Sunday, February 26, 2006

Langston Hughes

Let America be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

(ha, I don't think I am as optimistic as Langston!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


For a change in pace: This is a student at my school.

Coronado senior wrestler Henry Cejudo hasn’t lost a match since moving to Colorado before his junior year. Cejudo will make a run at another state title this weekend in the 125-pound weight division. The state tournament starts Thursday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.


A wry smile crossed Henry Cejudo’s face. He started to speak, then abruptly stopped putting on his Team USA sweat pants and exercised a rare moment of caution.

Cejudo didn’t want to appear overly cocky. He does that often enough.

A veteran of five international wrestling tournaments, the unbeaten Coronado High School senior was asked the odds of losing in the state wrestling championships that begin Thursday at Pepsi Center in Denver.

Cejudo is the overwhelming favorite in the 125-pound division and acknowledged as the best wrestler in the state, regardless of weight.

“You’ve got to respect everybody at state,” Cejudo said, measuring every word. “They’re all good. But I still have an edge.”

Cejudo shrugged his shoulders and said matter-of-factly, “Wrestling is my job.”

He’s ranked No. 1 among U.S. juniors, No. 1 among high school wrestlers and No. 6 among U.S. seniors in his weight class.

Since transferring to Coronado as a junior, he’s 44-0, 21-0 this season. His high school record is 114-3 with three state championships, two in Arizona.

He’s twice beaten Jason Powell, the 2004 NCAA champion, and bested Besik Kudukhov, the Russian junior world champion, Nov. 19 in New York. Cejudo lost to Kudukhov on Jan. 28 in Russia.

“Henry is one of the top four high school wrestlers ever,” said Mitch Hull, national teams director for USA Wrestling. “Not everybody has wrestled up (against older competition). Dan Gable didn’t. But I rank Henry with Jimmy Carr (1972 Olympian as a high school senior), Dave Schultz (1984 gold medalist) and Cary Kolat (2000 Olympian).”

Wasson senior Tony George, who won his regional Saturday, could meet Cejudo in the championship match.

“It would take a miracle for somebody to beat him, but miracles do happen,” George said. “I don’t know if people realize how far above everybody else he is. I don’t think anyone will score on him and I don’t think anyone will go three periods.”

Coronado coach Matt Brickell, asked if Cejudo could lose, said, “There’s a chance . . . sickness, injury. I don’t see it happening. He’s a machine.”

After winning the Pueblo Centennial Invitational on Jan. 14, Cejudo said it was “good practice.” Against high school foes, he typically scores a takedown, but lets the opponent up, giving away an “escape” point.

“He doesn’t ‘mat’ wrestle,” said Coronado senior Cole Nash, a title contender at 135. “His only pins are from takedowns. I’ve learned a lot from watching how aggressive he is. He just breaks a person’s morale.”

When asked how many weight classes he could move up and win the state championship, Cejudo didn’t hesitate. “Heavyweight,” he said.

Pete Rose once said superstars must have an “inner conceit.” Cejudo possesses that in abundance.

“I’ve never met anybody as confident,” Brickell said. “He can say something and back it up. There are a lot of tough kids around the country, but I think Henry’s mind — his mental attitude — is what sets him apart.”

Born in south central Los Angeles, Cejudo didn’t really know his father. He grew up in a part of Phoenix he called “little Mexico.” It’s a time and place he was happy to escape.

“Most of my friends were up to no good,” Cejudo said. “Here, I found Disneyland.”

He was invited to wrestle at the Olympic Training Center at a women’s camp in the summer of 2004 to help women develop against fast, strong male competition. His wrestling partner was Patricia Miranda, who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics.

With his brother Angel — who is two years older and ranked No. 9 in the U.S. at 132 — Henry was then invited to move to Colorado Springs and hone his skills at the Olympic Training Center. So the brothers Cejudo moved to Colorado Springs.

At 5-foot-5 and 125 pounds — give or take a big meal or a day of fasting — Cejudo is a small package of tightly wound talent. Quick and strong, he’s a master technician with moves polished from two years of practice at the OTC.

