Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Birthday Lights and Reflections - 2009

Of Empathy and a Helpful Hand

I have always known that helping someone, anyone, revives me like an endless smile that lights up the world forever. I do feel youthful in these moments when I see or feel or sense that someone, anyone, has found happiness again. But I never placed this in the framework of marriage or even in the image of a husband.

Would he be a man with misery at heart, a man with a tear and a smile, a man who needs a friend who reminds him always of The Friend above in times of self-war and sin and tears and hardship…

In hurt but with pride, in short, a man I know how to know.

Of Courage

A man once said there’s a fool in us all that sees the mountain so tall but in the end it’s the valley that’s safe.

Foolish it is to think courage comes from the big shiny famous things we’ve done in life. And foolish it is to think true happiness comes from these statues of accomplishments gathered like gods in Roman temples. With this kind of seeing the world, with these pair of eyes, what happens is we imagine our happiness in people we do not have. Can never have. When he who sits right next to you is the happiness of your life. The one you thought is your mundane valley while you turn your cheek and dream of glorious mountains.

It takes courage, you see, to change. To change how we see. How we see our loved ones, and this matters when we think of soul-partners or husbands or wives. The pursuit of happiness (and the movie helps, too) is about re-learning how to see happiness in the person who truly offers it to you, and not to dream of it elsewhere.

And the same man said… and though folks might say you must conquer the heights, you ain’t conquering nothing without the valley inside …

Of Humor and Smiles

In a dream I once learned that the funny person is twice more serious than the not-so-funny person. Heart heavy, mind tactful, smile measured. But when I look in the mirror of my mind, I remember the words of my grade three teacher Mrs. Barbara who looked at me with her beautiful blue eyes and said in her lovely British accent: “ Never let anyone take your smile away from you, dear”.

I can understand if the world takes my smile away from me but what if that anyone is marriage?

I’m joking! Where’s my unearned ha-ha?

Of Writing

I will argue it to the grave. Writing is healing, ranging from bloggers to grade school writers, the inside cannot be seen unless penned with ink and paper. Or Mac and Microsoft Word. Or color paint and a white wall. Or napkin and an old school pen. Or a finger writing in thin air while you lie on your back looking up to the clouds passing by …

Of Quest for the Right One

This blog started with an idea. Why not make the quest for marriage, especially in the “West”, one step easier by starting up a space for communication and the exchange of thoughts. My older posts shoot straight at the title and address notions that seem much more relevant such as suitoring or choosing a husband or describing experiences about my friends and so on.

When real life experiences about marriage or suitoring ran out, I found myself in a two-forked way. Either be honest, or tell stories. Either stop the blog or make up stuff. So I took those two options, put them in the blender and created a third thing: Narrations that are as honest as the smile I flashed to my mother the last time I saw her. And if some of these narrations happen to be about marriage, that’s good too :-)

As mentioned in an older post, the quest for the right one has also become the quest for the right me within me. Only in this self-reflective state can I offer something beautiful to my soul-partner. Otherwise I’d just be a wife.

This said, I do apologize if the title of the blog seems more and more irrelevant, but if I can make it better, I’d advise you to get comfortable with this disrupt. Go into the unfamiliar with me. See what it brings. And don’t quit believing.

Thank you all for your insightful, loving and soft words! This birthday girl can now grow one year younger.

With Peace and Joy and Cha Cha Cha!!! :-)

PS: wanted to quickly say I'm so like super touched by the e-gifts I got. Totally unexpected, totally loving this :-)


Monday, September 28, 2009

It's My Another Chance at LIfe Day!

Next week is my Birthday! And she giggles like a little girl :-). With respect to all those who do not celebrate Birthdays, I take this day as an occasion to re-evaluate myself and all I've been and become. Can I ask you for a favor please :-) I want a present, and this is it:

Tell me one thing you've noticed about me from this blog, good or bad.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Eeeeeeeeeid Gift to You --- :-)

*** Sweeeeeeeeeeet blissful Eid Everyone!! ***

How can I forget my peeps on this special day. My sister knows I like masjid Al-Amin in Beirut so she filmed the inside of it for me.

I'm sharing this glimpse of Lebanon's Eid in unity and solidarity from this place to yours. Once more, Happpyy Eeeeeeeeeeeeid!!! :-)

Click HERE for the Eid Gift :-)



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Peekaboo for Zakat too

With the idea of zakat in mind as money goes around, I felt a need to post this. We've been to the camps and slept over there and here's a note:

The question of Palestine is not about poverty. People generally aren't poor. It's about human rights. Dignity. The right to work, vote, own property, not to be disallowed from over 70 job types in the host country, about being allowed to travel with a Palestinian ID to Arab surrounding countries -- Qatar won't allow a Palestinian in the country (with very few exceptions).

