September 23, 2009

Newborn, three others injured in 417 rollover

Newborn, three others injured in 417 rollover

Alhamdulillah, we're all safe, and avoided any life-threatening injuries. Please make du'a for me and my family, that everyone makes a full recovery, and that this incident brings us closer to Allah.

Everything in life is a test, and Allah will test the believers on their gratitude and patience. May He accept all of us.

September 13, 2009


When an e-mail worm affected my rarely used Hotmail account, I did the judicious thing and changed my password. I've never used Hotmail as a primary e-mail account, but was still hung up on MSN Messenger, where the majority of my online communications used to take place. Somehow, the Hotmail password change didn't register with MSN Messenger, and the Live Messenger client has refused my credentials ever since. Since very few of my friends actually used instant messaging anymore, I didn't lose much, so never bothered to investigate further.

It was a rather quaint relic of the early days of the Internet, having to download an application that could only communicate with others using the same application; online social networking has been the domain of large web-based platforms like Facebook and Twitter for quite some time now. I avoided those services early on, and somehow that became my "thing". People came to know me as "the brother who hates Facebook", and for lack of anything else, I decided to embrace that title. I found alternatives to the services that Facebook provides, with the critical exception of actual people. If I were to join, however, it would feel like being late to a party.

But peer pressure and the cuteness of my newborn daughter caught up to me, so now I have a Facebook account. The first thing I found bothersome was how much of a profile they already had on me. I had been tagged in other people's pictures in the past, and every single invitation I've received over the years has been kept in their databases, awaiting me upon my first login. So, even without being a member, the Facebook team could already identify me, or almost anyone else with an e-mail address, in great detail if ever required. From a privacy perspective, this bothered me, but if I had anything to hide, I wouldn't have a blog with my real name either.

The other thing that annoyed me was the famous "Facebook picture". One of the first things I did was look up my old high school to find people I've lost touch with over the years. And almost every profile picture was the same overexposed shot of random people holding alcoholic beverages while hooting at the camera; usually one of them looks like he or she is about to vomit. That picture wasn't clever or original or even interesting the first time, and it isn't any more interesting the eighteenth time. Somehow, after seeing people I know in these shots, I can never look at them the same way afterward.

As a data architect by day, I've always been fascinated by the layers of information that we expose online, and how they can be pieced together. An e-mail address can be considered as a globally unique identifier from which one can consolidate all the various data streams to put together a comprehensive repository of data. It's a little bit scary, but from a purely technical perspective it's rather intriguing.

Communication has evolved over time, and I suppose it was only a matter of time before I caught up. One of the more recent trends has been the efforts of consolidating all the various protocols into single streams accessible anywhere. The Palm Pre has Synergy, HTC does it in the Sense UI, and Motorola is now pushing their MotoBLUR system, all in an effort to unify online identities to actual people; anonymity and privacy are hardly objectives.

These trends will continue for some time, as protocols open up and intercommunication becomes easier. And eventually, who we are online may be as important to ones livelihood as who we are offline.

But as people, as human beings, we must keep our humanity alive through our works, and not our status messages. Joining a Facebook group condemning something does not equate to standing up for justice. Writing a wall post in support of a sick friend can never replace visiting them in person. And one cannot fulfill the rights of family by "friending" them.

It takes a little blood, sweat, and tears to attain goodness in life. It's what separates man from machine.

September 10, 2009


On Monday, September 7th 2009 (appropriately, Labour Day) at 5:32 pm - the 17th of Ramadhan, Allah Subhana wa ta'Ala blessed my wife and I with a beautiful baby daughter, Hafsa. She clocked in at 6 pounds and 9 ounces, and is doing very well masha-Allah, and her mother is doing well also masha-Allah.

Ummul Momineen - Mother of the Believers - Hafsa Radhiallahu'anha was the daughter of Sayyidina 'Umar RadhiAllahu'anh, and a wife of the Prophet Salallahu'alayhi wa salam. She was known for her piety and devotion to prayer. Little Hafsa is named in her honour.

I've also rethemed Irrelevant Opinions; the old theme was getting rather dull over time. This one is courtesy of RayCreations, but I'll possibly customize it to my liking over time. (Actually, I probably won't.)

Please remember little Hafsa in your special Ramadhan du'as, that she lives a healthy and productive life. May Allah accept and protect all of our children, and make them a means of comfort and happiness in this world and in the hereafter.

August 21, 2009

Crescent Rolls

I wrote this for last years Ramadhan issue of the Muslim Link, and it was very well received around the city. Here it is again.

At nearly every Islamic conference and halaqah in North America, Muslim scholars and activists have pondered over what defines the "North American Muslim culture". For as long as there have been pockets of believers throughout the New World, there have been discussions on how North American culture would influence Muslim belief and practice. Some believed, and still believe, that they simply aren't compatible; they adopt one, and ridicule the other. Others have gone to great lengths to integrate the cultures completely, compromising both. The vast majority of us, torn between two worlds, feel that there is no single answer; North American Muslims form a microcosm of the entire Muslim world, and each community offers a different perspective.

