its all you

A while ago I attended a class at a masjid in which the sisters sat on a balcony overlooking the brothers’ area, and that has a microphone system set up so that everyone could hear.  A few minutes into the class a group of sisters came in with a number of children and starting having Quran lessons.  The noise they made effectively drowned out the voice of the shaykh, and I spent the majority of the class struggling to hear what I could from the lesson, and giving meaningful glances to the group to keep their voices down.


It was so frustrating to be there, ready to learn, with my book open, looking at the teacher and seeing him speak, knowing he was sharing beneficial knowledge with everyone, but not being able to access it because of the noise around me. 


It made me think about how often we must be in this same situation in terms of the spiritual realm… missed opportunities for knowledge, enlightenment, or remembrance due to inner static, distractions and noise… from sins, heedlessness, carelessness…  and we walk away from gatherings of knowledge wondering why we don’t feel any different.


I read an interesting phrase in my Mustalah book the other day, that knowledge is “fi butoon al kutub wa sudoor al ulema” (lit. in the stomachs of books and the chests of the scholars).  The last thing in this world I want to be is a book, just digesting information that I’m learning and storing it up like caloric intake, and without feeling.  I want it to be in my chest, my heart, pumping in my blood, felt like a human being.  But how can it be, if it’s drowned out by things that are already present there?


Ibn ‘Ataa’Illah said in his Hikam:


Rubamaa waradat ‘alayka al-anwaar

Fa wajadat il-qalbu mahshuwan bil-aathaar

Fartahalat min haythu nazalat


“Perhaps illuminations (ma’rifah…) passed by you and found your qalb (heart) filled, buried, occupied with vestiges of creation.  So it took off from whence it had come.”


Imam Shaf’ii said,


My knowledge is with me, and wherever I turn it follows me,

For my heart is its vessel, and not a ‘chest’ stored at home.

(Written June 2007)


Published in: on January 30, 2009 at 5:34 am  Comments (8)  

Sifat as-Safwa


Here are a few narrations from Sifat as-Safwa by Imam Ibn al-Jawzi, a book of short descriptions and stories of righteous men and women from the early generations of Muslims.


From the chapter on Notable Women Worshippers of Kufa:


Umm Hasaan al-Kufiyyah


Sufyan ath-Thawri and Ibn al-Mubarak and others used to visit her.


Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak related: Sufyan ath-Thawri mentioned a woman of Kufa who was called Umm Hasaan, a woman of great ijtihaad and worship.  So (we went to visit her) and entered her home, and we saw that there was nothing in it except a small worn-out mat.  Ath-Thawri said to her: “If you write a note to some of your relatives, they could help change your poor condition.” 


She said, “Sufyan, in my eyes you were better (than this) and in my heart you were greater before this moment.  I do not ask for things of this world from the One who controls it, owns it and rules over it, so how is it that I would ask those that have no control over it nor rule in it?  Sufyan, I swear by Allah, I dislike that a time comes upon me in which I am too busy for Allah, by being occupied with other than Him.”


Sufyan wept at these words.


Abdullah ibn al-Mubarak said: It has reached me that Sufyan married this woman.




Waki’ related from my father from Mansur from Ibrahim: (A worshipper named) Umm al-Aswad became crippled and lost the use of her legs.  A daughter of hers became concerned about her, but she said, “O Allah, if there is good in this, then increase it.”





From the chapter on Worshippers whose Names and Locations are Unknown:


Dhun Noon al-Misri related:  I was travelling through the desert of Bani Israeel when I came across a black slave woman, overwhelmed in rapture of love of the Most Merciful, her gaze fixed on the heavens above.


I said to her, “Peace be with you, my honorable sister.” 


She replied, “And peace be with you, Dhun Noon.”


I asked, “How do you know who I am?”


She replied, “Allah created the souls (of mankind) two thousand years before (their) bodies, and then made them circumambulate His Throne (in worship), and the ones who became acquainted there are (eternally) connected, while those who did not are (forever) divided.  My soul knew your soul when they roamed that realm together.”


I said, “I see that you are a woman of great wisdom.  Please, teach me something from what Allah has taught you.”


She said, “Abu Fayd, put upon your limbs a scale of justice (that will keep you from committing sin), until everything done for other than Allah leaves it, and your heart remains pure and free, with nothing remaining in it except the Lord (ar-Rabb), may He be Exalted.  After that, He will place you at His door, and He will befriend you anew, and will order that those who guard hidden treasures be in your obedience.”


