I do not believe in conforming to the cookie-cutter paradigm
of what it means to be successful and accomplished by a certain age.
I am a striver of witnessing the blessing within the present moment,
which is the goal of every spiritual path, regardless of your theology or religion.
I enjoy diving into the unlimited depths of ecstatic poetry and wisdom that effuses through the books that I read.
I enjoy traveling and visiting the sacred cities and homes of our spiritual sages throughout time.
I feel utter bliss when I teach and see the glimmer of awe and wonder in the eyes of my students.
I feel soul tranquility when I meditate, and contemplate the signs of the Divine in the outward world
and within my own self.
I feel soul satisfaction when I march and actively speak to protect our beloved home, earth, and the oppressed inhabitants within it.
And most of all…
I revel in the bliss of sitting at the feet of my teachers, feeling more and more enlightened as they guide and radiate their experienced knowledge to the world.
We are so, extraordinarily, blessed.
Thank You, O Source and Light of the Universe!
For your phenomenal, endless gifts.
A reflection piece and poem that I wrote recently and was published in the Newsletter of the Perennial Foundation after the July 2019 Retreat:
Movement and Remembrance: A Reflection on the Hadra
Swaying from left to right and chanting “La ilaha il Allah”, and bowing downward and rising again to the chant “La ilaha il Allah” – both are powerfully rejuvenating mediums of remembrance that will hardly allow the one remembering to finish without feeling energetically transformed – on all three levels of body, heart, and mind. The hadra is a compelling reminder of the impact that occurs when there is a beautiful integration of the three dimensions of religion: sound activity (body realm), sound beliefs/thinking (mind realm), and sound intentions (heart realm). The hadra helps me to focus (meditatively) on the Divine with all three faculties which culminates in a tremendously gratifying experience. In addition, the use of drumming and melodious singing impacts my heart directly: the drum as a solidifying form and the singing as an expansion of the heart. During the hadra I feel at complete ease, and have a greater understanding of what “stillness” means. All of the distracting emotions and thoughts that inundate my heart disperse during the hadra. The movement of my body also helps me to “physically” dispel my thoughts and emotions. The hadra was also one of the components of the Majlis program that immediately caught my heart’s attention when I visited the Baltimore Zawiyah for the first time. It was magical.
The directionality of the specific motions of the hadra are also an aid in increasing my presence and concentration. As I sway to the left (while saying ‘La ilaha’), I focus on negating all false thoughts, ideologies, experiences, and objects that distract me from the Real. When I sway to the right (while saying ‘il Allah’), I focus on affirming the existence of the Real, the Source. As I bow (while saying ‘la ilaha’), I aim to submit myself helplessly before His illuminating Presence and acknowledge that there is nothing comparable to Him. When I stand up and slightly bend my knees (while saying ‘il Allah’), I focus on affirmation again, and acknowledging His Holy Perfection. The entire process makes one feel like they have just had a “spiritual shower” in which all impurities and negative thoughts have been washed away. Imagine, then, the one whose heart is in a perennial state of ‘hadra’.
Freedom through Observation
My feeling is an object.
One among thousands
A fluctuating and transient
Coming and going
Piercing and fading
That which observes my feeling
Is the Subject.
Real and Permanent
Subsisting and Remaining
Discerning and Illuminating.
When I taste this realization
I will surely master
The art of knowing my emotion
Without being enslaved to it.
There are those who do not seek to be known while they are alive. When they die, God makes them become known world over.
Shaykh Murabit is the teacher of many of our teachers, including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. Our world has lost a great and beautiful soul.
“May God reward him for his service to this deen and his love and concern for the Muslims. He was never known to speak ill of anyone. Once when a student was studying Khalil with him and asked what a certain word meant in the text, he explained to him that it was a slow and clumsy horse. The student then said, ‘like so-and-so’s horse?’ At this Murabit al-Hajj suddenly became upset and said, ‘I don’t spend much time with people because they backbite, so if you want to study with me, you must never speak ill of anyone in my presence.’ It is not well known by Muslims that to speak ill of someone’s animals falls under the ruling of backbiting.”
-Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
“My eyes fell upon the most noble and majestic person I have ever seen in my life. He called me over, put his hand on my shoulder, welcomed me warmly, and then asked me, “Is it like the dream?” I burst into a flood of tears. I had indeed experienced a dream with him that was very similar to our actual meeting. He then went back to teaching. I was given a drink, and some of the students began to massage me, which I most appreciated, as my entire body ached from the difficult journey.”
-Shaykh Hamza Yusuf
“People speak of the evil eye
But they overlook the good eye.
The good eye exists.
Just as the one who possessed the evil eye can cause illness with a glance,
The one possessed of the good eye can heal with a glance.”
-Habib Ahmed Mashhur Al Haddad
From ‘Signs on the Horizons’ by Michael Sugich
What does it take
To penetrate that heart?
How do I unlock
To the secret core?
What must I do
To tap into
that mysterious well
of unending love?
How do I request
a meeting with that heart
Guarded in its fortress
Of steel walls
and knights in armor?
Oh God! I rely entirely on You.
To blanket the path ahead
With Your mercy,
Love and harmony.
For only You
Can pierce through
The walls of our hearts
And allow us to feel and taste
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Shaykh Rumi
Every friend/saint of God is different, yet every saint is a beloved to God. Every sahabi (companion of the Prophet) was different, yet every sahabi was a beloved to God. If someone cannot see/value the beauty, talents, and light within you, do not allow the veils shrouding their inner vision to temper your confidence.
I spent about a week and a half this month with the Fawakih Family, which was a decision that I will never regret. They offered the exact type of environment that I needed to boost my motivation and energy in Arabic studies. The environment is holistic and rejuvenating for the soul: (students participate not only in learning and studying, but in traveling, serving, cooking, recreation, poetry night, swimming, and more). We had classes to stimulate the mind (Arabic grammar and morphology), as well as the heart (spirituality). I recommend this program and this beautiful institute to all those wayfarers on the path who desire to deepen their intimacy with the Qur’an and, ultimately, their Creator. It was certainly a feast for the souls!
When we travel the path of Love,
When we connect on the level of the spirit,
Do our differences in fiqh really matter?
Let us look beyond our forms,
Beyound our physicalities
Beyond methodology of law
Beyond the realm of labels
And unite in the Ocean of Love.
There is so much unnecessary bloodshed and violence in the world; just to name a few: Burma, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, etc.
We all love the same Being, let us unite in this Love. When we look with the eye of Tawhid, we see Oneness, One Love, One God, One Spirit, One Universe. When we look with the eye of multiplicity, we see insignificant differences.
We should think before picking up the weapon, “Am I killing another lover of God?”
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! It would be lovely to share this rejuvenating experience with others, perhaps as a mindful meditation coach one day myself.