A sacred gift, the Pen

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The most beautiful gift ever given to me was a pen. In it I found a voice I never knew I had. Through it I found a solace and peace to comfort the battling voices inside me. With it I fought dictators and won a freedom I yearned. The ink in my pen  never dried. It still flows to celebrate the freedom to live.

Today i will write, and i will say something louder than the silence of the oppressed, louder than the silence of the weak, louder than the silence of the afraid. This pen will write history, will write it loud today.

” Read: And thy Lord is the Most Bounteous, Who teacheth by the Pen, Teacheth man that which he knew not ” [Quraan: Surah Alaq]

 

 

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The boats of the dead

About two years ago images of gruesome killings were circulated on the internet. They were happening to Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhist monks. The images were so horrifying that many spread the rumor that they were “photo-shopped” and not real, a rumor which I desperately wanted to believe.

I remember that the world media was silent, so silent that these images of babies being burned and human bodies piled up seemed surreal and something our hearts begged to be untrue.

But then slowly and surely the news that no one was giving us started becoming a reality and what we all thought was a faraway nightmare emerged to be a shocking truth.

The Buddhists were massacring the Muslims of Myanmar and the whole world was silent. Their villages were burned down turning all they ever owned into ashes. That massacre lead to an exodus, one that reminds me of the Palestinian one in 1948.

The Rohingya story is one so pitiful in its nature that it forces us to wonder what has happened to human compassion. The Muslims of Myanmar have been trapped in camps that could be called death sentences – living conditions so pitiful promising the slow but sure death of a persecuted and discriminated people.

No food, water, medicines or basic human necessities. Camps are sealed off by brutal Myanmar soldiers and by the endless sea on the other side trapping the Rohingya in a deplorable prison. Many have now chosen to escape Myanmar paying boats large sums of money to take them across the waters to Thailand and then make their way through to Malaysia.

But what has happened is that most of these people putting their life on the line to escape the horror of life in Myanmar have ended up in a situation as horrific as that they faced before, if not worse.

Many boat owners or smugglers have deserted the boats and left hundreds of people afloat in the middle of the sea, and some boats have reached the shores of countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand and been told to go back to where they came from.

People have been starving on board these boats and facing very dire conditions. The appalling accounts coming from there have spoken of fights between hungry people leading to deaths on board over scarcity of food and clean water, women forced to sell their bodies for food, people drinking their urine to survive and many going mad and throwing themselves into the sea.

The human traffickers like vultures are preying on the vulnerability of these people. They have turned their desperation into a business with promising profits. Many have made empty promises to the desperate Rohingya to take them safely to Malaysia, but along the way have abandoned them or sold them off to other human traffickers in Thailand who have been part of persecution and murder of these people all for the sake of large sums of ransom money demanded from friends or family of these people in Malaysia. The government of Myanmar have strategically created this human trafficking business to assist in the exodus of the Rohingya. There has been no criticism of the brutality of this regime and so it continues its apartheid and ethnic cleansing without fear and eerily with much confidence.

This human crisis has been ignored for far too long. The UN and international community especially the Muslim world are to be held accountable for being silent spectators to such a tragedy.

How could we ever live with our consciences if history is to record boats of hungry starving people left to die?

How could we ever have hope in humanity again if the helpless cries of the Rohingya fall on deaf ears?

The Myanmar government was boycotted in the past during the military rule. That boycott had a great effect and pressurized the military to step down and make way for a democratic government.

If the world boycotts Myanmar again, the pressure could force them to end the apartheid. The BDS campaign against Israel is affecting the government there as we can see recently the call for “criminalizing the boycott against Israel” has come from the government there.

History’s strongest tool against apartheid has been boycott and sanctions. We should all call for boycotting Myanmar or Burma. This would also pressurize those quiet governments who have secretly been on Myanmar’s side for the sake of their economic interests there.

Boycotting the apartheid regime in South Africa was a success for those against racism. It is a promising tactic we should be using against Myanmar’s brutal regime.

