The Sufi Master and the Harlot

July 22, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

When the Sufi Master Mushtaq Ali  Shah was once traveling through Kerman,  Iran, the darvishes there greeted him with great honor and housed him in a room at the local inn. The clerics of the town were jealous of his popularity and his influence, so they sent a prostitute to tempt him, and make him lose favor in the eyes of the people.

She came to his room as he was meditating and danced enticingly in front of him. But he did not look up, and no matter how she flirted, he paid no attention to her. Finally, he did look at her, and said, “Get out, you whore!”

She was suddenly stricken with shame and ran from his presence to her home. The Sufi Master’s words put her into a state of severe agitation. She could not sleep, she could not eat. She kept pacing back and forth as the words rang in her head. She did not know that Mushtaq Ali Shah had spoken them with the full spiritual attention of a Sufi Master, one who had completed the path of Love, and so the words had a profound heart effect on her.

For three days her mind was in this state, filled with the words “Get out, you whore!” “Get out, you whore!” until at last they entered her heart and became her zekr

And the whore within her got out.

By the mercy and compassion of Allah, she abandoned her profession and repented of her past. Eventually, she even became a wali, a friend of God.

Ya Haqq!


Voices for Peace in the Holy Land

July 22, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Below is a letter from the Holy Land, about some rare good news and positive steps toward peace. Inshallah, it will grow from a trickle to a mighty stream. We are all cousins of the same family, and the only true winner in war is Iblis (Satan). May Allah guide us on the right path.

Hello Friends,

It has been a difficult time in the Holy Land, with immense suffering for the people of Gaza, Israel and Lebanon. We ask you keep sending prayers for peace and healing for the peoples of the Middle East.

In the midst of all the awful news coming from our part of the world, I also want to report to you some of the positive news.

1) The Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace
2) The Abrahamic Reunion meets in Tel Sheva, June 20
3) Religious peacemakers and grassroots peace groups respond to the war

SECOND WORLD CONGRESS OF IMAMS AND RABBIS FOR PEACE

Seville, Spain March 19-22
Over 100 Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, and 100 experts in Jewish-Muslim dialogue work came together for 3 days of dialogue, prayer, and practical project building. Joining us were eight Muslim sheikhs and Imams from the Gaza Strip.

The mayor of Seville welcomed all of us, recalling that during the Golden Age, Seville was a place where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived in and peaceful co-existence together.

At the plenary the Palestinian Imams from Gaza emphasized the difficulty of everyday life for the citizens of Gaza. There was some tension, as some of the rabbis felt that the discussion had turned from religious to political. One rabbi later said, it’s important for us to listen to our brothers from Gaza even if we don’t agree with everthing.

Andre Azoulay, the Jewish advisor to the King of Morocco, asked me to organize an evening of sacred singing with the Muslims present at the Congress. The Imam of the Dome of the Rock, Abdel Karim al-Zorba led the beautiful chanting, reciting Quranic verses and Islamic poetry.

The Chief Rabbi of Rishon L’Zion, Yosef Azran, sat next to the Imam and started to sing the most beautiful Piyutim (sacred songs) in Arabic, then in Hebrew. Before we knew it, the Rabbis and Imams were sitting in the circle together chanting sacred songs back and forth in Hebrew and Arabic for 3 hours! Observers commented, “Now THIS is the heart of the Congress!”.

By the second day, we had broken up into smaller working groups. We helped facilitate a dialogue about the situation in Gaza between one of the Imams from Gaza and Rabbi Zion Cohen, the Chief Rabbi of the Negev Communities who lives in Sderot, a town near Gaza that has been shelled by Qassam rockets.

Even though a close family friend of the rabbi was killed in a Qassam rocket attack, he didn’t mention it. His first response was: how can I help organize humanitarian support for the Palestinians of Gaza from the Jewish towns around Gaza.

By the last day of the Congress, over 20 working groups had been formed, working on issues like racism, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism, sharing Jerusalem, rereading the holy texts, misconceptions about Islam.

Most of us present at the Congress left with a renewed sense of hope that if the most religious of the Jews and Muslims could learn to cooperate, then perhaps we were taking a step closer to achieving the seemingly impossible dream for peace in the Holy Land and the wider world.

