The Journey…

 

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As a Traveler and a Seeker

I am on a Journey to know Self

And experience the world…

 

Won’t you join me on this excursion?

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A Brief Primer on Islam: Its Tenets and Major Celebrations

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According to a recent Pew Research study (www.pewresearch.org) Muslims, with close to 1.8 billion people, account for about 25% of the world’s population and remains the fastest growing major religion. The bulk of that population resides in Asia and Southeast Asia, not the Middle East as some might suspect. With that in mind, I thought it beneficial to provide a brief summary of the key points of the Islamic belief system.
Surah Al Hujurat (43:13) states, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”
This is my attempt at introducing some basic ideas regarding some of your neighbors. Better understanding is a constructive pursuit!
When I was a young adolescent, I would talk about the importance of information. It used to be difficult to obtain. Today, we have much better access but must be able to filter the good from the non-constructive and generally bad. I apologize in advance if I have transmitted anything false. I am fairly certain that I haven’t and assure you that it was not my intention if I have. My information is largely based on memory, traditions practiced and internet references which may offer a better and more coherent presentation.

Read! Learn! Experience and Enjoy!
The religious practice of Islam, which literally means “to submit to God”, is based on tenets that are known as the Five Pillars, arkan, to which all members of the Islamic community, Ummah, should adhere.

shahada_2

1. The Profession of Faith—The Shahada

The Profession of Faith, the shahada, is the most fundamental of Islamic beliefs. It simply states that “There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet.” It underscores the monotheistic nature of Islam. It is an extremely popular phrase in Arabic calligraphy and appears in numerous manuscripts and religious buildings.

2. Daily Prayers—Salat

Muslims are expected to pray five times a day. This does not mean that they need to attend a mosque to pray; rather, the salat, or the daily prayer, should be recited five times a day. Muslims can pray anywhere; however, they are meant to pray towards Mecca. The faithful pray by bowing several times while standing and then kneeling and touching the ground or prayer mat with their foreheads, as a symbol of their reverence and submission to Allah. On Friday, many Muslims attend a mosque near midday to pray and to listen to a sermon, khutbah.

3. Alms-Giving—Zakat

The giving of alms is the third pillar. Although not defined in the Qu’ran, Muslims believe that they are meant to share their wealth with those less fortunate in their community of believers.

4. Fasting during Ramadan—Saum

During the holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims are expected to fast from dawn to dusk. While there are exceptions made for the sick, elderly, and pregnant, all are expected to refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

hajj

5. Pilgrimage to Mecca—Hajj

All Muslims who are able to are required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca and the surrounding holy sites at least once in their lives. Pilgrimage focuses on visiting the Kaaba and walking around it seven times. Pilgrimage occurs in the 12th month of the Islamic Calendar.
Source: Essay by Dr. Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis, http://www.KhanAcademy.org

Key Islamic Holidays

Islam has relatively few holidays compared to most other religions; nevertheless, sacred days and times are very important to Muslims.
When holidays are being observed, it is common for routine social activities, such as work and commerce, to stop temporarily out of respect for the person or event being remembered.
Most Islamic holidays either commemorate events in the life of the prophet Muhammad or are special days founded by him.
Traditionally, Muslims observe two major festivals (Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha) and one month of daytime fasting (Ramadan).

What is Eid Al-Adha?

In the religion of Islam, ‘Id Al-Adha or Eid al-Adha (Arabic عيد الأضحى, “Festival of the Sacrifice”) is a major festival that takes place at the end of the Hajj. It is also known as ‘Id al-Qurban or al-‘Id al-Kabir (Major Festival). Eid al-Adha marks the completion of the hajj (pilgrimage) rites at Mina, Saudi Arabia, but is also observed by Muslims throughout the world to commemorate the faith of Ibrahim (Abraham).
Eid Al-Adha begins on the 10th of Dhu’l-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar, and lasts for fours days. It begins the day after Muslims on the Hajj descend from Mount Arafat.