There is one thing, however, that can be considered a largely "North American" practice. It didn't come from any Islamic texts, nor did we inherit it from our ancestral countries. It has become a defining trait of nearly every masjid and Islamic organization in Canada and the US, and has spawned more discussion and debate than nearly any other aspect of Islamic practice. That salient characteristic is, of course, the moonfighting.

Around three times a year, debate erupts as to whether the new moon has been sighted, and if so, by whom, and when, and how, and, of course, what does say about it? One follows the local sighting, another follows the Saudi sighting, while others argue that this era calls for relying on technology. And every year, cities are divided, masjids bicker, and even members of one family will often celebrate Eid on different days. With the variations at both the beginning and end of Ramadhan, some cities boast three separate days of Eid prayer.

Differences of opinion are part of the Ummah, and nowhere is that more prevalent than in the mosques of the West, where different traditions and backgrounds come together, and often clash. What makes the moon sighting issue so much more prominent is that it involves a communal act of worship at a very large scale. There are a number of accepted schools of jurisprudence that encourage slight variations in prayer and other Islamic rulings, but those variations don't usually expose themselves beyond individual discussion. And when they do, most will agree to disagree, recognizing that the history of Islamic scholarship not only tolerated such variation, but encouraged it within the parameters of Shariah. Essentially, the practice of one worshipper should not affect the worship of another.

The beginning of Ramadhan and the days of Eid are community celebrations, which reach every Muslim household. Even those Muslims who would not normally frequent the mosques or participate in community activities get caught up in the excitement, and race toward the first rows in Tarawih prayers. Ramadhan is, in many ways, the most uniting act of worship for the vast majority of Muslims in this part of the world, even with the disagreements on the number of raka'ats in Tarawih and the precise time that a white thread appears distinct from a black one. As an event of such magnitude, any disagreement puts the entire community at odds. Each moonsighting interpretation spawns it's own camp within each city, each one calling for "unity". Of course, unity for each camp means that everyone else follow their way.

It is not for an article such as this to argue which is the correct opinion. Scholars have debated the issue already at length with no solid agreement, and it is unlikely that epiphany will strike anytime soon. What can be discussed, however, is where the differences arise, and how we as a community should deal with them.

As with most differences in the science of Islamic jurisprudence, variations arise based on the interpretations of different scholars on the verses of Quran and Hadith pertaining to a given topic. Typically, the same source verses and hadith are being used to arrive at the various rulings. On issues where there is no specific verses or hadith, scholars would infer the rulings based on similar topics, and by way of analogy, come to a conclusion. The reliability of the narrator is also considered in the case of hadith, and scholars assessed this reliability in different ways. Thus, even with a single verse of Quran or a single passage from the Hadith, dozens of interpretations could arise.

In the case of the crescent birth, the verses of Quran do not explicitly stipulate whether the crescent moon of Makkah should be sought, or whether it should be seen wherever one lives. The Quran does elaborate on the number of witnesses required to establish a reliable account, however. This requirement has played into a number of controversies in recent memory, including a case here in Ottawa a couple of years ago. It is generally accepted that a single witness is not sufficient to establish a reliable account, but scholars differ as to whether this is applicable in every case.

Other variables play into the debate. In the past, scholars debated whether the sighting had to occur at ground level, or if it was permissible to seek the crescent from the top of a mountain where there would be increased visibility. Weather also factored into their positions; should one just employ a "best guess" approach when there is no chance of seeing the moon through the clouds? With modern technology, there are even more variables. For example, would seeing the moon through a telescope constitute a valid sighting? Would a reported sighting that contradicted astronomical calculations be acceptable? Rather than simplify the issue, modern technology has only made the debate more difficult.

With so many factors playing into the decision, it is surprising that we differ only by a day or two. We all hope and pray that we unify on a single day, but that's an extremely challenging proposition with all the cards in play. In the mean time, our job is to accept the conflicting opinions without resorting to pointless bickering. It should be noted that scholars, in their disagreements, did not let those disagreements incite hatred or comtempt. Harbouring contempt against fellow Muslims is a far greater crime than starting Ramadhan a day early.

Thus, in the days approaching Ramadhan, we should find out what position will be taken by our local mosque. We should use our local mosque as our basis, as this is the place we will most likely be praying our Tarawih prayers on a daily basis, so we should be synchronized with them. At the end of the month, we should stick with that mosque, and follow their Shawwal sighting. One should not follow one opinion to begin the month and another to complete it, lest one fall into the trap of taking rulings at their convenience. Furthermore, we should encourage others to do the same, even if they follow a different opinion than our own. I recall an incident in university where a group of friends celebrating Eid forced another Muslim to eat on what he believed to be the last day of Ramadhan; such incidents should be avoided completely, lest someone end up fasting only 28 days. We can not let ourselves be the cause of spoiling the Ramadhan of another.