See pictures from this historic event, visit this website and click ‘participants’.

http://interfaith.israel.net/imansandrabbisforpeace/

ABRAHAMIC REUNION IN TEL SHEVA, JUNE 20

Abrahamic Reunion group member Khalil Albaz, the Imam of Tel Sheva, welcomed us to Bedouin town of Tel Sheva, in the Negev, southern Israel. The head of the Tel Sheva council and the people of Tel Sheva welcomed us.
Rabbi Zion Cohen, whom I had met in Seville, came from his town of Sderot on the border of Gaza. “We as religious leaders need to call out against the violence… our response to the situation should be more meetings like this, to plant the seeds of peace!”

Joining us in dialogue and prayer was an ultra-Orthodox Hasid, religious Muslim Bedouin women, the chief of the police in Tel Sheva and others. Abrahamic Reunion group members Sheikh Bukhari and Ibrahim Abuelhawa called for the Children of Abraham to unite. Ibtisam Mahamid and Elana Rozenman spoke about the important role of women in peacemaking.

At a closing prayer circle, Imam Khalil Albaz led a blessing to support and empower some of the young Bedouin women present, who have a project to produce and market traditional herbal remedies and medicines. Devorah Brous of Bustan spoke of her partnership with these women.

Reverend Charles Gibbs, the Executive Director of URI, offered a prayer and then blessed the work of the Abrahamic Reunion. That we could bring people of such diverse backgrounds together in such a difficult time gave all of us hope for a better future.

In all the midst of all the bad news about the violence in Gaza, the main TV news channel in Israel broadcasted 3 minutes on prime time of our gathering.

Please visit this link to see some amazing pictures from our recent gathering in Tel Sheva. http://interfaith.israel.net/telsheva_June2006/

RELIGIOUS PEACEMAKERS AND GRASSROOTS PEACE GROUPS RESPOND

On Wednesday July 19, over fifty Jews and Arabs gathered at the Latrun monastery to plan the next ‘On the Way to Sulha’ gathering, scheduled for August 22-24. See http://www.sulha.com

The theme of this years gathering is: Therefore Choose Life! Ihab Balha, Muslim co-director of the Sulha Peace Project said: now is the time to live our values, not just when its easy… to have compassion for ourselves and the others who are suffering in this war, esp. people from Gaza, Haifa, Tsfat, Nahariya, Beirut.

It was announced that next Thursday, July 27 the Sulha Peace Project, Bereaved Families Forum, Middle Way and others are planning a major prayer vigil in a central public space in Jerusalem, inviting religious leaders and common people to pray together. They will bear witness to the pain of Israelis who have fled the north and read letters from friends in Gaza and Beirut about their situation.

Behind the scenes, Rabbi Menachem Froman has been a bridge for dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, seeking to bring about a cease-fire based on principles found in Islam and Judaism.

Shalom, Salaam,

Eliyahu McLean
Jerusalem Peacemakers, director
Abrahamic Reunion, coordinator

Interested people can follow the Abrahamic Reunion activities and reports on Yahoo. The list is called IEAreports@yahoo.com. Email them to be put on the list.


Wearing Hijab – A Spiritual Concept

July 21, 2006

Salaam And Greetings of Peace:

In reading various Muslimah blogs, the pros and cons of wearing Hijab often comes up. Our sister Amal has written an excellent article on the subject. It is offered below, with her permission.

Greetings, my name is Amal. I am a Muslim convert from the United States – I have been a Muslim for about five years – and a student of the Spirit and of all religions for all of my life. I wish all here peace. Here is an article I wrote a while ago on Dressing as a spiritual exercise. I hope to some it will be valuable — it is the thoughts of my heart and spirit on this subject.

Dressing as a Spiritual Exercise – The Spiritual Value of the
Traditional Concept of Modest Dress

There are many contemporary arguments against the value of traditional modest covering in dress, and many of these arguments have some value in terms of their emphasis on individual choice and liberation from formal ritualistic constraints that may seem to have lost their reason and value in the contemporary world.

