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In the Name of God بسم الله

Marbles

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    Marbles reacted to ShiaMan14 for a blog entry, 10 Days in Iran   
    I had been planning to go to Iran for a long time and finally made it a priority for me in 2016. Since I wanted to mix in sightseeing and pilgrimage in the same trip, I decided to go on my own instead of in a group.
    As it turned out, getting an individual visa for Iran when traveling from the US is a real hassle. We need to get permission from the Iran Foreign Ministry and then apply for the visa at the Iran Mission housed within the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC. After struggling for almost 3 weeks, I was able to find Taha Ziyarat Group (tahaziyarat@gmail.com) based out of Toronto that obtained the necessary approval for me for $90.
    Once I got my approval, I sent my passport off to the Iran Mission in Washington. I did have to follow up with them almost daily to ensure they processed my visa application expeditiously. I received my passport 4 days before flying out.
    While I was waiting for the visa approval, I booked my flights on Qatar Airways for a bargain price of $700 return to/from US-Tehran. For in-country arrangements, I know a maulana (NAJ) there who arranged everything for me based on my budget.
    Finally, the big day came and I left for Iran on Wed Mar 23rd arriving in Tehran late Thu evening (Mar 24th). NAJ had arranged for a driver to pick me up and drive straight to Qum instead of spending the night in Tehran. The drive from IKA (Imam Khomeni Airport) to Qum took about 90 minutes. The driver barely spoke English but knew where to pick me up from and where to drop me. We arrived at Qum International Hotel around 1245am (Fri Mar 25th). The hotel was about a *** US hotel, higher for Iran.
     
    Day 1 (Fri):
     
    We prayed fajr in our room and went back to bed. Since breakfast was included in our price, we went down for breakfast around 9a – nice long buffet.
    NAJ contacted me around 10am and picked me up from the QIH around 1030a to take me to the Roza of Masooma-e-Qum. We walked to the roza and were there at 1035a. The hotel is the closet one to the roza.
    NAJ showed us around the haram and provided us some background about Masooma and her roza. From 1130a – 2p, we were on our own to recite ziyarat, salah-e-jumah and dua. I wandered around the roza and made my way to the masjid adjoining the roza. It is an absolutely beautiful mosque.
    They had beautiful recitations of the quran and then some speeches followed by Azaan. The Jumah khutba was recited by an Ayatollah in Farsi (of course) and then namaz-e-jumah. Although I did not understand most of the khutba, one thing that was unmistakable was the ‘marg-al-Amreeka’ chants (down with America or death to America). They were loud and boisterous.

    Shrine of Bibi Masooma Qum (as).
    After salah-e-jumah, NAJ took us to the Suffrah of Masooma where were had a decent meal of rice with spinach with potatoes.
    We went to our hotel after lunch for some R&R and then returned to the haram for maghribain. After namaz, NAJ took us around the bazaar outside the haram. The clothing looked like they were from the 70s and 80s. Religious paraphernalia including irani chador were well stocked and affordably priced. Almost evey other shop sold halwa-suhan.
     
    Day 2 (Sat):
     
    We spent most of this day driving around to the various ziarats around Qum.

    Bait Al-Noor. Musallah of Masooma (as). This is where she spent time praying.

    Shrine of an Imamzadeh (Son of an Imam).

    Shrine of Hz. Hamza bin Musa Kazim (as).

     
    Day 3 (Sun):
     
    This was by far the most hectic day of the trip. We left around 5am to drive from Qum to Isfahan. It was about a 4-hour drive. I was surprised how much of the Iranian country was desert. The deserts in the Middle East countries (UAE, Saudi) have a lot of fine yellow sand. Iranian deserts are more rocky than sandy.


    Upon entering Isfahan, we visited the shrine of Masooma Zainab bint Imam Musa Khadim (as) – Masooma Qum’s younger sister.


    Next stop was the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan. We spent a few minutes here and then walked to Allama Majlisi’s tomb nearby. His house and surrounding are well preserved.
    Next was the more secular part of the Ishafan visit.

    We went to Naqsh-e-Jahan (half of the world) which is the main plaza of Isfahan. The weather was great and since the Nawroz holidays were still going on, it was packed with people.
    Within Naqsh-e-Jahan is the Ali Qapu Palace


    Panamoric View from Ali Qapu Palace Balcony of Naqsh-e-Jahan

    Since it was almost lunch time, we stopped by a street restaurant selling A’ash

    After lunch, we went to the Vank Cathedral. This Christian monastery was established in 1606. It contains some amazing art work.

     


    From here, we went to Khaju Bridge for some more sightseeing.



     
    At this point, we were too tired to do anything else so we headed back to Qum – 4 hour journey mostly spent napping.
     
    Day 4 (Mon):
    After a hectic day, sleep was going to be the primary thing on the agenda for this day but there was too much to do. We prayed fajr at the mosque next to Masooma-e-Qum’s shrine:

    Mosque adjacent to Masooma-e-Qum's shrine
    And then went back to our hotel for more sleep. We had breakfast and got ready for another fun-filled travel day.
    We started off by going from Qum to Mashad-e-Ardehal. This site contains the tomb of Sultan Ali son of Imam Muhammad Baqir (as) and brother of Imam Jafar Sadiq (as). Sultan Ali was brutally killed here by his enemies.

     
    From here we drove to a hilltop/mountaintop with streams running down. We had to walk down about 500 meters and got a great view of a waterfall.
                                    