So sending money through international aid is good, folks, but that's not all to see in the question of Palestine or the refugee situation. There is way too much focus on "money as aid to Palestine" idea, which is really a misconception now I see.

We think a refugee camp, we think a poor suffering child doing nothing waiting around. We think refugee only when a missile hits Gaza or the camps in Lebanon, only when that Palestinian is dying. When we think Palestine we don't think pharmacies with updated medicines, clothing stores, young boys selling vegetables. We don't think satellite dishes, girls with ipods, iftars during Ramadan free to families, or monthly allowances to every Palestinian kid. It's not about money. Trust me. Now I see, it's more about security, human rights, dignity.

To return to the homeland. Even this is under further investigation in my mind. Many, just too many, of the Palestinian youth I've spoken to, aren't thinking of the awdah or the return. They want out, into neighboring countries for work or education. Or better yet, they want the "dream" -- to go to America, Australia, Canada, Europe.

This idolization of "the west" is almost stomach turning. Anyone with any connection to the "West" is idolized, even secretly envied. Adults too, not just youth, want to migrate to foreign countries and not return to Palestine. They want to secure a future there.

Don't get me wrong, there are supporters of the awdah, the return, but they are NOT the majority, and the international audience needs to know this more deeply.

Yes, to answer some of the questions posed to me, my aunt and family do live in the refugee camps, and that is why we've been going and sleeping over and living there basically for a few days and permits are required of us of course. But this experience has really opened our eyes to many things we never focused on even as members of Palestinian human rights student groups in Canada, or just activists generally for human rights. We always thought the problem with Palestine is to return them to the homeland, because they have no country no more. Though this is true, as we said, it is partially true. There is so much more. So much more to this picture.

Some food for thought as we end this Ramadan. Peek. A. Boo.


Footnote: Since it is the commemoration today (Sept 17-18) of the massacres of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon, I dedicate the above post to this day. I've been to Sabra and Shatila, interviewed people there, and walked through its streets ... though I appreciate the good will of people abroad in commemorating this day, it still bothers me how Palestinians are just a day to remember and then move away from.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Peekaboo! :-)

I watch her sleep as I write this. My sister's in town, I won't be blogging regularly for a while, but I'll peekaboo you every once a full moon :-)

Today we go South to visit our aunt at the refugee camps. First, we make a quick stop at the Lebanese Army Force to get permits, gulp.... though we do think of those missile exchanges that happened a few days ago in the South between Israel and Lebanon. But, people live on. And our family's there.

Make du'a for us.

I'll end with this sweet picture: my sister's nine year old daughter, my beautiful niece, calls and asks her mom on the phone: "how did you feel when you saw aunty?"

I was surpised at how quickly she answers: "it's like a big part of me was missing and now I'm whole".

Alhamdullilah for these things in life :-) ...
Until the next breath,


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Words for the Living

The night befriends my waking hours as I stride through a funding application for my research that is due in less than a week. To take a break, and while I skim through reams of literature, some interesting quotes have come my way, some from past interviews and some from inspirational talent. Let them speak to you:


“I would rather be amongst a pack of lions than lead a pack of sheep” (Ahmed Barakat).

“It is very important to understand that war is the result of a flawed peace” (Arundhati Roy from God of Small Things).

“Humans are beings that have knowledge as well as ignorance, memory as well as forgetfulness. In contrast with the rest of creation, they have to live with dignity, risk, and freedom, all at once” (Tarek Ramadan from In the Footsteps of the Prophet)

“This world is a form of pleasure ready to caress you, wound you, break you to pieces, so re-make yourself and remember. Always remember. Your ability to change” (mine).

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood” (Audre Lorde from When Silence Speaks).

“(Nationalism is) a set of beliefs taught to each generation in which the Motherland or the Fatherland becomes a burning cause for which one becomes willing to kill the children of other Motherlands or Fatherlands” (Howard Zinn, from The People’s History of the United States of America).

“Tonight it is raining in the tradition of my parents who wanted a daughter not a writer” (Suheir Hammad from poem Daughter).

“Break a vase, and the love that re-assembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole” (Derek Walcott from Omeros)

...goodnight folks … slumber is calling ...


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Muslim Bachelor Looking for Wife!

