February 19, 2007


Please pray for my 16-month old niece, Maryam. She remains in the hospital over a week after sustaining an injury to the head, and is in poor condition. The injury is far more serious than anyone initially suspected.

She is the daughter of my youngest brother, Hafiz Asrar. He and his wife have been undergoing considerable strain and anxiety, as one might expect; thankfully, the community has offered tremendous support, with friends and family coming from all over. There are additional subplots to all this causing additional distress to our entire family, but the health of the child remains the deepest concern.

Please remember all of us in your prayers, that Allah grants shifa to Maryam and lets her lead a normal life, and that Allah grants comfort and peace of mind to her parents and my parents, and that this ordeal comes to a quick and happy ending.

Update 2.28.2007: Alhamdolillah, she's out of the hospital now, though far from 100%. I want to thank everyone who visited, offered advice, or supported us with their thoughts and prayers; you all know who you are.

February 15, 2007

Unlikely Tranquility

Those who know me personally may know that it has been a rather difficult time for my family over the last few days. Sitting in my temporary apartment after I spent a good twenty minutes venting my frustration over the phone to a close friend, I felt rather helpless, over 3000km from home. I didn't know what to do, and my heart was restless.

At that moment, I received a message on MSN. It was from a friend of mine who typically sends me links to Family Guy clips or dumb commercials, the same guy who prank called me on a couple of occasions. His MSN picture was one of Calvin wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, urinating on a Montreal Canadiens logo, which is offensive to me in so many ways. I wasn't in the mood to laugh, particularly when I saw he was sending me just another YouTube link.

This was the link he sent me, the recitation of the section of Surah Naml that opens the 21st juz, recorded from the recent RIS conference.

And SubhanAllah, those verses were exactly what I needed to hear at that time. He didn't know anything about the family situation, or my personal condition. He also didn't know that those verses are among my favourites in the entire Quran, that they were the same verses I've often read during the handful of Islamic events wherein I've been asked to do the opening recitation. It came from the unlikeliest of sources, but it put my heart at ease. I was reminded of the verse of Quran wherein it is stated that "verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction." (13:28)

Alhamdolillah for my friends, who never fail to come through for me when I need them.

Law scholarship named after Maher Arar | CBC News

Law scholarship named after Maher Arar | CBC News

University of Ottawa has a special place in my heart, being my alma mater and home for many years. This new scholarship is a wonderful token of appreciation on the part of the university.

Last year, Arar was the keynote speaker at the Graduation Dinner I had the honour of emceeing. His advice to the graduates was simple - never underestimate your own worth, and don't back down if others try to compromise or undermine your worth.

"The scholarship was initiated by Tyseer Aboulnasr, an electrical engineering professor at the university and a member of the Canadian Muslim Network, Leslie added."

On a somewhat related note, Dr. Aboulnasr was the dean of the Faculty of Engineering when I started at the university. It was quite a pleasant surprise for me, to see a Muslim woman in hijab in such a respected position. Her first address to the new students included these memorable words:

"Now, I know a lot of you are coming from out of town, and you believe university is all about freedom, and that Engineering is all about drinking and partying. But there are lots of extremely successful Engineers who have never had a single drop of alcohol in their lives, including myself!"

That statement made me feel a little more comfortable with the fate that brought me to Ottawa against my own hopes and desires. As the years progressed, I realized why I ended up there; I truly believe it was one of the best things that happened to me. We all have our own plans, but Allah has His plans. And surely, He is the best of planners.

February 06, 2007

Allegorical Absurdity: Goldilocks

Once upon a time, a young girl named Goldilocks was prancing through the woods during a brisk fall day. Of course, she wasn't the brightest of little girls. She should have known better than to wander the woods alone, and it certainly wasn't a good idea to embark on this journey with no provisions. Lost, cold, and hungry, Goldilocks wasn't sure if she'd make it through the night. So when she stumbled upon an isolated house in the forest, her first instinct was to knock on the door and hope the owners would invite her in for dinner.

So she knocked and knocked, and yet no one would answer the door. But when she gripped the large wooden doorknob herself, she noticed that the door wasn't locked. So the little girl named Goldilocks took the liberty of inviting herself in.

The house was much bigger than she expected. Inside, she saw a beautifully decorated dinner table stretching far into the main hall, with a warm fire burning in the fireplace. The finest china, expensive silverware, and ornate napkins were neatly laid out in front of each of the dozens of chairs surrounding the table. And at every seat, there was a hearty bowl of porridge prepared for the eventual guests. What a feast the owners had prepared! What great fortune that the tired and hungry Goldilocks stumbled upon this house in the middle of the forest!

Goldilocks was hungry. There was no one home. So, without hesitation, she tasted the porridge from the first bowl.

"This porridge is too hot!" she exclaimed.

So, she tasted the porridge from the second bowl.

"This porridge is too cold," she said.

So, she tasted the third bowl of porridge.

"Ahhh, this porridge is just right," she said happily. "But perhaps just a bit too salty."

So, she glanced at the fourth bowl of porridge.

"This porridge is too dark!"

Fortunately, there was a fifth bowl. She took one hefty spoonful to her mouth.

