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The idea that the world is composed of four or five elements (fire, water, earth, wind, and aether) was almost universal in the ancient world. The science and mythology of many ancient civilizations, from Greece to Japan, operated on this understanding.
While Islam is not really married to the idea of four elements (it is not supported in an explicit way in the Quran or hadiths), it is interesting to note that Islamic metaphysics and cosmology use this system.
This is especially the case in the spiritual world. The jinn are made from a smokeless Fire, the humans are made from Earth (Teen), and the soul (ruH) comes from the word for Wind (reeH). The Throne of Allah was settled upon Water (11:7), until that water was separated into the heavens and earth. The angels are from light (Noor, a word related to Nar).
Allah does not raise a prophet except that he speaks the language of his people. He may have used these literary devices to explain a realm that is ultimately beyond our understanding (ghayb). The Quran is a book that needs to be intelligible to people, especially when speaking on the unseen and unknown.
While the universe is simply not made up of H2O, the image of Water as a fluid, clear, shapeless structure is befitting to understanding the world. In physics, the concept of fields (gravitational, spatial) operate largely on fluid mechanics. “Water” is a chaotic substance that was then categorized, compartmentalized and distinguished into the world we know today.
Similarly, a simple sample of the water (saliva) in your body can create an entire profile of who you are: your DNA, and therefore, your family lineage, your appearance, your susceptibility to diseases, and even parts of your personality.
There are some things that are beyond literal and metaphorical. The dichotomy of literal and metaphorical is sometimes not just inaccurate, but harmful to our readings of scripture.
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[This will be a series of blog entries on the history of ShiaChat.com; how it was founded, major ups and down, politics and issues behind running such a site and of course, the drama! I will also provide some feedback on development efforts, new features and future goals and objectives]
Part 1 - The IRC (#Shia) Days!
Sit children, gather around and let me speak to you of tales of times before there was ever high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi, YouTube or Facebook; a time when the Internet was a much different place and 15 yearold me was still trying to make sense of it all.
In the 90s, the Internet was a very different place; no social media, no video streaming and downloading an image used to take anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on how fast your 14.4k monster-sized dial-up modem was. Of course you also had to be lucky enough for your mom to have the common courtesy not to disconnect you when you’re in the middle of a session; that is if you were privileged enough to have Internet at home and not have to spend hours at school or libraries, or looking for AOL discs with 30 hour free trials..(Breathe... breathe... breathe) - I digress.
Back in 1998 when Google was still a little computer sitting in Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s basement, I was engaged in endless debates with our Sunni brothers on an IRC channel called #Shia. (Ok, a side note here for all you little pups. This is not read as Hashtag Shia, the correct way of reading this is “Channel Shia”. The “Hashtag” was a much cooler thing back in the day than the way you young’uns use it today).
For those of you who don’t know what IRC was (or is... as it still exists), it stands for Internet Relay Chat, which are servers available that you could host chat rooms in and connect through a client. It was like the Wild West where anyone can go and “found” their own channel (chat room), become an operator and reign down their god-like dictator powers upon the minions that were to join as a member of their chat room. Luckily, #Shia had already been established for a few years before by a couple of brothers I met from Toronto, Canada (Hussain A. and Mohammed H.). Young and eager, I quickly rose up the ranks to become a moderator (@Ali) and the chatroom quickly became an important part of my adolescent years. I learned everything I knew from that channel and met some of the most incredible people. Needless to say, I spent hours and dedicated a good portion of my life on the chatroom; of course, the alternate was school and work but that was just boring to a 15-year-old.
In the 90’s, creating a website was just starting to be cool so I volunteered to create a website for #Shia to advertise our services, who we are, what we do as well as have a list of moderators and administrators that have volunteered to maintain #Shia. As a result, #Shia’s first website was hosted on a friend’s server under the URL http://786-110.co.uk/shia/ - yes, ShiaChat.com as a domain did not exist yet – was too expensive for my taste so we piggybacked on one of our member’s servers and domain name.
The channel quickly became popular, so popular that we sometimes outnumbered our nemesis, #Islam. As a result, our moderator team was growing as well and we needed a website with an application that would help us manage our chatroom in a more efficient style. Being a global channel, it was very hard to do “shift transfers” and knowledge transfers between moderators as the typical nature of a chatroom is the fact that when a word is typed, its posted and its gone after a few seconds – this quickly became a pain point for us trying to maintain a list of offenders to keep an eye out for and have it all maintained in a historical, easily accessible way.
A thought occurred to me. Why not start a “forum” for the moderators to use? The concept of “forums” or discussion boards was new to the Internet – it was the seed of what we call social media today. The concept of having a chat-style discussion be forever hosted online and be available for everyone to view and respond to at any time from anywhere was extremely well welcomed by the Internet users. I don’t recall what software or service I initially used to set that forum up, but I did – with absolutely no knowledge that the forum I just set up was a tiny little acorn that would one day be the oak tree that is ShiaChat.com.
[More to follow, Part 2..]
So who here is still around from the good old #Shia IRC days?
Am I not allowed to grow a little confidence?
To get past my self consciousness?
Why youse gotta restrict me
From getting rid of my insecurity
Youse will never understand why I keep disobeying
Youse may think I'm selfish, but I keep praying
Hoping for a miracle to pass by and change your minds
I know that it's for my protection
But I'm old enough to depend on my own
Everyday I keep staring at my reflection
Wondering when youse will leave me alone.
But seriously though
Am I not allowed to grow a little more confidence?
To get past my self consciousness?
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Tolerance is inherently moral and necessarily social. And it can only be applied to people who are different, people you wouldn't consider part of "your" group. It is taught, a developed moral characteristic that may become part of who you are. We aren't born tolerant though, and that is why so many groups of influence have tried to develop this concept of group. Fascism itself is based on it. Our natural intolerance spreads as the worst virus if there are no forces to put an end to it. This is what sociology, so far, has been able to appreciate in the concept of tolerance at a macro-social level, and it has its reasons.
If tolerance is not natural to us, but rather "homophily" (the preference of those with similar characteristics: race, socio-economical class, ideology, etc.), then tolerance is a trait that we can only develop through education, and only if we find it any useful or right.
In the Qur'an it was already pointed that we were created in different groups:
"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another." (Surat al Hujurat)
So I can just expect that for an early Arabic society this indeed meant a call for tolerance for a religion that was going to spread across many nations. It was useful. However, nowaday, this is not what we, as individuals, face. Living in a globalized world, being connected by the Internet and its very own culture, tolerance seems less and less necessary and useful. Ideologies and groups compete between each other, and a call for tolerance is against the efforts to reinforce that feeling of group. It isn't useful for many. Not to mention that tolerance is a highly difficult trait to acquire, as it requires great efforts of empathy. Ask yourselves to which point can you accept the different? And I don't mean their mere existence, most don't care about that. I mean tolerating someone different that is part of your life, in some way or another. We have always been taught to be tolerant when it has been useful, but not because it is good, because it is morally right. Because it is not among the interest of any group of influence. Groups, as the master of history and sociology of the Muslim world once said, Ibn Khaldun, have only one goal: power.
That's why, even revolutions, that are supposed to be the fight for ideas, end up in some sort of fascism and/or dictatorship. Even when the people that lead them truly wanted free elections (modern history is full of examples of this, it is something we can't avoid). They are still necessary, though, for the progress of ideas.
What happens, however, in our societies? In the West, tolerance has been imposed as something useful, but racism, mysogyny, LGBTphobia, etc. are still realities that many people even hate to discuss (many people attack feminism, for instance). In the Muslim world, tolerance died centuries ago, and an enormous amount of groups appeared. We are still reinforcing through our culture this intolerance, based on unreasonable discrimination: country of origin, skin color, studies, amount of money, gender, sexuality, beliefs, family/tribe name, etc. You can realize this inability to accept the different for instance in the topic of marriage, at what type of characteristic will people, parents, or ourselves if we have sons or daughters to marry, will look at. And it's not always the obvious (like don’t be racist). It is usually ideological. We can't accept other mentalities because we weren't taught about that, because the group we belong to doesn't want that.
Tolerance isn't only about accepting black people, or trans people, or seeing women as equals. People will probably try to appear as tolerant in that sense, because it is useful for them. However, as a moral trait, these people are not genuinely tolerant, but conveniently civilized. Real tolerance is being able to respect others by their opinion, beliefs, lifestyle, and of course, biological circumstances. Accept them as long as you are not tolerating the intolerant.
This conflict is paradoxical, and it is a well known paradox in social sciences (originally proposed by Karl Popper). The problem with tolerating the intolerant, as I said at the start of this entry, is precisely how fast and easily their intolerance spreads (because it is natural). As individuals and iA as free thinkers, we should fight to develop tolerance within ourselves and condemn intolerance even when it is present in those people who are part of "our" group (be it our racial "group", ideological, whatever). Intolerance isn't a joke, it's a social human and moral issue of high importance, and has always shaped our destiny.
Thus, I can only advise my readers to dedicate some time to observe that aspect of their hearts, if they behaved in a tolerant manner, identify our errors, ask for forgiveness to the Most Merciful, and ask him to guide us and make us more aware of being tolerant when we are, again, tested in life. Remember to ask Him to guide me as well, iA.
