You, the Great Achiever

One who finds the Truth, finds peace, a peaceful life is what all of us are really after, I should hope. To begin that journey, to seek peace, one needs to reconfigure his mindset, not his society at large. You can change your thoughts if you try but not the thoughts of the person sitting next to you, let alone changing cultures and social beliefs. A seeker has only one ambition, to find the truth, to know how to separate right from wrong, and through this journey a Seeker will find happiness along the way.
Would you like to become a seeker? I am happy to offer a path for you.

First, get yourself a copy of the Holy Quran, “the Qur’an” by Abdel Haleem highly recommended! https://www.amazon.com/Quran-Oxford-Worlds-Classics/dp/0199535957
You’re not a Muslim, no problem. The first Muslims 1400 years ago weren’t Muslims by birth either. You choose which belief system (or un-belief system) suits you best. Regardless of that choice, you still can go to the Quran as a Seeker of Truth and Justice. No power can hold you back from the divine wisdom that awaits to welcome your curious eyes!
You’re a Muslim but you feel embarrassed because you never bothered to read the holy Book. No problem. This is why you didn’t read it for so long. You were waiting for the right moment which is knocking on your spiritual doors right now. Go ahead open the door and welcome your heavenly guest.
You don’t know Arabic. No problem there either. The holy Book has been translated into dozens of language, allowing you to choose the language most comfortable for you.
Basic idea is this: get a copy of the Holy Quran.

Next step, take a piece of paper, write down what’s bothering you. Next, Open the Quran and just sift through the pages randomly until you come to a page you “feel” you should read, intuitively. Stop. Relax. Close your eyes.

Third step, open your eyes and start reading. You will find sooner or later, the Holy Quran will have something to say to you connecting the divine message with what you wrote down just minutes ago.

Let me share my recent experience. For some time I was struggling with these questions, “is life all about working and paying bills? Is this it? I give my life to a company for a few thousand dollars, I retire and get sent off to some lonely boring place to wait for the arrival of the angel of death. Do you call this “destiny” or “fate”?” How sad. I felt broken, devastated, reduced, defeated? I reached out to my Book, The Holy Quran, skimmed through a few pages and then I come across the following.

Its from the Holy Quran, chapter 40, The Forgiver, or also known as the Believer. It says:

Those [angels] who carry the Throne and those around it exalt [ Allah ] with praise of their Lord and believe in Him and ask forgiveness for those who have believed, [saying], “Our Lord, You have encompassed all things in mercy and knowledge, so forgive those who have repented and followed Your way and protect them from the punishment of Hellfire.

Angels, hang on – its not just ANY angel, we’re talking about very special ones ones who keep the Throne of God, how wonderful is that, and its these angels who beg the Almighty to forgive some people. Who are these lucky people for whom such elite angels plead with God the Glorious? As the verse tells us, these are people who have repented. What does that mean? Who repents? a sinner or a non-sinner? Obviously its people like me, sinners, men and women who committ wrongs and become aware of their short cummings. These are ordinary people with jobs, families, kids, social and financial problems. These are ordinary common folks from your everyday life. When they repent, something so great happens that the VIP angels near the Throne of God beg for His Mercy!! And this is what the angels say:

Our Lord, and admit them to gardens of perpetual residence which You have promised them and whoever was righteous among their fathers, their spouses and their offspring. Indeed, it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

Did you read that carefully? Angels ask the Lord God, to forgive the seekers, to have mercy upon them, admit them, their parents, their spouses and their children into paradise. Think about that. Would you like it, on the Final Day, if you were forgiven but then you see your family members being taken away to the fire? Or would you like to see that because of you, your dear and beloved family also receives the Good News of Paradise? How lovely would that be? Yes, this is what the Throne Angels beg of God Almighty for those who repent. Paradise for the seekers, their families.

How did this marvelous imagery of the Final Day answer my problem? Let me quote from the next verse:
And protect them from the evil consequences [of their deeds]. And he whom You protect from evil consequences that Day – You will have given him mercy. And that is the great attainment.”

All Praise and Thanks be to God, ALLAH SWT, the Almighty. Receiving God’s Mercy and Forgiveness on the Final Day would be the “great attainment”. That’s what I wanted to know all along, how can I achieve greatness without being forced into the materialistic rat race of our crazy money loving world. Alhamdulillah, all thanks and praises for Allah, who revealed the Holy Book to His Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) as a Mercy and a Guide for all Human beings..