Alright, listen up single ladies, here is a shout-out from a muslim brother looking for his soulmate. Indeed, he has a "Quest" blog going on through which he tells his story (yes, but I blog in pink, beat that Mr. Quest! ;) and I've asked him to introduce himself to my followers and readers here. Because you never know where your naseeb or destiny is, my sweet sister. Check out his blog and feel free to contact him. Aight, let it spin Mr Quest!


Assalamu Alaikum!

Nice to meet you, everyone! And thank you lady Quest for letting me do this and self-promote on your blog :-) I'm born and bred in the west. Brought up in a society that is fairly full of corruption. I've stayed close to my deen on this journey so far. I'm now looking for a wife.

As I look for a wife, and share my stories, I remain inspired by people around me who continue to share their own troubles, turbulances or successes and happiness as they go through life in the west... I'd really like to blog my journey to Mrs. Right along with a community of minds out there, and not alone, plus I'm a good writer so bring popcorn!

My blog encompasses events as they unfold through this journey. Events which you can either understand or relate to. Especially those born and/or raised in the west.
My blog welcomes the words from both genders and all kinds of stories because even though I'm seeking a wife, I'm also a regular guy with whom you could possibly relate to, even as your brother in Islam going through life in the West.

Here's my story. Join me on this journey:

Feel free to get in touch at:



Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Mantra of Beauty in Ramadan

A spiritual transformation can happen to the sounds of beauty. Silence the mind and its undying urge to understand or to know, leave your heart to the following:

Close your eyes and listen to a moment during Ramadan taraweeh prayers captured on youtube that certainly reminds me of some of my Ramadan experiences here in Lebanon. Resist your urge to run towards a translated or subtitled page of the verse that this Imam (who is one of my favorites) from Kuwait is reading, and take in the experience in its entirity. Notice the chandeliers, the Qur'ans with their wooden stands, the endless rows, the high ceiling, the space, the unity.

I am not surprised, the architecture of the Masjid here that I go to in Lebanon is inspired by the architecture of this one in Saudi Arabia, I believe, perhaps because the prime minister who built the Beirut masjid was friends or business partners, to use a mild term, with Saudi Arabia.

Now forget all I've said, empty your mind, and leave yourself to the Imam's recitation who undoubtedly reminds me of the Imam reading here in Beirut during taraweeh. Let it soothe you.

With spiritual love,

Recitation of Qur'an during Ramadan


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Conference Decision!

I’ve always liked it. Especially when she gains a few pounds and her face rounds up like a yummy muffin :-) ...

I approach her and I nail a big huge kiss on her round chubby cheeks like a cub pouncing at its mother! My mother will be getting one soon, inshAllah.

Remember that in every moment I rest in her arms, you’ve all earned part of the blessings that surround a mother and her child. With your caring thoughts and guiding words, you are in this picture. Thank you!

I’ll be giving word to the conference organizers tomorrow of my acceptance to their offer, inshAllah …

You know what really did it for me? … I called momz, told her the scenario. She answered the way she always does when I consult with her on things, which is to take a neutral diplomat position and say: “ Oh you know I don’t interfere with your decisions because you’re a big girl, and, I know that you know what’s good for you …”. Then, she pauses. And says: “ but … I miss you …”

There’s no thinking after that.

With warm melodies on the horizon :-) ...


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Decisions Decisions ... D.E.C.I.S.I.O.N.S

They say Libras can never make decisions easily. They keep weighing the two sides eternally and never come out from that state of mind in order to make a decision. Oh boy, perhaps it’s time I believe this of myself. I’ve been chewing on this pickle – more like a giant dill --- for a few days now. It must be a sin somewhere to take this long to decide. So, I’d love to know what you think ….

I’ve been invited to a conference on global youth development that will take place in Canada and Greece. The tickets and hotels are paid for. The downside is the timing. This thing happens like this: three days in Canada (September 21-24) and three days in Greece/Athens (September 28- Oct 1st).

Now, my sister is supposed to come here to Lebanon to visit between September 11th to October 12th. After my calculations, if I go to the conference, I really spend less than half of that time in sane vacationing with my sis in Lebanon.

Also, it takes around 11hrs to fly from Lebanon to Canada (not including airport waiting time, ranges from 3-6 extra hours) – only to stay for three days! Three measly little small days in Canada!

Upside: I’ll see my mummy! And my baby girl niece who I miss like crazy! But.But. But. It takes me a week, normally, to wake up from such a loooong flight. I’ll physically be with them for a few hours each day after conferencing while I’ll be jet lagged worst than anything you can imagine.

