Friday, 26 December 2008

New Forest - Video

Spent Thursday (Christmas) day & night in New Forest, South England. Not a very exciting video (link below); logged for future reference more than anything else.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOhLg9kirWU

The sky was clear. The sun shun through at times. It didn't rain. But cold it was. One-degree-celcius (according to "The Noor Mobile" thermometer) after Fajr on Friday, perhaps lower Friday pre-dawn. My new thermal base layer (£50!) (... and my mother's ever present Du'as) worked wonders, alhamdulillah.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Lessons from the Squared Circle

Much is learnt inside the squared circle.

More so than anything,
one learns the make-up of his self...
and people in general.

Two observations stand out:

1) Few can contain their excitement;
unable to set a pace that lasts.
Most, realising their initial burst won't cut it,
break in disgrace.

2) Few understand & cope with taking a hit
as they do easier times of dishing out.
Most, realising their one-way plan won't cut it,
break in disarray.

A fight, like life, has its ups and downs.
Those who can counter and see the up in a down,
those are they who succeed.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Interdependence

"Interdependence is a higher value than independence."

"... dependence is the paradigm of you - you take care of me; you come through for me; you didn't come through; I blame you for the results.

Independence is the paradigm of I - I can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose.

Interdependence is the paradigm of we - we can do it; we can cooperate; we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together..."


(Source: 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen R Convoy)

Just finished (skim-) reading through the opening, introductory chapters of the above-mentioned book. It's been pretty disappointingly dull so far except for the above two passages which really grabbed me by the scruff of the neck. "If you want something done, do it yourself" is a philosophy I dislike but find myself trapped by. Let's hope this book can provide some useful tips to break free.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Communicating to be understood

"Every difficult work presents us with a choice of whether to judge the author inept for not being clear, or ourselves stupid for not grasping what is going on... Writing with simplicity requires courage, for there is a danger that one will be overlooked, dismissed as simple-minded by those with a tenacious belief that impassible prose is a hallmark of intelligence."

(Source: Alain de Botton, found in 'Authoring a PhD' by Patrick Dunleavy)

It always cracks me up when people attend a lecture by a big Shaykh/Professor/ etc and they come out of it saying, "Man, that was a good lecture". And then when you ask them, "What was it about?" They respond, "Don't know. But it sounded deep."

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Youth Club - Video

Short 2-minute video sequence showing the setup for a weekly youth club I help run.

video

A bit about the youth club: It is held every Sunday at Noor Ul Islam, a community centre in Leyton, East London. The youth club is run completely by volunteers for children aged 7-15 years. The sessions are split into two: 2-3:30pm for girls and 4-5:30pm for boys. We have been running it (in its current form) since April 2008. At the moment we get around 15 girls and 30 boys attending every week, alhamdulillah.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The All-Important Question

The all-important question: "Why?", as my soon-to-be-3-year-old niece inquires in persistence.

A question we could all do with asking a bit more often, but not too too often maa sha Allah.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Dark Chocolate

I have an insatiable craving for dark chocolate. My body absorbs the stuff. When it comes to milk chocolate, I eat a small piece, and feel guilty. With dark chocolate, in the other hand, I devour a 100g bar (daily) and feel no change. I am told it has nutritional benefits, or did I just make that up?

Monday, 3 November 2008

15, 15 Ways To Increase Your Earnings


Title: 15 Ways to Increase Your Earnings from the Quran and Sunnah
Author: Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Al-Hidaayah Publishing & Distribution (Aug 2002)
Language: English

I like a book that is simple to read, easy to understand and which leaves me with much to do (an action plan). This is such a book. Highly recommended for all those who can do with a bit more Barakah.

Btw, I read this book to get some ideas for a video script I am working on. Not because I am in any kind of financial difficulty, and all praise is due Allah, the Most Glorified and Exalted, Who provides without limit.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Adapt

Respond to each individual
according to his individual makeup.

The tall: get inside.
The short: keep away.
Work at your range.

The southpaw:
maintain position
outside his lead leg.

The anxious:
side-step his crazy advances,
picking him apart as you do.

The cautious: take centre stage.
haunt him like a bad dream,
pressuring him relentlessly.

Adopt the styleless style.
Leave no scope for prediction.
If he is thinking, he is not working.

Enter his mind. Break him.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Climbing Mount Snowdon - Video

Video diary of my walk up and down Mount Snowdon yesterday:

video

I am thinking of going back in a month's time.
To sing a song on Snowdon.
Facing the camera, frozen beard and all.
For charity of course. I ain't no singer!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Connecting Unconsciously

Is it weird to increase in respect for someone because of something you see them do or say in a dream? I find that I do this. Not sure if there is any basis for doing so?

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Existence

A man who has convinced himself he does not exist,
how do you convince him that God exists?
Such people exist!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Nerves

After a month out fasting,
yesterday I returned to sparring.
And what a fight, as it tends to be.