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Growing up we had a poster like this in one of my grandparent's home, handwritten in Urdu by my great grandfather and framed in wood. It was displayed in a prominent place. I remember standing there studying it on many occasions, at others I just stole a cursory glance passing by. Either way it helped me a great deal in acquiring the basic knowledge about the Ahlebayt(عليه السلام). Many of the important dates unconsciously stuck in my memory and other facts,like so many of our Imams (عليه السلام) being poisoned,aroused in me an interest to study more about their lives.
For some time now I had been wanting to make a similar table for my children.I made it in English for obvious reasons.I plan to print it out and put in their room and hopefully they will imbibe and memorise or at least be familiar with the basic facts about the lives of Masoomen (عليه السلام). Since this is an area where sadly lots of us grownups are lacking too(from personal experience many of the Shias don't know the names of mothers of Imams(عليه السلام) or where are all of the Imams (عليه السلام) buried) I thought I would share it here.
I made it on excel. With the ShiaChat file upload limits the quality might not be very good and since I enlarged it for sharing here,it's in two parts.(if anyone can suggest anything better, you are welcome)
Coloured in pink(Imams 6-12) is the era of Abbasid caliphs.All of Imams (عليه السلام) during that time period(except the 12th (عليه السلام)) were martyred through poisoning by their own cousins,the Abbasid Caliphs.
In a previous blog post I identified threads that I considered problematic, since they had the (un)intended effect of causing friction with the Shiachat community.
I think that friction emanates from people on both sides of the debate taking an emotional approach to the issues. While I cannot legislate for those people who deliberately want to diminish the faith, those people who want to take a pro-Islamic constructive approach could consider the following suggestions.
- In order to address such posts you do not need to question elements of the story, if you do it just draws attention away from the OP to you (which is a possible intended purpose of such posts). So take the narrative at face value.
- You are welcome to make factual observations and no moderator can take down your post if you do this. If the OP's thread makes reference to unIslamic behaviour, you can point this out (but stay factual, remember a possible goal of such threads is to present Islam as unsympathetic). You are also welcome to make observations of errors in the OPs understanding of Islamic concepts and those of their oppressors. Your task here is to move criticisms away from Islamic teachings and institutions and onto individuals and their misunderstandings
- If there are practical and legal solutions to the problem point these out. Often the OP will have ignored these in order to elicit an emotional response and it is worth focusing on these practical solutions. You can thereby present yourself as being helpful and constructive, while at the same time undermining the OPs (possible) agenda .
I had the privilege and honor of going to Umrah a few weeks ago. Having completed my hajj in 2010, it was time to pay Hijaz another visit to pay my respects to the Prophet (saw) and his progeny in Madinah and visit the House of Allah in Makkah.
Hopefully the pointers below will help anyone planning on going for Umrah.
First, if you haven't been to Saudi before, it is best to go with a registered group. It will make things easier for you because other than following instructions, there shouldn't be much to worry about..Also, if you don't speak arabic or urdu/hindi/bengali, then it would be better to go with a registered group because language can be an issue in some places.
Anyway, I decided to go with my family instead of a group. The primary hurdle in going to Saudi is getting a visa. These are things to remember:
- We had to apply to a local consulate but individual travelers cannot apply on their own. The visa application has to be submitted through an authorized travel agency.
- Even though the Umrah visa is free, these agencies charge between $175 - $200 per person for visa.
- Also, note that you can only apply within 30 days of going for umrah.
- You need to buy non-refundable return tickets before applying.
- The other mandatory requirement is to get a meningitis vaccination. CVS, Walgreens or RediClinic can do this without a prescription. Without insurance, it will cost between $150-$200. Get the vaccination record from the Pharmacy and submit it with your application.
- Common sense would dictate that you buy your tickets once visa approval is obtained but not in this case.
- Visa application usually takes about 1 week to process...might take longer during busy times.
Next decision is where to fly in/out from. If you decide to go to Makkah first, you will have to fly into Jeddah. Since Jeddah is inside the meeqat***, you will have to wear your ihram from the point of origin. So we chose to fly into Madinah first.
I would recommend either Turkish Airlines or Emirates. We flew Emirates from the US. We had a 5 hour layover in Dubai so we went out of the airport and had a nice dinner. US Citizens do not need a visa for Dubai (UAE).Came back to the airport around 11p for our 105a flight to Medinah.
We arrived in Madinah around 345a, got out of the airport by 445a. Since we were not part of a group, I made arrangements transportation arrangements with or hotel. It took about 30 minutes to get to our hotel right next to Masjid Al-Nabawi (Mosque of the Holy Prophet).
We stayed at Hotel Pullman Zamzam Madinah. Fantastic 5* hotel with great rooms and awesome breakfast. The only downside to the hotel is that it is on the opposite end of the Ladies entrance to the mosque so it took the ladies about 15 minutes to walk to the mosque. The hotel did provide a shuttle service for women at regular intervals.
After checking-in, we took a quick shower and made our way to the Mosque just in time for Fajr - individual, not jama'ah.
After every salah every day, the Saudis open Jana'at Al-Baqi for an hour or so. Much to my surprise, the Saudis were fairly relaxed in letting people get in, recite dua/ziarat albeit quietly and even take pictures.
Imam Hasan (as), Imam Sajjad (as), Imam Al-Baqar and Imam Al-Sadiq are buried here.
If I am not mistaken, I think Hz Umm-al-baneen is buried where I have drawn the red circle:
Went back to our hotel around 7am. We ate breakfast and finally went to bed after a 24 hours journey.
We woke up around 3pm and went to the Prophet's mosque for zuhrain. We prayed some other prayers so got back to the hotel around 430p. We rested a bit more and then made our way back to the mosque for maghribain around 7p. Once again, we stayed there for around 2 hours and then had dinner and then back to the hotel.
We are recommended to pray full zuhr/asr/isha in Medinah.
After taking an early night, we headed to the Prophet's mosque around 2am where we prayed salat-e-layl and other prayers. Returned to our hotel just after fajr. Our schedule for the rest of the day was the same as the previous day. However, there are other ziarats in Madinah one can visit:
- Masjid al-Shams
- Masjid al-Zul Qibltayn
- Masjid al-Quba
- The Saba Saba Masjids
- Masjid al-Fatah
- Masjid Salman al-Farsi
- Masjid al-Ali A.S.
- Masjid al-Bidi Fatimah Zehra A.S.
- Ohud – Hazrat Hamza A.S.
I stayed in the Prophet's mosque from 130am - fajr. I had the honor to pray salat-e-layl in Riyad-al-Jannah (Piece of heaven) - it is adjacent to the Prophet's grave. After salah, I went to Jana'at-al-Baqi for Ziarah al-wida (Farewell ziarah).
We rested for a couple of hours, had breakfast and then made preparations to head to Makkah for Umrah.
The main thing required is to perform a ghusl with the niyyah (intention) Niyyat: “I am doing Ghusl for the following for wearing Ihram for Umra al-Mufradah Sunnat Qurbatan Ilallah”. You cannot use scented soap when doing this Ghusl.
The next step is to wear the ihram. Ihram for men - consists of two pieces of white cloth and for ladies their usual daily wear is their Ihram, but it is highly recommended that it be white as it is the sign of purity.
Please not that even though one is wearing the ihram, the niyyah for Ihram is done later.
We bought our ihram in Medinah for about $20 (60-75 Saudi Rial).
We checked out of our hotel to make our way to masjid-e-Shajarah. I made transportation arrangements while in Medinah. It cost just under $200 for a personal mini-van.
We stopped at Ohud for 15-20 minutes for a quick ziarah of Hz Hamzah's grave.
Then we made our way to masjid-e-Shajarah. This is a designated point of wearing ihram per sharia. There are 6 other places as well in different parts of Saudi.
If you are already wearing ihram, you can take off the top portion and put it on again and make the niyyah (intention):
“I am wearing Ihram for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Illallah”. Immediately after making the niyya, recite the talbiya (calling) in arabic:
Labbaik, Allahumma Labbaik,
Labbaik La Sharika Laka Labbaik,
Innal Hamda WanNe’amata Laka Walmuka
La Sharika Laka Labbaik
This is to be recited as many times as possible until you reach the vicinity of Makkah.
After wearing the ihram and reciting talbiya, proceed to the inside of the Mosque and recite 2 rakat salat with the niyyah, "Offering 2 rakat salah for wearing ihram qurbatanillah".
Once you adorn the ihram and make the niyyah, there are about 25 things that become haraam upon a person.
Once we completed our prayers, we made our way towards Makkah, reciting talbiya as much as we could.
One thing to note is that in Shia fiqh, men ar enot allowed to travel under shade during the day while in ihram.so it is advisable to plan your journey such that you arrive in Masjid-e-Shajarah around maghrib. If traveling during hte day, then there is a kafarah (penalty) of 1 sheep.
We made a couple of stops on our way to Makkah which was about a 5 hour drive (430km or 250m)
Day Three - Arrival in Makkah:
We arrived in Makkah around 5pm. Since we had already prayed zuharain en route, we decided to rest a bit in our hotel. We woke up, did ghusl made our way to the Holy Kaaba around 730p. One has to be in wudu (or ghusl) for tawaf.
