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MM Arts | Poetry Day | 1-7-11

Welcome, it\’s our monthly Poetry day again! If you want to share your verses with everyone here, kindly email us at poetry[@]muslimmatters[.]org stating your name, along with your poem. As soon as your poem is selected for publishing, we\’ll let you know so that you can keep an eye out for it, Insha\’Allah. JazakumAllahu khayr for sending in your poems!

Without further ado, here are the three lovely poems we\’ve selected for today…

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The Self
by Saad Muhammad Ismail

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Gone are the days of intellectual rhetoric,
Ineffectively contentious, unproductive and overly problematic.

Lets not get carried away, quibbling over semantics,
Lets not indulge in pointless intellectual gymnastics.
To positively engage is the need of the hour,
So let aside all prejudice, preconceived notions,
And  let empathy overpower.

Who are ‘you\’, my dear reader?
A biological byproduct or an outcome of social pressure?
Who are ‘you\’, my dear reader, if not,
A pre-planned, programmed ‘Robot\’.

Is this truly ‘you\’, or are you more,
Contemplate this now, if you haven\’t before.

Let not ‘yourself\’ be defined by societal norms,
If indeed you are more, than just someone who apprehensively conforms.

Know that your ‘intellectual convictions\’ will be in vain,
If, for Truth, you are unprepared to stand pain.

You need to stand up for what you believe to be true,
And instead of reacting to context, allow it to react to you!

The bulk of humanity,
Seeks to hide and avoid its reality.
Trying to hide from its own confrontations,
Hiding away in masks and impersonations.

Let me draw your attention,
To the crux of my contention,

As to all things in life, there are two distinct dimensions:
(a) ‘The Facts\’ and (b) ‘Our Interpretations\’.

Understand that these are two separate spheres to begin with,
For without this realization, we would be entertaining a myth,
A forlorn drama, Rehearsed and reiterated,
Fueling the Ego, which forever remains unsated.

Lets be honest and humble enough,
To make the indispensable differentiation,
Between ‘Facts\’ and our ‘Interpretations\’.
For, while facts remain ever unchangeable,
Our interpretations are always manageable.

But what are ‘Our Interpretations\’ based on ultimately,
If not, our conceptions of who we are, in reality.

Transcend the confines of social structures,
Do not settle for mere conjectures,
Probe into the depths of your mind,
And define ‘yourself\’, lest you be defined.

Thus understanding yourself better,
Breaking free from every normative fetter,

Know your created self, Know your Creator!

“Do not become like those who forget God and God makes them forget
themselves. It is they who are truly deprived.” [Quran; Surah Hashr 59:19]

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Islam. the Sibghah (Color) of Allah
By Sabeen Mansoori
The oceans dried up
Not one but two,
But the words of my Lord written were few

Each drop of Divine ink
Each letter, each word
Their uncharted depths few have explored

“Sibghatullah”
The Colors of Allah
Dye yourself in them and attain falah

The hues of humility
The perfect tints of gratitude
The gait, the speech, the right attitude

In the style
Of the Nabi(saw) and the blessed few
They strive but they smile as if Jannah they view

Intense in their devotion
Their obedience glows
In the darkest of nights spent bowed low

Not like chameleons
They change their colors, or discard
When the going gets tough, or the opposition hard

Their deen dyed deep
Not washed away
By the changing tides of culture, or fashion\’s sway

Awash in divine recitation
They persist and depend
On none
But the One

At peace in the knowledge
That blessed they are
To be drenched in
‘Sibghatullah\’
The Colors of Allah

______________________________________________________________________________________

Untitled poem
by Muhammad Zakaria Suleman

He washed his body
And Applied perfume

Lightly passed his finger tips over the cover
As if he was blind.

Turned over
To ‘The Opening\’ chapter.

And burst into tears
That flooded his Heart.

Softened his Might
And opened his Mind.

The curvature of a single letter
Leading to a Straight Path.

A path that flowed;
From a selfless Heart.

