12/30/2005

What Do Scientists Know About How We Learn?


A brief summary of the most important principles of learning and memory
by Daniel B. Willingham

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There are three things we would really like to know about how people learn: (1) how can you get people to learn new things; (2) how can you ensure that people can apply what they’ve learned; (3) how can you ensure that people will retain what they have learned for a long time?

How can you get people to learn new things?
The most important factor in memory is how the person thinks about the to-be-learned material. For example, most people think that they know what a penny looks like, but how many know a penny’s features in any detail? Which way does Lincoln face? Where does the year appear? Despite exposure to thousands of pennies over your lifetime it’s unlikely that you have learned this information. Why? Because when you look at a penny, you don’t think about these details. You think mostly about color and size, because color and size distinguish pennies from other coins. Thus the first principle of memory is that we remember what we think about, not necessarily what is in the environment, even if we’re exposed to it repeatedly.

That point obviously raises the question of what determines what we think about. What you think about when you see or hear something new depends largely on what you already know. In general, knowledge builds on knowledge. The more you know, the easier it is to learn new things. As an example, consider this sentence: “The fielder shagged the fly and the runner tried to double up from third, but the cut-off man rifled it home and the ump called him out.” This sentence is unintelligible if you don’t have some background knowledge about baseball, but if you do, it’s quite sensible. Thus the second principle is that what we think about is determined by what we already know. If you know baseball, what you think about when you hear this sentence is much different than what you think about if you don’t know baseball. Needless to say, when the sentence is comprehensible, it’s much easier to learn and remember.

How can you ensure that people can apply what they’ve learned?Psychologists have discovered that specificity is a basic characteristic of memory. Material is usually remembered best in the same context in which it was learned; that is, when people think about the material in the same way. For example, suppose you were asked to remember the word “piano” and it was presented in the sentence, “The overweight moving men struggled to heave the PIANO up the steep staircase.” Now suppose I later test your memory for this word by giving you this hint: “One of the words was something that can produce music.” The hint would be useless. I encouraged you to think about one feature of a piano (heaviness) when you first saw it, and then later try to give a hint that emphasizes another feature of a piano (music-producing). The fact that your memory system cannot use that hint leads us to a third principle of memory: memory is specific.

If memory is specific, how can we be sure that new material that is learned can be applied to a variety of situations?
How can you retrieve the right information from memory (piano) if you learned it in one context (it’s heavy) but are now presented with another context (it produces music)? The best bet to make memories flexible is to see the to-be-learned material in a number of different situations. For example, if you are trying to learn a theorem in geometry, it’s best to work a number of different types of problems requiring the theorem. That will make it more likely that you can apply it to novel, never-seen-before problems.

At the same time, it is important to be explicit about what is being learned. If there is a general theorem, it is essential that the theorem be stated in addition to being illustrated with examples. Giving many examples and trusting that people will, in time, figure out the general principle is a mistake. People may figure it out, but it will take much much longer than if you simply tell them the principle. Indeed, sometimes they will never figure out the principle. Most Americans have seen hundreds of movies, but very few can tell the general principles of how an American movie is plotted. (Pick up any book on writing screenplays, and you will see that these principles exist, and are closely followed in any American movie). Repeated exposure to examples does not necessarily mean that the general principles will be learned.

How can you ensure that people will retain what they’ve learned for a long time?
If you take Spanish in high school, how much will you remember ten years later? How about fifty years later?
Recent studies of memory for high school Spanish (and mathematics, and other material) have shown that two factors are crucial to the longevity of memories. The first is practice. People who studied Spanish over several years had a core knowledge of Spanish that they did not forget even after fifty years. That knowledge was essentially permanent. The second factor contributing to memory’s longevity is that the practice be distributed over time.

If you cram, you may remember information for a week or two, but distributing learning sessions is much more effective for maintaining the memories for years. Thus, the fourth principle of memory is that memory is long-lasting if practice is sustained and distributed in time. The implications of these principles of memory are straightforward. First, we must be aware that students will not necessarily remember what we want them to remember. They remember what they think about. If a lecture or a project leads them to think about irrelevant or incorrect material, that is what they will remember. Clearly, this doesnt’ mean that one must try to tightly prescribe students’ thinking every moment of the day, but it should be a guiding principle. Second, the more students know, the easier it will be for them to learn new material. Third, learning is most generalizable if students see material in a variety of different contexts, but general principles should be provided along with examples. Finally, practice is important, but practice must be distributed over time for it to be effective. Naturally, it is easier to draw implications than to actually implement them. Other considerations come into play in the classroom. Nevertheless, if one is considering how people best learn and remember new material these principles are well-established.

From Common Knowledge, Volume 12, Numbers 1& 2, 1999
© 1999 Core Knowledge Foundation

12/29/2005

Everything is connected - (Syriana Poster)

If fantasy is escaping reality than perhaps ‘reality’ is overrated. Perhaps, higher realities are penetrated only when one escapes the constraints of the physical mind and body that is only capable of understating dense solids. I say, sail away. And I’m lovin Mr. Badawi. I think, I will collect all his books now, God Willing. Meanwhile, here’s something to munch on…
=========================================================
“God is Absolute; all else is relative.”

[…]

“The first thing He created was pure light, or pure spirit, which amounts to the same thing. From that He created the rest of the universe in a descending hierarchy wherein the lower the realm, the more limited and opaque it becomes.”

“Our visible world, as well as other (to us) invisible worlds, take their contingent existence and reality from God. Higher, invisible worlds have their own purposes and realties just as our materiall realm does. All of creation is, of course, an interconnected whole, created by and entirely dependant on God; yet in relation to each other, each realm of existence is dependent on and a shadow of the realm above it, right up to the Attributes of God and, beyond that, God Himself, Exalted is He, Who can only be truly known by Himself. The higher the realm of existence, the ‘nearer’ to God it is, as it were, the more ‘real’ it becomes and the less conditioned it is in relation to whatever is below it. The normal everyday world we believe we live and function in is affected immeasureably by the realties above it, whether we are aware of this or not.”
“Knowledge of the invisible domain is not conjectural but based on scriptural evidence…”

“…these domains are within the direct perception of the Messengers and other illumined beings…”

"This knowledge recedes into the background and then disappears as people become more materialistic and opaque; however, without it, an adequate understanding of the human situation is impossible.”


“According to tradition, our world, the material domain when compared with the surrounding subtle domain, is no larger than a mother's womb in relation to the whole of planet Earth. One's escape from the constraints of this world at death and release into the relative freedom of the Intermediary Realm is thus comparable to one's previous escape from the constraint of the womb and release into the relative freedom of the terrestrial world. Just as for a fetus or a new-born infant the whole of our world must necessarily seem full of fantastic, incomprehensible forms and relationships that may only be comprehended through guided experience and study, so initially, for us, the realties of the higher realm may also seem fantastic and incomprehensible. They are, however, clear, distinguishable and usable; and their meaning and functions become apparent through study and guidance. “

[…]

“The created universe is a single closely interconnected whole. Whatever happens in one dimension has repercussions throughout the hierarchy. The visible and the invisible worlds are in constant interaction, both for good and for evil. The effect of faith and virtuous behavior is to unlock the gates between this world and the higher ones and to shut the gates between it and the lower ones. The result is the presence of Baraka, the spiritual influence or benediction that comes from above and pervades everything…”

Mostafa Al- Badawi
Man and the Universe
(Pages 1 – 11)

12/23/2005

Infant Room and Environment

Tip: Instead of blowing money at the local baby store, parents should look into professional companies that cater to schools as they’ll find educational learning aids that are not only cost effective but in the long run will play a much stronger role in the development of the baby.

Settting should focous around:
-fostering autonomy and early exploration,
-well-planned for easy cleanup;
-equipped with adequate storage and materials;
-designed with uncluttered spaces for active movement as well as cozy places for quiet times, outfitted with developmentally appropriate, high-performance materials to maximize opportunities for children to develop and to practice new skills as they progress
-exposure to an array of textures and patterns throughout the room
-The use of rugs in appropriate areas also can help in controlling noise while still allowing infants adequate freedom in their activities. (Children need soft, safe spaces )
-No shoe Policy (use covers on shoes)


My Favorite Picks for a Nursery Room:
- Fully Carpeted – encourage exploration
- Pants with padded knees – protects from carpet burn
- acrylic mirror at one end and clear plexiglass at the other on a crib or on a side wall (placed right above the floor) perhaps with a standing bar - promote a positive sense of self through exploration
- Snuggle Bug chairs - Comfy and cozy support for babies (4 months and above)
- Nest - A soft, safe play space for the very young. Infants can climb and crawl in and out, pull up, and cruise all around.
- Soft books – books that can be placed in the mouth
- Teething manipulatives - a variety of materials of differing size, shape, sound, texture, and color to touch, manipulate, and examine
- Crib (with wheels and storage space)
- Rocking chair
- Stereo -
- Diaper change table (w/ storage space) – placing a mirror directly above or on the side of the table with some sticky toys will keep the infant busy while you change the diaper
- bouncer
- soft gym/playmate - to develop early self-confidence along with large muscle skills, coordination, and a sense of mastery as they practice sitting, crawling, creeping...

