Saturday, January 18, 2014


Surah 37 139-148

139. So also was Yunus among those sent

140. when he ran away to a Ship laden
141. he (agreed to) cast lots and was of the defeated
142. then the big Hut (marine animal) did swallow him and he had done acts worthy of blame.
143. had it not been that he (repented) glorified God
144. he would have remained in the fish till the day of resurrection
145. but we cast him forth on the naked shore in a state of sickness
146. and we caused to grow over him a spreading plant of the Gourd kind
147. and we sent him to a hundred thousand (people) or more
148. and they believed, so we permitted them to enjoy their life for a while.

These verses are full of imagery because the Quran is primarily a recited text and as in  a song or a poem, imagery brings the story to life.

But, what the Quran says is as interesting as what it does not say. The story begins of Yunus, a man sent for a purpose, running away to a ship to escape. What happens before this point is not mentioned and one may assume is not relevant to the theme of the narrative. Once on the ship, circumstances force a choice upon Yunus....again, the details are left out and we only see the action of Yunus making a choice and being defeated. Yet, what is not said is that it is God that is controlling the events/circumstances even though it may seem that Yunus has made a choice.

As we move along the narrative, there are further imagery of Yunus being swallowed, of him repenting and of God's mercy in freeing Yunus onto land and give him a covering and sustenance so he could heal. Here too we can see Yunus make a choice (v 143) and we can see the consequences of this choice(v145-146)---yet in verse 144, God adds a commentary---that had the choice been different, the consequences would have been different too. But, if the choice is between life and death is the choice illusory or real?

The story ends with Yunus completing the mission he was sent on and a large group of people receiving God's blessings. We are left with contemplating the ambiguity  between God's will and limited human will in individuals and groups.

There is also a more immediate and simpler theme in this story---that repentance is the way to access God's compassion and mercy either as individuals or as groups/nations. It is simply a matter of asking God for forgiveness---and God forgives all who ask. When viewed from this perspective, the relationship between God's will and limited human free will comes into focus. In other words, it is God's will that we human beings, either as individuals or groups---willingly choose to ask for God's mercy and the circumstances in our lives will propel us in this direction through blessings or hardship so that our hearts/souls will turn in God's direction.

"Nothing that I can do or say will change the structure of the Universe. But maybe, by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes--goodwill among men and peace on earth." ----Albert Einstein

Quran Surah 5 verse 8

"oh you who believe, be steadfast witness for God in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that you deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty. Observe your duty to God. God is aware of what you do."

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Surah 30 verses 20-24

20 Among his signs is this,
that he created you from dust; and then, behold, humanity scattered (far and wide).

21. And among his signs is this,
That he created for you mates from among yourselves that you may live in tranquility with them and he has put love and mercy between your hearts: Surely in that are signs for those who reflect.

22. And among his signs
is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: surely in that are signs for those who know.

23. And among his signs
is the the sleep that you take by night and by day, and the livelihood you make out of his bounty: Surely in that are signs for those who listen.

24. And among his signs,
he shows you the lightening, by way of both fear and hope, and he sends down rain from the sky and with it gives life to the earth after it is dead: Surely in that are signs for those who are wise.

What are we doing here on earth? In our rush to achieve, be successful, to accumulate more of what we already have too much of, we do not have time to stop and reflect. How do we reciprocate all that God has provided for us?

Rumi writes in the Mathnavi

Not a moment passes without your soul struggling with its own death, so in that struggle look to your faith!

Your life is like a purse filled with Gold; every day and night sees the money changer counting out the coins.

God counts the coins and gives to us freely, until the purse is emptied and the eclipse of death appears.

If you keep taking away from the mountain, without putting anything back, then the mountain will one day disappear from that one-sided transfer.

So, then put an equal amount of breath back for every one you take, so you can obey the verse "fall down in worship and draw yourself near" for in that way you will gain what you seek.

----Mathnavi III, 123-127.

If we stop and reflect, we will see the beauty God has created....

"For but an instant
a setting sun transfigures
with gold
a burnt land"
  -----Hakyo Ishida

Perhaps then, we can be grateful and reciprocate....perhaps humanity can work together to create harmony, justice and peace and restore beauty back to this earth............and in the process fill our lives with meaning and our souls with happiness.........

Monday, June 10, 2013

Paradox and Tawil

Surah 18 verses 78-82  Al Kahf

78. He answered:"This is the parting between me and you: Now I will tell you the interpretation of (those things) over which you were unable to hold patience."

79. "As for the boat, it belonged to certain men in dire want: They plied the water: but I wished to render it unserviceable, for there was after them a certain king who seized on every boat by force."

80. "As for the youth, his parents were people of faith, and we feared that he would grieve them by obstinate rebellion and ingratitude (to God)"

81."So we desired that their Lord would give them in exchange (a son) better in purity (of conduct) and closer in affection.

82. "As for the wall, It belonged to  two youths, Orphans in the town; There was beneath it a buried treasure, to which they were entitled; Their father had been a righteous man: So your Lord desired that they should attain their age of full strength and get out their treasure---a mercy and a favor from your Lord. I did it not of my own accord. Such is the interpretation (of those) things over which you were unable to hold patience. 

This story begins with verse 60 and from the start it is full of mystery and symbolism.  The story centers around a "servant of God" and his conduct in 3 encounters. In the first encounter, he destroys a boat, in the second he kills a youth and in the third he rebuilds a wall. The observer in all this is Prophet Moses (pbuh) who is puzzled and disturbed by what he sees.

But then he had been warned---(verse 68) "For how can you have patience about things which are beyond your knowledge?". Yet Prophet Moses promises to have patience and the journey begins.

Tawil is to "lead back to the origin" and leads to a wholistic interpretation of Divine will. What seems disturbing, puzzling, paradoxical becomes whole, and harmonious when understood in light of the compassion and mercy of God.

Actions that at first seem harmful, wrong and puzzling become a mercy and a favor in light of the whole. In the first event, a boat is damaged. When we see only the literal event. we can only see the harm it has caused to the owners of the boat. Yet, through this trial, God most, compassionate, most merciful, has bestowed unseen Grace. Perhaps, the souls of the boat owners have been saved from the oppression of their means/options becoming too limited. Likewise, trials that happen to us may destroy a material aspect of our lives, yet, surprisingly, new hope, and spirituality can also spring forth.....opening up our options/choices.

In the second event a youth is killed. This is horrifying and wrong. How can God, most compassionate, most merciful, destroy human life?....Yet, death is an inevitable part of "life". All of us are born by God's will and will die by God's will. It is his right to give life when he pleases and to take it back when he pleases. Both life and death are a grace and mercy from God. Life offers us opportunity for repentance and reform thus helping us grow in spirituality, and death saves us from committing sin and error thus preventing us from staining our souls. 
Likewise, in those instances when God, most compassionate, most merciful, has interfered in human affairs and destroyed a community, saving those who were good, he has bestowed unseen grace. Preventing  the bad from oppressing and overwhelming the good, he has provided space for goodness to take root and grow. 

In the third event a wall has been restored in an uncivil and ungrateful community. This is puzzling. The restoration of the wall prevented the treasure from being discovered too early---thus possibly preventing it from being stolen or misused by the community.  What appears to be a blessing to the undeserving is actually a balancing of the degree of blessing by God most compassionate, most merciful. From this good action, the rightfully deserving will be able to receive blessings. However, this is not just a mercy, but a favor and a favor entails a responsibility. The orphans must choose to use their wealth for good and refrain from using it for harm. 

"A true journey isn't in visiting new places, it is seeing with new eyes"---unknown
"I saw my Lord with the eye of my heart"--al Hallaj

"Good fortune or bad fortune is unimportant. The vicissitudes of life are but the means to shape your character. If you suffer adversity and react in the proper way, in the long run you will be benefited as fully as though you had good fortune." ----unknown

"Good rests on bad. 
bad hides within good.
who knows where the turning point is:" 
---Tao-te Ching

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Sura 39 verse 69-75

69. And the Earth will shine with the light of its Lord: The record (of deeds) will be placed (open); The prophets and the witnessess will be brought forward; and a Just decision pronounced between them; and they will not be wronged (in the least).

70. And to every soul will be paid in full (the fruit) of its deeds; and (God) knows best all that they do.

71. The unbelievers will be led to hell in groups: Until, when they arrive there, its gates will be opened and its keepers will say, "Did not messengers come to you from among yourselves, rehearsing to you the signs of your lord and warning you of the meeting of this day of yours?" The answer will be:"True: but the decree of chastisement has been proven true against the unbelievers!"

72. (To them) will be said:"Enter you the gates of hell, to dwell therein: and evil is (this) abode of the arrogant!"

73. And those who feared their lord will be led to the Garden in groups:Until behold they arrive there; Its gates will be opened; and its keepers will say: "Peace be upon you! Well have you done! Enter you here to dwell therein."

74. They will say: "Praise be to God, who has truly fulfilled his promise to us, and has given us this land in heritage: We can dwell in the land as we will: how excellent a reward for those who work (righteoussness)!"

75. And you will see the Angels surrounding the Throne (Divine) on all sides, singing glory and praise to their lord. The decision between them (at judgement) will be in (perfect) justice, and the cry (on all sides) will be, "Praise to God, the lord of the worlds!"

If we understand "Salvation" as being "saved" from hell----then this is inadequate for understanding the Islamic position. In Christianity, because of the doctrine of "original sin" everyone is born a sinner and requires "saving" through the "sacrifice of the son of God". But in Islam, we have the Fitra....A concept that honors the inherent goodness in humanity created by God. Because all human beings are created good----they are naturally inclined towards Paradise----unless they choose to not go there.

Fitra(human nature)= Natural/inherent predisposition of goodness that is inclined towards right action and submission to God/Tawheed.

Fitra + Right belief, right intentions, right actions = Paradise
Repentence/Reform  - Wrong belief, wrong intentions, wrong actions = Paradise

Rebelliousness + Wrong belief, wrong intentions, wrong actions = Hell

Wrong belief (Division–superiority of one over the other) promotes wrong intentions (Pride, arrogance) that lead to wrong actions (evil)

Right belief (Tawheed—Unity) promotes right intentions (Compassion, tolerance, humility) that lead to right actions (goodness, altruism)

God's will = Right belief that promotes right intentions that lead to right actions for the benefit of all of God's creations.

Human beings are created with an inherent goodness. Therefore when we do evil—we go against (rebel against) the inherent nature God created us with. Pride and arrogance cause rebelliousness (story of Iblis) but humility and gratefulness bring us closer to God. We not only rebel against our human nature, but also against God's will. That is why the punishment (hell) is so fierce. It is a double rebellion.

Surah 30 v 30
"So set your face truly to the religion being upright, the nature in which Allah has made mankind: No change (there is) in the work (wrought) by Allah: that is the true religion: but most among mankind know not:"

"The highest good is like water which benefits all things and contends with none." Tao te Ching

Do you not see that God is inviting you to heaven?
Why do you throw yourself into a pitfire?

In order to ascend to the abode of the righteous
make knowledge your feet and obedience your wings

In the battleground of our demented world
make a sword from patience and a sheild from faith

Pluck the bird of wisdom from the branch of religion

This world is not the abode of the wise
it is but a passage for us, therefore traverse it.
                                                                   -----Pir Nasir Khusraw.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Surah 29, verses 45-51

45. Recite what is sent of the book by inspiration to you, and establish regular prayer: for prayer restrains from shameful and evil deeds; and rememberance of God is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And God knows the deeds that you do.

46. And dispute you not with the people of the book, except in the best way, unless it be with those of them who do wrong. But say, "We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God and your God is One; and it is to him we submit (in Islam)

47. and thus it is that we have sent down the book to you. So the people of the book believe therein, As also do some of these (Pagan Arabs): and none but unbelievers reject our signs.

48. And you were unable to recite a book before this (book came) nor were you able to transcribe it with your right hand; In that case, indeed, the talkers of vanities have doubted.

49. No, here are signs self-evident in the hearts of those endowed with knowledge: And none but the unjust reject our signs.

50. Yet they say: Why are not signs sent down to him from his lord? Say: "The signs are indeed with God: and I am indeed a clear Warner"

51. And it is not enough for them that we have sent down to you the book which is rehersed to them? Surely in it is Mercy and a Reminder to those who believe.

"The Qur'an in its original Arabic dress has a seductive beauty and charm of its own Couched in concise and exalted style, its brief pregnant sentences, often rhymed, possess an expressive force and explosive energy which it is extremely difficult to convey by literal word for word translation. (From John Naish's book, The Wisdom of the Qur'an)"

… [T]he Qur'an has invariably kept its place as the fundamental starting point… A creed so precise, … so accessible to the ordinary understanding might be expected to possess and does indeed possess a marvellous power of winning its way into the consciences of men.(Edward Montet, a French intellectual)

There is only One God and all worship goes to him. It is easy to forget this when we encounter faiths with different concepts of God. We assume that a different concept of God means "their" God is different from "our" God. The Quran rejects this idea---for to make any assumption of more than one God negates the Quranic principle/creed of ONE God. Therefore, the Compassionate and Merciful God of the Quran is the same God whose Compassion and Mercy extends to all human beings. All who pray to the Divine---have access to God's grace and forgiveness. There is no such thing as "your" God and "my" God.
God has provided Guidance to all mankind and we must all do our best to follow what we have to benefit all of God's creation. If all of us, from all the religions of the world,  concentrate on doing good for the benefit of all of God's creations---we might transform our world.
Surah 2 verse 186
When my servants ask you concerning me, I am indeed close (to them); I respond to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on me: Let them also, with a will, listen to my call, and beleive in me: that they may walk in the right way. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Surah 59 verses 18-24

18. Oh you who believe! Fear God, and let every soul look to what (provision)he has sent forth for the morrow. Yes, fear God, for God is well acquanited with all that you do.

19. And be not like those who forgot God, and he made them forget themselves! Such are the rebellious transgressors!

20.Not equal are the companions of the fire and the companions of the garden: It is the companions of the garden that will achieve felicity.

21. Had we sent down this Quran on a mountain, surely you would have seen it humble itself and cleave asunder for fear of God. Such are the similitudes which we propound to men, that they may reflect.

22. God is he , than whom there is no other god; he knows all things both secret and open; he, the most gracious, the most merciful.

23. God is he than whom there is no other god; the sovereign, the holy one, the source of peace and perfection. The guardian of faith, the preserver of safety, the exalted in might, the irrisistible, the justly proud, Glory to God! (High is he) above the partners they attribute to him.

24. He is God the creator, the originator, the fashioner, to him belong the most beautiful names: whatever is in the heavens (universe) and on earth, does declare his praises and Glory: and he is the exalted in might, the wise.

"The deep ethico-religious value of the fear of God, the lord of the day of Judgement, is largely due to the fact that it cannot but arouse in the mind of the believer a clear consiousness of life and incite him to moral ernestness and responsibility. Act always as if you were standing at this very moment before a divine Judge, before the judgement seat of Allah on the day of reckoning"----Toshihiko Itsuzu, The ethico-religious concepts in the Quran.

Taqwa =God awareness---Love of God that fears dissapointing him.

William Blake wrote

"Love seeketh not itself to please,

Nor for itself hath any care,

But for anotehr gives its ease,

And builds heaven in hells despair"

So sang a little clod of clay,

Trodden with the cattles feet,

But a pebble of the brook,

Warbled out these meters meet,

"Love seeketh only self to please,

To bind another to its delight,

Joys in anothers loss of ease,

And builds a hell in heaven's despite."

It is only when we truly care about someone that we worry about dissapointing them---their opinion of us matters because their love and approval matter. But not all love is other-centered.

"Love" can be divided into 2 types, the self-love and the selfless-love , the first type strives to fullfill the needs and desires of the self, the 2nd type strives to fulfill the needs and desires of the other. When we speak of Love of God---there is a problem because God has no needs or desires. So how do we express "Love of God"?---By willing submission (Islam). God has given us the Guidance, the Criteria (Furqan) to follow (which is for our own benefit) and by doing that, we hope to seek his pleasure. The other side of the "Love of God" is fear. The fear of dissapointing him, the fear of incurring his displeasure. When these two aspects are in balance--it creates harmony---we are neither filled with overconfidence/arrogance nor are we filled with despair.