Dates

In the western calendar, Eid Al-Adha begins on the following days:

  • September 23-24, 2015
  • September 12-13, 2016
  • September 1-2, 2017
  • August 21, 2018
  • August 11, 2019

Meaning of the Festival

The festival commemorates Allah’s gift of a ram in place of Isma’il (Ishmael), whom God had commanded Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice. (In Judaism and Christianity, the child in this story is Ishmael’s brother Isaac.)
The devil tried to persuade Ibrahim to disobey Allah and not to sacrifice his beloved son, but Ibrahim stayed absolutely obedient to Allah and drove the devil away. Eid al-Adha is a celebration of this supreme example of submission to God, which is the cornerstone of the Islamic faith (Islam means “submission”).

Eid al-Adha Observances

On Eid al-Adha, families that can afford it sacrifice an animal such as a sheep, goat, camel, or cow, and then divide the meat among themselves, the poor, friends and neighbors.
In Britain, the law requires that this is done in a slaughterhouse.
The sacrifice is called Qurban. During the sacrifice, the following prayer is recited:
In the name of Allah And Allah is the greatest O Allah, indeed this is from you and for you, O Allah accept it from me. Eid al-Adha is a public holiday in Muslim countries. Like ‘Id al-Fitr, ‘Id Al-Adha begins with communal prayer at daybreak on its first day, which takes place at the local mosque. Worshippers wear their finest clothes for the occasion. It is also a time for visiting friends and family and for exchanging gifts.

References

Id Al-Adha. Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004).
Eid ul Adha – BBC Religion & Ethics
Eid ul-Adha – Wikipedia
External Links on Eid Al-Adha –
Islamic Garden: Eid Al-Adha – Menus and recipes for Eid Al-Adha.
Islam Online: Eid Al-Adha – Guide to the holiday, with audio.
George W. Bush’s Eid Al-Adha greeting to Muslims – February 2002
Eid Al-Adha in Melbourne, Australia – ABC, March 2003
Muslim Pilgrims ‘Stone the Devil’ – CBS News, January 29, 2005
Source: www.religionfacts.com/eid-al-adha

Eid Al-Fitr breaking the fast of Ramadan

‘Id Al-Fitr or Eid al-Fitr (Arabic for “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast”) is one of Islam’s two major festivals.

Meaning

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. It is a time of celebration and thankfulness to God for the self-control practiced during Ramadan.

Rituals

Rituals and practices of ‘Id al-Fitr are characterized by joyfulness, togetherness, and thankfulness. They include the following:

  • communal (mosque) prayer at dawn on the first day
  • social gatherings and official receptions
  • gift-giving
  • eating sweets
  • wearing new clothes
  • visiting graves of family
  • the greeting ‘Id Mubarak (“May God make it a blessed feast”). {2}

Dates of Eid al-Fitr

‘Id al-Fitr is celebrated during the first three days of the Islamic month of Shawwal, which falls on the following dates on the western calendar:

  • June 25, 2017
  • June 15, 2018
  • June 5, 2019
  • May 24, 2020

References

  1. “Islam.” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004).
  2. Lingnet: The Global Language Network.

Source: http://www.religionfacts.com/eid-al-fitr

Ramadan

Ramadan is not a holy day to Muslims, but a holy month. It is the ninth month of the Islamic year, in which “the Quran was sent down as a guidance for the people” {1}. Ramadan is similar to the Jewish Yom Kippur in that both constitute a period of atonement; Ramadan, however, is seen less as atonement and more as an obedient response to a command from Allah. {2}
During Ramadan, those who are able must abstain from food and drink (including water), evil thoughts and deeds, and sexual intercourse from dawn until dusk for the entire month. Because the holiday cycles through the solar year, this fast can be much more challenging in some years than others. When Ramadan falls in the summer season, the days of fasting are longer and it is a greater hardship to do without water.
Non-Muslims in Islamic countries during Ramadan must be careful not to eat, drink, or smoke in the presence of Muslims during the daytime hours of fasting, as the law requires adherence to the fast in public. The traditional greeting during Ramadan is “Ramadan Mubarak” (“May God give you a blessed month”) and the reply is “Ramadan Karim” (“May God give you a generous month”). {3}
The beginning and end of Ramadan are announced when one trustworthy witness testifies before the authorities that the new moon has been sighted; a cloudy sky may, therefore, delay or prolong the fast. The end of the fast is celebrated with one of two Islamic festivals, ‘Id al-Fitr. {4}

