My experiences observing Layla-tul Qadr on August 3, 2013

prayerMy preparation to attend Layla-tul Qadr started out like any other day.  A cousin called to discuss her plans for starting an online business. I am used to people calling me for my advice on a myriad of subjects. I guess some of it comes from having reached a certain age (60s) and being able to communicate with people on just about any subject matter.

On my trip into the city that afternoon, I encountered a very tall drag queen, about 7 ft. tall in 6 in. heels weighing all of about 150 lbs. On the train, a dark-skinned woman about 7 months pregnant was asking for help. I looked into her eyes and felt compelled to give.

I was able to better grasp the significance of this most holy time on the Islamic calendar by reading part of Sura (44:3-4):

“that We revealed this Qur’an in a blessed night (Layla-tul Qadr); for We wanted to forewarn mankind.
In that night every matter is decided wisely”

This was to commemorate the night when the first verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Muhammad (PBUH), some 1,400 years ago. This “night of power” is also referred to as the “night of destiny.” It is a night when God’s power is all-present and we can choose our destiny. It is believed that a Muslim’s past sins are forgiven if the person prays throughout this night.

I was recently reading of attempts to correlate this holiest of periods with terrorist uprisings. It was reported on one news site that, such links between Islamic holy days and militancy allow al Qaeda to continue to define what Islam is. For them, Islam is not a religion with spirituality, but is a political movement, where the holiest of days are simply calendar markers to run campaigns…”

I repeat, this is the night when Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received his first revelation.

Misguided may try to align their actions with this most holy event and misinformed may try to legitimize that notion but the moment is bigger than any can conceive…

But, I digress and this is about my experiences and my destiny. I tried to keep a fairly light schedule on this day: Attend Kendo class. Share in Iftar with some Egyptian friends and finally make my way to downtown Manhattan for Layla-tul Qadr with members of the NYU community. I attended the first Layla-tul Qadr by the ICNYU last year (http://wp.me/p2hekR-4K) and I was eager to participate in this years’ event.

I disembarked from the train a couple of stops before my destination and began a slow walk through areas of Greenwich Village I used to frequent over four decades earlier. The area really hadn’t changed much at its core, still students, deviants, shops to buy things and places to eat. One place on the corner of West 8th Street and 6th Avenue caught my attention, offering 2 slices of pizza and a drink for $2.75!

As I edged closer to my destination and was about to cross the street, I received a text message from a friend in Indonesia, 10,000 miles away, requesting I pray for her father. This was a strange request, considering I hadn’t heard from her in weeks, and just as I was around to cross the street. She had no knowledge of my intentions or where I would be at that moment. Occurrences such as this only re-enforce my beliefs.

Finally I arrived at the church where the event was to be held. There was a crowd forming outside. I could hear some brothers debating what Islam meant to them. My response has always been, “it is where I have found comfort…” My view of the world is such that we can all exist in peace and harmony and in the comfort of our own belief systems as long as they don’t infringe upon others.

Sura 98:5 sums up my position:

“But they were enjoined nothing more than to worship God, be sincere in religion and be regular in prayer and give charity, for this is the essence of religion.”

There were at least several hundred people at this event. One has to be mindful of all the Muslim communities in New York City and around the rest of the world that were holding similar events during this time period.

We finished Taraweeh or the extra prayers before tending to the prayers for Layla-tul Qadr, which are performed throughout the night.

You could begin to feel the power of God in the room as brothers standing shoulder to shoulder and sisters standing shoulder to shoulder all began repeating a unison, over and over again, Subhan’Allah (Glory to God), Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God), La ilaha ill-Allah (There is no God but God), Allah u Akbar (God is great)!

At one point I could feel the floor vibrating. I have a keen sense of such things. Maybe it was due to the resonance of trains in the nearby subway. Maybe it was just due to my vivid imagination. Perhaps God was making His presence known. I checked later, no one else seemed to feel it.

All I know is that night, I prayed for God’s forgiveness for all my transgressions, I prayed for the father in Jakarta, Indonesia, I prayed for my family and I prayed for a better life. This is the kind of person I was becoming.

Advertisements

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!

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