This said, however, there is a belief that traditional dress, as described in the Quran and the Bible, has many spiritual uplifting values that are lost in the din of arguments for the liberation of women and instituting more contemporary dress for the sake of living more comfortably in the modern western world. This discussion will try to illustrate the spiritual value of dressing according to the constraints described in the these books, with an emphasis on the underlying benefits to the evolution of the soul when the realities of these spiritual values are utilized in a sacrificial discipline aimed at bringing the spirit closer to Union with the creative light of being that was instilled within us from our very inception.

First and foremost, it must be understood that there are positive and negative reasons for both dressing in the traditional covered fashion and not participating in this practice. It is unfortunate that, too often, any discussion on this subject quickly deteriorates into an argument between fundamentalists whose focus quickly becomes
stridently judgmental of anyone who does not follow strictly every prescribed doctrine found or hinted at in the Holy Books, and progressively spirited people who feel that traditional dress is a constriction that serves as the outward symbol of the enslavement of the female members of Islamic society.

Both of these poles of opinion, in their strident desire to prove the righteousness of their positions, fails to address the positive spiritual value of traditional dress as a discipline that can help the soul to focus more clearly on its journey to union with its Creator.

What are the positive and negative reasons then for following or not following this described practice that is found not only in the Quran but other books of spiritual wisdom as well? First and foremost, in instituting any spiritual practice, it is important to ensure that this practice is rooted in humility and not in arrogance or self oriented pride. Pride and spiritual arrogance are two pitfalls that will surely enlarge the self -orientation of the person and this, by its very nature, will pull the soul further from
its journey toward Union with the Creator. Any practice of ritual or spiritual discipline that increases spiritual arrogance, (the feeling that the self is somehow better than or more holy than others in its sphere) should be closely examined until it can be undertaken with the proper humility of spirit that focuses the soul closer to the purification that leads to union with its spiritual Wellspring. Is it better to dress in a way that hides the self in the company of humanity if a specific form of dress is going to lead the spirit to judgement of others, or a feeling of being better than others in some spiritual way?

How often we see Muslims in western society who dress in the formulated manner judge other Muslims as being below them in spirit because they do not do so. It is very clear when this attitude surfaces, that spiritual arrogance and
pride is more the focus of the sacrifice evident in their dress than is a true spiritual focus of sacrifice for the good of Allah and His Kingdom. The first mark of a spirit on the Path of Truth is the purely humble way they move through the world filling each space and moment in time with small acts of loving sacrifice for the sake of easing the life of humanity around them. Such a soul is appalled when confronted with judgmental attitudes, and any spiritually
arrogant attitude that turns people away from reunion with their spiritual natures.

This said, still it is possible to adopt the Islamic dress ideal of hiijab with this spirit of humility intact. It is also true that one must not fail to dress according to ones belief in Allah’s will for them because they are afraid of appearing to be different or that they will attract negative attention to themselves. In this age of fear this is very important. It is difficult to stand out in the world as a Muslim and it is especially difficult for western people to move toward exposing themselves to possible discrimination and criticism by wearing Islamic attire. One of the most positive aspects, in fact, of adopting strict adherence to theIslamic dress code is overcoming this fear of ridicule. If the spirit is
properly focused on spiritual gain and spiritual growth, then the spirit will humbly discipline the eyes of the body to look downward, while the eyes of the spirit constantly focuses on the Heavens. If every breath and moment is spent in this prayerful discipline, then one will not see the ridicule or the stares of others, and in fact will most often generate goodness and love around them that is a reflection of what radiates from within their focused hearts.

One of the most beautiful aspects of dressing according to the modest described prescription found in the Quran is that so often when we expect ugliness, flowers of kindness and love appear instead. The very act of moving through the world dressed for prayer brings a prayerful focus not only to our own spirits but also to others who we see and move within our human environment. By making Allah visible through our dress, we remind continually not only our own souls of our evolutionary spiritual purpose, but also we radiate a small energy of that spirit to others that serves as a signpost to remind others in our sphere of influence of Allah’s continual presence in the world.