If nothing is done, another shameful crime against humanity will be recorded in history and the world spectating this massacre will be responsible for it.rohingyaaaa

Charlie Hebdo’s mistake

So after the attack on Charlie Hebdo the magazine plans on once again featuring a degrading caricature created about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

What I would like to know is haven’t they learnt a lesson?  Okay yes, those killings were absolutely not something we as Muslims condone or support, but hasn’t the Magazine realized that they are creating material offensive and hateful to 2 billion people. That’s a lot of people to pick on. What’s more is that the nature of this crowd is different. This is a crowd much more sentimental and much more prone to become defensive of things related to Islam. I know that many liberals want to just brush away this thing by saying Muslims need to be able to accept criticism and accept freedom of speech, but the sickening thing about this is that this is not about freedom of speech.

Had it been so then France would not have been banning hijab and bullying so many Muslims because of their dress code.If we value freedom of speech so much then let freedom of speech apply to all and not just to a certain group we fancy. The fact that most Muslims will be angered and will definitely feel insulted by this caricature is because of the holiness and sanctity of the character the magazine aims at attacking.

The West has in the name of Liberalism insulted and made fun of many religious symbols over and over again, and named that freedom of speech.

The degradation of all things sacred has just become a trend lately by Western Media and I think that this is something that crosses the limit of freedom of speech.

There has to be a line and limit to how free your speech can be and how necessary that freedom is in its context.

I don’t see any point in insulting a Prophet that is held dear to such a large majority of people in that way. We should ask ourselves is this causing more good or more harm?

Aren’t we fueling Islamophobia and alienating Muslims who by the way form a very large part of European societies ?

Aren’t we creating reason for terrorists to take advantage of ?

True freedom of speech is very necessary, but then you have journalist who really have been reporting the truth and have been jailed for it. There are countless journalists being killed by dictators and the world has never marched like it did for Charlie Hebdo ?

The double standards need to stop. The same killers from ISIS are murdering hundreds daily in Syria and Iraq and yet those lives don’t seem to anger people as much as the deaths of a few French cartoonists have.

If freedom of speech is the banner we want to carry in this march then let that freedom of speech be for one and all.

Gaza… a call to humanity

Gaza…a tiny piece of land, home to 1.4 million Palestinians.
Eight days of non-stop bombardment, killing, maiming and pain.
201 civilian casualties and over 1500 injured.
The death tolls rising by the minute as the world leaders stand by the terrorist state Israel, who is the only one in this massacre, not war, massacre- who has the right to defend itself.

Western Governments and Media are blatantly covering up Israel’s shameful genocide by repeatedly blaming Hamas for firing rockets into Israel, for not wanting to agree to a “ceasefire”.
Gaza is an open air prison, being attacked by air, land and sea by a merciless, brutal force that has deliberately targeted children, elderly, disability centers, schools, hospitals and basically everyone and everything.
The rockets that Hamas fire are A. in self-defense and B. caused no fatalities due to Israel’s Iron Dome Air Defense System.
Yet the utter disregard for human life on the part of Israel has been evident by the horrendous pictures and footage that has come out of Gaza and circulated online.
Children have been the top victims in these attacks. They have either been crushed to death as their homes collapsed on them or died due to shrapnel’s hitting them. The war crimes do not end there.
Doctors treating patients in Gaza have accused Israel of using dangerous experimental weapons.
The health ministry in Gaza told reporters at a press conference on Sunday that medical teams have registered wounds consistent with those caused by DIME (dense inert metal explosives) and other banned weapons. Weapons such as these in the hands of an inhuman racist State become the unfortunate cause for destroying lives of helpless victims in horrendous ways. It doesn’t end there.
Israel has cut off water supply to Gaza for all these days causing water shortage in a time when people are most in need of it.

It makes one think what type of world are we living in?
Where the oppressor is praised and the oppressed blamed.
It would seem Israel is intending to wipe out the whole Gaza population with the West patting her on the back.
The masses are not buying it though.
Protests have stirred all over Europe and the world with anti-Zionist Jews protesting and condemning what Israel is doing in their name.
Then there’s those Israeli’s who sit on Mount Sderot, popcorn and snacks in hand, cheering at every bomb that hits Gaza.
Israel has just re-affirmed in the eyes of the world the terrorist state it is.
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Miraculous Wonder

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People fascinate me. I wish that I realized my love for people at a much earlier stage in my life so that I spent more time “consciously” observing them.
I love sitting anywhere and just watching different people and wondering what their life stories could be.
Is she happily married to him? Will he become rich someday? What type of girl/guy was he/she when they were young? What is he/she thinking about right now? These are the type of questions that run through my head while observing people.
I could just sit there and watch people forever. In fact sometimes I wish I could become invisible so I could do just that.

