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Nov 5, 2011 - guest blogs    3 Comments

Remember, Remember (guest post)

“Remember, remember the 5th November”

by Br. Khalid

For those in the UK, the above will be the instantly recognisable refrain associated with Guy Fawkes Night and the famous Gunpowder Plot.

Legend has it that Mr Fawkes and his conspirators were disenchanted with the then King, James I, and hatched a plot to kill him at the state opening of parliament.

By sheer luck, the police got wind of the plan and caught the entire gang in the basement of the House of Commons moments before they were about to light the numerous kegs of gunpowder they had dragged down there.

So pleased was James I with the foiling of the assassination, that he instigated a day of thanksgiving on November 5th (the day of the capture) and the rest, as they say, is history.

Besides reminding us that terrorism was alive and well in the 17th century, it seems odd that the day is  more remembered for Guy Fawkes than James I and like, Christmas, is nowadays just an excuse for family get togethers and celebrations (fireworks, bonfires etc) rather than having any real significant meaning.

It so happened that whilst I was pondering this quaint English tradition that I chanced over an interview with a certain Simon Cowell.

Mr Cowell for the uninitiated is the self styled music mogul of a generation and the man responsible for the X Factor.

Talking about the sudden demise of his father in the late 90s, he made these interesting comments:

“It was a horrible, horrible, horrible time, like I said. You believe everyone is going to live for ever and they don’t. And all the stuff you think you care about, the hit records and stuff like that, it’s just meaningless.”

“I can’t admit things, that’s why I can’t go to funerals and stuff like that. I find it very, very difficult to deal with that kind of reality. I shut myself off totally because it affects me so badly.”

It is said that there are four types of people when it comes to attitudes towards death and the afterlife.

  1. The first group are so engrossed with this life and worldly pleasures that they simply deny it’s existence, since remembrance thereof will fill them with sorrow at that which they have to forsake.
  2. The second group fear death because their repentance is, as yet, incomplete and wish for more time to rectify their affairs.
  3. The third love their Lord and are pleased with (and yearn for) the means by which they are reunited with their beloved.
  4. The fourth and last group, are those who are perfectly reconciled and content with Allah’s will such that they care not for themselves whether they live or die and happily resign themselves to the decision of their Lord.

It is always astounding how discussing death can be like the huge elephant in the room amongst non Muslims (as well as some Muslims) especially since everyone recognises it as a “reality” but still continue to deny it.

It is like that email which is  too hard to deal with or an assignment too complicated and wearisome that one would rather bury it and not have to deal with it in the hope that it will magically disappear.

It is indeed the height of folly that people strive with the utmost effort to chase their ‘dreams’ whilst completely ignoring the ‘reality’ before them.

Of course, Islam gives great counsel on the remembrance and contemplation of death and our Prophet saw exhorted us to do so often so that we would not be beguiled by this world and it’s charms.

With that in mind and with Halloween fast approaching, perhaps we should all be donning Grim Reaper costumes and go around chanting:

Remember, remember the shatterer of all pleasure

Not quite as catchy as the original ditty I grant you, but far far more relevant!!

Sep 16, 2011 - guest blogs    Comments Off

My Hajj Pilgrimage (guest post by muslimgamer.com)

This is a guest crosspost by Br. Gengis of Muslimgamer.com Check out his website it’s very cool!

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Salamualeykum and Ramadan Mubarak!

I was thinking about my next post and as going to put a story up about some tech stuff and I decided that with Ramadan 2011 here I would instead post about my Hajj Pilgrimage last year. I am hoping that it will be an interesting post for both the Muslims and Non-Muslims that might visit the site. Having spent a month between Mecca and Medina, I might split this post up over a couple posts so it doesn’t become too long. Also I won’t be going into every detail of the trip, think of this more as a 1 month Hajj trip packed into 10 minutes InshaAllah.

