Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas and Ashura

"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings with toys at Christmas, why are we not grateful to God for filling our stocking with legs?" G K Chesterton

And today, many are not even grateful for their gifts from others, but instead evaluate and compare those gifts against some sense of entitlement. But what are we truly entitled to in this world? Has God promised us even another breath? And even if He did, is it because we are entitled to that breath, or because it is a gift?

While I have not been making the longer drive to the north Denver area for Muharram services, I of course have not failed to notice that it is Muharram, and that Christmas and Ashura are two days apart this year. I know many far surpass me in their piety and their religious observance, but for whatever reasons I have needed seclusion and do not feel up to the nearly four-hour daily commute going to Denver would entail.

I have written about Muharram and what it means to us, what it enjoins on us, etc., many times. And I still feel I don't know hardly anything about that topic. I cannot weigh or measure the sacrifice of Imam Hussain (as), and therefore I cannot weigh or measure my debt. But I feel I have a great debt, for my personal benefit at the price of that sacrifice is potentially exceedingly great. The least I can do is acknowledge the debt and to try not to waste the gift of sacrifice for truth.

Many Christians believe that al-Masih, Jesus Christ (as), made a great sacrifice for humanity, but now they acknowledge his birth, albeit in largely pre-Christian traditions, consumerism, and more consumerism. While Muslims do not believe Jesus (as) was crucified, we do believe he lived his life in complete submission to God, annihilating his own personal will and whims within the will of God. He was and remains a supreme, immaculate instrument of God, like Imam Husain (as), and all the Imams and Prophets (sa). We are all indebted to him, as well, for his struggle in the way of truth.

Every godly person who struggles for truth and preserves a measure of it does a noble thing, a thing that may help countless others. What is Christmas Spirit? What are the lessons of Karbala? Isn't there a call to self-sacrifice, to become more than a taker, a user? I go to work and listen to teenagers speak day after day and go home and hear more people speak on television or Internet, and most of us are all about ourselves. We feel entitled. We feel we know more than others. We feel we should be special. We feel we should have easy lives and abundance. If some misfortune befalls us, we feel personally affronted or wronged. If all we are is a sea of people, each obsessed with himself, what a waste! Is there no more point to life than personal gratification? Who cares if I am gratified or he is gratified or she is? Especially when most gratification comes with a cost, paid by others.

I don't know what self-sacrifice for truth, for right, looks like for you or me, but we've seen it in our prophets and guides. But one thing I understand is that we should be grateful. To God. To our families. To the Prophets (sa). To the Imams (sa). To Jesus (as), to Imam Husain (as). To people who smile at us, to people who try to teach us, to people who pick up our garbage, to people who try to cure us,to almost anyone we meet.

In wishing all who would want it a Merry Christmas, what I really wish is well-being, peace, guidance, and appreciation. And in condoling the mourners over the disgusting murder of holy and sincere servants of God, what I really wish is for none of us to oppress another, to cause another to shed tears, or to take another for granted.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Family Tree Photos

I posted some of the photos of my ancestors on Facebook - go over and have a look if you like! I have more of some people on - if you want to view those, you'd have to let me know and I could add you to my profile.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Belted Kingfisher

Mom, dad and I saw a neat bird yesterday - the belted kingfisher. It was perched on a wire over Fountain Creek on Nevada Ave. in downtown Colorado Springs.

Eid Ghadeer Mubarak

Eid Ghadeer

As a revert to Islam, Eid Ghadeer is the one Eid that always has made the most sense to me and been the most significant in my worldview. Part of me has found Eid ul Fitr tempered by the loss of the holy days of the month of Ramadhan, and Eid ul Adha significant if you or a loved one is performing the hajj, but otherwise less so. But the Eid al-Ghadeer has always been special to me because it is a celebration of the culmination of Islam - a celebration of the very events that first enabled me to know the status of Imam ‘Ali (as) and the crucial role of Ahlulbayt (as) in the preservation of the True Religion so that I, in 1994, had the blessed chance to discover true Islam for myself. It is only because of Ahlulbayt (as) that I had that chance – without them, the True Religion would have long ago been lost in corruption and time.

I remember feeling exhausted after becoming Muslim. I had spent a year in intensive research, questioning the entire framework of my existence, engaging in deep self-evaluation so that in the end I had turned my life upside down and accepted all the conflict and challenges that would bring my way. But I had yet to scratch the surface of Islamic knowledge and had so far yet to go. I had become aware of the sects and divisions between Muslims, much to my sadness. As a Christian, I had been dismayed by all the man-made churches, none of them holding God’s Truth more than any other. I regretted that I might again find nothing in Islam that provided complete access to Reality.

But then, I read about Ghadeer Khum. The more I read, the lighter my burden became. Here was what I had known must exist – the evidence that God had protected His message from corruption. Every time a revelation from God has come down, man has corrupted it. But the Qur’an has survived because God has protected it, and in Ghadeer Khum I found the means. I felt tears of deep joy and gratitude to find the protectors of the Qur’an, the ones who have lived the real Islam; for without them, I would have no chance of ever finding the truth, I would have remained a deprived wayfarer, unsatisfied with the religions of man’s making.

If I had not been blessed to know about Ghadeer and appreciate the status and role of Ahlulbayt (as), I would have been left very disappointed after my struggle to find the Truth. While I would have gained the clarity of Tawhid that is in Islam, I would yet know I was stuck in a quagmire of man-made distortions that rip apart the Truth and replace it with ignorance and oppression.

In the Qur’an it is written, "And hold fast, all together, by the Rope which God (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude God's favor on you; for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, you became brethren; and you were on the brink of the Pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does God make His Signs clear to you, that you may be guided." (3:103)
Numerous hadith inform us that the Rope is none other than the blessed Ahlulbayt (as).

I feel this ayah resonating deep in the very fiber of my existence. Without the rope, I would have nothing to hold to, no hope for access to God’s Truth. It is a great favor from God for which I owe immeasurable gratitude that I was able to find this rope and try with my best effort to cling to it. I cling to this rope with the love of Ahlulbayt (as) who made my journey to Islam possible, and who have provided me the means to hope for progress on the journey of Truth and salvation from the Fire of Hell. For without Ahlulbayt (as), I could only be on the brink of the Pit of Fire, but by clinging to their Rope I might be pulled away from it.