====================================================


Focus should be on 'free play' and 'process' rather than end product. Hands on acitivites may create a mess but they keep the baby busy longer!


DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICES
leapfrog.com
AAP
Learning Through Play
Early Math
(www.pbs.org/parents/earlymath/infant_activities.html)
Scholastic
Zero to three
Curiosity, Pleasure and Play
PLAY ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN BIRTH TO NINE YEARS
Steps and Stages
Newborns: Growth and Development
Almost 100 Motor Activities for Infants and Toddlers
Early Childhood Growth Chart
Environment
Activities to Help Your Child Learn About Language
(www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content4/growth.chart/page2.html)
Communicating with Play
Understanding Toys

like ok...

After residing a year in the Kingdom of Lazidom, I find myself gravitating back toward my profession. While eating Cheerios couple of days ago, it suddenly dawned on me that I happen to hold certification in both Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Maybe it’s time I took myself a bit more seriously. And thusly, I’ve decided to revamp my educational philosophies and begin work on a variety of ideas that float through my unstable mind. Lately, I’ve been feeling seduced by the concept of ‘Home Schooling,’ and am thinking about creating some sort of loose curriculum -- just because. I have all this free time for another couple of months, might as well begin work on… perhaps an infant/toddler segment. (Will come in handy someday, eh?)

Couple of years ago, I had the chance of working with a corporate day care center. While I was mostly involved with developing and training teachers in the school-age arena, occasionally, I ventured into the infant/toddler rooms. While a professional in the school-age room I felt like a cross-eyed demented seal in the infant classroom. I was afraid to hold them let alone plan a day of activities for them. Though, by the end of that experience, I felt a lot more confident that someday when blessed with the opportunity I won’t necessarily be arrested for being the dumbest parent/teacher alive.

As I work on this project, I’ll list websites/notes I deem beneficial; and though I doubt I’ll ever get to the final product but when or if I do, I’ll list it as well.

Here goes nothing!

Why Teach?

Given the recent events, American Muslims stand in a unique position to revive the spiritual and moral dimensions of modern life while continuing to be loyal to the true spirit of moderation. Like our earlier counterparts, our community is not without precedence. Dr. Abdul Hakim Jackson at a recent lecture at ISNA illustrated the event of Hudebiya as a turning point in Islamic history, as it did something incredible -– it indigenized Islam in the land of Arabia. The seemingly defeatist contract allowed people to not only view Islam as a legitimate source, but also paved way for mutual discourse that led to a greater understanding of Islam. We too stand at a turning point in American history, as inheritors of an ongoing legacy; this is our chance to indigenize Islam by educating our surrounding communities.

No need to be over excited though because the profession of teaching seeks no ordinary teachers concerned with only transferring skills to bypass state mandated standards. It’s really not that simple.

First off, America's attitude towards its teachers is frequently ambivalent. We respect them and at the same time lament that they don't do more. We limit their resources, and then ask them to do the most important job in the world – educate our children. It doesn’t take much to realize that teaching is neither a lucrative field nor does it bring with it the glory or status worthy of a more ‘respectable’ profession as medicine or engineering. Albeit, while a doctor saves a life and his actions stops there, a teacher’s deeds effect eternity. After you’re done contemplating the low incentive professional teaching has to offer, think about the educational system itself.

Al Attas defines "education" as the progressive instilling of "the recognition and acknowledgment of the proper place of things in the order of creation, such that it leads to the recognition and acknowledgment of the proper place of God in the order of being and existence" of mankind. The current educational system however is more concerned with numbers and statistics than with value and meaning, where critical thinking skills are deemphasized in lieu of performance and conformity.

How is it then for an eager body interested in saving the ummah, creating an environment which provides an avenue for a body of people to create their own experience, allowing students to pose questions, create projects, participate, and develop trust and responsibility, to go about this? Yes, expecting all of this to occur in a policy ridden economically challenged classroom might be more on the idealistic side but at the same time the real challenge for a teacher is to make the best of her resources. To know that we are not without precedence but rather inheritors of an ongoing legacy that promises hope and change.

Teaching is not an easy profession and it isn’t for everyone. But someone has to do it as to a large extent our future will depend on how well we educate our surroundings today and to what extent we are successful in transferring to them the sacred vision of life we have as Muslims.

(Wrote this sorry piece couple of years ago, as well. it desperately needs to be revised but I like the place I was in when I wrote it, so it too goes into the time capsule.)

On the Brink of

I love this poem by Suheir Hammad. Enough Said.


March 19, 2003

On the brink of
tears, sanity and war,
I feel powerless, hope
less and less than alive.

What do we tell young
people? How do we say, "…your
voice means nothing to those
who think life is about power
over others and greed?" And where
is it safe to think for yourself and try
real hard to not want to hurt nobody?

I don’t want to hurt nobody, God knows.
In Iraq, children are looking towards
the night sky with fear, as though
there were no stars, only bombs in the cosmos.
And they are afraid of the earth because
they can count the cancers in their
hoods now, where once there were none. And
how do I tell American youth
that popular culture means nothing to
justice and everything to keeping them
numb to the world?
And how do I
scream when I have no voice left? And who
will answer these questions for me?

Not Rachel Corrie. She is dead. And no matter
what any army says, I have seen the photos
and that woman was wearing orange,
bright and alive one minute and dying
under rubble the next. Even I, it seems, have
developed a callous to the deaths of
Palestinians, because the murder of this white
girl from Olympia Washington has
my heart breaking and my blood faint. Something
like ten Palestinians have been killed since
yesterday, when a Caterpillar bulldozer driven
by a man demolished the home that was her body.

If anyone knows her family, please relay
to them my grief and my sorry.

You can still find her phone number
on the Internet for meetings and organizing. You
can still read her accounts of being in Palestine.
She was a good writer. There are
people who are writing,

"She should not have been there in the first place"
Now she is dead.

"Good riddance"
Now she is dead.

"Treasonous *****"
Now she is dead.

What do I tell young people about non
violence when they can see for themselves
how even orange bright and megaphone loud
and cameras and US citizenship will
not stop your murder? I recall
the days black boys were lynched and dis
membered for looking at white women, now
tax dollars are crushing dissent wherever it blooms.

Human shields for human targets.

There are words I am taking back. I reclaim them and will
no longer allow anyone to dictate my language. There is
no "right wing" a wing is of nature, and murder may be human, but
it is not natural, even if animals eat each other, is that what we are then, animals?
If so claim it, mother****er.


There is no "mother of all bombs". Blair, Sharon, Bush, all have
mothers and no matter what they do, there is something
they love. White power, oil, the need to be God’s only
chosen, whatever, but they love something, because their mothers
loved them. A bomb loves nothing, has no mother and is not about life. There
is
no mother of all bombs,
only more mankind self-destruction.


There is no safety in being a bully. I know
because I have been bullied and I know now,
with my first grey hair and all, that authentic
power is not about others but about self.

This is not a poem. This is not a threat. This
is a promise. God has a better imagination
than all of us combined and I do not
know what form retribution will take, but
I have seen karma happen and it will
again, and when it does I will chant
the names of the innocent and I will stand
with those who have kept their hands clean of blood
and their hearts clear of hate.


It is hard not to hate right now. But I
have been loved, I have loved and I know
that those who de-humanize their enemy are
only doing so to themselves. Peace work
is justice work is God’s work. Rachel Corrie wrote,

"Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are always well aware that your experience is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and, of course, the fact that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean."

She is dead now. And the ocean
will miss her gaze. Palestine will miss
her heart, but mostly her family will
miss her breath. And the president of the United States of America (when did that happen again?) has all
but declared war on Iraq, and so more deaths are promised.