We prayed maghrib and isha and then started our umrah. These are the steps for umrah:
1) Perform tawaf (circumambulation) around the Kaaba 7 times. The niyyah (intention) is:
I am going round this Ka’aba seven times for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah.
Since the masjid has several floors, it is important to remember that we can do tawaf on any floor as long as your height is below the top of the kaaba.
2) Upon completion of tawag, recite 2 rakat salat-e-tawaf behind the Maqam-e-Ibrahim (place of Ibrahim) - recited just like fajr
I am offering two Rakaat Salaat for Tawaaf of Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah
3) Perform Sa'ae (wudu not necessary). This is where you walk from Safa'a to Marwa 7 times (about 3.5km in total). Niyyah (intention) is:
I walk between Safaa and Marwah, seven times for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah
Going from Safa'a --> marwa = 1
Marwa --> Safa'a = 2
Safa'a --> marwa = 3
Marwa --> Safa'a = 4
Safa'a --> marwa = 5
Marwa --> Safa'a = 6
Safa'a --> marwa = 7
So you start at Safa'a and end at Marwa.
4) Once Sa'ae is over, the next step is taqseer (cuting part of mails of hair). Niyyah is:
I am performing Taqseer so as to be relieved of Ihram for Umra al-Mufradah QurbatanIlallah
It is best to do the 4 steps without too much of a break in between them. At this point, you can take a break and even take of your ihram.
5) Whether you take a break or not, the next step is to perform tawaf-e-Nisa. Everyone has to do this - young/old, man/woman, married/unmarried, etc.). Niyyah is:
I am doing Tawaaf-un-Nissa by going round this Ka’aba seven times for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah
6) Last step is to perform salat tawaf-e-Nisa. Niyyah is:
I am offering two Rakaat Salaat for Tawaaf-un-Nissa for Umra al-Mufradah QurbatanIlallah
The entire umrah took about 2 - 2.5 hours to complete.
This is the completion of the umrah.
After completing our umrah, we went back to our hotel, had dinner and went to sleep.
We went to the Kaaba about 2 hours before fajr to perform Sunnah tawaf (each tawaf is 7 rounds). After each tawaf, reciting salat-e-tawaf is obligatory. You can make the intention of perfomr tawaf for others alive or deceased. This day was spent between our hotel and performing salah+tawaf throughout the day. There are other ziarah to be performed in makkah:
- Hajr al-Ismail
- Makaam al-Ibrahim
- Zam Zam
- Hills of Safa and Marwa
- Janab al-Khadijatul Kubra
- Janab al-Abu Talib
- Janab al-Abdul Mutalib
- Hazrat Abdullah
- Hazrat Amina Bint al-Wahab
- Masjid al-Jinn
- Cave of Thawr
- Cave of Hira
- Jabal al-Rahmah
- Muzdhalifa or Ma’shar
- Masjid al-Kheef - In Munna
We were able to perform the green ones above. We also had the opportunity to pray salat in the hateem which is not always open. We were able to touch the kaaba several times including rukn-e-Yemeni (corner from where Hz Fatima bint Assad went inside the kaaba to deliver Hz Ali (as).
Pic in hateem under the kaaba
Cloth of the kaaba - it is actually pieces of cloth sewn together instead of a very large piece of cloth.
We performed our final prayers and then checked out of our hotel to go to Jeddah airport. We flew from Jeddah --> Dubai and stayed there overnight, then flew back to the US.
I was pleasantly surprised that the Saudis were pretty lenient this time.People were free to pray and take pictures as they wanted...for the most part. I would recommend taking salah, dua and ziarah information on your phones rather than books.
I will also try to upload the guidebook I used for most of the trip.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I tried to cover the most important aspects of umrah.
It's taken me nearly 15 years to get to 10,000 posts, so I thought I'd post something special.
I remember the cold. I think it was the first time in my life that keeping warm was a struggle. Shafts of cold air channelled in through a train not designed to keep it out. Arriving at Amritsar station, there was some relief. I remember the shouts of ‘garam chai’ (hot tea) rising above the cacophony of engines, whistles, and general yells. This trip was the first time that I was allowed to drink tea. At home in London, tea was an adult’s drink, and there simply had been no occasion or need to drink it. Here at Amritsar station, in Indian Punjab, during the middle of the night, I was allowed to drink the strong, sugary hot tea and eat the hard-boiled eggs that the hawkers were selling. It was only many years later that I appreciated the business nous of selling hard-boiled eggs. Pre-packaged and ready to eat, what could be easier for a hawker to sell?
Some years later standing in the cold in the school playground would help me appreciate all the more as I read of Ivan Denisovich’s battles against hunger and cold in Solzhenitsyn’s account of life in a Soviet gulag. And many years later still this way of experiencing the novel would prompt me to encourage my daughter to read Denisovich’s account while she was fasting for Ramadan.
Standing on the platform with my snacks, amongst the flow of passengers and porters, I took in the destination signs on the different trains, heading off to distant parts of a sub-continent. Perhaps my diminutive 10-year-old perspective added to the perceived size of the place; I would not be surprised. The porters wore a uniform, after a fashion. For each one of them, the acquisition of a customer provided a sense of purpose and superiority of status which would be underlined by rearranging their head-covering to better protect themselves from the luggage that would soon be loaded on top. On this trip, I was just a spectator to the rituals of engaging porters. When old enough to be a participant, I’d find it a difficult balance between exploiting and being exploited.
At last, it was time to get back in the train and cover myself as best I could with an assortment of clothes, waiting for the morning to bring some respite. Some mornings were awesome, the rising rays of sunshine spread across green fields, punctuated by trees and seemingly in rhythm with the regular beat of the wheels on the track. At some point, I’d have to go to the toilet, which was a balancing act of the toothbrush, toothpaste and some attempt at washing and keeping my distance from the ubiquitous hole in the floor.
At first, I had distanced myself from the perceived filth of the train and had tried to keep myself to as small an area as possible. But as the hours passed my comfort zone expanded until I was even comfortable lying full stretch on the wooden slats of the third-class benches. As the miles passed the squalor, even that of the toilet, was no longer alien but something to which I had become habituated. Though I still haven’t managed to achieve the level of equanimity displayed by a fellow airline passenger who went into the toilet barefoot. As someone else commented on this practice, the liquid on the floor isn’t water.
Safety was and still is a distant concept when it comes to Indian railways, best observed by the person at risk. In both my childhood travel and in recent times safety seems to lie, for example, in keeping your distance from the open door of the railway carriage. As a 30-year-old on a train from Chennai to Hyderabad and no parent to hold me back, I was able to lean out to take videos and photos to rekindle childhood memories of fleeting Indian railway stations. The observation stimulated the same sense of passing through and catching the moment in local lives. What I was not able to recapture in a photo was the rising dawn that I had observed in my childhood journey.
On that childhood trip, I had brought a couple of books with me, which I still remember. There was ‘Tarka the Otter’ and Joy Adamson’s ‘Home Free’. I can’t remember which one was more boring, but Tarka does stand out as being particularly good for being interrupted by the least remarkable scenery outside. The same can’t be said for the novel I discovered at our destination in Lucknow. Our host had a copy of ‘War of the Worlds’ the title itself was captivating and the story engrossing. I remember sitting in various locations of the house working my way through the invasion.
A few years before this train trip, aged six, I had seen a book titled ‘War and Peace’ sitting on another relative’s bookshelf in London and that also seemed to suggest excitement within. I wasn’t there long enough to pick it up, but a few years after the Indian trip, when I was about 14 I made a point about buying the novel but the enthusiasm stimulated by the title was very, very quickly dimmed by the story within. I decided to grind down the story by reading a page a day. It took a couple of years, but I managed to finish it.
‘War of the Worlds’ was the starting point, since then I’ve come to associate books with the places where I read them: Sterling Seagrave’s, ‘Dragon Lady’ accompanied me on a trip to Singapore and provided the incentive to visit China.
Aged 17, I was transiting between two Paris metro stations, on a trip to Aix-en-Provence when a kindly gentleman took pity on me and helped me with my overweight suitcase containing Lipsey’s tome ‘Positive Economics’. Amongst other books, this would be entirely superfluous to my needs at the French language summer course I was about to attend. Even in adulthood, I have never quite managed to balance taking on travels work-related things that I would use as opposed to those I might regret not having brought with me. Laptops and cloud storage have meant that that personal deficiency no longer has to be addressed.
This had been a unique trip in some different ways. My mother was a widow, and we did not have a great deal of money. I hadn’t been abroad between the ages of 5 and 10. But travelling third class on Indian railways and staying with relatives wherever we went meant that this trip was fairly affordable. So, it was not unreasonable that my mother was not too impressed with what took place when we arrived at the border crossing between India and Pakistan sometime earlier.