From the moment it hits 6,
time to leave the office,
to the second it strikes 8,
time to step into the ring,
my head brawls.

"Too much work on",
"Not feeling well today",
"First a few lighter sessions...
to get back into shape",
the voices ring.

Right until the first punch is thrown
and the negative energy quashed...
for another week.



Good thing my mum is away for a few days.
She doesn't like me wearing red!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

People do the strangest things

This guy walks out of the Masjid and realises he has on one of the Masjid's hats. Rather than walking back in and returning it to the hat basket, where he got it from, instead he has an idea to put it on the head of the person praying closest to where he now stands. He does so and walks off. People do the strangest things!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Fly free. Reign supreme

Shun the demons of doubt.
Break loose the shackles of security.
Leap off the island of comfort,
into the ocean of chance.
Sailing the expanse of opportunity.
Just as history assures,
indeed fortune favours the brave.

---

Or, (as kindly brought to my attention) in cartoon form:

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Encouraging good works

I try my best to answer anyone who contacts me, whatever the communication medium. Even if it takes a number of months, I make a mental (and written!) note and it irritates me and I feel indebted until I respond.

Lately I had been thinking, why bother? Doing so detracts me from doing what I want to do and I could always choose to "forget". This was until someone mentioned to me in passing how he and others appreciated their being able to get through to me, and I thought "oh".

I felt really good inside after hearing this and couldn't understand why, until I stumbled upon this Hadith: "... The Prophet (SAWS) said, 'When anybody among you finds a good attribute in his brother, let him tell him of it, as it will give him encouragement to do good works'..."

Friday, 19 September 2008

Sarcasm

My sister tells me I need to make a resolution this Ramadhan to cut down on the sarcasm. How fortunate I am to have someone to point my errors out to me. If she slapped me across the head every time I made a sarcastic remark, that would be even better.

Friday, 12 September 2008

14, Purification of the Heart

Title: Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms, and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart
Author: Hamza Yusuf
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Starlatch Press, US (Jun 2004)
Language: English

Maybe because I am most in need of it, but this is one of the best books I have read and will ever read, maa sha Allah.

Imam Abu Hanifa said, as quoted in this book, "If the kings knew the pleasure we are in [worshipping God and gaining knowledge of His religion], they would send their armies with swords to take it away from us."

Such is true of this book. A knowledge more valuable/pleasurable than gold or oil or any such commodity.

The book is excellently structured/sectioned to allow for broken up periodic reading and digestion in parts. Some of the "diseases" discussed include miserliness, hatred, love of the world, envy, fear of poverty, displeasure with the divine degree, negative thoughts, vanity, anger, boasting and arrogance.

Get it if you want to better yourself as a person. A must for all, irrespective of religious belief.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

JIMAS - Quotes for Ramadhan

Some quotes for Ramadhan taken from various talks during last weekend's JIMAS conference:
  1. Some things to try improve upon this Ramadhan: prayer (increasing Khushoo/attentiveness, avoiding distractions etc), modesty (lowering gaze etc), dhikr (increasing time spent in the remembrance of Allah).
  2. Ramadhan: A month of *sacrifice*? Better word is *deposit*. Or better yet: *investment*.
  3. Ramadhan is the month of training.
  4. The only thing that belongs to you is your good deeds. The money that you give in charity is a part of you, forever.
  5. Charity brings success. You will find much such advice in many self-help business-manuals (written by non-religious authors).
  6. Iftaar: Invite the poor to join you. Serve others before yourself when eating. Keep refilling others' plates without them having to request it.

JIMAS - Random Categorisations and Quotes

Some random categorisations and quotes taken from various talks during last weekend's JIMAS conference:
  1. The best advice for anyone and everyone: Fear Allah.
  2. The 4 pillars of Kufr (disbelief): Pride, Envy, Anger, Arrogance.
  3. The 3 evil figures in Islam: Iblees, Fir'awn, Ad-Dajjaal.
  4. The 4 CEO (Chaos Of Everything) forces: (i) the devilish pull/whisperings of Shaytaan (satan); (ii) the Nafs (lower soul); (iii) the Dunya (world) - its worldliness and material pull; (iv) Hawaa' (whims/desires/passions). Our Jihad (striving) is against these 4 things.
  5. Only a hypocrite feels himself safe from hypocrisy.
  6. "Shari'ah! Shari'ah! Chopping of hands!" we hear. Man, relax! That's just for thieves.
  7. This Deen was shouldered by the young ones and sharpened by the wisdom of the elders.

