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


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)


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!

Learning Through Play
Early Math
Zero to three
Curiosity, Pleasure and Play
Steps and Stages
Newborns: Growth and Development
Almost 100 Motor Activities for Infants and Toddlers
Early Childhood Growth Chart
Activities to Help Your Child Learn About Language
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
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



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.)


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.


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?)


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: [...]


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?


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


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)



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


Overview of Muslims in America/American Islam

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

Also, enjoy first 57 pages of Islam and the Blackamerican


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]

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


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