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I’m not sure about you, but I am quite an avid “Instagrammer”. I love taking photos, although I am not a professional photographer!

Mevlana Rumi wrote:

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do”

I fully embrace what Mevlana wrote and use Instagram as an “iPhoto diary” (I am part of the iPhone tariqa you see!). I take photos as a way of capturing beauty, gaining inspiration and sharing stories with family, friends, work colleagues and people who I am closely acquainted with. My photos mainly consist of nature, my travels, some of the things I like, love and which inspire me. As the famous Chinese proverb goes: “one picture is worth ten thousand words”, and I completely agree with this.

God-willing, I am going to run an “Inspiration series” on this blog where I will share a photo everyday (or every other day) and the caption will either be a quote, famous saying, personal reflection, or a story. I might even get some of my Instagram friends to contribute as well!

Here is one to begin with.

"Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form" ~ Mevlana Rumi

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form” ~ Mevlana Rumi

“Misery is only for those without hope”~ Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Have Hope and remind others there is always Hope.

“Everything departs and doesn’t return except supplication: it travels higher seeking hope and returns with gifts beyond expectations” ~ Imam Afroz Ali

Hope. 

“As you struggle with whatever you’re struggling with, understand that the opening will come. The darkest part of the night is just before the dawn. Never despair, never lose hope, be patient, the opening will come, just as it came for the Prophet and for his community” ~ Imam Zaid Shakir

Hope. 

 We are people of hope. Our Prophet was a person of hope and never gave up despite everything he faced. Draw strength and courage by reflecting on how he coped with difficult situations. ~ Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Hope. 

“Hope is connected to Mercy. A believer has hope that no matter what happens, everything will be okay – because Allah is All-Merciful. It’s important to live with hope always. It is even possible to say, anyone with hope is a believer of some sort!” ~ Bosun Benyamin

Hope.

The only real assurance the heart craves us that there is hope, that there is meaning and there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is: Nur-as-Samawati wal ard, Light of the Heavens and Earth. ~ Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Hope.

“O my Lord, let not my hopes in You be cast back unfulfilled. Nor let my firm conviction (of Your Goodness) be thrown into disarray.” ~ (line 157), Qasida Burda by Imam Al- Busiri

Hope. 

Hope is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me

By Emily Dickinson 

We are people of Hope. 

Ramadan, Rumi, and Love

By Zeshan Zafar

Sunset. Ramadan 2015.  Iphotography.

Sunset. Ramadan 2015.
Iphotography.

It is part of life to have a difference of opinion with various individuals or groups of people. Terry Tempest Williams, in one of her books, states, “Most of all, difference of opinions are opportunities of learning.”

However, generally speaking, on many occasions, when this occurs, if one doesn’t manage it well or lacks comportment, the result can turn into a feeling of animosity. Furthermore, when uncontrolled, it can turn into hatred, a spiritual disease that sits at the core of one’s heart, dictating and defining one’s behaviour unbeknown to oneself.

When such hatred sets into our way of life, individuals choose to deal with it in a variety of ways. Some try to mask the emotion or seek validation for that hatred; others seek revenge or violent harm with devastating consequences to those they may have loved unconditionally at one time. We also see the modern phenomenon of social media being used to spread this hatred, unfairly sowing the seeds of doubts that stick and label many unfortunate individuals with “justified” gossip becoming an accepted discussion on each of our tables.

Such behaviour has unfortunately broken down many marriages, families, friendships, communities, business partners, etc. as this trait continues to become rampant to the point that we no longer discern the goodness and sacrifices that many still work towards in our respective communities, regardless of our opinions. Instead, we tend to sideline them and bad mouth them, thinking we are safe to share statements against people in the confines of our close circles, yet at the same time we do not realise the terrible human beings we are all becoming through the mismanagement of this emotion.

One of my teachers once said in one of his lectures, “Do not have a crablike mentality whereby when crabs are put in a bucket together, each one tries to escape by pulling the other one down, just to escape themselves, leading to collective demise.” This is exactly what hatred is doing to the development and growth of our communities in times when our real challenges are elsewhere and which we should all really be focusing our energies on. Unfortunately, we cry out emotional slogans such as “Muslim Unity” without realising that little can be changed without changing oneself.

One of the most notable scholars and thinkers of Islam, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, recently shared a profound insight from the Qur’an that states, “Indeed, God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” He stated that our community is besot by changing the world whilst forgetting the simple hard rule of changing oneself, and that the role of changing the condition of people as a collective is the role of God. So if we all focused on changing ourselves first, ridding ourselves of our hatred for one another and purifying our own hearts, God will take care of the rest.

The question arises, how can we move beyond this hatred and begin to remove this infection so that goodness can be achieved in the short time we tread on this earth, with the invaluable gift we have been given of life?

Many have their own mechanisms of dealing with this. Recently, whilst on a journey to the States, a dear friend of mine gave me valuable and practical advice on a way to manage such tendencies, by making a conscientious and sincere effort to reach out to individuals you feel you have wronged, or who you feel wronged you, or who seem distant to you. He suggested making a prayer for them to rid your heart of antagonistic presumptions by reaching out to them on a weekly basis, until all that is contained or constricts your heart disappears until you only have mahabba (love) for that person.