JIMAS - Quotes on Good Manners and Character

Some quotes about good manners and character taken from various talks during last weekend's JIMAS conference:

  1. People of character bring about victory.
  2. Sometimes good manners means we put up with others' bad manners.
  3. In an incident revealed in the Qur'an, Ibrahim (peace be upon him) welcomes/invites some guests even though he doesn't know them and he brings them a large, quality amount of food immediately, without even asking them. An incident to reflect upon.
  4. Guests: Don't ask if they want to eat. You know, out of politeness, they're going to say no. Just bring it.
  5. The saying "serve yourself" does not translate in Arabic. Try it: "ikhdim nafsak". "ikhdim nafsak"?! In the Arabic language and Arab culture, it comes across just plain bizarre.
  6. Feed and assist others for the sake of Allah (SWT). Not to be compensated. To remind of a good deed done is Haram. Severly disliked. A kind word is much better.
  7. Two people (characteristics) loved by Allah: a person who is kind/forbearing and a person who takes time to deliberate.
  8. Some characteristics come natural to a person. Others have to be learned/acquired.
  9. From your good character are qualities like patience and forgiveness.
  10. Mercy: He who doesn't show it, will not receive it.
  11. Our so-called "practice" of Islam becomes a barrier for people accepting it.
  12. "The Prophet's (SAWS) character was the Qur'an" means that the Qur'an is full of character.
  13. Don't make comments like "Oh, you're not married yet?" or "You've put on a bit of weight" or such things. It can be very hurtful for the other person.
  14. Treat your family good, parents in particular. It is a good measure of whether your good behaviour outside the house is just for show. Treat the womenfolk gently.

JIMAS - Quotes on Belief

Some quotes about belief taken from various talks during last weekend's JIMAS conference:

  1. Spirituality is liked in the secular world because it denies the (existence of the) devil.
  2. Take a walk in the countryside (and marvel at the beauty) if you don't believe in God.
  3. Science can only answer *how* Allah created the earth. Religion answers *why*.
  4. We don't invent new names/titles for Allah, e.g. "the artist", "the engineer" etc. We stick to those that He (SWT) has revealed to us.
  5. When you create something and programme it to obey you, and it does, that shows the greatness of the creator. When you create something and it *chooses* to obey you, that is something else, wallahu akbar.

JIMAS Conference 2008 - Notes

Thought I would share some of my notes from last weekend's JIMAS conference, the theme of which was 'Believing in Allah, Striving for excellence'.

I have merged my notes from the various talks, split them into four sections and will put them up as four separate posts insha-Allah, as follows: (i) belief, (ii) good manners and character, (iii) random categorisations and quotes, and (iv) Ramadhan.

The best advice of all, on the final day, I do not quote. That I cannot re-capture. Those were words from/for the heart, not from/for paper. May Allah bless our Shuyookh.

Friday, 29 August 2008

13, The Bad Consequences of the Tongue

Title: Shaykh Ahmad Zamzani's Advice on the Bad Consequences of the Tongue
Publisher: JIMAS (Third reprint, October 2002)
Language: English
Pages: 38

Fabulous piece of advice that is almost guaranteed to have you talking less by the end of it. Get it, read it and act accordingly. With Ramadhan, the month of constraint, around the corner, now could not be a better time.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Me and My Slam Man - Video

Slam Man! A great way to release negative energy, like laziness and the desire to sleep. A £100 well spent in my opinion.
video
ps. You have to love the recording. That's my younger cousin Hamid. May Allah bless him.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Escape

When your life's a mess, you feel yourself being pulled this way and that, you have more tasks to do than time to do it and no time for that which you love, what do you do?

Information vs Knowledge

Information:
that which lingers
in the brain and on the tongue.
Knowledge:
that which penetrates
the heart and limbs.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

12, Al-Wasiyya

Title: Al-Wasiyya, The Advice of the Esteemed Scholar Muwaffiq ad-Deen Ibn Qudaama al-Maqdisee
Publisher: Turath Publishing (November 2008, to appear)
Language: English (translated from Arabic)
Pages: Not sure of the final version, but it's not long at all

An inspiring read. After a bad few weeks, I have now got myself back to praying Fajr in the Masjid and staying awake after Fajr, al7amdulillah, and this short book was indeed an influencing factor.

Composed of three sections (Hastening to Act; Things Which Undermine Good Deeds; Watchfulness and Fear), this book is an excellent piece of advice full of touching sayings and examples from scholars that have preceded us in excellence, may Allah be pleased with them and may He admit us with them, despite our vast shortcomings, in the Gardens of Eternity.

When you get (and read!) this book (insha-Allah you do!), look out in particular for the island metaphor illustrating this world and its people. Phenomenally simple and effective maa sha Allah!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Bungee Run Fun - Video

Some bungee running fun from a summer fete I helped out at a couple of weeks ago:
video
Look out for the video compilation of the whole summer fete, very nice maa sha Allah, to appear very soon insha-Allah.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Eat together

Just had another one of those "random" occurrences. I planned to Blog today an experience I had a few days ago and in doing some completely independent reading just now I came across a directly relevant piece of advice. First the advice, then the experience insha-Allah:

"... A man said to the Prophet (SAWS), 'We eat but we do not feel satisfied'. He (SAWS) said, 'Perhaps you are eating separately. Eat together and mention the Name of Allah, and He will bless the food for you'.

... The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) also said, 'Eat together and not separately, for the blessing is in being together'."

