreciated Allah’s generosity to me by evening. And as I offer this post to you, I realize that if I was as worried about the acceptance of my deeds on any given day, as I was worried about the acceptance of my Hajj, then I would be a much better Muslim. So keep praying for me. And be kind to your bus driver.

Part 2: Who are you going to call? :)

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Bismillah walhamdolillah. May Allah accept my repentance and yours. I am an attorney, a stepfather, a husband, a son, and a Muslim. Studying Islam is a means, reflecting what I have learned is a must, and to Allah is the inevitable return. If you would like my help, know that Allah is the source of all aid. If you would like to contact me, try tariqnisarahmed at Gmail, LinkedIn, Twitter, or add me as a friend on Facebook.



  1. UmmeAmmaarah

    February 21, 2009 at 4:37 PM

    MashaAllah…………….. maybe i’ll stick a sheet of white paper on my front door from now on… :)

    P.S.: does anybody have a ‘my own personal sheikh’ PDA software for those of us who are sheikh-deprived? ….and yeah… end of story?

  2. Dawud Israel

    February 21, 2009 at 7:56 PM

    SICK POST!!!

    I think some readers may skip it cuz they think an image isn’t showing up lol. But another thing I see with a dot is this…

    . <–I was once the size of that dot in my mother’s womb and Allah made me as I am now. Imagine what He can make me into…

  3. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    February 21, 2009 at 8:08 PM

    bismillah. @Dawud — the first time the post loaded in preview mode, i was not sure the image had loaded either. :) so, i went back and added “border=’1′” to the image tag. then i knew that the image was fine, alhamdolillah. on the other hand, i also noticed my laptop screen needs cleaning. ;)

    @UmmeAmmaarah — i think the software you want is called ALMAGHRIB ;) mashaAllah, the shuyukh at every class i have ever taken at Al Maghrib have been amazingly accessible to the students in the class. during breaks, after class, etc. that’s been true ever since i attended my first class, about 5 months after Hajj: it was Light Upon Light, and i was hooked thereafter, alhamdolillah. “wa habli nuran alaa nur!”

  4. Zeyad Ramadan

    February 21, 2009 at 8:40 PM

    SubhanAllah that’s a really powerful analogy Abu Abdallah. It comes down to the power of focus and where you choose to focus on: the one black dot or the thousands of white dots around it. This analogy holds so true for everything else we do. Looking forward to the rest of it inshaAllah. BarakAllahu feek.

  5. Sarah

    February 21, 2009 at 10:07 PM

    MashAallah!…………. great idea…… yes! please share the end of the story!!!!!!!

  6. vindicated

    February 21, 2009 at 11:02 PM

    Maybe I’m a bit weak in the eyes, but i didn’t see anything initially before reading! Neither the black dot or the white dots. But I saw them all right when I looked a little closely after reading what i was supposed to be looking for :D

    On a more serious note, great post. Food for thought.

  7. sincethestorm

    February 21, 2009 at 11:14 PM

    Me too. I didn’t see anything so I thougt it was an abstract sort of thing…where you have a blank white canvas and if you are an optomist you see all the possibilities that this blank canvas can represent. And if you have a negative outlook, then all you see is NOTHING. I viewed it as the former. :) Anyway great post.

  8. AnonyMouse

    February 21, 2009 at 11:38 PM

    I’d like the end of the story, please!

  9. Nahyan

    February 22, 2009 at 12:29 AM

    great article bro,
    (i saw the title and bam! i knew what it was about)
    the suspense was very nicely executed.

    i hope the ending is coming soon…


    ps. ya i wiped my laptop screen to find the dot…i dono if i found the dot or just a dusty screen

  10. Sunie

    February 22, 2009 at 12:29 AM

    I didn’t notice the black dot until after reading the post. So I must be ready for Hajj ;)

  11. muslimflavor

    February 22, 2009 at 12:31 AM

    wow that was a really nice piece mashaAllah…..i def. did not see the black dot…but when I looked again after reading the post and comments I saw it

  12. AsimG

    February 22, 2009 at 12:57 AM

    Lol I wish the dot was a little more apparent or something!
    Alhamadillah good post

  13. UmmeAmmaarah

    February 22, 2009 at 1:26 AM

    Salaam. i also noticed the dot AFTER i read that there was supposed to be a dot, maybe u should cluster some more black dots around it, and yeah, hear so much about the al-Maghrib classes, and the niyyah’s there 110%, may Allah make easy the means….. feel so ilm-deprived looking at all those enthusiastic forum discussions…. what i meant was that sometimes u’re so desperate for islamic advice, and after the du’a-making and istikhaaras, u wish u had a (like i said…) 24/7 personal sheikh…..

