November 30, 2006

Prayer Times extension

For those of you using Firefox, I would highly recommend the fzami Prayer Times extension. It's the least intrusive and most useful Prayer Times software I've tried.

November 29, 2006

A message from my brother

A few days ago, my brother got quite badly injured in the playoffs of Season 6 in the West Island Muslim hockey league. The description of the incident and ensuing injury was quite gruesome to hear, and was certainly much worse for those who saw it. I haven't been home yet to see the extent of the injury, but alhamdolillah he's doing much better now.

He wrote a message to the other players of the tournament which I really liked, and thought I'd share:
Assalamo Alaikum Everyone,

First of all, I want to thank everyone for your concern. It is a very good sign to see Muslims really caring for each other. Even the first aid people in Kirkland Rec were impressed with the initial treatment our brothers gave me. May Allah reward each of you. Alhamdulillah, by the grace of Allah, I am doing very well. The injury was only external, and the pain ended even before I reached the hospital. I didn't even have to wait long in the hospital before seeing the doctor. He put about 12 stitches, and Insha Allah, it should be healed in 7 - 10 days. I will likely return to work on Wednesday, and get back into a more normal routine.

It is our eman that whatever is supposed to happen to us, cannot be avoided. And whatever is supposed to miss us cannot reach us. This injury was Muqaddir from Allah, and it is just a test of patience and other qualities. Also, the Prophet (S.A.W) explained in one hadith that it never happens that anyone faces any hardship, not even a thorn prick in the foot, except that Allah uses it to either forgive his sins, or elevate his level in paradise. Also, going through pain helps us relate better to others who suffer more than us, and reminds us of how much we need to be thankful for the countless bounties we have been given. May Allah accept all of our deeds, forgive our sins, and give us success in this world and in the hereafter.

I look forward to seeing everyone again, and being ready for Season 7.

This was posted here, on the Great Hockey website.

I love West Island, and all the brothers there. I haven't seen a community quite like theirs anywhere else, and I often miss the days when I was among them.

November 25, 2006

730 Days of Irrelevance: The Year in Review

And thus the second year of Irrelevant Opinions is over. Perhaps every November 25th should be celebrated as "Irrelevance Day", celebrated exactly two weeks after "Remembrance Day" to forget about those brave souls who fought for our country and reflect on things less meaningful.

It's been a strange year. While it has been very eventful from a personal standpoint, what was most notable for me about this year was how little had changed. While the first year of Irrelevant Opinions saw me move past the decades of academia, journey for several months to Saudi Arabia and India, and take my first steps in the professional world, this year by comparison has been quite stagnant. I expected to see a great deal of change, but not the sort of change that eventually transpired. Instead, the year was largely characterized as one of miscues, close calls, and near misses.

It was my first full year of working. While the academic life was always full of surprises and every semester was a new challenge, the professional life changes little from day to day. Granted, the very nature of my occupation precludes routine. And all that being said, I can't help but feel thankful for the life I have. While this year truly lacked much of the pace and progress of previous years, I still managed to move about and see the world. I spent time hiking alongside waterfalls and babbling brooks in the French Alps, cycled along the Fox River in Illinois, and scaled the snow-covered mountains in Whistler.

In terms of Irrelevant Opinions, it was a year in which readership grew considerably before losing most of it during my many extended breaks in the year. During my five-week hiatus in France, a few of the main referrers to this site pulled their links, while many more were removed during the technical failures that plagued these pages in the latter half of the year. Still, the readership that remains is dedicated and friendly, and it's great having you all around.

Like last year, I will opt against writing something meaningful in favour of recycling old material.

January 3rd, 2006: Bugs in my Cereal. Almost a year later, and I still don't know what I meant by that title. Strangely though, "cereal bugs" (or similar variations) is one of the most popular search terms that leads people to this site. For some reason, people seem to search for "irrelevant bugs in cereal" much more often than you would think.

January 13th, 2006: Havelli. This post still makes me laugh, knowing the story behind it.

February 11th, 2006: Legacy. It doesn't always have to be irrelevant.

March 5th, 2006: Hope Restored. I never quite finished writing this, hurrying to a conclusion without actually describing anything from the conference itself. I should get back to this someday; there were a few great speakers whose lectures I should have written about.

