My kid has been a little down, and a little bored with all this staying at home, and not seeing any people.
Well, I have too.
Today I went to World Market. Tell you what, since this pandemic started, we do everything together. I haven’t driven in a long while. So it felt good.
Anyway, it was all holiday stuff. So I decided to appropriate with a vengeance. All your holiday stuff iz belong to us!
I came home laden with stuff and announced, ‘Muslim Santa is here! All this stuff has been Islamized. Don’t worry, we are not selling out. I’ve blown Islamic words on it and now we are celebrating the Eid of Hazrat Maryam/Mary because why not her?!’ 🥳 📿
We pulled Eidul GetLostTrump crackers! Last time I did crackers, I was a 6-year old in London.
OK Islamic capitalists, time to come up with some new fun ornaments. Just a quick note: don’t overdo the camels and moons?
Today, November 3rd, the day before the U.S. election, I did a collective prayer with my family.
Many have died; far too many more will die if Trump is not removed from power. Allah, save us from this hateful, harmful, narcissistic destroyer of humanity. Grant us safety from him & his followers. Grant us a safe path out of conflict.
I see my family safe by me, and cannot bear to think of hundreds of parents separated from their babies and young children. Thousands unable to feed their children – as the Senate keeps funneling millions to the wealthiest and refuses to grant anything that helps the 99%.
Millions unemployed, losing livelihoods, unable to pay for housing, food, or warmth as winter approaches, with no helping hand, no one but You to call for help. Thousands mourning; thousands unable to care for the sick without healthcare, fearful of losing even the paltry support of the Affordable Healthcare Act.
We can only ask You. We have only You. And You have all power. This moment is a tiny one in the expanse of history. For us, this moment is a heavy one.
Whatever happens, we put our faith in You. I pray to You in the words of Your Beloved Muhammad ﷺ at the trials of Taif.
Today, perhaps for the first time, I had a little milad gathering with my kid. I miss those milad gatherings in Lahore. At the time, we had to sit silently and were told what to do when, but the first – the very first time, a milad hit me, was when I was about fifteen years old. I was reciting naats in a school milad. And suddenly, while reciting the final salam, I found the earth unsteady below my feet, and a stream of tears gushing down my face. I didn’t understand what was happening.
For our little home milad, I found a couple of videos. I wanted to start with Zammilooni because it connected us with Mother Khadija (radiallah anha) and the love of the Prophet for her. Then we listened to ya Nabi salam alayka, a sweet video that reminds us of devotions in the middle of the mundane, and the gift of salawat.
Then I did a recitation of Ya Nabi salam alayka with my daughter, as we stood to honor him. Then we recited some surahs for the Prophet, especially al-Kauther, and talked about it as a gift in his presence.
We listened to Umme Habiba’s گل از رخت آموختہ with the English translation. Then we talked about the metaphorical and lyrical language in Jami’s naat: how the love for the Prophet is often expressed in language about nightingales, ruby lips, cypresses, and eyebrows. We talked about how metaphors express profound spiritual realities and love that people can easily grasp.
We went on to talk about how Sufis often described spiritual experiences and the Sufi path in these metaphors and codes. And we left it there, opening up a path that she can explore later if she wishes.
My heart was overcome this evening after maghrib namaz. I also know my kid has been struggling with the pandemic and this artificial strange loneliness. So I gathered my spouse and kid for a Thursday evening zikr session. Turned off the lights and sat on the rug. I led them in Chishti-style zikr, like my pir used to:
First, because it’s Friday, durood for the Prophet.
Forgive us our sins, our mistakes, our forgetfulness; You forgive all sins, You cover all sins with mercy, not because we deserve it but because You are Compassionate. Then many times: استغفر الله (I ask Allah’s pardon) You are our Cherisher, our Sustainer, caring for our every need, before we even realize we need something, You grant it Then many times: ربنا الله (Allah is our Sustainer)
You are enough for us; in all our troubles and trials, we don’t have the power to overcome them, but You do. And we put all our faith in You. Then many times: حسبنا الله (Allah is Sufficient for us) Then many times: لا الہٰ الا الله (there is no god but Allah)
Then we sat, and I led a prayer:
O Allah, thank You for allowing us the memory, the hearts, the time to sit and remember You. Please always grant us the the memory, the hearts, the time to remember You always.
Allah, we are really struggling. This is a really hard time. We really want to get back to normal, to better times, so we can do normal things, go out and see people, live life properly and not be so alone.
Lots of people are struggling. Lots of people have died in this pandemic. Grant them all paradise. Grant patience and comfort to their loved ones.
