TWD- Chapter Two: Prisoners on Parole

Myth: The ban is lifted at iftaar

Allah (swt) says,

“O, you who believe! Fasting has been made obligatory upon you as it was made upon those before you so that you become fearful of God.” (02:183)

Maleficent. Captain America- Winter Soldier. X-men.

TV series returning after a mid-season break. New episodes airing tonight.

And it’s Nigeria vs France today!

So much to watch, so little time, damn- you’re fasting and too bad you can’t binge-eat while you’re at it. But you’ll be watching anyway, or maybe you decide to wait till iftaar. So you load your stuff to stream while you sleep the day away. For smokers and music devotees, it is a different story. You can’t wait to get high again. And sometimes, both of you think it is okay to take a whiff while you’re fasting.

It is common knowledge that Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadan and Ramadan is the month of the Quran. The common denominator, that many people miss here, is “taqwa”. Quran guides the Muttaqun (as mentioned in the opening verses of Al-Baqarah) and fasting helps you attain that taqwa (piety).

So fasting does not merely encompass starving yourself from dawn to dusk—it is a concept that includes, but is not restricted to refraining from everything that warrants an “Astaghfirullah” from anyone who catches you doing your stuff. So if you fail to achieve even a speck of piety, then you have not fulfilled what was required of you through fasting.

And to believe that the bans are lifted at iftaar, you couldn’t be more wrong. Unless you think there is some reverse logic in spitting out the medicine after taking it. Ramadan nights are those combos, multipliers and bonuses you score in video games. And are as short-lived. Don’t waste them watching Jolie take the screen or a football match that you could read about later. Get back in your game and beat your previous score.

“Whoever stands the month of Ramadan out of faith and seeking its reward will have his sins forgiven.” (Bukhari)

TWD- Chapter One: The False Prophet

Myth: Reading the translation is enough

Amr bin Al-Aas (ra), before he became a Muslim, rode out to meet Musaylimah the Liar who was proclaiming Prophethood. Upon his arrival, Musaylimah said to Amr, “What has been revealed to your friend (Muhammad) during his time?

Amr replied, “A short and concise surah.” And then he recited surah Al-Asr.

So Musaylimah thought for a while. Then he said, “Indeed something similar has also been revealed to me.” Amr asked him, “What is it?”

He replied, “O Wabr (a small, furry mammal; hyrax), O Wabr! You are only two ears and a chest, and the rest of you is digging and burrowing.”

Then he said, “What do you think, O Amr?”

So Amr said to him, “By Allah! Verily, you know that I know you are lying.”

Allah (swt) has said in the Quran,

“And if ye are in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a surah of the like thereof, and call your witness beside Allah if ye are truthful.” (02:23)

Musaylimah the Liar failed to convince even a non-Muslim with his nonsensical string of babble- his only superpower being that he could narrate his “revelations” with a straight face.

Fast forward-

You read something that strikes a chord, words expertly woven that they resonate with your thoughts, and in that moment you know the writer had said everything that you wanted to say but couldn’t. It is like someone else discovering the long-lost novel you always knew you had, hidden away in a dusty corner amongst the antiques in wooden boxes. And what do you do then, but follow the calling of the words, ears tuned to every keystroke of the wordsmith. And it fills you with an intense impulse to share it around.

What if you read something that would make you doubt your own being? That could take you apart piece by piece and put you back together in a different order… with words chiseled so meticulously that they probe your inner depths of years of rust and stun you into denial.

This verse was a challenge proclaimed to the disbelievers of centuries past and still open today. Magic at work, a poet’s speech, soothsayer’s discourse… they had exhausted their excuses and came up with zilch. It was something so peculiar that it made the writers word-tied, poets give up their masterpieces and alcoholics slay their intoxication—and it could’ve only come from realms above. Hence the contest, if you can compose even a chapter that comes close to it, then go ahead with it. And as of today, the Quran stands timeless and unparalleled.

When Umar (ra) asked Labid, the famous pre-Islamic poet who had embraced Islam, to recite for him some of his poetry, Labid began to recite al-Baqarah. “This is not what I asked you,” Umar remonstrated. Labid replied: “Well, I have given up composing poetry after Allah gave me al-Baqarah and aal-Imraan.” (Narrated from Qurtubi)

Such is the power behind the Divine Revelation; an intellectual indulgence descended for all, but enjoyed by a handful few.