The Ahlulbayt (as) have given me, and have given all of us, the chance to realize our potentials, the ability to hope, and the opportunity for the complete peace that can only be found in one who has glimpsed the Truth. Therefore, the Eid of Ghadeer is the most joyous and meaningful Eid to me, It is the Eid of hope and opportunity for all of us. May Allah swt bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad with His greatest blessings and grant them the most fulfilling peace, and may more and more of humanity come to realize the great gift given to all of us when Allah swt perfected religion by securing the role of Ahlulbayt (as).

originally written for Islamic Insights last year

Friday, November 27, 2009

Eid Mubarak - Hajj

Ten years ago, I was blessed to go for hajj. Unlike some people who think and prepare for a lifetime before going, my hajj came to me unanticipated. I had found Islam less than five years prior, and I was just out of college without any savings to spend on such a journey. Further, the very concept of hajj was alien - no one in my family had ever traveled out of the country - none of us even had passports - and my non-Muslim family had a very hard time with the whole idea, not understanding its purpose and finding the idea very frightening, potentially dangerous. All they could see was their daughter going off to the middle east with people they didn't know and so they were very worried. But I guess it was meant to be, because somehow everything worked out and I was soon in Saudi Arabia with millions of other pilgrims.

What follows are a few things from my hajj that have stayed with me a decade later.

1. I will never forget the feeling of tranquility and holiness around the Prophet's (saw) mosque and Janatul Baqi in Medina. The desolate, desecrated nature of the graves in Baqi was disconcordant with the holiness that permeated the air and earth in that place. Everyone in our caravan felt very much at home and thoughts of family, jobs, or anything back in North America never had room for entry - it was if a previous life had ended, we had all been reborn, and were living a new life, the real life, finally.

2. I met more Muslims and made more lasting connections on hajj than any other experience. Random Iranian Shia strangers would bestow gifts and kindnesses upon discovering a fellow Shia from another country - even though it was not their country, I often felt like I was being hosted by them, rather than the Saudis; it seemed to me more than it was their place even though they were journeyers like myself. The Saudis I met were excited to see an American, sure I had lots of money to spend that I was holding back on, and if they were Shia, were very cautious about showing any aspect of their belief. The people in my caravan took care of me - I would have been totally lost without their companionship and guidance, as many of them had performed hajj before and always seemed to know where to go and what to do next.

3. Before going for hajj, I had no particular emotional reaction to seeing images of the kaba; but when I actually saw it for the first time in person, I was in tears awestruck. I was just amazed to be there, so far from home, with millions of people from all over the world, and with physical structures that connected me to imams and prophets (as). I knew it was a gift and a miracle to be there.

4. I learned a level of patience and tolerance that I never even thought about before. I saw real poverty for the first time and remember thinking often about the throngs of people who had no accommodations and were just sleeping on the streets, even in dumpsters, and yet, like me, this was a journey of a life time for them, and they'd probably worked much harder to get there than I had. The poverty in Saudi Arabia outside of the main areas pilgrims frequented was stark in contrast to the sometimes gaudy excessiveness that sat right next to it. A pilgrim is not in control during hajj,he or she is just another drop in a sea, and learns to just wait, just endure, just exist, just feel, just be. While in one sense the journey is a very selfish one - one is striving to have this deed accepted and not wasted, you're very special, called there by God while many others were not able to make it - in another sense, the individuality fades away. You're not special on hajj, but rather you're totally unimportant and not unique from anyone else around you - you're focused on the Creator and the spiritual tasks with very little thought of the world, of comfort or discomfort.

5. I remember being really quite surprised to discover that Safa and Marwa were not mountains but smoothed small hills and under a roof at that. Incongruities and surprises like that happened constantly - one minute all would be holy and peaceful, the next you would be jarred by someone's hostility in the crowd, one sight would be as you expect, the next would be entirely different. While the haram was an amazing place, the most memorable experience for me in Mecca was the evening when several thousand Shias filled a plaza to perform Dua Kumayl, courageously organized by Iranian pilgrims. Saudi police in riot gear surrounded us, but the gathering began and ended without incident. Anything is possible with God, and nothing is possible without God - hajj showed me that repeatedly.

6. Coming home from hajj was the hardest part of the journey. Readjusting to normal life was very difficult, because it was like accepting a fake, two-dimensional reality after seeing the real, 3D HD world for the first time. But I could no more explain my physical and spiritual journey to my non-Muslim family than a land-dwelling animal could describe its world to a fish who lived confined to the depths of the sea. I didn't feel glad to be back, and while my parents were so relieved to have me back, I was not the same me that had left them. I discovered the real challenge of hajj came after it was over. When you're back in your ordinary, mundane life, can you hold on to the lessons, relationships, feelings, and spiritual gains outside of that focused, spiritually-charged environment? Or will you let the old you come back and take over?

If not everyone can go for hajj, perhaps everyone can create or find some spiritually-charged environment to be a humble pilgrim in now and then - a conference, a retreat, or a special prayer room in your home with guests that inspire you spiritually. I think we all need to be pilgrims from this world from time to time to help us not get lost in it.

Praise and thanks be to Allah swt.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Nice Family Day

My goofy nephew

The family, including my aunt and uncle, mom and dad, brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephew.

Nephew's photography warrants reaction.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

For Thanksgiving

An article I wrote for II a little while ago....

One of the best gifts Allah swt has granted mankind is the ability to feel and express gratitude. Being grateful at the most basic level is very simple and very beneficial. It is simple because it requires no special knowledge, skill, equipment, or preparation - anyone can access the gift of thankfulness. Yet most of us fall short of the mark in expressing due thanks for what others do, and probably all of us owe far more thanks to Allah swt than we even understand. However, improvement is also simple: just make it a practice to notice blessings and kindnesses, to think about them, and to honor them.

One reason gratitude is beneficial is because it improves relationships, - whether interpersonal or with our Creator. When we can feel and express appreciation for God's blessings or other's kindnesses, affection grows. But the personal benefits are also great; a thankful heart is a content and awed heart. Even in times and circumstances of hardship, we always have much to appreciate. When we acknowledge this, our burdens are easier to bear.

Imam Sadiq (as) wrote in Lantern of the Path, "With every breath you take, a thanksgiving is incumbent upon you, indeed, a thousand thanks or more. The lowest level of gratitude is to see that the blessing comes from Allah irrespective of the cause for it, and without the heart being attached to that cause. It consists of being satisfied with what is given; it means not disobeying Him with regard to His blessing, or opposing Him in any of His commands and prohibitions because of His blessing."

Our breathing comes without thought, and yet each breath is a blessing. The struggle for breath is an agony that we are usually spared thousands upon thousands of times without thanking for it. If the gift of breath is taken from us, we will die; breath is life. It is but one of countless examples of blessings from God we owe thanks for. At the very least, we should appreciate that it is a gift from God, be satisfied with the gift, and never use the gift of breath for anything opposing Allah swt. One could possibly say that if we truly wish to express gratitude for the gift of breath, we must never allow ourselves to purposely breathe in any haram substances and we must never use our breath to utter any lies, backbiting, or other haram speech. For even if we claim to feel gratitude, the proof of real thankfulness comes in our actions. If we are thankful for a gift, we will not be careless with it. If someone gave you a birthday present you really loved, you would use it with caution in order to protect it. Similarly, if we are truly grateful for the blessing of breath, we will use it with caution, too.