Fasting during Ramadan

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The fast (sawm) begins at dawn and ends at sunset. In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking, Muslims also increase restraint, such as abstaining from sexual relations and generally sinful speech and behavior.
The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Ramadan also teaches Muslims how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity (zakat).
It becomes compulsory for Muslims to start fasting when they reach puberty, so long as they are healthy, sane and have no disabilities or illnesses. Exemptions to fasting are travel, menstruation, illness, older age, pregnancy, and breast-feeding. However, many Muslims with medical conditions insist on fasting to satisfy their spiritual needs, and healthcare professionals must work with their patients to reach common ground. Professionals should closely monitor individuals who decide to persist with fasting.
While fasting is not considered compulsory in childhood, many children endeavour to complete as many fasts as possible as practice for later life. Those who are unable to fast are obliged to make up for it. According to the Quran, those ill or traveling (musaafir) are exempt from obligation but still must make up the days missed.

Suhoor and Iftar in Ramadan

Each day before dawn, Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called suhoor. After stopping a short time before dawn, Muslims begin the first prayer of the day, the Fajr prayer. At sunset, families hasten for the fast-breaking meal known as iftar. Considering the high diversity of the global Muslim population, it is impossible to describe typical suhoor or iftar meals. Suhoor can be leftovers from the previous night’s dinner (iftar), typical breakfast foods, or ethnic foods.
In the evening, some dates are usually the first foods to break the fast; according to tradition, Muhammad broke fast with three dates. Following that, Muslims generally adjourn for the Maghrib prayer, the fourth of the five daily prayers, after which the main meal is served.
Social gatherings, many times buffet style, at iftar are frequent, and traditional dishes are often highlighted, including traditional desserts, especially those made only during Ramadan. Water is usually the beverage of choice, but juice and milk are also consumed. Soft drinks and caffeinated beverages are consumed to a lesser extent.
In the Middle East, the iftar meal consists of water, juices, dates, salads and appetizers, one or more entrees, and dessert. Typical entrees are “lamb stewed with wheat berries, lamb kebabs with grilled vegetables, or roast chicken served with chickpea-studded rice pilaf”. A rich dessert such as baklava or kunafeh (“a buttery, syrup-sweetened kadaifi noodle pastry filled with cheese”) concludes the meal. Over time, iftar has grown into banquet festivals. This is a time of fellowship with families, friends and surrounding communities, but may also occupy larger spaces at masjid or banquet halls for 100 or more diners.

Charity during Ramadan

Charity is very important in Islam, and even more so during Ramadan. Zakat, often translated as “the poor-rate”, is obligatory as one of the pillars of Islam; a fixed percentage is required to be given to the poor of the person’s savings. Sadaqa is voluntary charity in given above and beyond what is required from the obligation of Zakat.
In Islam, all good deeds are more handsomely rewarded in Ramadan than in any other month of the year. Consequently, many will choose this time to give a larger portion, if not all, of the Zakat for which they are obligated to give. In addition, many will also use this time to give a larger portion of sadaqa in order to maximize the reward that will await them on the Day of Judgment.
In many Muslim countries, it is a common sight to see people giving more food to the poor and the homeless, and even to see large public areas for the poor to come and break their fast. It is said that if a person helps a fasting person to break their fast, then they receive a reward for that fast, without diminishing the reward that the fasting person got for their fast.