It is essential that we not center ourselves in judgement of others around us who are not dressed according to this standard, but instead welcome others to the warmth of our prayerful spirit in all aspects of what we do. The prayerful dress of the body should be a cloth that radiates and springs from the soul– and if this is so it will provide the spirit with a vessel that is continually prayerfully reaching out to perfection of its Union with the Creator from whence it sprang. If our focus is to always become an empty vessel ready to be filled with the light of hope and love and if our prayerful dress increases the focus that will aid us in this goal, then the purpose for this mode of attire is fulfilled.

The very act of dressing continually for prayer leads the spirit to constant prayerful reminder of its sole purpose for being- to evolve with every breath, every action, every step, every thought, every word and deed into a more perfectly clear reflection of the life source within that sprang from the very heart of the Creator. When one clothes the body with a prayerful focus, one is continually
reminded and drawn inward to this purpose and the outward demeanor becomes an inward reflection of this purpose more clearly in every moment of every day. To clothe the body for the health of the spirit – to clothe the body in a way that increases the awareness of the spirit that its focus must always be constant prayerful reflection – this is a hidden and beautiful purpose of dressing in the Islamic fashion.

It is important to understand that when this focus is there and is coupled with the proper dress, then not only does this prayerful spirit of reflection impact on our interior state but it acts as a beacon of hope and love to all others around us who are receptive to it and longing for it. The beauty of dressing for Allah lies in the spiritual lessons that are gleaned by the soul in this constant call to reflection upon Him, and also in the hope that this reflection
generates to others so deeply lost and in need of the reminding vision.

It is also true that this form of dress can decrease the tendency of the self to focus on vanity and the physical beauty of the body. If one uses this mode of dress to simplify ones desires for beautiful clothing and other physical artifacts, then one moves along on the road of detachment to the attributes of the physical to the value of contentment with simple utilitarian clothing. Detachment from desire and humility are very important spiritual goals, and when possible it is important for those who wish to deeply follow the path of the spirit to do all they can to provide discipline and avenues for fulfillment of these two attributes.

The purpose then of modest and simple dress becomes so much more than an attempt to somehow control the immodest responses of men to our sexual natures, or some ritual done solely because it is implied in a Holy Book. The true purpose goes deeper to the very purpose for our existence, which is to make every act that we do in life an
act of prayerful worship to Him who loved us into life and draws us to His heart for eternity.

Posted with permission of Amal.


Forgiveness

July 20, 2006

Verily, Satan has said, ‘By Your Honor and Grandeur, O Allah, my temptations will not depart from your servants as long as their souls are in their bodies.’

And the Lord said, ‘By My Honor and My Grandeur, never will I cease forgiving those who ask My forgiveness.’

– A hadith of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh)


Fifteen Whispered Prayers

July 18, 2006

Salaam And Greetings of Peace:

Below is a list of the Fifteen Whispered Prayers, taken from the Al-Sahifat al-Sajjadiyya, purportedly the oldest Islamic prayer manual and one of the most seminal works in Islamic Spirituality. It was composed by the Prophet’s great grandson, Imam Ali ibn al-Husayn, peace be unto him, who was also known as Zayn al-‘Abidin (the ornament of the worshippers). Shi’ite tradition considers the Sahifa a book worthy of the utmost veneration, ranking it behind only the Qur’an and Ali’s Nahj al-balagha.

Alhamdulillah! It is a blessing unrivaled in its sincerity, adoration and love, and well worth your time.

The Fifteen Whispered Prayers:

The Whispered Prayer of the Repenters
The Whispered Prayer of the Complainers
The Whispered Prayer of the Fearful
The Whispered Prayer of the Hopeful
The Whispered Prayer of the Beseechers
The Whispered Prayer of the Thankful
The Whispered Prayer of the Obedient toward God
The Whispered Prayer of the Devotees
The Whispered Prayer of the Lovers
The Whispered Prayer of those Asking for Mediation
The Whispered Prayer of the Utterly Poor
The Whispered Prayer of the Knowers
The Whispered Prayer of the Rememberers
The Whispered Prayer of Those who Hold Fast
The Whispered Prayer of the Abstainers

Read them on the al-Islam website by clicking


Women of Pakistan & The Lost Caravan

July 17, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Our sister Rabia lives in the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan, and needs our help with the new Roshni Women’s Centre. Below is the letter she sent. You can help if you will, by making a small donation or looking at the website of The Lost Caravan (at the bottom of the post) and perhaps purchasing one of the lovely scarves. Laury, who blogs on ProgressiveIslam.org, said this about them:

Salaams Everyone,
I bought some of those scarves from Pakistan that Rabia/Barbara is selling that benefits a women’s group in Pakistan. I looked at the website. Everything looked pretty. I picked out some figuring I would give some to friends. You know that kind of easy sadaqa shopping… “Oh its pretty and it helps the women, they’ll make nice presents.”

