Posts with category - Pain & Tribulations

Mindful Drum Meditation

Yesterday I attended a workshop at the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi Center in Manhattan. The teacher presented the different maqams (scales) of music in the Islamic world. She also taught us basic drumming techniques, which can be used on the daff (frame drum), darbuka, or rek. The teacher was a deeply spiritual individual, which made the class more lively and touching than many other drumming workshops that I have attended. There were about 9 students in the class – thus making the class intimate and cozy. We also had a session of mindful drumming, which was one of the most powerful meditation experiences I ever had.

Recently I made the intention to learn to become a meditation guide because of the happiness and benefits that it brought me and for others. However, something about regular meditation wasn’t enough for me. It lacked movement (as well as dhikr). I wanted to incorporate movement in my meditation, thereby allowing the peace reached within meditation to penetrate into my entire physical being. This is how I felt while participating in the mindful drumming. Imagine sitting in a circle with people playing the same rhythm on their drum as you, at the same time. The reverberations are powerful; they permeate throughout the room, bounce off the walls, and penetrate into our hearts. I felt immense healing and happiness – more than I felt in regular meditation. The vibrations of the sounds had a healing effect on my soul. We also stood up during part of the session and swayed with our drums. We were taught to “inhale and exhale” with our drums. During inhale we could kneel close to the floor, during exhale we could stand up and extend our drum into the sky. It was the perfect combination of movement, rhythm, music, and meditation. It was perfect. All praise to God! Now I have expanded my intention to be a mindful meditation coach. I want to be a mindful drumming meditation coach, and incorporate dhikr into it as well. May God facilitate what is best and with the most ease, and allow me to benefit others!

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Transformation

Some people shake your foundations. In one encounter all of your deficiencies fall onto the floor, leaving you naked, embarrassed. You desperately try to hold onto the last remaining threads of what you held as absolute truths of yourself. But no, those have flaws and holes too. Confused, bedazzled, you seek validation. But validation cannot be sought from sentient beings.

You are left alone with the scraps of yourself on the floor. You try to put them together into a coherent whole again.

This process is personal transformation. Painful, but liberating. Traumatizing, but strengthening. Life altering. Character correcting. Life mission improving.

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Salawat Naariyah (A blessing/prayer for the Prophet)

This is one of the most beautiful prayers I have come across for the Prophet Muhammad:

“O Allah, bestow seamless salutation and perfect peace upon our master Muhammad – through whom difficulties and calamities are relieved, needs are fulfilled, aspirations are attained, the best outcomes are achieved, and the clouds deliver their rain by virtue of his noble countenance. And bestow such salutations and peace upon his family and his companions at every moment that lasts the duration of the flickering of an eye or the drawing of breath, and do so to the number of everything that is known to You.”

Here is my reflection on the translation:

1. Peace is described as “perfect” and “seamless” which is fascinating – the fact that there can be levels and degrees of peace, and that we are praying for the most beautiful and perfect peace to descend upon the Prophet, his family, and his companions.
2. In addition to the afflictions that are removed, the needs that are fulfilled, and the aspirations that are achieved due to the noble status of the Prophet, the salawat then states that the clouds send rain due to his noble status as well. This is amazing as well because rain descending to the earth is being compared to the removal of afflictions and the fulfillment of needs. Rain is a powerful metaphor and symbol for God’s mercy and blessing. With rain comes many great bounties.
3. The salawat states to send peace to the Prophet, his family, and his companions to every moment equal to the “flickering of an eye” or the “drawing of a breath”. That is an impossible number to count! We cannot even fathom such a large number!
4. Lastly, the du’a/salawat then asks Allah to send peace to the prophet for the number of everything known to God. The number of everything is such a vast number again, and it can only be an infinitely ascending number, since God is always creating every moment we encounter. Every cell is constantly dividing, every experience we have He is creating, and every abode in Paradise is constantly becoming more beautiful. Insha Allah. And the fact that only God can know that number is proof of His Magnificence and Power, and proof of our meek and dependent servitude.