Increased prayer and recitation of the Quran

In addition to fasting, Muslims are encouraged to read the entire Quran. Some Muslims perform the recitation of the entire Quran by means of special prayers, called Tarawih. These voluntary prayers are held in the mosques every night of the month, during which a whole section of the Quran (Juz’, which is 1/30 of the Quran) is recited. Therefore, the entire Quran would be completed at the end of the month. Although it is not required to read the whole Quran in the Salatul Tarawih prayers, it is common.

References

  • Qur’an 2:185.
  • “Islam.” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004).
  • Lingnet: The Global Language Network.
  • “Islam.” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service, 2004).
  • “Ramadan, Practices” (Wikipedia, used under GDFL)

Source: http://www.religionfacts.com/ramadan

Coping with Suicidal Inclinations

The other morning while reviewing one of my Twitter feeds, I was shocked to come across another apparent suicide. There was footage of a young man plunging to his death in the Holy city of Mecca. Earlier in the week, there were two other, noteworthy suicides. On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Kate Spade, the renowned handbag designer and later in the week on Friday, June 8, 2018, Anthony Bourdain, noteworthy internationally traveled chef, were reported to have hung themselves. Both suffered from depression.

I recall reading a New York Times article, earlier this year about a group of Native American young men having to deal with a similar adversity.
Almost nine years ago, I made an attempt on my own life but fortunately, I was unsuccessful! It was toward the end of 2009. I was recovering from a stroke and in the midst of a nasty divorce court battle. I had just returned from a court episode, was at work and strangely began researching ways to take my life.

I could have jumped out a window. I could have stepped into oncoming traffic or in front of a train. I could have slit my wrists… These were all too messy for me to attempt.

I also thought about hanging myself. A friend had done this several years prior but I did not seek to end it, so to speak, that way!

I decided on an overdose of some pills that had been prescribed to me. Research had shown that there was a fatal quantify that could be ingested. I simply consumed the entire bottle, left a note concerning the problems I had been enduring and how there seemed to be no credible solution.

As a backup plan, I also taped a plastic bag over my head. I reclined on my bed with the intention of never waking up and drifted into sleep, hoping to never wake up ever again…

Several hours later, I awakened and reflexively ripped the plastic bag off my head. Alhamdulillah!
What was I thinking to perform such an act?

It had to have been the most selfish thing I had done in my entire life!!!

I overlooked my children, other family members and the friends who loved me. They form a major support group for me to this day.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), Suicide is a Leading Cause of Death in the United States.

  • Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of nearly 45,000 people in recent years.
  • Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 54.
  • There were more than twice as many suicides (44,965) in the United States as there were homicides (19,362).

Suicidal tendencies tend to manifest themselves as a result of hopelessness and despair.

“Nobody loves me!”
“No one will miss my presence!”
“There is no way to get out of this situation…!”

I have overcome much in this life and hope to accomplish much more. Life is never as difficult as we imagine it to be.

There is an ayat or passage in the Quran which states roughly that “God does not burden a man beyond his capacity.” (Al-Baqarah 2:286). There is a Bible passage with a similar notion. “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles (Psalm 34:17)”

Today, I have faith and believe that this is really true.

We are all God’s creations. What makes us think we have the right to end our existence before our time approaches.

I recall watching a scene from the Frank Capra movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” You are never really aware of the consequences of your unexpected demise. It is better to “Let go and let God…” We never know what God has planned for us.

And, behold, with every hardship comes ease
verily, with every hardship comes ease! (Ash-Sharh 94:5,6)

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while loving someone deeply gives you courage…”
– Lao Tzu

I have listed contacts and websites below if you or if you know of anyone having trouble coping with life’s challenges.

If You are in Crisis: PLEASE SEEK HELP!!!

