Happy New Year 2011- with “Jannah!”

December 31, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Here is a short film entitled Jannah (the Islamic conception of paradise or heaven), a lovely and very touching visual poem by Ammar Al Shukry, produced by Belah Khan, for Leechon Films. A perfect way to greet the New Year :)

“Peace unto you for that ye persevered in patience! Now how excellent is the final home!” —  Qur’an, 13: 23-24

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Ya Haqq!


Camels in the Desert!

December 26, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

This is a picture taken from directly above these camels in the desert, at sunset.  It is considered to be one of the best pictures of the year.  When you look closely, you can see that the camels are the little white lines in the picture. The black images are just their shadows!

Sometimes, our “problems” seem to be as big as the shadows…but in reality they are caused only by a slanted way of looking at things, by the absence of light.
In the coming year, let us resolve to let the True Light of God shine forth in our lives, and chase away the shadows.

Happy New Year 2011!

Ya Haqq!

The Coming of the Magi

December 20, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

In the days before Christmas, I confess that one of my favorite parts of the story of the birth of Jesus, or Isa ibn Mariyam, is the coming of the Magi, and the legends that have grown up around them.

In Christian tradition, the Magi, also referred to as the Three Wise Men, Three Kings, or Kings from the East, are said to have visited the baby Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense.

The word Magi is a Latinization of the plural of the Greek word magos, itself from Old Persian maguŝ from the religious/priestly caste into which Zoroaster was born. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars, and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science. Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term Magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic.

The Gospel of Matthew (2:1-16), the only one of the four Gospels to mention the Magi, states that they came “from the east” to worship the Christ, “born King of the Jews”. Although the account does not tell how many they were, the three gifts led to a widespread assumption that they were three as well. Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is linked to Old Testament prophesies such as that in Isaiah 60:3, which describe the Messiah being worshipped by kings.

The Syrian King Seleucus II Callinicusis recorded to have offered gold, frankincense and myrrh to Apollo in his temple at Miletus in 243 BC, and this may have been the precedent for the mention of these three gifts in the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). It was these three gifts, it is thought, which were the chief cause for the number of the Magi becoming fixed eventually at three.

A model for the homage of the Magi might have been provided, it has been suggested, by the journey to Rome of King Tiridates I of Armenia, with his magi, to pay homage to the Emperor Nero, which took place in 66 AD, a few years before the date assigned to the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.

And finally, this account by Lewis Williams expands the story in a lovely spiritual way:

While oftentimes conflicting lore muddles the story of the Magi, those bearing gifts for the Christ child are most often named Caspar of Tarsus, Melchior of Persia and Balthasar of Sabia, which was the ancient name of Yemen/Ethiopia (as in the Queen of Sheba/Sabia). Weary from desert travel, the Magi humbly offer their gifts. Caspar is young, European, and offers gold. Gold finances the Holy Family’s coming flight to Egypt and also symbolizes Christ’s immortality and purity. For his generosity, Caspar receives the gifts of charity and spiritual wealth. Melchior is middle-aged, Persian and offers myrrh. Myrrh is a fragrant gum, which the ancient Israelites believed to strengthen children. This symbol of Christ’s mortality was blended with wine and offered to him on the cross, and also mixed with aloes to wrap his body for the tomb. Melchior receives the gifts of humility and truth. Balthasar is elderly, Ethiopian and offers frankincense. Frankincense is a resin used in incense for worship and also symbolizes prayer and sacrifice. Balthasar receives the gift of Faith. And Christ, humbling himself to become man, offers us the greatest gift of all, the light that forever burns in the darkness.

Merry Christmas to all :)

Ya Haqq!

Note: Above painting is Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682).


Rumi’s Wedding Night – Dec. 17, 1273

December 16, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

On December 17th, 1273 AD, Mevlana Jalal al-din Rumi died at Konya. The 17th of December is thus called Sheb-i Arus, meaning ‘Bride’s Night” or ‘Nuptial Night’ or ‘Wedding Night,’ because of the union of Mevlana with God. As Rumi’s epitaph states:

‘When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.’

Rumi was a universally loved genius, one of the greatest servants of humanity, founder of the Mevlevi Sufi Brotherhood, his poetry and doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness and charity, and awareness through love. Looking with the same eye on Muslim, Jew and Christian alike, his peaceful and tolerant teaching has reached men of all sects and creeds.

Love and imagination are magicians

Who create an image of the Beloved in your mind

With which you share your secret intimate moments.

This apparition is made of nothing at all,

But from its mouth comes the question,

“Am I not your Loved One?”

And from you the soft reply, “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

~ Rumi ~

Inna lillahi wa-inna ilayi raji’un.
(We belong to God and to God are we returning)

 

Ya Haqq!


Gladdening Hearts

December 13, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace

It is related that in the late 1970s, there was a young man from Southern California who was seeking spiritual knowledge. He had lived in communes and sought, as the young in every generation do, the answers to life in ancient wisdom and eternal truths. Perhaps partly because of this, he was also estranged from his wealthy and conservative father.