What do I tell young people about any
thing? Especially humanity and morality. Slightly
a month before her murder Rachel wrote home,

"Many people want their voices to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself. I am just beginning to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against all odds."

More words I reclaim – Hero, Brave, Soldier. This
young woman did the un-thinkable, she did not
blink, did not half step, did not back
down in the face of death. What greater odds than
one lone female frame against a destructive machine?

What greater story to tell?

On the brink of war, may our power
come from the people Rachel Corrie was murdered
defending. On the brink of war, may our hope
come from one another. On the
brink of – wait – this is not a war.
on the brink of whatever new fangled
imperialist project this is, may Rachel Corrie
live in our resistance, in our pursuit
of justice, and in the spirit of sisterhood. On
the brink of war, may we remember how divine
human beings can be.

Suheir Hammad

Travesty

Travesty

A paragon of anthropological discovery,
I cringe myself to sleep
remembering days gone by
when I was the apple of my mother's eye.

My Ashy Carrion -- was once full of life
My jubilant cries made butterflies smile.

But now I lie preserved like blue berry jam -- famous yet lonely.
Five years of innocent play
can't compare to the splendour of this gloomy closet,
Though, i wonder what became of my older brother...

(5 yr old child mummy,.)Pitt Rivers collection , England)

(I wrote this couple of years ago. Our assignment was to pick an object from the collection and tell a fictional story from its perspective. Can you tell my anti-colonial sentiment seeped in, just a tad bit.)

12/20/2005

Notetoself: Read this every other month

Counsel to Fellow Muslims
Imam al-Haddad


You must be of good counsel to all Muslims. The highest point of this is that you conceal nothing from them which if made known would result in good or preserve from something evil.

The prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said, "Religion is good counsel" Support a Muslim in his absence as you would in his presence

Not to give him more verbal signs of affection than you have for him in your heart.

When a muslim asks you for advice, and you know that the correct course does not lie in that which he is inclined to do, you should tell him so.

The absence of good counsel is indicated by the presence of envy of the favors God has given other Muslims. The origin of such envy is that you find it intolerable that God has granted one of His servants a good thing whether of the religion, or of the world. The utmost limit is to wish that he be deprived of it. It has been handed down that "envy consumes good deeds just as fire consumes dry wood". The envious man is objecting to God's management of His dominion, as if to say "O Lord! You have put your favors where they do not belong."

It is permitted to be envious without rancour whereby when you see a favor being bestowed on one of His servants, you ask Him to grant you the like.

When someone praises you, you must not feel pride for his praises within your heart. If he has praised you for something you truly possess, say: "praise belongs to God who has revealed the good things and hidden the ugly things." And if he praises you for something you do not possess, say "O God! Do not call me to account for what they say, forgive me what they do not know, and make me better than they think."

In your case, do not praise anyone unneccesarily.

When you wish to give advice to someone regarding any behaviour of his that you have come to know about, be gentle, talk to him in private and do not express explicitly what may be conveyed implicitly. Should he ask you to tell him who told you that which you know, do not tell him lest it stir up enmity. If he accepts your advice, praise God, and thank Him. If he should refuse, blame yourself.

If you are given something as a trust guard it better than if it was yours. Return that which was entrusted to you, and beware of betraying trust. The prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

"He who cannot keep a trust has no faith"

"Three things are attached to the Throne of God:
Benefaction which says "O God! I am by you, therefore let me not be denied!"
Kinship, which says "O God! I am by you, thus let me not be severed!" and
Trust, which says "O God! I am by you, so let me not be betrayed!".

Speak truthfully and honor commitments and your promises, for breaching them are signs of hypocrisy.

"The signs of a hypocrite are three:
when he speaks he lies,
when he promises he breaks his promise, and
when he is trusted, he betrays that trust."

Beware of arguments and wrangling, for they cast rancour into the breasts of men, alienate hearts and lead to enmity and hatred. If anyone argues against you and has right on his side, accept what he says for truth must always be followed. If on the other hand he is wrong, leave him, for he is ignorant, and God has said:
"And turn away from the ignorant." [VII :199]

Renounce all joking, if very occasionally you do joke to assuage a Muslim's heart, then speak only the truth. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said: "Neither argue with your brother nor quarrel, and do not make him a promise and then break it."

Respect all Muslims, especially those deserving of merit, such as the scholars, the righteous, the elderly.

Never frighten or alarm a Muslim, never mock or ridicule them, or despise them.

Be humble for humility is the attribute of believers. Beware of pride for God does not like the proud. Those who humble themselves are raised up by God, and those who are proud are abased by Him.

There are signs that distinguish the humble from the proud: "that God may separate the vile from the good" [VIII:37].

Signs of humility include a liking for obscurity, dislike of fame, acceptance of truth whether it be from a lowly or noble person, to love the poor, associate with them, to fulfill the rights people have upon you as completely as you can, thank those who fulfill their duties to you, and excuse those who are remiss. Signs of pride include a liking for positions of most dignity when in company, praising oneself, speaking proudly, open haughtiness, arrogance, strutting, and neglecting the rights of others upon you while demanding your rights from them.



Imam al-Haddad on Giving Good Counsel to Fellow Muslims
Condensed from The Book of Assistance. Published by The Quilliam Press

Notetoself: Read this in 5 years

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.


If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

12/19/2005

The Art of Sacred Travel

"Mevlana Rumi tells the story of a poor man in Baghdad who dreams that a treasure is buried in Cairo under a particular bridge and thus sets off with great difficulty to retrieve it. In Cairo he is told by a policeman who takes pity on him that he too has had a dream that great wealth was buried in a house in Baghdad. It was the street and the house of the poor man who returned home to discover the wealth he believed was in another city. Rumi’s point is that it is often necessary to travel, at times experiencing hardship and duress, only to discover that what you had set out to achieve, was possible without having to undertake the journey. And yet without the pilgrimage itself that realization would not have been possible."
The Art of Sacred Travel
Nazim Baksh

(Erm, is the 'Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho based on Rumi's work?)

12/17/2005

Shaikh Ahmad Al Alawi


Shaikh Ahmad al-'Alawi Translation and commentary by Martin Lings (*)
(*) in his book A Sufi Saint of the twentieth century - Shaikh Ahmad Al-Alawi - his Spiritual heritage and Legacy. (Chapter, Seen from within)

After the Shaikh's death in 1934, the following autobiographical extract was found among his papers. He had evidently dictated it some years previously to one of his disciples: [...]

12/14/2005

Things that make you go, oh snap...

What He brings you -
What you bring Him -
What a difference there is between them!
(Hikam of Ibn Atallah)

Say, if you were selling something that was worth one dollar but someone came to you and offered you 70,000 dollars for it? Would it be a just transaction?
Say, you lived to be 80 years old and did nothing but pray and performed good deeds every single moment of your life. And for that someone wanted to reward you with thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon thousands upon… [Insert eternity here] of years worth of reward. Would it be a just transaction? (Attempting to paraphrase what i heard Shaykh Nuh say during an online class recording)

This really resonated with me today. Just the other day i was thinking about how lucky i am. Despite all my shortcomings, Allah's always blessed me. Why? Why is God so Compassionate toward Mankind? me? (im not complaining!)

It's like God creates situations just so He can bless me. Anytime someone’s looked down on me, God's blessed me; anytime ive suffered a loss, God's blessed me. Anytime ive made a booboo and felt bad over it, God's blessed me. Anytime, im lazy, He's created a conflict for me to resolve just so yup you guessed it -- So He can Bless me. I'm not being egotistical (ok maybe a little) but shouldn’t every human/spirit (whatever the heck we are) feel the same way? In essence, aren’t we all created in the highest of forms? (it's too bad we bring ourselves to the lowest of low) Entrusted with a trust even the mountains refused? gently guided with reminders? forgiven until the last breath?

When I look at what i have to offer...erm, it's sad. When i look at what He's Given me and Continues to Offer me, i feel embarrassed yet grateful. I love you God.

I wonder, if each subhaanallah will taste different now?

Ps. I never understood this hadith before but i think ive an inkling now. Like the Prophet (saw) who repented more than 70x a day, should we not be sincere and grateful?

Volume 8, Book 76, Number 474:
Narrated 'Aishan (raa):
The Prophet (saw) said, "Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and receive good news because one's good deeds will not make him enter Paradise." They asked, "Even you, O Allah's Apostle?" He said, "Even I, unless and until Allah bestows His pardon and Mercy on me."

Kodak Moment...