If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

International Suicide Prevention Hotlines
http://ibpf.org/resource/list-international-suicide-hotlines
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

Selected Thoughts on Suicide
https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/09/man-leaps-death-mecca-front-thousands-worshippers-7618003/
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2014/08/28/top-7-bible-verses-to-help-with-sadness-or-suicidal-thoughts/
https://spokanefavs.com/ask-a-buddhist-what-happens-to-someone-after-suicide/
https://www.islamreligion.com/articles/10370/despair-and-suicide-in-islam/
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/magazine/arlee-warriors-montana-basketball-flathead-indian-reservation.htmlhttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/magazine/arlee-warriors-montana-basketball-flathead-indian-reservation.html

2017 ends, 2018 is about to begin…

 

One year ends and another begins! What have we learned? How have our future plans adjusted?

I wrote a poem some time ago while traveling to Japan. Here I was about 30,000+ plus feet up in the heavens, cruising at about 600+ miles per hour. I was having one of those “me” moments.

This was one of the many opportunities to reach out to God (SWT). I pondered life and my reason for existing. The funny thing that happened was I received a Yoda-like answer:

 

Why am  I here?

I am here for this moment!

It is a reflection of time past;

The culmination of all my experiences.

I am what I have learned.

Why am I here?

I am here for this moment…

 

At the time, I was in pursuit of my YonDan (4th degree) in Kendo, the art of Japanese fencing. I was also in the process of overcoming a fear of flying.

I was successful in my challenge for YonDan. This event broke a series of numerous failures. I learned about perseverance and not “giving up,” especially in the face of adversity.

With regard to my fear of flying, I now just “let go and let God…” It helps that one of my best friends is a commercial airline pilot! We have known each other since high school. Once, we faced the eminent possibility of death during a highway accident on our way back to college. We remain here by the grace of God. I remember my first hangover the night before he was to take his first solo flight. These were tense moments that contributed to our development processes.

He has flow numerous times, around the world, piloting the most complex airplanes. If he can accomplish this, surely I can sit back and enjoy the ride! If there’s turbulence, I imagine I’m on a bucking bronco. It works for me. Let the pilot fly the plane! That is what they are trained to do, safely, I might add.

For a period of time, I lost touch with my “inner feelings” and that “inner voice” that I might hear. I wondered if it was due to the stroke I experienced and the subsequent depression. Now I view it as God (SWT) just putting me through a test to enhance my understanding of life. Alhamdulillah! I am ever grateful for such experiences these days.

Today, I feel especially good. My family is ever expanding. Many of my friends and I keep in touch on a regular basis. I feel rather “feisty” these days. Perhaps a return to Kendo in 2018, inshaAllah (God willing…)

 

My Lord, from Thee we all come, and indeed, to Thee, we shall all return!

Please forgive me my past sins and transgressions and keep me on the straight path.

Please reward me for my hardships and exchange them for something better.

 

Please help me to overcome all the challenges placed before me.

Please help me to attain the peace and harmony seek.

 

My Lord, Thou has always been there for me, and I am most grateful.

Thou art my Nurturer, thou art my Sustainer,

Thou art my Provider and Protector!

Indeed, Thou art my Lord and Savior!

I am in need of whatever good Thou may send in my direction.

Please continue to watch over me and my family.

Please watch over my friends and colleagues.

Please protect us all from bad, evil and immoral things.

Please save us all from the Hellfire!

Please help me to gain the success and prosperity I seek.

Please help me to be a better human being.

Please help me to get healthier.

My Lord, please help me to stay in Thy favor and get closer to Thee!

Amin!

 

Wishing you and your family a Happy & Prosperous 2018!

2016: A year of change and adjustment for things to come…

2016 will definitely be a year to remember. Aside from the election of a new president (remember, God tests us…), this is the first full year that I have shared together with my wife since we were married in 2014 in Shenzhen, China.

I relocated to San Diego, California to escape the harsh winters of the northeast. I think I also brought some of the coldest (it recently registered 35 degrees F) and rainy weather the area has seen for quite some time! I found myself wondering: What happened to Global Warming?

Those cold nights and that rainy weather make up just a small portion of the climatic change for this New York City fellow. I like the fact that mosquitoes are virtually nonexistent. The air is relatively dry which is great for my asthma. It really can be Sunny Southern California!