The Muslim community as a whole is known to be a giving community, especially when it comes to charity and hospitality, and they continue to hold tight to the noble virtues that are fast disappearing in a globalised world. Yet charity as described by our Prophet (peace be upon him) is also through actions and good deeds: hence being altruistic through your generosity, kindness, compassion, and time are equally important. Letting go of the self is important to move away at an individual level, especially in a world where the “self” has become a dictator over our natural inclination of moderation. Many argue over the ownership of ideas and whether certain ideas are relevant and can work. The best advice I was given was to let people learn from their mistakes but to not cause further rift that our communities are regularly torn by. Instead, you must choose the incision point that you feel can best help and support individuals that you perhaps disagree with, as our commonalities are far greater than our differences.

For those who feel they do not need help from someone sincerely trying to offer their support or help, remember even if such advice is not appropriate or compatible with your aims, never ignore it. You will always find a time when such advice can be found to be valuable at a different stage of your life or applicable to a different situation.

This is what distinguishes people of wisdom, such as Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, who represents someone that keeps love at the centre of how he lives (may Allah grant him good health and a long life), through his acts of consistency. He epitomises renewal in his scholarship, but, more importantly, through his self-discipline and observance, he embodies renewal in his character. He is someone who knows not of hatred. He is someone who cannot but love and be objective to those who may be fierce critics or who oppose him or his approach. What struck me in my observances of the Shaykh is that despite any animosity shown to him, he always takes the time to listen and offer his help as he would to those who are amongst his family. This is evident in the Shaykh’s writings and rulings that speak with kindness, graciousness, and nobility of the other. I am sure everyone can relate to an individual out there who embodies such prophetic characteristics, and if you can, do not be ashamed to acknowledge your shortfalls before making that effort of change required by those who inspire you.

As Ramadan makes its yearly entrance into our homes, lives, and hearts, this is what I will be aiming to strive for, being mindful and realistic that things do not happen over night. I hope others can have mercy with me and forgive me for any wrongdoing. Imam Shafi’i famously said, “Be hard on yourself and easy on others,” noting that our God is a God that is all-merciful and all-forgiving; these are utterances that we grow up on and repeat daily.

So if your heart has flipped once, let it flip repeatedly until you have nothing but love for those who are around you. This can be achieved only by empathising. Ramadan Kareem. I will leave you with the words of Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Rumi:

“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.”

Zeshan Zafar is the Director of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and is currently based in Abu Dhabi. 

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years”- Abraham Lincoln.

Another year older, and another year better, inshaAllah! 🙂 Others may disagree with me, but I think birthdays should be celebrated by expressing gratitude to the Almighty for giving us this life in the first place, and for allowing us to be part of the best community: the ummah of the Rasul ﷺ

Our birthdays give us the opportunity to reflect on all the blessings we have been bestowed with, rather than focussing on all the things that we wanted to have achieved by now, but have not. As each year passes, we should be aspiring to be closer to Allah and his Habib ﷺ, and we can use our birthdays as a way of reflecting back on how far we have journeyed towards our Lord. At the end of the day, what we have to remember is that Allah created us and allowed us to experience this world for some great purpose just as Imam al-Ghazali beautifully wrote:

“Know O’Beloved that man was not created in jest, but marvellously made and for some great end”

So, let’s use our birthdays to be grateful for the blessing of life; grateful for having loving parents who brought us into this world; grateful for health and Iman (faith); grateful for wonderful friends and companions; grateful for peace; grateful for hardships and blessings; grateful for………the list is endless!

And to end this note, here is a quote by Billy Mills which I love:

“My life is a gift from the Creator. What I do with it is my gift to the Creator”

Alhumdulilah for everything! 🙂

Sunset in Venice during my recent trip.  Photo taken on the iPhone.

Sunset in Venice during my recent trip.
Photo taken on the iPhone.

“…..Human beings have irrational elements. Why do you fall in love? Is there anything rational about falling in love? And yet a large part of my life has been affected by the fact that I fell in love with a woman, and it was a completely irrational event. I couldn’t tell you why it happened. I couldn’t even tell you how it happened, but it happened and I’ve got some children running around as a result. It was irrational. But it was one of the best things that I ever did. So we do do irrational things. And we shouldn’t be ashamed of those irrational things that we do if there is some type of satisfaction that comes out of it, if there is some meaningful event, if there is some purpose, if it fulfills something necessary to our humanity, to our being, then we cannot say it’s irrational…..” ~ Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

 

20130827-232930.jpgA few months ago, one of my best friends Nausheen and her husband Vaseem were blessed with their second child, a beautiful baby girl whom they named Hafsa. The meaning of the name Hafsa in Arabic means “young lioness”, and she has been quite a fighter masha’Allah. Baby Hafsa was born with a unique heart condition and was kept in intensive care for the first month of her life. For any parent, having to witness your child in such a condition is an immense tribulation and a complete test of faith. Although my friend will not agree with this when I say it, but despite the magnitude of her trial, she has shown an incredible amount of forbearance. As a way of expressing her anguish, she penned a beautiful poem dedicated to her daughter.