So Hajj, the pilgrimage that must be completed by every Muslim once in their life (as long as they can afford to do it). You hear from so many people about how special it is, how amazing it is and how it can change ones life once completed. In all honesty, it turned out to be so much more than I could have imagined. The saying goes,

“You don’t choose to go to Hajj, Allah invites you to Hajj”

SubhanAllah, it’s so true. So many Muslims will want to go but alas, can never make it. You may have millions of dollars and never have the chance, while the poorest of the poor with little to no money will make it to Hajj. “You may have millions of dollars and never have the chance, while the poorest of the poor with little to no money will make it to Hajj.” Personally I had been thinking about Hajj for the last few years and while each year my local Imam would invite me to come along, it always seemed as though my naseeb wasn’t to go. Either I couldn’t get the time off from work or financially I just wasn’t in a position to make it. Working in sales the busiest time of the year is the Christmas period, making it the most difficult time to get off. In 2010 Hajj coincided with the November and December months, making it look like it was going to be another year that I wouldn’t be able to go.

Then SubhanAllah, one thing after another came together and last year I completed my Hajj pilgrimage. I had been having problems with my manager at work and it was reaching the point where I was ready to leave. That week was particularly rough and I was ready to call it quits but like any other family man, you weigh up the mortgage, bills and payments vs. the need for income and you make your way to work because you have to. While some have the advantage of loving their job, unfortunately I was not in that position. So later that awful week at work, I received a call from my Imam encouraging me to go to Hajj this year, with a friendly reminder that there was only 2 days to go till the group had to get their Visa applications into the Saudi embassy.

I spoke with my wife and we had a chat about the situation and decided that enough was enough, this year we were Insh’Allah going to Hajj. I rang my manager the next day and asked if I could get the time off for November, the response very quickly was just a flat out no. He never bothered to ask me why, just a straight out no. Which In all honesty, I can’t really complain about, its work and it’s up to them whether they give me the time off or not. So I got home and spoke with my wife about the situation. We decided that if work wasn’t going to give me the time off, then it was time to have faith in Allah and resign, go to Hajj and come back to look for a new job insha’Allah. “We decided that if work wasnt going to give me the time off, then it was time to have faith in Allah and resign, go to Hajj and come back to look for a new job insha’Allah.”

So the next day I called my manager and informed him that I would be resigning. Soon after I received a call back from the director asking me what was going on? I explained my situation and informed him while I understood that due to the amount of time and the period that I am asking off my manager had refused, at this point in my life my wife and I decided that Hajj this was a higher priority for us and that I would be resigning as a result. Subhan’Allah, I got a call later that day from the director informing me that he would be giving me the time off and that he would like me to stay on.

Have faith in Allah and leave the rest to him :)

So with a day to go to get the Visa I got my vaccinations, photos and passport organised and I was ready to leave.

Soon I was at the airport with my fellow 27 Hajj’ees. I have heard stories of where the group is so big that there is no attention to individuals or where the group leader will basically drop you off and say there you go, go complete your Hajj. MashAllah our Imam is excellent, he provided courses leading up to leaving, provided reading material and also held classes in Mecca and Medina so we knew what to expect and made sure we completed Hajj properly. With a small and close knit group, alhamdulillah, all went well.
Jeddah

So after a long flight we arrived in Dubai and changed into our Ihram’s at the airport (the white clothing that people going to Hajj wear). We then flew off in a completely full A380 to Jeddah. Upon arrival I had what I thought was a taste of what was to come, the amount of people and heat both in large amounts. Our Imam kept telling us, whatever our weakness is, is what we will be tested on during the trip. Mine is large crowds….

When I got to the airport and was thrust into the large crowds I had a taste of what was to come. There weren’t hundreds or thousands of people there, there were tens of thousands of people inside the airport, outside the airport and around the airport. Friends had prewarned me about Jeddah airport saying that I should be prepared to wait for hours while they process all the incoming pilgrims. Our wait was around 6 hours so we were lucky. I have heard of many waiting for 10+ hours so our 6 was a breeze.

Umrah

After our arrival in Jeddah and our bus trip to Mecca, we arrived at our Apartment in Mecca. As we were there a few weeks prior to the Hajj period beginning, Mecca was not yet at full capacity, so it gave us time to settle in without the traffic and hustle and bustle.

As we prepared for our first Umrah (a pilgrimage to Kaaba done outside of the Hajj period), the butterflies began to sink in. The place I had been praying to my whole life, the Kaaba that I had seen in photos and videos only, the holiest place to any Muslim, soon I was going to be within metres of it….“The place I had been praying to my whole life, the Kaaba that I had seen in photos and videos only, the holiest place to any Muslim, soon I was going to be within metres of it….”