The cost of living is a little lower. I can’t say enough good things about the quality of the foods. One minute I have a fetish for Fuji apples, the next, I’ve got a taste for sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese. Oranges are everywhere. I have developed quite a cross-cultural palate and my wife has become quite versatile in accommodating it. Why drink bottled orange juice when you can have fresh squeezed everyday?

This first thing she purchased when she disembarked from the plane from China was a rice cooker. I had been “conditioned” in college during economics courses to think of rice as an inferior food and for a long while, leaned toward pasta dishes. Today, you will find me debating whether to use long grain Basmati rice for a particular dish or medium grain “sushi” or Japanese-type rice. It’s all good as long as I can mix it with some sweet potatoes! I recently learned how to scramble an egg with turkey sausages in the rice cooker. The egg was extra fluffy. I have regained the 20 odd pounds I lost during depression. My wife’s goal is to make me fat. I don’t think it is possible but I do enjoy eating again.

On a more serious note, I learned the importance of the people that God has placed in my life, throughout my life. At this point in time, I have outlived both of my parents. My body is still relatively strong. My mind, which was damaged by my stroke in 2009, continues to heal itself. Alhamdulillah!

My Mother died when I was 7 years old. Fortunately, God provided me which many surrogate mothers, from my Cub Scout Pack 198 Den Mother, Mrs. Brice to “Mrs. Mac.” I remember my best friend’s mother cleaning the wax from my ears with a bobby pin. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, but no one will ever know the love I felt this woman over this gesture. Alhamdulillah! I have learned to love all mothers. It is written that, “Heaven lies at the feet of mothers.” This I truly believe.

I have helped produce three healthy, college educated children who check up on me regularly, “Hey, Pop! Just checkin’ in to see how you are doing…” When I was experiencing extreme depression, after my stroke and was considering the intrinsic value of my life. It was thoughts of them that restored my will to live. Alhamdulillah!

I have made and lost a fortune, and seek to make another, InshAllah (God willing)! When I had wealth I shared it and tried to make sure everyone around me benefited. I gave a party for my 50th birthday. One hundred and thirty people showed up representing all aspects of my life. Family members, friends, business associates, Kendo brothers and old college classmates attended. I saw my “history” in front of me, from the infant who started life on Cumberland Street in Brooklyn, from Wall Street to Westchester County, New York. From Brooklyn Technical High School to Cornell University to Columbia University Graduate School of Business. But I really wasn’t that happy… Allah-u-Alim (God knows…)

Today, I am grateful for everything that I have experienced. I am even grateful for  social media such as Facebook! It allows to keep to contact with family, friends and colleagues throughout the world, literally, from New York to Florida, from Georgia to San Francisco to Seattle, Washington to Hawaii. From Jakarta, Indonesia to Algeciras, Spain to Morocco, to Margarite, Venezuela from Tokyo, Osaka and Kochi, Japan, to Shenzhen, Huizhou, Guilin, Guanxi and Yangshuo China, my family gets larger and the Earth gets smaller… I can attest to the notion that, the World is Truly a Beautiful Place!

God really is our Nurturer and Sustainer! He is Most Forgiving. All He requires is Remembrance of Him.

My Lord, please help me to avoid that which is wrong, evil, immoral and dishonest
And keep me on the straight path.
My Lord, please help me to achieve my dreams and aspirations
And keep me on the straight path.
My Lord, please help me to stay in thy favor
And keep me on the straight path.

And Lord, please watch over me, my family and friends in the coming year.
Please give us all wisdom, better health, greater prosperity and peace of mind.
Amin!

Thoughts on Kung Pao Chicken…

My Kung Pao Chicken

The first time I had Kung Pao Chicken was back in 1979. I had just started working at Salomon Brothers, the preeminent Investment Banking and Brokerage firm at the time. I was a member of the Bank Stock research department. Every Thursday evening, the Partner in Charge, and the rest of the team would order Chinese food for dinner while we labored to get the Bank Stock Weekly ready for publication. This was my introduction to writing for institutional investors as well as my formal introduction to Chinese food as a part of my weekly diet.