(Source: Tafseer Ibn Katheer, explanation of Verse 61 Surah 24)

Strength is indeed in numbers. The other day, I met with a brother, a quiet brother, over lunch and he amazed me to say the least. In every bite he would take of his meal, without fail, he would say "bismillah" (in the Name of God). And then I looked to myself, worse than an animal, at times passing through a whole meal without once remembering and being grateful to the One who provided it for me.

Such a simple act but oh so important. I ask Allah for the steadfastness to begin every act with a "bismillah" and for a companion to set me straight should I forget.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Two categories of fighter

There is one
who wants to prove to others
he is a fighter.

Thinking himself great,
liking himself this way
he talks much,
overlooking his weaknesses
he turns to hot-headed aggression.

And then there is another,
who want to prove to himself
he is a fighter.

Knowing himself weak,
hating himself this way
he listens much,
overcoming his weaknesses
he turns to cool-headed skill.

I would like to consider myself the latter
but it is so easy to slip to rage
and so difficult to ignore the observing eyes.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Give it to the busy guy

So I am having a discussion with a brother and he wants me to take on some work. I tell him I am extremely busy at the present time. He responds by laying down this convincing principle:

"If you want something done, give it to someone who is busy."

Quite logical. The busy restless guy is busy precisely because he takes on work - he gets things done. The not so busy guy is comfortably asleep because work is not his forte.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Music and Me

For some reason, whenever I pass the sound of music, even the most mellowest of slow tunes, an urge to fight overcomes me. Strange. An urge to fight, of course, in an artistic sense.

You experience something similar? Feel a change in thinking when in the company of music?

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Nephew

Alhamdulillah, my sister-in-law (brother's wife) gave birth today. The kid (yet to be named) is real well-behaved maa sha Allah. May Allah keep him so. I held him for around twenty minutes reciting Qur'an to him. The whole time he was looking attentively straight up at me. Funny, I thought babies don't see and hear until later on. I could be wrong?

Smile

So I am sparring and I get hit straight in the mouth with a nicely timed straight kick. The strike doesn't hurt but it is enough to knock my gum shield loose and provoke a thought: a litte harder, a little higher, a little faster, and it would be enough to knock a(nother) tooth out. God forbid. And so I vow, this winning smile I will show due gratefulness for and distribute unsparingly. And with that I pray: O Allah, make good my character just as you have made good my appearance.

Like the idea? Then why not you yourself start right now and leave a smiley face comment below? :-)>

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Interfaith Dialogue

I attended an inter-faith discussion yesterday and realised just how difficult it is to communicate something as intrinsic as faith/belief in a humble tangible manner. I suppose practice makes perfect. The aim and guidelines (see below) I thought were super, although I might have fallen short of the mark on occasion.

Aim of the Dialogues: sharing understanding between people of different beliefs and spiritualities.

Guidelines for Good Dialogue:
- Not a debate it's a dialogue;
- Feel free to ask questions;
- Don't speak in an offensive manner;
- Don't compare ideals of your religion to the practises of other people;
- use "I" statements to identify yourself in your tradition;
- It's OK to say "I can't answer that question".

Thursday, 22 May 2008

11, Getting it done: how to lead when you're not in charge

Title: Getting it done: how to lead when you're not in charge
Author: Roger Fisher and Alan Sharp
Publisher: HarperBusiness (May 1999)
Language: English
Pages: 240

There is no doubting that working in a team we get more done than working alone. This book is packed with tips on how we can work/collaborate better with others. The advice is based on a method of "lateral leadership", which consists of three steps: "The first step is to organise and sharpen your personal skills at getting things done by yourself. The second step is to understand clearly your strategic goal of an organised way of getting things done with others. The third step is learning some tactics of participatory leadership." The first two steps I kind of skim-read. Techniques pertaining to the third step I found particularly thought-provoking and useful; techniques related to asking, offering and doing things that "stimulate others to become skillful at working together".

In summary: another good book from the Harvard Negotiation team; well-structured and plenty of examples to demonstrate the advice.

Monday, 19 May 2008

In & Around Lisbon

Just got back from a week in Portugal. Good country. Nice helpful people. Nobody stares and everybody minds his/her own business. However, not much to see, except one breathtaking Masjid; big and beautiful, with a dome, minaret, open courtyard, facilities for women, classrooms, sports hall, the works, maa sha Allah. Worth checking out if you happen to be in Lisbon. Definitely better than praying in the nearby car park of the American embassy and being surrounded by angry men with machine guns, which happened to a friend of mine on his way from his hotel to meet me at the Masjid.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Dreams

"Dreams are messenger to us from the unknown. They are voices from our collective sub-conscious, warners of deep inner disturbance in the individual psyche, bearer of glad tidings of good things to come, or echoes of happy or sad and long hidden memories..."