I said, “My sister, increase me (with more knowledge).”


She said, “Abu Fayd, withhold from yourself for your own self’s sake, and obey Allah when you are alone, and He will respond to your prayers.”




Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 11:30 am  Comments (1)  

summertime and malaysian food


We’re sitting at a small plastic table next to a ‘restaurant’, which is actually a little too fancy a word for this tiny, glass enclosed square area with a counter out front, a small stove in the back and a huge picture of a shaykh on the wall, inside which a group of students somehow make delicious and ridiculously cheap Malaysian food.  It’s hidden away behind the women’s-only park a few steps down from Abu Nour, on the opposite, lesser-known side of some fast-food shwarma and fried chicken places. Its neighbors are a tire repair garage and another place that fixes engines. 


It’s a little before Maghrib time and there’s a sort of calmness that’s settling on the city as the sun cools down.  We’re sitting outside, the little restaurant behind us, facing a big generator and a fence that separates us from the park.  The table holds an antique looking silver pitcher sitting on a cylindrical container, which is an old fashioned means of washing your hands. We hear children playing.  A group of old men lounge on chairs a few steps down from us, their backs to the park, watching young men work on tire parts. 


An orange cat seats herself at a convenient location to watch us eat.  We drink water from plastic mugs, take in the green trees and a soft breeze and wait for our meal. The generator turns off and we hear quiet, the birds singing, and the murmur of the old men talking.


The food comes, beautifully displayed on simple blue dishes: rice with small pieces of chicken shaped into a perfect circle, with cucumber slices delicately placed on the side. Little potato filled samosas in another small plate, and another with squares of flaky, warm bread just made.  It’s homemade kind of food that instantly reminds me of my mom’s.  I look to the restaurant and see the Malaysian woman (‘auntie’) who’d cooked it, my mom’s age, wearing a long top and skirt printed with small flowers, a simple hijab with lacy edges… and her husband, a dignified older looking man, who could have been cast as a Malaysian shaykh, tidying things in the tiny kitchen.  Some younger brothers who study at Abu Nour also work there. I’ve seen them in the afternoons making bread sometimes, shaping the dough in what looked like an expert manner on a small marble counter, their Arabic books on the back shelf.


A cute Malaysian couple approaches from the same way we had come; he’s wearing one of those tall black caps and a goatee, and she has a big book bag on like she’d just come from school and is wearing a soft creamy colored hijab and niqab.  They’re holding hands.  They sit at another table, placed closer to the gate of the park and the generator, and drink some fresh juice.


I feel soothed by the calmness of this moment… relative quiet, baraka filled food, temperate weather, my husband giving the cat a wary eye as he eats.  It’s just a lovely summer day and the rush of the city, the worries and business of life and inner complexities seem somehow far removed.  Alhamdulillah for simple moments like these.


(Written June 2007)

Published in: on January 11, 2009 at 11:46 am  Comments (7)  

the beginning of the end


as salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah


dear readers,


I’m not sure if there is anyone still out there (?) considering that I haven’t posted in ages… but for all my readers over the years I hope that you are well and I want to thank you for visiting this page and reading my writing.   I pray that you have benefited from it in some small way.


I’ve left Shaam and am presently living in another part of the Muslim world as my husband and I continue on this journey of life and – insha’Allah – on the path of seeking knowledge.  May Allah accept.  I’ve for the most part stopped writing or any type of creative expression for a little more than a year and I really feel the desire to begin again, but am unsure of the means I should use.  Another blog?  An unhealthy number of posts on  An attempt at publication?  What to do with the words falling out of my mind and onto the keyboard?  Any suggestions?  Do let me know 🙂


I’m going to post a few more pieces that I’ve written from my time in Damascus, insha’Allah.   I didn’t post these earlier for various reasons, but now that I’m drawing this blog to a close I’d like to share them with you and hope that they give you a more complete picture of my time there.  There are many more experiences that colored my stay in Shaam, including some that were difficult and hurtful, but I have for the most part tried to leave those experiences behind and those words unsaid.  There were also times of beauty and spiritual awakening that are beyond the words of this mediocre writer, not to be described but only felt with the heart and soul.



May Allah (swt) grant us tawfeeq and bless us with actions adorned with ikhlaas and ihsaan and free from the desire for other than Him.


Please forgive me for any offense I may have caused through anything I’ve said, and please ask Allah the Most High to forgive me too.


wasalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah.



Published in: on January 10, 2009 at 10:43 am  Comments (5)