 

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Ameera is a final-year medical student and blogger based in Karachi, Pakistan. Having been born and raised in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, her approach towards her Deen has always been rooted in a basic understanding from authentic sources, which was further polished during a three-year weekend course at Al Huda Institute. Her interests, though, seem to know no bounds and range from a passion for the culinary arts and travelling, as well as following current affairs and global happenings. She feels being able to be part of MuslimMatters is one of the major blessings of Allah(swt) upon her, for it has given her a chance to learn and grow.She also maintains her personal blog at http://duskanddawn.wordpress.com.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ahmad

    July 2, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Until I see You
    by Ammar AlShukry

    You’re the best person I’ve ever known, the best friend I’ve never met
    Your sincerity to me is blinding enough to completely canvas the world around me
    with drapes that read, respect, honor, focus, protect…
    and leaving a window so that I can zoom in on the important things,
    and yet those are the things that I forget, or neglect,
    …I will do better.

    Your Ummah is fine, not because of me or mine, or wounds that heal with time,
    those who’d die for a dollar sign, but because of promises divine,
    and so when we feel that we’re at our worst,
    and our sadness would cause our hearts to burst,
    it feels like there are times,
    when there are angels within our lines.
    Or maybe hovering over squares,
    with chants of freedom in the air,
    And though tyrants step on our necks
    We smile…for history has always been on our side..
    Yours is an Ummah that simply doesn’t die…

    I’m sorry for my weakness.
    For every time I’ve been ashamed of your name, and asked someone to call me Mo,
    For not knowing enough about you to defend you when they drew cartoons, or accused you with the most heinous of accusations…
    For not getting over my distaste of reading and waiting for hollywood to put you on the big screen so I can know about you.
    As if Steven Spielberg, Mel Gibson, and Johnny Depp could somehow recreate the twinkle in your eye,or a beautiful bead of sweat as it scaffolds on your forehead, frantically fighting gravity not wanting to fall off your body.

    I keep thinking of seeing you, and wonder if you would smile at me…
    the thought gives me goosebumps…
    You told me to meet you at the pool, so on that day, I hope and pray
    that I can see you through the crowd,
    that no angels barricade me as I sprint at break neck speed,
    I hope you recognize it’s me.
    I will crowd the companions to get access to your vision.
    I will obey my thirst and quench it from your hand, so until that day I will pray…
    I will stand and I will pray, as if my feet are holding the earth from splitting.

    If I make it, I cry at the thought of seeing you.
    For I know the words that I used to read out of all too thin pages,
    will do no justice, to your face, your scent, your touch, your voice.
    My Messenger of Allah has always existed between the curves and dots of the
    Arabic alphabet, So Muhammad ibn Abdillah in 3D and whatever other dimensions the hereafter brings with it, will be an overboard of senses.
    I will fall in love with your shadow,
    and will tell Ali that his description did not do justice,
    and tell my mother Aisha, that we heard her story of how you passed away between her chin and her chest, over and over and over again,
    and it made us cry every single time.
    For there was no disaster that we suffered more
    than what we suffered before our souls merged with flesh,
    of entering an Earth that was without you,

    Does the sky even recognize us anymore…
    And I will sit in the shade of your smile,
    and ask you your story directly from your mouth,
    as we sip from Salsabil, ice cold,
    and would be deeply embarrassed if you asked me for mine,

    Cuz I never did anything right, other than loving you
    and then…if you let me, I would love…
    for a hug.

  2. Avatar

    SisterinDeen

    July 2, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    Masha’Allah much talent and thoughts from these poems
    Congrats to the three :)

  3. Avatar

    Muhammad Zakaria Suleman

    July 3, 2011 at 6:49 AM

    Subhanallah,

    The Poem is Titled ‘He Opened the Qur’an’

    May Allah bless us all :)

  4. Avatar

    Abez

    July 6, 2011 at 3:01 AM

    The curvature of a single letter
    Leading to a Straight Path.

    Loved this line, JazakAllahukheiran!

    • Avatar

      Saad

      July 8, 2011 at 5:35 PM

      I second that!

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Stats not Stories: Problems with our Islamic History

Admit it. You’re bored by Islamic History. Sure, you might say that you find it fascinating, but the likelihood is that you are far more likely to be enamoured by the idea of what Islamic history should be like rather than the history itself.

How can I justify saying this? Well, lets take any other aspect of life that you are definitely not bored by. The latest Star Wars movie perhaps, Super Bowl 50 or all 7 Harry Potter books. Anything at all. Odds are that you can remember a lot about them in vivid detail. But if you’re asked the same thing about pretty much any aspect of Islamic history, the details are likely to be nowhere near as clear or captivating.

islamic history book

Outsold by the story of a wizard kid by a factor of a Million to 1

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Relax. For once, it is not your fault.