Imam Sadiq (as) continues:
"Be a grateful bondsman to Allah in every way, and you will find that Allah is a generous Lord in every way. If there were a way of worshipping Allah for His sincerest bondsman to follow more excellent than giving thanks at every instance, He would have ascribed to them the name of this worship above the rest of creation. Since there is no form of worship better than that, He has singled out this kind of worship from other kinds of worship, and has singled out those who practice this kind of worship, saying,

‎وَقَلِيلٌ مِّنْ عِبَادِيَ الشَّكُورُ

Very few of my servants are grateful. (34:13)"

Expressing thanks to God is a great form of worship, and at the minimum is part of our daily prayers. Allah swt has taught us that when we give thanks, blessings increase. Not only is this true about the blessings directly from God, but it applies for gratitude to the blessings of Allah swt that come from people as well. For example, a child who demonstrates true appreciation for Eid gifts or quality time spent with daddy inspires the giver to happily continue to give to that child, while a child who seems to take a gift for granted or does not seem to like or appreciate it may find the giver less generous in the future. God is not in need of our thanks and is not hurt in the least by our ingratitude, but gratitude enriches us immeasurably. "Allah is not in need of the obedience of His bondsmen, for He has the power to increase blessings forever. Therefore be a grateful bondsman to Allah, and in this manner you will see wonders." (Ibid.)

Even feeling and expressing gratitude is itself a merciful blessing from God.
"Complete thankfulness is to sincerely repent your inability to convey the least amount of gratitude, and expressing this by means of your sincere glorification of Allah. This is because fitting thanks is itself a blessing bestowed upon the bondsman for which he must also give thanks; it is of greater merit and of a higher state than the original blessing which caused him to respond with thanks in the first place. Therefore, every time one gives thanks one is obliged to give yet greater thanks, and so on ad infinitum, and this while absorbed in His blessings and unable to achieve the ultimate state of gratitude. For how can the bondsman match with gratitude the blessings of Allah, and when will he match his own action with Allah's while all along the bondsman is weak and has no power whatsoever, except from Allah?" (Ibid.)

The world would be a better place if we were more grateful to Allah swt and to others. Therefore, I would like to publicly thank God for His continued mercy toward me, and to thank my parents for their love. Those few words are not adequate at all, but should not be left unsaid. I invite readers to use the comments section to thank Allah swt and/or any person.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Mystery!

(If you're reading this on Facebook and not seeing anything, follow the link to the blog for The Mystery).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Math Day

I took some kids from my school down to CSU-Pueblo for a math competition today and our upperclassmen did very well. We lost to only one team and came home with a big trophy for the math bowl competition. In the individual written contest, we got a 2nd place, 5th place, and two honorable mentions - so all our upperclassmen placed. We did the best out of all the schools in our district that went down on the bus together to the competition.

On the way down to Pueblo, I saw something really neat - a whole herd of Elk in a field eating grass, just off the Interstate a few miles north of the PPIR (Pikes Peak International Raceway) track. I've never seen Elk at that low of an elevation before, and there were many of them - neato!

The pictures in this post were taken at the CSU-Pueblo Physics/Math building - they had some neat art reminiscent of Islamic tilings.
is pretty ill. I went to visit the person, and the teacher is getting the needed help but may be there awhile, probably not back to teaching for this semester. Prayers would be appreciated.

My district is looking at having to cut more than $10 million from an already bare-bones budget for next year - it is a little scary - I expect total salary freezes, layoffs, furloughs, cut programs, larger class sizes, no new textbooks or supplies, etc., even though many are already desperately needed.

Finally, Colorado Springs has a veritable Hooverville these days. Along Fountain Creek all the way from Motor City up to CC and probably other places beyond sight of the Interstate, are tents of homeless people who have set up semi-permanent/permanent camp. There were so many I couldn't count....

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Birthday of Imam Reza (as)

I bear witness that there is no God save Allah, the One; and there is no partner to share with Him.

I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and His Messenger, verily, he is the lord of the ancients and the moderns, verily, he is the head of the Prophets and the Messengers.

O Allah send blessing on Muhammad, Thy servant, Thy Messenger and Thy Prophet, the chief of all that has been created by Thee, blessings which no one is able to measure other than Thee.

O Allah send blessings on the Ameer ul Moomineen, Ali ibna Abi Talib, Thy servant, the brother of Thy Messenger, whom Thou elected to have Thy Knowledge, made him a guide to show the right path to those of Thy servants who want to be led aright, an evident proof for those who pay careful attention to Thy Message, he managed the affairs of the religion according to Thy system of justice, made application of Thy commands to settle the issues which cropped up among the people, and let Thy will and command rule supreme in all matters; peace be on him, also mercy and blessings of Allah.

O Allah send blessings on Fatimah, the daughter of Thy Prophet, the wife of Thy friend, the mother of the two sons, Hasan and Husayn, the prime leaders of the people of Paradise, she is pure, purified, pious content, wise leader of all the women of the Paradise,
blessings which no one is able to measure other than Thee.

O Allah send blessings on Hasan and Husayn, the two sons of Thy Prophet, the prime leaders of the people of Paradise, Thy established authority among the people, Thy two evident proofs for those who pay careful attention to Thy Message, who managed the affairs of the religion according to Thy system of justice, and made application of Thy commands to settle the issues which cropped up among the people.

O Allah send blessings on Ali bin Husayn, Thy servant, Thy established authority among the people, Thy evident proof for those who pay careful attention to Thy Message, who managed the affairs of the religion according to Thy system of justice, and made application of Thy commands to settle the issues which cropped up among the people, the lord among Thy adorers.

O Allah send blessings on Muhammad bin Ali, Thy servant, Thy representative in the earth, the deeply versed in the knowledge of Prophets. O Allah send blessings on Jaa'-far bin Muhammad, the truthful, Thy servant, the defender of Thy religion, Thy decisive argument over the mankind, the truthful, the just.

O Allah send blessings on Moosa bin Jaa'-far, Thy upright servant, Thy approved spokesman among Thy people, Thy decisive argument over the mankind.

O Allah send blessings on Ali bin Moosa who please Thee most, the chosen, Thy servant, the defender of Thy religion, rightly and justly established by Thee as an authority who made earnest presentation of arguments to promote Thy religion which is the religion of his truthful ancestors, blessings which no one is able to measure other than Thee.

O Allah send blessings on Muhammad bin Ali, Thy servant, Thy chosen representative, appointed by Thy command, who invited people Thy path.

O Allah send blessings on Ali bin Muhammad, Thy servant, the defender of Thy religion.