So in conclusion, with that one du’a/salawat, we are asking Allah to send perfect peace to the prophet, his family, and companions for an infinite amount of times. SubhanAllah.

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“Redemption” (My Parody to Shawn Mendes “Stitches”)

“Redemption” (Parody to Shawn Mendes “Stitches”)

I thought your foils would be no more
But I’ve learned the world was made to make me sore
It can cut deeper than a knife
But I have a Being to breathe me back to life

Got a feeling that I’m going under
But I know that I’ll make it out alive
With His help I’ll come out much stronger
Move on

Yes I may bleed until I can’t breathe
Shaking, falling onto my knees
But now I know of your deception
Got time for redemption
Tripping over myself
Aching, begging God to come help
Yes now I know of your deception
Got time for redemption

Just like a moth drawn to a flame
Oh, you lured me in, I couldn’t sense the pain
Your bitter heart cold to the touch
I don’t wanna reap what I sow
Cuz I can repent on my own

Got a feeling that I’m going under
But I know that I’ll make it out alive
With His help I’ll come out much stronger
Move on

Yes I may bleed until I can’t breathe
Shaking, falling onto my knees
But now I know of your deception
Got time for redemption
Tripping over myself
Aching, begging God to come help
Yes now I know of your deception
Got time for redemption

[x3:]
Needle in the thread,
Gotta get you out of my head
Needle in the thread,
With God I’ll transcend

Needle in the thread,
Gotta get you out of my head, get you out of my head

Yes I may bleed until I can’t breathe
Shaking, falling onto my knees (falling on my knees)
But now I know of your deception
Got time for redemption (Got time for redemption)
Tripping over myself,
Aching, begging God to come help (begging, “Allah, please.”)
Yes now I know of your deception
Got time for redemption

(Yes now I)
Know of your deception
Got time for redemption

(Yes now I)
Know of your deception
Got time for redemption

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Emptiness

“The bird that escapes from the trap of its ego has no fear, wherever it may fly.”

The dagger of hurt pierces you.
You tell the dagger that you deserve it.
It came under the permission of God.
Emptiness.

People look down upon you.
They desire not to be in your presence.
You think, they have found the Divine attributes within others
Let them enjoy the presence of God,
Manifested through the goodness of others.
Emptiness.

You envy the good in others,
the warmth, the exuberance that attracts.
You turn the envy into admiration of God.
You marvel at the beauty God places in others.
Emptiness.

Your parents ridicule your incompetence.
You accept your flaws and take their ridicule,
As a way of God correcting your adab.
Emptiness.

You admire the physical beauty in others and think,
“How beautiful must God be?”
Emptiness!

You admire the knowledge of others and think,
“How wise must God be?”
Emptiness!

You revile in your state, lowly before God.
You admire the fullness and unmatched power of Him.
You forget your own state, as you contemplate His.
Emptiness!

If you desire wealth of soul, seek emptiness!
If you desire happiness, seek emptiness!
If you desire company, seek emptiness!
If you desire wisdom, seek emptiness!

Empty yourself of your selfhood!
Empty yourself of your ego.
That foul creature that seeks praise, fame, popularity.
Empty it!

Remove the ego from your soul.
Forget yourself and surrender non-existence to God’s existence!
Be the moth that catches fire in the candle flame,
Burn yourself so that you reach height within the Flame!

Free yourself of the filth of this world!
The burdens of desire, ego, and self-worth.
Empty yourself, and you will find freedom!
“Die before you die” so that you are alive!


Life after death.
Calm over strife.
Finally, peace in emptiness.
______________________________________________________________________________________________
“The bird that escapes from the trap of its ego has no fear, wherever it may fly.”
“The world is like a mirror displaying Love’s perfection. Oh friends! Who has ever seen a part greater than its whole?”

These are two lines amongst thousands of Rumi’s poetry that Professor Chittick translated in his book, “The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi”. Chittick divides the content of his book into three sections (dimensions): theory, practice, and attainment to God. This is similar to Iman, Islam, and Ihsan, yet Rumi is specifically focusing on “theory, practice, and attainment to God” within the dimension of Ihsan. Thus, there is form and meaning (multiple dimensions) within Islamic esotericism itself.

