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When stuck between bankers, lawyers and debt…

I had planned to not blog at all until next Ramadan. So I could pick up from where I left off in “The Waning Dusk Series”. But an incident tonight compelled me to login to my old WordPress again. I simply had to share this:

I am a freebie junkie. Whoever offers services of interest online, especially if they give a free trial, I always sign up and check them out. Even if I can do without them. I collect free templates from here and there, free sound effects, free software, countless trial versions, free stock images, free vector art, free fonts… you get my drift.

It so happened that I wanted legal consult and documentation for a website I am currently working on. Of course I googled. And of course there was a particular site that was offering legal services on a 1-week free trial. By default, I ventured there. I created my documents but to access them, I had to have either a paid account or a partially free account that bills users after a week of signing up if they don’t cancel their subscription.

So I entered my credit card details (my dad’s card details actually) fully intending to cancel the subscription within one week of usage. But as fate had it– I typed in the wrong fields. I typed in the ones that billed my card immediately to Rs. 40,000. The second I saw the $ sign, I killed all my browsing tabs in cold blood. All puns intended. It was one of those moments when the world stops moving before it comes crashing down. And I hoped against hope that the card was not processed. But then came the dreaded mail notification “Thank you for purchasing…” and it had the godforsaken invoice too.

I don’t think my world has ever come crashing down like it did at that moment. After taking a few seconds to make myself start thinking straight, I asked my father to call the bank to explain the situation and cancel the payment. The bank apologised that it cannot be stopped and suggested I call the people I made the payment to. At the same time, I was googling how long it takes for an online credit card transaction to actually appear as a purchase. And I was figuring out how long it would take for the bank to deactivate the card to render this payment null and void before it gets fully processed. While I was at it, I downgraded my mistakenly upgraded account pronto and sent a quick email to the said lawyers’ agency requesting a cancellation and profusely apologising for my blunder.

Having done all that, I stood up to pray 2 really intense raka’ahs of nafl prayers to get out of the fix. And an awful fix it was too. Stuck between bankers and lawyers. And debt that I would owe to my parents for something that I never really needed. Enough said.

No sooner had I finished supplicating when I heard the mailbox beep again. And guess what it said.

“We confirm that your membership access has been downgraded as of 12/31/2014. The xxxxx pending charge to your credit card ending xxxx has been reversed. Please allow up to 7 to 10 business days for the reversal to be reflected in your account.”

Subhanallah.

Allah accepted the prayer faster than it took for the amount to hit the credit card.

That’s the power of a nafl prayer. That’s what the Prophet (pbuh) used to do in difficult situations. And that’s something we need to do more often as well. Imagine if we pray two nafl raka’ahs every morning…

Also, the most important thing is to not panic in such devastating situations that appear seemingly irreversible. There is always a backdoor. Do your part, then pray like your life depends on it. Had I not downgraded my account immediately, contacted customer support and prayed for Ctrl-Z to happen, I might have ended up paying a lump sum for nothing. I am glad I did not sleep in utter depression and misery like my brain initially advised me to.

Alhamdulillah.

TWD- Chapter Four: Hocus Pocus

Myth: My hocus pocus totally works!

Allah (swt) says in the Quran,

“Indeed Allâh conferred a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger (Muhammad SAW) from among themselves, reciting unto them His Verses (the Qur’ân), and purifying them (from sins by their following him), and instructing them (in) the Book (the Qur’ân) and Al-Hikmah [the wisdom and the Sunnah of the Prophet SAW], while before that they had been in manifest error.” (03:164)

Double, double, toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

That’s the three witches chanting in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. No wait. In the Quaid’s Karachi.

Naana Bengali, Naani Bengali and Amil Junaid Bengali. The whole family or coven as you like, with their graffiti ads painted all over the city walls, claiming they get things done from kalam-e-ilahi.

And then there is us, doing our own hocus pocus. There’s a stark contrast between how the Prophet (pbuh) lived on the Quran and imparted the wisdom, and how we share our daily doses of refreshing insight about the Book.