O Allah send blessings on Hasan bin Ali who put Thy system into practice, the established authority among the people, Thy demonstrator who carried out the mission of Thy Prophet, Thy witness over the mankind, distinguished with Thy excellence, who reminded people to obey Thee and Thy Messenger. Thy blessings be on all of them.

O Allah send blessings on Thy demonstrator, Thy established representative among the people, perfect, growing and everlasting blessings expedite his arrival
and help him, let us be with him in this world and in the Hereafter.

O Allah I seek Thy nearness through my love for them. I make friends with their friends, I oppose their enemies, so, on account of them, give me good of this world and the Hereafter, keep away from me the evil of this world and the Hereafter, the dreadful fright on the Day of Judgement.

Peace be on you, O the representative of Allah!Peace be on you, O the evident proof of Allah!

Peace be on you, O the light of Allah in the darkness of this (ignorant) world!

Peace be on you, O the mainstay of the religion!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Adam, the sincerely attached friend of Allah!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Nooh, the Prophet of Allah!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Ibrahim, the intimate friend of Allah!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Ismaeel, the sacrifice offered to Allah!

Peace be on you,O the Inheritor of Moosa, who spoke to Allah!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Eesaa, who received mercy , joy and ease from Allah!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of the Ameer ul Moomineen, the representative of Allah, the executor of the will of the Messenger of the Lord of the worlds!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Faatimah Zahra!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Hasan and Husayn, the prime leaders of the people of Paradise!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Ali bin Husayn, the pride of the worshippers!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Muhammad bin Ali, the deeply versed in the wisdom of the ancients and moderns!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Jaa'-far bin Muhammad, the truthful, the virtuous!

Peace be on you, O the Inheritor of Moosa bin Jaa'-far! Peace be on you, O the virtuous and pious guardian!

I bear witness that, verily, you established the prayers, gave the prescribed share to the needy, commanded to do that which is right and lawful, not to do that which is wrong and unlawful, sincerely served Allah, till the inevitable came unto you

Peace be on you, O Abal Hasan, and mercy and blessings of Allah be on you.

O Allah I had left my place of domicile to go towards Thee, and crossed many a town in the hope of getting Thy mercy, therefore, do not disappoint me, do not send me away without awarding that which I need, have mercy on my restless agitation near the son of Thy Messenger's brother, Thy blessings be on him and on his children.

My father and mother are at your disposal O my Mawlaa! I have come to visit you, adore you and take refuge with you from the excesses I indulged into, from the burden of sins I carry on my back, so, in the day of distress, be my advocate before Allah, because you enjoy special privileges in the presence of Allah, and He shows respect for you and brings honour to you.

O Allah I seek Thy nearness through my love and friendship for them (the Ahlul Bayt), I love each and every one of them, from the first to the last, and avoid intimate association with anyone other than the Ahlul Bayt Curse of Allah be on those who subverted Thy "Favour" suspected Thy Prophet to be guilty of falsehood, denied Thy revelation, laugh at Thy representatives, and gave preference to nonentities over the "Aali Muhammad.

O Allah I seek Thy nearness by calling down curses on them, I keep myself aloof from them in this world and in the Hereafter, O Beneficent!

Blessings of Allah be on you, O Abal Hasan!

Blessings of Allah be on your soul and your body! You suffered patiently and exercised self-control, (although) you were truthful and your truthfulness had been confirmed; Allah destroyed him who gave the orders to kill you, and him who carried it out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe)

Here are several recitations of Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven.

Which do you think is the best, the creepiest?

Vincent Price:

James Earl Jones:

Christopher Walken:

David S.J. Guilmette:

Basil Rathbone (and creepy talking Poe head):

Alan Parsons Project with Rob Gonsalves art:


Spike Durden:

Jay Marks / Phobe Rush Animation:

Bamshad Abedi-Amin Poetry into Film Assignment:

W.B. Ward:

Aaron D. Frankel (super 8mm film):

hasaniwalker, puppeteer:

The Simpsons, in Portuguese:

The Simpsons, in English:

"The Raven" on The Simpsons - Watch more Videos at Vodpod.


Lance Cotterdam, Special Olympics recitation medal winner:

World of Warcraft (couldn't figure out how to embed it, but it is pretty cool, so follow the link.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lady Masooma (as)




The first ten days of the lunar month of Dhul Qa’dah are celebrated in some Muslim countries like Iran as Daheye Karamat (ten days of nobility). This is because they start with the birthday of Hadhrat Ma’suma (‘a) on the 1st of Dhul Qa’da [173 AH] and meet with the birthday of her sibling, Imam al-Ridha (‘a) on the 11th [148 AH] of the same month. Both are epitomes of spiritual greatness and nobility. Their life histories are brim with lessons for us to learn and emulate. Celebrating such occasions is to remember their personalities and instill in us the spirit of obedience to Almighty Allah. When one beholds the tomb of Hadhrat Ma’suma (‘a) in the holy city of Qum, which in reality serves as its fundamental source of light, one should be overtaken with the purity it exemplifies. Her radiant shrine constantly echoes a very important message for all her lovers: protect yourself from sin and struggle for infallibility. She was known as al-Ma’suma by her infallible brother Imam al-Ridha (‘a) due to her immaculate personality. If we are receptive enough to absorb her message, we would struggle for purity. Celebration in reality is an act of commitment and pledge. We must resolve to flee from sin, in order to celebrate this occasion of joy. Imam al-Ridha (‘a) likewise gives a similar message but in another language: the language of Divine pleasure. The word al-Ridhaa connotes both al-Raadhi (the pleased one) and al-Mardhi (the one whom one is pleased with). In other words He is pleased with what Allah does, and Allah is pleased with Him. He thus enjoys the state of a contented soul (al-nafs al-mutma’inna), whose status is so high, that Almighty Allah addresses it thus: “O soul at peace! Return to your Lord, pleased, pleasing! Then enter among My servants! And enter My paradise!” (89:27-30)The word “jannati” (my Paradise) in the verse refers to the loftiest kind of Paradise, which scholars of authority call “Jannat al-Liqa’”(the Paradise of encountering Allah). Such a station is what has to be experienced and words do not qualify to express. Fortunate are those who are able to visit the radiant shrines of Imam al-Ridha (‘a) and her noble sister Hadhrat Ma’suma (‘a). Mere visitation, however, is not enough. We need reflective minds who are able to draw a world of information by beholding such edifices of light, that can transport every receptive heart to the true meaning of belief, action, love, steadfastness, extinction in the Divine, absorption, revolution, emancipation, concern, etc.

Salams and Du'as
Holy Proximity of Hadhrat Ma'suma ('A) (From Muhammad Khalfan)

Please visit to read more about Lady Masooma (as). Also, here is a book about her at

Her Ziarat, given to us by her brother, Imam Reza (as):

Allah is the great
Glory be to Allah
Praise be to Allah
Peace be on Adam, the Choice of Allah! Peace be on Noah, the Prophet of Allah,
Peace be on Ibraheem, the Friend of Allah, Peace be on Mosa who spoke to Allah, Peace be on Isa, the Spirit of Allah.
Peace be on you, O Messenger of Allah, Peace be on you, O the best of the Mankind
Peace be on you, O Choice of Allah! Peace be on you. O Mohammed bin Abdullah, the last of the Prophets!
Peace be on you, O Ali bin Abi Talib, Commander of the faithful and the Successor of the Messenger of Allah.
Peace be on you, O Fatimah, the Leader of the women of the worlds,
Peace be on you, O the grandsons of the Prophet of Mercy, and the leaders of the youth of Paradise
Peace be on you, O Ali bin Husain, the leader of worshippers, O Coolness of investigating eyes,
Peace be on you, O Mohammed bin Ali, O the explorer of the knowledge
Peace be on you, O Jafar bin Mohammed, the truthful the benign, the trustworthy,
Peace be on you, O Mosa bin Jafar, the pure, the purified,
Peace be on you, O Ali bin Mosa, the pleased, the gratified,
Peace be on you, O Mohammed bin Ali, the pious one Peace be on you, O Ali bin Mohammed, the pure, the advising guardian, and the trustworthy
Peace be on Hasan bin Ali, Peace be on the successor after him
O Allah, bless your light, the successor and vicegerent of Thy Messenger and Thy decisive argument over mankind
Peace be on you, O daughter of the Messenger of Allah! Peace be on you, O, daughter of Fatimah and Khadeejah!
Peace be on you, O, daughter of the Commander of the faithful! Peace be on you, O, daughter of Hasan and Husain!
Peace be on you, O, daughter of the vicegerent of Allah! Peace be on you, O, sister of the vicegerent of Allah! Peace be on you, O, Aunt of the vicegerent of Allah!
Peace be on you, O, daughter of Mosa bin Jafar! May Allah confer His Mercy and blessing on you!
Peace be on you May Allah grant us your companionship on the day of Judgment
and guide us to follow your footsteps and lead us to your grandfather's fountain andquench our thirst out of it, with Mohammed's own cup in Ali's hand,
Allah bless you All. I ask Allah to grant us, through you, happiness, ease and your companionship,
together with your grandfather on the day of Judgment
and not to deprive us from understanding you. Indeed, He is Protector and Powerful on everything.
O Allah, I seek Thy nearness through my love for you, my enmity for your enemies and my surrender to Allah willingly, not arrogantly my acceptance,
with unshaken faith, what He communicated to Mohammed seeking in that Thy Face! Thy satisfaction, and the next world.
O Master! Stand by us when Allah sits in judgment over us, O intimate of Allah,
O Allah, I ask Thee to make my ending happy, and not to take away what you have given me
There is neither might nor power but with Allah, the Great, the Exalted.
So by Thy generosity, might Mercy and bounteousness, comply with our supplication,
Allah, bless Mohammed, and his pious and pure Progeny and give them abundant peace! O the most Merciful of the Merciful.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Game time: Play "What is it?"

Click on the picture to make it big.

Post your guesses in comments.

Then, click here to see if you guessed well!

Personally, I was amazed when I read what it is a picture of - beautiful!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What I did this Weekend - Aspen Gold and Ghost Towns

This weekend mom and I took a Colorado School of Mines class titled Aspen Gold and Ghost Towns - click link to see all my photos. On Saturday we studied geology at Garden of the Gods, then we went to Cripple Creek to view the caldera and get some history lessons, then we gold-panned in Cripple Creek (the actual creek, not the city - the creek was near the former settlement of Mount City). After that, we went to Victor and went on a short hike of mining ruins and went up the American Eagle drive to look down into the Ajax Mine that is doing a lot of work right now, eating the mountain alive. Then we went to Mt. Pitska Cemetery and saw how most of the graves were children - very few survived the mining towns. Then we broke caravan and made our way to Buena Vista/Nathrop. Mom and I stayed at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs and enjoyed the hot water by moonlight. This morning, we went to St. Elmo, an old ghost mining town I visited several times as a kid, and then Iron City Cemetery, then we went up to Hancock, the town (now gone) for the workers building the Alpine Tunnel to connect rail across the Continental Divide for mining. We hiked from there up to the now collapsed tunnel, about 6.5 miles round trip. It was snowing up there this morning, but it was beautiful. I got to see several Pikas, one of my favorite alpine animals. After the hike, it was time to head across South Park and back down Ute Pass to home.

Here are a few photos from the trip - (Click - they get big!):

View from Iron City Cemetery

On the trail from Hancock to the Alpine Tunnel

Spot the Pika in this photo!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Love this Pic

It was on my friend's blog, but I just love it!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ghost in Your Genes

Epigenetics is starting to come into its own and revolutionize our understanding of biology and genetics.

Men, if your grandfather entered puberty during the time of a famine, you are more likely to have a long life. Women, if your grandmother was in the womb during the time of a famine, you are more likely to die unusually young.

We are learning that it isn't only genes that are passed from generation to generation and that genes alone do not account for the diversity in our species and between identical twins. What matters even more is what genes are expressed, or turned on, and when and in what combinations. Things that you do or experience now can affect what gets turned on in your children and grandchildren. Your smoking or eating habits can lead to the cancer of your grandchild that you never even meet. Our behaviors have a bigger influence in the genetic destiny of our offspring than realized - increasing our responsibility for our actions beyond ourselves but also onto future generations to an extent never before imagined.

On the flip side, epigenetics also provides hope: Doctors are learning how, in some cases, to turn some activated genes back off to cure cancers that were hopeless cases before.

See the
episode on NOVA.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Murder of Crows

I have often seen crows in singles, twos or threes or fours, they are common in this area. One year, I even had somewhat of a conversation with a crow. I had put peanuts on my back porch, which the crow and his friend or mate watched. He came and got them but wanted more. He returned to my porch, hopped right up to my back screen door, looked through it directly at me into the house where I was seated on the couch, and "Caw, Caw!" he cackled at me, eyeing me intently while flapping his wings against the screen. I knew exactly what he was saying and exactly what he wanted. I complied, going and getting the last of my peanuts and putting them on the back porch. He took them off to his friend and they left, apparently contented.

I am fascinated by the intelligence and curiosity of crows. I have seen crows put rocks into a narrow patch of water to make food rise that they couldn't reach. I have read about them hanging out at traffic intersections in Tokyo, using red lights to deposit nuts to be cracked by cars when the lights turn green, and then the next red light to pick up their prized cracked nut meals. I know some people are frightened by crows, hence the group name "murder", but I like them.

So it has been a joy to observe a murder of 23 crows in residence in my neighborhood. I have seen them roosting in trees at dawn like the picture above, but more enjoyable is that the past two weekends when my mom and I have walked her dogs at the track across the street on Sunday morning, the 23 have been there hanging out all together, perched in the stadium seats, on the fences and in the fields. As we walk by, as long as they are higher than us they will let us get within a few feet and just watch us pass with a wary, curious eye. Sunday I watched one find a straw and entertain itself with it for a long time and listened to them talk to one another. You can tell them apart, too - some are a bit larger, some have smoother feathers while some are thinner in the neck.

The last dogs my parents had hated crows. They always defended the yard against them while ignoring squirrels. My mom felt it was because once a crow had raided the eggs or babies from a smaller bird's nest in the yard. But the current dogs could care less about crows while they are incessantly chasing squirrels out of the yard.

Mom and I both counted them these past two weekends and always the count is 23. We wondered how they are related to one another and what their social structure is like, but I don't really know the answers to those questions.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I like this recitation - it is clear and beautiful to me.

Recommended for reciting on Laylatul Qadr:

Surah Qadr (short Surah, recommended to recite many times)

Surah 44 - The Smoke

Surah 30 - The Romans

Surah 29 - The Spider

Surah 36 - YaSin (Recommended to recite 3 times - here with transliteration - follow along if you wish, insha'allah)

As an aside, I decided the main focus of my prayers, aside from asking for the well-being of my family and loved ones, is simply for contentment in all occasions. I pray for increased gratitude to Allah swt, guidance and forgiveness for those who seek them, blessings on the Prophet (saw) and the Ahlulbayt (sa), good of this world and Hereafter for all believers in all times and places.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Munajat (Whispered Prayer) of Imam Ali(as)

I might have posted this before, I am not sure. But, it is really wonderful and it is part of the recommended dua'as on the potential dates of Laylatul Qadr.

May Allah swt bless Muhammad (saw) and the Ahlulbayt (sa).

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Funeral/Memorial Service

Today was the service for my aunt, held at The Shrine of Remembrance. In the service, there was a part where people spoke about her if they wanted to, and it was nice to hear many people notice how selfless she was and how much she tried to help people and take care of her kids and grand kids. Even though it was short notice - she just died Wednesday and her obituary was in the paper I think yesterday, the service area was overflowing with family and friends. I went with my parents, and when we arrived my brother's family was already there and he and his kids were crying - that was heartbreaking to see. You notice stupid things in a funeral, like I noticed how I like the stone walls in the hall. After the service, purple balloons with messages to Nancy written on them were let go outside into the blue sky - it was a beautiful day. Then we went to my cousin Angela's house - one of Nancy's other nieces, for a reception. It was kind of nice to see so much family, I don't think that much family has been together in years, if ever.

Afterwards, I went home and took a long nap, just feeling tired.

But on another unrelated note, I took the first two squashes from my patch and ate my first calabacitas squash tonight for iftar - very good, basically the same as zucchini or yellow squash, but it is round. I'll try to give the other one, which I think is a zucchini, to my mom tomorrow.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Bad News

Well today was rough at work - we started out the day with the horrible news that one of our students had committed suicide on Sunday. I had the young man as a student two years ago, as well as his older brother. This was a case where apparently no one saw it coming - numerous people saw and interacted with him even through the weekend up until hours before the fatal moment, and no one had a clue what he was going to do. Shortly before he did it, it is said that he wrote notes to some of his friends on Facebook essentially saying goodbye and asking forgiveness. He was an honors student, an athlete, from a stable home.

As a teacher, I just feel so sad, tired, and even angry. Having lived longer, I know that after dark days come better ones. When we are young (and yes, even at any age), especially in our teens, sometimes we can't see beyond the pain of the moment. What a hole has been created! I can't imagine what his parents are going through now, or his brother. What this does to so many people cannot be undone, but I am sure if he were able to step out of the moment to realize what he would be doing to others who loved him, not just to himself, he would wish to undo it. If he could see past the relationship troubles of teens to what his 20's or 30's might have been, I think he would wish to undo it. Anguish consumes all vision.

But we can't see the future, we can never know how many lives we touch and in what ways, and there are certain things that we can't take back. The finality of it is deafening. A book that was not fully written is closed, blank pages never to be filled. And thousands of other books are changed, a dark chapter added to their pages, at the loss of a student, son, brother, friend.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Month of Ramadhan Daily Duas 1-5

Day 1 Dua

Day 2 Dua

Day 3 Dua

Day 4 Dua

Day 5 Dua

Friday, August 21, 2009

Shahr Ramadhan Kareem!

In the name of Allah,
The Beneficent, The Merciful

Praise belongs to God who guided us to His praise
and placed us among the people of praise,
that we might be among the thankful for His beneficence
and that He might recompense us for that
with the recompense of the good-doers!

And praise belongs to God who
showed favour to us through His religion,
singled us out for His creed,
and directed us onto the roads of His beneficence,
in order that through His kindness we might travel upon them to His good pleasure,
a praise which He will accept from us and through which He will be pleased with us!

And praise belongs to God who appointed among those roads His month,
the month of Ramadan,
the month of fasting,
the month of submission,
the month of purity,
the month of putting to test,
the month of standing in prayer,
in which the Qur'an was sent down as guidance to the people,
and as clear signs of the Guidance and the Separator!

He clarified its excellence over other months
by the many sacred things and well-known excellencies which He placed therein,
for He made unlawful in it what He declared lawful in others to magnify it,
He prohibited foods and drinks in it to honour it,
and He appointed for it a clear time which
He (majestic and mighty is He) allows not to be set forward and accepts not to be placed behind.

Then He made one of its nights surpass the nights of a thousand months
and named it the Night of Decree;
in it the angels and the Spirit descend
by the leave of their Lord upon every command,
a peace constant in blessings
until the rising of the dawn
upon whomsoever He will of His servants
according to the decision He has made firm.

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
inspire us
with knowledge of its excellence,
veneration of its inviolability,
and caution against what Thou hast forbidden within it,
and help us to fast in it
by our restraining our limbs
from acts of disobedience toward Thee
and our employing them
in that which pleases Thee,
so that we lend not our ears to idle talk
and hurry not with our eyes to diversion,

we stretch not our hands toward the forbidden
and stride not with our feet toward the prohibited,
our bellies hold only what Thou hast made lawful
and our tongues speak only what Thou
hast exemplified,
we undertake nothing but what brings close to
Thy reward
and pursue nothing but what protects from
Thy punishment!
Then rid all of that from the false show of the false showers
and the fame seeking of the fame seekers,
lest we associate therein anything with Thee
or seek therein any object of desire but Thee!