The young man decided to go to India to seek enlightenment and find a teacher, and while traveling a roundabout way through Iran, found himself in Tehran.  By fortune or fate, which is another way of saying by God’s will, one of the various people he met there was a darvish, who, upon learning of his desire for spiritual attainment, took him to the Nimatullahi Sufi khaniqh and introduced him to the Master, Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh.

The young man had heard of Sufism, but of course had never met a Sufi Master, especially one of such a loving nature and humor and strength of personality.  He spoke at length with the Master on several occasions, and after some consideration, became initiated. He afterwards spent some time in Tehran with Dr. Nurbakhsh, and happily considered that his spiritual quest for a teacher had been fulfilled. Eventually, he expressed his wish to go back to California, and the Master gave him permission, but also commanded that he reconcile with his father.

The young man, now on the Path of Love, knew that this was the right thing to do, and wanted to bring back a present for his parents. He decided on a Persian red and blue rug from city of Kerman (Kirman), because he had heard that their rugs were famous for their rich, blue color.  It was said that the blue of the sky in Kerman was the truest, most beautiful cerulean blue, because of the quality of the light there. Dr. Nurbakhsh, who was himself born there, was delighted to hear of it, and personally contacted Nimatullahi dervishes in Kerman who dealt in rugs, and arranged for the young man to purchase a high quality Kermani rug at a fair price.

Some time passed, and the young man, once again living in his parents house, received word that Dr. Nurbakhsh was arriving in Los Angeles to visit the just purchased khaniqah there. The young man was very happy to hear it, and his parents, to thank the Master for bringing back their prodigal son, invited Dr. Nurbakhsh and the dervishes traveling with him to tea on their arrival.

The Master was jet-lagged and very tired, but he accepted the invitation, and they made the long drive to the parent’s large and palatial home.

The father answered the door in shorts and a Polo shirt, and shook hands with the Master. “Hi! Glad to meet you!” he said, looking somewhat suspiciously at the foreign-looking gentleman and his entourage. The Master shook his hand warmly, and through an interpreter, expressed his thanks for the kind invitation. The dervishes, however, were nonplussed that this American man treated their Master so casually, instead of with the awe and respect they were used to, but the Master thought nothing of it, and just smiled and put them all at ease.

As tea was being served, out of the picture window overlooking the back deck, they watched the sun setting over the Pacific ocean. The slanted light was particularly lovely on the blue of the Kermani rug at their feet. The young man sat with the dervishes, smiling at his parents, who wholeheartedly thanked the Master for all he had done to bring them back together.

Finally, as they said their goodbyes, and the Master got into the car for the long ride back to the new khaniqah, he looked very tired after the long day, having used the last reserves of his energy for the ride to pay his respects to the young man’s parents. Some of the dervishes could not help but wonder why he went through so much trouble.

As if in answer, he suddenly said, “Alhamdulillah! We have gladdened one heart today. That is all that we do. We gladden hearts.”

And so it is.

 

Ya Haqq!


Master of the Jinn is a Google Ebook!

December 8, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Google Ebooks is finally a reality, and Master of the Jinn is now available from the Google Ebookstore for only $3.82, the lowest price yet :)  Click HERE to order or view a sample.

You can read Google eBooks on the Web, Android phones, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and supported eReaders.

Google EBooks are stored in the cloud, so there is no file to download if you want to read on your computer, phone or tablet. To read online using the web reader, simply click the read button on any free or purchased ebooks. Once you open your book using our mobile reader apps, your book will sync to your device and you can continue reading it online or offline.

Try the Google eBooks apps to start reading seamlessly on all your devices now. Your ebooks will be stored within your Google account, which allows you to save your page positions and sync across all the devices as you continue reading.

See full list of supported devices. Learn more about using multiple devices to read.

Please let me know if you try it, and how the book reads on Google :)

If you prefer the paperback version of Master of the Jinn, click HERE to read excerpts, reviews and comments.

Ya Haqq!


Jesus was a Palestinian!

December 1, 2010

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Christmas will soon be here, and in the spirit of true understanding, and to begin a hopefully fruitful and honest discussion without rancor or religious intolerance, I am reposting the following, with permission:

Jesus was a Palestinian and Why it Matters!

Because of modern alarmist reactions to the word “Palestine,” many non-Arabs and non-Muslims take offense when it is argued that Jesus was a Palestinian (peace be upon him). Jesus’ ethnicity, skin color, and culture often accompanies this conversation, but it is interesting how few people are willing to acknowledge the fact he was non-European. A simple stroll in the Christmas aisle of your local shopping store will show you the dominant representation of Jesus: a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, White man.

Islamophobia and anti-Arab propaganda have conditioned us to view Palestinians as nothing but heartless suicide bombers, terrorists, and enemies of freedom/democracy. Perpetual media vilification and demonization of Palestinians, in contrast to the glorification of Israel, blinds us from seeing issues such as the Palestinian refugee crisis, the victims of Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza last winter, the tens of thousands of homeless Palestinians, and many other issues that are constantly addressed by human rights activists around the world. To speak from the perspective of the Palestinians, especially in casual non-Arab and non-Muslim settings, generates controversy because the minds of many already associate Palestinians with violent stereotypes. So, how could Jesus belong to a group of people that we’re taught to dehumanize?