Away from the mat, he’s quick to joke or flash a mis- chievous grin. But when the game is on, so is his attitude.

“If it’s checkers, I’m aggressive,” Cejudo said sharply.

Soccer was his first love but it wasn’t right for the quick-tempered perfectionist.

“There were too many people to get mad at,” Cejudo said. “They didn’t always do what they were supposed to.”

In wrestling, if he loses, Cejudo doesn’t have to look far to find fault. He scowled when asked about his recent loss to Kudukhov, ranked 13th in the world.

“I want to be the best,” Cejudo said. “I want to win the Olympics. I want to win the world championships.”

With those goals in mind, Cejudo might forgo college and continue his development at the OTC. Besides, the classroom isn’t his favorite place.

“I’m a big fan of learning,” Cejudo said. “But I’m not a big fan of school.”

Hull said Cejudo sees the big picture when it comes to chasing his lofty goals.

“He’s beyond the normal scope of what people think of after high school,” Hull said. “He has to figure out which route is best for him.”

Cejudo’s game plan is to make the 2008 Olympic team, when he will be 21.

“You’ve got to think big, and do big,” he said. “If I set a goal, I’ll reach it sooner or later. And it’s usually sooner.”



Wrestling State tournament at Pepsi Center

Thursday, 2A/3A preliminaries, 3 p.m., 4A/5A preliminaries, 7:15 p.m.

Friday, 2A/3A quarterfinals, 10 a.m.; 4A/5A quarterfinals, 1 p.m.; all semifinals, 7:15 p.m.

Saturday, State tournament at Pepsi Center: consolations, 11 a.m., third- and fifth-place matches, 2:30 p.m., finals, 6:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased through TicketMaster, 1-303-830-8497, at TicketMaster outlets or at the Pepsi Center box office. Each session is $8-$12.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


As a result of the post "Ritual and Reason" below, which appeared in a few forums, I was accused of being an 'azadari basher', meaning someone against mourning on Ashura, and of basically being arrogant and anti-Shia. The accuser said that no one has the right to question azadari.

First of all, I didn't say anything to question azadari.

But secondly, in Islam anyone has the right and even the responsibility to question, even to question the existence of God, the nature of God. So of course someone has the right to question any practice. If people never question, then the result is that truth is lost over time due to corruptions that are never questioned. A brother mentioned a case in a village where people killed sheep or goats and then put the blood on themselves to commemorate Ashura - he mentioned it as a clear example where a practice becomes unIslamic even if done with apparently an Islamic intention.

And thirdly, so what, i want to know the origins and details of practices. Why should they not be known? Knowing that can only help to strengthen or improve practices. And to make it clear, I never condemned any particular practice or said that it should not be done, etc.

Finally, if you love someone, living or dead, you feel sad at their pains and joy at their joys. Remembering helps to preserve truth. Walayah requires empathy and compassion and walayah is the means to know someone, associate with them, follow them. If you do not have walayah for someone you cannot claim to be his/her follower or friend. Now expressing that walayah for Imam Husain (as) does not necessarily require any particular methods. Whatever those methods are, unless they are wajib (which in this case they are not) the methods are not what makes someone Shia or not or Muslim or not, or lover of Ahlulbayt (as) or not. It is the walayah. Everything should be judged in the context of walayah and shari'ah.

On another note,

for Ashura I went up to Fort Collins, about 150 miles north of here, to attend a small gathering at which Sheikh Idris led ziyarate ashoura and dua alqamah and gave a short, wonderful speech. I am very glad I went. Someone told me about it just the night before, so I consider it a blessing to have heard about it and gone. Further, I got to talk to Sheikh Idris's wife which was also wonderful.

I knew about spanish, italian and I think Ukranian

I didn't know it was in Indonesian ( I think).

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ritual and Reason - on the discussions of reform in Muharram observance in response to culture and audience

I open this writing with a few passages from other sources:

“They should know that if a sentence creates a tremor in one's souls and attunes it with the spirit of Husayn ibn 'Ali and, as a result, one small tear were to come out of one's eyes, it is really a precious station. But tears drawn by the scenes of mere butchery, even if a deluge, are worthless.” – Ayatollah Mutahari, in “’Ashura: Misrepresentations and Distortions”

Many of today’s Christians do not really care that the traditions are separated from their roots. If we allow means to be the ends then we head in the same direction of having traditions and rituals for their own sake, separated from true purpose.