This Ramadan, pick up those flyers and really look at them. Or enroll online. Make it a point to understand the Quran the way it is deserved to be comprehended. So you may see the day when you can revel in the meaning as the words roll off your tongue. So you may be moved enough to cry silently as you pray behind an Imaam. And so when it is just you and Him and a long qiyaam, you may get to experience this unearthly feeling when your skin tingles with the weight of your recitation and the oft-spoken verses have a whole new meaning. These are one of those rare occurrences when you ever truly feel fortunate.

Starting tonight, learn at least two verses with an in-depth dissection of the words on the examination table, and prepare to be amazed. This is unlike any mortal’s rambling that you have ever read- scholarly or poetic.

PS: This is not to belittle anyone who reads the translation regularly. Point is- don’t limit yourself to just that.

Wrote this post for Youth Club Blog.

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Ramadan Series- The Waning Dusk

I’ve always wanted to do a 30-day post series on Ramadan, and this year, alhamdulillah I’ve finally gotten down to it. Youth Club Blog will have the first publishing rights as they’re the ones who came up with the project. And soon as the posts go live, I’ll be pinning them here too.

And I’ll have you know the credits are not entirely mine. Most of the ideas are borrowed from a discussion I had with my friend- who was all too happy to chip in! 30 nights and 30 posts insha Allah, debunking one myth at a time.

The series is titled “The Waning Dusk”– after Ramadan nights that fade away into nothingness, a shade too swiftly than we would like. Hope you all benefit from the series some way or the other and may we all live up to our own expectations set for this month!

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Of Black Roses and Dead Leaves

You conceive an idea and flesh it out. Then it consumes you so bad that you wonder if it will be worth it in the end.

All good things happen at once. Then you can’t figure out if it’s a blessing, a test in disguise, karma or is it Allah giving you free reigns before tightening the rope on you?

Wish someone would tell you it is okay to use pirated windows.

You wonder if you’re reaping any rewards doing Da’wah on pirated software.

You look at your posts and think if they changed anyone’s life in the slightest. Then you look at your state of faith and it says “meh”.

That internal monologue when you list down the 100 things that make you a hypocrite.

You send yourself to a rehab in mid-season break. Then start on another TV series.

Or you don’t start another series but obsess with the next season updates anyway.

When you make a list of minor sins but can’t think of any because you no longer consider them sins anymore.

You look back and ask yourself who you really did that for.

You visualize your deeds turning to dust.

Away from a particular sin for quite some time and you sense a relapse coming.

You realize that every good you do is followed by a sin.

That you haven’t made a long qiyaam in a long while. And your heart beats to the devil’s dance.

You realize that you are still an arrogant fool.

And that no one recognizes you as intimately as your flaws.

Judgemental much?

The “Extremist” epidemic-
“Constipation sensation that’s gripping the nation!”

That Nagging Thought

Chomp, chomp, chomp… Clink, clink…

“Get her a spoon. Poor girl, she’s eating without.”

“Nah, that’s okay, she eats like that.”

“Nonsense. I’m done already, I’ll get her one.”

“But-”

“Ohh…she’s eating the sunnah style I think, aren’t you?” (This directed to the poor victim.)

“Um-”

“I doubt the Prophet (s) would have eaten rice with fingers really.”

1. How would you know? Did you go back in time, warp it somehow and ask him (s)? How can you even fathom judging otherwise?

2. Leave the poor person alone, will you? They didn’t ask you to watch them while they ate, neither did they make you eat without that metal-aid-with-the-convex-bulge. Most importantly, I’m sure they wanted to chow down in peace.

Dearth of knowledge and its appreciation, and extremes of it without that significant appreciation, are both unfruitful. Oh and, no knowledge is no good either (in case you were…

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Best song ever

I am the sort of person who can pull up a song from any word in a conversation. And can also pull up a Quranic verse from the same convo. No, I do not have acoustic bipolar, thank you very much. It just depends on which side of the bed I woke up that day.

