July 31, 2007

Photos: Serenity

I finally decided that it was time to buy myself a decent digital camera. My first attempt at camera ownership only lasted a few days; I bought an Olympus FE-115, went to Whistler and took about a hundred shots, then returned it a couple of days later. It was the cheapest one I could find, and understandably so. It was rather cumbersome to use, and took way too long between pictures.

My new camera is a Canon PowerShot SD1000, which I am absolutely loving so far. At first, I thought most of the features were somewhat useless; I never thought I'd need an "Aquarium" mode, for example. But lo and behold, only three days after the purchase, I found myself in an aquarium, face to face with some pretty amazing looking animals.


The jellyfish were quite a sight to behold. The near translucence of their structure was something I had never quite seen before in a living organism. Truly amazing, subhanAllah.


The sea otters were napping at the time, but they looked pretty darn cute and comfortable doing so.


It never ceases to amaze me how much beauty there is even in the smallest creatures in nature, subhanAllah.

The camera purchase was also partially one of my first steps in my farewell to the West Coast. It has been an amazing experience, and I thought it necessary to capture as much of it as possible before I leave for good. There are a few sights I will miss in particular.

This was a new one for me, though I had passed this way so many times. I am not entirely sure what the intent of this monument is; does anyone have any ideas?

My weekend ended at the Pacific Coast, just a few kilometres north of the American border.

This is a fairly cliché shot, but I assure you that the lens flare effect is not photoshopped in.

A man can get a lot of thinking done in a place like this. Of course, I've done more than enough thinking. It's time to take some action.

July 26, 2007

Coneheads redux

Canadian Islam 101: Wooden Domes? | Seeker's Digest

I'm loving this union of Islamic architecture and Canadian ingenuity. Seems like something out of Hobbiton, with a touch of Andalus on the side. As I start looking more deeply into the housing market, it's definitely something to think about.

July 25, 2007

And be not divided among yourselves...

And hold fast, all of you together to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves (3:103)

A rather unhealthy discussion took off recently on a Muslim blog that I visit. I've mentioned before how much I dislike on-line discussion forums, because most of them degenerate into pages upon pages of ad hominem attacks and mindless nonsense; it is much worse when the parties involved are Muslim. Earlier, a similar argument took place among some friends, who had forfeited their mutual friendship over some rather petty disagreements on the issues of the day. It was rather sad how two individuals who had been together for so long became enemies so quickly, as anger and pride robbed them of rational thought and reason.

I had read and heard a great deal from scholars about the merits of reconciling disputes between Muslims, but I have never been much of a mediator. Without access to the friends and mentors whose advice I'd normally seek in such cases, I went straight into my collection of hadith and found some beautiful words that are worth sharing here. It also serves as a fitting follow-up to my earlier post on anger.

On Anger:
Abdullah ibne 'Umar radhiAllahu'anh narrates that Rasulullah salallaho'alayhi wa salam said, "No gulp swallowed by a slave of Allah is dearer to Allah, the Almighty and Majestic, than a gulp of anger which he swallows, seeking nothing other than the pleasure of Allah." (Musnad Ahmad)

Ibne 'Abbas radhiAllahu'anh narrates that Rasulullah salallaho'alayhi wa salam said, "Teach people, and give them glad tidings, and don't make things difficult for them, and when anyone of you gets angry, he should remain silent." (Musnad Ahmad)

Silence. Whether it is holding our tongues or holding our keyboards, a little silence can go a long way in maintaining cordial relations.

The second hadith quoted here also speaks of remaining optimistic, and being easy on people. Unfortunately, many Muslims get scared away from Islamic discourse, whether it be in the masjid or on a message board, because we fill these discussions with prohibitions and punishments. Such discourse would be more fruitful and inviting if we were to maintain a pleasant demeanour, and focus on the positive.

On Reconciliation
Abu Darda radhiAllahu'anh narrates that Rasulullah salallaho'alayhi wa salam said, "Shall I not inform you about something more virtuous than fasting, prayers, and charity?" The Companions replied, "Certainly, do tell us!" The Prophet answered, "Harmony and unity between you is the most virtuous act, whereas discord amongst you wipes clean the Deen, just as the razor cleanly shaves the head. Similarly, fighting and hostility amongst you perishes the Deen." (Tirmidhi)

I recall a virus of rumours that had infected my circle of friends in the MSA. It started off as a personal matter between two people, but quickly escalated to one that threatened the very organization. I recall my own judgement being clouded by the thoughts that had entered my heart about the brothers in our circle; lines had been drawn, and it quickly became an "us versus them" matter. Of course, I believed at the time that I had done nothing wrong, that if only "they" would apologize, everything would be fine. We placed the burden of responsibility on the "others", while they placed it on us.