(Source: Forward to 'Ibn Seerin's Dictionary of Dreams')

I have been seeing a lot of dreams recently. Passing these off as nothing in a blanket fashion I think is a bit nonsensical, so I have got myself this book as a starting point, not necessarily to find answers to my dreams, more so to increase my appreciation for the science of dream interpretation and to understand a little better what dreams are, where dreams come from and how dreams can (and have) play(ed) a positive part in peoples' - including mine - lives.

Any thoughts, dear readers, on this matter? Rarely does consultation disappoint so I would love to hear your take and experiences on this subject. Jazaakumullahu Khairan.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Relax About Writing

I was just clearing my desk (actually, shuffling papers from one side to another) and noticed notes I had taken at a 'Relax About Writing' workshop attended a number of months ago that I had not Blogged about.

One exercise we did at the workshop which I thought was kind of "cool" (sorry, felt like using that word) and which I thought would we worth sharing with my readership was "freewriting". The exercise is to write non-stop for five minutes anything that comes to mind - there are to be no pauses and the pen is not to leave the paper. Upon completion, read what you have wrote, either then or some time later, and pick out "nuggets" worth thinking about and exploring further.

Try it. It is meant to be "a technique to explore ideas and clarify thoughts" and "useful when you are stuck or overwhelmed". Also, apparently a great release "for emotions and frustration", like Blogging might I add.

Note that your freewriting doesn't have to be five minutes. You could write for a shorter amount of time... or longer, or perhaps keep writing until you fill a page... or two.

As well as freewriting, another tip for writing is to step away from "notes to self" and write with a reader in mind. In doing so, there is need for better explanation and this is where holes in your ideas/thoughts come to light.

More tips: keep a writing journal, carry a notebook, or even, start a Blog!

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Argument

"If you find yourself in an argument, stop. Ask the other person what you are arguing about. On many occasions what you, or they, think you are arguing about you are not...

... Back to the school room for many of us; and learn the art of sticking to the point, and remaining cool in our delivery. So that we end up arguing about the things we intend arguing about."

(Source: Big Issue founder A. John Bird in 'The Big Issue')

Quotes taken from an article about poverty and the welfare system. The article was ok but nothing exceptional that you need to seek out. I liked the opening and closing paragraphs and thought I would share them with you. That's it. Nothing more to it.

Monday, 28 April 2008

seni08 - The International Combat Sports Show

I went down to this exhibition yesterday and (minus the scantily-clad women) enjoyed the few hours that I was there.

Walking around and observing the different martial arts I was thinking to myself, "man, isn't it amazing how different people are attracted to different martial arts?"

Me personally, I just love a good, no-nonsense, relaxed spar - a great release for a stressful day.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

10, Manual of the Warrior Light

Title: Manual of the Warrior of Light
Author: Paulo Coelho
Publisher: HarperCollins (2006, original work: 1997)
Language: English (translated from Portuguese)
Pages: 320

Very inspirational collection of short, quite simple at first sight, passages. Each page of the book is a new passage - a message of guidance, wisdom and encouragement. Each passage sets out to define a characteristic of 'the warrior of light', a concept I will not even attempt to explain here. Read the book, let your inner light shine and, in essence, live a better life.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Control

Before you came to be,
the universe ran its course.
After you have come to pass,
nothing will have changed.

Let go.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The Noor magazine - Issue 18

Alhamdulillah, Issue 18 of The Noor magazine is complete and has been sent off for print. For those that can't wait (or are reading this a number of months down the line with no more paper copies in stock), you can download it here:
http://www.noorulislam.co.uk/Downloads/TheNoor18.pdf

As always, we have our usual array of inspiring articles; advice for parents/carers, tips for improving our character, stories of individuals truly worth inspiring to, an account of travelling for the sake of knowledge, a continuation of our heart-rendering tour of Paradise, and some puzzles and recipes for all, young and old, to get busy with.

I hope you enjoy the read and leave some comments, either here on this Blog or via email, letter, phone or in person, especially any positive feedback or constructive criticisms that you may have. Jazaakumullahu Khairan.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Bearing Witness: Five Years of Reporting War in Iraq

Good short introductory video and timeline consisting of pictures and videos put together by Reuters. Check it out:
http://iraq.reuters.com/

Saturday, 29 March 2008

9, Ahmed Bukhatir Nasheed Videos

Personally I don't like music. I find it distracting. It messes with my head. I uncharacteristically start daydreaming and thinking strange unusual thoughts.

Having said that, I love vocal Nasheeds (songs) that carry a message, a good message. And what is better than a Nasheed with a good message and no music? One with a nice well-thought-out video to go with it, as I just discovered a few moments ago...

I walked into my house and found my 2-year-old niece Maryam sitting mesmerised in front of the computer. Stopping to see what she was up to, I found myself instantly drawn in, so much so that I just spent the last half-hour sitting with Maryam going through all six of Ahmed Bukhatir's videos one-by-one.

