Celebrating the Birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20, 2014

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Monday, January 20, 2014 is the National Holiday to celebrate the 85th birthday of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, (born January 15, 1929). I do not have the words to do justice to his life and work, and so I will quote only two paragraphs that may help explain why he is one of this nation’s exemplary heroes.

“The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”  Pilgrimage to Non-Violence, 1960

“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Stockholm, Sweden, December 11, 1964.

God bless his soul and memory, and may we as a people learn from his example.  Amen!

Ya Haqq!


Once for each thing. Just once; no more.

January 16, 2014

Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too,
just once. And never again. But to have been
this once, completely, even if only once:
to have been at one with the earth, seems beyond undoing.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, The Duino Elegies


The Peace of Wild Things

January 6, 2014

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry 


Happy New Year 2014 :)

December 31, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Happy New Year to all my Brothers and Sister of every faith, race, and creed around the world!  May God bless you all this year with health and happiness, wisdom and love.  I can think of no better resolution for the New Year than to resolve to be of service in any way we can, and to repeat these  noble words and lovely prayer.

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

- Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Ya Haqq!


“Leave yourself and come.”

December 29, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“I stood with the pious and I didn’t find any progress with them. I stood with the warriors in the cause and I didn’t find a single step of progress with them. I stood with those who pray excessively and those who fast excessively and I didn’t make a footstep of progress. Then I said, ‘O Allah, what is the way to You?’ and Allah said, ‘Leave yourself and come.’”

- Bayazid Bastami

Ya Haqq!


Coming of the Magi

December 25, 2013

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 and to all a good night :)

Ya Haqq!

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

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Jesus was a Palestinian

December 23, 2013

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!



Sufi Light on the Tao Te Ching

December 14, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

The Ineffable (Tao), about which is spoken, is not the eternal Ineffable.
A name for the Unnameable, is but a name.
The Unnameable is what makes everything what it is,
By naming things you divide the Indivisible.

Only one who gives up all his desires can experience the Indivisible Essence,
One who still cherishes desires, will experience the Manifestations.
Both will see the same reality, but experience it differently.

The unity of Essence and Manifestations is said to be the mystery.
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders.

~ Tao Te Ching

La ilaha – Negate all false names. Only that Ultimate Reality now bear witness that the Unnameable alone IS. Shahida-Llahu ‘AnnaHu La ilaha illa Hu. – Qur’an 3:18

Who is more wrong than one who invent a lie, a conjecture about the Ultimate Reality?  - Qur’an 6:93

Thus whatever one speak about the Ultimate Reality never can do justice. Huwa as-Samad, the Ultimate Reality is Eternal. al-Qayyum – the Peerless. Huwa Allahu Ahad – That One is Indivisible  - Qur’an 112:1

That Reality is both al-Zahir and al-Batin, The Manifest and the Essence. It is both the First and the Last, al-Awwal wa al-Akhir.  - Qur’an 57:3)

Whatever in the Heaven and Earth are in a constant state of awe from the great wonder of the Great Mystery.  - Qur’an 57:1

Ya Haqq!

Note: Reposted and edited, with gratitude, to Sadiq Alam and the Technology of the Heart blog.


Silence

December 9, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

“Silence is difficult and arduous, it is not to be played with. It isn’t something that you can experience by reading a book, or by listening to a talk, or by sitting together, or by retiring into a wood or a monastery. I am afraid none of these things will bring about this silence. This silence demands intense psychological work. You have to be burningly aware of your snobbishness, aware of your fears, your anxieties, your sense of guilt. And when you die to all that, then out of that dying comes the beauty of silence.”

~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Ya Haqq!


The Democracy of Love

December 2, 2013

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

Whenever I do my one magic trick to entertain young children, making a coin disappear, they always look astonished and squeal with delight. When Quinn, my six year old granddaughter who loves the Harry Potter books and movies, insisted on knowing how I made the coin disappear, I made the mistake of showing her. A magician should never reveal his secrets, especially to children.

She said indignantly, “That’s a trick! It’s not magic!”

And I, like a pompous fool, said, “Sweetheart, there is no such thing as magic. The only real magic is love.” She turned on her heel and walked away angrily. I don’t blame her. To a six year old, the world is a magical place, and should be. And children always look for magic in their lives and stories, which to them is a source of power in a world in which they feel powerless.

But I also meant what I said, though she is too young to understand. All true magic, by which I mean the source of all mystery and miracles, is Love.

Here is another trick in two steps:

1. Take a glass and fill it with water, then empty half. You now have a glass half full, or half empty. Now empty the remaining half. You now have an empty glass.

2. Now hug your child, or mother, or wife, and tell them you love them with all your heart, and pour all your love into them. Are you empty now, like the glass? Or are you a vessel overflowing with love from an infinite Source that never ends?

Jesus (pbuh) kissed the leper, the whore, and the thief, out of love and forgiveness and healing. Because of the great expansiveness of his heart, miracles were possible. In the same way, three loaves and five fishes can feed a multitude out of that love made manifest.

That is how God loves us, without condition, without beginning, without end, overflowing our lives, if only our eyes and heart are open to it. Guilt, shame, despair, are all responses to not living this absolute truth.

It is the source of the Chi, the Ka, the Force, which are all names of the energy of the universe flowing around us, between us, and in us. Its source is Love.

This all-encompassing Love, which is the real name of God, is also the source of all love between one human being and another; between man and woman, parent and child, man and man, woman and woman. It makes no difference who loves who. It is all love, touching all human beings, all life on earth and in the universe.

Love is the only true democracy.

Ya Haqq!


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