There are certain realizations, certain insights that come to us momentarily but disappear into the fog of forgetfulness soon thereafter. I once heard a shaykh say something about pure souls being the only ones able to carry the knowledge of inward matters (or any useful knowledge for that matter). As a person who struggles daily with the most basic of self-disciplinary mechanisms I find writing what I know (momentarily) may benefit me in the future -- when I might not be aware of what I know right now. I don’t know where I will be in the coming months or years. I don’t know what kind of spiritual state I will find myself in. I don’t know how much of what I know now -- will I remember then, so it makes sense (for me) to capture thoughts and moments I find interesting. (Kind of like how Dumbledore extracts his memories and places them in whatever that fountain thingamajig is called).

Also, I have this eccentric desire to pass on all that I know (and have experienced) to my un-conceived progeny someday.

Perhaps, it’s my family’s fault. You see, whenever we get together we love to share tales from our childhood, our parent’s childhood, and our parent’s parents childhood! It’s as though we’re comparing notes, on life. And I still find it hilarious that my older khalas, my mother, my older cousins, and my generation have at some point tried stealing my grandfather’s cigarettes. (not because we were smokers but for the thrill, silly!) (really, we never inhaled!!). My grandfather, always knew (come on, who wouldn’t realize a broken seal on a brand new packet) but never said anything. I think, my generation takes the award for thickness though because we opted to go for cigars instead of cigarettes- since we saw my grandfather and his friends biting the tip (sadly we didn’t see them spitting it out)- and soon after found ourselves regurgitating the nastiest stuff ever digested by mankind.

But I digress. Another family trait that’s very popular. So yes, I write things because I don’t want to forget them. I want to preserve not just my insights into this thing called life but also my experiences – no matter how dumb they may sound. I would like my children to someday see the different stages of me and perhaps learn a thing or two from my experiences.

How cool would it be for a child, when he/she begins to catch his/her sense, to discover his/her parent’s journals? Wouldn’t it be cool for a young woman to see her mother as a young girl writing about the same issues she finds herself struggling with?

12/13/2005

Oh what a tangled web we weave...

A collection of circles is said to be concentric if they have the same center. The circles on a bull's-eye target are concentric.









StoneHenge- What is the common phenomenon between concentric circles found at Stonehenge and in Sacred temples?







Concetric Circles found in American Southwest, Central Australia, Hindu Temples, Harappa - Pakistan, in Buddhist mandalaas, and many many more places ...leads one to wonder -- what is this human fixation with circles that have a Common Origin?

Apparently, we like them, as well!
====================================


"Let us visit the historical cube in Mecca to conduct a thought-experiment: Imagine you are suspended in space in a satellite directly above the cube in Mecca. Presume also that it is night and all the lights in the world have been switched off. Now switch on the lights that shine on the courtyard of the Great Mosque of Mecca in which the cube is located and also switch on the lights of all the mosques of the world.

This is what you will see: directly below you will be the black square of the Kaaba at the centre of a vast concentric system of white circles that emanate from it like ripples. The innermost circles are in constant motion around it, and they are packed close together. White wheels within wheels unceasing in their motion. They are encircled by white circles that have a space between each other. These do not move around the cube but they do sway towards and away from it. Radiating away are unmoving white dots that make up bigger and bigger circles at greater distances from each other.
What are these three sets of ripples that emanate from the cube and what have they got to do with God asking Abraham to repair the cube?

The three sets of circles we saw while being suspended in space above the Kaaba were gatherings of people in different acts of worship (the word "ecclesiastical" which means "of the church" is from the Greek word ekklesia which means an assembly or gathering of people). Closest to the cube, the Kaaba, are the pilgrims dressed in the stipulated white unstitched garments, akin to their shrouds, circumambulating; walking seven times around the cube chanting to God, "Labaik, allahumma labaik" -"I am here, for You, I am here". They form the first set of moving concentric circles.

The next set of circles are pilgrims in concentric rows: standing, bowing and prostrating to God in the prescribed prayer. If the first set of circles move along the circumference then this set of circle moves along the radius, where each worshipper, while going from the standing, bowing and prostrating mode, is moving radially towards the centre of the cube and then receding. From your vantage viewpoint up in the night sky, this second set of circles would appear as white rings that pulsate: expanding in width and contracting. Finally, you have the distant circles that are made up of white dots that are the mosques of the world: segments of great circles (were you to light up all the graves of Muslims in the world, they too would lie in concentric ripples emanating from the Kaaba).

Thus, the mosque is defined as a segment of a circle whose centre is the Kaaba. For instance a mosque in New York would be a segment of the circle that passes through Canada, and crosses the Arctic to Russia, Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Singapore, and then crosses Antarctica, Peru, Colombia and Cuba, before re-entering the United States. The circle is made up by connecting the mosques, the white dots you saw from outer space that make the circle whose centre is the cube in Mecca.

This global concentric system made up by all the mosques in the world oriented to a single centre is a geometrical analogue of Tawhid - a doctrine of the Oneness of God and the unity of all existence. Tawhid is the foundation of Islam. Hence the cube is an ordering device; it is a marker that locates the centre of the concentric system. In it, all the axes of our horizontal plane of material existence converge and connect to the vertical axis mundi.

It is as an ordering device that the second, and less known, meaning of the word Kaaba comes into play. Kaaba, in Arabic, means the "cube" and also "a shape that emerges", i.e. both the form and the emergence of form. If the form is the cube, then what form remains to emerge?

As an ordering device, the Kaaba is not the modest cube in Mecca but a monumental project that has, for over a millennium now, been redefining the world in its own image. It has been constructing its circumferences (without which the centre is a point without identity). Each time a group of Muslims gather in prayer or build a mosque, each time Muslims follow the Prophet's practice of sleeping on the right side with their faces towards the Kaaba, each time a Muslim dies and is buried in a grave that is always oriented towards the Kaaba, in each instance a fragment of a circumference is being put into place. Prayer-halls, beds and graves are all rectangles with their larger side facing the Kaaba; all chords of its circumnavigating circles. With the global consolidation of a sacred centre, the faithful barely perceive that with their bricks and their bodies, they construct and constitute an international installation, the mother of all Monumental Art."
H. Masud Taj

12/10/2005

The Realty of Fantasy and the Fantasy of Realty

A sage lived to be couple of hundred years old. Yet, he never bothered to build a roof over his head. One day, his people asked him, how come he never built a roof for his house? He replied: “Well, I knew I was going to live for only 900 years (on earth), so why bother?”


(Can’t recall where I heard this)

12/06/2005

Sakeenah

I feel like a kid in a candy store...

Men and Women in Islam, For the Love of Our Children, Internal Nature of Shari'ah and its Eternality, Islam, Gender,and Spirituality... and so much more, now available on Sakeenah


Inaugral Welcome Message

12/05/2005

Overview of Muslims in America/American Islam

Covering Islam and Muslims in America Video - Professor Abdul HAkim Jackson
Linked From:
Agnibeena
Professor Sherman Jackson

Also, enjoy first 57 pages of Islam and the Blackamerican

12/02/2005

She Is a Ray of The Beauty of God


Water overpowers fire by (its) terror,
(yet) it boils when it is inside a partition.

(For) when a pot becomes the screen between
(these) two, it makes the water vanish (and) turns it (into) air.


If you dominate women outwardly, like water (over fire), you are
dominated inwardly and you are seeking [and boiling in desire for]
women.

This is such a special quality in mankind, (since) love is lacking
in animals, which is due to (their) deficiency.

The Prophet said, "Women become very dominant over wise and
pious (men),

"Yet ignorant (men) become dominant over women"-- because
they go (about) in a rash and very hot-tempered (manner).

They are lacking tenderness, kindness, and love because
animality dominates over (their) nature.

Love and tenderness are qualities of humanity, (while) anger and
lust are qualities of animality.

She is a ray of [the Beauty of] God; she is not a beloved.
She is a creator; you may say that she is not created.



Mathnawi I: 2429-37

12/01/2005

Is it worth it...?

I used to be angry. I was angry about all sorts of injustice in the world, mean people, unfair treatment, Dumb Principals -- Bush! i was so angry that i hardly did anything productive. i was so focused on the negatives in my life, that as a result, refused to do anything meaningful or positive. and then, I was given two excellent pieces of advice:

1. Our circumstances will never be perfect. An effective teacher/person is one who makes the best of her circumstances.
2. You’ve got to take that rage, that anger, and turn it into something positive.

and now i feel calm, unless im constipated, then ofcourse...ok nevermind. here's something interesting:

============================================================

"One thing most communities have in common now is that the people are in a state of agitation. One of the things that attracted me was the genuine sense of tranquility, calmness, and serenity in the masjids. People are starting to lose the virute of rida – tranquil serene acceptance of Allahs will. It’s alarming that Muslims should feel so disturbed or agitated by today’s world.

