Day 6: “Det er den draumen”

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I saw an article today about Norway, which is already one of the places that intrigues me most, but then I read that it’s a place that has 100% literacy. The article went on about purchasing and publishing and different things. And somewhere in the article I started wondering about Norwegian poetry.

I ended up at what seems to be a rather famous poem called from 1966 by Olav H. Hauge:

Det er den Draumen
Det er den draumen me ber på
at noko vedunderleg skal skje,
at det må skje –
at tidi skal opna seg,
at hjarta skal opna seg,
at dører skal opna seg,
at berget skal opna seg,
at kjeldor skal springa –
at draumen skal opna seg,
at me ei morgonstund skal glida inn
på ein våg me ikkje har visst um.

It was a dream
We all carry with us this dream:
that something wonderful will happen,
that it must happen –
that time will open,
that the heart will open,
that doors will open,
that cliffs will be opened,
that springs will well forth,
that the dream will be opened,
– that we one peaceful morning will glide in –
onto a bay we had not been aware of.

[Translated for The Norway Post by Rolleiv Solholm, Chief Editor]

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National Poetry Month 2018

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It’s that time again!

Like always I’d like to start by sharing another poet’s work. After pondering for a couple days I decided on something I may have already shared in a post, but it’s a verse that has lived with me since I came across it six years ago. And if it even begins to slip away, I feel the surrounding Universe remind me of it lest I forget. It’s the second verse of this poem that reaches me most deeply, but I’d like to share it in its entirety. And if interested, it’s been recited beautifully by the late Junaid Jamshed: here.

SULTAN TIPU KI WASIYAT
[THE TESTAMENT OF TIPU SULTAN]
by Allama Iqbal

Tu Reh Naward-e-Shauq Hai, Manzil Na Kar Qabool
Laila Bhi Hum-Nasheen Ho To Mehmil Na Kar Qabool
If you traverse the road of love, Donʹt yearn to seek repose or rest: 
If Layla be your companion close that litter shun with great contempt.

Ae Jooye Aab Barh Ke Ho Darya-e-Tund-o-Taiz
Sahil Tujhe Atta Ho To Sahil Na Kar Qabool
O streamlet, onward flow and get transformed to torrent strong and deep: 
If bank is eʹer on you bestowed, Abstain, flow on with mighty sweep.

Khoya Na Ja Sanamkada-e-Kainat Mein
Mehfil Gudaz! Garmi-e-Mehfil Na Kar Qabool
Donʹt lose your bearings in this world because with idols it is full: 
The assemblage here can cast a spell, disdain, or strings of heart shall pull.

Subah-e-Azal Ye Mujh Se Kaha Jibreel Ne
Jo Aqal Ka Ghulam Ho, Woh Dil Na Kar Qabool
Gabriel on Creationʹs Early Morn, a piece of useful counsel gave: 
He bade me not accept a heart enchained by mind of man like slave.

Batil Dooyi Pasand Hai, Haq La-Shareek Hai
Shirkat Mayana-e-Haq-o-Batil Na Kar Qabool
Untruth conceals in various masks but Truth and God are both unique: 
There canʹt be pool ʹtwixt good and bad—This fact is known from times antique.

 

The Best of 2017

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10 till midnight—here’s my listicle. The best of 2017 on my end:

Best food I had:
1) A spaghetti at Chicago’s Tesori restaurant containing pea, shoots, fennel pollen, garlic, fresno peppers, lemon, and pecorino romano.

2) A masoor daal (kaali daal) that my mom makes which she’s altered to include curry leaves and tamarind. oh my goodness, it’s good.

3) A salad an antie in aramco made earlier this year. It had coarsely cut parsley (like in tabouleh), chopped green apple, chopped bananas, and pomegranate with a yogurt-mayo-lemon dressing.

4) “Cowgirl” maki roll at Blue Sake Sushi Grill — pickle vegan tempura, sriracha-fried onion rings, vegan mayo, bbq paper. Possibly the best sushi I’ve had.