The more we practice "love of God"---by willing submission/Islam---the more we become aware of his love, compassion and mercy. Our hearts fill with gratitude for his blessings , but this must be balanced with humility/awe of God. When we see only God's blessings, we can become proud/arrogant---and consider ourselves the special/beloved of God. This creates an imbalance/distortion. In order to restore harmony, both gratitude and humility must be balanced .

"humility, that low sweet root,

from which all heavenly virtues shoot" ---Thomas Moore.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Surah 2 verses 30-39

30. Behold, your Lord said to the angels; I will create a vicegerent (representative) on earth." They said : "will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?--While we do celebrate your praises and glorify your Holy (name)?" He said: "I know what you know not"

31. And he taught Adam the name of all things; then he placed them before the Angels and said: "Tell me the names of these if you are right."

32. They said: "Glory to you: of knowledge we have none, save what you have taught us: In truth it is you who are perfect in knowledge and wisdom."

33. He said: "O Adam! tell them their names." When he had told them their names, God said: Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of the heaven and earth and I know what you reveal and what you conceal?"

34. And behold, We said to the Angels Bow down to Adam:" and they bowed down: Not so Iblis, he refused and was haughty. He was of those who reject faith.

35. And we said: "O Adam, dwell you and your spouse in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as you will, but approach not this tree, or you run into harm and transgression." 36.Then did Satan make them slip from the (Garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. And we said "Go down all (you people) with enmity betwen yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood for a time."

37. Then learnt Adam from his lord certain words and his Lord turned towards him; for he is oft Returning, Most Merciful.

38. We said: "Go down you all from here; And if, as is sure, there comes Guidance from me, whosoever, follows my Guidance , on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

39. "But those who reject faith and reject our signs, they shall be companions of the fire; They shall abide therein.

'The movement which is the existence of the Universe is the movement of love"----Ibn Arabi

Why did God create? Perhaps the words "The Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful" at the start of every Surah hold a clue. As Ibn Arabi points out, God creates from Love. Perhaps a love so great, so vast, inevitably overflows and is manifested as the created, the finite. We are all from God and we will all return to God. But creation is an act of division, of becomming apart from God the Infinite, the Uncreated.

The story of Adam (pbuh) does not begin with his creation--but with a dialogue between God and his Angels. God reveals his plans for a representative who will manage his creations on earth. The Angels, who perfectly carry out God's will, ask how a creation so imperfect ("one who sheds blood"/has free-will) would manage such a task---when they themselves do it so well. God does not answer the question directly but proceeds to demonstrate the answer. He teaches Man and then places them in front of the Angels, asking them to inform him of the nature of Man. The Angels cannot for they have no knowledge. Then God turn to Man and asks them the nature of Angels---and Man answers. The Angels have limitations because they are only able to carry out to perfection God's will, they have no potential for imagination. But Man has free-will and his potential is limited only insofar as his self-imposed limits to his imagination. It is in this creative power of the imagination that Man becomes better than the Angels.

But, God does not send Mankind directly to earth. Though Mankind is supposed to be a vicegerent on earth, God nurtures him to maturity in the Garden for a while. Why? Because Mankind has yet to demonstrate his ability to use free-will. God gives the instructions to not approach a certain tree and Satans tempts Mankind. At this point Mankind has a choice---he can choose of his own free-will not to approach the tree in spite of Satan---or to choose of his own free-will to be tempted. This excercise of free-will catapults Mankind into the role he was created for---to do God's will on earth. But the choice of Mankind has consequences, for instead of excercising free-will to refrain from temptation, Mankind excercised it to fall into temptation.

Yet, God is most Compassionate, most Merciful and forgives those who repent. Mankind is forgiven and promised Guidance. But with the blessings of free-will comes the responsibility. We must all choose of our own free-will to follow Guidance or to reject it just as Adam(pbuh) did. Our life on earth is not a gift or a punishment---it is a test/trial. God has empowered us, through our free-will, to choose our ultimate destiny---Paradise or Hell.

Those souls who enter Paradise are gently cleansed, while those souls who enter Hell are cleansed fiercely---in the end all creation returns to Unity.

"That is why the love of the Tao is in the very nature of things" Lao Tzu

"It is he who is revealed in every face, sought in every sign, gazed upon by every eye, ....Not a single one of his creatures can fail to find him in its primordial and original nature." Ibn Arabi.