    The Black Dot Phenomena (let’s call it that from now on ;) ) is like slinky shaitan’s work that gobbles up all the meagre hasanah that u might have earned, and i guess we shouldn’t limit it to just hajj, but apply it and stop ourselves from falling into this trap – like when people go to halaqas, and at the end, u comment on the food or somebody’s clothes, or somebody’s questions or point out the fact that so and so didn’t even attend, and a lot of times it so happens that u feel so good about having done something nice that u figure u owe urself some ‘relaxing’, and end up right where you started, and then u feel so disappointed in yourself…

  14. umtalhah

    February 22, 2009 at 1:45 AM

    as salam alaikaum,

    jazakAllahu khairan abu Abdullah, mm and other responsible for bringing this wonderful post to us.

    on the main home page, i saw the image and said, ‘hmm….. i see just plain white’ and it attracted me tothe article right away. when the post page loaded, i did not notice the black dot even though i wiped my laptop screen. perhaps i need glasses!

    similar advice was given to me when i was going for hajj but not using this beautiful analogy.

    indeed you hit the nail on the head in the last paragraph. may Allah azza wa jalla give all of us tawfeeq to remember our white papers with teeny bitty black dots on them.

    an excellent piece.

  15. MM Associates

    February 22, 2009 at 2:01 AM

    hehe I missed the dot too…

    very awesome post! Please share the rest of the story inshaAllah. (amatullah)

  16. AnonyMouse

    February 22, 2009 at 2:19 AM

    @ having a 24/7 personal sheikh
    Y’know… subhanAllah I’ve heard that so many times… and am guilty of saying it myself… but by Allah, there is a great wisdom in NOT having your own personal sheikh!

    1) The sheikh does not have the time to be YOUR own personal sheikh, not even if he’s your father/ brother/ husband :)
    2) The knowledge does not come to you. YOU must go to the knowledge.
    3) No one else, not even if he is a sheikh or she is a sheikha, can give you all the knowledge you crave. Nor are they able to impart their wisdom and understanding unto you. This is a mercy, a blessing, and a gift from Allah alone… He grants these precious provisions unto whom He wishes.

    Rabbi zidnee ‘ilma! Allaahumma innee as_aluka ‘ilman naafi’an, wa rizan tayyiban, wa ‘amalan mutaqabbalan. Ameen, thumma ameen, ya Rabb al-‘Aalameen.

  17. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed (Associate)

    February 22, 2009 at 3:14 AM

    bismillah, walhamdolillah. i was going to submit part two after the Bar Exam which is this week… (yes, please make dua for me — not just welcome but part of my test-strategy… :S) but your responses… well, jazak Allah khayr. :) so i’ve prepared the second article. it’s ready. it won’t make you squint while you look at the image.

    ameen to those duas, Anonymouse! and you’re right, too: i told another shaykh what i was looking for in a wife… he said, “Tariq, you’re not going to have a halaqa every night.” hey! what might be better than having a shaykh on call 24/7? letting life constantly remind you of Allah, His Messenger (sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam), Islam, and what the shuyukh have already taught us!

  18. Tauqeer

    February 22, 2009 at 4:06 AM

    Yes, I pressed F5 couple of times… :P

  19. hmmm

    February 22, 2009 at 6:06 AM

    Good post.

    Reminded me of the artist Cy Twombly’s (in)famous bone-white ‘painting’ worth $2 million, that was spoiled by the lipstick mark left by some admirer, as an act of appreciation.

  20. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    February 22, 2009 at 7:45 AM

    bismillah. that’s funny, hmmm: think he claimed $2/dot? :) tauqeer, sorry about that. :) i’ve moved the bold-face section above all those white dots.

  21. Abo idris

    February 22, 2009 at 10:01 PM

    i dont see anything. What is this dot?

  22. Abo idris

    February 22, 2009 at 10:03 PM

    hmm *scratches head…

  23. shorouk

    February 23, 2009 at 5:43 AM

    Masha allah, wa hamdu llilah wa shukru lillah, I have to say at first I only saw a white space even though I scrolled up and down a few, and only saw the black dot after it was mentioned and I went back to look for it. Such a good analogy, and reminder of what we should be doing. Reminds me of a passage in ‘Whosoever knoweth himself Knoweth his Lord’, when the mureeds were complaining about the smelly rotten corpse of a dog they saw lying in the street, and the Sheikh said “ah but look at his beautiful pearly white teeth”

  24. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    February 28, 2009 at 12:47 AM

    bismillah. so did anyone figure out why the dot was that size?

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