As the bus pulled up and dropped us off outside the Kaaba entrance I began to feel nervous and overly joyous. We went up the stairs and entered through the doors from the underground entrance, we kept our gaze lowered so as to only see the Kaaba once we reached the inner section and we could see it in all its glory. As we walked in through the main doors and through the initial crowds, our Imam gave us the signal to look up. SubhanAllah. There it was. It was around 2am and the the main floor was around half full with other pilgrims completing their tawaf, thousands of others around praying and making dua, Kabaa with its black curtains half up stood in front of me for the first time. Everyone in our group began making dua (prayers). I could see some crying, some smiling and others, like myself, just frozen. It’s that moment that I won’t forget, while I had prepared the dua in my head prior to getting there, once I was there, I just froze for a good few minutes just looking at its beauty. The Kaaba which was built by Ibrahim A.S, the Kaaba that we all pray to everyday, the Kaaba that is pictured in every Muslim household, was there in front of me for the first time.

After the initial shock and adrenalin had settled in and we all completed our dua, we began our Tawaf (going around the Kaaba). As I began my walk\jog around the Kaaba I began thinkingof how here I am with thousands of others, all in our plain white sheets making Tawaf as millions upon millions before me have. As I kept my eyes on the Kaaba, I thought of my Tawaf, then that of others, then the motion of electrons around atoms, that of of the moon around the Earth, the Earth around the Sun, the swirling look of the Galaxies, the orbits of other moons around planets unknown to us and how from this one action that I was doing, the same “orbit” is followed by so many other objects in the world. SubhanAllah.

The site of tens of thousands of people doing Tawaf is amazing. On my right could be a Brother or Sister from the poorest nation on earth, someone who has saved their whole life and traveled for months to get here, while on my left could be a billionaire who flew here on his\her private jet. Yet there, we all look alike and are all equal, the only one who is higher in Allah’s eyes is the one who is more humble and pious.“On my right could be a Brother or Sister from the poorest nation on earth, someone who has saved their whole life and traveled for months to get here, while on my left could be a billionaire who flew here on his\her private jet. Yet there, we all look alike and are all equal, the only one who is higher in Allah’s eyes is the one who is more humble and pious.”

After completing my Tawaf I prayed my 2 rakaat salaat (prayer) at Muqaam Ibrahim and made my way to perform sa`I (running seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah). As Wikipedia explains, “This is a re-enactment of the frantic search for water for her son Ishmael by Abraham’s wife Hajar. As she searched, the Zamzam Well was revealed to her by an angel, who hit the ground with his heel (or brushed the ground with the tip of his wing), upon which the water of the Zamzam started gushing from the ground…..As part of this ritual the pilgrims also drink water from the Zamzam Well, which is made available in coolers throughout the Mosque.”

After which I was off to shave my head :) I had never shaved my head before so I was a little hesitant, much like some of the others in my group. But there was no way I wasn’t going to complete this part of my Umrah, so off to the barber I went. There just outside the walls of Masjid al Haram is a section where the barber shops are all lined up next to each other. While it was not that busy that night, a few weeks later it was the place where millions of muslim men would get their head shaved. As you can imagine, these guys have had a lot of practice:) The way in which they wield a razor is frightening, but 30 seconds later, I was bald and with no cuts :)

With my Umrah completed, I headed off to our meeting point and met with the rest of my group to head back to our apartments for some sleep.

Next post I will run through Hajj Insha’Allah and upload a lot more photos of my journey insha’Allah.

 

Read Part 2 here: http://muslimgamer.com/hajj-pilgrimage-part-2/#

Aug 29, 2011 - guest blogs    1 Comment

Ramadhan in Mogadishu, Somalia (guest post by Br. Ikramuddin)

Ramadhan in Mogadishu, Somalia

 

Guest Post by Br. Ikramuddin

Ramdhan for me this year started during a layover in Rome, enroute to Nairobi with the final destination being Mogadishu, Somalia. We had no idea what the plans were, no specific expectations except knowing that what we would see and experience would most undoubtedly change us in some fundamental way… But what we lived there, no words can do justice to. May Allah Azawajal ease the suffering and heartache our brothers and sisters are enduring.