    The most distinct feature of this area of the smell of rose water distilleries all over the place. You could get rose water for a variety of needs including simple hot rose water tea. The other distinct item being sold was fresh bee hives dripping with honey. And yes, we tried hot rose water tea with honey.
    From here, we went to the city of Kashan. Our first stop was an ancient archeological site called Tepe Sialk. The Sialk ziggurat
          
    Note: Entrance for most places have an Iranian Rate and a Foreigner rate (up to 3X in places). We had our driver buy the tickets and we would walk in with him talking to us in Farsi. Yes – very sneaky indeed. I excused myself by convincing myself that since both my wife and I are of Iranian descent, we qualify for the discount.  
     
    Final stop of our day trip to Kashan was to the oldest extant garden in Iran known as the Bagh-e-Fin or Fin Garden.
          
     
    Although this was a less hectic day than the trip to Isfahan, we were still pretty tired so we drove back to Qum, had a 12-in falafel sandwich, prayed maghraibain at the haram and went to bed.
    Day 5 (Tue):
    The past couple of days had left us tired so we decided to take it easy.
    We went to the haram for fajr then went back to bed. We woke up just in time to catch breakfast and then went to the local market (wish I took pictures). From there we went for zohrain at the mosque adjacent to Masooma’s shrine.
    After a quick bite to eat, we left for the Koh-e-Khizr aka Mountain of Khizr. What was supposed to be a light day in terms of exercise became a very intense and steep climb to the top of Koh-e-Khizr. It was well worth it in the end because we got a great view of the entire city of Qum if not the whole province.
        
    Got more daunting as we got closer.
          
    For the record, the old gentleman in the pic IS NOT ME
       
    City/Province of Qum.
     
    Needless to say the climb down was nowhere near as arduous as the climb up. There was a small food vendor about half from the top. On our way up, we bought some water from him and then ice cream on the way down.
    After resting by the car for a few moments, we drove nearby to the Masjid-e-Jhamkaran, located on the outskirts of Qum. A brief history of this grand mosque is that it  has long been a sacred place, at least since 373 A.H., 17th of Ramadan (22 February 984 C.E.), when according to the mosque website, one Sheikh Hassan ibn Muthlih Jamkarani is reported to have met Muhammad al-Mahdi along with the prophet Al-Khidr. Jamkarani was instructed that the land they were on was "noble" and that the owner — Hasan bin Muslim — was to cease cultivating it and finance the building of a mosque on it from the earnings he had accumulated from farming the land.
    As we had been told, the mosque starts getting filled up from about 5pm and gets fuller and fuller as the evening progresses. I am not sure if it was because of Nawruz season but it definitely had a very 'carnival' and festive feel to it. People had spread out their rugs all across the mosque courtyard and were reveling with family and friends. There was hot tea brewing and koobideh with naan being shared by one and all.
    Quran and then different duas were being recited, followed by maghribain and then more duas. We left around 830p to go back to our hotel.

    Mosque sparely populated around 4pm.

    Crowded!!! (730pm).
     
    Day 6 (Wed):
     
    Today was the big day when we would finally make our way to Mashad. We had packed the previous night so we left right after fajr – and yes, I skipped breakfast!!!
     
    First stop was First stop was an almost 2 hour drive to Ayatollah Khomenei’s mausoleum.   It is located to the south of Tehran in the Behesht-e Zahra (the Paradise of Zahra) cemetery. Construction commenced in 1989 following Khomeini's death on June 3 of that year. It is still under construction, but when completed will be the centerpiece in a complex spread over 5,000 acres, housing a cultural and tourist center, a university for Islamic studies, a seminary, a shopping mall, and a 20,000-car parking lot. The Iranian government has reportedly devoted US$2 billion to this development. It is definitely one of the largest and most beautiful mausoleums I have come across.
     
    Visitors reciting fatiha for Ayatollah Khomenei.
    Please recite surah fatiha for Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini.
     
    Next stop was the Astana Bibi Shehr Bano. On the ground level there is a cave which according to legends was the place where Zuljinah brought Bibi from Kerbala, and she was there until hostile people to Bani Hashim got news of her being there, and they tried to catch her. She climbed the hillock and then vanished in a mountainous wall. Now a zarih has been constructed together with prayer rooms for men and women.
       
    Zarih of Hz. Shehr Bano.                                                                    View of other side of Tehran.
     
    who was a fifth generation descendant of Hasan ibn ‘Alī and a companion of Muhammad al-Taqī. A piece of paper was found in his pocket outlining his ancestry as being: ‘Abdul ‘Adhīm son of ‘Abdillāh son of ‘Alī son of Husayn son of Zayd son of Hasan ibn ‘Alī.Shah Abdul AzeemNext stop was the Shrine of
    Adjacent to the shrine, within the complex, include the mausolea of Imamzadeh Tahir (son of the fourth shia Imam Sajjad) and Imamzadeh Hamzeh (brother of the eighth Twelver Imām - Imām Reza).
     
     

    From here, we drove around the City of Tehran including the famed part known as Rey. I am fairly well traveled but I have to say that Tehran is one of the most picturesque cities I have visited. Situated in close proximity of the Alborz range and its majestic peak Mount Damavand , being the highest in Iran with a height of 18,550 feet ,it is a mega city of about Thirty Million People.

    You can see hundreds of buildings at the foot of the mountain. Not a bad view to wake up to every morning.
     
    After driving around for a couple of hours, our driver dropped us of at Tehran’s Mehrabad Intl Airport which is primarily used for domestic travel. The airport is in the heart of Tehran or at least within the city.
    The airport has a small cafeteria that serves hot meals of the local variety. They also have a coffee shop and ice cream parlor.
    After a 2-hour wait, we finally boarded our short (1-hr) flight to Mashad. The flight was as uneventful as all flights can be. I did enjoy a small boxed-meal they offered everyone despite the short flight. It made up for the breakfast that morning J.
    Naj had arranged a friend of his (Ali) to be our tour guide for the stay in Mashad. Since Ali’s English was a little weak, he brought along his sister (Afsanay) who was quite fluent in English.
    We checked into our Hotel (Hotel Omid). It is definitely one of the nicer hotels in Mashad.
        