I saw a small booklet tucked under my car wipers some time back. It was called “Daily Remedies” if I remember well and flipping through it, this is what I saw on the first page:

Musallamtul la shiyata feeha

“Recite this seven times and you will be rid of pimples and other facial ailments.”

Coincidentally, I was enrolled in a tafsir study those days and recognized this phrase from Surah Al-Baqarah. The translation of this piece is “whole and withoutmark”. Of course, they did not mention it. The funny part is, this verse was an answer to the questions the Jews asked about the cow they had been ordered to slaughter– and so Allah (swt) told them it should be whole and without any defects.

Makes you wonder how many damsels might have tried this out, not knowing the affair was of some cow long ago and has little to do with cutaneous concerns of distressed females…

A couple of months back, I came across another common one– we were busy cramming details half an hour before the final exam. A student chimes in: “I recite this and blow it over my paper every time and it works”-

Fa aghshaynahum fa hum la yubsiroon

“Good grades guaranteed.”

For those of you lost, this snippet is from a verse in Surah Yasin (Verse 9). Recited by Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as he escaped a life-threatening situation, casting a handful of dust at his assassins; it has been long believed that this verse renders an examiner blind to all your mistakes, should you blow it over your paper. Neat.

Whatever helps you sleep at night.

Let us come to an agreement here. Quran is not a book of DIY remedies, charms, hexes, jinxes or shortcuts to all and sundry. It is a cure, yes– but only when taken in spirit and action.

It is also after all, the Word of Allah. And much as we hate ourselves being misquoted, it is only fair that we treat this Divine Message with utmost caution too. It was revealed to be our companion in this life and the next; the only friend who will vouch for you when all others would’ve deserted you.

Abdullah ibn `Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “The fast and the Qur’an are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: ‘O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.’ The Qur’an will say: ‘I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.’ And their intercession will be accepted.” [Ahmad]

You know what’s in it for you now.

Immortality in the Heavens.

And shortcuts just don’t cut it.

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

Half:Past:Midnight- What I’ve learnt so far

You took the shahadah. You have no idea what that means.

Beards don’t run the show. Every Muslim is an ambassador of Islam. Work on it.

There are two types of gatherings: one that is surrounded by angels and one that is not.

Take that leap of faith. If you know you’re supposed to be doing it, then do it. There’s no “right time”.

Good people who die early sort of just “know” they’ll die early. Cause they were out there doing positive things while I wasted away before the TV.

Get together and start a good cause. No, it will not affect your studies.

Never underestimate the power of barakah.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not relationships that’s complicated- it is the affair of hypocrisy and mixed intentions.

No one blames time for being a control freak.

There’s no such thing as luck. It’s called the Divine Intervention.

Understand that being a perfect Muslim is a myth. It’s like talking of ideal gases.

Doesn’t mean you stop trying.

“The best of sinners are those who repent.” Sign up for the contest.

It is okay to cut yourself some slack. So long as you do the same for others.

There was a prologue to your story. This is the part when your soul took an oath to worship Allah long before you existed.
What you’re doing now is writing your main narrative. Try not to mess it up, cause a sequel will follow where you left off.

Pray for others what you want for yourself. You’ll get it faster.

You know you’re friends when you can exchange your contrasting religious opinions without getting into a fight.

Never forget favours, debt and names.

Help out people you don’t like. It kills all bad feelings when they thank you.

Disagree with others where you can. It’s another way of gaining knowledge.

We know black from white. Wisdom is in sorting the grey area.

Holier than Thou

Disclaimer: All events narrated are real, and based on my interactions with people not known to me, with the exception of the first narrated encounter. Any resemblance with your character is purely your own guilty conscience.

holier

Far as I remember, the first time anyone sent a fatwa my way was when I was in grade one. Music class was in progress, and I was completely indulged in singing a very pointless rhyme about a banana tree along with everyone else. A girl sitting in front suddenly turns around and says:

“Aren’t you the one who is memorizing the Quran?”