God made humans so intricately.
Think about it – each person is a whole world in one entity. To discover each person’s entire self, every facet of his being is impossible, even science and technology have failed at that. It is this mystery; this undiscovered treasure that keeps me so in love with this creation of God.
It’s so amazing to know that this very factor of intrigue is what makes us social creatures and what creates the desire to interact and get to know people in our worlds.
Imagine how unexciting life would be if every single person was literally like “an open book”. There would be nothing we needed to know about the other person and we would have no interest socializing at all.
My God! Just the thought of it is so full of lethargy.

But crazy as it sounds, many people are living a life that is very similar to the horrid picture I just gave.
They are so disconnected and so unsocial that it hurts to only think of what they are doing to themselves and those around them.
It hurts to think of all the extraordinary little joys of life that they are missing out on.
Digital connection seems to have taken the place of human connection in so many lives.
People are no longer interested in observing the living ‘face-books’ around them as much as they are in the Facebook online, or listening to the live “tweets” around them as much as they observe Twitter online.
I’m talking about how we have lost the patience to take in the beautiful social network around us, the many human beings in our reach and who each are full of unique life stories, ideas, dreams and imaginations of their own.
It would be more rewarding to listen to a real person tell you “what’s on their mind” and feel a real person “like” you for doing so.

If we begin to really value people around us and understand that they are so much more than the little we assume they are, if we really take out the time to look a little closer, listen a little harder and try to really connect with people, a whole new world would open up to us.
Humans are really signs of Gods miraculous creation and pondering upon this beautiful creation brings one closer to its beautiful Maker.
Thank God for wrapping up this gift in a mystery. Thank God for making each person a marvelous wonder.

My Broken People

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The Afghan people I have found, are a people who have been born very much a part of the earth and soil of their land, and intermingled with its dust so intimately becoming “earthen” a people… so earthen that the destruction of their land by every invader in the past had been a destruction of a very part of their selves, in essence a breaking of this earthiness in them.

Today I may have come very late to my land, late yet in time to see… There is some part of me which can see why these people have bewilderment in their eyes. A part of me can read why these people are lost and groping in a frenzy,like dust speckles when touched. They spin and collide in a chaotic state trying to regain balance causing more imbalance than ever. Maybe my naive self, this self who never got broken under all the destruction this land faced, still knows and remembers the color of the dust on the skin of a brave people. That as a child, living in a foreign country, saying “I am Afghan” was a pride in honor of the brave warriors who together were defending this land. Maybe they have forgotten what their true image was.

They have forgotten that the earth and dust in this land are all one color, and that this land kisses all her children with the same breath of dust and proudly boasts their bravery and unity in protecting her honor in so many glorious tales of the past.

If only they remember again, how sacred the dust of their land was to them, and how they loved it ever so dearly.

The Modern Age of inhumanity

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At a glance back in time, I’d say that the world we live in has changed so drastically and so suddenly its quite astounding.The ungradual transition has left behind on one side a generation groping for familiar grounds , and another soaring hungrily for more of the newer and later technologies, “modern culture” and “lifestyle”. The generation gap between the two is unprecedented.

Long gone are the days where parents could get hold of their children without having to send them a trail of text messages or phone calls when they are really only upstairs, in their bedrooms. Family meals together, as far as I can remember, was once a very important part of life. Nowadays people hardly have time for those precious moments of family bonding and communion. It goes with it to say that meals aren’t even prepared with the care and love they were back then. “Fast foods” and “take aways” have taken place of the healthy homemade meals.

Every one seems to be in this rat race against time, wanting to get done with virtually everything before its even started. The element of care, effort,patience, perseverence and tolerance has diminished so much so that all we ever want, during jobs which essentially need our particular attention, and for which we are dutiful, is “just to get it over and done with.”

Where once upon a time we visited family and knew our neighbours, we took the time to write letters and get them posted if we were too far apart- today there’s hardly time to pick up the phone and call a relative to ask how they’re doing. We have hours and hours of time for TV and shopping but hardly a few minutes to pray. We have forever to waste on idle talk,gossiping and slander, but no time for a kind word or two, no time to pick up a wrapper thats lying around, no time to ponder nature and all its splendor, no time to ponder God at all.