Islamic history is the poor cousin of the Islamic sciences. It can often be poorly taught, poorly understood and even more poorly preserved. The blame for this partly falls on the shoulders of the Islamic historians themselves. Apart from some notable exceptions, many Islamic history books are dreary affairs over-filled with numbers, dates and exceptionally long names of individuals who sound very similar.

history quote

It is not that Islamic history itself is boring. On the contrary, I would make the case that no other history is as palpitation inducing, full of giddy highs and dramatic – seemingly bottomless – lows. However, even the most amazing thriller can go from awe to yawn if the main focus is on the factual details rather than the story itself.

explainafilmplotbadly

If the Dark Knight was described like your average text on Islamic history

In 2007 Deborah Small at the Wharton School of Business conducted an experiment to see how people would react to a charity campaign that was presented primarily using facts and figures as compared to the same campaign presented as a story. The outcome wasn’t even close. Stories trump stats every time. Or, as Stalin would say “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” He should know. He was kind of an expert on the subject.

stalin

Hipster Stalin – now he’s taken things too far.

In fact, we don’t need to look to modern research to prove this. The Quran itself is full of stories and lessons, but short on details. How many animals made it on to the Ark? Where exactly did Khidr live? What was the name of the Pharoah that was the arch-nemesis of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)? The lack of facts and figures detracts nothing from the power of these stories and their ability to inspire and transform those hearing them.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was explicit on this point when it came to the stories of the Companions of the Cave. Allah admonishes those who debate on the exact number of those in the cave saying “Now some say they were three and the fourth one is their dog and some will say they were five and the sixth one is their dog, guessing randomly at the unseen.” It is unfortunate that we don’t heed this lesson when it comes to how we teach our own Islamic history.

stat-stories-vs-statistics

From “Made to stick” by Chip and Dan Heath

Maya Angelou said ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ If we want our Islamic history to be relevant and life-changing, we need to put away the facts and figures and bring out the monsters and legends.

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#Current Affairs

Five Courageous Ways To Respond To Anti-Muslim Hatred

Guests

By Fatima Barkatulla

It was the day after the second Paris attack. Our local Muslim school sent parents a text-message telling them that security guards would flank the school gates the next day. Messages were flying around, complete with fuzzy CCTV footage of Muslim women who had been verbally or physically attacked in public places, in the climate of hatred and fear that seemed to hang like a cloud over us.

My sons, proudly wear traditional garments (thobe and white skullcap) when going to certain classes at the Mosque. It is the uniform for their Qur’an class. It’s of course not obligatory for them to wear it but they normally do. They were about to set out and catch a bus when a sense of dread came over me as I realised how vulnerable they looked and how so visibly ‘Muslim’. People had been fed a drip diet of negativity surrounding Islam and Muslims. The heinous crimes of some of our co-religionists, playing on 24-hour news channels had contributed to that climate. It would only take one angry person…

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Muslim boys

 

In that moment I considered telling my sons to pop their jeans on instead, reserving their traditional garb for when they were safely inside the mosque. In that moment I was terrified at the power I wielded as a parent to influence their mindset with a word I might utter. And in that moment, I bit my tongue and decided to choose Tawakkul and empowerment and banish victimhood and fear.

There was no real danger. Most of our fellow citizens are not full of hatred. Most of them do know a Muslim well enough to know better. I believe much of the fear-mongering that goes on in Muslim circles, is manufactured and perpetuated by people continuously forwarding unconfirmed scare stories to one another (or perhaps people infiltrating our lists and groups, maliciously intending to spread panic).

In the aftermath of these attacks it’s important to continue living as you normally live day to day as much as possible and since my sons usually do wear these clothes to the mosque without issue, I didn’t want to introduce the idea of hiding being a Muslim to them.

It’s not about fanatically holding onto garments. Indeed if there is real and present danger we should take the precautions necessary and should not put our children at high risk. However, this was about the attitude we seek to instil in the next generation of Believers.