Fortunately, may Allah bless him, one brother saw through this mess and brought it forward, bluntly and honestly. It became apparent that none of us were guiltless; we all contributed to fostering this hostility. While some of us may not have actually said or done anything to perpetuate the rumours, we actively participated in them simply by harbouring them in our hearts. We let the hatred live. We gave it a home, provided it fuel and shelter, and thus we were equally guilty in sowing disunity as those who initiated the rumours.

We talk about "unity" as a slogan frequently, and we also talk about shedding labels amongst Muslims; but in practicality, we're still criticizing one another, and allowing hostility to fester amongst ourselves. The problem is not that we, as a Muslim ummah, don't seek unity today; I sincerely think we do. The problem is that we all think that unity means that others have to conform to our way, our philosophy. It's a function of pride; why should I be the one to compromise, after all? We're all for unity, so long as we don't need to change our own lives in the process.

There is no panacea that will cause every Muslim to agree with one another. Unity must mean respecting one another in spite of our differences. Mere tolerance is not enough; we must honour one another, as Allah has honoured all of us by virtue of the belief in our hearts.

When our own episode of hatred was brought to light, I could not help but think of the rewards that brother must be receiving for his role in bringing us back together. Our little group went on to accomplish some great things, none of which could have been achieved had we let a little pride and anger conquer our brotherhood. Years later, and our group remains tight, though we are now considerably divided geographically.

Sometimes, it just takes a little kick of hatred to find true friendship.

July 18, 2007

Not with a bang, but a whimper

I've always wondered what I would sound like when I finally got frustrated enough to let loose. Frankly, I was a little disappointed.

I've normally been one to reserve my emotions considerably. Occasionally, I would express frustration within a small circle of close friends and family, perhaps, but never to the point where I would say things I regret, or lose control of my better judgement. I never swear, much to the amazement of old high school friends. I used to tell them that swearing too much lessens the value of swearing; I explained that because swearing was so common for them, they'd have no vulgarities to express themselves when they were really feeling frustrated. Everyone knew that if they heard me swear, it would mean that I was extremely angry, because such language had never been heard from my lips before. Fortunately, no one ever had to hear it, because nothing ever angered me enough to even raise my voice. All those years of reserved emotion made me unsure as to whether I could even express myself if I needed to.

It finally came crashing down last week, after the pressures of sustaining a half million dollar project by myself caught up with me. And when I got to that point, unloading all that had accumulated, I was rather surprised at how polite it all was. Still apologetic, my voice no louder than ever before, I worried that my faint plea for help lacked the urgency that raw anger brings with it. It almost felt like a waste, that even in my worst moments, I still came across as quiet and reserved. I had seen others explode before; yes, they would say stupid things, but they were definitely heard. At the very least, it was always a spectacle to see the energy and passion that came from those outbursts, even if the consequences were ultimately against their favour. My own outburst was almost laughable in comparison.

An impending flight cut short my rant, which was probably for the better. I didn't say everything I wanted to, but perhaps I would've let something regrettable slip in if given the time. As I struggled to find sleep over that flight, I thought to myself, was my sorry excuse for frustration even worth it? What was I so upset about anyway? Reviewing all that I had gone through, it all seemed so trivial and inconsequential. Even my weak expression of exasperation seemed overdone and unnecessary.

Anger can only get one so far. It's an emotion that has a powerful reach, channelling energy we didn't know we had, but it is nearly always destructive. There are the rare people who can translate their anger into positive action, but the majority of us let it consume ourselves. It brings out the worst in us.

The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him once said, what could be loosely translated as the strongest man being not the best wrestler, but the one who controls himself when he is angry. It's true. Anyone can develop physical strength, but the passion of rage will conquer that strength every time. Someone who can conquer that rage, to suppress that passion, has done something far more difficult, far more worthy of respect. That restraint will win more battles than rage ever will. Just ask Bruce Banner.

An old mentor of mine once advised me strongly, do not get angry at people. He said that no matter what a person may do to push your buttons, always look for the good in that person. No matter how hard you have to dig, no matter how deeply it may be buried, there is at least some good in everyone, and our job as Muslims is to find that good, and to wish well for that person. That hidden iota of goodness may, after all, be what changes that person forever. The Prophet salAllaho'alayhi wa salam saw good in 'Umar radhiAllahu'anh, for example, even when Umar's sworn mission was to kill the Prophet. Thus, at no point should we hold a grudge against anyone, or wish harm upon anyone, because we never know what good may be found in that person. Our Prophet was sent as a Mercy to the worlds, and consequently this ummah is also one of mercy; we are not an ummah of revenge or vindication. Whether our anger is justified or not, whether it is grave or trivial, conquering that anger with patience will always yield better fruits than succumbing to it.