I had to call my demons before writing this particular piece.
To revisit what it used to be like listening to music oblivious to everything else- but those beats.
Heck, those intoxicating beats…

Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie’ as John Milton puts it. And it is a sweet, deadly seduction…

***

Imagine the horror of waking up on the Last Day, right next to Rihanna.

Or maybe behind Fifty Cent. And there’s that One Direction you worshiped all your life.

All your celebs resurrected and rounded in one bloc. You feel the sun burning you to nothingness. Suddenly, you wonder where Rihanna kept her Umbrella. The thought sounds as useless as the song was meaningless, back in that other world. And Akon saying you can put the blame on me, doesn’t sound convincing enough anymore or apologetic, for that matter. You find yourself in a live nightmare feat. Lil Wayne. And Jay Sean reassures you in a drunken stupor, that It ain’t the end of the world but you know better. You were Starstruck. You had followed these people back then, lived by their rules and now you all get to be together. Forever. Just not on your own terms.

And there’s no red carpet. Only a burning furnace, as you and your divas, take the walk of shame.

“Play the way you feel it,
But listen to the sound,
Of your loneliness,
Like a heartbeat, drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had,
And what you lost”

I will not debate on music being haraam or not-so-haraam. For the word has lost its God-given impact and hardly fazes anyone anymore, considering we go labeling all and sundry with it. But I do know that nothing is more addictive than a bunch of senseless rhymes strung on a chord, backed up by killer vocals. It consumes you. You fill your ears with it, your time, and the emptiness inside you. You seek to become one with the music you love. At least, that is what that happened to me.  And as a recovering song-aholic, I find myself qualified enough to make the claim, that it’s no herculean feat to give up music. It was fairly easy. I just fell in love with better keynotes and with lyrics, that have more depth than Beyoncé can ever put behind her vocals.

The Quran had me on its first verse. The subtle nuances in its text, the way connotations changed as words evolved, and how everything made perfect sense, no matter which way you look at a verse- was mind blowing. It was neither poetry nor prose, but something that perplexed me and dismantled all that I had been lead to believe my entire life. It was, undoubtedly, the best thing that happened to me. That was the day I sent everything else, to the literature compost bin. And I think I understood, why people took a complete 180 degree turn, just by listening to a couple of verses, back in the good old days. And of course, I mean a deeper study of the Quran, when I talk of myself. The translation we’ve been reading all the while growing up, does the Book severe injustice.

Well, in all fairness, giving up music wasn’t really that simple. I had been trying to rid myself of it long before I ventured into Quranic studies. Who wants to be controlled by ramblings of a miserable poet, with that sorry excuse of rhyming they call lyrics? There were times, when I would fall back into a relapse after a week or even after a day, with no bass thundering down my eardrums. Now that I think of it, I had nothing else better to do with my time, and hence, the repercussions I suppose. It was only once, that I had committed myself to some serious studying of religion, that I stopped listening to music for real. And never looked back.

No, it wasn’t the “extremist” epidemic that hit me. I just found a million productive things to do, rather than let bacteria take over my ear, with all that headphone usage. The temptation to put the earphones back on, is still there. Just not in the same magnitude. You might succumb to it, but don’t let that stop you from trying. Ever.

So, if you are that person with an appreciation for acoustics and good lyrics or even good tunes, then you have all the makings of an aspiring Quran student. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. Your life will have a great deal more rhyme and reason.

“O You who believe! Shall I guide you to a trade that will save you from a painful torment? That you believe in Allâh and His Messenger, and that you strive hard in the Cause of Allâh with your wealth and your lives, that will be better for you, if you but know!” (61:10-11)

 

Here is Allah Almighty, offering us a transaction for a win-win situation. And here we go- striking deals with the devil himself. And we all know how that ends up. You sell your soul to the devil (strictly metaphorically speaking). Movies, at least, got that part right. So, will you trade your playlist for a shot at Jannah? It will not be an easy road, as the verse implies, but definitely well worth the trouble.


“To the Muslim youth- beware of the Pied Piper.”
– Khalid Baig

PS: I also mentioned I’m a recovering song-aholic. Emphasis on recovering. There’s no “recovered” stage. The minute you lead yourself to believe otherwise, you are going to drop your guard.

Wrote this for: The Youth Club Blog

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To all those who write…

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.”

― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus