Friday, January 26, 2007

Recommendations for Consumption re: Muharram and Shia

People take different approaches to mourning. And people take different approaches to the observance of Muharram.

I often find myself in a reflective state. For, if a sacrifice is to have any true meaning and worth, it must bring about a benefit and a change. The benefit for all of us from the sacrifice of Imam Husain (as) is the survival of opportunity to seek and find Truth. But the change has to come from our response to the sacrifice - what do we choose to do with the opportunity? Do we honor the sacrifice by availing ourselves of the search or do we succumb to the ho-hum of the status-quo?

I find my own words generally inadequate for expressing much of anything related to Muharram. Others have already said many things well enough.

Here are some things I like to consume this time of year (and all year) in relation to this train of thought (in no particular order):

1) There are not a lot of English language latmiyat available - so what "those Shia" are chanting is often a mystery, and sometimes people assume the wrong things. Usama Al-Atar has produced some popular recordings that are English renditions. Karbala's My Heart (purchase) (download free)
is an Ashura-themed album. I like track 4 - Every Day is Ashura and have it on my iDisk for you.

2) The Murder of Imam Husayn is an African-American rhythm and rhyme story-telling style account of the tragedy of Karbala written and told by Shaykh Ali Abu-Talib son of Abdun-Nur. If you do a Google search, you can find a few of his shorter poems online and experience his strong style. What I have is four-cassette tape set of this poem - so, yes, it is long - but it goes into good detail of the events and are good alternatives to nightly lectures. The tapes say they were recorded and distributed by GrassRoots Calling, P.O. Box 741177 San Diego CA 92174-1177; (619) 527-9683.

3)Husain The Savior of Islam by S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali is very old by the standard of anything available in English about Islam and particularly Shia Islam. But to this day, it strikes me as something very unique. In particular, part of it shows the parallels between the Hajj rites and the role of Imam Husain (as) and the tragedy of Karbala.

4)Honouring Allah's Saints is a very poorly translated book, but it still contains valuable insight toward understanding some of the origin and textual basis for the emotional fervor some Shia'a display in love of Ahlul-bayt.

5)The Brother of the Prophet Muhammad by Mohamad Jawad Chirri is a superbly written and thorough work on the relationship with the Prophet (saw) and status of Imam 'Ali (as) through Sunni sources. A reader of this book would end with a clear understanding of the origins and reasons behind the existence of Shia Islam today.

The clear style of the author can be appreciated online in these digitized texts: UPenn's online book links for Mohamad Chirri.

6)Light of My Eyes, Husayn is a very beautiful mp3 file I found a few years ago. I couldn't tell you who made it or where I had found it. But I uploaded it to my iDisk for you.

7) Ziyarat Nahiya Al-Muqaddasa is a profound Ziyarat in relation to Karbala which comes to us from Imam e Zaman (Imam of our Age) through one of his four original deputies. The link here is to an introduction - click through to find the ziyarat itself. I have it in a text sent to me by a dear friend one year that is identical to what you see online in words if not in formatting - published by NABA. It lists their e-mail address as .

8) Kumail and Kausar Publications has published a handful of very beautiful and moving works.
Their actual website is here.
In the current topic, I recommend both "Oppression on the Ahlul Bayt (as)", which is an account of sad events immediately following the demise of the Prophet (saw), and "Miracles of Ziyaarat e Ashoora" which includes the ziyarat itself and Dua Alqamah and some other shorter ziyarahs, and includes moving and interesting reports about the claimed effects of the ziyarat's recitation.

9) Shiabooks produces the highest quality literature of its type in English I've ever seen. The typeface and Arabic font are simply brilliant and the work is fastidiously referenced and published in high-quality. These works are primarily translations of collections of fully-cited hadith topical collections. Their booklet on Imam 'Ali (as) and his sons is available for free pdf download at their site. The other two books are "The Glad Tidings of Mustafa for the Shia for Murtaz'a" and "The Qa'em in the Qur'an". The former explains the meaning and obligations behind the usage of the title of "Shia", while the second is a tafsir of Qur'an of ayahs that have relation or reference to the Imam e Zaman (as).

10) Tears and Tributes is a by now exceedingly well-known novel-style account or story-telling account of Karbala. If someone just wants to read it like a novel, this serves that purpose. But I've always had a problem with this one in that it quotes people as saying things (as it is, after all, in a narrative style) when in reality I suspect much of that may be without reference to back it so I don't believe in its pure accuracy. That might not bother many people as the general message and much of the details are accurate and clear, but I'm a bit of a purist in that regard.

11) Verses of Ghadir is an exegesis of the Prophet's (saw) Ghadir sermons and the Qur'anic ayahs revealed on that occasion. This work is one of the best I've read on Ghadir Khum - the event of the very public proclamation of the role of 'Ali (as) in Islam.

12) - 14) Ultimately, to me, Muharram and all of Islam is about the Greater Jihad - Jihad e Nafs, Jihad e Akbar - the struggle against the self. Nothing else matters without this. It is the kernel, the essence. These three books are profoundly beautiful and meaningful. They can forever change your life. Even one page from them can forever change your life. Reflection and growth upon the pondering of these is delightful and deep.

Al-Siraj The Lantern by Shaikh al-Bahrani is available online, or also for purchase. It is essentially a book of purity and ethics and wayfaring - the path of gnosis and seeking Siratul Mustaqeem.

Self Building by Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini(or click here for purchase rather than online) is a superior detailed instruction manual for those wanting to win the struggle against self.

Lantern of the Path is by our 6th Imam, Jafar as Sadiq (as). It is a collection of short passages that take a moment to read but a lifetime to absorb and emulate. It is truly a masterpiece of seeking the Straight Path. It can be purchased here, if you prefer the hard copy to the digitized text.

15) A friend of mine wrote a philosophy textbook that explains Islam as its true self better than anything I've ever read. I put a draft version of it as a pdf file called "Islamway" on my iDisk. It is a very dense writing style - lots of meaning in small space, so it is not a fast read. Also, there are a number of typos not corrected in the draft version. I do believe the edited version is coming to publication soon.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Say: “I ask you for no recompense but that you love my near relatives” Qur'an 42:23

"And hold fast, All together, by the rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves." Qur'an 3:103

So let us unite together in the season of Muharram with love for the Prophet (saw) and his near relatives and let us demonstrate it by seeking to learn the Straight Path they follow and become ourselves sincere followers and friends of the best of mankind and of one another.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

SOHO's images of Comet McNaught's closest approach ot the sun (perihelion)

Here is video from the SOHO spacecraft that shows Comet McNaught's approach within half the distance between the sun and Mercury. The sun is in the center of the image, but blocked so that the optics on SOHO can see the light of objects near the sun. Mercury is also visible in the image and you can see the comet is very spectacular in comparison. It was so bright it almost overwhelmed SOHO's optics. The lower left of the image shows the time lapse between January 11 to the 16 or so....

Friday, January 19, 2007

Cool - Comet McNaught was visible during the day

Comet McNaught visible in broad daylight. If viewing this after January 19,2007 - go to the archives of the Astronomy Picture of the Day site linked here to view January 19th's image.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Don't buy premium

Many car owner's manuals will tell you it isn't worth the money, and if you've actually experimented with the different fuels you've probably noticed that where you buy it seems to make more of a difference than octane rating, and that's still not much.

Scientific American: Fact or Fiction?: Premium Gasoline Delivers Premium Benefits to Your Car
Exploding the myth that premium gasoline delivers better performance in the average automobile

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hearing is a Great Blessing

Sr. Baraka has a good post going at her blog on gratitude.