    View of shrine from our hotel room balcony.
    We quickly refreshed and headed over to the Shrine of Imam Reza (as). Much to our pleasant surprise, the shrine was not as packed with zawar as we expected. It could have been the weather or Nawruz.

    About to enter the main hallway of the Shrine for the first time. Goose bumps.
     

    As salaam alai ka Ya Ghareeb Al Ghuraba (as)

    One of the many courtyards within the Shrine Complex of Imam Ali Reza (as).
     
    Day 7 (Thu):
     
    Although our intention was to go to the haram in Imam Al-Reza (as) for fajr, it was raining too hard with heavy winds to walk so we prayed in our rooms and went back to sleep.
    We woke up to this view:
     
     
    After a world class buffet breakfast, we met up with Ali and Afsanay to go to Nishapour. Once again, it was a very scenic drive. The mountain-desert country just has a certain serenity about it. On the way, we saw small villages celebrating nawroz in their own way.
      
     
    Our first stop was at the Qadamgah – where the footprints of the Holy Imam Al-Reza (as) can be found. Adjacent to it is a small stream said to bring benefits of all kinds to the zawar.
           
    Panoramic view of the building housing the footprint.
     
    Just before entering the area of the qadamgah is a small caravansary which use to house people back in the day.

    There were probably abour 20-25 room like the one shown above. Very basic room with a hearth in the middle. The rooms were considered high end. Outside the caravansary, there was just the open shelter (pretend there is no room just the outer part).
    Next stop was to the mausoleum of Bibi Shatitay. The legend goes that Imam himself came there and led the Namaz-e-janaza prayers for her.
         
     
     
    We made a brief stop at the historic Shah Abbas Inn/Caravansary which has been converted into several small shops selling jewelry or souvenirs. Nishapur is famous for its turquoise stone (firoza).
    Next stop was the shrines of Imamzade Mahruq bin Muhammad Al-Baqir bin Sajjad (as) and Ebrahim bin Ahmad bin Moosa bin Jafar (as). 
         
     
    A short walk from here was the tomb of Omar Al-Khayam – one of the most influential thinkers of the Middle Ages. He wrote numerous treatises on mechanics, geography, mineralogy and astronomy.
     

     
    A short drive from here was the mausoleum of Abu Hamid bin Abu Bakr Ibrahim aka Attar Nishapuri - a Persian Muslim poet, theoretician of Sufism, and hagiographer from Nishapur who had an immense and lasting influence on Persian poetry and Sufism.

     
    If memory serves me right, next to Attar’s tomb was an archeological site from thousands of years ago. It was going through extensive renovations at the time.

     
    Our last stop was a very famous local restaurant called Emirat Restaurant. Undoubtedly the best lamb koobideh I have ever had!!! My wife and I had some very interesting conversations with Ali and Afsanay. They were both fascinated by our lives in America. They had no qualms about asking me my salary; the size and cost of our house; they were surprised if not shocked that it was okay for my wife to go grocery shopping by herself and it was perfectly safe. They were under the impression that any woman who stepped out of her house by herself was 'asking for it'. I thought it was hilarious. Now that I think about it, everything the Western media does to paint Muslims in a certain light happens in Iran too but backwards. The Western media takes 1 bad Muslim story and tries to apply it to all Muslims. The Iranian media takes a bad Western story and applies it to all Westerners. This was just my observation and nothing more.
    We had some other interesting conversations but those are for another day and another time. 
    We drove back to Mashad and spent the evening the haram of Imam Al-Reza (as).
    Day 8 (Fri):
    We prayed fajr at the haram and went back to bed; then woke up to this beautiful view.

    Beautiful view of Roza of Ima Ali Reza (as).
    Since it was Friday, we stayed in our room until 11a or so and then headed to the haram again. Good thing we went early because it was fuller than we had seen since we got there.
    So I got a good spot in the mosque adjacent to the haram. I heard the Friday sermon (understood bits and pieces) and the “Death to American” chants, then prayed juma followed by Asr.
     

    Mosque adjacent to Imam Ali Reza's (as) shrine.
    Next was one of the most essential parts of the trip. One may not get this opportunity all the time. We had to take our passport to the office of Pilgrims situated in the Haram of Imam Ridha’s (as). They marked our passport and gives us a ticket for the meal. At the restaurant, they feed almost 4000 Zuwar each day. Thousands of Iranians must wait for years before they get a chance to have a meal at this restaurant.

    Lunch at Imam's restaurant (dastakhawan)
    Following lunch, Ali and Afsanay picked us up for some sightseeing. We drove around Mashad, saw her university and then went to ziarat nearby

    Ziarat near Mashad

    Iranian country side. Notice the marked difference in scenery from the previous pictures.
    On our way back, we stopped at an ice cream parlor for some traditional Persian ice cream. The last stop was a nearby pewter mountain. I was amazed to see people climbing it without any concern for safety. It was rainy and slick. Mrs ShiaMan14 bought a very nice souvenir.