Me: *breaking off midway* “Er- yeah.”

Her: *in a condescending tone* “Then why are you singing? You shouldn’t! It’s so wrong!”

Me: *speechless and thinking- since mom hasn’t told me about this, it’s probably not true*

I continued to sing, louder than ever, also made a point to not like her for telling me off. She was one of those girls who are always prim and proper with airs and graces and a lot of giggly friends. I on the other hand, was rough on the edges so disliked her on principle. #childrenpolitics But later on in the same year, we had become very close friends, and this is probably the best part about being a kid: nothing really seems to matter.

*   *   *

But this was ages ago. Last night, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and came across this post by a certain-important-somebody who had written a few words of praises about a Twilight soundtrack, played it on a piano and advised piano-enthusiasts to do the same because it is soul-soothing. I half moved on to the next update when a comment caught my attention. Apparently, there was a VERY heated, explosive debate going on- the usual showdown between “Fatwa Police” and the rest of the world. We had the preachers expressing their resentment against the post-maker to not encourage fans on “Haraam stuff”, and we had passionately pissed music supporters saying:“Qabeel ne Habeel ko music sun ker maara tha kya?!!!” To which the preachers retorted: “Phir janazey ke saath gaana kyun nahi chalaate? #SoulSoothing”

I allowed myself an inward snort of laughter and loaded the comment thread. Needless to mention, it was a very eh- “enlightening” discussion. Learnt loads about all sorts of preachers, most of whom are successfully driving everyone away from religion while they’re at it. The post is based on general observation but that comment thread in particular inspired the piece.

1- Mufti Wayne (read Vain)

This guy preaches through music and singing. Though there is nothing wrong with singing in itself (as long as it is only vocals with good lyrics and no instruments), this guy’s compositions are backed up by drums, piano, violin… the usual pop rock. Tell me again- why should I ever listen to you? Archuleta makes better music. And even Rebecca Black’s “Friday” track would do, if I give it Islamic connotations. One can argue Friday is a celebratory day for Muslims so we can/should/must party within limits. * License to Oh-so-halaal entertainment.* And considering the ridiculous comebacks music fans come up with, I won’t be surprised if a lady gets up and says Bieber sounds like a girl so there’s no “fitnah” if I listen to him. So no audience for Mufti Wayne. He has only given people another good reason to go back to their celebs, cause his music is no different (or probably just sucks. Who preaches pop-style anyway?).

#DawahFailed

PS: Some Islamic musician (if there’s ever such a legit term) has even sung a “Islamic” version of Rebecca’s Black’s “Friday”, with the instruments of course. Goes something like “It’s Jumuah Jumuah…” Guy needs help.

2- Sheikh Hudood bin Niqaab

This is the one we all fear. This guy has taken it upon himself to tell, no hound all women to cover up. He is the one with fake IDs and inboxes people on social networks to cover up or remove their profile pictures, or he suddenly stops by you and goes on a niqaab spree. Creepy on so many levels.

Also, while giving dawah, this person focuses more on punishments and Hudood than on glad-tidings and incentives.

#DawahFailed Niqaab is a concept, not just an act. There are so many variables involved.

3- The Fatwa Police

These guys are everywhere. Even if they aren’t, their ghost lingers. In fact, it’s usually just people’s paranoia that makes them assume the worst. You see this person or a group of people in university with properly kept beards and trousers hitched up to the ankles and they’re secretly labelled “Al-Tableeghi”, or women clad in all black- “Al-Extreemiee”. Most of the time, your fears really get confirmed. These people go blaring “Haraam” or are found giving unsolicited advice to almost anyone who breathes. The only thing wrong here is that they lack the tact to do so. The subtlety that dawah requires is just not there.

PS: A couple of months back, someone confessed that they thought I was an extremist before they had a chance to interact with me.