April 3rd, 2006: Was Better Alone. Writing can be very therapeutic, sometimes.

April 9th, 2006: Cryptic Voicemail. This also still makes me laugh; it turned out to be the product of the former and current MSA Presidents at my alma mater.

July 24th, 2006: The Struggle. Still one of my best stories.

August 15th, 2006: Muhammad, the Last Prophet (Animated Film). I wish my nephews would watch this more, and Transformers less.

August 25th, 2006: A Discussion over Chick Peas. This wasn't a very good piece to begin with, but there were lots of interesting comments here.

September 7th, 2006: Sidewalk Afterthoughts. I received a number of e-mails and personal messages expressing appreciation for this post, so it must have had some value.

November 16th, 2006: Litterbugs in my cereal. Not sure why I kept that "bugs in my cereal" theme going.

Thanks to all the readers; Google Analytics tell me you come from all over the world, speaking a number of languages and running a plethora of browser versions. Though many of you choose to remain silent, your support is much appreciated. Keep up the good work.

November 21, 2006

Imams Ejected from Flight | BBC News

Six imams ejected from US flight | BBC News

"The six men were taken off the US Airways flight, bound to Phoenix from Minneapolis, after a passenger reported 'suspicious activity' to cabin crew."

I spend an inordinate amount of time in airports around Canada, and can't imagine this sort of thing ever happening at any of them. While I have read so much about the work being done in the US around cultural awareness and sensitivity, there still appears to be a great deal of ignorance and paranoia. I'm curious as to how Canadians have managed to protect themselves from such paranoia, as I don't see the same types of social programs in place here. Most Canadians seem to understand and accept the religious practices of Muslims without us having to explain it.

November 16, 2006

Litterbugs in my cereal

When I saw this sign at a park off Highway 99, a whole slew of bizarre images were conjured up in my tired mind.

The prosecution lawyer advanced to the front of the courtroom. The defendant sat meekly before him. At first, the lawyer said nothing; he wanted to revel in the guilty expression gracing the defendant's face, with his head dropped, his hands folded, and beads of sweat forming. That image alone may have swayed the jury against the favour of the poor defendant.

"So, Mr. Zigglefroo. You see all these people before you. The allegations are clear," the lawyer chided. "Do you realize the implications of this allegation?"

"Yes sir," the defendant whimpered.

"And what do you have to say about these charges?", the lawyer pushed on.

"I .. I have nothing to say."

The lawyer stopped his pacing, and moved to the middle of the courtroom. "He has nothing to say!", he announced. "Mr. Zigglefroo says he has nothing to say! Is that what you told the police when you were caught red-handed in the despicable act you are accused of?!"

"I .. I didn't do anything!" The defendant was nearing tears. The prosecution lawyer felt no sympathy.

"Nothing! He says nothing! My friends, your honour, what this man calls nothing is far from nothing. This man was caught in one of the most vile, most devilish acts in the history of the parks commission. This man, Mr. Zigglefroo, by his own admission threw his culinary waste into a trash receptacle while not in the state of tourism!"

Gasps from the audience. Then silence, broken by the footsteps of the prosecution lawyer as he continued to pace the courtroom.

The defendant continued his whimpering, "I didn't do anything!"

"Nothing? Nothing?! You mock the law! You break the law, then you mock the law! It is people like you who are the bane of our society. You start off as toddlers, playing games meant for three-year olds while you're only two. You tear the labels off pillows which specifically warn you against tearing said labels. You eat just one Lays potato chip, and you can believe it's not butter! And what do you say you've done? Nothing!"

The sweat begins to drop more profusely. Mr. Zigglefroo's face is red.

"And then one day, you'll walk into a zoo with a sawed-off shotgun and start killing pandas left, right and centre, strangling ostriches while chewing on the cartilage of squirrels!"

Objection! Overruled! Other typical courtroom clichés! The defendant, poor Mr. Zigglefroo, sat all alone as the murmurs amid the crowd became louder, more pointed, more accusing. And the lawyer would not let up.

"This man, Mr. Zigglefroo, is a criminal! The sign was clear, 'Tourist Use Only!' And was Zigglefroo a tourist? No! He was on business! And all others dumping refuse will be prosecuted! And here he is now, proving his guilt by his silence! He was no tourist - but soon he'll be touring JAIL! Hahahahahah!!!"