Best dessert I had:
1) Bobby Flay’s Cinammon-Maple-Oat Biscotti (thanks Sofia!)
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/cinnamon-maple-oat-biscotti-with-yogurt-dip-3187346
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2) Rock Sugar restaurant’s Caramelized Banana Custard Cake
— Milk Chocolate Ice Cream, Malted Creme Anglaise and Nut Brittle

Best TV show I saw:
Sherlock, hands up, hands down.

Best movie(s) I saw:
1) Dangal (Hindi)
2) Jawani Phir Nahi Aani (Pakistani)
3) The Darkest Hour (English)

Best documentary I saw:
Pakistan’s Hidden Shame

Best ad(s) I saw:
1) Star Plus “mat kar”:

2) Conservation International ad series:

3) Norwegian ad:

Best book I read:
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

Best songs I heard:
1) PAF songs redone by Junaid Jamshed

2) Jamie’s Song by Sylvan Esso

3) Interlude by Alice and the Glass Lake / Rebecca Spektor on Eminem’s Revival

Best article I read:

Best lesson learned:
Nothing can change people like loving them can.

Salah Study: Know what you’re saying [part 2]

After a regrettable gap in this series, we will be continuing with the next part of Salah Study, the ayahs of Surah al-Fatiha. Before we begin, I’d like to add that the exegesis shared in the next six posts is taken directly from Bayyinah Institute’s Cover to Cover tafseer series.

Following our last post on the words Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, the first ayah of Surah al-Fatiha is Alhamdulillahi Rabbil ‘Alamin.

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Part A: ‘Alhamdulillah’

When we divide the word Alhamdulillah, we see that the first part is Al-hamd. The word hamd means two things:

1) praise, and
2) gratitude

First off, praise and gratitude are two very different things. You might see a beautiful car in the parking lot and say “Wow, that’s nice!” But you wouldn’t go up to it and pat it, saying ‘Thank you BMW’. Similarly, if someone helps fix your car, you would thank them, but praise would not be involved.

And so, the first thing to remember is that the word hamd is made up of these two distinct meanings: praise, and gratitude.

The Arabic language has words for both praise (‘madh’, or ‘thanaa’) as well as for gratitude (‘shukr’), then why do we not say something like ‘al-madh-hu wash-shukru Allah’? What difference does it make after all, if the Quran is perfect anyway? Why specifically, Alhamdulillah?

The first reason is conveyed through a phrase in Arabic that translates as:
‘The best speech is that which is succinct and to the point.’

Alhamdulillah gets the point across immediately. The second reason to not use
al-madh-hu wash-shukru Allah has to do with the meaning of madh and shukr.

Madh means ‘praise’ but madh can be done for good, sincere reasons, or for not-so-sincere reasons. A cop may pull you over and you’d say “nice hat officer.” It’s not hamd because it has another motive. It is madh.

The second trait of madh is that madh can be done of living and nonliving things, but hamd is only done for the living. Thus hamd is appropriate for Allah because He is living, and because hamd is necessarily sincere.

Shukr is the Arabic word for gratitude, but when does gratitude happen? It’s when someone does you a favor. And in response you would or wouldn’t be grateful. When someone does a favor, the one who received that favor is in charge of the gratitude. You may say thank you, or you may not. The gratitude is an action that is a reaction.

Hamd is not a reaction. It is a genuine feeling. It is independent. It is there even without an action. Ihmadullah translates as “praise Allah!” It is a command. And the person receiving it can follow the command, or not follow the command.

Allah did not begin the Quran saying Ihmadullah. If He had, then who is responsible to praise Allah? We are. But He says: whether you do it or not, I still have it­—it doesn’t depend on you. Thus He begins the Quran instead with Alhamdulillah.

What if the Quran began with ‘We praise Allah’ or ‘I praise Allah’? Then it would all exist in the present alone. Verbs are different from nouns. Verbs have tenses, but a noun does not. Tense is about time. Nouns are timeless.