Over the Channel in France, with its aggressive secularism, it has become commonplace for many Muslims to hide their Islam. Britain’s Muslims, including my sons, are confident and very comfortable expressing our faith and culture, Alhamdulillah. This is home and we aren’t guests here. The vast majority of our compatriots are respectful towards us and, especially in the vibrant melting-pot that is London, we have grown up together, laughed, cried, learned and played together. We grew up being told to express our culture and be ourselves.

British Muslims

In the 80s racists used to abuse us for having a different skin colour – which we couldn’t hide. They would hurl insults at my mother for observing hijab. That overt racism is largely gone. But the point is this: Our parents didn’t persevere through the tough times that they faced, only for our generation to lie down as soon as we face some pressure!

By all means let us teach our children to take the normal precautions any child should. Teaching them the very powerful duas and supplications for going outside as well as the du’a when facing fear, and the du’a for resolve, were my first port of call.[1] But I refuse to instil cowardice in their hearts and will continue to teach them to hold their heads up high as Muslims in a world where their faith is misrepresented.

I see parenting as a calling. Children are the ultimate carriers of our values beyond our own short lives. Most of us still hear our mothers’ voices in our heads, giving us the occasion telling-off or reminding us to do the right thing. Most of us subconsciously ask ourselves what dad would have done. We may of course reassess some of those values, rejecting some and adapting others. However, a parent’s attitude and philosophy of life is no doubt a most powerful factor in setting a child’s direction in the world.

So how will I be teaching my children to respond to anti-Muslim hatred? What do I hope their attitude will be, growing up in 21st Century Britain?

The key messages I will be giving my children are:

First: Have faith in Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) plan. Our tradition teaches us that everything, however difficult it may be for us to understand, happens for a reason and happens by the will of God. It teaches us that through Sabr – patiently persevering upon the straight path, through hard work and prayer, we will see the fruits of our efforts.

Second: Never be afraid to be different. Some of the greatest people in history went against the grain. They were immensely unpopular and often persecuted. In the end, their unwavering, patient, perseverance for justice shone through. We have an example of that in the great messengers of God such as Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them. And in recent times we have the likes of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X – who fought injustice, were persecuted or killed for their cause, but morally triumphant as eventually the world caught up with them.

Third: Be politically engaged. Outrage at injustices around the world is natural. But how you allow that to manifest itself is pivotal. The Qur’an tells us that we must live up to being “the best people extracted for the sake of humanity.” The conditions for being amongst the best of people are that we must enjoin the good, beginning with ourselves and forbid what is wrong and have faith in God. Loving ones country means sometimes holding a mirror up to it and with wisdom, speaking truth to power.

Fourth: Be socially engaged. Contribute and give to society positively with all your heart and with all of your talents. Serve your neighbours, serve your fellow citizens. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would go the extra mile to reach out to people and fulfil their needs, to feed, to clothe, to share a burden. He never encouraged us to live in ghettos, happy with our own piety. Mixing with people, sharing, caring, giving, getting involved with the issues of society is his example and your duty.

Fifth: Seek deeper knowledge of scripture from traditional scholars who are also forward-thinking. The Qur’an has a context to it. Reading ones own interpretations into it willy nilly gives a warped understanding. We see the catastrophic effects of that in lands where injustice is being justified by ignorant Twitter and Facebook muftis interpreting revelation. Our tradition is rich, it gave birth to one of the greatest civilisations in history. Don’t be rash. Don’t be a hothead. The energy of youth needs to be tempered by the wisdom of scholars and elders. Our faith needs a generation of leaders who have depth of understanding and a wealth of wisdom in order to traverse the murky waters that may lay ahead. Be that generation.

[1] Some of the supplications can be found in du’a books and on the website: http://www.makedua.com/ . A couple of examples are:

بِسْمِ اللهِ ، تَوَكَّلْتُ عَلَى اللهِ وَلَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللهِ

“In the name of Allah, I place my trust in Allah and there is no might nor power except with Allah.”

The Prophet ﷺ told us, when we say this, an angel will say: “you shall be defended, protected and guided”. (Abu Dawud)

And this wonderful du’a which every one of us should memorise! It is protection from facing ignorance or harm when going out! Make sure your kids have memorised it!