Very inspiring. Check the videos out for yourself:
http://www.bukhatir.org/

Oh yeah, and my eyes watered a little bit. :-)>

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

8, Fiqh Ad-Da'wah: Guiding to Allah By the Book

Title: Fiqh Ad-Da'wah: Guiding to Allah By the Book
Speaker: Muhammad Alshareef
Language: English
Running Time: 18 hours (18 CDs)
Producer: Eman Rush (AlMaghrib Institute)

Very practical and workable advice for those living in the West and involved in Da'wah and Islamic organisational work. An excellent mix of advice, maa sha Allah, based on Islamic sources, business/marketing studies and the speaker's own personal experiences.

It should be mentioned, to its credit, this series of lectures is not an A-to-Z of arguments and counter-arguments to be used in debates (although this is touched upon towards the end), rather it is a much more comprehensive set detailing the character of the Da'ee, the makeup of an appealing organisation, the psyche of those we are hoping to guide, negotiation/debating tips and tricks, and lots more besides, walhamdulillah.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

If you were sincere...

So I am sitting in a Dars (lesson) and observe what I deem to be various flaws in the delivery of the speaker. After the Dars, walking home with a friend who happened to sit in as well, I point out to him my observations. Upon doing so, he turns to me and hits me with a peach of an advice (paraphrased): "If you were sincere, you would have told him, not me."

True, very true. Why make suggestions for improvement to one it does not concern? Bizarre! Anyway, lesson learnt and, God-willing, I will inform the one it concerns and not repeat the mistake again.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Questions to ask of a potential spouse

So I am having my regular weekend "stand outside the Masjid after Fajr and enjoy the cool morning air" chat with an older brother and the topic gets on to qualities to seek in a spouse. And so he advises the usual advice, you know, a person gets married for one of four things etc etc (not to belittle the advice in any way whatsoever but I won't repeat it here because I am very certain you have heard it many times before). We continue, he advises a little more, and then he hits me with these two gems, which I thought I would share with the wider world:

(1) How would her relationship be with your mother?
(2) How is her relationship with the Qur'an?

Questions to consider; very practical and very important in my opinion. You may disagree?

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Responding to a Questioner

Some advice for myself for better responding to a questioner:

(1) Allow the questioner to fully complete their question;
(2) If the question or purpose of the question is not too clear to you, play back the question to the questioner how you understood it and check with them that you have properly understood the question;
(3) Think, understand and acknowledge the concerns underlying the questioner/question. Make the acknowledgement verbally, e.g. "I appreciate your concerns...";
(4) Thank the questioner for putting forward the question;
(5) Answer the question.

And Allah knows best and I do not know, and as with any advice, it is easier said than done.

Friday, 29 February 2008

7, Imam Abu Hanifa's Al-Fiqh al-Akbar Explained

Title: Imam Abu Hanifa's Al-Fiqh al-Akbar Explained
Compiled and Translated with an Introduction by: Abdur-Rahman ibn Yusuf
Publisher: White Thread Press (June 2007)
Language: English (with the original Arabic text included at the beginning of each chapter)
Pages: 240

Excellent book on Islamic creed, the focus of which, naturally, is divine oneness (tawheed). The book served well to refine my understanding of the Creator, the Prophets, Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), the Companions (RA), the Qur'an, predestination, the realities of this life, the events of the Hereafter and related matters.

The book is comprehensive but yet very clear and concise; presented in a well-structured manner and written in language accessible to people of all levels. Definitely worth purchasing, reading and returning to time and time again.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Has Political Participation Failed British Muslims?

I attended this debate yesterday put on by the Cordoba Foundation. Alhamdulillah, they put together an excellent line-up of panelists (Lord Nazir Ahmad (member of the House of Lords), Osama Saeed (political activist and parliamentary hopeful), Dr Abdul Wahid (chairman Hizb-at-Tahrir UK), Makbool Javaid (human rights lawyer)) and the debate itself was very insightful and educating.

Some of the key points that I picked up from both sides were as follows:
- We have to engage in the political process, at every level. Not engaging and isolating ourselves is nonsensical.
- To be accepted we would have to sell-out and make compromises of we are and what we believe in.
- There have been many successes resulting from us participating in the political process, e.g. state-funded Muslim schools, Islamic finance options etc.
- We shouldn't be naive and should take example from other communities. For example, the black community in America has black people in top positions in many political spheres but the general state of living of black people is very very bad indeed.

Note that I have not attributed the points to particular speakers. I do not think it would be right to do so, since what I have typed is my understanding of the points and not necessarily what the speakers may have intended.

The debate wrapped up with a vote from the audience and those listening on radio at home. The result was as follows:
- Those in favour of the motion (i.e. political participation has failed British Muslims): 78%
- Those against: 14%
- Those undecided: 8%

A landslide victory. Shocking, no?

Monday, 25 February 2008

Effective Teaching Methodology in Madrassahs

In continuation of the Mosque 100 Programme organised by the Muslim Council of Britain, I attended this workshop yesterday aimed to better the approach of our Madrassah teachers and organisers, not in terms of academic curriculum but in a sense of making our Madrassahs places where children feel happy and willing to come and learn.