Me: O_o

4- Facebook Molvi

If he is the overbearing sort, this guy can be a real troll. This kind dominated the comment thread I mentioned earlier. When these guys talk, a clash of inflated egos ensues. Sorta great therapy for all parties to take out their frustration. The “Deviant Awaam” checks out FB Molvi’s profile and sues him for liking “Haraam music pages” himself. A wry twist in the tale, tables are turned and molvies get shoo-ed away. It’s chaotic. In every sense of the word.

*   *   *

There are many instances and examples that I’d like to point out, but that would be exhausting. Personally, I think the best form of dawah is through your actions. Behave well publicly, and you won’t need to talk about it much. Some sane people in the Muslim Community should come up with Dawah101 for damage control. Really. It is the need of the hour. And I had a list prepared on the categories of audiences as well, and the way they respond to the call. But I will spare them the drawl. These unfortunate souls already have their ego tried and tested, and butchered all in a single comment. But let us just come to an agreement here- Enjoining good and forbidding evil is incumbent upon every Muslim (no endorsements required). And is effective only when done appropriately (this part needs serious polishing). There’s no “It is none of your business- keep away” in the equation. Read Surah Al-Asr and you will know. It is an extract of a Muslim’s life summarized so beautifully. What we all need is wisdom and rationale. One of the main reasons why people run away from anyone who “looks” Islamic is because they tend to get overbearing. And one of the lamest things that people come up with is to list down all the faults in the “preacher” and throw them in his face. Angels don’t walk this earth, folks. We are all found wanting. If you ever find yourself in a position of being corrected, accept it. Gracefully. Or look into it or whatever. Arrogance is just another form of vanity.

Last word- pray that you get endowed with wisdom and the strength to do dawah effectively. If you find yourself unable to right a wrong, then make dua for that person. It is difficult yes, to not snicker at the inappropriate things that people do. Passing by and smirking at a particular-someone is nothing but a reflection of your own self-righteousness. The least you can do is to make a silent prayer for that person. So what if he has a hundred noticeable faults, you probably got a million inside.

Tell me, why you have to go and make things so complicated?

I dunno exactly how the conversation started but it was the beginning days at the campus when someone exclaimed- “Ooohhh, you have Quran in your cellphone?” Totally befuddled, I nodded in affirmative- “Yeah…”

“Then you must not put it in your pocket!” I was mildly surprised. “Oh-? Why ever?”

“Desecration!” The person went on to say. “And you should not touch it without wudhu (ablution) as well!”

That just annoyed me even more. When I just raised my eyebrows skeptically, she went on to say. “It’s the Quran!” I guess I was supposed to immediately act like I was revolted at the very idea of putting my cell in my pocket.

“So? It’s in the phone’s memory. The device itself is not the Book.” I politely tried to reason out.

“Desecration still.” She persisted and looked scandalised. I fought the urge to roll my eyes at that. As much as I find myself in such situations, I equally detest carrying out heated arguments on Fiqh and usually ebb them by maintaining a silent stand after a few sentences- but this was too much.

“Well- then by this yardstick, you can’t touch me.” I said, drawing a conclusion.

Now it was her turn to look quizzical. “I’m not sure I follow.”

“I’ve memorised the Quran. It’s in my memory. You can’t shake hands with me without ablution, neither can you walk on a floor above me… if you really follow what you say.”

That quietened her up for a while.

And then I came across another similar one on Facebook a long time back. It was pretty amusing actually. Quite a heated debate going on between a teacher and his student. Apparently, the student had uploaded some quranic verses on her status and the teacher had a problem with that. “Desecration!” He was on that rant as well. “You can’t put quranic verses on so polluted a forum! A design of the Jews. People post songs, videos and vulgar pictures here! And no Kafir should ever read them for their souls are impure…”

Frankly, no one was in the mood to tell this impassioned man exactly how stupid his argument sounded. Even after quoting excerpts from history that the Prophet used to preach wherever it took him and sent letters with Quranic texts to non-Muslim rulers as well- as an invite, the guy just wouldn’t have any of it. In the end, the student pointed out that there were no pictures and videos on her profile so it’s okay- just to pacify her school teacher, but the guy was adamant. “It’s still a part of dirty cyberspace. The quran should be kept aloof from all this.”