But then I received the scarves this morning.

They are so beautiful, so perfectly exquisite in quality, so lovely, so…..janna in scarves.

Some I bought are oblong and delicate with nearly see-through sections of jewel toned colors surrounded by a curving stream of paisley border, all beaded to the point of turning me into a woman I’ve never been, delicate, extraordinary, beautiful, feminine. I would wear hijab if all my hijabs looked like this. This is, though, that kind of hijab that doesn’t work because it makes you feel so beautiful that it is no hijab at all…..you simply shine in it and men fall at your feet.

Others are generously sized shawls of rich colors and patterns, beaded as well. My favorite is the celadon one with a deep paisley border with garnet colored and opalescent beads. I thought that one of these would be beautiful as a wall hanging or over the back of my favorite leather chair. Instead I have the celadon one draped over me in such a way that it is clear that I am so beautiful it is quite normal to have such things draped over me while I lounge in bed with tea and write e-mails.

Still others are plain shawls with no beading, one in a very light wool and then other darker and a little thicker. The borders are basic, simply done, woven into the cloth, these shawls are those beautiful simple things women wear in the winter that makes you wish it were cold out so you could wrap yourself in it, curl up on the couch with a cup of tea, and read a book, all by yourself, your treat to you.

How am I supposed to give any of these away to friends?

Sadaqa for the women there? No, this is sadaqa to me. May God enrich those women and reward them one thousand times over in this world and the next for how beautiful they are making me feel. May God help Barbara in her new non-profit helping these women in Pakistan that also helps us. God give her success and ease! Allah, Allah. This is one of those things in this world in which you can find nothing wrong with it, nothing at all. Just God’s Beauty.

Allah! Allah! Allah!

Laury

Rabia’s Letter:
The women in Pakistan are struggling to provide a fulfilling life for themselves and their families. Poverty is very extreme. In spite of this the Pakistani people are very generous and hospitable towards strangers. In today’s world it is important to build bridges between different nationalities, as we work towards peace.

The Roshni Centre for Women is very new. We opened our doors on May 10th, 2006 because of the dream of one woman: Nadia. During an interview for an article about “Women in Pakistan” (The Arcata Eye, January 17, 2006, page 9, “Pakistan Unveiled”) she was asked what she would like to change about her rural Pakistani village. She told us that most of the women living in her village spend their days at home. Few are employed, and because of some of the restrictions of the society in general and the poverty in particular, even if they wanted to go out, there were so few options of where they could go. Nadia spoke to other women and to me, Rabia (as I am known in Pakistan) and said that it was her dream to have a Women’s Centre in the village. With the financial help of 2 friends stateside we were able to open the doors of the Centre, yet we need more help to keep the Centre open and growing and to meet its daily needs.

The purpose of The Roshni Center for Women is to offer some hope to the women living here in rural Pakistan. We want it to be both educational in that women have a possibility for self-improvement, for example through learning a skill such as sewing their own clothing, an exercise class, some basic computer skills, discussing health issues, and learning about how they can use their skills as a source of income. A possibility of the Centre becoming self-sufficient in the future is that the women can sell their handmade items to an export company, which in turn would sell the items outside of Pakistan. We want the village to have a place where women can come and share both problems and ideas; we want a place where they can be supportive of each other. We hope in the future to become a micro lending corporation as well so that we have the possibility of helping the women who attend. We will put aside a small percent of every donation we receive in order to help the women in emergencies and in setting up businesses of their own. They in turn will invest in The Roshni Centre in order to help other women.