We complain about negative stereotypes but that’s always been the attitude toward the believers by the non-comprehending world. True religion is about akhira, it’s about transcending the self; it’s not about gratifying or discovering the self. We should be proud the modern world doesn’t like us because it’s a sign of authenticity. Nonetheless, it’s also the case when Muslims when they view this hostility don’t find solace in the traditional virtue of rida. We find agitation and insecurity and we increasingly judge, because any the slightest difference between ourselves makes us feel insecure, we want the religion to be a monolithic consistency that gratifies our sense of insecurity."
Excerpt from: Reliance on Allah
Prof. Hakim Murad

11/29/2005

Crazy - Talk

Sometimes I feel like a hero(ine). Not because I’ve done anything heroic but because I’m the central character of THE MOVIE. I’m a non- earthly spirit, an alien, (legal ofcourse), that’s been sent down to this world to fight many fights, to fall in love, to win many wars-- to deal with my subjects justly and fairly. I deal with all sorts of fellow spirits but mostly Zombies. Sometimes I’m a zombie myself but then I wake up during sleep. While sleeping, my sprit leaves this earthly body and goes on great adventures I don’t remember the next day. Maybe because my vertical connection is weak, I remind myself occasionally I need to take care of my connection, but five times a day seems like eternity sometimes.

Just like a car without an oil change my ‘self’ is covered with rust. Performance isn’t up to standard. That’s where Lord Shaitanmort comes into play. He distracts me with ME. He’s the salt-water that makes my ‘self’ rust even faster. But he’s just an extra. I’m the real deal – the real McCoy! Only I hold the power to be the ultimate Hero(ine) or Villain.

Occasionally, though, I do report back to the Compassionate Source and occasionally I do talk to the Beings of Light that stand by me, even though I suck. Why yes, I’ve got Beings of Light protecting me, watching over me, whispering to me. Unlike Beings of Flesh they constantly pray for me, weird aint it? Actually, whats weird is that im in a middle of a science fiction movie and I have a go at the 'Oscar' but instead I choose to be a D list actress. Actually, it’s sad, especially since my mama always said I was a drama-queen.

11/27/2005

Ali ra...

"The sin which makes you sad and repentant is more liked by Allah (swt) than the good deed which turns you arrogant."

11/25/2005

Pedagogy of the Oppressed


“Like Paulo, become a threat, become a threat to the system!” exclaimed a very excited NYU Professor couple of years ago. (No, he wasn’t talking to Muslims; he was simply addressing a group of student-teachers).

Imagine the teaching power of a person who is banned and exiled from a country for teaching. Yup, that’s it. And no he wasn’t teaching his students how to make bombs, either. He was simply banned for his Educational Philosophies. Now that’s power.

Paulo Friere, was banned from Brazil and lived in exile for most of his life. One wonders, why and how he was able to cause so much fear among authoritarian governments?

“In Brazil, peasants who participated in the cultural circles not only acquired tools to unveil structures of domination, but also acquired literacy skills in a record time of 40 days. Thus, the reason that led to the cancellation of the literacy project and to Freire's imprisonment was clearly not its inefficiency, but the military government's fear of its potential political implications. Upon being expelled from Brazil, Freire found political asylum in Bolivia, but after three weeks another coup d'etat forced him to seek refuge in an effervescent Chile, where a few years later he would witness yet another military intervention and a new exile. These experiences played an important role in his political radicalization.”

==============================================================
Excerpts taken from different sources but mostly from here:

1. In 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed,' Freire examines the authoritarian educational system, and labels its practice as 'banking education.' In this model, the teacher is the subject of the learning process, and the learners are its objects; the role of the teacher is to deposit contents in the mind of the learner, as if it was a tabula rasa to be filled with information. Hence, the teacher is considered as knowledgeable and the student as ignorant. This oppressive model, says Freire, mirrors the attitudes and practices of an oppressive society in which to be is merely to have. He also deplores the dogmatic approach of authoritarian revolutionary leaders who do not want to waste time in dialogue, thinking that such time could be better used to 'reveal the truth.' For Freire, this 'vanguardist' approach is as banking and reprehensible as the education model carried out by the elites.

2. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

3. Paulo Freire recognized through this experience that learning which affirms the dignity of people can enable even poor men and women to become producers of culture, ready to overcome the culture of silence. The central objective of this method was to create a new level of awareness, to bring about a new consciousness among the people.

4. In opposition to the banking model, Freire proposes a liberatory or emancipatory one, based on a horizontal relation between teachers and learners (co-intentionality), on critical thinking and on social transformation. In Freire's model, the teacher becomes a facilitator, the traditional class becomes a cultural circle, the emphasis shifts form lecture to problem-posing strategies, and the content, previously removed from the learners' experience, becomes relevant to the group. For Freire, literacy implies as much the acquisition of language as a political process of citizenship, in which people take history into their hands. Hence, the departure point of any educational process is not the world of the teacher, but the world of the learner. He also suggested that a critical analysis of reality could start with a critical reading of the official curriculum. He pointed out that teachers and students alike tend to consider the curriculum as something given, a neutral content to be transmitted, without understanding that education is a political act. The more teachers and students challenge this naive perspective, the easier it becomes to engage in a critical analysis of social reality.

[to be cont'...]

11/18/2005

On Muslim Schools...



I’m surprised by the papers and articles I’ve browsed in the past few hours on Islamic Schools/Education in North America. Most authors believe that sending your child to a building labeled “Islamic School” will somehow transform him into the ideal muslim/muslimah, while sending your child to a public school will transform him into the illegitimate child of Britney Spears. Gulp?

Perhaps, I wouldn’t have ‘gulped’ if the following view was that of an uncle mullah or an auntie from back home but these views were of converts – Americans who’ve converted to Islam.

I went to a public school yet never tried drugs, wore small skirts, or had a bevy of boyfriends. I knew it was not part of the package to date before marriage even before I graduated kindergarten thanks to a very concerned mother. I don’t know why I didn’t try drugs, maybe because most students in my school weren’t selling drugs, or maybe because I was afraid my mother would whoop my arse (yes, we’re immigrants).
I’ve attended secular institutions all my life yet have always held a firm belief in God.

My learning of Islam began informally at an early age, at home. I grew up watching parents/grandparents reading salah, fasting, celebrating Ramadan and Eid. I learned maths and science in the morning and learned to read the quran in the afternoons. Solving mathematical problems or learning the Arabic language didn’t change my personality. Rather the change was the result of personal observation of models/stimuli around me.
I learned respecting elders was a virtue not from reading the Quran in Arabic but watching the way my mother treated her elders. I learned to love my elders not by reading salah in Arabic but by watching the lips of my grandfather which constantly moved sending durood on the Prophet (peace be upon him). My cousins and I used to try to outdo each other to bring water to one of my grandmothers sisters because she gave the best duas. Sometimes she would have to drink 5 glasses of water because we all wanted bonus points with Allah.

Having worked with two different Muslim Schools, I find it weird that the setting was only concerned with content but not how we learn to learn. Adding a Quranic Language and Islamic history course to a secular curriculum is somehow magically supposed to create an ideal muslim/muslimah? In most Muslim countries the practice of Islam is taught informally, outside of regular schools, not through formal settings like Islamic Schools or Sunday schools.

Learning is not something that takes place only in a classroom setting. In actuality, most of the learning takes place outside of the “classroom.” Even within the constructs of the classroom students not just observe the content but how the content is presented.
One could argue that learning how to learn is more important than the content itself.

Take Student X, a very bright child, placed in Hifz School XYZ at an early age. He can’t help peeking out of the door when ‘regular’ school-age students pass by during lunch break. He tells me he got hit by a hanger for doing it and is trying to learn his lesson so he can have his gaming rights back again from his parents. I wonder how much he’d love his religion when he grows up? (caution: example should not to be used to form ignorant generalizations about muslim schools in general.)
Meanwhile, theres student Y, an equally bright child, who is encouraged from an early age to question and explore, whose teachers treats him with unconditional respect, and whose parents lead a life that serves as a semi-good example for him. I wonder how different his perspective on life would be compared to student X?