During the three-hour workshop, advice was given on boosting student morale, keeping pupils happy and satisfied, instilling in pupils self-respect, winning the hearts of pupils and promoting sentiments of loyalty and devotion in the children.

Two areas that received particular extended attention, and rightfully so, was behaviour education and child abuse. The former discussion focused around knowing and understanding the role and need for strategies that contribute to good behaviour (topics included management style, behaviour policy, statement of ethos, role of the curriculum, rules, procedures on failing to uphold the rules, role of parents and environment). The second discussion highlighted the different types of abuse (physical, psychological, emotional), its signs (i.e. how we can recognise it is taking place) and the various negative effects it has on children.

Overall, despite not being a Madrassah teacher, I found great benefit in attending and came away with a lot of ideas to try and apply in my youth work.

May Allah reward all those involved in setting up and running this programme with a reward better and more lasting.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

A Tear-Jerking Encounter

I popped down to a magistrate's court earlier today to sit and listen in to the hearing of a couple of individuals who wrongfully spent a number of years in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, only for them to come home and face a bizarre extradition request from the Spanish. The court was full so I didn't manage to get inside. However, whilst there I had a conversation with an old lady that left a lasting impression. She spoke in a very soft slow polite tone and told me how she has been actively involved in humanitarian work for over 50 years, balancing it with her family commitments she added. What affected me most was not her stories nor her involvement but the fact that for the entire 15 minutes we spoke her eyes were filled with tears. Her concern and selflessness was humbling and a real inspiration.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

M100 Programme - Project Management

Just attended the third installment of the Mosque 100 Programme, organised by the Muslim Council of Britain and conducted by Oak Community Development. The topic of today's workshop was Project Management. Like the first two, I found it to be pretty beneficial. There was a fair bit of overlap with the Strategic Planning & Visioning workshop but this served well as an opportunity for revision. Key lessons learnt today were wrt getting a project started, managing the process and project closure.

The workshop included a couple of nice exercises. The first was a group exercise to introduce 'problem trees'. This involved identifying a problem (we chose 'the high intake of youths to crime'), breaking the problem down into possible causes and sub-causes (e.g. lack of identity, poor education, family problems etc) and then doing a means-ends analysis to identify solutions (e.g. access to good role models, encouraging able individuals to take to the teaching profession, marriage training etc). The second exercise was to fill in a Belbin Self Perception Inventory, which is a series of multiple-choice questions designed to identify what team role a person is best suited for (e.g. Company Worker, Chairperson, Resource Investigator etc).

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Exploring Your Career Options

I attended this transferable skills workshop (Exploring Your Career Options) earlier in the week. If anything came out of it for me, it was this: my life is an unfocused mess! Time to prioritise and commit full throttle or decommit as the case may be.

But then, if I am honest with myself, am I able to stand by and see things around me possibly (key word: "possibly") fall into a mess and not jump in?

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Anniversary of the Ironic Tooth

A year ago almost exactly, on the verge of completing preparations for a sermon about patience, I had my front tooth knocked out completely.

A year on, just moments ago, having completed my weekly Hadith discussion with my younger cousins (may Allah make them grow to be strong pious Muslims) and whilst play-fighting, guess what?

Guessed? If not, read the latter part of the Hadith we covered in our discussion and it will become oh so clear (like the gap in my mouth):

"A strong believer is better and dearer to Allah than a weak one, and both are good. Adhere to that which is beneficial for you. Keep asking Allah for help and do not refrain from it. If you are afflicted in any way, do not say: 'If I had taken this or that step, it would have resulted into such and such', but say only: 'Allah so determined and did as He willed'. The word 'if' opens the gates of satanic thoughts."

Indeed, Allah decreed my front tooth (rather, the denture that is my front tooth) to break into two pieces and so it happened, wallahu akbar wa a3Dham.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

6, Muslim Spain

Title: Muslim Spain
Speaker: Abu Yusuf Tawfique Chowdhury
Language: English
Running Time: 1.5 hours approx
Producer: Qadimoon

A brief insightful two-part lecture outlining the events and suggesting the causes that lead to the rise and fall of Muslim Spain. History goes on repeating so worth the listen with lots of lessons to think about for today.

Food for thought: "Over 800 years of Spain's life was ruled by the Muslims." Bet you didn't know that! "Every science that is majored in the world was advanced in Spain by their intellectual endeavours." Surprised? And finally, "At a time when Spain had sophisticated waterworks and street lights, across the Channel people were living in mud huts next to the river." Intriguing indeed. (Quotes taken from the CD cover case.)

Monday, 21 January 2008

M100 Programme - Strategic Planning & Visioning and Funding & Development

I attended the second installment of the Mosque 100 Programme yesterday, which consisted of two workshops: 'Planning & Visioning' and 'Funding & Development'.

The first workshop included a nice hands on exercise, which was to perform a SWOT analysis of our respective organisations, i.e., to identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Oppurtunities and Threats.