    We came back, rested for a bit and then went to the haram for salah.
    Day 9 (Sat):
    This was the day to head back to Tehran. We spent the entire night at the haram until fajr. Then came back to get some rest. We got up after a couple of hours, had some breakfast and packed. We took all our luggage downstairs and went back to the haram for zuhrain. We also did the farewell ziarat, rushed back to the hotel since Ali was waiting for us.
    We got to the Mashad International Airport around 245pm for a 530p flight - plenty of time.
    Just as Ali left us, NAJ gave me a call informing me that my flight had been cancelled so he booked me on the last flight to Tehran (happened to be the cheapest option). This is when panic set in. If the last flight got cancelled, I  would miss my flight from IKA to Doha and the subsequent flight to US.
    I could see on the monitors that there were several flights from the time now until my new flight time although all of them were on a different airline than mine. I called NAJ to ask if my ticket could be changed and he said it would not be possible. So I saw the flight I wanted about 1.5 hours later and went to their sales office. First, they couldnt understand why I wanted another ticket when I already had one. My farsi and their english were too awful to understand each other but nevertheless they allowed me to buy 2 tickets. 
    Next problem - I did not have any Iranian Rials on me and the INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT did not have a Money Exchange! So I had to call Ali back to see if he had any rials that he could give me in exchange for dollars. By this time, he was about 20 minutes away so we had to wait for him to come back. In the meanwhile, the Sales Agent agreed to take my dollars at a fairly decent exchange rate. Basically, I bought 2 one-way tickets from Mashad to Tehran for about $100. Just as we finalized the transaction, Ali came back and I had to explain the whole thing to him as well. He, too, was confused as to why I would buy another ticket when I already had one. 
    Anyway, we finally put all that behind us, checked-in and were on our way to Tehran.
    After an uneventful journey to Tehran, we drove all the way to Qum to sepnt about 3-4 hours in Qum at NAJ's house. We freshened up, ate a really nice meal and got ready to leave.
    Day 10 (Fri):
    We left Naj's house around 1am and reached IKA by 215am. Since this was the last or day after Nawruz holidays, the airport was jam packed. It took an hour to check-in, the security lines were considerably shorter so in another 15 minutes, we were at our gate. Boarding started just around fajr, so we prayed quickly and boarded our Qatar Airways flight to Doha.
    I was a bit nervous about returning to the US from Iran but had no problems whatsoever.
    A very placid end to a very hectic but thoroughly enjoyable trip.
    Summary:
    Iranians are a very joyous and happy people. There was no patch of grass where we didn't see a family setting up a picnic be it as a roadside or a courtyard of a shrine. I really wish relations between Iran and the West improves so the people can really experience the rich, colorful and impressive history, geography and culture Iran has to offer.
    Our entire 10 day trip cost about $1,600/pp. It was money well spent.
     
  2. Like
    Marbles reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Spread by the Sword?   
    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
               
                Not only is Islam the second-largest religion in the world, but it is the world’s fastest growing religion. With globalization and the influx of Muslim immigration to the West, many people are reluctantly meeting Muslims for the first time. Fear of the unknown is common, but that fear is constantly perpetuated by images of violence in the Muslim world. As a visible minority with little political leverage, the Muslim community is an easy target for xenophobes, warmongers, and nationalists. The Muslim world is the needed bogeyman for the military-industrial complex, private security companies, and isolationist politicians to thrive. Rather than trying to understand the complex imperial and economic variables that cause violence in the Muslim world, it is both simpler and more cunning to resort to generalized arguments about Islam. This view, however, overlooks the many scientific and philosophical contributions Muslims have made to Western civilization. More importantly, it distorts the reality of the Muslim civilization’s mostly-tolerant history. The centuries-old narrative that Islam was “spread by the sword” is still popular today, and it causes Muslims living in the West to be looked at as a suspicious Trojan horse waiting to Islamize the world. It is therefore necessary for us to deconstruct this worldview. This paper will briefly explore the rise and expansion of Islam, and demonstrate that tolerance and plurality were founding principles of Islamic ethics.
                Since the early days of the Prophet Muhammad’s ministry, Islam’s relationship with non-Muslim communities has been notable. Shortly after the Muslim migration to Medina (then known as Yathrib) in 622 CE, the Prophet drafted the Constitution of Medina. This charter put an end to tribal infighting in Medina, created a new judicial system, guaranteed the mutual protection of Muslims and non-Muslims, and established a new “Community of Believers (mu’mineen)”. (Gil, 2004, pp. 21) This community would include the Jewish tribes of Medina, while still recognizing their distinct identity and laws. Although Bernard Lewis claims that the Constitution of Medina was a unilateral proclamation by Muhammad, (Lewis, 1993, pp. 22) Muslim sources generally referred to it as a pact between the Muslims and the Jews following the two pledges at `Aqaba. Furthermore, Wellhausen, a German orientalist, regarded this charter to be a multilateral agreement negotiated between all of the involved groups. (Gil, 2004, pp. 22)
                The Prophet Muhammad also ratified writs of protection to other communities. The Ashtiname of Muhammad, which was written by `Ali b. Abi Talib upon the commission of Muhammad, granted privileges to the Christian monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. (Ratliff, 2012, pp. 63) The document guarantees that Christians are not to be overtaxed, plundered, disturbed, or coerced into marriages. (Morrow, 2013) These covenants demonstrate that the Prophet pursued a peaceful and tolerant coexistence with other communities, and made his followers accountable to ethical principles of justice.            
    The Prophet Muhammad very plainly stressed the equality of all people, regardless of tribe, colour, class, or ethnicity. While rights differed among subgroups of society, the Islamic civilization held no concept of the natural subordination of individuals or groups. (Hamid, 1982, pp. 127) Conversion to Islam only required a simple declaration of faith, while becoming a member of the ancient Greek polity was only possible for Greek male property owners. (Hamid, 1982, pp. 127)  The egalitarianism of the Quranic message was attractive to many who sought social refuge from the caste system and other forms of subordination. (Eaton, 1992, pp. 117)
    The Caliphate’s medieval conquests, which occurred after the Prophet Muhammad, are the main source of agitation among those suspicious of Muslims. It should be noted that `Ali b. Abi Talib, who is considered the rightful successor to Muhammad by Shia Muslims, refrained from taking part in these conquests, despite being renowned as a great warrior. There should be no doubt that there were incidents that occurred during early expansion that are not in line with the teachings of the Prophet, especially during the ridda wars and the Battle of `Ulays. The Shia Imams consistently held the Caliphate accountable during mistrials and in moments of nepotism; and they struggled to establish social and economic justice in the Muslim world. But, the frame that the Islamic conquests were wholly or mostly negative is a Eurocentric view that does not account for other pieces of the puzzle.
                Many ancient texts document extensive Judeo-Christian support for the Muslim conquests of Byzantium and Persia. Jews in the Levant had expected a redeemer who would deliver them from the Roman occupiers. (Crone, 1977, pp. 3-6) The Romans had destroyed the Jerusalem Temple in 134 CE, outlawed Jews from living within ten miles of Jerusalem, disbanded the Jewish high court, taxed the Jews heavily, and persecuted them for siding with the Persians. This torment ignited a messianic fervour among medieval Jews, leading to a widespread anticipation of a saviour. One of the earliest non-Muslim references to the rise of Islam is the Doctrina Jacobi, a Greek Christian anti-Jewish polemical text written in 634 CE, just two years after the passing of Prophet Muhammad. The text describes “overjoyed” Jews celebrating the Muslim arrival in Byzantium. (Crone, 1977, pp. 3) Moreover, The Secrets of Simon ben Yohai, a Jewish apocalyptic text written between the seventh and eighth centuries CE, tells of the emergence of an Ishmaelite “prophet according to God’s will” who would save the Jewish people from their oppressors. (Crone, 1977, pp. 4-5)
    The Islamic conquest of the Levant would restore Jewish access to Jerusalem and establish a polity that would include Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike. The Pact of Umar II, a writ of protection extended by `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz in the seventh century, promised safety and the right to worship to Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians in exchange for the payment of the poll tax (jizya). (Berger, 2006, pp. 88) While some orientalists have criticized the Pact’s prohibition on riding horses, Muslim clothing and building high structures, these stipulations may have been placed to prevent insurrections against Muslim garrisons, rather than to humiliate or subordinate non-Muslims.
                The Muslim treatment of non-Muslims was similarly commended by Near Eastern Christians. John bar Penkaye, an East Syriac Nestorian writer of the late seventh century, praised the Muslim overthrow of the Sassanid dynasty. In his Summary of World History, he writes, “We should not think of the advent [of the children of Hagar] as something ordinary, but as due to divine working. Before calling them, [God] had prepared them beforehand to hold Christians in honour, thus they also had a special commandment from God concerning our monastic station, that they should hold it in honour … God put victory in their hands.” (Pearse) This early Christian account documents the just conduct of Muslim rulers, likening it to divine intervention. Furthermore, after the Byzantines had seized control of Egypt and put the Coptic Patriarch Benjamin I of Alexandria into exile, the Muslim conquerors restored Benjamin I’s authority and brought order to the affairs of the Coptic Church.
    Many cultures were drawn to Islam’s magnetic social appeal. Indonesia, which is the country with the highest population of Muslims, encountered Arab merchants in the thirteenth century. Along with the arrival of Muslim commercialism, Islamic stories and symbols were introduced to the population through traditional wayang puppet shows. (Hamish, 2011, pp. 46-51) In the Indian subcontinent, Islam provided social mobility to lower castes, giving people equal rights and freeing them from total subservience to the Brahmans. The transformative power of Sufism was also attractive to many Hindus who sought ascetic, mystical brotherhoods. (Lapidus, 1988, pp. 363) Sufi and Shia saints continue to be revered by Hindu and Sikh poets in India.
    Although the Muslim empires had a tumultuous relationship with European Christians over the centuries, sizable Christian and Jewish communities with ancient origins continued to thrive in the Muslim world. Moorish and Ottoman confrontations with Christendom have propelled the misconception that Islam was spread by the sword. The fact is, however, that the conversion of the Near East to Islam occurred very gradually. By 800 CE, only 18% of Iraq’s population was Muslim. (Brown, 2016) Furthermore, Egypt, Spain, and the Levant did not attain a Muslim majority until the eleventh century. (Brown 2016) This means that the Muslims were a minority in the heartlands of their own civilization for hundreds of years. While poll taxes and other social pressures certainly promoted conversion to Islam, ancient churches, synagogues, temples, and other relics were maintained. Judeo-Christian populations even had rights to printing presses and European books in the Ottoman Empire – a privilege rarely granted to Muslims. (Brown, 2016) 14% of the Middle East remained Christian by 1910, with significant populations in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. (Brown, 2016)
    On the other hand, Christendom had a relatively poor record with minorities. Although Iberia was mostly Muslim in the fifteenth century, all Muslims were expelled or forced to convert to Christianity in 1526. (Brown, 2016) In 1609, 3-4% of Spain’s population consisted of Christian descendants of Muslims, who were also expelled under King Philip the Third. Anti-Jewish pogroms were also common in pre and post-Enlightenment European history. While there are many ancient Christian communities in the Muslim world, there are practically no ancient Muslim communities in the Christian world, despite Islam’s long history in Spain, Portugal, Sicily, and Eastern Europe.
                In recent decades, the Muslim world’s relationship with its non-Muslim minority communities has suffered. Colonialism, neo-imperialism, military dictatorships, and poor economies have sometimes caused the alienation and scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities in the Muslim world. In June 2014, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which rose out of the destabilization of Iraq and Syria, routed Christians out of Mosul. This genocide marked the end of over a thousand years of continuous Muslim-Christian coexistence in the region. While ISIL’s actions are a black mark on modern Islamic history, ISIL’s main military and ideological opponents are other Muslims in the region and around the world. This paper demonstrates that normative Islam seeks unity under common ethical principles. It is vital for Muslims to revive an equitable, pluralistic and tolerant worldview, not just because diversity is strength, but because it is the ethos of our civilization.           
     