When we got off the train for the immigration check, there was a French lady in front of us, and she and my mother started speaking. Quite proudly my mother presented me as someone who could speak French. The unexpectedness and ambition of the challenge meant that I was completely dumbstruck. For a good few hours to follow, I’d hear my mother’s lament about how much she had paid for a French Linguaphone course for me, which was well beyond our means. I had assured her that this would be a great aid to my linguistic efforts, the advertisement promised as much, and I had waited with great anticipation for its arrival. Finally, one day there was a brown rectangular package waiting for me outside our house. But for a 10-year-old to master the use of the different texts and develop some semblance of a study plan was quite an ambition and one for which my abilities and self-discipline fell seriously short.
There must have been a subconscious notion that the pursuit of academic endeavours would give access to budgets otherwise unavailable. A few years later I’d decide that photography O’level would offer a greater chance of scholastic success. Once more I was lured in by a mixture of an economy with the truth by the people promoting the offering and my imaginative willingness to fill in the blanks. First, there was a need to buy an SLR camera, and as time passed it became obvious that the necessary skills to process photos could not be acquired in the few minutes, I’d have to be in front of the enlarger at school every week. An investment in a darkroom became a necessity. This time self-discipline wasn’t needed to drive study. I had discovered a subject for which I had a passion. I’d end up spending many happy hours in the darkroom, well past midnight channelling Diane Arbus and Cartier Bresson. By the time a school trip to the Soviet Union took place, I was reasonably competent and still have some of the photos of that visit.
Looking back, both the camera and the Soviet trip itself seemed like a judicious investment in an unrepeatable experience, a few years later the USSR would cease to exist. This lesson in political upheaval was to prove particularly useful before a trip with my wife and kids to Syria. My brother had borrowed my video camera and forgotten to return it, and the realisation only came in the departure lounge at Heathrow. Buying a video camera specifically for one trip seemed like an extravagance, but soon afterward the civil war broke out. I have clips of my daughter walking amongst a temple to the Phoenician god Melquart, I wonder whether ISIS have left it standing?
For the India trip, in contrast, there was no camera at all. As I had left London, I had been given a compact camera, which refused to show any sign of working for the duration of the trip and which it had not been possible to repair either. So, I have no tangible images of the entire trip. Whether that has forced me to try harder to remember over the years or whether I have become better at embellishing the details, I don’t know. I do know that on one review I have left on Tripadvisor, I have commented that the prohibition on taking cameras into a particular museum means that visitors are more likely to pay attention to the exhibits in their own right rather than as fodder for an Instagram feed.
From Lucknow, we went to my mother’s ancestral home in Fatehpur. We drove through the potholed roads of Uttar Pradesh, slowed even further by overladen agricultural traffic. We arrived in the evening, and all I could sense was that we entered a courtyard and then another. This was quite different to any home I had visited previously. Morning brought a much better sense of the place. The hallmark of the building was its twin towers, installed a couple of hundred years previously, with permission from the rulers of Awadh, since they were considered a mark of royalty and my maternal ancestor’s position as a tutor to the princely household earned him the favour to use them. These rose above the building and the surrounding town. Beneath them was the building’s mosque entered through several large wooden doors, several steps then led to a large courtyard at the other end of which was a narrow staircase leading to some apartments on the first floor. The men of the family had offices cum bedrooms on the ground floor of the courtyard, and their families slept in apartments on the first floor. Any tangible evidence of conjugal relations, such as a couples’ double bed was considered impolite. There were also apartments on the ground floor. To the right of the towers was the entrance to the building and beyond that the disused stables, a further courtyard and then the exit to the main street of the town.
In Fatehpur, there were no books, or indeed television, but there was exploring the building, listening to stories, fishing and staring at a night sky whose lights I had never previously seen in such profusion. Frustratingly, the shot guns could only be seen and not touched, in fact, I wasn’t allowed to use the air gun. Even the fishing wasn’t with actual rods, but the sensation of the lightness of a short stick with a bait at the end being replaced with the sensation of something tugging at the end of a line remains vivid.
Exploring the old building would be an experience for someone who had lived in a terraced house all his life. Playing cricket in its central square meant that we had room for both wickets and the ability to run between them, while back in London the garden lawn barely stretched a couple of metres and in our London suburb kids just didn’t play on the street. And then there was the dungeon. Like quite a bit of what we were to experience the name or prior description didn’t quite live up to schoolboy expectations. The Urdu word they all used was ‘mahal’ as in Taj Mahal, but you could hardly describe it as a palace. The dungeon itself was no more threatening than a basement room.
The family mahal stood in contrast to the Taj that we had visited on a side-trip while staying in Delhi with an uncle. The sense of serenity reflected off the colour and curves remains in my mind. The sound track no longer remains, perhaps the size of the place drowned out the chattering throngs. The image is now distilled from the range of different perspectives: the head-on view as captured by those photographers who pictured Princess Diana in the foreground, to my standing under the columns staring up and being up close to the marble.
While the Taj was glorious enough to represent the nation and thus rose above its religious and ethnic antecedents, this was not the case with the family mahal. The condition of this modest building perfectly reflected the state of the community it housed: elegant decrepitude with only a memory of former glories. While the building’s statelier past was visible from the remnants of the structure, so the stories passed by each generation reminded subsequent ones of the lifestyle they had been denied because of opportunities missed and talents wasted.
Such was the problem they were facing that even acts of renovation seemed like destruction, where older styles of building work and decoration were replaced with more functional and cheaper modern ones. My youthful displeasure at the erasure of history would later be tempered by a more mature realisation of the practicalities of habitat when I had the chimney breasts and fireplaces of my Victorian house removed to create more space.
Occasionally the person who had hosted us in Lucknow would visit. He was a local politician and would arrive in a stately Ambassador car or even more excitingly a ‘jeep’. Not an eponymous one of course, but I still remember the fact that it had gun racks. Both that vehicle and the Ambassador were made in India. This was India before trade liberalisation. Not as familiar a place as the Pakistan we had travelled through to get here. Pakistan had the welcome familiarity of brands that I had grown up with; the ketchup was Heinz and the coke a recognisably friendly white swoosh on a red background. Billboard and television advertising was reassuring. Here unfamiliar names came across as peculiar. Why would a cola be called ‘Thums Up?’.
Such has been the irony of globalisation that a few weeks ago eating at Dishoom restaurant in London’s East End I saw the Thums Up logo once more. A symbol of rejecting western capitalism had itself become a brand, with a consumerist meaning, evoking a carbonated essence of India.
Like all children of Asian immigrants on visits to their parents’ country of origin, I was also overwhelmed with the extensivity and density of familial connections. There were first cousins, second cousins, and quite a lot more complicated combinations, for which there are no words in English. Added to this, a matriarchal aunt could also be a cousin. My wife came up with a novel way of explaining one such relationship to me. “If that aunt were Mary Queen of Scots, your mum would be Elizabeth I”. Indeed, an artefact of such complex and inter-related ties was the obvious existence of rivalries, jealousies, and squabbles spanning generations. In England, my younger brother and I had been protected from this aspect of extended family life. The protection came at a price: we didn’t know how to deal with it at all. At the age of 10 this did not matter, but on future visits, it would become more significant and certainly by the time my brother and I reached marriageable age. For the time being, it was just nice that as I wandered from apartment to apartment in the mahal, everyone I met was a relative and I was too young to understand any political dimension of that relationship. It would also be in subsequent visits to the mahal, when I was older, that I’d appreciate the tensions with the communities who lived outside the mahal.
On my daily walks, I’d see hand powered sewing machines and food being prepared more laboriously than anything I had seen at home. The dirt floor did not afford the comfort of sitting cross legged and sitting on my haunches was not something my leg muscles were prepared for. Unlike the urban homes, I had come across in the sub-continent, the toilet here was a platform raised above the multi-coloured offerings beneath. So large was the place that any smells remained distant from any other rooms.
The cold had not left us in Fatehpur. At night, they would light braziers which were wonderful for bringing around family members, sitting together on the Indian style wooden beds, sharing each other’s warmth, stories and gossip.
Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (as) quoted his infallible forefathers as having narrated on the authority of the Prophet (saw) that He said: 'One who, when an evil thought or carnal desire comes to him, shuns it because of his fear of Allah, Mighty and Exalted. Allah will forbid the Fire from touching him, and will protect him from the Great Terror, and will bestow on him what He has promised him in His book: "And for him who fears to stand before his Lord are two gardens." - Quran 55:46
As for one who, when this base world and the Hereafter both occur to him, chooses this world over the next, he will meet Allah on the Day of Judgment without any good deed to protect him from the Fire. And he who chooses the Hereafter and abandons this world, Allah will be pleased with him, and will forgive him according to his deed.' al-Faqih, v.4, p.2, no.1
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The languages of the world can be divided into families and sub-groupings. This means that several groups of languages can be thought to be related due to recurring and predictable patterns observed throughout them. These can be related to both grammar and phonology. What this means is that these languages descend from a proto-language and possible this language descends from a larger grouping. What happened was that the speakers of the proto-language started moving away from each other, and in a time before literacy, let alone wide spread dissemination of printed material and a standardized educational system, before people would leave their homes to work in the big city and return (before towns even!), and before our modern technology which keeps us connected, the speakers of a language just started speaking differently. This could have happened in several ways, sound changes for vowels are some of the simplest, think of how differently British people and North American people pronounce the word "far". Consonantal phonemes (sounds) can be dropped or added, you can also have grammatical innovations which make up for something lacking in the proto-language (e.g. the creation of a definite article) or a simplification of something in the proto-language (maybe a complex case system is dropped, or at the least reduced), though it's important to remember these are sporadic and things are traded off for one another, languages don't just become "simpler". Within no time Group A can no longer understand Group B anymore. A linguist will determine this using the comparative method, this requires looking at the different languages and comparing them for regular patterns to ascertain genetic (in a linguistic sense) relation. There is one limitation to this, the comparative method can only work compare changes made within a few thousand millennia, after 7000-10, 000 or so years it ceases to be very reliable as it cannot account for a change being due to genetic relation or just coincidence. There are some languages which are isolates, meaning they lack genetic relation to any language we know of. This doesn't mean they emerged out of nowhere, rather their relatives went extinct before we could get any record of them.