That means nouns are permanent, and verbs are temporary—either they happened, are happening, or will happen, but a verb cannot guarantee any other tense besides the one it’s in. The word ‘nahmadullah’ (we praise) only talks about the present. There is no guarantee of before, or after.

But when Allah says al-hamdpraise itself belongs to Allah—that’s a noun. That means that be it past, present, or future, hamd is always Allah’s, whether you are here or not.

The other thing to note is that a verb cannot be done until the doer does it. It is dependent on the person or thing doing it. But the praise of Allah does not need a doer. It is not only permanent—it needs no one else to exist. In using hamd, Allah tells us that His praise is permanent, and it does not need anyone.

Alhamdulillah means that everything Allah does, deserves to be praised—
ie not only do we praise Him, we also thank him that He did it. And this goes for everything. It doesn’t matter what it is, how bad it appears, how difficult it seems—we are to be thankful for everything, because Allah did it.

The word Alhamdulillah with this understanding, can transform our lives.
If you get into a problem, you’ve been laid off, your marriage is in trouble, etc—even in the darkest of times, you say Alhamdulillah.

Whatever Allah does merits praise. Before telling us His name even, He tells us hamd first. The main problem of atheists is just this—they cannot appreciate God. They ask “why is this happening to me? I deserve better” or “what do you mean my life is great? It’s terrible.”

To be a believer, the first thing he/she must learn have to do is gratitude. Before anything else, Allah begins the Quran by teaching us hamd.

Allah’s Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wa sallam) told us that Allah has many names, The Most Forgiving, The Most Loving, The Responsive—but Allah didn’t use any of those names in Alhamdulillah. He used the name Allah.

The Fatiha is Allah’s introduction to Himself. If He used one of His other names, like ‘The Creator’ for example, then all we would be acknowledging Him for would be creation. By using the name Allah, we are able to capture all the names and attributes of His, and we get credit for all we know about Him and all that we don’t. It’s a huge blessing from Him to us.

And so the absolute best phrase to use is Alhamdulillah.

 

Part B: ‘Rabbil’

Rabb in Arabic, means a few things:

. the owner
. the one in charge
. the caretaker
. the giver of gifts
. the maintainer, who makes sure things continue to exist

But the #1 meaning is ‘master’, a master that has all of the qualities mentioned above. These meanings are what can help us realize that Allah in front of us when we engage in Salah. By knowing what the word Rabb really means, we realize we aren’t talking to ourselves, or to open air. In reality, our Master, the Master of everything, is in front of us paying close attention to what we say to Him.

In using the word Rabb, Allah says right after giving us His name: the first thing you need to know about Me is what your relationship will be with Me. He says Alhamdulillah and then says “I am your Rabb.”

Everything that the Quran demands or says is centered around one idea:
Accept Allah as master and accept yourself as slave
(not just that He is Master but also that you are slave).

All other masters are associated with ugly things, but Allah is associated with giving gifts, taking care, making sure things stay alive.

 

Part C: ”Alamin’

‘Alamin in Arabic means ‘people’. When Allah uses the word ‘alamin, He is not talking about being Lord of the skies and heavens, etc. He’s talking about nations, tribes, races, species (angel/human/jinn) of people. This entire ayah is about the relationship with God.

He says He’s the Master of all people, including generations of people. So one cannot say ‘that sort of thing was in old times, now it’s a new age, viewpoints have to be updated etc’. In front of Allah we are all slaves. We all have the same job description.
No race is better than another.

This also takes out the idea of ‘better or worse’, because in the slave-and-master relationship, it’s just the master that is praised. No nation can say ‘we’re better than those guys.’ It kills all problems of nationalism, racism, tribalism, Urdu speaking vs Punjabi, different backgrounds, etc.

Because Allah says ‘alamin, no human is superior to another. We are all slaves before Allah.

Post Post-eclipse

While there were actual reasons such as weddings and work projects—both which demanded due time—it occurred to me recently that I haven’t written or made a phone drawing in months.

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Finally today, after a long, long time, I made what I hope is a ‘comeback drawing’ on my phone. And I suppose this is my ‘comeback post.’ And I’m afraid it’ll be rather obvious.