 

اللَّهُمَّ إني أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أَضِلَّ أَوْ أُضَلَّ ، أَوْ أَزِلَّ أَوْ أُزَلَّ ، أَوْ أَظْلِمَ أَوْ أُظْلَمَ ، أَوْ أَجْهَلَ أَوْ يُجْهَلَ عَلَيَّ

“O Allah, I seek refuge with You lest I should stray or be led astray, or slip (i.e. to commit a sin unintentionally) or be tripped, or oppress or be oppressed, or behave foolishly or be treated foolishly.” (Abu Dawud)

Fatima Barkatulla is a seminarian and award-winning Islamic lecturer. Follow her on FacebookA version of this article was published in The Times and Times Online on Saturday 9th April 2016

[1] ‘thaub’ is sometimes called a dishdasha (it is a long, dress-like garment worn by men in the Middle-East). ‘Thaub’ is the more commonly used name for it in the Muslim community.

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Education

Science Not Art: Problems with our Islamic History

Let me introduce you to Hassan. He is an artist with an imagination that runs wild with more creativity in his little finger than most of us have in our whole lives. He spends his spare time in art galleries and exhibitions. He enjoys experimenting with different pantones to find the right shade of green for his latest artwork. So far, he’s your typical artist, except for the small fact that he’s a medical student.

Like many children of first generation immigrants, Hassan was prodded towards a stable career in healthcare rather than the decidedly less secure world of being an artist. His innate artistry is out of place in the sterile world of Medicine, but he accepts this trade-off for the security that a career in medicine brings.

The-Art-Science-of-Content-Marketing

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Much like Hassan, I contend that Islamic history is art trapped in the world of sciences.

While Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t being busy leading the Rough Riders or being President, he made the same case for history in general. Every civilization and culture views history through a different lens. While the Europeans classically treated History as a category within literature and the Hindus as often indistinguishable from mythology – Muslims took an entirely different approach. When it comes to fields of Islamic studies, we tend to classify the most important as sciences. Tafsir, Ilm al hadeeth, Tajweed and Fiqh are all researched and taught with the same precision and accuracy as physics or maths. There is relatively little room for artistic license or experimentation.

science vs art

This is a strength especially when it comes to the studies that make up the bedrock of the faith and are used to decide the rules and regulations that govern it. However, problems arise when subjects that don’t naturally fit into the scientific category are reclassified as such. One such example is Islamic history. Our history has often been subjected to the same rigorous standards as those applied to other Islamic sciences. Anything that doesn’t meet the highest standards of verification and authentication can potentially be downplayed or treated as suspect.

This view of history was pioneered by none other than the father of historiography Ibn Khaldun, who was frustrated by the “uncritical acceptance of historical data.” It comes as no surprise to find out that Ibn Khaldun was a jurist before he found fame in later life as a historian. However, history is not merely data to be proven or interpreted in a narrow set of ways. History is the art of putting together bits of information from the past and weaving together a narrative that gives us an insight into the motivations and actions of those that preceded us.

quiz art vs science

Translation: Artists tend to see boats first, scientists tend to see arches.

For instance, History as science will tell us that the Moghul Empire finally collapsed due to a range of socio-economic factors afflicting the corrupt Moghul state combined with the overwhelming military superiority of the British. While that may technically be accurate, History as art would explain the fall as a perfect storm of threats compounded by the tragic but unexpected outcome of an aging Emperor’s affections for his ambitious and treacherous young wife Zeenat Mahal. The former view is based on empirical evidence but wholly uninspiring and devoid of the human touch, while the latter is pieced together based on some facts, some extrapolations and based on the characters of the personalities involved.

zeenat mahal

Worth sinking an Empire over?

Skeptics from the scientific school of thought will read the above and fear that this is a call to legitimise superstition and fairytales. It is not. The reality is that the majority of our history, or any history for that matter, will fail to pass the benchmarks that we must necessarily use for our sciences. The result of this is that there are swathes of our history that are simply looked upon as second class and therefore not prominent.

Maria Konnikova argued the same point cogently in Scientific American. There needs to be a paradigm shift in how we see and classify Islamic history. Islamic historians should feel comfortable in the freedom to discuss and teach aspects of our history that may not be 100% verifiable, but that fit within the broad construct of our traditions. We need to explore and cultivate the vast fertile expanses between irrefutable evidence based facts and pure fiction. Should we do so, we will reap a rich harvest of engaged and inspired Muslims who can take lessons and inspiration from our past and use it to guide our future. That’s hopefully something that even the most dedicated scientist would find it difficult to argue against.

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