Linguistics today classify Arabic as one of the Afro-Asiatic languages (also called the Hamito-Semitic languages in older literature). This language family is perhaps one of the oldest that we know of, the proto-language, Proto-Afro-Asiatic, was spoken sometime around 15, 000 BCE. This language family includes the Semitic languages (of which Arabic is a member), the Egyptian languages (both Ancient Egyptian and Coptic), the Berber languages, the Cu[Edited Out]ic languages (including Somali), the Chadic languages, and possibly the Omitic languages. Now, when this proto-language was spoken, how exactly it split into its daughter-languages, and in what order that happened is something debated by linguists (a video that shows some possibilities), but the connection between these languages has been observed for a very long time. The first person to observe the similarities between these languages was Judah b. Quraysh (fl. c. 9th century), a Jewish Rabbi with knowledge of Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew and noticed their similarity to the Berber languages spoken in Algeria. The eminent 19th century German philologist, Theodore Benfey, went on to demonstrate a systematic relationship between the Ancient Egyptian language and Semitic languages (Rubin, 2013). Such correspondences can be observed in grammatical features, such as several of the Afro-Asiatic languages having a construct state (إضافة, for those of you who might have studied Arabic grammar), this is an exceedingly rare construction indicating possession, it is only found outside the Afro-Asiatic family in a single Nilotic language. In the Afro-Asiatic family, the construct-state is found in the Semitic languages, the Berber languages, and the Egyptian languages. They also share a root system for their morphology, and similar nominal systems for their nouns. We can also compare vocabulary to find a proto-word that developed into cognates across various languages. One such reconstruction is the word "les" (meaning tongue, this root will remain italicized), it appears in the Semitic languages originally as Lišān (and this further developed from there), in Egyptian as ns and later in Coptic as les, in the Chadic languages as ḥalisum, ʾVlyas, and lyas, and in a Cu[Edited Out]ic language as milas (Orel & Stolbova, 1995).
Arabic can further be classified as a Semitic language. This language family is believed to be about 6000 years old and is thought to have originated in South-West Asia. There are a number of features common to the language, including shared verb stems (the أبواب), a case system of nominative -u, accusative -a, and genitive -i (found preserved in Classical/Middle Arabic, Ugaritic, and Akkadian), and a root system with shared roots between these languages¹. Arabic fits into these languages as a West Semitic languages, meaning it is excluded from being one of the East Semitic languages (the Akkadian languages or Ebalite). It is also a Central Semitic language, so it is excluded from the South Semitic languages which include the Modern South-Arabian languages, the Ethio-Semitic languages, and the Ancient South Semitic languages. It splits from the other Central Semitic languages, which go on to become the North-Western Semitic languages including Ugaritic, Aramaic, and the Canaanite languages (including Hebrew and Phoenician). What distinguishes Arabic from the other Central Semitic languages are 14-19 linguistic innovations not found in other Central Semitic languages, these include:
The loss of the independent first person pronoun "ʾanāku" (Arabic only preserves the proto-Semitic "ʾanā")
Replacing mimation with nunation (تنوين), meaning, a nūn is fixed to the end of words (in the form of tanwīn), not a mīm, such as what can be found in Hebrew.
The preposition fī (in) is derived from the word for "mouth" (فم).
The development of the mafʿūl passive participle.
A full list can be found in Ahmed Al-Jallad's forthcoming article, "The Earliest Stages of Arabic and its Linguistic Classification".
Now with an understanding of language families and Arabic's Afro-Asiatic and Semitic context you have a foundation for exploring the development of Arabic as we know it. We are left, however, with the need to know who the speakers of this language were and where they lived. We're now ready for the next part of our historical epic. Join me next time!
¹ A cool resource to look at different Semitic roots is this website. You can search roots and compare cognates across various languages.
Wolff, H. E., (2018, May 14). "Afro-Asiatic languages", Encyclopaedia Britannica,
Orel, V. E., & Stolbova, O. V., (1995). Hamito-Semitic Etymological Dictionary: Materials for Reconstruction.
Rubin, A. D. (2013). "Egyptian and Hebrew", Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics. Geoffrey Khan (ed.).
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Was Hisham Responsible for the Murder of al-Kadhim?
There exist narrations in our sources which hold Hisham responsible (directly or indirectly) for the murder of al-Kadhim عليه السلام by the Abbasid authorities. He stands accused of continuing to engage in public debate despite an explicit order from the Imam for him to refrain from doing that. He went on making waves in Baghdad such that the authorities took notice of the Shia and extended their talons towards the Imam.
علي بن محمد قال: حدثني محمد بن أحمد، عن يعقوب بن يزيد، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج قال: قال أبو الحسن عليه السلام: ايت هشام بن الحكم فقل له: يقول لك أبو الحسن: أيسرك أن تشرك في دم امرء مسلم فإذا قال لا فقل له: ما بالك شركت في دمي؟
- Ali b. Muhammad – Muhammad b. Ahmad – Ya’qub b. Yazid – Ibn Abi Umayr – Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj who said: Abu al-Hasan عليه السلام said: Go to Hisham b. al-Hakam and say to him: Abu al-Hasan says to you: Are you pleased that you take part (have a role) in the murder of a Muslim man? If he says ‘No’ then say to him: Why do you take part in my murder?
More detail about this delegation of Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj to Hisham is provided in the report below:
جعفر بن معروف قال: حدثني الحسن بن النعمان، عن أبي يحيى وهو إسماعيل بن زياد الواسطي، عن عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج قال: سمعته يؤدي إلى هشام بن الحكم رسالة أبي الحسن عليه السلام قال: لا تتكلم فإنه قد أمرني أن آمرك أن لا تتكلم، قال: فما بال هشام يتكلم وأنا لا أتكلم، قال: أمرني أن آمرك أن لا تتكلم وأنا رسوله إليك. قال أبو يحيى: أمسك هشام بن الحكم عن الكلام شهرا لم يتكلم ثم تكلم فأتاه عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج فقال له: سبحان الله يا أبا محمد تكلمت وقد نهيت عن الكلام! قال: مثلي لا ينهى عن الكلام. قال أبو يحيى: فلما كان من قابل، أتاه عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج فقال له: يا هشام قال لك أيسرك أن تشرك في دم امرء مسلم؟ قال: لا، قال: وكيف تشرك في دمي، فان سكت والا فهو الذبح؟ فما سكت حتى كان من أمره ما كان صلى الله عليه
- Ja’far b. Ma’ruf – al-Hasan b. al-Nu’man – Abi Yahya (Ismail b. Ziyad al-Wasiti) – Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj. He (Abi Yahya) said: I heard him (Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj) relaying to Hisham b. al-Hakam the message of Abi al-Hasan عليه السلام saying: Do not speak - for he (the Imam) has ordered me to order you to abstain from speaking. He (Hisham) said: Why should Hisham (b. Salim) speak but I should refrain?! He (Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj) said: He (the Imam) has ordered me to order you to abstain and I am his messenger to you.
- Abu Yahya said: Hisham b. al-Hakam abstained from speaking for a month then resumed again. Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj came to him and said to him: Glory be to Allah! O Aba Muhammad - You engage in theological disputations while you have been forbidden from it! He (Hisham) said: the likes of me cannot be forbidden to speak!
- Abu Yahya said: Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj came to him after a year and said to him: O Hisham - he (the Imam) says to you: Are you pleased to participate in the murder of a believing man? He (Hisham) said: No. He (the Imam) says: then how come you are participating in my murder! For if you are to remain silent (murder can be avoided) but if not then it will be slaughter
- (Abu Yahya comments:) but he did not refrain until it happened to him (the Imam) what happened!
Even Imam al-Ridha عليه السلام is quoted as holding Hisham squarely responsible in the murder of his father:
محمد بن نصير قال: حدثني أحمد بن محمد بن عيسى، عن الحسين ابن سعيد، عن أحمد بن محمد، عن أبي الحسن الرضا عليه السلام قال: أما كان لكم في أبي الحسن عليه السلام عظة ما ترى حال هشام بن الحكم؟ فهو الذي صنع بأبي الحسن ما صنع وقال لهم وأخبرهم، أترى الله يغفر له ما ركب منا
- Muhammad b. Nusayr – Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Isa – al-Husayn b. Sai’d – Ahmad b. Muhammad (b. Abi Nasr) – Abi al-Hasan al-Ridha عليه السلام who said: Is there not for you in (the case of) Abi al-Hasan (al-Kadhim) a warning! What do you think is the state of Hisham b. al-Hakam? For he is the one who did to Abi al-Hasan what he did, and he informed them and divulged to them (the secrets of the Madhhab). Do you think Allah will forgive him what he has perpetrated on us!