My own weak outburst left me only mildly satisfied at the time, and is proving now to have been a big mistake. In retrospect, the hour I spent narrating my frustrations will probably cost me a few points in my performance review, and I'll regret it if I get passed up for promotion. One Day, our entire lives will be subject to a performance review, and each moment that we held malice or unwarranted anger in our hearts will likely cost us a few points again. On that Day, however, "promotion" is eternal, and there's no "waiting until next year" if we are passed up.

July 14, 2007

Gee, had I known...

Canadians can now mention bombs, guns at airports | Reuters

Good news from the world of Canadian air travel! I think it might be safe to say that I'm at least among the top hundred most frequent air travellers among Canadian Muslims within the last sixteen months (over 250,000km so far), so anything that makes my travel safer is good for me.

So if I ever run into you at the airport, old friend, I'll greet you just as enthusiastically.

July 11, 2007

Congratulations, Hooptygoo!

The haiku-loving Hooptygoo successfully identified the secret of the sillypost, with this haiku comment:
That is amazing!
You wrote the entire entry
Without using 'e'.

I didn't use the letter e in any of my comments on that post either, which forced me to use bizarre constructions like "third guy talk" instead of "third person voice". I left three hints, the most obvious one being the intentional misspelling of the name Hajera. Ironically, most people I know with that name spell it without the e, which is why I explicitly apologized for the typo in the comment itself.

So there you go. I'm sure very few of you care either way, but it's nice to see someone figure it out.

Feeling Pessimistic

Bush to name Muslim nations envoy | BBC News

This is a rather old news story that I had bookmarked with the intent of writing about at some point, but I never got around to it. As far as I know, this envoy has not yet been named, but it will be interesting to see who they pick, and what their selection criteria are. If the administration's pick for UN ambassador is any indication, the job will go to a terribly unqualified political sellout with no understanding of the Muslim world whatsoever.

It's rather simple, Mr. Bush, that if you want to "improve relations" with the Muslim world, stop invading our countries and torturing our people. No amount of political posturing will change our minds.

On a related note, how much relevance does the Organization of the Islamic Conference have in the Muslim world? I don't know much about them, but the name has been coming up much more often of late. In principle, it sounds like a very noble organization, but do they actually matter to the Muslim governments in the world? Do their positions hold any weight?

* * *

Australia 'has Iraq oil interest' | BBC News

This has already been written about in other blogs I read; it amounts to a nearly open admission of the motivations of the Australian government in deploying troops to Iraq. The news, while not really "news" to most people, has been discussed at length on numerous on-line forums. I absolutely hate on-line news discussion forums, as the maturity of the dialogue on them is usually atrocious, but I still often read them to get a feel for what the "general public" thinks about these matters.

On one such site, I read the following comment which I found extremely disturbing:
For those who think that oil isn't worth going to war over, spend one day without using any petroleum based products. No plastics, no lubricants, no gasoline. You'll have to walk everywhere, but make sure there's no plastic in your shoes. Make sure your clothes are 100% cotton -- no polyester please. You can cook your food only if you have an electric stove and your local power plant isn't oil or natural gas. Gas water heater? No hot showers for you (no cold one either if your shower head is plastic), which is ok because you can't use soap. You can't drive to work, nor can you ride a bicycle (plastics and lubricants again). No computers, no phones, no TV, no electricity.

Everything we have depends on oil. Going to war for oil means going to war to defend our way of life.

I don't know how mainstream this sort of view is, but it is one of the first times that I have heard someone defending the war for exactly those reasons that we deem it illegitimate. Typically, defence of the war in these types of forums comes from people who are still under the delusion that we're spreading democracy in the Middle East. It's not uncommon to find this sort of defence rife with spelling mistakes, vulgarity, superfluous exclamation points, and at least one comment about how "dumb leftists just don't get it". This was perhaps the first time that I read someone clearly articulating why they believe in the war without resorting to childish name-calling and label-dropping. And yet, the complete disregard of human life in this is frightening. The idea that the war is justified to defend your own way of life, with absolutely no consideration for the thousands of lives you're destroying in the process? Absolutely sickening. Such displays of complete indifference to human suffering frays whatever little faith I have left in humanity.

July 08, 2007

[Protected] Allegorical Absurdity: The Ugly Duckling

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July 02, 2007


Youth, many say, is an opportunity for trying things, taking risks, and ignoring winds of caution. Thus it was that a boy, worrying that his youth was finishing as a boring rut took hold of him, sought to do a thing against his traditional fashion, and find his own way. Would changing his approach assist him in putting a stop to this rut? Probably not, but it was worth a try.

This boy, unassuming and shy, sat in front of his companions, thinking of a way to show his ability. Hoping for a small victory, any victory, this timid boy stood up, and with a bold look, said to this group in front of him: "Look! Today, I will do a thing that you saw not in past posts. And you will think, why do such a thing? I know not, but as unusual as it is, my opinion was that it could occur. And thus it was, that I did so."

That boy was I, and that situation was just now. What did this boy do, that I just did?