Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men (& Women & Children)

A day ago I got involved in a discussion regarding free speech and how it can become abusive.  I was responding to an email concerning one of the groups I belonged to on Linked-In, a popular business networking site.

A gentleman of Asian ancestry was complaining about the anti-Islam posters which were scheduled to go up throughout the New York City Subway System (http://www.businessinsider.com/extreme-anti-islam-poster-in-nyc-subway-2012-12?goback=%2Enmp_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1_*1%2Egde_2012010_member_197493407).  His comments were acknowledged by another professional of Eastern origin, judging from the sound of his name, and expanded upon to include the recent event in Newtown, Connecticut.

The following is a brief excerpt of my commentary on the matter:

“One really has to take a moment and examine these “amendment abuses.” We have the 1st amendment concerning freedom of expression. When used in an extremely offense manner it drives us all further apart and diminishes people’s support for it. We also have the 2nd amendment, which regards the right to bear arms. In extreme cases, this resulted in the Sandy Hook massacre two weeks ago and the Sikh killings in Wisconsin earlier.

While I support both of these rights, I think the issue, which should become a litmus test for both should be their “reasonableness and intent.” Should we use these rights to offend, incite and abuse?

We must also consider the timing of when these events occur. Christmas time? What happened to “Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward Men?”

In time, the Supreme Court will have to deal with both these issues. It is a shame that we have to rely a higher body to mandate for us because we can’t or refuse to as human beings apply the God given trait of commonsense to resolve this.”

There were obviously some people that did not like my commentary. I was subsequently told that the purpose of the group was not to address such issues (to which I later agreed), what bothered me was one of the later commentators chose to label my words as “nonsensical idle chatter or political ramblings.”

While I agreed with the fellow regarding the erroneous placement of my submission, I did question his authority to characterize them one way or another.

What is happening in this country where goodwill and peace towards others seems to be becoming a phenomenon? This is something that will require much thought and contemplation as we get ready for 2013, God (SWT) willing…

I pray for the Children…

Years ago, I wrote a special prayer (http://wp.me/p2hekR-v). A part of my morning ritual is ask for peace and harmony in this world. There is a section where I offer a prayer for children. In light of what has been happening recently to children throughout the world. It seems appropriate at this time to revisit those words:

… I pray for a World in which Children can be Children,
And grow up to become fine upstanding Adults,
With a good set of Values that have been imparted to them,
By their Parents, other Family members and their Elders.
I pray that they are never again exposed to the horrors of Man,
Because these have in fact, become non-existent!

In October of this year, the Taliban in Pakistan shoots a young girl the head on her way to school miraculously she lives. Yesterday, twenty-two primary school children were wounded in a knife attack in central China. This was followed by the shooting deaths of twenty-six people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, 20 of them were children.

In each incident, the intentions were clear, to willfully harm OUR children!

Why are people committing these senseless acts of violence against our children? The older I get, the more I value the life of others, especially the children. They are truly the innocent ones. They are our hope for a better tomorrow.

If we are to survive as a species, we have to learn to preserve and protect the children!

Observing Layt al-Qadr at New York University on the night of August 14, 2012

A couple of nights ago I had the opportunity to attend Layt al-Qadr (the Night of Power) with members of the NYU community. This event happens during the last part of Ramadhan. Layt al-Qadr is considered the most appropriate time of the entire year to pray for salvation and blessings. It is believed that a Muslim’s past sins are forgiven if the person prays throughout this night.

It is the Holiest night in the Holiest month on the Islamic calendar. I with many others spent the entire night in prayer at NYU seeking forgiveness for our sins and help from God (SWT) to accomplish our objectives in life.

It was a most enlightening experience. Normally I tend to do things in solitude but for some reasons lately I have wanted to be with other like-minded people. I found the group of university people most invigorating. Even at 60, I was able to keep up with them in prayer throughout the night.