It is clear that this accusation levied against Hisham became widespread and needed a response from the pro-Hisham camp. Let us look at what Yunus (the principal exponent of Hisham's school) has preserved for us when he confronted his master directly about it.
حدثني حمدويه، قال حدثني محمد بن عيسى، عن يونس قال: قلت لهشام أصحابك يحكون أن أبا الحسن عليه السلام سرح إليك مع عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج أن أمسك عن الكلام و إلى هشام بن سالم قال: أتاني عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج و قال لي يقول لك أبو الحسن عليه السلام أمسك عن الكلام هذه الأيام، و كان المهدي قد صنف له مقالات الناس و فيه مقالة الجواليقية هشام بن سالم، و قرأ ذلك الكتاب في الشرقية و لم يذكر كلام هشام، و زعم يونس أن هشام بن الحكم قال له: فأمسكت عن الكلام أصلا حتى مات المهدي، و إنما قال لي هذه الأيام فأمسك حتى مات المهدي
- Hamduwayh – Muhammad b. Isa – Yunus who said: I said to Hisham - Your companions (fellow Shia) relate that Aba al-Hasan عليه السلام sent (a message) to you via Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj saying ‘stop speaking’ and also (the same message) to Hisham b. Salim.
- Hisham said: Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj came to me and said to me: Abu al-Hasan عليه السلام says to you: Stop speaking in these days. For it was authored for al-Mahdi (the Abbasid Caliph) (a treatise which contained) the different theological stances of the people. In it was the stance of the Jawaliqiyya (followers of) Hisham b. Salim. That treatise was read in the Sharqiyya (Eastern quarter) and it did not mention the stance of Hisham (b. al-Hakam).
- Yunus asserted that Hisham b. al-Hakam said to him ‘I stopped speaking totally until al-Mahdi died, for he (the Imam) had said to me ‘these days’.
- Thus he stopped until al-Mahdi died.
More detail about what Hisham said to Yunus in his defense is available in the report below:
وحدثني محمد بن مسعود العياشي قال: حدثنا جبريل بن أحمد الفاريابي، قال: حدثني محمد بن عيسى العبيدي، عن يونس قال: قلت لهشام انهم يزعمون أن أبا الحسن عليه السلام بعث إليك عبد الرحمن بن الحجاج يأمرك أن تسكت ولا تتكلم، فابيت أن تقبل رسالته، فأخبرني كيف كان سبب هذا؟ وهل أرسل إليك ينهاك عن الكلام أولا؟ وهل تكلمت بعد نهيه إياك؟ فقال هشام: انه لما كان أيام المهدي شدد على أصحاب الاهواء، وكتب له ابن المفضل صنوف الفرق صنفا صنفا، ثم قرأ الكتاب على الناس، فقال يونس: قد سمعت هذا الكتاب يقرأ على الناس على باب الذهب بالمدينة، ومرة أخرى بمدينة الوضاح. فقال ان ابن المفضل صنف لهم صنوف الفرق فرقة فرقة، حتى قال في كتابه: وفرقة منهم يقال لهم الزرارية، وفرقة منهم يقال لهم العمارية أصحاب عمار الساباطي، وفرقة يقال لها اليعفورية، ومنهم فرقة اصحاب سليمان الاقطع، وفرقة يقال لها الجواليقية. قال يونس: ولم يذكر يومئذ هشام بن الحكم ولا أصحابه، فزعم هشام ليونس ان أبا الحسن عليه السلام بعث اليه فقال له: كف هذه الايام عن الكلام فان الامر شديد، قال هشام: فكففت عن الكلام حتى مات المهدي وسكن الامر، فهذا الذي كان من أمره وانتهائي الى قوله
- Muhammad b. Masud al-Ayyashi – Jibril b. Ahmad al-Fariyabi – Muhammad b. Isa al-Ubaydi – Yunus who said: I said to Hisham: They claim that Aba al-Hasan عليه السلام sent Abd al-Rahman b. al-Hajjaj to you ordering you to keep silent and not to speak (in defense of the Madhhab) but you refused to accept his message to you. Inform me what was the reason for this? and did he really send to you prohibiting you from speaking or not? and did you speak after his prohibition?
- Hisham said: Back in the days of al-Mahdi - he (the Caliph) severely restricted those he considered heterodox. Ibn al-Mufadhal wrote for him a treatise outlining all the different sects one after the other, this treatise was then read to the people.
- Yunus said: I heard this treatise being read to the people at the Golden Gate in the city (Baghdad) and also another time in the town of Wadhah.
- Hisham continued: Ibn al-Mufadhal authored for them (the authorities) the classification of all sects one after the other, such that he even said in his treatise ‘a sect among them called Zurariyya, a sect among them called Ammariyya the companions of Ammar al-Sabati, a sect called Ya’furiyya, a sect consisting of the companions of Sulayman al-Aqta, and a sect called the Jawaliqiyya’. Yunus said: He (Ibn al-Mufadhal) did not name Hisham b. al-Hakam or his companions at that time.
- Hisham asserted to Yunus that Aba al-Hasan عليه السلام had sent to him a message saying ‘abstain from speaking in these days for the matter is serious’.
- Hisham said: I stopped speaking until al-Mahdi died and the matter became settled, this then is what he had ordered me to do and my abiding with his command.
This is a very important report because it gives us a glimpse of the socio-historical context of the time, the prevalent need for Taqiyya, the names of the most important companions of the Imams and their ‘Madhhabs’ (which as has been clarified are not really ‘sects’ in the traditional sense). It shows us that the Imami community was vibrantly engaged in theological argumentation such that they came under the radar of the authorities of the day.
To Blame or not to blame
Returning back to the all-important question - did Hisham have a role in al-Kadhim’s death? There certainly was a historical memory among some in the community that held him responsible. The fact that Hisham gained infamy as a Shi’i debater with a combative style must have attracted a lot of attention towards the Shia.
However, the more specific information given by Hisham himself seems to vindicate him. He interpreted the Imam’s instruction as a temporary order and obeyed it by abstaining from ‘speaking’ for a certain time during al-Mahdi’s Caliphate before resuming.
In any case, the fact that the Imam al-Kadhim was murdered in Harun al-Rashid’s time and the role of Muhammad b. Ismail b. Ja’far (al-Kadhim’s nephew) is more suggestive.
It is no surprise to find that the Yaqtin family, specifically the Ubaydi brothers, who were also members of Hisham and Yunus’s school, supporting him against this charge as the report below indicates:
و حدثني حمدويه بن نصير قال: حدثنا محمد بن عيسى العبيدي، قال حدثني جعفر بن عيسى قال: قال موسى الرقي لأبي الحسن الثاني عليه السلام: جعلت فداك روى عنك المشرقي و أبو الأسد أنهما سألاك عن هشام بن الحكم فقلت ضال مضل شرك في دم أبي الحسن عليه السلام فما تقول فيه يا سيدي نتولاه؟ قال نعم. فأعاد عليه نتولاه على جهة الاستقطاع قال نعم تولوه نعم تولوه، إذا قلت لك فاعمل به و لا تريد أن تغالب به، اخرج الآن فقل لهم قد أمرني بولاية هشام بن الحكم، فقال الرقي لنا بين يديه و هو يسمع ألم أخبركم أن هذا رأيه في هشام بن الحكم غير مرة
- Hamduwayh b. Nusayr – Muhammad b. Isa al-Ubaydi – Ja’far b. Isa who said: Musa al-Raqqi said to Abi al-Hasan the Second (al-Ridha) عليه السلام: May I be made your ransom - al-Mashriqi and Abu al-Asad relate from you that they had asked you about Hisham b. al-Hakam so you said: “Misguided and Misguiding others. He participated in the murder of Abi al-Hasan”. So what do you say about him O My Master - should we associate with him? He said: Yes. He (Musa) repeated the same question aiming to obtain certainty - ‘should we associate with him?’ He said: Yes. Associate with him. Associate with him. If I tell you something then abide by it and do not seek to overturn it. Go out now and say to them (those assembled): He has ordered me to associate with Hisham b. al-Hakam.
- Al-Raqqi said to us in in front of him (the Imam) while he (the Imam) was listening: Did I not inform you that this (i.e. approval) was his opinion of Hisham b. al-Hakam - more than once!?
