No Place Like Home

Just the thought of it ceases the rush around us, immerses us into beautiful memories and drowns our hearts in longing. Its comfort, security and love left behind, we embark on student life; living with strangers, keeping everything locked, managing budgets, planning where and how to get every meal, allotting time to do laundry and clean the room—rarely having time to think of it, yet many a times intentionally avoiding thoughts of it, but surely, it lingers constantly in each of our minds…

The advice of a father, the kiss of a mother, the laughter of a younger sister, the fights with a brother, the family discussions, the meals together, the airport reunions, the waking up to sumptuous breakfasts, the peaceful sleep knowing that everything’s taken care of for you… truly, there’s no place like home.

Screaming with the agony of loss, they held on to the corpses of their family scattered through the streets… drenched in their blood as they embraced them, crying for them to come back, this was the last exchange between too many parents and children, husbands and wives, and siblings in Gaza. Children sat crying around their mother’s body for four days, trying to wake her up, not understanding why she was sleeping so long. Orphans wept throughout the city, no one coming to claim them, not knowing that they had no one left. Thousands of others with throbbing gunshot wounds, hanging limbs or phosphorous burns flooded the hospitals, the doctors not sleeping for 15 days because the patients were too many. Every few hours there were fresh announcements of death in the wards, and another anxious parent or relative or spouse fell down with grief.

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Of Love, Commitment & Marriage in Islam

[A Marriage Sermon by Mirza Yawar Baig delivered at my cousin’s wedding.]

“And among His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind. So that you might find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and mercy between you: in this, behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect (think!)” Qur’an 30:21

As I am sure most of you are aware, marriage in Islam is a legal contract. It is a contract between two people in the presence of witnesses the Best of whom is Allah Himself before whom this contract is made and to whom the ones making the contract will be accountable. It is therefore essential that they understand what they are contracting to do. I recited before you an ayah from the Qur’an where Allah speaks about the institution of marriage and mentions specifically three special features of the way He created it. He uses three critical words in this ayah:

The first word Allah used is the word Sukoon .

Allah said: And among his signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind so that you may find Sukoon with them. So what is Sukoon? It is a word that we use in Urdu as well so I am sure all my friends who understand Urdu have an idea about its meaning. In Arabic, Sukoon is the opposite of Al – Haraka – or movement. In Arabic grammar the equivalent of the maatra on the letter is called Al-Haraka which tells us how the letter “moves” meaning, how it is to be pronounced. When there is a Sukoon on the letter it means that the letter remains as it is and will not move and will be pronounced in its original form.

Allah has used the term Sukoon as the first purpose of the marriage. He said that He creates mates for us so that we may find Sukoon with them. So that we may find contentment with them. So that we may find peace and tranquility with them. Not so that we now have a permanent sparring partner with whom to test our strength and show who has the upper hand. The first condition of the contract is that the spouses are undertaking to promise that they will henceforth lead their lives in such a way that they will make their companionship, their home, their being together and their support for one another a source of contentment and Sukoon for each other.

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Who’s Life is it, Anyway?

Let’s see, what do we need for a life again? Air. Breathing apparatus (your lungs basically). An object to contain that breathing apparatus (this would be the physical you). A reason for that object with the breathing apparatus to exist. Well, you don’t make or supply your own air so that part of your life isn’t yours. You didn’t make your own lungs neither your body, you were made with materials belonging to someone else (guess Who), and if robots are copyrighted then you definitely are, so you don’t own your physical self either. But since you use them, it means they’ve been given to you, you must know by now that NOTHING is for free in our world (not even the ‘free’ ketchup!), so unless you remember buying your own lungs, etc. or renting them, you can successfully conclude that they’ve been loaned to you. And they all have an expiry date.

Now let’s talk about the reason for you to exist. This reason can be anything, unlike our lungs and our air and our body, we’re free to choose the design, quality, depth and beauty of this reason and thereby determine the value of our life. Ultimately, life is the execution of this reason. Since you determine this reason, you can safely say that at least this part of your life is truly yours. Or is it? Take a look at everything that you do. Is what you own what you require or what is socially accepted? Does dressing up go beyond the natural and civil requirement of being clean and presentable? Or does it involve dressing up (or down) for the pleasure of someone else, and hence living that part of ‘your’ life for someone other than yourself. Does getting a degree mean fulfilling a job requirement or developing yourself? Does learning mean passing an exam or increasing your awareness? Does talking involve regular showers of swear words that add nothing to the point you’re trying to convey? Does your sense of modesty change with changes in location? Do you sacrifice your own comfort just to beautify your walk? Are you ashamed to say you’re unaware of the latest shows and music? Do you smoke because you’re not a man if you don’t?

How much of what you use, speak, watch, eat, wear, spend or do is because it really makes you more valuable? How much of your life have you lived genuinely for the benefit of your own self? How much of your life have you let others own, determine and destroy?

We all need to work on our lives, large parts of which aren’t ours anymore. If our ancestors were physically invaded and enslaved; our very identities are the slaves of the massive consumerist and hedonistic empire of the modern world. Freedom is not the right to do what you want, but the liberty to do as you should. Go back to your Creator’s Book. It will show you the depth and beauty you can give to your life and will free you from being possessed by this world.

The Best of Beginnings

His voice echoes off the surrounding mountains and ripples through the silence, as the students in the settlement are plunged in sleep, half-dead, what with all the maddening effort that goes into the mid-terms and assignment deadlines to meet; and the stress of the exams looming near is like an insomniac ghost residing in their subconscience.

Slowly, the creation around them begins to stir, birds crawl out from the warmth of their wings, trees rustle off sleep as they gracefully lift their branches, and the wind, nature’s messenger, carries the muezzin’s voice into their rooms, spreading a heavenly coolness…

While many are lost murdering their roommate’s alarm clock in their dreams, lights turn on here and there; and the journey to the bathroom begins. After some extended dreaming where people usually don’t, there comes the jihad in the name of Allah: literally face to face with freezing cold water! A short battle; and the victory of a refreshing wudu’ adorns the warrior and he is promoted to the rank of a ‘worshipper’.

Stepping back into their rooms, breeze meeting their drops of wudu and spreading serenity, worshippers dress for prayer as they think: Have they not been awoken from the death of sleep? Has not new strength replaced their fatigue? Have they not been gifted a new chance, a new life? Now clean and composed, they stand in blue darkness. In silence. Allah is watching. There is peace. And their hands rise…

“Allah is the Greatest”…..”Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds…” ….”You do we worship, and from You do we seek help …Aameen” … “By the Break of Day…..And the night as it passes away, is there not in these an evidence for those who understand?”…”Allah is the Greatest”.. “How perfect You are my Lord, Most Supreme”… “Verily Allah has heard those who praise Him”… “How perfect You are my Lord, Most High”… “… blessings and peace on you O Messenger of Allah”… “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger”… “O Allah, I have wronged my soul excessively…bestow on me Your mercy, You are indeed Most Forgiving, Merciful”………. “Peace and blessings of Allah… be upon you”.

To all student worshippers, preserve this prayer; it is the best of beginnings to your day. Cherish this prayer; it adds light to the face. Embrace this prayer; it is the peace that balances your daily stress. Never give up this prayer, it reflects our unity of purpose; for as our prayers rise up from our own blue darknesses, they reach Allah from the same place: a settlement of knowledge where many young people have come together to find friends who strengthen each others’ Islam.