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In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

As the diplomats wrangle and negotiate over the future of the Holy Land, there is very little a person who honors and loves the Holy Land, like me, can do or say to make a difference. It is high time that peace spread its wings over the lands of Israel and Palestine. If I could snap my finger and bring out a final peace between the parties, I would have done so a long time ago. I, however, do not wield such power.

Yet, the Lord and Creator whom I worship has such power. And so to Him I pray:

Lord of Hosts, Merciful Creator of all that is in the Universe, seen and unseen
Lord of Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, who called the Holy Land home
Lord of David and Solomon, whose rules glorified Your Magnificence
Lord of Christ Jesus and Muhammad, who honored this land with their footsteps

None more than Thee knows the strife and pain and anguish that presides in the Holy Land
None more than Thee hears better the cries of mothers over the deaths of their children
None more than Thee hears the prayers of the innocent who are brutalized
None more than Thee can feel the fear of children from rockets and bombs and bullets and tanks

Lord our God, this land would be nothing more than dirt had it not been for Your decree
Lord our God, it is by Your Word that made this space on earth blessed beyond all
Lord our God, it is by Your Leave that so much anguish has choked and suffocated that holy place
Lord our God, it is  none other than thee who can change the conditions on the ground in the blink of an eye

And so, Lord, I turn to thee in sincere prayer:

Precious Beloved Lord, King of the Heavens and the Earth!
Bring about peace in the Land is that is so Holy by Your Word!

Lord of Abraham, bring about peace between his children in the Holy Land!
Lord of King David, let the Majesty of Your Peace reign over his Kingdom!
Lord of King Solomon, let the power of Your Love rain down upon that far away Temple!
Lord of Christ Jesus, let the land upon which his footsteps tread no longer be poisoned by the blood of innocents!
Lord of Muhammad, let that land upon which all of Your Message Bearers prayed be at peace once and for all!

Guide those who wish to lead in that land, O Lord, to the Path of Peace!
Let the faces of the children, all of the children, light up with the gleam of Your Happiness!
Lift up, Precious Beloved, the darkness of hate that yet lingers in the land of Thy Holiness!
And bring about, O Lord, a peace that will last forever and ever in the land of Israel and Palestine!

In Your Most Holy Name do I make this prayer, O Precious Beloved Lord my God. Amen.

In the Name of the GOD, the Compassionate, the Merciful

It seems hard to believe that ten years – a full decade – have passed since that horrific day in September when the country endured a trauma unlike any she has ever suffered. I still remember the unimaginable scenes of terror, horror, dread, and destruction. I hoped and prayed that what I beheld on the television screen was a terrible dream, with the disgusting realization that it was no dream at all.

Reflecting over the past decade since 9/11, during which almost everything that has occurred had something to do – either directly or indirectly – with said attacks, there is one thing that comes into my mind time and again:

 

Never allow your hatred of a people lead you to commit injustice… (5:8)

This verse of the Qur’an, perhaps one of its most powerful, is wholly relevant to the events that transpired in the decade since 9/11.

Of course, our country had the right to bring those who attacked our country to justice. Of course, our country has every right to pursue those barbarians who seek to harm our people at every chance they get. But, that should not mean that we give ourselves the right, in the name of 9/11 and those who died on that day, to attack, and bomb, and invade at will all across the globe. It is not right or honorable or proper to lead to the deaths of tens of thousands and the displacement of  millions of equally innocent people in the name of self-defense.

We must “never let [our] hatred of [those vicious barbarians] lead [us] to commit injustice...”

Some of our people have shown us – meaning the American Muslim community – an ugly face. Some of our people, seeking “revenge” against the terror committed in the name of our faith by those who do not truly follow the faith, have attacked American Muslims, attacked their houses of worship, attacked women who wear the headscarf, and tried to make them feel unwelcome in their own country. They must remember to “never let their hatred [for the terrorists] lead them to commit injustice.”

These terrorists have nothing to do with us. We have nothing to do with these terrorists. They are mindless murderers, who twist our faith to try to justify their violence and murder. They are like all religious extremists: they will use their sacred texts to justify their actions. But, that does not mean that what they say is true. That does not mean that we are like them. We are not like them. Attacking us and smearing our faith does not fight the terrorists: it only emboldens them to continue their violence.

Please remember: “never let your hatred [of the terrorists] move you to commit injustice” and attack American Muslims. We are on your team and are part of your family as Americans. We are not the enemy: the terrorists are…and we are not those people.

On the same token, we must remember that, despite the actions of those ignorant people among us who seek to lump all Muslims into the same “terrorist” bag, the majority – the overwhelming majority – of our people are good people who are not like the ignorant among them. The majority – the overwhelming majority – treat their Muslim neighbors with kindness and respect, becoming of the spirit of America. Despite the hatred of those ignorant people, we American Muslims must “never let [the hatred of the ignorant ones] move [us] to commit injustice.”

We American Muslims must never let the hatred of the ignorant make us recoil in hatred and separation from the rest of our country and her people. Despite the actions of the few ignorant ones among us, it must never let us give up on America. America is beautiful, her Lord is Beautiful, and her people are beautiful, despite the ugliness of the ignorant.

On this day of prayer and remembrance, ten years after the horrific attacks on our country, we must all – every American of every stripe – pledge to reject the hatred of those who want to hate. We must pledge to work together, be together, and move forward as one people. It is the way the Lord wants us to be, and it is the way we can honor those who died on 9/11, ten years ago.

In the Name of GOD, the Compassionate, the Merciful

It has only been a few days, but it almost seems that Ramadan is a distant memory. Now, I am eating and drinking during the day, and although it still feels a little weird, it is a most welcome change. Indeed, I am trying to keep up  the good habits I learned during Ramadan, and I am trying to keep it’s spirit alive for as long as possible. Yet, when I reflect over the past month of fasting during the very hot days of August, I can only smile with happiness.

I am so very glad I did it.

It feels so great to have been able to fast during the month of Ramadan this year. There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment, perhaps because of the fact that the days were long and frequently hot. Yet, on a more important level, I am so glad that I was able to suck it up and fast despite my tremendous fear as the month started. I am so glad that I overcame my weakness and stuck it out for God.

More than any other ritual practice of Islam, fasting is the one ritual that God says is for Him. According to the Sacred Tradition, God said: “Fasting is for Me, and I give the reward for it.” That is because, more than any other ritual practice, you can’t fake fasting. When you are alone – and it is hot, and you are very, very thirsty – you simply cannot keep fasting if you are doing it for show.

But, if you are doing it for God, as an act of love in return for His tremendous love for you, then despite all the thirst and hunger in the world (assuming you don’t get sick), you simply will not break down and eat or drink. You will suck it up and stick it out. At least, I did so, even on days when I could not bear the hunger or thirst. And I am so happy that I did, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to do so.

I hope and pray that the Lord will accept my fasts this year and every subsequent year until the day I die. Although I can’t predict the future, I do pledge that I will do my best to fast and fast faithfully each and every year, because I love God so very, very much.

And that is because He loved me first.

In the Name of GOD, the Compassionate, the Merciful

A happy and blessed Eid to each and every one of you. May the Beautiful LORD shower and cover you all with His Grace, His Love, His Blessing, and His Mercy.

Have a great, great day!

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

It is amazing that it is finally here: the final day of the month of fasting. Indeed, it did seem to go by quickly, yet at the same time, however, the days of fasting seemed to never want to end. I am not going to put on a show for you: this year’s fast was quite difficult. The days were very long, and as they went along, I would seem to move in slow motion in the afternoon. I must admit that I am a bit excited to be able to eat and drink during the day once again.

Yet, I did my best. I tried to remain faithful to the fast as much as I could. And even when I did stupid things (like play golf in 98 degree heat) while fasting, never once did I even think about breaking my fast. I stuck with it as best I could because, for my entire life, the Precious Beloved stuck with me through thick and thin.

And so, as Muslims the world over are (or will be) celebrating the end of the month of fasting, I turn to the Precious Beloved in prayer:

Kind and Beautiful, Gracious and Merciful, Majestic and Mighty Precious Beloved LORD OUR GOD.
The end of the month of fasting has now come, and I turn to your Beautiful Face to ask Your pardon.

Forgive me, O LORD, for all the times I wished I was not fasting, because of the depth of thirst and pain of hunger.
Forgive me, O LORD, for all those times that I could not stand up in the night in prayer because of weakness, or fatigue, or laziness
Forgive me, O LORD, for all the times I did not fast completely as I should have fasted, even though You have given me so much
Forgive me, O LORD, for all the times when I did not fully live up to the standard by which You have asked me.

Precious Beloved LORD, I tried my best to be the best servant I can be, and I know I could have done better for Your sake, my Lord. And so I ask thee, my Beautiful Beloved Lord, to forgive me and accept me into Your Holy and Honorable Fold. I tried my best this year, O LORD, and so please accept me and my fast, my prayers, my charity, and my night vigils.

Beautiful Beloved LORD, I love you so very, very much because You have been so beautiful to me for my whole life. And because You, O Beautiful LORD, loved me first when I was nothing. LORD, thank you for every single thing in my life; LORD, thank you for Your Love; and LORD, thank you very, very much for the fast. Please make me a better person because of it.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

One of the (very few) advantages of fasting a long (long, long) day is that there is ample time to read and reflect over Scripture. I mean, since there is really nothing else to do while waiting to eat, might as well read the Qur’an. Besides, this is one of the reasons to fast during Ramadan: to honor the revelation of the Qur’an, which occurred during this most holy of months.

One of the most significant verses, among the thousands, across which I came was this verse:

And yet there are people who choose to believe in beings that allegedly rival God,loving them as [only] God should be loved: whereas those who have attained to faith love God more than all else. If they who are bent on evildoing could but see – as see they will when they are made to suffer [on Resurrection Day] -that all might belongs to God alone, and that God is severe in [meting out] punishment! (2:165)

What I focused on the most in this verse is this phrase: “Whereas those who have attained to faith love God more than all else.” The Arabic can also read that the believers are “most intense in their love for God.” And the crux of the matter, when it comes to fasting, becomes clearly evident.

On the surface of it, fasting makes very little sense: going more than 15 hours without food or drink, not even water, during a long and hot summer day looks like torture. Yet, when I think about it a little more: it is a small thing to do compared to the enormous bounty which the Lord has bestowed upon us.

When we thirst throughout the day – and we think of the nice, cold drink that is waiting for us in the refrigerator – it is a reminder of the enormous bounty of having that drink be there. When we hunger throughout the day – and we think of the succulent meal that is waiting for us at sunset – it is a reminder of the tremendous blessing of having that meal be there. There are millions upon millions – all across our world – who are not so fortunate to have food and drink so readily accessible.

If we are healthy enough to fast, that is a blessing in and of itself. I once heard someone say that “health is a crown that someone wears, but it can only be seen by those who are ill.” We should never take our good health for granted, and one of the ways we can be grateful to the Lord, for bestowing upon us health, is to fast when we are asked to do so. Fasting also reminds us of the poor and less fortunate, and if we are blessed with wealth and means, then we should be grateful by helping those less fortunate than we are as best as we can.

All these bounties that the Lord has given us: food, drink, health, wealth, safety, security; all of these He gave to us when we have done nothing for God to deserve it. Yet, He gave it to us anyway because He loved us. His love for us preceded us, and His love for us continues to permeate every fabric of our lives and beings. Each day we breathe and bask in the light of the sun, we really bask in God’s love. The fact that He gave us life itself, without us giving him anything beforehand (and there is nothing we can give Him that He needs), is because of His tremendous and undying love for us.

Therefore, seeing and living all this love, we naturally love Him right back. And as the Qur’an states, that love is most intense for God, and we love God more than anything else. Thus, when He asks us to fast for one month out of the year, if we are able to do so, it is really a “no-brainer.” We do so because we love God so very much for all the things with which He has blessed us.

And that is what keeps me patient as my throat dries and my stomach pains in hunger as the day wears on. I remember all the love my Precious Beloved showered upon me, and I feel so much love for Him. And so I reinvigorate my resolve to keep fasting as faithfully as I can. That’s because I love God so much…because He loved me first.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Yesterday, I blogged about how bad I felt – despite doing nothing wrong – not being able to fast due to my knee injury. Well, I talked to my doctor, and he gave me a different anti-inflammatory medicine that would allow me to safely fast and still treat my knee injury.

So, today I am fasting: Yes, I am thirsty as I write this; yes, I am tired from having to wake up early and eat something before I took my medicine; yes, I can’t wait for the sun to set…

But, I feel totally awesome inside. There is something to this fasting, and whatever it is, it is absolutely wonderful.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

It is no secret that I have approached this year’s Ramadan fast with an enormous amount of dread. I worried about the hot weather, the long days, the difficulty of having to forgo the things I love to do – eat and drink – for an extended period of time. And as the month started, the fast was – admittedly – quite difficult. But, I did it anyway, because it is one of the things I do for my Lord.

Over the last six weeks, I have been battling a knee injury that I must have sustained while jogging. I suffered through the pain, thinking that it will eventually go away, especially since I am not exercising during Ramadan. The pain, however, did not get better. It has, in fact, gotten worse. So much so, that I went to the Emergency Department yesterday to get it evaluated. I could barely walk into the ED yesterday.

Thank God, everything checked out OK, but I was still in pain, and so – thank God – my Orthopedic Surgeon could see me right away. He injected my knee, which gave me some relief, and I got an MRI which showed some soft tissue inflammation. My surgeon told me that I have to rest and ice the knee as well as take round -the-clock anti-inflammatory medicines.

And this meant having to break my fast to take the medicine. I was hesitant at first, but I knew it was the right thing to do. And my family really pushed me to not fast as well, seeing that my health is of utmost importance (and they are right). And so, today I am not fasting, and I may not fast the next few days either, as I nurse the knee back to health.

You would think that, given all the dread I have about fasting in August, I would be happy to be able to drink and eat during the daylight hours, if even for a short time. You would think that I would be excited to have water and yogurt and maybe even coffee again. You would think that I would be happy that I am not fasting for these few days.

You would be totally wrong. I feel absolutely miserable.

Leave aside the fact that any sudden jolt, and my knee pain becomes excruciating. I feel terrible that I am not fasting. This is not because I have no right to break my fast or am ashamed at doing so. On the contrary, the Quran directs that I should not fast if my health commands that I do not. But, I still feel totally abnormal that I am not fasting.

Not because everyone around me is fasting, and I am not. My colleagues are almost all not Muslim, and so my eating and drinking would not be out of the ordinary at all. Some, many in fact, do not even know that this is Ramadan. Yet, still, I feel weird and uncomfortable. I feel totally out of my norm not fasting during Ramadan. It is almost like my soul is yearning again to fast, even though sunset is almost at 8 PM.

I am completely surprised by this feeling. Yet, I totally can’t help it. Yes, I get tired while fasting; yes, I get thirsty; yes, I feel sleepy, sometimes. But my soul is invigorated while I fast, and now that I am not fasting, I can totally feel the difference.

God willing, my knee will get better soon, and I can resume my fasts. And whatever days I miss, I will have to make up later (probably in the short days of winter!). Yet, still – in a strange sort of way – I miss fasting, even though it is still August. Even though I can’t eat or drink until late, when I fast, my soul basks in the light of God’s Grace and Mercy, and I don’t like not being able to feel that any more.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

This was my guest post on the Beliefnet blog, City of Brass.

As Ramadan approached, I had no small amount of dread. Fasting, of all the ritual practices of Islam, is the most difficult for me to do. I am not happy to admit this, but this is one of my (many) human weaknesses. Add to that the long, hot days of summer, and you get dread on my face and in my soul. In fact, I addressed this fear in a poetic letter to my soul just before the month began.

Now, Ramadan is here in full force, and I will just have to suck it up and fast. It is strongly recommended to eat a pre-dawn meal/snack called suhoor, and it is for good reason, too, especially in the long days of summer. But, I usually do not do so: I don’t feel well afterwards, and it makes the entire rest of the day even more difficult. I remember once during Residency, I ate gyros for suhoor, and I regretted it SO much. I had horrific heartburn the entire first half of the day, and I could not take anything to make it better. Never again, I said to myself. Mostly, my suhoor is a large heaping of water to help keep me as hydrated as possible for the coming day of fasting.