The first quote above infers that the source of suffering arises from man’s own ego. Satan may tempt and whisper to us, but men commit sins and suffer from their own selves and state of mind. A person who is easily offended by the words of others places a lot of value on his/her own self-worth, when in actuality; we are worth nothing in comparison to God. Sensitivity is an attribute of the ego, and mankind will be happier if they accept the ridicule of others and humble themselves. The second quote downplays the world view of dualism and dichotomy. Everything, including opposites (mercy and wrath) is a manifestation of God’s oneness. The beauty in the world of multiplicity acts as a mirror of the Beauty of God. Thus Rumi warns us not to be deceived by beautiful parts, but by the Beautiful Whole that is the source of them.

I wrote the above more than 6 years ago, and posted it now. =)

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Solace for the Prophet -Isra wal Mir’aj and Seeing His Ummah

“When the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) went to ta’if, he had just faced the worst two weeks of his prophethood.  He had lost his wife Khadijah, his first wife, and his grandfather, his uncle… and when he went to spread Islam in Ta’if, the people there absolutely humiliated him.  They spat at him, chased him down narrow alleyways, threw stones at him.  For two weeks.

He was at one of the worst lows he experienced as a prophet.

Later, the event that is known to be Israa’ wal mi’raj happened, the holy ascension where Jibreel, the chief of angels, took the prophet (pbuh) to Masjid al-Aqsa where he lead all of the other prophets in prayer, and then ascended to the heavens to see paradise.

It was a kind of healing, a reward, a way that God comforted the prophet after his traumatic experiences. Very touching, very detailed, but that’s not the point of this post.

One of the things that happened when Jibreel was showing Muhammad (pbuh) around, was that he showed him his Ummah, the Muslims who follow him, his people.

Keep in mind that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is the final prophet. There is none after him.  And at the time of Israa’ wal mi’raj he had about a hundred followers at most.  A hundred was huge to him.

So he saw a crowd, a huge crowd, and tearing up, he asked Jibreel, ‘Are those my followers?’ And Jibreel said, ‘no,’ and he turned the prophet around…. and the prophet saw millions…billions of people standing in front of him. Jibreel said, ‘that is your ummah,’  and the prophet, peace and blessings be upon his soul, cried.”

-Reem Zohny

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The Resplendent Heart in Solitude

Only in isolation does the yearning get unraveled
Secrecy of night is the sanctuary unparalleled
Close your eyes and thoughts from empty, earthly clutter
Revel in blissful calmness of your gentle heart’s murmur
Gaze up and free your inner eye to grasp His Raining Mercy
And bow your ego down before His Great and Stunning Mastery
The heartbreak you keep hidden from all the world to see
Is the same place that He pours His Resplendent Light and Beauty

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Heartbreak (Two poems)

Begin Anew

When things aren’t going right,
And darkness has overcome light,
Disappointments cloud the heart
The time has come for you to start
Look within and see what’s wrong
Those inner flaws, detested for long
Furnish them and polish your soul
Begin anew, a person more whole

Path to Self-Mastery

One rough heart break after the next
This dunya gives you no time to rest
The ultimate, unrelenting test
That moves our souls to embark on the quest
To aim for self mastery and indifference to pain
The height of success, a noteworthy gain
With Light from above, our mission becomes clear
Let us journey this path in His trust and deep care

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Existential vs Social Suffering

Here is a powerful article written by John Powell regarding Spirituality and Suffering. I got it from a friend who attended an event on Social Justice and Spirituality.
http://ir.stthomas.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=ustlj

The author discusses two types of suffering that humans experience:
1. Existential suffering- innate to the human experience, trying to address meaning or meaningless in life
2. Social suffering-not innate to human experience and comes from structural violence.

Some profound quotes from the article that I liked:

“If spirituality is the engagement with the deeper sense of self, the divine or God, the narrow engagement with the egoistic self is the lack of spirituality. The suffering then that is caused by the separation cannot be healed by this small self. And it is this same self and the institutional arrangement that it collectively bring into being that cause suffering in the social world.”