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This is How Long You Will Live

Management gurus tell me to write a plan, what I want in life, happy family, money, home, car, business and then they say I should pursue it with the belief that I will achieve them. They come up with stories of successful people who did exactly that. I don’t think life is really like that. Management Gurus are wrong. Sorry!

Lets start like this. What do you know what’s going to happen in your life? The simple answer is you don’t know. Except for one thing, your life will one day come to an end. You could be the richest, the most powerful person on earth, but that will not change the most basic fact. Life will come to an end at some point and all those plans and strategies you made for life will surely vanish in thin air. And then what?

You have essentially two possibilities. You can either believe that life ends here on Earth and that’s the end of everything. Or, you could believe that life on earth will end while simultaneously another life will begin in another dimension, another time and space equation, the knowledge of which is yet unknown to you. Your first option is a bit scary. If this life is all you have, then you better put all your energy to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. If you cant achieve anything then you will be unfortunately amongst the loosers. Well, at least that’s how I would interpret the messages of Management gurus.

It sounds bit sad that this wonderful life on earth will end and we will take none of our material accomplishments with us anywhere. Then why bother with anything at all? They talk about light at the end of the tunnel. What tunnel, what light? There is nothing to look forward to if this is it, this life and nothing after this. It seems also an indirect way of motivating the philosophy “ends justify the means” because you only live once and therefore you need to get whatever you want by any means necessary. This is also why they even teach that its okay to steal, to break rules and step over your emotions and feelings to get to wherever you want to be. It sounds all negative to be in a situation like this. It almost doesn’t make sense to live out this life under these dark clouds.

What about the second option, does that make life sound any better. Think about this for a while. Management Gurus show their stars, the winners, and then they motivate us to go after our goals with the same zeal as their super heroes. Well, guess what, 99% of the people are not going to do that. There will be men and women who will not make it to the Olympics, there will be people living on tiny paychecks, there will be farmers and factory workers who will not win Oscars. That’s real life buddy. That’s the hard life that we have to deal with. What future should they look forward to?

Some people believe in a different concept of life. Our stay on earth is temporary and short. This life is only one stop in the long journey that will take us all to a place more beautiful more rewarding than what we see here. That is the life after death, the eternal life. The rewards in the heavens will far outstrip the rewards in this world. Most important of all, unlike this crazy material life, we will have equal opportunity to enter the heavenly garden, based on our Goodness, unlike this life which pretty much only values material accomplishments.

Sounds more like a fairy tale doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what makes it all the more motivating and exciting. We are allowed to feel happy about such a concept of life where we will find pure and complete justice. We will find that the homeless and the billionaire will be evaluated for their good deeds and the one who qualifies gets entry into the garden of eternal pleasure. Maybe both of them will get entrance, all depends on the individual’s deeds. That sounds like a plan to me.

The wealth centric corporate world would desperately want us to believe in reality, to believe in what we can understand based on our limited knowledge. The good news is, it doesn’t have to end this way. We can indeed think about a better future in the After Life regardless of our material positioning in this world. So, if I ask myself, how long will I live?

The answer is, our life in this world is a very short one. When we will come back to life, in the Hereafter, we will say this worldly life lasted not for more than afternoon or an evening.

Belief in Life After Death is the right solution for those 99% people who work hard every day to meet the demands of responsibility. The heavenly concept in no way discourages you to not make any material plans for this world. Quite the contrary actually. It forces you to think about time. Your time. Since you know its limited, you will now make a much better plan for this world and for the world to come. In the process, hopefully, goodness and grace will be the guiding light.

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Potter in Godric’s Hollow

My daughter asked me to read something to her. So I borrowed my little sister’s book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Kids like magic and fantasy stories, so why not read this famous children’s book to my little sweetheart. After the first chapter, I felt there was something wrong in it. Although my baby fell asleep but I simply couldn’t out the book down. JK Rowling had cast a reading charm on me it seemed. Next few weeks my girl saw less of me reading to her and more of reading for myself silently until I got all seven books completed.

The story begins with an orphan, whose parents have just been murdered in their very home in God-ric’s Hollow. Its not a mystery novel because that’s not how its presented. The identity of the murderer is not at all relevant but the thought behind the man is what really matters. All through out JK Rowling has the reader thinking about the purpose and motive behind this double murder. Why kill the Potter family?

Let me talk about my girl again. HP’s author is asking an 11 year old to walk into the mind of a “murderer”. What could my daughter say, “dad, tell me, why did you-know-who murder Harry’s parents? what was their fault? Why does he want to kill Harry so badly?” It makes me wonder, since when do children’s books target the lives and works of murderers and serial killers?

The murder scene at Godric’s Hollow is central to all the 7 books. Again and again we are reminded how the Dark Lord kills James and then moves towards HP. Lily pleads for Harry’s life. Move away you silly girl…as if to say “I just want the boy, not you, so just step aside”. Lily is murdered. Voldemort approaches Harry and wham. The Dark Lord falls. Harry rises.
Because the sacrifice of Lily was supremely cast in blood, being the purest form of miracle, it was stronger than anything any Dark power could ever muster. It was the power of pure love from a “Mugblood” that destroyed Voldemort when he was at the very top invincible, undefeatable, all powerful. It was SACRIFICE that brought the Dark Lord down to his knees. In Islam its called Shahadat, martyrdom.

Godric Hollow, James and Lily’s home town, was also the birth place of Godric Gryfindor, the Lion. Tom Riddle on the other hand is a descendent of Slazar Slytherin, the Snake. Godric, Slytheirn, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff founded Hogwarts. The Lion and the Snake were always at odds at almost everything, including Quidditch. Hogwarts was setup 1000 year ago. James and Lily died in 1981, so the school’s founding date must be around 1000 CE. Interesting, that was the time of the Crusades. It is well known that the European crusaders came into contact with an advanced Islamic civilization in Jerusalem (Al-Quds). One of the interesting areas where Arabs claimed world leadership was in their knowledge of Sciences like Physics, Biology, Medicine, Astrology, Mathematics and ofcourse – Chemistry (which they called Al-Kemia).

A particular branch of Al-Kemia dealt with transmutation, that is the study or research of how to turn lead into gold. Alchemy as it turns out had two aspects, physical and spiritual. The spiritual alchemy desired to transform ordinary men into purified souls. In Islamic terminology its called Tazakkah, to purify. The one who is purified is the one who is successful and is the one who will be accepted and received by the Lord of the Universe. Purification of the soul disregards obstacles such as blood, color, language, race, identity or any other prejudices.

The Knights Templars brought back with them newly found treasures from Jerusalem at the end of their missions. Some of those treasures were ancient books, wisdom, science and technology and ofcourse philosophy. It may just be a wild guess, but God-ric Gryfindor might have been a Templar who brought back the sword from the Arabs alongwith the ideological knowledge of Alkemia. Slytherin must have not liked very much to see his race loose power to half bloods and Mugbloods. For the preservation of his race he went the other way, over to the Dark side. This ideological conflict must have carried on down to the present age when Harry and Voldemort face off just like Dumbledore and Grindelwald did earlier.

Lets come back to Godric’s Hollow. This is where the story begins for this age, with roots that go back more than the crusades, even before the time of Christ (PBUH). It goes back to the Pharaos, especially to one known as Akhenaton, the first monotheist Pharaoh of Egypt. They say, Alchemy started here in Egypt. I don’t doubt that because Egypt (Misr actually) being the birthplace of civilization should have had world religious influence as well. The very idea of resurrection, return to God and submission to God’s will captures the essence of God-ric Hollow if seen through the Alchemist’s eyes. I that room, Lily represents Light, Life, Faith and Goodness while Voldemort brings the face of ego, envy, greed and hate. This war between the two sides started back in Eden and haunts us this very moment. How we respond to it, the choices we make, define us and our souls.

Tolkien, Lewis, Orwell and Rowling

Four writers I regard as the best in my generation shared one thing in common. They viewed the world from my eyes. Sound strange doesn’t it? But not so much if you studied their characters carefully. These four esteemed writers believed and brought to life, in their books, noble characters who lived very ordinary lives that didn’t matter much for politicians, journalists, preachers or the so-called “upper-class nobility”. The Hobbits, the Mugbloods, the orphans, who dared to fight the power of evil all had humble beginnings and this is the important connection that means a lot to me, because I am from the common working class social category.

I used to think that writers sit down at a café with their “Apple” laptops and start firing away, playing with words like a Thesaurus was being revealed to them. I had the feeling that they “build” their story as they go on writing. This simple assumption might be the most important why most people never get to write a good book. At least seems that way to me. I did not understand the “thought” process that goes into weaving a good story. Writing is dam hard work. Its like a “pensieve” where one must fall into a world where characters unfold their stories and memories for the writer to glue them together into a nice package. Basically, writing a good book is HARD WORK.