Barely will I awaken from all this, then I have to fly out to Greece! Another friggin’ ten hours. Then, to Lebanon.

When I come back, I have three days then. Yes. The semester starts and I’ll be teaching. Though my sister will still be in the country for another seven days, I’ll be teaching (while jetlagged) during most of the time. Oh Lord.

Dilemma: I really wanna see momz, my niece, even my girlz in Canada, participate in important conference, but it’s not fair for my sis … I want to spend time with her in a normal way without all this craziness, plus spend Eid with her in Lebanon and grow old with her on my birthday too which is in October.

… ach me needs your thoughts … what would you do? ... Libras always want to be just to everyone. but it'ssss harrrd ... :(

PS: I felt I should add this footnote, that I've been praying istikharah since I got the news of the conference, and the masjid gives it a peaceful environment to make the dua with heart, too. On the same page, everyone ;-) .... beyond that, what would you do to decide? ....


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reflection on Chapter Ahzab or "the Enemy Parties"

This is what happens when you have an engaging Imam in Ramadan. You start thinking :)


This chapter of the Qur’an is very interesting because it talks about the art of submission during war. Simply because in times of war there must be submission, but the greater submission to Allah swt is harder to find under these conditions. If you look closely at this chapter, what you see is a very detailed description of how different everyone can get when there’s no peace around, and the road to the greater submission becomes unclear.

Groups. Sects. Parties (Ahzab). Take Lebanon for example. A country that has seen over 50yrs of war, from internal and external forces, it has over 11 different millets or branches/sects within Islam, just Islam. Not to count the political Islamist groups, the resistance groups. Other than Hamas, Hezbollah or the Brotherhood, there is Fateh Al-Islam which in itself has five different sub-groups. Not to count many many other Islamicized/politicized groups.

To return to the 11 millets or minority groups here, other than sunni or shiite, there are Alawis, Alevis, Yezidis, Druze and Isma’ili. Not to mention other religions entirely which include Roman Catholic, Jewish, Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Chaldean Catholic, Armenian Catholic and many more. What makes all this different from North America, where you can also find the same groups, is that here they’re part of the political and governmental infrastructure in a much more augmented degree. Some say there is no “real” government in Lebanon, that the country is run by all these groups.

Furthermore, this religious map of the country continues to change starting as far back as the 15th Century. The idea is that when “we” Muslims, we people, we human beings are in war, we are vulnerable to change (about human nature, see chapter 70, verse 19). And chapter Ahzab describes the many ways people do change.

Funny that a chapter named Ahzab, or enemy parties, when read closely, is not really about some other evil, nasty, monstrous, disbelieving army out there attacking us, but is rather describing us, yes, us believers and the many different ways we might possibly change the map of our faith when we’re tested and expecting mass danger. Allah swt says: “when they came from above you, and from beneath you, your eyes were terrified, your hearts ran out of patience, and you harbored unbefitting thoughts about God”. And He also says: “when the true believers saw the enemy parties ready to attack, [this dangerous situation] only strengthened their faith and augmented their submission” (33:22).

It is better, of course, not to be in a war zone. Sometimes, it's as simple as a man who lives in a village, tilling the earth, bringing back food to his family. Then one day, an army attacks his village, and he watches his daughter die in his arms. From an ordinary civilian of peace, he now is filled with hate, and picks up arms to fight. The same thing could happen to another man, and he might choose to live in peace, and not pick up arms. Like the people of Gaza, for example, where many civilians, despite all the death, still choose peace. It takes strength to do that. It is better not to be in a war zone because most likely the change is to the worst. This is how war functions. But if you happen to be in one, the Qur'an offers some tips to the believers.

It is hard to figure things out if you’re a person born into the schizophrenia of faith that maps the religious world in Lebanon, as in many other war-stricken zones. So in times of adversity, we are in a zone of change, and everything is unstable. But you are trained to deal with different wills and intentions all around you. And you are a master at building bridges between groups, if you want to. And you can be a master-warrior, honorable or unfortunately dishonorable, who fights wars like no other, if you wish to take this route.

So what do we learn from this chapter on enemy parties? Perhaps there is no one answer. But know that as you shift in and through the secrets of your heart, the good and the evil, know that while you understand your mistakes or your good actions especially if you live in a war zone, that “He is the one who helps you, together with His angels, to lead you out of darkness into the light” (33:43).

This is God’s eternal system. I will end with closing remarks by one of my favorite authors, Arundhati Roy from her book God of Small Things (1997): "It is very, very important to understand that war is the result of a flawed peace, and we must understand the systems that are at work here".