"But this porridge is too light!"

And the sixth bowl? "This porridge is just too thick."

And the seventh was too thin.

The eighth? "Oatmeal, barley... I should really watch my carbs."

She tasted from the ninth bowl of porridge, but it tasted a bit old. The tenth bowl seemed undercooked.

And this went on. And on. And on.

* * *

The three bears had returned home. Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and little Baby Bear. Not shortly afterwards. Not the same night. Not the next day. It was nearly a week later that the bears finally returned, after a disaster relief effort in a neighbouring forest kept them busy. They were, after all, very noble bears, always willing to help a soul in need.

And there she was, she of the golden locks, lying faint in the hall. Malnourished. Thin. Her face laying in a small puddle of her own drool. Her golden locks were dirty and wet. Papa bear looked upon her with shock.

"A little girl!", exclaimed Papa Bear.

"Is she alright? Is she breathing?", Mama Bear cried, as she ran to the sick child. She was still breathing, but she had clearly lost consciousness. Mama Bear brought some water, and did her best to wake up the fallen Goldilocks by giving her small sips.

"But what about all the porridge we left out for any visitors?" the baby bear lamented, as he bounced up to his little chair. "Someone's been eating my porridge, but she only ate a bite!"

With this, Goldilocks began to regain consciousness. Just a little, but she managed to squeak out two words. "Too ... salty .. " With that, she collapsed again into the arms of Mama Bear.

Papa Bear looked at Mama Bear, who in turn was affectionately looking upon the poor, hungry child. Papa Bear felt little sympathy, though. "Some people," he growled, "are just too picky."

February 01, 2007

Two Triumphs, One Failure

I've been much busier than expected over the last few weeks, thus the relative inactivity here. Thought I'd share some thoughts on some recent news stories.

* * *

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologized to Maher Arar, who was also awarded a compensation package of over $10 million dollars. This is a monumental triumph not just for Arar and his family, but for all the embattled masses who feel things are hopeless. There are a number of lower profile cases which are equally as disturbing as that of Arar; insha-Allah, all the others who are suffering the same injustices will have their voices heard.

The Bush administration, on the other hand, has demonstrated their hypocrisy once again in this affair. The US refuses to take Arar off the no-fly list, in spite of the extensive inquiry and process Canada has taken to clear his name. They say it is rather "presumptuous" for Canada to dictate who should and who should not be allowed in their country. This is just ridiculous; the only reason he was detained in the first place was because Canada provided the inaccurate information - this was proven in the inquiry. Now, after years of thorough investigation, Canada is basically saying "we were wrong", so is it not presumptuous of the United States to question Canada when they admit to their mistake? Was it not presumptuous to deport a Canadian citizen to Syria to be tortured? They say they have "their own information" that justifies their decision, but this is almost certainly their way of saying "we don't admit to our mistakes."

Clearly, they are simply afraid of a similar legal battle that they will likely lose. They're also afraid that if they were to admit error in the Arar affair, that would open a whole other can of worms. Arar is likely just one of many innocent individuals who have been made to suffer by the current administration. If these individuals were to take the stand Maher Arar did, the entire administration could be exposed as the criminals they are.

Ottawa reaches $10M settlement with Arar | CBC News

Wilkins slams Day for questioning U.S. on Arar | CBC News

* * *

In other news, Saku Koivu, the Finnish heart and soul of the Montreal Canadiens, has been cleared of his cancer. Koivu has easily been my favourite hockey player for many years, not because he is talented at the game, but because he's an incredibly courageous person both on and off the ice. He doesn't put up the points like many of the other stars of the league, but his value goes far beyond the goals and assists.

It was September 11th, 2001, early in the morning, that I first heard the news. I was at the Montreal airport after a flight in from Moscow. I was delayed at the airport considerably after an extensive search was done on all my belongings and I was questioned at length about my journey. A lot of other things happened that day as well, but one thing I recall from my time at the airport was being told that Saku Koivu had cancer. At only the tender age of 26, the life of the young man was on the line.

He fought the disease as he's fought all the other trials in his life - with courage, persistence, and incredible patience. And any Habs fan will remember the day well, just before the end of the season, when he made his triumphant return to the ice in a 4-3 Montreal win over the Senators. The win would propel the Canadiens into the playoffs for the first time in four years, where Koivu (with the help of Doug Gilmour) would lead the team to a thrilling six game victory over the #1-ranked Boston Bruins.

De très bonnes nouvelles pour Koivu | RDS

Jack Todd's Top Ten Heroes: #4, Saku Koivu | Montreal Gazette

Top 30 Sports Moments of the last 10 years: #1, Saku Koivu | RDS

Some older articles that I enjoyed:
C is For... | ESPN

Light shines bright on Koivu, and his prospects for life | ESPN

And a memorable video:
Saku Koivu's Return from Cancer | YouTube

* * *

And on another completely unrelated topic, Windows Vista was finally released. As a technology consultant, part of my job is to stay on top of all the latest developments in software. As an annoying pedant, part of my job is to notice typos and spelling mistakes (while, admittedly, making my own). Here, in a Vista demo video from microsoft.com, I was able to do both:

Looks like someone forgot to run spellcheck.