“Throughout this article, I have been using concepts that might appear to be outside of the domain of secular society and even utopian. I have asserted that the work to bridge the spiritual and the secular has to be informed by suffering and love. I have also asserted that spirituality calls us to move beyond the egoistic self to something deeper, more intimate, and authentic, but less private. Finally, I have asserted the need for recognition of our interconnectedness and our interbeing. It would be easy to assume that this call is otherworldly and idealistic; but properly understood it is neither. The call for having this project be informed by love requires a love that is engaged in our situatedness with all its imperfections. It is not calling for an idealistic love. Instead this is a call for what Habermas refers to as a regulative idea, which is an idea that orients the vision and the direction of this project but is grounded in concrete reality. This idea can save us from being lost in a means without a sense of an end. But we must hold these ideas or ends open to revision. This requires that we create our structures necessary to support these ideas. It also requires that the ideas are recursively related to the reality we are co-creating. We have not created much space to recognize our interbeing.”

“If one rejects the first part of my assertion that the suffering of an individual is a cause for concern and engagement, then there is no reason to engage the role of institutions and structures in producing suffering. I have been asserting that the issue of suffering, even in the secular space, is a fundamental spiritual concern. And therefore one must be cognizant of the source of that suffering. It is particularly troublesome when one is actively or passively the beneficiary of such suffering. What does owning a slave do to the spiritual development of the slave master as well as the slave?

This has been explored by Hegel and Fanon, who address the relationship between the master and the servant.  But the question needs to be enlarged. To focus on the relationship between the master and the slave still looks at the relationship in individualistic terms. Slavery in the United States was a peculiar institution that affected the entire society including non-slave holding whites and free blacks. What I am asserting is that this institutional arrangement affects the spirit of the nation and all those in it.”

“I have talked about the need to address suffering that is both ontologically based as wel as socially based. But there is another important dimension to spirituality. We are not only pushed by suffering to something deeper and larger than the egoistic self, we are also pulled. What pulls us is love. Love gives us the hope and reality of reconnecting. It heals the sense of loss and separation that haunts the egoistic self. And for love to be realized, the ego is called beyond self. The very self-containment of the ego limits it to a narcissistic love that can never move beyond itself and is therefore always trapped in separation. It is for this reason that virtually all spiritual practices require one moving beyond the self. We are pushed out of the prison of separation by the suffering of isolation. We are pulled out by the hope of love. It is no wonder that love plays such an important role in major religions. In a world that is unjust, hard, and rigid, there is not only a great deal of surplus suffering; there is also little space for love.”

“There is reason to suggest that as we deny the other or use structure to do the work of social distancing and denial, which we deny ourselves and our spiritual lives suffer. Then what is our spiritual relationship to these self-denying structures when they are already in place? …The engagement with the suffering of others is not just a matter of service for an always otherwise spiritual being but a way to know and claim our own spirituality. “

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Prayer of the Oppressed-Portion

O infinite in beauty, whose endless good befalls,
the creatures You have made, so answer all our calls!

You alone save drowning souls, so gracious with our states,
rescuing the doomed, relieving our dire straits:

Constriction is increasing, there is no cure in sight,
So hasten to our needs, respond to set them right!

Our hands are raised to You, our palms are open wide:
We seek sincerely endless grace You do provide.

Be gentle with our souls in all You have decreed,
Bestow on us what pleases You in what we need.

Replace our state of hardship with Your gentle ease,
And guide us with Your power’s prevailing breeze,

And place our status over those who took our lands,
Constrain their evil now, and tightly bind their hands;

Overcome our foes with Your subduing might,
Unravel all their hopes, and force them to take flight;

Deter their evil aims, and dash their unjust plan;
Repel them from our gates, and mystify each man.

Be swift in justice, Lord, in this our anxious hour,
For they cannot remove an atom of Your power.

Ameen.

-Dua’ an-Nasiri: The Prayer of the Oppressed

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