Whenever that happens, this is among the greatest of all possible losses. We cannot be those who try to uphold Islam original if we do not keep that as our active intention and form every act for the achievement of that purpose. If the purpose of a procession or majlis or gathering is to let people learn about Imam Hussain (as) and true Islam and to reform ourselves, then how it is done should be designed for that accomplishment rather than for anything else – be it the performance of matam or whatever. That design may depend on the audience and circumstances and what works for one audience and circumstance may not be the best design for another. We should not become tied down to a few ways of doing things but should be adaptable within the bounds of Islam. We should observe the wajib acts and seek out the mustahab acts, but always associated with their purposes and not separated from them.

I heard someone asking why is the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as) and the tragedy of Karbala considered a sad event. Why aren’t we joyous that they achieved martyrdom and saved Islam? Why do we observe it with sadness at all?
Is the purpose of Muharram to get sad?

I think these are valid questions and worthy of thought and not quick dismissal because they are honest and sincere questions. I read that when the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as) approached, he acted as if he were invigorated and energized in battle knowing his time was near. It is reported that Qasim, upon hearing that the men would all be martyred, asked if he would as well, being a young teen. Imam Hussain (as) asked him how he felt about it and he replied that it was something he really wanted, to achieve martyrdom along with the adults. They all knew with confidence they were on the side of right and that martyrdom would be a good outcome for them. We also know through history that although they did die that they were the ultimate victors. They were the victors because they achieved their purpose. They never separated their acts from their active intentions. They never sought martyrdom as a merit in itself or an end in itself. If they had wanted martyrdom as an end in itself, they could have achieved it on many prior occasions. Rather, they understood that the worth of their martyrdom was in its purpose of standing against oppression and standing up for truth and upholding the true Islam for mankind even up to today. Yet we also read that Imam Sajjad (as) mourned greatly throughout his life over the tragedy. If we love someone sincerely, then we feel their loss and pain as our own. So the sadness is an outcome of the love, and the love is what we need - love for those close and dear to Allah swt and for Allah swt himself - whatever imperfect love we are blessed with in response to Allah swt's perfect love.

We should feel grateful that they made that sacrifice, and we should honor it through careful attention to real Islam in everything that we do to the best of our ability. But we should also feel pain at their sufferings that were very real. To make the sacrifices they made and to go through the trials they endured was very difficult. It is sad and shameful that it was necessary. It is sad and shameful that still the message is not heeded. If one imagines for a moment that a loved one has died to save another, would not one still feel sadness, loss, and sorrow? What people are more beloved to the true followers of Ahlulbayt (as) than the Ahlulbayt (as)? If one imagines a Muharram observance that takes joy as its means, would the message of reform remain? What is Muharram about if not reform?

Reform for its own sake is again something gone away from true Islam. Real reform is not a departure but a return. It returns our actions to the root of pure active intention of fulfilling our ultimate purpose in existence. Imam Hussain (as) showed us what reform is and how to live it and how to die in it. I feel that is what Muharram observance should be all about.

So whatever someone does that is permissible for observance of Muharram, be it of any type and any fervor, Allah swt bless him with an attentive heart. Love Allah swt, love Ahlulbayt (as), feel the love and then act on it not only in mourning or Muharram observance, but in self-reform in Allah swt's way.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Muharram 3 / 4 - prophecy/history context of sacrifice

What I share are my own thoughts and they may have imperfections so I do not offer them as absolute truth but perhaps matters for thought and discussion.

A second important aspect of the events of Karbala that I feel it is important to discuss is context in prophecy and religious history. The sacrifice of Imam Hussain (as) at Karbala is a monumental event, a pivotal event in religion. Without it, truth is lost. If it is so important, then in the way of Allah swt, it should not be a great mystery or secret.