    Bibliography
    Berger, Julia Phillips., and Sue Parker. Gerson. Teaching Jewish History. Springfield, NJ: A.R.E. Pub., 2006. Print.
    Pearse, John Bar Penkaye, Summary of World History (Rish Melle) (2010). N.p., n.d. Web. 9 July 2016.
    Crone, Patricia, and Michael Cook. Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1977. Print.
    Http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4L23Z_agh1qeV_odQfV6Vg. "Dr. Jonathan AC Brown - The Message of Peace Spread by the Sword - UMaine IAW 2016." YouTube. YouTube, 2016. Web. 9 July 2016.
    Eaton, Richard Maxwell. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760. Berkeley: U of California, 1993. Print.
    Gil, Moshe, and David Strassler. Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Print.
    Harnish, David D., and Anne K. Rasmussen. Divine Inspirations: Music and Islam in Indonesia. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.
    Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print
    Lewis, Bernard. The Arabs in History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993. Print.
    Morrow, John A. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
    Ratliff, Brandie, and Helen C. Evans. Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th-9th Century. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. Print.
    ʻInāyat, Ḥamīd. Modern Islamic Political Thought. Austin: U of Texas, 1982. Print.
  3. Like
    Marbles reacted to Haji 2003 for a blog entry, Reconfiguring Happy   
    I thought I’d put this together based on the discussion in laith’s spirituality thread.
    The issue of happiness arose because striving for spirituality can involve lifestyle changes and I think a barrier to that can be a feeling that such a lifestyle will diminish one’s enjoyment of life.
    Which leads us to wondering what it means to be happy and whether that can be changed.
    Looking around me I see all sorts of people doing very different things and many of them at least claim to be happy. There’s the uncle who is not rich in any financial sense, but who spends entire days in Pakistan playing golf. There’s the barrister cousin who’s forever preparing for a very important court case or my mum who’ll cook for a hundred ladies for a majlis at our home.
    In each instance, as I see it, these people have configured what it is that will make them happy and then gone about achieving it. In each instance what’s really smart is that they’ve configured happy in such a way that it is stretching but also actually achievable.
    Achievable in the sense that given the environment and circumstances that they have and about which we can often do little, they’ve taken charge of those things which they can control, defined what happiness means on the basis of these and constructed it in such a way that they can get it. Stretching is also important because without it there can be no sense of achievement.
    Most importantly, in each instance I can see that while they are happy there’ll be other people who can just as easily see that this is not the lifestyle that would make them happy. I would go mad if my daily routine involved taking a stick and repeatedly hitting into a small hole an even smaller ball. 
    Some of that definition of happiness depends on the meanings that we attach to things. I’ve explained what golf means to me. But for my uncle there’s clearly a sense of physical achievement, there’s the sportsman’s image he has of himself that’s reinforced and there are the meanings he associates with golf as an exclusive sport. For my mother the meanings are associated with the religious symbols, the wajib, the mustahab, the sawab and so on.
    In each instance there’s also the social kudos. My uncle gets to meet the ‘higher-ups’ in Pakistani society and the approval of this social network is obviously important. The same goes for my mum. I wind her up by saying that I don’t see much difference between what motivates her and the Hindu and Sikh women I come across who put in a lot of effort to cook the meals at their local temples to win the appreciation of their social circles. 
    In each instance happiness has been configured in such a way that there’s an easily accessible social network of people who will appreciate what the individual can do. My mum’s social network of Shia ladies has developed organically over decades. My uncle’s social network was acquired when he left the UK and moved to Pakistan, joined the local golf club and impressed them with his skill.
    Social networks are important because happiness is often co-created with the people around us. Those symbols and meanings often only really work when there is someone to share them with. Someone who can understand what they mean and what their significance is and with whom it’s possible to have a conversation about that shared interest and indeed to develop it.
    Of course you can have symbols that have meaning only for you and where there may be no one else to share them with, but then the inner satisfaction will have to suffice. Many years ago I met Yousuf Karsh and I have an autographed book of his photos, but that name means nothing to anyone else that I know, but the knowledge of having met him gives me an inner glow. Sometimes there may be no symbols at all and also no-one else to share them with, I know of fairly anonymous investors who make lots of money and they’re quite happy with the anonymity or alternatively there are academics who have a lot of professional recognition, but much less money.
    Yaani it’s L’Oreal and Wallahi you’re worth it
    SoSolidShia who has since left Shiachat, (or was he banned?) used to have that as part of his avatar and I always thought it was quite clever. But it does remind us of how the messages we see every day remind us that thinking of the self is justified and that there is a cause and effect relationship between spending money and being happy.
    Of course, there isn’t but many people are taken in by it. Is there a magic pill? If there is one the effects are only short-term before you need to spend again in order to get the next high.
    To take the example of another type of product, what was initially presented as an occasional treat because of its high calorific value or sugar content, is promoted in such a way that it becomes part of our regular consumption and happy is replaced by habit and the company behind it has a bigger share of our wallet, which was always the intention.
    When we buy happy then, it has to be on an irregular basis for it to keep delivering happiness.
    Can buying happiness ever really pay off? When its consumption isn’t easy, when it requires some prior effort or engagement I think it can.
    I remember spending hours sitting in theatres watching live performances of Shakespearean and other Jacobean plays. I am pretty sure there were more entertaining things to do for a sixteen-year-old. But it was very worthy. Certainly it wasn’t as much fun as the latest Hollywood blockbuster and obviously, it wasn’t as accessible. But it did make the study of English literature easier and yes, after a fashion it was actually enjoyable, especially when you knew the script and could decode the jokes. The prior study increased the enjoyment. Years later I can still remember some performances, but I can't remember any movies I watched at the time. So there's the added payoff of happy memories.
    Something else that occupied my teenage years and was immensely fun was wet processing photographic film and photos. It was an interesting combination of art and science. I think all the people who have hobbies can understand. The people whose entertainment is mainly passive, such as watching television, might not.
    The funny thing though is that the people with the hobbies may not necessarily be doing them to achieve happiness, it just happens as a by-product. In contrast, the people who switch on the television are chasing after happiness and yet when they find it, it’s likely to be more transient than for those people who just happened upon it.
    There are two types of people today, those who create content and those who consume it. I think the creators are happier than the consumers.
    And where there is an effort in achieving happy I think there is also the likelihood of satiety, the feeling of fulfillment and the need to do something else. In contrast, where the consumption of happiness is easy, where it is simply bought and passively consumed, the lack of satiety means that overconsumption is possible.  We see some people watching inordinate amounts of television, we see increasing levels of obesity and rising levels of debt as people eat and buy themselves happy.
    Happy about what?
    I remember playing with car racing sets as a kid. It was never a satisfactory experience. One car in the set would always be intrinsically faster than the other, you could predict who would win the race depending on what car they had.
    There was clearly a difference between what those, admittedly cheap, sets could deliver and what my expectations were. Expectations that are higher than what we can realistically receive will always end in disappointment. Happy people have their expectations met or exceeded. But setting expectations that are too low may lead to people serially taking advantage of you since you never complain.
    What’s the solution here?
    It’s a question of differentiating between what matters and what does not. And even, more importantly, it’s a matter of assessing whether the people we are dealing with can actually deliver what they promise.