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
in it make us attend
to the appointed moments of the five prayers within
the bounds Thou hast set,
the obligations Thou hast decreed,
the duties Thou hast assigned,
and the times Thou hast specified;

and in the prayers make us alight in the station of
the keepers of their stations,
the guardians of their pillars,
their performers in their times,
as Thy servant and Thy messenger set down in his Sunna
(Thy blessings be upon him and his Household)
in their bowings, their prostrations, and all their
excellent acts,
with the most complete and ample ritual purity
and the most evident and intense humility!

Give us success in this month to
tighten our bonds of kin with devotion and gifts,
attend to our neighbours with bestowal and giving,
rid our possessions from claims,
purify them through paying the alms,
go back to him who has gone far from us,
treat justly him who has wronged us,
make peace with him who shows enmity toward us
(except him who is regarded as an enemy
in Thee and for Thee,
for he is the enemy whom we will not befriend,
the party whom we will not hold dear),

and seek nearness to Thee through blameless works
which will purify us from sins
and preserve us from renewing faults,
so that none of Thy angels will bring for Thee
the kinds of obedience and sorts of
unless they be less than what we bring!

O God,
I ask Thee by the right of this month
and by the right of him who worships Thee within it
from its beginning to the time of its passing,
whether angel Thou hast brought nigh to Thee,
prophet Thou hast sent,
or righteous servant Thou hast singled out,
that Thou bless Muhammad and his Household,
make us worthy of the generosity Thou hast promised
Thy friends,
make incumbent for us
what Thou hast made incumbent
for those who go to great lengths in obeying Thee,
and place us in the ranks of those
who deserve through Thy mercy the highest elevation!

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
turn us aside from
deviation in professing Thy Unity,
falling short in magnifying Thee,
in Thy religion,
blindness toward Thy path,
heedlessness of Thy inviolability,
and being deceived by Thy enemy, the accursed Satan!

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
and when in every night of this month's nights
Thou hast necks
which Thy pardon will release
and Thy forgiveness disregard,
place our necks among those necks
and place us among the best folk and companions
of this our month!

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
efface our sins
along with the effacing of its crescent moon,
and make us pass forth from the ill effects of our acts
with the passing of its days,
until it leaves us behind,
while within it Thou hast purified us of offenses
and rid us of evil deeds!

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
and should we go off to one side in this month,
set us aright;
should we swerve,
point us straight;
and should Thy enemy Satan enwrap us,
rescue us from him!

O God,
fill this month with our worship of Thee,
adorn its times with our obedience toward Thee,
help us during its daytime with its fast,
and in its night with prayer and pleading toward Thee,
humility toward Thee,
and lowliness before Thee,
so that its daytime may not bear witness
against our heedlessness,
nor its night against our neglect!

O God,
make us like this in the other months and days
as long as Thou givest us life,
and place us among Thy righteous servants,
those who shall inherit Paradise,
therein dwelling forever,
those who give what they give,
while their hearts quake,
that they are returning to their Lord
those who vie in good works,
outracing to them!

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household
in every time, in all moments, and in every state,
to the number that Thou hast blessed whomsoever
Thou hast blessed
and to multiples of all that, through multiples
which none can count but Thee!
Surely Thou art Accomplisher of what Thou desirest.

A little humor (even though I've never been to taraweeh)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Urban Natural Beauty

Fellow teacher Ileana and I were walking downtown from a meeting site to our cars in a lot several blocks away when we came across this natural wonder, a miracle of beauty. A gorgeous snapdragon had somehow planted itself and bloomed from a tiny crack at the base of the utility pole for a walk/don't walk sign on a busy street corner (Cascade and Kiowa, I think). The bike lock was just lost or discarded by someone.

وَآيَةٌ لَّهُمُ الْأَرْضُ الْمَيْتَةُ أَحْيَيْنَاهَا وَأَخْرَجْنَا مِنْهَا حَبًّا فَمِنْهُ يَأْكُلُونَ {33}
[Shakir 36:33] And a sign to them is the dead earth: We give life to it and bring forth from it grain so they eat of it.

وَجَعَلْنَا فِيهَا جَنَّاتٍ مِن نَّخِيلٍ وَأَعْنَابٍ وَفَجَّرْنَا فِيهَا مِنْ الْعُيُونِ {34}
[Shakir 36:34] And We make therein gardens of palms and grapevines and We make springs to flow forth in it,

لِيَأْكُلُوا مِن ثَمَرِهِ وَمَا عَمِلَتْهُ أَيْدِيهِمْ أَفَلَا يَشْكُرُونَ {35}
[Shakir 36:35] That they may eat of the fruit thereof, and their hands did not make it; will they not then be grateful?

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْأَزْوَاجَ كُلَّهَا مِمَّا تُنبِتُ الْأَرْضُ وَمِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَمِمَّا لَا يَعْلَمُونَ {36}
[Shakir 36:36] Glory be to Him Who created pairs of all things, of what the earth grows, and of their kind and of what they do not know.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Power of Belief

Knowing the importance of faith and being curious what science might have to say about it, I came across the book The Biology of Belief by cell biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton. While this book has some science in it, I wouldn’t say it qualifies as a science book. Rather, it is Lipton explaining a process of personal transformation of his world view. Because of that, the book came across to me as a bit egocentric until the science became the focus of the story about 50 pages in. Also, in the early pages I was mildly annoyed by references to Gaia and Mother Nature, typical leftist anthropomorphism for explaining what science alone cannot explain, a pseudo-deity of science.

However, there was some scientific content in the book with interesting possible implications. First, Lipton gradually develops some of the ideas of the currently burgeoning field of epigenetics. Epigenetics is rewriting much of the theory of evolution and ideas of heredity. Many scientists and much of the public has come to believe over time that it is our DNA that determines much about us - from eye color, whether we will get a certain type of cancer, to propensity for depression and much more. What epigenetics tells us is that DNA is only a blueprint, but it is not the brain of a cell. You can take the nucleus that contains the DNA out of a cell and it still functions just fine for quite some time. It turns out that the real brain of a cell that it can’t live without at all is the cellular membrane. The cellular membrane is essentially the nervous system of the cell that acts as its senses of what is going on internally and externally to the cell and determines how the cell will respond to its environment. This process and some others determines what parts of the DNA are read, that is, which parts of the blueprint are activated and which are not. So, in the debate between nature vs. nurture, the pendulum has swung away from nature and predetermination back to nurture - that your environment has more to do with what happens to you than long believed. Amazingly, science is showing that it isn’t just your environment day-to-day, but the environment of your parents when you were conceived and carried in the womb, and even the environment of your parents and your parents’ parents back generations that can affect your life. As a simple example, a mouse containing a gene that makes her yellow colored, diabetic and obese will have offspring that also carry that gene and have the same traits. However, if the mouse is given vitamins and methyl during her lifetime, her offspring will be dark colored, not diabetic, and normal weight, even though they still carry the gene. The vitamins of the mother prevented the gene from being activated in her children. This can be true for humans, too. What your mother was doing before you were even thought of can influence whether you end up with certain cancers or other health problems, because the actions of your parents during their lives can influence whether certain genes you carry become activated in you during your life. On a similar note, stress in your environment and response to your environment can also influence the activation of genes. In other words, how you live and how you respond to stress trumps your genetic destiny in many cases.