Imam Ali (as) asked, "If you knew the meaning of the words of the call to prayer, you would laugh little and weep much. The statement "Allah is the Greatest" has many meanings.When the muezzin says "Allahu Akbar" it refers to His Eternity, His Sempiternity, His Infinity, His Knowledge, His Power, His Omnipotence, His Forbearance, His Munificence, His Generosity, His Bounty, and His Pride. When the muezzin says "Allahu Akbar" he proclaims that the Creation and the Command belong to Allah. He proclaims that creation came about as a result of His Will. He proclaims that He is the First of the First and He has always existed, and that He is the Last of the Last as He will always exist. He proclaims that He is the Manifest, who cannot be perceived, and that He is the Hidden, who is not subject to limitations of any sort. He proclaims that He is the Ever-Lasting, and that everything but Him will perish.The second meaning of "Allahu Akbar" refers to the fact that He is All-Knowing, the All-Informed, who knows everything that has occurred and everything that will occur, even before it occurs.The third meaning of "Allahu Akbar" is that He is All-Powerful over everything. His power extends over everything. He is powerful due to His Power, and the Potent One over His Creation. He is Powerful in Essence, His Power embraces all things. When He decrees a thing, He only says to it, "Be," and it is.The fourth "Allahu Akbar" refers to His Forbearance and Generosity. He forbears as if He were unaware of the sins, pardons as if He did not see the sin, and covers with mercy as if He had not been disobeyd. He does not hasten punishment out of His Generosity, Forgiveness, and Forbearance.Another meaning of "Allahu Akbar" is that He is Generous, Ample-Giving, and the Most Munificent. The other meaning of "Allahu Akbar" is to negate His Shape, and that Allah is Greater than any of His Attributes. Verily, those who describe Allah describe him on the basis of their own ability and not according to His Might and Majesty. Exalted is Allah, the Elevated, the Great, from what the attributes perceive as His Attributes.Another meaning of "Allahu Akbar" refers to the fact that Allah is the Most High and Exalted. He is Self-Sufficient from His Servants. He is not in the need of the deeds of His Creation.[When in the end of Adhaan when muezzin recite final two Allahu Akbar, Imam Ali says...]As for his statement "Allah is the Greatest" [Allahu Akbar] it means: Allah's Kindness towards His Creation is greater than anyone can possibly conceive. It refers to His Kindness towards His Servants through answering their prayers; His Kindness towards His Servants who obey Him, and who obey His Legal Guardians; His Kindness towards His Servants who servers Him, who preoccupies himself with Him and His Remembrance, who loves Him, and who befriend Him; His Kindness towards His Servants who finds tranquility in Him, who trusts Him, who fears Him, who puts his hope in Him, who yearns for Him, who accepts His Commands and Decrees, and who is pleased with Him.The second time that [Allahu Akbar] is said it means: Allah's Kindness towards His Creation is so great that it cannot possibly be conceived. It refers to His Kindness towards His Friends, His Punishment of His Enemies, the extent of His Pardoning, His Forgiveness, and His Bounty towards those who answer His Call, and the Call of His Messenger. It also refers to the extent of His Punishment and His Humiliation of those who deny Him and who reject Him." from Kitab al-Tawheed.
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I’m sorry today that your father wouldn’t let you talk to your sister
it broke my heart and I cried for you
I know you didn’t deserve it today and you are not strong enough to speak out
i will always be your voice and I will not stop fighting for your rights
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Structure of upcoming posts related to this topic:
What is meant by Akhbarism?
It's inception and continuation
Akhbarism and the onset of Salafism
(Intermission - Some general laws that govern human thought/ideologies)
Akhbarism and the decline of human thought
Akhbarism - ideas and behaviours
Usooli doctrines and the Akhbari reality
Akhbarism and Secterianism
The Quran and Akhbari contradictions
The Narrations and Akhbari contradictions
Akhbarism and the creation of (new) religious rites and rituals
Akhbarism, ‘israeli’ narrations and other fabrications
Akhbarism and the cause of decline of Shi'ism
The Quran confronts the Akhbaris
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As some of you know I'm a christian who converted and still living in a christian household practicing my religion in secrecy. Before i discovered islam and before i committed I used to camp in nature and i have this photography hobby. This year i decided to tell my parents i'm going camping in the nature in our country for 6 days and in this way i managed to travel to iraq.
We went me and my friend alone, we had people there in iraq who were having us as guests. The moment we went to the airport the struggling begun, we missed our plane which was in the morning, we waited the whole day for available seats but it was way too crowded. On that day, the last plane had 4 overbooked seats, basically they sold them seats which didn't exist, so Alhamdulillah they fixed us with them, we went from Lebanon to Turkey and from turkey to Najaf, we arrived to najaf at 3 am in the morning without sleep. This was on wednesday and the arbaeen is on friday.
We took a cab to visit imam ali, there was a point where the taxi couldn't go further, so he dropped us and i literally started running with my bag i couldn't believe i'm miles away of My Imam. When i reached it was so overwhelming, WHAT A MYSTERY HE IS! I felt powerful that he is my leader i felt like he's right there looking at me i literally felt his presence i felt the utmost sympathy which was coming from him it felt as if i'm visiting my guardian, my protector. It was very strange and pleasant.
We couldn't stay more, so we went to the house where we were staying at, we ate and we started walking from imam ali's makam to the first pole. I reached the first pole and started feeling the weakness of my body. It is worth to mention here that I'm athletic, I run since almost 4 years everyday and i do some very intense workouts (interval training, lactic acid training, fartlek training, etc). But walking is nothing like running.
First of all No one told me how much it was hard to finish the 100km walk. No one told me i should get some doaa to listen to quran perhaps or latmiyat or whatever else, and all people told me it's very nice it's fun you feel the spirituality, etc... So i went there having this mentality, i wasn't mentally prepared for it. I hit the 200 pole and i seriously started questioning if i can continue or not. I called friends who reached to 950 pole and they started insisting on me that i should take a taxi and go to them. This was at maghreb prayer after 6 hours walking. After they called me several times telling me to come i started thinking if this was my case then what was the case of sayeda zeinab or roukaya or soukayna and the whole household of ahlulbayt?! The thought of me not being able to finish it ached my heart and it made me cry. I rested, my friend told me that she will carry my bag to help me and with the grace of God i started walking. With all the psychological and physical pain, suffering, sleeplessness, shivering (due to the hectic situation), swallowed feet, empty stomach, burning feet, cramps, i reached at 12.30 am to 634 pole. The thing that didn't help was the pace of my friend she was always 10-20 meters ahead of me, so there was no talking or conversations to help me forget about the pain. But she really helped by carrying my bag. So we slept at 1.30 am till 3.30 am the noise and all the snoring didn't help much. We prayed i slept 2 hours after that then continued to walk. The second day i was falling asleep when i was walking, i started having the flu with the fever and when i rested for few minutes I'd fall asleep on the chair. Nevertheless, We continued and we finished with couple of km left which i finished the second day because there were a big number of crowd, more than any other year and i didn't have the energy anymore to withstand all this crowd and walk among them.
We reached the shrines of imam hussein and aba l fadel on saturday in the afternoon, we waited for couple of hours but it was all worth it, you can't exactly feel a lot of spirituality because you can't sit and focus your thoughts and get your head together. Everything was so quick. And if you want to sit for example pray talk to the imam someone comes and hits you.
Of course there is special energy at every makam, you feel something different, for example when i reached the shrine of imam hussein i couldn't believe that i'm standing in front of the one and only man who's earth and skies are created due to his sacrifice. That we exist due to his sacrifice, everything we are everything we have is from Ashura.
The rest of the trip took it's flow, other things happened but alhamulillah we managed everything in the end.
"الأجر على قدر المشقة" It means you get rewarded as much as you tolerate pain and hardships.
When i came back home, I accidentally forgot my ticket in the bag so when mom was removing the clothes to wash them she saw the ticket of course she snapped but she didn't tell my father or else he would have kicked me out of the house, it is the one and only time she didn't mention anything, because before that when she sensed that i was fasting or doing things related to religion she told my dad right away, but this time she couldn't. Everyone of us is protected by the imam of our time, he handles our matters all the time.
I hope this was an inspiration to the readers and i hope everyone will experience this zyara, because after my personal experience i realized that the walk part is very essential for our Akida (creed), it is a kind of training.
Whenever the topic of death arises, people try to stay away from the discussion. For many, it is an uncomfortable subject, but Sub7an'Allah Allah always reminds us about it in the Quran.
"Allah does not give any breather (or let up) to anyone for death when its fixed time comes." (Surah 63:11)
Every person (nafs) will taste death, ....." (Surah 3:185)
"... no one knows (where) in what land (or place) he will die". (Surah 31:34)
Wherever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you should be within towers of lofty construction. But if good comes to them, they say, "This is from Allah "; and if evil befalls them, they say, "This is from you." Say, "All [things] are from Allah ." So what is [the matter] with those people that they can hardly understand any statement? (Surah 4:78)
In Lebanon, we are constantly reminded of death. Whether it is the martyrs, family members, or from accidents death is heard about in a daily basis.
I have a vivid image of death. I saw a dead mouse once. First, I didn't notice it, but there was a wretched smell. I was looking to see where it was coming from. I found it hidden between fake flowers. I wanted to dispose it, and I got a metal utensil to put it in a plastic bag. Of course, I wrapped my scarf around my nose, because the stench was unbearable. I saw it's yellow front teeth sticking out. But what was the eye opening image that I was left with? It was the hundreds of white maggots that was crawling out of it.
I was crying and talking to myself at that point. Is this how I will end up? That my grave will be a house of maggots? (bayt al dood)
Oh God have mercy on us.