I know very well that each and everything mentioned here does not necessarily apply to each and every person but the point is that all of us have somehow consciously or unconsciously, somewhere along the line, lost an important part of our beings, to a very different “time” if you like. An age where simple little values of life, once strongly upheld spreading compassion and love among people, and through which civilization and culture inculcated a richness, has been lost somewhere along the path to all the progress and modernization of the world.
Ironically the “modern” man has become more primitive morally, I should say.Even as his power grew materially, so did his greed and selfishness. The modern age brought him Technological advancements which he had intended to use for the good of man in his “primitive” initial stage but becoming a “god” suddenly made him fear losing any of the glory, and so he went about using the same tools he had invented for good, to cause all the havoc he’s caused.

Today the same medicines people imagine will cure them of their ailment spreads more disease than cure, and the same plants and animals we imagine will provide us with the goodness of nature, have been turned toxic in genetic labs. We the “modern” have created the biggest wars in history for business.We sell arms with hearts of stone and fuel fights and divisions.

Where we know that the element of sharing and caring ruled even among the primitive cave men, it is quite a shame that the modern man can look at millions of hungry children dying in Africa and not be moved. That he can silently watch his old parent driven to old age home, while he lavishingly sits in his mansion and not die of shame is a shame in itself.

I know for a fact that justice was an epitome in a large number of primitive societies, and yet today the oppressed defending his home is called a “terrorist”, the Opressor committing genocide is called a “friend”. The one tearing down 1400 olive trees is silently cheered, and the child who has nothing but a stone to combat a tank is condemned.

I wonder sometimes, does modernisation mean we can pollute and poison the worlds Waters ending immense amount of aquatic life and inevitably killing humans who drink it, harming animals and wildlife and hurting the ecosystem and Earth itself ?
And then I know that without a doubt, man as a cavesman had higher moral standards than man today as a “modern” inhuman being. Was all of Mans Modern achievements worth losing his humanity at the end of the day? Was it ?

The Olive tree

I had a dream that an olive tree grew big and tall out of the heart of Palestine. Like a mother would hold her child in her bosom it shaded all of Palestine. From its oil shone a warm luminous glow bringing wanderers from far and wide towards the warm promise of light. The children of Palestine climbed the tree and played hide and seek among her leaves. The song of their laughter echoing  in the hollow of her bark where she saved each giggle and chuckle forever. The elders rested on her roots as they told Palestine’s story to the women who smiled lovingly, watering the tree with their tears of joy and whispers of prayer.

And as i looked on this sight of peace, i held my breath in awe. I did not want to blink for once, in fear i might awake. Then slowly ever so sadly, they all began to fade…  and in their fading did i hear the call of a tree. A tree whose roots are in the heart, a tree of Palestine.

She called out “oh my children… oh my home.” and i woke in tears recalling the millions of trees uprooted by Israel, leaving Palestinian families crippled and in poverty. Not only has Israel uprooted their lives, but has uprooted the thousand year old trees which have been the only source of livelihood for most.

On the 25th April 2012 Israel ordered Palestinian farmers in Deir Istiya, a major West Bank olive producing village, to uproot 1,400 trees by 02 May 2012. By comparison, this order is 400 more trees than the total number uprooted in all of 2011.

What is going to happen to all those farmers who depend on the trees for their income? The uprooting of these trees is an unjust and inhuman act and should be spoken against by the international community.

Life is growing inside me

Her eyes light up and she radiates immense joy as she speaks to me about the most memorable moment in her life. “The day I found out I was going to be a mother,” Fatima says.“The moment I felt that life is growing in me!” But her eyes lose their light suddenly as she remembers her distress before she found joy that she only dream’t she would have.