I’m sure as new converts/reverts, lacking the moral support that comes with a practicing Muslim family unit, we strive to the best of our intentions and abilities to create an environment whose aim is to foster good moral values (Islamic values) and a desirability for God. But the creation of such environment isn’t found within cement or a concrete block with Arabic calligraphy; it is a process which begins with the birth of your child and ends with your last breath. If the child has the right support and role models from an early age, even a public/secular institution won’t lure him into sex and drugs. Similarly, abandoning your child to a poorly run Islamic school or once a week Sunday school won’t turn him into a Muslim scholar.

In conclusion, im not advocating one mode of schooling over another (heck, im thinking of home schooling, and I don’t even have kids, hah!), im just saying there are better arguments for creating Muslim schools than suggesting your kids will turn into cross-eyed-drugged out- sex offenders if you sent them to a public school. Really.

11/16/2005

Excerpts from Gifts From The Sea


"...I want first of all – in fact, as an end to these other desires – to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact – to borrow from the languages of the saints – to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible."

===============================

“... Because we cannot deal with the many as individuals, we sometimes try to simplify the many into an abstraction called the mass. Because we cannot deal with the complexity of the present, we often over-ride it and live in a simplified dream of the future. Because we cannot solve our own problems right here at home, we talk about problems out there in the world...
But can one really feel deeply for an abstraction called the mass? Can one make the future a substitute for the present? And what guarantee have we that the future will be any better if we neglect the present? Can one solve world problems when one is unable to solve one’s own? Where have we arrived in this process? Have we been successful, working at the periphery of the circle and not at the center?

If we stop to think about it, are not the real casualties in modern life just these centers I have been discussing; the here, the now, the individual and his[/her] relationships? The present is passed over in the race for the future; the here is neglected in favor of the there; and the individual is dwarfed by the enormity of the mass...”

====================================================
"Life is a gift, given in trust - like a child."
=====================================================
"The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere."
=====================================================

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

10/31/2005

Tranquility is attractive...

I don’t consider myself a religious groupie but I do find myself gravitating towards certain scholars, ideologies, and books. In order to better understand why I like listening to certain people over others I made the following observations:

1. I like soft, peaceful, and calming voices. I don’t enjoy screaming marathons nor am I moved much spiritually by a person who thinks the louder they scream (even if in Arabic) the better I’ll grasp the concept in question. Interestingly, I don’t have a soothing pitch myself, in fact, in moments of excitement im reminded by loved ones to control my volume. Does the pitch of our tone give an inkling of how we feel inside? Do I find calm voices soothing because I lack calmness within myself? Incidentally, I was listening to Mr. Winters (Abdul Hakim Murad) and I kid you not a bird started chirping in the background, as if it was enjoying listening to him. He’s one guy who has a serene and soothing voice. More power to him.

2. I like people who aren’t frustrated easily, who control their anger, and sort of have this aura about them that exudes contentment. You can say anything to them, yet they’ll smile, nod, and make you feel like you have every reason to be unreasonably whiny, and yet still find a way to gently push you into a positive direction. I don’t enjoy angry, argumentative, academics because they bring nothing but a feeling of frustration. There’s no feeling of excitement only boredom. There are some very learned experts out there but not all of them have the ability to impart the ‘energy-force,’ that makes us want to be better people.

10/27/2005

Transformation

"His wisdom was only in his head, it never penetrated his substance. A man might spend a lifetime reading spiritual book sand studying the writings of the great mystics. He may feel he'd penetrated the secrets of the heaven and earth, but unless his knowledge was incorporated into his very nature and transformed him, it was sterile" - Gai Eaton

10/21/2005

Faith and Belief



64:11 No Kind of clamity can occur, except by the leave of God: and if anyone believes in God, (God) guides his heart (aright): for God knows all things.

Truly amazing is the affair of the believer. His affair only contains good. That realization only occurs for the believer. If he is blessed with good he thanks God and in that there is good. And if he is afflicted with difficulty he patiently endures and in that there is good.
Sahih Muslim #7425

So much for Satan, eh?

interesting review and description of the words, Faith and Belief.
==================================================================

"The word "belief" does not mean what it once meant, indeed it means something quite different. We still regard it as interchangeable with the word "faith" and equate it with religious conviction which, in its turn, relates to "certainty", at least on the subjective level. In modern usage, however, it implies uncertainty."

[...]

"In origin the word "belief" relates to love and commitment to the beloved rather than to the notion of holding certain particular opinions, as we can see from the dictionary definition of the word "lief" (which has only recently fallen out of use): "dear", "precious", "desired". It derives from the Old English leof or liof with which there was a cognate and more or less parallel form, lufu, meaning "affection" and suggesting passionate longing. ... The word "belief" has come to mean "the holding of certain ideas", ...

[...]

"He makes the important point that the Latin word which stands at the very centre of the Christian faith -Credo ("I believe") - indicates, not a hypothesis which some may accept and others reject, but the acknowledgement of a fact, it is virtually equivalent to the statement, "I see that ..." Credo indicates allegiance to a perceived truth."

[...]

"In its original meaning, then, "belief" is an act rather than a subjective state of mind but, in relation to modern usage, it seems reasonable to ask whether the distinction the author makes between "belief" and "faith" is valid. The blight of subjectivism has affected all the terms employed in religious discourse. Faith, belief, thought have all been cut loose from the notion of ascertainable objective truth; they have been reduced to a matter of current intellectual fashions and personal feelings. "I believe in God" has come perilously close to meaning, I feel there must be a God but, of course, I don't know"."

"The Muslim however might say that faith is an acknowledgement of the truth, belief adherence to the truth, and thought validated only in so far as it reflects the truth."

"Believing", says the author, has come to mean that "an opinion is held about which the person who holds it.... leaves theoretically unresolved the question of its objective intellectual validity". Such a notion is, he points out, entirely foreign to the Muslim's perception of the Qur'an, and he adds that the idea that religious people are expected to "believe" this or that is "a modern aberration". The very notion of "belief" as it is now understood is, he says, entirely absent from the Qur'an, whereas words for knowing are 'frequent and emphatic". A mu'min is not a "believer", but someone who makes an act of faith, and faith "is something that people do more than something that people have". His definition of kufr is certainly to the point; it is not - he says - "unbelief" but, rather, "refusal", even "a spitting in Allah's face when He speaks out of His infinite authority and vast compassion... It is man's negative response to this spectacular divine initiative". When the Muslim makes the Shahada, he is not making an affirmation of belief. He is bearing witness, "corroborating an observable objective fact". The response of the "Yes-sayer" to the truth is not "belief" but "recognition".

[...]
Excerpts taken from: Book Review: Faith And Belief
by Hasan Gai Eaton

10/19/2005

Random Babble


I love love love looking at the sky. Couple of years back, I was discussing some student with the assistant principal, who happens to be an established writer. as i was walking away he asked me to look up. i did. he then said, "The sky is so much bigger than you and me."

i thought that was a bit weird at the moment (because it had nothing to do with our discussion) and i called him on it (because i thought he was telling me i was arrogant), (which he wasnt!), (he said so!), in any case, from that forward i cant help but think about his simple statement, everytime i look up at the sky.

The Universe indeed is so much bigger than you and me.
============================================================
Heard this today: why do we call it the 'mad cow disease' when in actuality it is the 'mad cowboy disease?' Cows are herbivores, then why in the world are they being fed dead animals. further, i was told that the local muslim butcher buys sick animals because theyre cheaper! what the??

i will never look at biryani the same way again. what do i do? how do i know im not eating an omnivore (which are like kind of erm forbidden)? worse how do i know im not eating the entrails of some poor sick animal whose been fed his dead mommy because her dead bodys cheaper than cow feed. barf.

do i raise my own cow? right. i think ill just have to eat more veggies and fish. fish is safe? yey.

============================================================
Whatever we perceive in the world around us tends to reflect who we are and what we care about most deeply, as in the old saying, "When a thief sees a saint, all he sees are his pockets."Ragip Robert Frager

============================================================
You can burn books but you cant burn imagination

The broken bond between heaven and earth can only mend by a prayer from a broken heart.

Your teeth hold your words, your brain remembers them.

(Have to look up her name)
=============================================================
Lead such a life, that, when you die, the people may mourn you, and while you are alive they long for your company.

He who trusts the world, the world betrays him
Ali (Ra)
=============================================================

10/16/2005

Does the universe appear to follow mathematical laws?