Back home when we came back from vacation and turned on the faucets, the water would sputter out at first. And it was also a burnt yellow from the rust inside the pipes. This post will probably be similar.

Anyway, I read something on the New York Times today, and it may or not have been the spur needed—but the article began talking about a location that is a small dream of mine that led fast to a bigger dream, but then it took a turn towards me and inside. Ironically as it talked about silencing the noise around us to hear ourselves, I felt my vision defog. The article referenced something else that interested me. And then something else after that.

I saw myself again. And it felt good.

Meanwhile and on that note, the Universe has been as gracious as ever—sending more things my way to learn than I can even handle. Between blockchain, excerpts from a new book on the history of colours, and the new program deciphering Allama Iqbal’s Khizr-e-rah, I am simply frazzled with ecstasy. So many things show up just over facebook that I’m having to screenshot so I remember to get to them. I’ve almost depleted my 10 free articles of NYT this month in a couple days too.

I’ll have to write the things I actually have commentary on that I’ve observed in the past day in another post as a tiny, flying bug is bugging me, and it won’t rest till my light gets shut off, and I’m pretty sure that’ll be more effective than all my scolding and gestures at it thusfar.

I’m hoping this is the re-start to writing again. And drawing.

(Have to record this somewhere because it’s so outrageous: pine nuts in Pakistan are at 18,000rupees/kg as of today – ARY News)

 

Post Eclipse

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After much hysteria, inflated prices for solar glasses, booked out hotels, traffic predictions, ‘eclipse 2017’ tees, skepticism at the safety of viewing, and of course the retail marketing e-mails with subject lines “A Total Eclipse of a Sale!” and “Shop now before this deal is eclipsed!”, America did nothing short of almost ruining this event.

However, it’s comforting to know that even all that is nothing in front of what’s above us. These photographs are worth looking at—they restore all the calm and awe.

http://www.boredpanda.com/solar-eclipse-2017/

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‘Experiencing’ the Total Solar Eclipse on 08/21/17

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No doubt, in the past couple of weeks if you’ve tried to purchase ISO-certified eclipse viewing glasses, you’ve had tough luck. Following high demand, vendors on amazon are only selling these glasses in bulk packs, sometimes as expensive as $300 for a 5 pairs. Rental cars are booked out for that day as are hotels along the total-eclipse path.

Nonetheless, there are still many bright sides under the sun:

1) Libraries across the USA are hosting eclipse-viewing events. If you are able to attend one of these events at your local library, or contact them for information, you might still be able to find some glasses (and likely for free!): http://spacescience.org/software/libraries/map.php

2) Media projects everything to become bloated. Solar eclipses occur around the world every year. While it’s true that the last-total-solar-eclipse-to-span-all-of-North-America was 99 years ago, the next one of that same kind is only 7 years from now on April 8, 2024.

3) A solar eclipse is not a visual event. It’s an experience. And viewing the sun through glasses is one of many ways to have this experience.

Other ways include using a colander or making a pinhole camera to view the phenomenon without looking directly at the sun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKgK-hGmFQQ

Another way is to observe what’s happening around you under the eclipse. Even though a lot of hard science doesn’t exist (yet), there have been accounts of animals acting differently during solar eclipses: http://www.cnn.com/…/animals-react-to-the-eclipse/index.html

It’s important to not rely on only one of your senses during an eclipse. One eclipse chaser from San Diego remarked: “No photo or video can convey the experience of a total eclipse, but audio recordings come closest. I am not a very emotional person, but when I listen to recordings I have made at previous eclipses, I often get tears in my eyes.” So watch out for changes in the air, in sounds, and in plants and animals outside!