Fatima was only sixteen when doctors told her that she would never bare any children. For her, the news was shocking, but yet, she describes a feeling of hope that resided deep within her heart which led her to a true reliance on God. “I didn’t say this to anyone then, but I never really found I could believe what the doctors were saying was true. I felt God was the only One to make that decision for me.”
With the news came a lot of stigma she had to face in society. Few years later her fiancé broke their engagement when he found out that she would not bare him children. “I thought then that I would grow old all alone and no one would ever be there for me.”
As Fatima speaks, her words bring back an encounter I had with a woman days ago when I was in the hospital waiting room for an appointment with a doctor. That woman had been sitting opposite me with a man much older than herself whom I had presumed to be her father. The wait was quite long, an hour or so, and I couldn’t help but notice that the couple seemed angry with each other or rather agitated by each other’s presence. I later knew from the woman when she came to sit next to me that the man was her husband, and that five years had passed since their wedding, yet she was not able to conceive. She was clearly very paranoid and her behavior was a reflection of her insecurity and vulnerability. She kept repeating that if only she had completed her one semester left to her master’s degree before getting married, would she have some “value” in the eyes of people. My heart went out to that hopeless lady; and today here I am, sitting closer to my little friend Fatima, listening to a similar story. I realize how many women are downtrodden by society and considered “worthless” for a problem they have no control over and no blame in.
“Our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) advised us to be kind towards women and I kept thinking if I were living in the time of the Prophet I would go to him and cry my heart out.” Fatima says. She then goes on to describe how she met her best friend who was later to become her sister in law.
“I knew God had answered my prayers when I met my husband and found that he believed strongly that my bearing a child was not in the hands of people, but it’s God’s will. And secretly, in the depths of my heart I had made this criterion for knowing my ideal life partner, and I knew I had found him then.” She says. Her husband refuted the medical diagnosis saying that the giving and taking of life was not in the hands of doctors but in the hands of God alone. He reminded her of the story of Lady Miriam who was blessed a child when no man had come near her. “He recounted the story of Prophet Zachariah who was bestowed a child in old age while his wife was old and barren. I couldn’t thank God enough for blessing me with this man.” Her eyes twinkle as she speaks.
And so Fatima’s husband used honey, dates, almonds and other natural remedies to treat her. He kept reciting the Holy Qur’an with her. Fatima describes that part of her life as a “spiritual quest”. She describes passionately how she felt closer to God in every way, and felt more loved and protected that ever before. It was as if God was showing her how wrong she was about thinking she would ever be alone.
Then one beautiful day, her dream came true. Her husband came home with evident joy glowing on his face, and teased her for a long while before actually breaking the news to her. She was going to be a mother. “I was ecstatic!” she exclaims, all emotion bubbling as she laughs remembering that wonderful moment. “I couldn’t sleep after that. I felt so excited thinking of stuff to buy for my baby and things to do for his/her happiness.” She felt as if she were on another plane, and her “spiritual quest” was building momentum.
To Fatima, having life grows inside her, and bearing a living part of creation is a sign of the beauty and honor that God has given to women. “With every moment passing, I couldn’t stop thanking God in my heart.” Her whole pregnancy was “a miracle” as it changed the way she saw things, and led her closer to her Creator. “The pain of giving birth is the worst pain ever, but the most soon forgotten pain ever. The moment I saw my child for the first time, I forgot all the pain and anguish and felt just love and gratitude.” Fatima says with a smile.
“It’s beautiful to be a mother.”

Over mountains God sent me a message

They say giving off of one’s self is a way to finding one’s self. I always thought it had to mean something extraordinary, and yet it turned out to be so simple. Ever since my childhood, I have been a great lover of mountains. The sight of mountains has always had a hypnotic effect on my senses and I cannot help but to remain in awe of its majestic presence. I suppose it is the sacred silence with which it is able to speak to my soul that leaves me so lost in its wonders.

As I walked down a mountain path one day, I came upon an old man dressed in tatters, sitting beneath a tree. He held a rosary in his hand and his lips moved silently in prayer.He held the most pure look of serenity and detachment from the pains of this world.Despite his pitiful state of poverty, there was nothing pitiable about his aura. In his silent prayer he smiled, as if savouring every moment of closeness to God through nature. The vision of him was one I wished to save with me forever, because of the sacred silence with which it spoke. He was so much like the mountains I so loved to behold. I went up to him and offered him some money, which he accepted I’d say with very little eagerness. I expected him to thank me and pray for me as beggars usually do. Yet he did the strangest thing. He cupped his hands, raised them to the sky, and graciously thanked God over and over. He then continued his praising of God in a whisper, detached from all around him. I felt so invisible, yet so dazed at the realization that had just struck me that moment.

And there that moment, I found a part of that “self” we are promised when giving unto others. I realized that I am not the giver here. No matter how much I give, I give of what He has given me. Even my Self, entirely belongs to Him. The true Giver is He, the Almighty God of the heavens and earth. We are but blessed vehicles of God’s sacred work, if He chooses us to be. We become doors God opens up to those who knock in need calling unto Him.

Thus all praise is unto Him, Lord of the creation.