Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Best Example

Many people in America are expressing concern that this year the Eid is likely to fall on or near 9/11. Many non-Muslims may take 'Eid celebrations and prayers as being celebrations of the 9/11/01 Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks, despite many announcements as to their real purposes. We know that some "Christian" groups are planning Burn a Qur'an Day on 9/12. There is a possibility of violence against observers attending 'Eid events, so please be careful as always and pray for the safety of all of us the world over.

In the meantime and after, we can continue to try to live the example of real Islam.

The video nasheed below (The Chosen One) is inspired by Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Quoting from the makers, "Maher Zain and Awakening Records felt they had to respond after the recent attacks on prophet Muhammad through cartoons and Facebook. It's a small token in portraying the true character of our beloved Prophet Muhammad." The album can be purchased from iTunes and other sources.

Note: There are instruments in this track, it is not purely a cappella.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Aunt Nancy's Burial

My Aunt Nancy died last September 2nd. My Aunt Susie was executor of the estate and now things finally got to the point where Nancy's ashes could be put in the ground with her parents (my grandparents) according to her wishes. Aunt Susie, my cousin Frankie Sue, me and my mom buried her this morning with the cemetery staff.

Many many more people are opting for cremation these days - it is less expensive for the family by a long shot, and many communities are encouraging it due to burial space and sanitation issues as well. But some religions have very specific burial instructions which don't include cremation. Why is that? Is it traumatic for the soul or does the soul even care, or are there other reasons? How do you want to be buried and why?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Castlewood Canyon State Park

Today I met my friend Carol at Castlewood Canyon State Park just south of Franktown, Colorado. We were there from 9am until after 3pm and saw the majority of the park. It was green and we saw lots of great wildlife - baby toads, an adult toad, two kinds of lizard, lots of butterflies, lots of grasshoppers, crayfish, minnows, a green hummingbird, and a Rainbow Trout on an adventure from Cherry Creek Reservoir - I wonder what that trout was thinking - where is he/she off to and why?

Lots of pretty flowers and choke cherries, apples at an old homestead site, and lots of poison ivy, too.

Each trail was different from the others - different terrain and views - which made them all great. Some of them you were looking on neighboring hay fields, some of them you were following the creek, and some of them were like mountain hikes in pines. Lots of rocks, stairs and bridges to make the trails interesting!

I highly recommend this park, just don't pick a really hot day!

Here are some more pictures I took.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Spring of Quran

(Originally written last year for

In the month of Ramadan, Muslims the world over devote more time to reciting Qur'an. The Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, "Everything has a springtime, and the springtime of the Qur'an is the month of Ramadan," and "Whoever recites a verse from the Qur'an (in the month of Ramadan) will receive a similar reward as the one who recites the entire Qur'an in other months." Perhaps in zealousness for reward, or from misunderstanding of the saying about reciting the Qur'an, often during this month and even at all times, many Muslims have sadly adopted a practice of hastened recitation without understanding.

One example is the form of Taraweeh prayers in many Sunni communities today – the community is so focused on achieving a certain quantity of recitation in their prayers, one-thirtieth each evening, that they may be tempted to rush through the recitation without any reflection or understanding. The origins of dividing the Qur'an into 30 parts and reciting one part each night in the month of Ramadan is in some writings attributed to Uthman for the purpose of use in the taraweeh prayers. The goal of reciting the whole Qur'an in the month of Ramadan is admirable, but not at the expense of quality over quantity.

The purposes of Qur'an might be described as to remove rust from our hearts, to guide us, to purify us, and to educate us. While there is reward in reciting the Qur'an even without understanding, the true benefit of such a recitation is extremely limited and completely leaves aside the benefits of the Holy Book as a reformer and guider for one's soul.

"A book We have sent down to you, blessed, that men possessed of mind may ponder its signs and so remember." (38:29)

"What, do they not ponder the Qur'an? Or is it that there are locks upon their hearts?" (47:24)

Qur'an recitation should really be slow, contemplative, and reflective. A person hearing, reading, or reciting the Qur'an should be engaged with the text: they should have an emotional response and a rational response to its words, not just a response to the voice of the reciter. The Fourth Imam (peace be upon him), "The Qur'anic verses are treasures of knowledge, and whenever a treasure is opened, you have to see what lies therein. Ponder over the verses of the Qur'an, and learn from them, for they are the best of lessons."

The aim of the many deeds we perform in the month of Ramadan is not reward as much as it is reform or purification. In the springtime of the Qur'an, it should be flowering in our hearts, in order to bear fruit. This cannot be accomplished if the meanings of the words never enter our hearts and minds in the first place, nor if the meanings are not allowed to linger with us, occupying our attention beyond a few passing moments. Understanding the Qur'an can be achieved by reading through translation if needed, reading slowly, and in as small a quantity as necessary to allow the time for processing, responding, and applying what one has read. One verse of Qur'an in translation that is understood and taken to heart and used to reform a person may be of more value than a lifetime of chanting the sacred Arabic text but knowing it only as sound.

Most mosque functions rightly begin with recitation of Qur'an, but sadly, we often find that for many of the reciters and listeners, it is only a beautiful noise and an honored ritual. It is a shell of Qur'an that falls like dried leaves rather than taking root in the hearts. Perhaps if there are people in the audience who do not understand the Qur'anic Arabic, a recitation of Qur'an should never be concluded without a translation, so that understanding might bless the hearts of the congregants. Indeed, perhaps the aforementioned saying of the Prophet – "Whoever recites a verse from the Qur'an (in the month of Ramadan) will receive a similar reward as the one who recites the entire Qur'an in other months." – was really meant to make us focus on each verse more slowly and more contemplatively in this month, not to recite more for more's sake. If that means that fewer verses are recited as a result, then so be it. If that means that the whole Qur'an is not read in the month of Ramadan, but only a portion, there is no sin in that. Is it not better for a community of believers to come together and reflect on the Qur'an than to merely parrot it?

I'm not an expert when it comes to Qur'an reciters, but here is my favorite Surah Yaseen recitation - with transliteration and translation.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Fast Friends

Working on a group blog for the month of Ramadan - you're welcome to join.

Ramadan Fast Friends