The Greek mathematician Pythagoras declared that numbers were the basic elements of the universe. Ever since, most scientists have embraced a kind of mathematical creationism though some contend that mathematics is not an ethereal essence but comes from people who invented, not discovered it.
"Albert Einstein, taking a different view of whole numbers, wrote that "the series of integers is obviously an invention of the human mind, a self-created tool which simplifies the ordering of certain sensory experiences."
Even if the human mind is born with an innate-wired –in-aptitude for mathematics that still doesn’t prove that it is just an abstraction of the human mind. We are part of nature -supposedly evolved from the same material that makes up the universe-a mathematical mind cannot evolve in an un-mathematical universe? or can it?

What is your view? Does the universe appear to follow mathematical laws? (finding similar patterns in nature, fibonacci numbers in flower petals, repeat of spherical shapes, etc..) What are the origins of numbers and the relationships they obey? did treating mathematics as a sacred science led to the boom in islamic architecture? Has anyone done any research on this subject? i sucked at math as a student but am willing to learn now!


Philosophy of mathematics

Bibliography of Mathematics in Medieval Islamic Civilization

Arabic mathematics : forgotten brilliance?

Multidimensional Math

10/12/2005

11:114 ...Be that the word of remembrance to those who remember (their Lord)...

"The Qur'an constantly urges mankind to "remember" - to become aware of their inner nature through this remembrance and to awaken that nature. These "pre-eternal" events are events that are perfectly real without taking place in historical time. If time is considered as a horizontal progression, these events take place along a vertical axis, one which stands hierarchically above all times and all places. Man's essence, because of his origin and nature, participates in this hierarchy. His actions, his movements (mental and physical) in this world, and the state of his nafs (essential self) that results from those actions has an impact on the full substance of his being - throughout its vertical axis. The Qur'an attempts to awaken us to this hidden aspect of ourselves - it is a reminder to a humanity that is "sleeping" and a call for us to awaken from our amnesia, our "forgetfulness" regarding the essential nature of our being. It is a reminder that beyond the horizontal aspect of our existence is a truly vast vertical dimension, an unseen ocean of possibilities and nascent potentials."
Irshaad Hussain

7:172 When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): "Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?"- They said: "Yea! We do testify!" (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: "Of this we were never mindful" (Remember?)

29:45 ... and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt...

13:28 Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.

18:28 And keep thy soul content with those who call on their Lord morning and evening, seeking His Face; and let not thine eyes pass beyond them, seeking the pomp and glitter of this Life; nor obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds.

43:36 If anyone withdraws himself from remembrance of (Allah) Most Gracious, We appoint for him an evil one, to be an intimate companion to him.

54:17 And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?

Book 035, Number 6471: Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying that Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, thus stated: I am near to the thought of My servant as he thinks about Me, and I am with him as he remembers Me. And if he remembers Me in his heart, I also remember him in My Heart, and if he remembers Me in assembly I remember him in assembly, better than his (remembrance), and if he draws near Me by the span of a palm, I draw near him by the cubit, and if he draws near Me by the cubit I draw near him by the space (covered by) two hands. And if he walks towards Me, I rush towards him.

While they dreamt they knew not that it was a dream; but they knew it when they awoke. And there is the great awaking, after which we shall know that this life was a great dream. Lao Tzu

"Seyyed Hossein Nasr puts it in his foreword, "that the alpha and omega of life should be the remembrance of God through all the diverse experiences that together constitute our brief journey here below which we call life, but which actually is but the prelude to that veritable life everlasting..."

How do i know that the love of life is not a delusion? That the fear of death is not like losing one's way, and not knowing that one is really going home?
-The Book of Lao Tzu

"Remembrance is the mightiest rule of the religion...The law was not enjoined upon us, neither were the rites of worship ordained but for the sake of establishing the remembrance of God." - Shaikh Ahmad al-'Alawi

10/09/2005

Lectures

(In this age and time, coming into contact with a pure and sincere soul is like receiving a much needed spiritual CPR. i completely adore Shaykh Abdullahs, synergy, humanity, creative thoughts, and his ability to connect with everyone - kids, elders, men and especially women. At the end of the session, his comments about "women led prayer" are especially moving.)

42nd Annual ISNA Convention
Muslims in North America:
Accomplishments, Challenges and the Road Ahead

Between Home and the Mosque – Muslims and Culture
Many Muslims are confused about the role that culture should play in their lives.What is the relationship between religion and culture? What are the standards fordetermining which diverse cultural practices are acceptable and enriching andwhich practices are to be rejected? Should imagination and creativity be subjectto Islamic norms of propriety? Speakers: Abd al-Haqq Alan Godlas, Umar Faruq Abd-Allah

Believing Men and Women as Partners of Faith
Allah states in the Qur’an (9:71) “The believing men and the believing women areprotectors (awliya) of one another;they enjoin what is right and forbid what iswrong,they establish prayer and pay the Zakah and they obey Allah and HisMessenger;it is those upon whom God will show mercy….”How can Muslimmen and women better demonstrate these characteristics of believers? Whatinternal and external obstacles prevent us from achieving this noble ideal and des-perately needed model of behavior?Speakers: Ingrid Mattson, Maliha Chishti, Abdullah Adhami

10/07/2005

Human beings trying to be spiritual or spiritual beings trying to be human?

'Who Are We' really? How do we identify ourselves when bone and flesh disappears through the decay of time? It is as though an invisible breath resides in us whose magnitude is yet to be discovered. Shape, form, reliability, strength, power, existence become meaningless once one steps out of the transitory nature of human flesh.

How is one to go beyond the corporeal identification of a human body? We don’t stop loving someone just because we can't see their human form, anymore. What do we love when we say, “I LOVE YOU!” What do we see when we look at someone? Their eyes, their wallet, or perhaps their aura? How do hearts connect, or do they?

Do we love the human embodiment of our parents or is it their spirit-- the very same breath that keeps us alive this second. Do we marry the physical manifestation of a self-destructive body or do we marry an energy that reminds us of our Origin?

There are concepts that can’t be verbalized into human language, yet they swim quietly in our subconscious, a faint reminder that the breath within is me - yet not Me.

10/06/2005

René Guénon


René Guénon

We live in a very similar world (probably slightly more retarded), a world that shuns religion but loves to dabble in Yoga, Sufism, and Kabala! Perhaps, now more than ever, there is the need to rejuvenate a Rene Guenon like approach – a methodology that explores the esoteric dimension within various faiths (that are popular among the masses), in order to reconnect with the Absoulte?
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
René Guénon (Shaykh `Abd Al Wahid Yahya)
by Martin Lings


The following is a transcript of a lecture given in the autumn of 1994 at the Prince of Wales Institute in London and sponsored by the Temenos Academy.

As regards the early part of the life of René Guénon our knowledge is very limited because of his extreme reticence. His objectivity, which is one aspect of his greatness, made him realize the evils of subjectivism and individualism in the modern world, and impelled him perhaps too far in the opposite direction; he shrank at any rate from speaking about himself. Since his death book after book has been written about him and the authors have no doubt felt often extremely frustrated at being unable to find out various things and as a result, book after book contains factual errors.

[...]

Now Guénon put himself the question: Since these people have rejected Christianity would they be able to accept the truth when expressed in the Islamic terms of Sufism, which are closely related to Christian terms in many respects? He decided that they would not, that they would say that this is another religion; we have had enough of religion. However Hinduism, the oldest living religion, is on the surface very different from both Christianity and Islam, and so he decided to confront the Western world with the truth on the basis of Hinduism. It was to this end that he wrote his general Introduction to the Study of Hindu Doctrines. The French was published in 1921 to be followed in 1925 by what is perhaps the greatest of all of Guénon's books, Man and His Becoming according to the Vedanta.

He could not have chosen a better setting for his message of truth to the West because Hinduism has a directness which results from its having been revealed to man in a remote age when there was not yet a need to make a distinction between esoterism and exoterism, and that directness means that the truth did not have to be veiled. Already in Classical Antiquity the Mysteries, that is esoterism, were for the few. In Hinduism however they were the norm and the highest truths could be spoken of directly. There was no question of 'Cast not your pearls before swine' and 'Give not holy things to dogs'. The sister religions of Hinduism, for example, the religions of Greece and Rome, have long since perished. But thanks to the caste system with the Brahmins as safeguarders of religion we have today a Hinduism which is still living and which down to this century has produced flowers of sanctity.