Fasting for us here in the West can never really be considered hard, I mean maybe there are days where it is little challenging but it cannot compare to actually dying of hunger… and this is what I saw. Five year old children who could not support their own weight and would simply flop to the ground, 2 year old children weighing 3kg… the weight of a newborn child! Children in unbelievable states of malnutrition, things I’d only seen in text books. Subhanallah… We don’t know the blessings we have.

We landed in Mogadishu on a one runway airport, off to the side was a derelict relic of a plane long since crashed and pillaged. No one had thought to remove it, then again who would have removed it. This is a place which has seen such turmoil over the past 2 decades, such violence and sadness and today’s famine is a culmination of so many factors all rolled into one… and who suffers the most? The one who walk 10,15,20 days to come for help, burying along the way, or in some cases leaving behind the little ones too weak to continue the journey. Yes, I said leaving behind babies, with a prayer that someone coming along from behind would pick them up, because no one in their group had strength enough to carry them forward. Ya Rabi, forgive us our neglect for sitting comfortably while so many suffer in unimaginable ways.

We had traveled with Islamic Relief Canada (www.islamicreliefcanada.org) and met up with the heads of Islamic Relief USA as well Islamic Relief World and Islamic Relief Africa, of us all there was really only one person who had gone into Mogadishu in the past few weeks, for the rest of us it was something nothing could prepare us for. After landing we left the airport accompanied by our security detail, a pick up with 6 AK-47 carrying guards, these guys were with us ALWAYS. At times I felt it was somewhat of an overkill but when weapons started blazing not 100 yards away and our driver has both the gas and brake pinned to the floor waiting for our local guide to jump back in, so that he can pop the brake and take off… I guess at those times I could see the importance. Not to mention the dozens, if not hundreds of militia constantly roaming the streets. You never know who is who and sometimes its good to carry a big stick aka 6 guys with big guns. I mention this only to give a little bit of the background, a little glimpse of the chaos, into which these weary, starving, dehydrated and broken souled travelers enter into.

That morning after landing we went for a quick little tour of what Islamic Relief (IR) was doing in Mogadishu. Actually IR is focused more in the southern areas of Somalia, areas which are not accessible to the vast majority of Aid agencies/NGOs due to the political powers which control those lands… a completely different story in of itself. The second place we went to was a day clinic being run by some local physicians at one of the Internally Displaced Camps (IDP camps)… our medical team consisted of myself, a podiatric doc and a nurse. The plan had been to only visit, but when saw the line of sick kids we couldn’t just leave. So  we joined in with the local docs and starting seeing the people.

One of the first people who came to me was a father with his little boy (3 or 4 years old its my own shortcoming that I can’t even remember his age now). The father told me the boy had measles, and I thought to myself how? Of course I had completely neglected to remember that there is no vaccination program in Somalia and that measles are endemic. So the father continued his history and told me that this is his 4th child, that the other 3 had been ill in a similar way and after they had reached a similar state as his current child, he had buried all three, one by one during the past week… both he and I knew that there was nothing more to do… This was the one of the first people I saw and the stories only got sadder. Person after person, heartbreaking story after story, this is all that there was. The largest hospital in the city is run by 3 docs and 6 interns, noone really gets paid. It is something they do in order to try and help their brothers and sisters. It is a crisis beyond belief.

There are dozens of tales I could share, but the reality is that no matter what I say, no matter what we see on screens or read in papers there is nothing which can truly capture the magnitude of what is happening. By the Mercy of Allah Ta’ala, I have been around the world on medical missions similar to this but I can truly say I have NEVER before seen suffering, especially that of children, in the way I saw it in Mogadishu.

I have 2 little boys and our concern is not how to feed them, but rather how to feed them the BEST of things. What makes these the little boys and girls in Somalia any different? They are also my children. So how can I sit here and not remember the Infinite Blessings of Allah Ta’ala and not give thanks for all that we have?  So for those who do end up reading this, please do one thing, pray for them and us, pray that Allah Ta’ala Showers them in Rains of Mercy both literally and Metaphysically and pray that Allah Ta’ala Forgives us and doesn’t take us to task. And for those who can donate, please do so… In Canada we currently have dollar for dollar matching with the Federal government, so every dollar donated is matched by a dollar by the government. Please check out the website there are some videos of IR’s work in Somalia as well as around the world.

Please remember me, my family and the ummah in your duas

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