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.

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.

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

Status

The Perfect Hour of Solitude

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One of the unnamed joys in life: reading the Book on a swing, when it is drizzling overhead and watching the skies change from dark purple velvet to ominous grey. Rare moments at Fajr that beat my morning coffee; that perfect stretch of solitude when you hear no stray sound but the soft platter of rain falling down.
#Ramadan #FajrAwesomeness