God sends us so many warnings and signs throughout our life time. We are not for this world. Every living thing will experience death. A fact of life, if only people realize there time in this world is limited, would so many crimes, and evilness exist? Unfortunately, many people see death as far away and live carefree.
If more people would focus about where they will eventually end up, I think this world would be an easier place to live in. But people plan 30, 40, 50 years ahead and will do whatever it takes to reach there goals. But the real question is, "What have you done for yourself for the Hereafter?"
M3 Salamah, FE AMIN Allah
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Carrying on from part 1- http://www.shiachat.com/forum/blogs/entry/311-understanding-negative-thought-processes/
I wanted to speak about the impact cognitive distortions (negative thoughts) can have on us.
The impact of Cognitive Distortions
Psychologists recognise that there is a relationship between our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and the resultant behaviour. Anyone recognise this vicious cycle?
We are constantly trying to interpret the world around us, sometimes without even realising it. Thoughts are electro-impulses in the brain, not statment of facts, so dont believe everything you think! These interpretations will be a byproduct of our upbringing, previous experiences, culture, religion and many more and some types of thoughts can lead to particular emotions.
Therefore, we shouldn't ASSUME everything because you will make an ASS out of U and ME!
The above is typical of the cycle that takes place once we get a negative thought that we may dwell on. It, then, becomes a habit, so trying to change that thought to a more realistic and balanced one would be beneficial. The question that arises now is how we can achieve that.
Journalising your thought processes
One such way to change our negative thinking style may be documenting your thoughts which is something people find helpful in this regard, as it’s a way of becoming familiar with the negative thought patterns you tend to become fixated on, and is one method of letting out how you feel.
Having a thought diary can be very helpful for many people and can actually be effective for so many conditions, such as feeling socially anxious, OCD, GAD (generalised anxiety disorder), depression and many more mental health problems. You can also add columns where you rate your anxiety/mood from 0%-100%, you would then reframe (change) that negative thought to a more balanced one and rate your anxiety/mood again from 0% -100% to see how much it has decreased.
Thought records like the one below can also be helpful and are less overwhelming if you don’t want to add lots of columns.
Another less intense journaling technique is keeping a gratitude journal. The process is quite simple. Every night, before you go to bed, you write down three to five things for which you are grateful. The trick is that you can’t use the same ideas every day, so you can try to search your soul for what you are grateful for today and then write it down.
If you feel a thought diary is not something that works for you, then think about what might. Using art as a form of art therapy such as colouring, painting or Caligraphy? Audio recording yourself or speaking to yourself in the mirror?
(I know this sounds totally weird but it works for some! No one has to know :p ) Or how about using mind maps? The main thing is finding what works for you as an individual. Hope this helps!
Inshallah in the next part I will be focusing on how to set and achieve goals.
“I only complain of my grief and sorrow to Allah (s.w.t)” [12:86]
Just a little side note, I decided to write this and post this blog entry at this time because I’m currently I wanna do something light-hearted before my next blog entry. I’m currently working on the next blog entry (which is already a little less than three pages in) but because how serious and how much research I need to cover to make sure I don’t make a mistake, I wanna take a break and do something light.
And yeah I even procrastinate while working on blogs, I have one file called Frustrations Watching Muslim Movies, that I made awhile ago and I still haven’t wrote anything in it yet. But to entice you guys (and gals) to come back after this one, here’s a sneak peak of a blog entry coming from a blogger near you:
If you remember in my previous blog entry, I mentioned a Catholic chatroom I like to go to, well during one of our conversations they said the New Testament couldn’t be wrong because of the eye witness recorded, their referring to the Gospels according to Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. Which it is fair to bring that up, but once you look deeper into it, you begin to see some cracks. Now there is some evidence to suggest that the Gospels were not written by Jesus’ disciples, but by people later on. What I wanna do (for the sake of this blog entry at least) is say for sure 100% the Gospels were written by the disciples and (again for the sake of this argument) say that the books in the New Testament were not corrupted and they’ve always been the way they are.
Okay now let’s get back to the main point of this blog:
So this had been something I’ve noticed for a long time and it always seems to happen to me. So picture this, my dad decides to take the family out to eat and we go to a restaurant. So we order, wait for the food, me, my dad, my little brother (and my big brother if he’s there) fill the cups, get the condiments, etc.. So then eventually the food arrives, and french fries happen to be one of the sides (a quick note to point out is that everyone gets the same order), so my dad being the patriarchal tribal chief of the family gives out the food, and you wanna know what? I always get the least amount of fries.
Now some of you might be (justifiably) saying, “Wow, really? There are starving kids in Africa, there are people who would give a pinkie finger for a single fry, and here you are complaining about getting a few fries less.” But it’s not only fires, we could go out to Dairy Queen or some other ice cream place and get some cones and guess what? It’s the same thing, I always get not as much as everyone else. It isn’t a coincidence, someone out to get me. Or what I consider the more logical conclusion, Allah is telling me to lose weight.
What I wrote above isn’t meant to be serious, it’s true though, I do get a little less than everyone else, but I was just trying to make some humor out of something I’ve noticed. So if you’re mad about it, I’m sorry (but I’m still salty about not getting as much fries, for all of you who were disappointed there was no “a Lut,” pun used in the last entry, that salty pun is dedicated to you).
Do you guys ever look up something weird to see if it exists? Now it’s now always haraam… but it usually kinda is. I don’t get pleasure in discovering they exist, most of the time it’s the complete opposite (I still can’t believe someone would do that with the Rugrats). Now don’t look up things to see if they exist if they would be considered haraam, but if it’s not considered haraam, go for it (it’ll definitely give you an edge when you and your friend(s) play random (historical) trivia. In your face, Trevor!)
I think I hate myself a little bit, so much so that a small part of me likes it when I hurt myself. Now I’m not talking about self physical harm, and please if you do that please seek help and talk to someone (I can’t stress that enough), what I’m referring to is that I’ll go looking for anti-Muslim (and Shia and/or theists) media. Now I get angry and upset when watching/reading these things, so why do I do it? I really don’t know. Do I get any enjoyment out of it? No, the complete opposite in fact.
Well I think that’s enough for today. I gotta say I enjoyed doing this and I think it really fits the theme of the blog, which is much more diverse in topics than I originally intended it to. I feel random drabbles sounds like it would be in a blog called Procrastination Contemplation. By the way, I looked up to make sure drabble was a word and that I was spelling it right, and it turns out that it’s for short fictional stories, so I used the word wrong here because all the things I talked about are true. But I really like the name so I’m not changing it.
Something else I noticed is that I feel my blog is kinda at ends with other blogs. Other blogs talk about happiness, marriage, many of them talk about a multitude of religious and philosophical ideas. And what does my blog talk about? The first one was about why I use the username I use, the next was how about a website made me really mad, the one after that was about being polite when debating, and this one is about me complaining about getting less fries, looking up random and sometimes weird stuff, and about how I can’t seem to stop looking for media that puts me in a really negative mood. I feel like I should stick with a certain topic that’s serious but at the same time, I like making the odd blog entry.
This is the last thing before I post this. You people better appreciate this entry, I wrote this in my second hour/period which is an open/free, I should of been doing my math homework that’s due during 4th Period but no, I go and spend that time writing my longest blog entry up to date (four and a half pages).
Hope you enjoyed!
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When Imam as-Sajjad (as) used to gaze up at the night sky, he would address his Lord saying: O' my Lord! The stars of your sky have set, and the eyes of your creation have closed to rest. Kings have locked their gates, but your gate is always open to those who ask. Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى in the Holy Qu'ran reminds us of how he close is to his servants:
وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ
O'Muhammad and when my servants ask you about Me, indeed I am close. I answer the supplication of the one who supplicates.
My dear brothers & sisters, Allah is near, but we have not appreciated the joy of divine proximity. Muslim philosophers maintain that the goal of God's creative activity, is not as some might think for simply to be a World out there, but rather for Allah and his loved ones to come together as we were before creation. This is the underlying message of the phrase:
إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ
We belong to God, and to Him we shall return
The famous persian poet Rumi explains this scheme of love. All of us used to be fish, swimming in the ocean of towheed. Unaware of our difference from the water. Then Allah threw us upon dry land, the realm of seperation, longing, pain and suffering. Only by tasting seperation, can we remember the joy of water and desire to return to it. Once we return, we will swim in the ocean of Towheed again, with full awareness of the joy of consummated love.
In a famous tradition Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى reveals to Musa (a) saying:
ذَبَ مَنْ زَعَمَ أَنَّهُ يُحِبُّنِي فَإِذَا جَنَّهُ اللَّيْلُ نَامَ عَنِّي ، أَ لَيْسَ كُلُّ مُحِبٍّ يُحِبُّ خَلْوَةَ حَبِيبِهِ
O'Musa! The one who claims to love me, speaks a lie. For when night sets, he sleeps and forgets me.. is it not that every lover wishes to be alone with his beloved?
My dear brothers & sisters, let us take advantage of the night and whisper to our Beloved because the night is when the lovers meet and it is imperative that we make Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى the object of our love... Wa sallallahu ala Muhammad wa ala tahirin.
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