The passing of successorship by the appointment of Allah swt, as discussed in the last letter, is the way of Allah swt as evidenced by the history of the prophets (sa). So what about the sacrifice of Imam Husain (as)? Is it an event that comes out of nowhere, unlike the other major events of religious history?

Significant events in the plan of Allah swt for delivering guidance to mankind are not sudden unexpected and unforetold events. Early prophets foretold their successors and future events. The preceding scriptures to the Qur’an surviving in the Bible and elsewhere include several references in which prophets foretold the coming of the Prophet Mohamed (saw):

Acts 3:22-25
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, a Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me, unto him shall ye hearken in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul, which will not hear that Prophet shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the Prophets and of the covenant which God made with our fathers saying unto Abraham: And in they seed shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed.

Deuteronomy 15, 18-19
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee of thy brethren, like unto me, unto him shall ye hearken. I will them a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto them, and will put My words in his mouth and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which he shall speak in My Name, I will require it of him.

These two passages without a doubt prophecy the coming of “that prophet”, Muhammad (saw). Only he fits all the conditions mentioned – being from the brethren of the Israelites – the Arabs, that he came to speak to ALL people and not just a particular tribe or group, that he is descended from Abraham and connected to the covenant of Abraham established with the advent of circumcision after the birth of Ishmael from whom Muhammad is descended, and speaking only the words that God put in his mouth and none other.

Other passages in the Bible show that people were aware of these prophecies and asked about them, looking for the coming of Muhammad (saw):

John 1:19-21

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not, but confessed ‘I am not the Messiah.’ So then they asked him, what then, are you Elias? And he said ‘I am not.’ Are you That Prophet? And he answered ‘No’.

From this line of questioning to the prophet John the Baptist, it is clear that in addition to the Messiah, Jesus (as), the people were also waiting for and expecting someone else, the one in the scriptures referred to as “That Prophet”, and described in the conditions above that only Muhammad (saw) meets.

So, when Jesus (as) came, there was yet another to come, called “That Prophet”. If he did not come, then the prophecies would not be fulfilled, contrary to the ways of Allah swt.

Jesus (as) himself on multiple occasions mentioned that there was yet another prophet to come after him, in accordance with the prophecies.

John 14:7,8
Nevertheless I tell you the truth, that it is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter (Arabic: Ahmad, a name of the Prophet Muhammad (saw)) will not come unto you, but if I depart I will send him unto you, and when he is come he will reprove the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment.

John 16:12,13
I have yet many things to say unto you but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when the ‘Spirit of Truth’ is come he will guide you unto all truth for he shall not speak of himself but whatever he shall hear that alone shall he speak and he will show you things to come.

This ‘Spirit of Truth’ is clearly the same “That Prophet”; we know this because Jesus (as) tells us it is the one who the scriptures say does not speak of himself, and the only person who matches that prophecy is Muhammad (saw). Clearly it is not Jesus (as), because Jesus (as) himself is saying that this prophet is yet to come. And clearly it is not an angel or spirit, because the previous scriptures say it is a man, a prophet.

The successorship of rule is a history with Allah swt beginning with Adam (as) and continuing to Muhammad (saw), but especially firmly established in a covenant between the prophet Abraham (as) and Himself.

The covenant between Abraham and God includes mention even of the 12 imams, the third of which is Imam Husain (as);

Genesis 17:10,23
This is My covenant which ye shall keep between Me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised…. And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day as God had said unto him.

Genesis 17:20 (part of God’s promise in this covenant which is signified and remembered by circumcision)
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee; Behold I have blessed him and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly: Twelve Princes shall he beget and I will make him a great nation.

Some wording in translations of the Bible seem to try to imply the covenant only goes through Isaac, but 17:23 above shows clearly it is between Abraham and “thy seed after thee” which includes Ishmael. The twelve princes are not descended from Isaac so they can in no way be associated with twelve tribes of Israel nor the disciples of Jesus (as); the only people who fit the bill of this promise of God are the twelve Imams (sa) descended from Ishmael from Imam ‘Ali (as), Imam Hasan (as), Imam Husayn (as), and up to the Imam of our age (as).