Just to share an example, it took Tolkien 17 years to finish LOTR (Lord of the Rings)! He wrote his masterpiece “in between” work and family chores. Another great example, and my favorite one, is of JK Rowling, the charming writer who can throw spells on her readers from the moment they open the first chapter of her book. She was actually a single mother, bankrupt and on the verge of a mental breakdown. At possibly the worst moment of her life, she began to write Harry Potter series which eventually became the world’s best selling books with over 400 million copies sold world wide.

After reading Harry Potter, it dawned on me how much thought and effort goes into “imagination”. Of-course, words and prose are very nice to have, but that’s not the reason why readers fall in love with a story. A good story should have interesting plots, mysteries, adventure, humor, pain and excitement.

One more point, writers like Tolkien and Lewis read their stories to each other (the inkling club) where they challenged each other’s creativity, not their language, and that included books like LOTR and Chronicles of Narnia! Lewis didn’t think much about the Elves, while Tolkien was not too pleased about Lewis bringing Christianity directly. What I am trying to say is, lets instead ask the question, “can you think of a good story?”

Connection Between Muslim Prayers and Olympic Gold

Let me restate my thoughts. Imagine you are Michael Phelps, the Olympian. You know your schedule, up at 6am everyday, hit the gym, do some hellish workout, and then in the pool, you must stretch the human limits of speed and endurance while in water. Now, you keep doing this day in day out. That’s all you’re doing , yeah, getting up early, exercising, pumping weights, swimming and eating well. After a while you might begin to think that this what it is, exercising and swimming, that is the purpose of your life, the reason for your existence and maybe at some point in time after doing this routine for months or even years, you begin to think that this is what Olympians do. They wake up early, exercise and swim or sprint or whatever, every single day. The objective you may begin to think for an Olympian Swimmer is to “Workout and practice” swimming.

You should be smiling at yourself if you really think that swimming practice is the objective. No. The Objective is to prepare for a day of competition against the world’s best swimmers. You need to think about this. Whenever you want to understand why Muslims pray, think about Michael Phelps and his training routines. He needs to be ready, mentally and physically, for that Big Day, and all his workouts, practices and trainings were designed to make him WIN.

What, prayers are exercises? No. They are part of the big training package which pushes the Believers to gear up for their Big Day. Every Muslim in this sense is an Olympian. He must get himself ready to compete and Win. It all boils down to preparation and training without which probability of winning diminishes pretty fast. 90% training and 10% performance.

You must be asking, what is the Big Day and what sort of competition is this? Let me tell you in a simple way. Every Believer should know that he is capable of doing great things and that is what his life is all about, doing great things. There is no in-significant life at all. Every life is as important as any other. Our work, money, car and other worldly materials are the insignificant things, but our LIVES are SUPREMELY IMPORTANT. Its like the life of a gold medalist Olympian. Imagine that, you are just as important and significant as Michael Phelps or the late Muhammad Ali!

Phelps trains to win gold at the pool. what are you training for? Your goal is to win the gold in the arena where the great battle between good and evil is taking place. To defeat the evil forces must be a darn hard job. That’s because Satan has at its disposal numerous men and women capable of destroying  countries if needed with the help of weapons manufactured for mass destruction of human civilization. Satan has worked hard to raise his army of monsters. It wont be easy to defeat them, no not at all. At least not without the proper strategy for winning.

Sounds difficult doesn’t it. But I have news for Muslim readers. This “job” of defeating Satan happens to rest upon the shoulders of all the Believers. Sorry, there is no way to avoid draft in this case. You Muslims have only one job, on target, and that is to defeat the army of Satan. Any Muslim who thinks otherwise, unfortunately, ends in the boiling pot.

So, you want to be ready for the Big Day. When will that be? I’m afraid that Day can be any day, it can even be today. Satan and his soldiers are waiting to ambush you any moment you let your guard down. They have their eyes on you like a CCTV. One opening and wham! they will get to you. If they can throw their curse at you when you have nothing to defend yourself with, the results will not be hard to guess.

That means you need to make yourself strong and able and alert at all times. You need practice. Training and hard work. You can only choose to avoid between the pain of training or the pain of loosing. Cant have both. To avoid the pain of loosing, you also need to be before sunrise, preferably by 5am and start your rigorous training routine. Tahajjud, Fajr, break, work, eat, Dhuhr, break, rest, work, Asr, Break, Magrib, break, dinner, Isha, sleep. This routine of Salah is the Training, the Exercise the Workout  designed to make you successful in defeating the Satan and his followers.

Muslim prayers basically intend to churn out soldiers of Faith whose sole duty rests on liberating mankind from the grip of the Dark Lord. Prayer is the secret weapon with which Goodness shall prevail over Evil.