    Too often we are willing to suspend disbelief, take people at their word and believe their promises. They patently cannot deliver, but we refuse to believe that, sometimes this is because of our own ignorance or greed. The possible gain seems so attractive that we fall for the lie. Conmen do this all the time. Often what is at stake is either money or love because in both areas we really find it difficult to behave rationally. The Nigerian 419 scam goes for people who believe that you can get large sums of money easily and men from various developing countries make promises of love to older, richer single white women in the West via the internet, which usually involves a trip to the local branch of western union. These are extreme examples, but it happens to a lesser extent for different products and services all the time.
    Then there’s the issue of differentiating between what matters and what does not. Life is too short, you cannot complain about everything. Indeed, it may well be the case that you took someone at their word, perhaps even knowing that they could not and would not deliver everything that they promised, but you knew deep down that this did not really matter, but you were confident that what you really were interested in would actually be delivered.
    In my opinion, this marks the difference between two types of people who go on the hajj. The knowledgeable ones know what constitutes for a good hajj, where you were guided correctly by the alim with you and where the requirements were fulfilled correctly. These people also know what questions to ask different hajj organisers in order to ensure that their expectations about the fulfilment of their obligations are met. They can hear the promises about the hotel, but they know deep down that whether or not these are fulfilled, does not really matter.
    On the other hand, there are people who may not really know what their religious obligations are. These are the people who lose focus and are the ones who are unhappy about not getting enough food at Mina, the waiting around and the quality of the hotel. Not only are they unhappy but they are unhappy about the wrong things and perhaps even happy at the wrong things as well!
    Reconfiguring happy then, is a matter of being clear what we should be happy about, ensuring that we get that and not worrying when other promises that people make are not delivered.
    The disappointment of loss
     Too often people set expectations about what it is that will make them happy that is either unachievable or costly in a variety of other ways. The trick perhaps is to focus on what we can directly achieve by ourselves with the minimum of resources. It’s being able to do what is costless better than before and deriving satisfaction from it. And the only costless activity, over which we have complete control, in my opinion, is prayer.
     At the same time, it’s not a matter of eschewing or rejecting what the world has to offer. Rather it’s the ability to be happy if you have the material goods but not disappointed if you don’t. It’s being able to walk away dispassionately in the face of material loss. I'll deal with the latter issue in this post.
    Equanimity in the face of loss takes practice.
    The practice comes from giving charity. Each time we do it, we cut our bonds from the material, so that when losses occur as a result of circumstances over which we have no control they affect us less and we do not suffer unhappiness.
    Psychologically humans hate incurring losses. It’s part of our DNA. Nobel prize winning research has shown this. We do all sorts of crazy things in order to avoid losses. Give someone the option of paying $1.30 for a gallon of gas and receiving a $0.10 rebate if they pay by cash or instead paying $1.20 by credit card and incurring a $0.20 surcharge and they’ll always go for the $1.30 option. The cash buyers will do it for obvious reasons and the people paying by credit card will do it as well because paying the $1.30 as a default option is far less psychologically painful than seeing a base price of $1.20 and then realising that choosing to pay by credit card will involve incurring an additional $0.20.
    There have been a number of other studies along similar lines, all demonstrating that we will often engage in irrational actions to avoid losses. I’ve previously linked to a lecture given by Robert Shiller at Princeton where he refers to people taking out (really bad value) insurance policies for individual flights in order not to incur a loss.
    Another often quoted example in this area is to do with how much value we attach to things we own. Experiments show that if people own something they’ll ascribe a higher value to it than other people who do not. 
    Giving to charity then or detaching ourselves from what we own, is difficult for humans. It is part of the human condition. And yet IIRC the Qur’an mentions charity every time it mentions prayer.
    I think it works in a number of different ways. I’ve outlined one and another that comes to mind is my view that the Qur’an is recognising that wherever someone has gains (on which charity can be paid), they will invariably at some point suffer a loss. When people who have had gains give some of them away as charity when the invariable losses do happen, they will, at least, have the comfort in knowing that while they had it, they spent it on assets for the akhira.
    Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
     A discussion about achievements in life or the lack of them in the Thoughts threads reminded me of this.
     We often think about what we could have done, would have done or should have done. This can become a maudlin exercise full of regrets and unhappy thoughts.
     Often such thinking can lead to issues about what we’ll do now to address this and I wonder whether the options discussed are always advisable.
     Just because we did not do a certain degree 15 years ago, does that mean we’ll be any better off or happier doing it now? The world when the decision was taken not to do the degree or when the opportunity was missed, was a different world to the one we are in now. The benefits of that degree may well have changed. The costs of doing it now may well be different to what they would have been in the past, so the value of the whole exercise may be different as well.
     In hankering after what could have been and in trying to get it back we could be losing focus on what else we could be achieving now in the time that we have left that may offer greater value.
     The whole process of looking backwards is one that assumes we are now older than we were before. As we get older the reduction in the time that we have left becomes more acute – the focus now really has to be on what really matters.
     So as we get older the very process of worrying about previously missed material gains and losses may actually compound the problem rather than make it better. The goals have to be different now.
     The benefit that age brings is that older people can compare the achievements and mistakes of people that they have known over a long period of time. Young people cannot do this. They can be told about it, but personal experience often has more resonance.
     Older people can see where their peers started, what they did in terms of materialistic and spiritual activities and observe where they have ended up. That longitudinal perspective is one whose benefit you don’t have if you are young.
      In the final calculation when you start attending the funerals of people you have known for a long-time, you realise how futile material achievements are, especially at the margins. If an individual has acquired enough material success to have been self-sustaining (including any family) surely any assessments of success and failure over the life led thus far need to be in terms of spiritual and moral mistakes and future rectifications?
    Thought of in this way, reflections about the past become an intensely productive, positive and indeed happy activity. Because whatever happened in the past that enabled us to arrive at a destination where there is a realisation (niyat) that rectification is necessary, surely that has been a positive result? 
    These are the only changes that I can think of which are not rendered irrelevant by changing circumstances in the same way as the ones I mentioned at the start of this post.
  4. Like
    Marbles reacted to ireallywannaknow for a blog entry, Intro & First 3 Coloring Pages   
    Bismillah
    Assalaamu alaikum
    One day I was in the store, and while my husband was taking his time picking a birthday card for someone, a nearby bookshelf piqued my interest. I glanced over it--mostly cheesy-looking teen romance novels. But there were also quite a lot of children's coloring books for sale. I thumbed through some of the coloring books. Disney princesses galore. And then the idea struck. Why don't I make a Muslim coloring book so that Muslim parents options aren't limited to scantily clad princesses and other non-Muslim characters when buying coloring books for their kids?
    So I began. 
    InshaAllah my goal is to have a completed book by the end of next summer (20-25 pages). In the meantime I am selling individual page downloads as I complete them. 
    I've created this blog so that I can have feedback, advice, suggestions, etc. And of course, shameless self-promotion  I haven't done any other promotion yet--I wanted to start here on Shiachat because it's more comfortable and I can get some advice. InshaAllah later when I have more pages, I can start branching off to more social media outlets. 