Yet, no matter how much water I will drink before the time to stop eating and drinking, it is inevitable that I will get thirsty as the day wears on. So, I change some of my routine: I stop working out in the morning throughout Ramadan. I could – theoretically – get up at 3 AM and hit the elliptical…but that is madness. I need sleep more than I need exercise, especially during Ramadan, when I stay up a little later to pray special prayers. So, no exercise for me. Last year, when I was training for the Chicago Marathon, I also skipped my Ramadan runs. And, I was still able to finish the race with a time of 5:37, thanks be to God.

Also, I frequently have “Ramadan stashes” in my lab coat pocket for after sunset: it might be a small pack of M&Ms, or – like yesterday – a piece of Ghirardelli’s chocolate, or a small chocolate bar. The Prophet (pbuh) used to break his fast with dates, and I definitely do that as well. Yet, I take it to the next level: I make a date/milk delight: I soak dates in an ice cold cup of milk for several hours before sunset. Many times, I will also add some walnuts. It is AWESOME. Things such as these makes sunset something to which I look forward, and it makes breaking my fast all the sweeter, both literally and figuratively.

One good thing about fasting during the summer is that there is a lot of time for spiritual reflection and recitation/reading of the Qur’an. And that is the whole point of the fast of Ramadan: to take away food and drink for just enough so that you can think “upward,” and reflect over the enormous blessing of having food and drink every single day and not even thinking about it. Thus, I should be motivated to help the poor and hungry who – many times – do not have even one square meal a day. And suprisingly, many said people are right here in the United States.

And, Lord, are there blessings in Ramadan. Everything seems to go much more smoothly during Ramadan. In fact, many of the most important things in my life have happened during Ramadan. My medical school interview was during Ramadan: I was accepted three months later. I had a very important high school track meet during Ramadan also. My coach told me that, in order for our team to win first place, I had to throw the shot put 42 feet at least: my distance was 42 feet and six inches. Just yesterday, coming home from vacation, the airport security experience was the easiest ever. Yes, I have to not have my coffee in the morning, but there are so many good things that come with the month of fasting.

All in all, Ramadan is a very good thing, but it is not without hardship and dread on my part. All I can do is fast to the best of my ability, try to clean up some of the bad habits I have learned throughout the year, polish my spirituality and improve my ritual practice, and pray that the Precious Beloved Lord accepts my efforts. Knowing how Beautiful He is, I am confident He will do just that.

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass/2011/08/ramadan-realities.html#ixzz1UY3P8qHX

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

It was no secret that I approached the month of Ramadan with a large amount of fear and dread (along with shame). Now that Ramadan will be in the summer (in the Northern Hemisphere) for the next six to ten years, I am scared about the very long, very hot days and fasting. Normally, I like summer…when I’m fasting during it, however, it is a little tough. Thus, I was scared.

Well, it is now Ramadan 2, and I’m still here. I made it! Yeah, it was a little hard to wait until 8:11 PM to eat and drink. But, after all was said and done, it was not that bad. Now, I did have the option of breaking my fast yesterday as I was traveling. But, I decided (with much goading and encouragement from my wife) to fast anyway.

Yeah, I could have really used a cup of coffee in the airport; yeah, it was hard smelling those french fries that someone had bought and not be able to eat them; yeah, it was sad to not get to drink a can of diet soda on the plane. But, nothing happened. I was just fine. And I hope and pray that the Lord has blessed me tremendously for my fast.

Indeed, there are still long days of fasting ahead. Indeed, the heat of August will likely be oppressive. But, this is my time to show the Lord (and the world at large) that I love Him so much that I am willing to not eat and drink throughout the long days of August. No, He doesn’t need my fasts; He needs nothing at all.

But, I am still happy to do it anyway – even if I may not have a smile on my face at 6 PM with more than 2 hours left to eat.