I had hair at the time, my blood pressure was low (without the use of medical prescriptions), and I would do the Tai Chi form that I learned at Cornell University, years earlier, every day.

Now my hair is really thinning. The growth on my armpits exceeds the sparse lean sprouts of my head. My knees predict the weather, as does my lower back and the doctors state that I have had two strokes! I can’t recall the first but I was well aware of the second in 2009.

InshAllah (God willing), I hope to reach 65 in 2017. I take my meds to keep my blood pressure low. I started a daily regimen of 40 to 50 push-ups. These will probably be followed by additional fitness routines as time goes on.

Incidentally, my wife prepared me a special dinner recently, it was an “Islamic version” of Kung Pao Chicken, Halal chicken, Basmati rice with sweet potatoes, peanuts, celery, cucumbers and a homemade chili sauce (very hot!). I will take this as a sign that things will improve…

I am grateful for the Kung Pao chicken and all the memories I have both good and bad. I pray I have learned the lessons embedded in all of them.

The Better Path: Indulging in Gratitude

As I reflect on 2016 and God willing, prepare for 2017, I have tried to pay particular attention the what worked well for me and what served to impede my progress this year.

The most common factor of note was gratitude. A standard definition is “the act of being grateful.”

Some of you may ask, “to whom?” I will make it perfectly clear and state, to God!

Others may pose the question, “for what?” My response would simply be: for the air I breathe with the lungs He has given me, for the fact that I am alive today. It is acknowledges Him watching over me when l am not capable of doing a better job on my own.

He nurtures and sustains and I am a beneficiary. I seek to express gratitude all He has done for me. Shouldn’t we all?

People of different belief systems often thank God for the food before they eat their meals. Many Christians will say a grace or give acknowledgment of a virtue coming from God. I recall some of my Japanese and Kendo brethren saying, “itadakimasu” or “I humbly receive…,” before we would partake of a sumptuous meal together.  Muslims utter Bismillah (in God’s name).

At times I question whether people are really sincere and truly thankful but then I pause and remember that it is between them and God. I can only legitimately seek to control my own intentions and actions…

Gratitude is increasingly a topic in social media these days. Its links to happiness and better health are now being examined.

I learned to consider gratitude as an emotion while attending meetings with Sultan Abdulhameed, author of The Quran and The Life of Excellence, years ago. He teaches that “prayer is a comfort”and that “all progress happens through adversity.” While contemplating these thoughts, a phrase I had heard earlier in life came to mind, “Let go, let God…

These notions enabled me to find peace with the thoughts that I am not in control of everything in my life, but that my circumstances are intimately connected to how I think. Now, I always think positively about all matters, no matter how grim they may seem.

One of my Dominican friends and Kendo brothers has been trying to attain the rank of NanaDan or seventh degree Black Belt for longer than I can remember. Twice a year, he would make a pilgrimage to Japan to challenge for the rank. It takes a lot of determination and resoluteness to maintain this arduous discipline and stay focused in spite of circumstances. The pass rate on this examination has always been extremely low. He was finally successful last month.! Alhamdulillah (All praise is due to God)! I remember the words of the late Nishino sensei,”Never give up!” This is a timely reminder for me. I am also happy when my friends achieve success.

You may ask what does this have to do with being grateful?    Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can lead to a greater sense of well-being and reduced depression.

I recently had a personal problem which was driving me to wit’s end. I felt powerless. Reluctantly, I shared my dilemma  with some of my friends. Together, we came up with a solution and I was truly humbled by the positive outcome…  I am forever grateful for the friends that God had provided for me! Alhamdulillah!

There is a passage in the Quran which states, “If you are grateful, I will give you more (14:7)” I am only now beginning to grasp the meaning of this powerful statement.


I thank God for watching over me.

Thou has been with me throughout my entire life.

Please forgive me for my late acknowledgment.

Please continue to watch over me, my family and my friends…