Good news in my family this week. My dad has long had very poor hearing, but lately it has been getting much worse, so that he has been almost completely deaf for a few months. The family lore, although I'm not sure of its truth, is that he first lost hearing when he had measles and mumps together as a child. But it has continually regressed during his adult life and I'm not sure what caused its recent stronger decline although ear infections may have been involved. It is quite a challenge for all involved when someone loses one of their senses that they rely on; it is like losing a part of oneself and losing a key connection to the rest of humankind and the world. It is isolating. Like many things, hearing is one of those blessings that we really typically do not appreciate how great it is until we don't have it. Many many years ago he looked into hearing aids but they hurt his ear so he refused to even consider them again. This time when his hearing got much worse, he decided to reconsider. My mom said he is now fitted with a temporary one while a permanent one is being made, and that he seemed to be very happy and could hear her talk, could hear the TV, etc. So we are all thrilled that we might be able to talk to him without screaming and repeating everything until he gets upset and gives up, and he will feel so much more included. He might even be able to hear the phone ring or hear the door bell! So alhumdooleluh for his hearing loss worsening as that is what it took to reconsider a hearing aid. Well worth the cost, insha'allah.

On a related note, I am a big fan of closed captioning. When it became fairly common in TV's, it became fairly common in our household. In my adult life, I have rarely watched TV without the closed captioning turned on. I get annoyed if it isn't available. Live closed captioning can be pretty worthless and pretty funny, but for other shows it is very useful, even if you can hear. It fills you in on mumbled dialog, sometimes provides you with lines in the script that were left out of the shot for some reason, tells you how names and places are spelled, appeals to visual learners, aids with language learning and helps children develop their reading skills as well. Sometimes it gets in the way of stuff you want to see, but that is usually not the case.

Sr. Karima

A few of my readers know Sr. Karima of Denver and would want to know that she has suffered a stroke, I guess about a week ago.

I don't have a lot of details, but she is supposed to be at Swedish Medical Center, Critical Care Center in Denver. I don't think she is having non-family visitors, but her daughter is around. If you decide to send something, she is registered under her name Sally Zareie. Please keep her and her family in your prayers.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Comet McNaught

This morning on the way to work I made sure to look for Comet McNaught, and I was able to see it very clearly. So that was pretty exciting. This is an image of it taken in Germany posted as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day – an RSS feed I have stored in bloglines and enjoy getting. If you don't see the comet, you may need to go to the archives for January 9, 2007. It's worth it if you don't get to see it with your own two eyes. I didn’t have time to pull over and try to take a picture of it myself, or I’d have been late for work. Comet McNaught is one of the brightest comets of the past several decades. Look for it just before sunrise or after sunset, and near to the sun. When I saw it, it looked like comet Hale-Bopp, but perhaps brighter. It was brighter than Hyatuke and Halley's for sure, by my estimation. It reminded me of a distant plane contrail caught in the pre-dawn light, but it was wider, shorter, and fuzzier.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bald Eagle Sighting

I saw the coolest thing today - I was walking around the track across the street and I ended up watching an adult Bald Eagle soar for about half an hour. I saw a juvenile bald eagle as well, but not for quite as long. They are very large and beautiful.

I asked an El Paso County, Colorado park ranger about them via e-mail and he replied back quickly. He confirmed based on what I reported that they were a juvenile and an adult. He said they don't nest in the county but they do hunt in this area sometimes, especially in winter, particularly at the Big Johnson Reservoir/Blue Stem Open Prairie area or along Fountain Creek. The ones I saw seemed to come from the McRae reservoir (also known as Carp Lake) area, near the Big Johnson.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Best and Worst movies of 2006 Meme - short and sweet

Favorite movie released in 2006 that you saw: The Prestige

Runners up: Invincible, Casino Royale, Pirates of the Caribbean II, Akeelah and the Bee.

Honorable Mentions: The Devil Wears Prada and The Guardian. And I'd like to make a nod to a 2005 movie I loved but saw in 2006: Millions.

Least favorite movie(s) released in 2006 that you saw: Little Miss Sunshine

Everyone is invited to play, in comments or on their own blogs.