This is a terrible pandemic, and we want to see it ended. We don’t have the power to do it, and we are so tired of it. But You can end it. You created it. Please end it. Help the people who are suffering from it. Grant a cure.
Lots of people want to work so they can pay for food and housing. Please help them all. We’re all so scared and sad. Please help us, take us out of this time.
We’re also scared about the election. This man and his government are hateful and they are killing people. We’re scared. Please let them be defeated, and take power away from them. We’re putting all our faith in You. Help us.
I’ve had a rocky journey across many terrains for my heart and soul. Now, I find myself rooted (that’s not the word though; it’s the opposite of rooted) in a pragmatic Islamic eclecticism. I wander between oases.
I don’t get everything I need in one oasis. Rarely, I find multiple kinds of treasure in one person, one community. I value these precious souls tremendously, but mostly my journey is a perpetually parched quest for sustenance.
I visit the Sufis for gnosis, Love, reverence, deep connection. But often, here, my heart is broken by the male-centric practices of many tariqahs. So I get up, usually quietly, sometimes grumpily, tired, and leave.
I go and find my Muslim feminists, seeking out a just sisterhood, a struggle for finding the heart of Islam that is just for all – an intersectional justice. But sometimes, even here, I find that my heart is not filled, and I am exhausted with struggle. So I stumble back to my Sufi circles for a quick drink of that wine.
But then here, I find a tendency to live in a bubble, to vanish from the everyday struggles of the poor and the dispossessed, and sometimes, worse, a tendency to support the status quo, the authorities, the amir, the powers-that-be.
So, from these Sufi circles, I run in a state of vehshat,terror, alienation, and I find solidarity warriors for political struggle, people who are allied with the poorest, the majority of the people, seeking change for them. And then, after a while, I often find among these a disgust with religion and spirituality, a utilitarianism that uses religion only as a political tool.
So I flee once more. And sometimes I seek the comforting home of meticulous Muslims, to strengthen a diligent correct observance, a religious discipline. But then these often tire me out, because they often do not care how I feel, they tell you to push yourself, no matter your personal circumstances or illness or perspective, and to follow the ghosts of the past, always, never to live in the present.
So I flee again, and I find the comforting laughter of ironic Muslims, the ones who know how to laugh at themselves and to make light of the very serious issues that weigh us down so heavily that we can barely move.
And on and on and on.
My friend Saadia Yacoob reminded me of her inspiration, the Prophet’s words: “Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler.”
Universities don’t have money to hire full-time faculty, but they spend millions on expensive talking head presidents, athletics administrators, and staff whose job description is the cutting of jobs and the micro-managing of world-class scholars.
The federal government doesn’t have the money to support healthcare and education but has plenty of firepower to destroy the world.
Went to a local Peri-Peri restaurant and, as we do in Chicagoland, found the proprieters to be desi boys. The music was very 1970s-1980s Bollywood. ‘Next time I come, we’ll have a singalong,’ I promised. In my teens and twenties, I didn’t LOOK at boys; now that I am securely middle-aged, I have earned the liberty to have singalongs. Especially with boys who could be my children, had I married at the Normal Desi age.
‘Why do you listen to such old people music?’ I asked them. Mystery solved. They were Karachiites whose families had moved to Malawi, until just 3 years ago. Their parents are basically me frozen in the 1980s.
Literally, in fact. We introduced ourselves. Kid says, ‘Oh, right; my mom’s name is Shabana.’
This Soulmate Project is interesting. More communities should launch customized matchmaker programs. I like how this one clarifies its particular Shadhili community and an allegiance to Shaykh Muhammad al-Jamal.
I strongly believe that before engaging in a soulmate search, we should figure out our religious, spiritual socioeconomic, and gender ideological frameworks. You should figure out and explicate your labels, sects, social locations, and so on.
For academics, this is similar to your theoretical framework. You can’t talk about your data without clarifying your perspective. You don’t really know your perspective without knowing what perspectives are out there.
That “I’m just a Muslim” or “I’m just a nice guy who wants to be happy” wastes everybody’s time. Nobody is just a Muslim. Nobody just follows Allah and the Prophet. Everybody has a lens, a preferred path, favorite virtues, deal-breaker vices.
I wasted a lot of time with suitors who were low-key hiding their anti-feminism, anti-Sufism, religious backgrounds, previous relationships, or their future plans.
It’s really important to say who you are so you can find your person. Don’t give someone else a big surprise after signing the marriage contract. What! You won’t travel to Raiwind every other month? You won’t let me travel with my bros every week? We won’t be spending every day with my parents? I can’t go to grad school and ditch my job?
So tell your potential mates who you are. But before you do that, you have to acknowledge to yourself who you are.