Roughly 25 women and teenage girls make use of the Centre at this point in time. We have 8 sewing machines, so that the girls must do a lot of doubling up. They are often sad at not having enough sewing machines to go around. There is also a strong interest in learning how to use an embroidery machine, as embroidered cotton is quite expensive and yet very much sought after.

Nadia is the Director of the Centre and the liaison between the women and the Board of Directors. She is well known in the village and respected among the women. Her family is very supportive of what she is trying to do in her village.

We are in the beginning stages of making The Roshni Centre for Women an official non-profit corporation in California. We have a board of directors, 3 of whom live in California, the other 2 in Pakistan. Should you feel in your heart that you can help us in any way small or large you can make donations to “The Roshni Centre for Women”. In Pakistan a little goes a long way. If you would like updates on our work, please send us your email address as well. Shukria, shukran and thank you very much.

Contact us:
Barbara Keshan Rousta (Rabia)
P.O. Box 95
Samoa, Ca. 95564
or at thelostcaravan@yahoo.com

Peace be with us all!
Rabia


Islamic Principles of Peace

July 15, 2006

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Below are statements of the Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him) from the Hadiths, the traditions or sayings, regarding the Islamic Principles of Peace.

The messenger of God said to me (Anas), ‘Son, if you
are able, keep your heart from morning till night and
from night till morning free from malice towards
anyone.’

The best of God’s servants are those who, when seen,
remind one of God; and the worst of God’s servants are
those who carry tales about to do mischief and
separate friends, and seek for the defects of the
good.

It is unworthy of a believer to injure people’s
reputations; and it is unworthy to curse anyone; and
it is unworthy to abuse anyone; and it is unworthy of
a believer to talk arrogantly.

Assist your brother Muslim, whether he be an oppressor
or an oppressed. ‘But how shall we do it when he is an
oppressor?’ Muhammad said, ‘Assisting an oppressor is
by forbidding and withholding him from oppression.

God is gentle and loves gentleness.

Faith is a restraint against all violence, let no
believer commit violence

What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart
of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the
afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and
to remove the wrongs of the injured.

The best of people is one from whom good accrues to
humanity.

Someone said to the Prophet, ‘Pray to God against the
idolaters and curse them.’ The Prophet replied, ‘I
have been sent to show mercy and have not been sent to
curse.

Anyone who kills a sparrow for nothing, it will cry
aloud to God on the day of resurrection, saying, ‘O My
Lord! such and such a man killed me for nothing, he
never killed me for any good.’

We were on a journey with the Prophet when we saw a
finch with two young ones. We took away the two young
ones and the mother bird fluttered around. Then the
Prophet came and said, ‘Who has distressed her by
taking away her young ones? Return her young ones to
her.’ The Prophet also saw the abode of ants which we
had burnt, and said, ‘Who has burnt this?’ We said,
‘We (have done this).’ The Prophet said, ‘It is not
proper that any one should punish another by fire
unless it be the Lord of fire.’

Deal gently with the people, and be not harsh; cheer
them and condemn them not.

The warrior is one who battles with his own ego
(nafs) on the path of God.

After a major battle, defending the small community of
Islam against powerful enemies who sought to destroy
it, the Prophet said: “We have returned from the
lesser holy war (jihad) to the greater holy war.” When
asked what he meant by the greater war, the Prophet
replied, “Struggle against the ego (nafs).”

God has mercy upon those who are merciful to others.

Would you have me tell you about actions that are
better than fasting, prayer, and charity? Bring
goodness and high principles between people.

The strongest among you is the one who controls his
or her anger.

Oh God, bring peacefulness among us, bring unity into
our hearts; guide us to equilibrium, take us from
darkness to light.

Among the servants of Allah, those who are more
useful to the people are also those more loved by the
Divine.

Being an honorable Muslim means that people are safe
from your actions and words.

Read the Koran if it keeps you from doing ill, and if
you recite the Koran and are not prevented from
wrongdoing, then you are not truthful in reading the
Koran.

Be kind to people whether they deserve your kindness
or not. If your kindness reaches the deserving, good
for you; if your kindness reaches the undeserving,
take joy in your compassion.

Taken from Halaveti Website.


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