When I’ve spoken to people about this, I’ve noticed the following responses: “No, Jesus was a Jew,” or “Jesus is not Muslim.” The mistake isn’t a surprise to me, but it certainly reveals how ignorant much of society still is. Being a Palestinian does not mean one is Muslim or vice versa. Prior to the creation of Israel, the word “Palestine” was a geographic term applied to Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians, and Palestinian Jews. Although most Palestinians are Muslim today, there is a significant Palestinian Christian minority who are often overlooked, especially by the mainstream Western media because the agenda is to simplify the conflict as “Muslims versus Jews.” To learn about many Palestinian Christians opposing Israeli military occupation, as well as Jews who oppose to the occupation, is to reveal more sides to an immensely one-sided story. Professor Jack D. Forbes writes about Jesus’ multi-cultural and multi-ethnic environment:

“When the Romans came to dominate the area, they used the name Palestine. Thus, when Yehoshu’a [Jesus] was born, he was born a Palestinian as were all of the inhabitants of the region, Jews and non-Jews. He was also a Nazarene (being born in Nazareth) and a Galilean (born in the region of Galilee)… At the time of Yehoshu’a’s birth, Palestine was inhabited by Jews—descendants of Hebrews, Canaanites, and many other Semitic peoples—and also by Phoenicians, Syrians, Greeks, and even Arabs.”

Despite these facts, there are those who use the color-blind argument: “It does not matter what Jesus’ ethnicity or skin color was. It does not matter what language he spoke. Jesus is for all people, whether you’re Black, White, Brown, Yellow, etc.” While this is a well-intentioned expression of inclusiveness and universalism, it misses the point.

When you see so many depictions of Jesus as a Western White man with Euro-American features, the ethnocentrism and race-bending needs to be called out. No person is superior to another based on skin color, but to ignore the way Jesus’ Whiteness has been used to subjugate and discriminate against racial minorities in the West and many other countries is to overlook another important aspect of Jesus’ teachings: Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Malcolm X wrote about White supremacists and slaveholders using Christianity to justify their “moral” and “racial superiority” over Blacks. In Malcolm’s own words, “The Holy Bible in the White man’s hands and its interpretations of it have been the greatest single ideological weapon for enslaving millions of non-white human beings.” Throughout history, whether it was in Jerusalem, Spain, India, or Africa, so-called White “Christians” cultivated a twisted interpretation of religion that was compatible with their colonialist agenda. And racism was a key component of their atrocities.

And here we are in the 21st century where Islamophobia (also stemming from racism because Islam gets racialized) is on the rise; where people calling themselves “Christian” fear to have a Black president; where members of the KKK and anti-immigration movements behave as if Jesus was an intolerant White American racist who only spoke English despite being born in the Middle-East! It is astonishing how so-called “Christians” like Ann Coulter call Muslims “rag-heads” when in actuality, Jesus himself would fit the profile of a “rag-head,” too. As would Moses, Joseph, Abraham, and the rest of the Prophets (peace be upon them all). As William Rivers Pitt writes:

“The ugly truth which never even occurs to most Americans is that Jesus looked a lot more like an Iraqi, like an Afghani, like a Palestinian, like an Arab, than any of the paintings which grace the walls of American churches from sea to shining sea. This was an uncomfortable fact before September 11. After the attack, it became almost a moral imperative to put as much distance between Americans and people from the Middle East as possible. Now, to suggest that Jesus shared a genealogical heritage and physical similarity to the people sitting in dog cages down in Guantanamo is to dance along the edge of treason.”

Without acknowledging Jesus as a dark-skinned Middle-Eastern man — a Palestinian — who spoke Aramaic — a Semitic language that is ancestral to Arabic and Hebrew — the West will continue to view Islam as a “foreign religion.” Hate crimes and discriminatory acts against Muslims, Arabs, and others who are perceived to be Muslim will persist and they will still be treated as “cultural outsiders.” But what about Christianity and Judaism in America? Aren’t these religions “cultural outsiders” according to the racist logic of xenophobes and Islamophobes?

Jesus would not prefer one race or group of people over another, and I believe he would not encourage today’s demonization and dehumanization of the Palestinian people or the misrepresentations of him that only fuel ignorance and ethnocentrism. As a Muslim, I believe Jesus was a Prophet of God, and if I were to have any say about the Christmas spirit, it would be based on Jesus’ character: humility, compassion, and Love. A Love in which all people, regardless of ethnicity, race, culture, religion, gender, and sexual orientation are respected and appreciated.

And in that spirit, I wish you all a merry Christmas. Alaha Natarak (Aramaic for:  God be with you).

- From Jehanzeb’s most excellent Muslim Reverie blog.

Ya Haqq!



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