One of the points to be mentioned first is the question of the distinction which has to be made at the divine level and which is made in all esoterisms but cannot be made exoterically, that is, in religions as given to the masses today -- the distinction between the Absolute and the beginnings therein of relativity. The Absolute which is One, Infinite, Eternal, Immutable, Undetermined, Unconditioned, is represented in Hinduism by the sacred monosyllable Aum, and it is termed Atmâ, which means Self, and Brahma which is a neuter word that serves to emphasize that it is beyond all duality such as male and female. And it is also termed Tat (That), just as in Sufism, the Absolute is sometimes termed Huwa (He). Then we have what corresponds in other religions to the personal God, Ishvara, which is the beginning already of relativity, because it is concerned with manifestation, the term that Hindus use for creation, and creation is clearly the beginning of a duality -- Creator and created. Ishvara is at the divine level, yet it is the beginning of relativity.

In all esoterism one finds the same doctrine. Meister Eckhart came into difficulties with the Church because he insisted on making a distinction between God and Godhead -- Gott und Gottheit. He used the second term for the Absolute, that is for the Absolute Absolute, and he used God for the relative Absolute. It could have been the other way around, it was just that he needed to make some difference. In Sufism one speaks of the Divine Essence and the Essential Names of God such as The One, The Truth, the All-Holy, The Living, and the Infinitely Good, al-Rahmân, which contains the roots of all goodness and which is also a name of the Divine Essence. Below that there are the Names of Qualities, like Creator, the Merciful, in the sense of one who has Mercy on others, and that is clearly the beginning of a duality. In every esoterism this distinction is made even at the level of the Divinity. It cannot exist below esoterism because it would result in the idea of two Gods; a division in the Divinity would be exceedingly dangerous in the hands of the mass of believers. The Divine Unity has to be maintained at all costs.

Now Guénon, in this book, traces with all clarity the hierarchy of the universe from the Absolute, from the personal God, down to the created logos, that is buddhi, which is the word which means intellect and which has three aspects -- Brahmâ (this time the word is masculine), Vishnu and Shiva. Strictly speaking in the hierarchy of the universes these devas (this is the same word linguistically as the Latin deus), have the rank of what we would call archangels. Hinduism is so subtle however that though they are created they can be invoked as Names of the Absolute because they descend from the Absolute and they return to the Absolute. They can be invoked in the sense of the Absolute Brahmâ, in the sense of Atmâ, in the sense of Aum.

The Hindu doctrine, like Genesis, speaks of the two waters. The Quran speaks of the two seas, the upper waters and the lower waters. The upper waters represent the higher aspect of the created world, that is, of the manifested world, corresponding to the different heavens in which are the different paradises. It is all part of the next world from the point of view of this world. The lower waters represent the world of body and soul, and all is a manifestation of the Absolute.

In Man and His Becoming according to the Vedanta, Guénon, having traced the manifestation of man and having shown what is the nature of man in all its details, then proceeds to show how, according to Hindu doctrine, man can return to his absolute source. It ends with the supreme spiritual possibility of oneness with the Absolute, a oneness which is already there. A Brahmin boy at the age of eight is initiated by his father and the words are spoken into his ear, "Thou art That," meaning thou art the Absolute, tat vam asi. This shows how far we are from religion as understood in the modern world. But that truth which is called in Sufism the secret, al-sirr, is necessary in all esoterism in the present day, otherwise it would not deserve the name esoterism.

Another aspect of Hinduism which made it the perfect vehicle for Guénon's message is the breadth of its structure. In the later religions it is as if Providence had shepherded mankind into a narrower and narrower valley: the opening is still the same to heaven but the horizontal outlook is narrower and narrower because man is no longer capable of taking in more than a certain amount. The Hindu doctrine of the samsâra, that is, of the endless chain of innumerable worlds which have been manifested, and of which the universe consists, would lead to all sorts of distractions. Nonetheless, when one is speaking of an Absolute, Eternal Divinity, the idea that that Infinitude produced only one single world in manifesting itself does not satisfy the intelligence. The doctrine of the samsâra does, on the other hand, satisfy, but the worlds are innumerable that have been manifested.

Another point in this respect is that Hinduism has an amazing versatility. It depends first of all on Divine Revelation. The Vedas and the Upanishads are revealed; the Bhagavad Gita is generally considered as revealed but not the Mahâbhârata as a whole, this "inspired" epic to which the Gita belongs. In Hinduism this distinction between revelation, sruti, and inspiration, smriti, is very clearly made, as it also is in Judaism and in Islam: The Pentateuch, that is, the first rive books of the Old Testament, were revealed to Moses, the Psalms to David, the Qur'ân to Muhammad. That is something which Christians as a rule do not understand. They have difficulty in realizing, in the Old Testament for example, the difference between the Pentateuch and the Books of Kings and Chronicles which are simply sacred history, inspired no doubt, but in no sense revealed. For Christians the revelation is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh; the concept of "the Word made book", which is a parallel revelation, does not enter into their perspective.

Hinduism also has the avatâras, and that a Christian can well understand, that is, the manifestations, the descents, of the Divinity. Of course a Christian would not recognize the descents of the Hindu avatâras because for the average Christian there has only ever been one descent and that is Christ Himself, but Hinduism recognizes the descent as an inexhaustible possibility and it names ten avatâras who have helped maintain the vitality of the religion down to the present day. The ninth avatâra which is called the foreign avatâra is the Buddha himself because, although he appeared in India, he was not for Hindus but clearly for the Eastern world. The breadth of Hinduism is seen also in its prefiguration of exoterism which is the recognition of the Three Ways. These are still Ways back to God -- the three margas -- the way of knowledge, the way of love, and the way of action -- three ways which correspond to the inclinations and affinities of different human beings.

Another point which makes the terms of Hinduism so right for giving Europeans the message is that they have as Aryans an affinity with Hinduism because they are rooted in the religions of Classical Antiquity which are sister religions to Hinduism; their structure was clearly the same as the structure of Hinduism. Of course they degenerated into complete decadence and have now disappeared. Nonetheless our heritage lies in them and Guénon gives us, one might say, the possibility of a mysterious renascence in a purely positive sense by his message of the truth in Hindu terms. This affinity must not be exaggerated however, and Guénon never advised anybody who was not a Hindu, as far as I know, to become a Hindu.

His message was always one of strict orthodoxy in one esoterism, but at the same time of equal recognition of all other orthodoxies, but his purpose was in no sense academic. His motto Was vincit omnia veritas, Truth conquers all, but implicitly his motto was 'Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you'. Implicit in his writings is the certainty that they will come providentially to those who are qualified to receive his message and they will impel them to seek and therefore to find a way.

Guénon was conscious of having a function and he knew what belonged to this function and what did not belong to it. He knew that it was not his function to have disciples; he never had any. It was his function to teach in preparation for a way that people would find for themselves, and this preparation meant filling in gaps which are left by modern education. The first of these gaps is the failure to understand the meaning of the transcendent and the meaning of the word intellect in consequence, a word which always continues to be used, but the intellect in the traditional sense of the word, corresponding to the Sansrit buddhi, had simply been forgotten in the Western world. Guénon insisted in his writings on giving this word its true meaning which is perception of transcendent realities, the faculty which can perceive the things of the next world, and its prolongations in the soul are what might be called intellectual intuitions which are the preliminary glimmerings before intellection in the full sense takes place.

One has the impression that Guénon must have himself had an intellectual illumination at quite an early age. He must have perceived directly spiritual truths with the intellect in the true sense. He fills in gaps by explaining the meaning of rites, the meaning of symbols, the hierarchy of the worlds. In modern education the next world is left out altogether whereas in the Middle Ages students were taught about the hierarchy of the faculties and correspondingly the hierarchy of the universe.

Now I must for the moment speak on a rather personal level, but perhaps it may not be without interest. When I read the books of Guénon in the early thirties it was as if I had been struck by lightning and realized that this was the truth. I had never seen the truth before set down as in this message of Guénon's that there were many religions and that they must all be treated with reverence; they were different because they were for different people. It made sense and it also was at the same time to the glory of God because a person with even a reasonable intelligence when taught what we were taught at school would inevitably ask, well what about the rest of the world? Why were things managed in this way? Why was the truth given first of all to only the Jews, one people only? And then Christianity was ordered to spread over the world, but why so late? What about previous ages? These questions were never answered, but when I read Guénon I knew that what he said was the truth and I knew that I must do something about it.

[...]