The second workshop was full of useful tips for composing successful funding applications and developing successful sustainable projects.

With plans to launch a youth club in my locality imminent, these training workshops could not have come at a better time, and all Praise is due to Allah, Lord and Sustainer of all that exists.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Experiences of Muslim Students - Open Space

I attended an 'Open Space' event yesterday conducted by the Office for Public Management (OPM), who have been commissioned by the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority to conduct research into Muslim students' experiences of studying in higher and further education institutions in London.

The event was introduced with findings from on-line surveys carried out by the OPM late last year. The surveys, according to the OPM, identified five areas of concern: 'Tackling Discrimination', 'Social Environment', 'Learning Environment, 'Meeting the Needs of Muslim Students' and 'Identity'.

The main part of the event consisted of two hour-long sessions in which a number of discussions ran simultaneously. Personally, I found the discussions to be very useful, both in airing my own views, experiences and concerns, and also in listening to those of other attendees; Muslim and non-Muslim.

Of course I went with my own agenda, which was to make known some of the issues facing Muslims at my university, like the recent introduction of a ban on wearing the veil, inadequate facilities for the obligatory congregational Friday prayer and the irritating argument we have to hear oh so often: "we are a secular institute". A secular institute! Then why the Christmas trees?!

Anyway, some of the topics discussed were: 'Emotional implications at further/higher education', 'Barriers to further/higher education and choice', 'Ablution and prayer facilities', 'Involvement and participation of Muslims', 'Leadership and role models', 'Tackling discrimination', 'Islamic Societies and surveillance', 'Islamic Societies and Student Unions' and 'The academic curriculum'.

A note on attendance: There seemed to be around 40 participants from various organisations and institutions, under half of which were Muslim. The Muslims, except a few, all seemed to be in their early 20s and only 3 (including myself) were males currently studying or recently completed their studies.

A pause for thought: Why do Muslim women always significantly outnumber Muslim men at events of this nature? Surely the issues concerned affect us both equally?

Another thing that got me thinking after the event was this: Yes things could be better and we are entitled to request (I say "request" and not "demand" after being kindly advised in this regard yesterday) the rights we feel we are entitled to, but how little, if ever, do we show appreciation to the institutions for the facilities they do provide us with? Worth a thought, no?

You can find more information about OPM and their research here:
http://www.opm.co.uk/muslim

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Back in the Ring

After a month and a half out with various niggly injuries, I finally returned to the ring yesterday and boy did I love every second of it; the giving and even more so the receiving.

To play on another soul's words, me without the fighting world is like the earth without water, unfulfilled, dry and unbelievable!

Verily, very few accomplishments give greater satisfaction than getting inside the head of an opponent. That first sight of him lose his cool is like a predator's first scent of blood... near ecstasy!

Seeing him rage and spiral into an oblivion of anger; nostrils flared, brows frowned, neck stiffened and veins popped, is exactly the kind of thing one tastes in a sweet pleasurable dream whilst tucked away comfortably at night.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

5, The Ultimate Fighter

After many years of thinking this to be just another one of those pointless reality television programmes, I finally gave it a try, loved it and just finished watching seasons 1 and 6.

What is it? A number of mixed martial artists are gathered to live together, train together and fight one another in a ring/cage/'Octagon' (call it what you will) over a prolonged period of time in a 'winer stays on' tournament style set-up. The winner of the tournament is awarded a six-figure contract to fight with the Ultimate Fighting Championship organisation.

I found both seasons to be a good insight into the training of mixed martial artists but more so a great insight into the mind and motivation of the fighters. I definitely plan to catch up on seasons 2 to 5 and look forward with excitement to season 7 (to be coached by current light-heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and winner of season 1 Forrest Griffin!), which will be filmed and aired later this year.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Mosque 100 Programme - Introduction & Training Seminar

I attended a seminar yesterday conducted by the 'Oak Community Development' group, which was the first in what will be a long-term programme geared towards "creating better and inclusive communities". The group are a training consultancy organisation that have been contracted by the Muslim Council of Britain to turn our Mosques from places limited to prayer and supplication to becoming hubs of the community buzzing with life and activity.

Yesterday's seminar included a session on 'Good Governance of our Mosques and Organisations', a discussion entitled 'Facing up to the Challenges' and a talk about 'Planning, Organising and Sustainability'.

A step in the right direction me thinks.

Friday, 4 January 2008

The Ultimatum

Besides prayer, there is no activity that brings me greater joy than to fight.

So you can imagine my despair when my doctor strongly urges me today, for medical reasons, to give it up.

To describe the shock in the language of a martial artist, it was, well... err... like a kick in the groin.

"There are many other sports...", he says in corcordance with the advice of my dear mother, "... that cause less trauma."

Trauma!? The trauma of absorbing a physical strike does not compare to the psychological trauma of making this decision.

Time to turn to my number one love for a much-needed assistance.