Annoyed beyond beleif, I wrote, “You must sound-proof your home then, mister. For if the Adhaan or any other verse of the Quran dare penetrate your walls after all that music and videos from your TV and stereo, that would be serious desecration. It’s still a part of corrupt society. Also, tune out all Islamic channels from your box.”

End of conversation. There was no comeback.

I kid you not. Our misguided “love” for the Holy Book has made it so untouchable that it’s not a part of our routine any more. We’ve severed all connections with it. Made it complicated and even more intimidating. Funny how our common sense flies ou the window in these cases. It’s not something to be wrapped in gold and silk to rest upon the highest shelf (unreachable to all), to be taken out and recited when somebody ties the knot or dies.

What we don’t get is that it’s a book for the living, not the dead, a book for inspiration, not traditions- a constant companion, a best friend and an all-time advisor!

The Becoming- II

Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie. -John Milton

You turn up the volume. Slow, sad, passionate songs that speak of betrayal and hurt, you sink into them. Or try to. Maybe it’s your conscience you’re trying to drown that keeps nagging you that you’re sinning. Or maybe it’s your own problems you’re running away from. Or it could be the sadistic pleasure that you get from amplifying your own pain while listening to such music- ‘for what passion can not music raise and quell?’

You have at your hands a sad state of affairs; There were people you had some hopes pinned on. These people mattered but they didn’t quite turn out the way you expected and everything just went wrong. Anger, bitterness and grudges all balled up into a fury and wrecking havoc in your mind. [Coleridge puts it best hence, quoted previously. In my earlier post I had passed on a way to kill these leeches.] Consequently, your parayers get affected, your relationships with other people start spiralling downhill while you’re struggling to tame your own storm. So, then you have this guilt to take care of as collateral damage. It’s a lot of messed up things actually. So you switch on the self-destruction mode. Despair is another way by which Satan attacks. You’re left in a state moping around, dispassionate towards everything and incapable of doing any good- with music pulsing in your eardrums to keep you in a drunken stupor.

So how do you go about picking up the pieces? One of my favorite speakers, Yasmin Mogahed, puts it this way-

“Often what makes us fall into despair is focusing on the wrong things. For example, if we’ve sinned, we focus on the sin, rather than the Most Merciful. If we’re broken, we focus on the break instead of Al Jabbar, the One who mends. If we are in pain, we focus on the pain itself, instead of on the One who removes all pain. If we are wounded, we focus on the wound instead of on the One who heals al…l wounds. If we’re scared, we focus on the fear, instead of the Protector. And if we’re facing a problem, we see the problem, but not the One who can solve it. We see the lion, but not the lion tamer. We see the imperfections of dunya, but not the perfection of Allah. We see the immediate, but not the Tomorrow, the tree, but not the fruit, the thorn, but not the rose. All our pain, all our despair, all our hopelessness, stems from looking at the creation, instead of the Creator. Ask yourself: what is your heart looking at?”
وَيُؤۡمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسۡتَمۡسَكَ بِٱلۡعُرۡوَةِ ٱلۡوُثۡقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَا‌ۗ وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (٢٥٦)
Whoever disbelieves in Tâghût [the Rebel, the Satan] and believes in Allâh, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allâh is All-Hearer, All-Knower. (02:256)
 The bottomline: “Let go of your grudges. Let the bitterness die tonight. Make a decision today that it’s time to move on. And begin again. New, this time. Never forget that what has passed you by was never meant to befall you. And what has befallen you, was never meant to pass you by. Know that sometimes Allah withholds from you, in order to give you something better. Keep your heart focused on Him, and He will take care of the rest. And remember: you will stumble, but that’s part of the path. Keep going. Keep rising, and refuse to give up.”