The second major scientific concept that Lipton addresses is quantum physics. Some ideas from quantum mechanics tell us that at the inner atomic level, matter and energy are interchangeable. In reality, matter doesn’t quite really exist, it only seems to. At the tiniest levels we can measure, matter is really just a waving of energy, a wave with no substance. Atoms are empty space with vortices of energy that sometimes behave like particles, but that is simply a manifestation of the energy. Material substance does not really seem to exist, and what’s more, the energy that makes up everything often exists in indeterminate states - only observations force them into one state or another. So, things that behave like particles often do so simply because they are being observed (measured). There is really, in one manner of thinking, no substance to you at all - you are just empty space, but perhaps because you are being measured or observed, your atoms exist in a quantum state that behaves in a way that we sense as matter. Really, though, you are energy waves, as is every known thing in the universe. Quantum physics shows that energy interactions alone can have biological effects, giving possible credence to many ideas in eastern medicines about influencing the energy fields of the body for healing. Scientific studies have shown that much of our personality is not limited to the brain alone, but is actually in all the cells in our body. For example, emotions involve total body chemistry - in essence, all of your body’s cells can be said to “feel”, or chemically respond in some way, to what we call an emotion, not just your brain.

Single-celled organisms at times work together in communities for survival, and multi-cellular organisms are many cells working together for survival of the whole, with cells taking on specialized functions just like people living in cities do. Quantum physics tells us that even without touching, everything is interconnected - every cell, every atom, is all just waving energy of the same nothingness, and the waves all interact with each other to varying degree. So what happens in one part of your body can effect another part in unexpected ways, what happens to you can effect someone else, and so on. We are really all part of the same energy, we are all one, and our energies are not confined to our bodies.

The third major scientific idea is about how the body heals itself versus how pharmaceuticals affect the body. One of the miracles of life is that the same chemicals do different things in different places. Histamine in your body activates an inflammatory response to a poison, but only at the site of the poison. Histamine in your brain increases blood flow to the nervous tissue, enhancing your thinking and processing in a time of emergency. When your body needs something, it produces it where it is needed and nowhere else. But most drugs act all over your body, not in one place only. Antihistamines used to quell allergic reactions do not only act where the poison is in your body, but everywhere, including in your brain, dulling your senses and often making you drowsy. Most of the side effects of drugs occur because of this phenomenon of acting all over your body rather than in localized regions where they are needed. This is also a major cause of death - in fact a 2003 study concluded that such drug reactions and similar medical treatment complications were the leading cause of death in the United States, with drug reactions causing 300,000 U.S. deaths per year.

But, on the flip side of this story is how often no treatment ends up being a very good treatment - the story of the placebo effect. Drugs for treating depression (and all others) go through clinical trials before being approved for the general public. In these trials, some patients typically receive a placebo, that is, a pill that contains no medicine, while others receive the medicine. This is done so that the difference between no medicine and the medicine can be properly determined. However, in every trial, some of the people receiving the placebo get better even though they got no medicine. Many often report side effects the same as those known to be associated with the medicine, too. For the depression drugs, about half the studies studies have shown that the placebos actually performed as well as the drugs in terms of people reporting feeling better! This effect does not apply to drugs only - but to all medical treatment. One doctor did a study about knee surgery for osteoarthritis pain. Some of his patients had some material cut out of the knee, others had the knee washed out, and others had opening incisions but nothing done to the knee. The patients who had nothing done to the knee but thought they had, recovered just as well as the other patients. The actual surgical procedures in this study did nothing more for the patients than for those who had nothing done to them at all. People who were immobile before the surgery a year later were playing basketball and going skiing, when all that had been done to them is that a few incisions were made on the side of the knee to simulate that surgery was going to take place.

What this tells us is that people’s beliefs and expectations can be more important than actual treatment, (but it doesn’t negate the need for medicine and doctors altogether). If a person believes a procedure will cure him, in some cases that incontrovertible belief actually causes the cure. Similarly, the doctor’s expectations can matter more than the actual treatment, as well. One example of this was of a doctor who used hypnotic suggestion to cure warts. He was very confident that his procedure would work, and it did. But then he learned that his patient that he had treated for warts all over his chest actually didn’t have warts, but had a serious genetic condition. His confidence waned, and he was unable to get identical results for the sores on the rest of the patient’s body using the exact same procedures. He was eventually able to show that it was his confidence in the outcome that affected the results.

So what does all this, taken together, suggest? It suggests that our beliefs and our thought patterns most likely determine what happens to us more than anything else. Our beliefs can manipulate our response to the environment, and it is our response to the environment that has the most to do with determining our fates. It also tells us that we are all interconnected to everything and everyone and can thus influence and be influenced by anything and anyone, perhaps in ways we do not yet grasp scientifically. It further supports the supposition that a living body is just a manifestation of energy in a particular form, but is not necessarily the seat of consciousness or soul itself. Some people see at the heart of quantum mechanics and cellular biology incontrovertible evidence of God.

And what’s more, they see evidence of the potential power of belief and certainty. For example, when someone questioned the Imam (as) about why he did not rise up at that time. Later, a companion of the Imam (as) entered, and the Imam (as) told him to go enter the fire, and he did. After a time, the furnace was opened, and the man was sitting in the fire, totally unhurt. The questioner then realized he did not have the belief necessary to do what the companion had done, and neither did most people, and this is why the Imam (as) would not rise at that time. But if we think about that companion in the scientific context above, we might suggest that his power of belief that he would not be harmed or that he should trust his Imam (as) was strong enough to protect him, just as some people are cured by belief in medical procedures every day that should do nothing for them. Similarly, we might even suggest that if someone truly could understand and manipulate the energy that constitutes all of us at a quantum level, he could make the fire harmless. Indeed, at the ultimate level, the manipulation of the nothingness that somehow waves as energy could produce matter out of nothing or transform something completely, just as Qur’an says that ‘God says, Be, and it is (Kun faya kun)’, or as the Qur’an describes many miracles of transformation such as of Musa (as)’s staff. While science does not suggest to us how such things can be accomplished, it does suggest that they are indeed possible through mechanisms obeying the “natural laws”. Science is suggesting that through belief and our response to environment, we can change what happens to us and our offspring - our health, our happiness, even perhaps our afterlives.