There’s nothing more wonderful actually than learning itself. Hearing and learning about what others have experienced has a higher value than it might sound. There’s a wonderful TED talk up by an eclipse chaser ( https://www.ted.com/…/david_baron_you_owe_it_to_yourself_to… ) as well as these brilliant individual accounts that are definitely worth reading: https://www.buzzfeed.com/sallytam…/astronomers-and-eclipses…

From an Islamic viewpoint, eclipses are seen as two signs among the signs of God that He shows His worshipers—so when we see them, we pray, invoke Him, and ask for His forgiveness. A beautiful, lengthy prayer called Salat-ul-Kusoof is designated for eclipses. An eclipse is seen as an opportunity to reflect and remember God, and to connect to His presence. This prayer has been the most powerful experience of an eclipse I’ve personally had.

And again, I can’t stress it enough: do not look at the sun without certified eye wear. Do not look at the sun through a reflection of something (mirror, CD, water). Do not, do not, do not be careless about this. Eyesight > eclipse.

Happy experiencing! 🙂 

white_light_corona.jpg[image credit: NASA]

Blackfish

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Nov 22, 2016

As it began nearing to 3:30pm, we made our way to the Shamu Amphitheater for the scheduled show.

People were flooding in and filling bleachers. A bee was after the glass of Sprite in my hand. As I tried to wave it away, forgetting I was holding the glass still, that Sprite fell on me. My niece was trying to escape onto the bleacher steps. Kids in the row behind us were using their brand new Shamu shaped bubble guns. It was all that a tourist could create. We sat and waited. Some lights started turning on. Some rehearsed lines sounded over the microphones. But the voices didn’t matter. The water’s appearance change, almost brewing. What the water announced drowned out the microphones.

And then, rising out from underneath straight into the air, appeared a black and white orca. My eyes and heart fused into one. My senses went numb. My face was skewed, not out of disapproval, but an overwhelming state. What I saw before me was magnificent, and beautiful. It actually did take my breath away. It was the kind of thing, had I any room or time to pace back and forth between the bleachers, I would certainly have been doing so, bewildering at the creation I was seeing.

I knew Blackfish was out there though. After I came back home that weekend I watched it. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen in my life. The living conditions that were revealed were inhumane. But what I will never forget is the way Tilikum was captured as a child from his family, as his parents floated alongside the boats, wailing for their baby.

It’s very difficult to appreciate ‘good efforts’ after that. People argue that without places like zoos and sanctuaries, no one would know or care about any of these animals. The fact is santuaries, zoos, and Sea World are different things. How many sanctuaries can be boasted about around here? The few places I’ve heard of as anything truly ‘sanctuary’ were places like New Zealand where nature is actually preserved with great effort. I don’t mean to say they don’t exist here, but it’s also true that many zoos also have awful living conditions. Even for animals that were bred there and are taken care of well, some animals’ size naturally requires them a larger area to move around in.

As for Sea World, I don’t think I learned anything about Orcas. It felt like pure entertainment. I don’t deny that the people working there have great care and admiration for these creatures and that they know the risks involved. But the issue isn’t about the people, is it? The issue is that these animals are being kept in an area that would be analogous to us being kept in a bath tub. Often they’re starved until the show so that they will perform for the treats they receive during it. Often they get hurt in other ways.

Should orcas be put back into the wild? Obviously not. They couldn’t survive because of how they’ve been bred and raised. But what is the reason to take so many animals and keep them in these sort of places. Sanctuaries might be great, if they’re being done right. But from what I saw in Blackfish, SeaWorld doesn’t seem like that.

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Unfortunately we live in the day and age where it’s hard to look at any piece of news or admonition, and know if it’s true or not. Blackfish for me personally, was convincing, and I think it serves as a powerful reminder to us regarding not just orcas, but the very many animals that are in captivity under terrible living conditions.

I do have to say though, without seeing an actual orca while visiting Sea World, I actually may not have seen Blackfish, not this soon anyway. So it’s all been a bit dichotomous, if that’s the right word.

And I’d like to end on a recommendation for anyone reading this post. Wildest India, on Netflix, is another one of the most fascinating documentaries I’ve seen. Even if you can only get to the first part about the Thar desert, try to see that episode.

It shows a relationship between humans and animals in the wild that raises another powerful reminder: we are capable of better.