Therefore it is apparent that the act of circumcision, the sign of this covenant between God and Abraham is a sign for all of us of this promise of the coming of the twelve imams (sa) and the prophets so that we all may be aware of them, listen to them, and follow the right guidance to our own benefit and blessing. God has told us from the time of Abraham (as), then, that all the prophets including ‘that prophet’ Muhammad (saw), and the twelve princes from Ishmael, the twelve imams (sa), would come.

Abraham was commanded by God to sacrifice his son. Abraham obeyed God as did his son and they prepared for the sacrifice. But at the last minute, Abraham was spared of the task, and the sacrifice of the ram was used to replace it and to become a symbol of the later, Greater Sacrifice.

Qur’an 37:105-108
O Abraham! Of course thou hast faithfully fulfilled the dream, thou art of the truthful ones, but verily it is an open test, we have substituted it with a Greater Sacrifice. We have transferred it to later generations.

Hajj commemorates many aspects of prophet Abraham (as)’s life. Why Abraham (as)? I think it is because the covenant is established with Abraham (as); it is through this covenant that Muhammad (saw) and the imams (sa) are promised. One of the hajj rituals centers on this test to sacrifice his son, and the hajj rituals wind down with the reminder of the Greater Sacrifice that is in its place, via the symbol of the slaughter of an animal that is then (ideally) given to the needy. I find it very interesting that the hajj takes place and then shortly thereafter the new year begins and the dates of the sacrifice of Imam Hussain (as) occur. It is as if the hajj itself is a reminder of this covenant and a signal of the fulfillment of this covenant in Muhammad (saw) and the twelve imams (as), and a sign of Imam Hussain (as)’s role in this covenant that is to come very soon on the calendar. One leads to the other. At the time of the symbolic sacrifice, the head is shaved. In the old scriptures, shaving the head is a symbol of mourning, as is wearing plain clothes like hajis do.

Isaiah 22:12 (note also the weeping and beating the breast, both of which are central in the modern practices of memoriam of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as) and his companions in Karbala – here those practices are, called for by God.)

On that Day the Lord called for weeping and beating the breast, for shaving the head and putting on sack cloth.

I don't know if the parallels between hajj and Karbala are really there or not, but I am amazed how when looking at it there seem to be soooooooo many.

Now the Christians believe that the sacrifice that replaced the one tasked upon Abraham (as) was that of Jesus (as). But the Qur’an tells us no.

Qur’an 4:157
And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Mary, the apostle to Allah; and they did not kill him nor crucify him, but it appeared to them so and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure.

Further the Christians say the sacrifice that was spared was of Isaac, so that the replacement should be of his seed, as is Jesus (as), while the earlier scriptures and the Qur’an say to the contrary that it was Ishmael who was spared; suggesting the replacement may be of his seed, as is Imam Husayn (as). It is in the line of Ishmael that the symbol of the Greater Sacrifice has been maintained in the hajj rituals.

There are numerous prophecies relayed from the Prophet (saw) and preceding imams (as) about the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (as) at Karbala. In the Bible, there is no prophecy of the crucifixion. Not much in the Old Testament or Torah refers to a sacrifice of a description that would really match the crucifixion events.

But there IS a prophecy that at least seems to match the events of Karbala.

Jeremiah 46: 10
For this is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of vengeance, that he may avenge him of his adversaries; and the sword shall devour, and it shall be satiate and made drunk with their blood; for the Lord God of hosts has a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.

The sacrifice is the means of the vengeance against those who reject to covenant between God and man, those who reject the prophets and imams (sa), because in that sacrifice is the ultimate victory of truth established and the ultimate loss of the losers set solid.

And now that the sacrifice is made, it is a great victory for the martyrs and a great victory for truth, but it is still a case of mourning. Why? It is because of the need for the sacrifice in the first place – the pervasiveness of evil and misguidance and wrongdoing, of oppression and suffering inflicted on the innocents. The matter is not yet over, for the twelfth prince (as) has a further vengeance and further establishment of Truth to fulfill. We await the return of our Imam (as) in completion of the prophecies from the beginning, fulfilling the covenant of Abraham to its fullest. Are we ready?