Posts with category - Pain & Tribulations

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.

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.


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

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A Crime or Cause for Ascension?

Nina sits by her window in her dimly lit room.  The shutters are dark and dust-ridden, contrasting sharply with the light outside.  She grabs both shutters and pulls it open with a burst of energy!  Immediately forms and shapes become apparent in her room.  Things that were not visible before come to life.  Nina whispers to the gushes of wind that are now blowing across her cheek.  “Is it a crime to desire like-mindedness?  Is it a crime to desire stimulation of the mind?  Is it a crime to ask for proximity to the one who loves, who yearns, for the same pathways to Reality?” At this point Nina has climbed out of the window.  She is standing on the windowsill, her hands clasping the wood of the roof.  She basks in the radiant light and rush of the breeze.  Then she lets go.  She falls into the trust of her Creator, who will save her.

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Blind Eye but a Seeing Heart

I have been working in a clinic where vitamin and chelation therapy is done for patients diagnosed with various diseases, heavy metal toxicity, and vitamin deficiencies. I have become very comfortable with several of the patients, some have even become my friends. One day a sweet, elderly patient was leaving. I am very fond of her. Unfortunately she is diagnosed with cancer of the bone and blood. Last week she became blind in one eye. As she was leaving, I waved to her and called out her name. I wanted to wish her a warm goodbye. She is such a beautiful soul. However she responded very sadly: “I never thought that I would get blind…” I have seen her cry about this before. I didn’t know what to do, so I immediately spoke from my heart on a subject I love to talk about: spirituality.

I said (paraphrased): “There are people in this world who can see but have blind hearts. They lack compassion, they lack depth of understanding from within. You, however, have a heart of compassion and understanding. It is better to be outwardly blind but inwardly perceptive, rather than inwardly blind and outwardly able to see.” I think she and her daughter pondered this for a minute, responded with “thank you” and continued on their way. I hope I was able to help her in the slightest way. What else could I have said? Before saying this I used to just repeat “I’m sorry” to her when she was telling me about her loss of vision.  This time her daughter was smiling at me when they walked away. May God make it easy for them both.

Later it reminded me of the ayah in the Qur’an: “It is not the eyes that are blind, but it is the hearts.” (22:46)

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Weep not

Weep not, my dear.
Though my body is caged in by these bars
Shed not a single tear.

Though my body is miles away from home
And this island bordered by a cascading dome
Shed not a single tear.

Fret not that I can’t talk to you
And listen to your heart beat,
Or place my head in your lap
As the prophet did to sweet ‘Aisha.

I once longed to come close again
And wipe the hairs from your head
Stroke the heads of our children
And embrace you as if we’ve just wed.

I have found a greater joy
In this prison they call Guantanamo Bay.
I have connected to you
In a way no man can understand.

I am embracing you when you bow in salah.
When your sweet fingers count “SubhanAllah”
I feel the warmth of your presence when you cry to your Lord
In the depths of the late hours of night.

In the Tahajjud prayers I feel closest to you
I can almost feel your skin.
For when you remember your Lord so intensely
My spirit unites with yours-its twin.

Through dhikr I connect with you
And the more that you remember Him,
The more I feel your presence
And enjoy bliss through this union.

They say the union of bodies
is the greatest joy…
But my dear I beg to differ.
The union of spirits
surpasses it all.
Because I sit, imprisoned, but in heaven.

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Invocation of Prophet after being stoned by children of Ta’if

“O god! Unto You do I complain of my weakness, of my helplessness and of my lowliness before men. O most Merciful of the merciful. O Lord of the weak and my Lord too. Into whose hands have you entrusted me? Unto some far off stranger who receives me with hostility? Or unto a foe whom you have empowered against me? I care not, so long as You are not angry with me. But Your favoring help, that were for me the broader way and the wider scope. I take refuge in the light of Your countenance whereby all darknesses are illuminated and all things of this world and the next are rightly ordered, lest You make descend Your anger upon me or lest Your wrath beset me. Yet it is Yours to reproach until You are well pleased. There is no power and no might except through Thee.”

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Welcome O Pain! I have no choice but to embrace you!

“Happy is the man who avoids hardship, but how fine is the man who is afflicted and shows endurance?”- Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Welcome O Pain!  I have no choice but to embrace you!

As slow as the rising sun,
Creeping underneath my bed sheets,
It has come to awaken.

My eyelids open to the crack of light.
My mind recollects the tragic reality.
And I weep.

I weep and embrace this pain,
This incessant friend, this…
Reality I cannot run from!

In open arms I hug and squeeze this pain.
I cry into its fierce, unyielding body.
I accept it for it has been willed to me.

I cry at gems I have seen and lost.
At good memories that have died.
At transience.

I long for perfection, I had hoped…
That this gem would finally…
Be mine!

But no, they keep coming and going.
Parting like the autumn leaves from its tree.
And now I have cried up a sea.

Why do you tease me so?
Why do you rip my heart out,
And laugh in my face?

Why do you present to me?
What I can never have…
The Impossible.

I hold onto pain so tightly
For it is my only companion

And like a good parent,
Pain will slowly let loose…
Its reprimanding grip.

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We think we are safe when we have no pain.
When our lives are free from psychological strain.
And from material things we endlessly gain.
Mindless talk that accumulate in brain.

The only safety exists after we’ve been lain.
Into the earth with our deeds free from stain.
And knowledge of a blissful home we attain.
Our hearts overflowed with love in His name.

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Suffering and Patience

“In the intricate paths of life when difficulties and hardships confront a man, and the darkness of difficulty and suffering becomes long, it is patience only that acts like a light for a Muslim, that keeps him safe from wandering here and there, and saves him from the muddy marsh of disappointment, desperation and frustration.”
-Imam al-Ghazalli

“Your preoccupation with this world: eating, drinking, seeking more and more to eat, to have, to enjoy: your slavery at the hands of your flesh and your ego have made you inattentive to everything else. Only when the bird of the soul flies free from the cage of the flesh will this dream evaporate, and you will find yourself alone with your deeds. Then you will see that single companion whom you hug and press to your chest. Is it something warm and friendly, or is it full of snakes and scorpions and poisonous thorns? Then you will know what you presumed to be good was Hell, and what you thought was suffering was Paradise.”
-Al Jami’ The gatherer

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