Allah has blessed us with Ramadhan as a means of forgiveness and seeking His Mercy. We should not let our pride take away from this month by forcing our opinions on others. We will be doing more to promote unity by allowing others the freedom to follow what they believe, rather than force everyone into celebrating Eid on a single day.

Ironically, our hopes of unity may best be served by embracing disagreement.

August 16, 2009

Nine Thousand Miles

If the opportunity was presented to you to start a new life, over nine thousand miles away from everything you knew and loved growing up, would you consider it?

Many people live their entire lives within a small radius that doesn't even exceed the daily commute of many people working and living in large cities.  The home they were born in was the home their parents were born in, and their children would live there too, or if they were adventurous, then perhaps they would settle a few miles away.

In this part of the world, it is uncommon for people to stay in one place for so long; sedentary lifestyles are looked down upon, and it is often considered a vice to remain physically attached to one's roots.  I was the adventurous one in the family, settling only a couple hundred kilometres away from the rest.  In my pursuit of a livelihood, I was happy settling on the mantra, "anywhere but Toronto".

During the fifteen months that my rizq was spread out across the country, I travelled over two hundred thousand miles, more than the distance to the moon.  And since then, my wings have been clipped, grounded in one place for two years.  While life has been extremely kind to me and my family, I've always wondered about what else may be in store outside the artificial boundaries I have constrained myself to.

Nine thousand miles is a long distance to cover.  "Permanent" can be a long time.  And a life away from everything I knew and loved may be difficult to bear.  But the Prophet Muhammad Salallahu'alayhi wa salam taught us to live our lives as travellers, as there is nothing permanent about this life.  And Allah Subhana Wa Ta'Ala has made this earth vast, and has placed within it many colours and cultures for us to experience and learn from.  What better way to live that life and experience those realities than by taking that step into the unknown?

And with a new life coming into this world, isn't this an appropriate time to consider a new life for myself?

June 15, 2009


Source: CBC News

April 29, 2009

Sometimes, you just need to stop and smell the dead bugs that have been sitting on that windowsill for the last two years

A few days ago, my feed reader led me to a fairly bad article that caught my attention.  I read it before heading off to work, shortly after it was published, but did not have time to share my comments at that time.  I thought to myself, by the time I get home, dozens of other people would probably say the same thing.  If not, maybe I'd leave a comment - it had been a while that I'd been an active contributor to the Muslim blogosphere.

"Dozens" was an understatement.  The response was angry, constant, unforgiving.  I briefly considered adding a comment to echo the overwhelming majority opinion against the article, but stopped myself - what more would I be contributing?

Unfortunately, that question has been popping up all too often of late, holding back my erstwhile love of writing - the idea that I have to be contributing something amongst the millions of other voices out there.  When I evaluate the odds, I feel outnumbered, and busy myself instead with local endeavours, finding my place in the urban community that is slowly becoming home.

The plight of my city has given me tonnes of material to write about - never before has the Ottawa Muslim community been under this much public scrutiny. My recent travels have opened new worlds to me.  My new family life has filled that void that pervaded much of my earlier writing and life.  So why, then, am I holding back my thoughts?

The most memorable feedback I've ever received about my irrelevant opinions came from an anonymous e-mailer who I don't believe was even one of the regular commenters here.  After searching my rarely-used Hotmail account, I was reminded about other occasions where blogging lost value to me, but how I came back in the end. Their words:

"... and Allah has given you the gift of writing.  Use this gift to remind people of what is important, or maybe just to pay attention to things we tend to take for granted.  With the right intention, this blog could be your ticket to acceptance by Allah."

So perhaps there is room to contribute to the world, at this little corner of

March 20, 2009

Galloway Refused Entry into Canada

"Canadian officials have denied outspoken anti-war British MP George Galloway entry into Canada on grounds he poses a threat to national security."

Via the Toronto Star.

I recall attending a lecture by Mr. Galloway in Ottawa several years ago, and was impressed by his charisma and strong principles.  This was years before he was a household name within the Muslim world; since then, he has gone way up in my esteem after his incredible efforts in the Viva Palestina convoy.  Blocking his entry into Canada this time around is an unfortunate sign that Canadian leaders are still under the influence of the old US administration, where criticism of Israel is tantamount to treason.

It is a frightening sign of the times that the ones who are truly calling out for peace are considered to be "threats to national security", whereas those who support oppressive regimes and illegal invasions are considered to be advocates of peace, justice, and freedom.

Some day, we'll be saying that war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

March 12, 2009

Design Proposal for the Grand Mosque in Makkah

Kinda neat, though it seems to impede Tawaf somehow. I don't think this will fly, but it's interesting to think about.

February 12, 2009


A lot is going on these days - it is amazing how many things have been changing and will change in the coming months. Insha-Allah, the challenges will be met and things will go smoothly. I just have to promise myself one thing:

Do not let the depressing hockey scores put you in a bad mood. Do not dwell in the misery of Montreal's losing streak.

Update: Oh, and I also intend to write more. Sometime, eventually, maybe.