After seeking her permission, I’m sharing her poem on here in the hope that it inspires and brings much solace, comfort and healing to all those other parents who may also be dealing with tribulation relating to children.

It’s true how real love, tribulation, the loss of someone dear, yearning for something or someone is the natural driver to poetry. You have to be inspired by something significant that has happened, or is happening to you in order to write deep, meaningful and heartfelt poems. Just as Mevlana Rumi wrote his poems after being separated from Shams, Imam al- Būsīrī wrote the Burdah in loving memory and longing for our Rasul sallaAllahu alayhi wasalam. Poetry is a powerful expression of the human experience.

Baby Hafsa has a operation in the next few months. Please keep her and the parents in your prayers. 

Born on the edge, on a blade, on a thread.
Born with a time bomb, between life and death.
Born into love, born of passion and heat.
In the home that is built between two hearts that meet.

Born on a hope, based on trust and on faith.
Born with acceptance, yielding to fate.
Born into battle, born of pain and relief.
In the arms of two people who chose joy not grief.

From the depths of your eyes,
To the depths of our love,
To the boundless Mercy above.
From the fervour of prayers,
To the watchful eyes,
To the blood that makes these unbreakable ties.

It takes everything,
And takes nothing at all,
The sage and scientist,
To make your chest rise and fall.

Life fills your body,
My heart fills with pride,
A thousand whispered pleas fill the sky.
Wires fill your body,
We take it in stride,
These are your lifelines, we cannot cry.

The statistics aren’t wrong,
But your grip is so strong,
You want to stay with us,
Your fingers hold on.

Your patience,
I’m awestruck, there’s barely a sound,
Despite all their poking and prodding around.
Benevolence,
I’m moved, the blessings abound,
Love of strangers and family through you we’ve found.

From holding on tight, we’ve learnt letting go.
From reading and reading ’til there’s nothing to know.
From keeping feet grounded we’ve learnt how to fly.
From trusting God’s wisdom we’ve learnt not to ask why.

He made you, He shaped you with the simple word Be.
He made you perfect, rare, unique,
I’m honoured, so honoured, He entrusted you to me.

How is your love for me?

By Hatice Baltacı Çolakoğlu

“O Messenger of God, whom do you love most in the world?” He did not always give the same answer to this question for he felt great love for many for his daughters and their children, for Abu Bakr, for Ali, for Zayd and his son Usamah. But of his wives the only one he named in this connection was Aishah. She too loved him greatly in return and often would seek reassurance from him that he loved her.

Once she asked him: “How is your love for me?”.Like the rope’s knot,” he replied meaning that it was strong and secure.

Every so often ‘Aisha would playfully ask, “How is the knot?”. The Prophet ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam would answer, As strong as the first day (you asked).

This is such an inspiring conversation. We know that the knot in a rope can be very strong so it is almost impossible to untie. Maybe this is what our Prophet sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasalam wanted to  show us when he answerd Sayyidah Aisha that his love for her was like a knot. Unfortunately, these days we are not that patient in our relationships and do not pay a lot of attention to it, which is maybe the reason for the unhappiness that we go through.

I hope and pray for a better time for the Ummah, where we are trying to reach the love and mercy of our Prophet sallaAllahu ‘alayhi waalam and his belowed wife Sayyidah Aisha.

© Hatice Baltacı ÇolakoğluRabi’ al-Awwal 1433/February 2012

2 of my favourite quotes from ‘The Forty Rules of the Religion of Love – Shams of Tabriz’, taken from the “The Forty Rules of Love” by Elif Shafak:

“Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighbourhood of despair. Even when all doors remained closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied. “

“Patience does notmean to passively endure. It means to be farsighted enough to trust the end result of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be shortsighted as to not able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never runs out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.” 

” The tree does not withdraw its shade from the woodcutter. So, love even those who hurt. They’ll realise your worth someday.”

A beautiful friend sent me the above quote which really made me think and reflect. To still love those who hurt us takes a lot and very often its easier said than done. It reminds me of our beloved Prophet salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam and how some of his loved ones really hurt him and chose to reject him as a Messenger of Allah.  The hurt and grieve they gave him salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam, didn’t deter him from his mission. Just like the tree who does not withdraw its shade from the woodcutter, the Prophet salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam still gave and showed love, compassion, mercy and kindness to all those who hurt, ridiculed and harmed him. These noble qualities which he demonstrated in his conduct, softened the hearts of those who opposed him; they realised his worth and his uniqueness, thus accepted Islam. Those unfortunate souls who did not realise his worth during his lifetime will realise his worth on the day of judgement. Loving those who hurt us is a prophetic characteristic, and may we all aspire to achieve this; whether those who hurt us realise our worth in this life or not, Allah does and that’s all that really matters at the end of the day….


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