About this night, it is said:

BEHOLD, from on high have We bestowed this [divine writ] on Night of Destiny. And what could make thee conceive what it is, that Night of Destiny? The Night of Destiny is better than a thousand months: in hosts descend in it the angels, bearing divine inspiration by their Sustainer’s leave; from all [evil] that may happen does it make secure, until the rise of dawn. [Qur’an, Chapter 97, Asad translation]

For a better description of the meaning of Layt al-Qadr than I could ever provide, I refer you to a post by Imam Khalid Latif, University Chaplain for NYU, Executive Director of the Islamic Center at NYU and Chaplain for the NYPD. He refers to it in his August 14th, 2012 blog for the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/imam-khalid-latif/ramadan-reflection-day-26-laylatul-qadr_b_1776336.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003).

It started with us breaking fast (Iftar) at the Islamic Center at New York University, performing the Magrib prayer and subsequent Isha prayer and later moving to a residence hall where people were to pray throughout the night.

I left the first part of the event and proceeded at a slow leisurely pace to the residence hall where the second part was held. I seemed to be trying to kill time before attending the main event. I stopped at Madison Square Park and sat for a while. I observed people strolling, other people sitting and still others just trying to enjoy this balmy evening. I took to walking along the side streets. I noticed a few hobos sleeping outside a pristine building. I wondered why this condition had to exist. They seemed so content sleeping under the stars.

Finally moving on, I made it to the residence hall. I could see that it was starting to get crowded. Perhaps more people were going to be there than originally was expected.

While waiting for the proper mindset and prayers to begin, I couldn’t help overhearing a couple of brothers talking about baseball. I thought, when was the last time you heard “suspected terrorists” talking about baseball. But then again, they weren’t suspected terrorists to me. They were my brothers in faith. They were as “American as apple pie,” with many of the same basic values as anyone else and yet I am sure they are probably highly scrutinized every time they tried to board a plane.

The Imam spoke briefly about getting in the right frame of mind for prayer and the seriousness of the event. My thoughts became more focused. I began to think about what I sought forgiveness for and what I myself needed Allah (SWT)’s assistance to do.  I also thought about the hobos, and the impoverished throughout the world. I have always been an idealist.

Finally we all lined up and began to pray in unison. I will just say that everything about the ritual was very systematic and well coordinated. My left knee began to ache halfway though, a couple of hours later, but it didn’t seem to matter to me. “God does not burden beyond one’s capacity.” It was a truly defining moment. Imagine if you can, standing before the Creator and being able to ask forgiveness for your transgressions and for hope of a better tomorrow…

Toward the end of the event, I heard the sound of thunder outside and felt as if someone was trying to get my attention. I was listening…!

In the end I prayed that Allah (SWT) listened to my prayer and supplications and acknowledged them.

Sharing Iftar with some of my Sufi Brothers and Sisters: Celebrating Adam Day

Let us, as children of Adam and Eve, make a vow that we will rise above the prejudices

of color, language, dress, and race to enlighten our minds with the radiance of

wisdom. Let there be peaceful ambition. – Khawaja Shamsudding Azeemi

Here it was 4:00pm this Friday afternoon and I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do for Iftar1 . I came across an ad for the Meetup Group – MURAQBA- The Art and Science of Sufi Meditation. They happened to be celebrating Adam Day, this particular day. This is an idea inspired by Khawaja Shamsuddin Azeemi, a renowned Sufi scholar, healer and author of many books on meditation and self-awareness.

Under his guidance Azeemi Meditation Center in Manchester UK started celebrating Adam Day in 2003, and has been cherished by the members of community and city officials alike. Adam Day has been recognized as a platform of unity and received letters of appreciation from politicians and the office of former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. The message of love and unity is spreading and Adam Day is now celebrated in UK, Canada and USA.

This particular venue started at 6:00 pm. There was an introductory speech by the President of the Azeemia Foundation discussing its aims and objectives. A taped telecast of Mr. Khawaja Shamsuddin Azeemi, direct from Great Britain. There were also speeches given by representatives of different Inter-faiths on the topic of Adam.

All in all, it was a nice friendly gathering of people from different faiths celebrating what they all had in common! Regardless of culture, nationality or religion, we all share the same common ancestor, Adam.

In the Holy Qur’an it is written: “O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female,and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” Surah al-Hujurat (49:13)

It was nice to get “reacquainted” with some of my brothers and sisters and enjoy a tasty meal as well.

 

1Iftar, refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Iftar is one of the religious observances of Ramadan and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together. Iftar is done right after Maghrib (sunset) time. Wikipedia