Pandemonium ensues. The crowd begins throwing crumpled papers and rocks toward the defendant. A brawl breaks out amid the jury. One lady gets punched in the face, and she returns the favour by smashing a chair against someone else. Another gets hit in the head with a stapler. She throws a pencil.

Finally, Mr. Zigglefroo broke. He leaped out of his seat alone at the front of the courtroom, his whimpering face turned to rage and insanity.

"Yes! I did it! I did it! And I'll do it again! Yaargh!!!" And with that, he began running around the courtroom in circles, grabbing the gavel off the judge's desk, while the bailiff attempted to tackle him and restore order. But even as he was pinned underneath the bailiff, Mr. Zigglefroo managed to shove the gavel into the gaping maw of the bailiff.

"Whoops, sorry Mr. Bailiff! Your mouth didn't say food use only!! Yargh!!"

The judge came down from his platform, let his robe drop to the ground, and kicked Mr. Zigglefroo in the head knocking him unconscious. Finally, order restored. The judge then pulled the gavel out of the bailiff's face, taking another quick jab at the jaw of Mr. Zigglefroo with the blunt end.

"Court adjourned," he stated.

And thus Mr. Zigglefroo was dragged from the courtroom, and all the others proceeded to file away. Everything was left in disarray; papers scattered everywhere, coats and glasses and briefcases spread across the room, and for some reason, there was an injured turtle resting limp in the aisle. And so it remained until evening.

Finally, a janitor entered the room, surveying the carnage. He began sweeping his way through the spoils of the drama, until he realized something was awry. "Hmm.. where do I throw all this out?"

Disclaimer: Obviously, I know nothing about the legal system.

Oh, and I feel fine.

November 13, 2006


Clearly, my Ramadhan break took a little longer than expected. It was a good one, though I spent nearly the entire month alone. Normally, I would break my fasts with my Jewish colleague, who skipped lunch for nearly the entire month out of "solidarity"; quite a departure from all the years of breaking fast with family, or the six years of Ramadhan at the University of Ottawa with 200 friends every evening. All that being said, Ramadhan did afford me a unique chance to be part of the community, and I quickly found my place at the nearest mosque. That particular community was a very different demographic than what I am accustomed to, but I somehow fit right in as the token young single guy.

I was a little surprised upon seeing the imam for Tarawih on the first day. He did not at all match the image of most huffaz and imams I grew up with. Rather, he seemed like the most typical Pakistani uncle you can think of, and I was somewhat disappointed. He recited fairly well, however, and made very few mistakes. Still, I was not entirely comfortable at the beginning.

A friend used to drive me home nearly every day after tarawih. One day, he commented, "the blind hafiz is amazing, isn't he?" The blind hafiz? I didn't know who he was talking about. But lo and behold, it turns out the imam I was reading behind was completely blind, even though he made no visible indications of being so. Instantly, I developed a great deal of respect for that imam, and any superficial thoughts I had of him as a typical Pakistani uncle quickly disappeared. That revelation also reminded me about the beauty of the Quran, and the miracle of hifz. It's an amazing thing, that adults, young children and even the blind equally have access to memorizing the most beautiful text in any language. It's something that appears to be quite common, but we must never lose our sense of awe at the magnificence of it all.

A person doesn't need to look far to see the signs of Allah. Whether it be witnessing the miracle of Quran memorization, or seeing the beauty of nature, the signs are all around us. As I once said in a speech I delivered a few months ago, we don't need to wait for the moon to split; there's enough evidence in our day-to-day life.

It seems fitting to include pictures from my trip to Whistler yesterday. My cousin made the trip down from Petawawa, and we had an awesome weekend traipsing the snowy mountains and navigating dangerous cliffside highways in a fun little Yaris. There's one more activity that I'm dying to try, so I just need to convince someone else to take a weekend trip to Vancouver and accompany me on another crazy adventure.

Lions Gate Bridge, on a typically wet, dark, and rainy morning in Vancouver.

In the valley between Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain.

A suspension bridge through the valley.

Snow sitting atop the needles of a Western Hemlock, with Usnea lichen hanging down, as gentle snowflakes fall in the background. This picture makes a great desktop wallpaper.

More pictures here: Flickr