     
    Download here
  5. Like
    Marbles reacted to Haji 2003 for a blog entry, My blogs   
    Given the loss of my blogs here, I've had to come up with a more 'reliable' location. So from here on they'll be published here:
    contemporaniablog.wordpress.com
  6. Like
    Marbles reacted to repenter-gone4awhile for a blog entry, Week 2 - Supersets from hell   
    So week 1 finished. Eating all this food was quite the joy. And also painful at times. I will continue to eat as i have, with some variations, changing steak with chicken, fish with shrimp etc. For week 2 i will switch up the workouts a little.

    Results from Week 1:
    Body info:
    Weight: 91kg
    Lifts Max:
    Bench: 127kg Deadlift: 185kg Squat: still 150kg Increased strength all over, specially back and shoulders seem to be a lot stronger. I will try to focus more on legs this week by killing them with supersets and partials.


    Changes for Week 2
    Mondays will now include legs as well which looks something like this:

    Superset 1: Squats + Leg Press > 4 sets of 8/8/6/6 reps
    Superset 2: Leg Extensions + Walking lunges > 4 sets of 12/10/8/6 reps
    Superset 3: Romanian deadlift + Leg curls > 4 sets of 12/10/8/6 reps
    Calves: Calf raises > 4 sets to failure

    Goal: Squat 155kg by the end of 3rd week

     
  7. Like
    Marbles reacted to repenter-gone4awhile for a blog entry, Week 1   
    General Info: 
    Body info:
    Height: 182cm Weight: 90kg
    Lifts max:
    Bench: 125kg max Deadlift: 180kg max Squat: 150kg max
    Nutrition structure:
    7 am Breakfast
    Protein shake > 60g protein, 10g BCAA, 14g of Glutamine, 110kcal Rice porridge(300g) > 10g protein, 36g carbs, 264kcal 4 egg omlette > 28g protein, 22g fat, 310kcal
    9 am Snack
    1 Banana > 27g carbs, 125kcal walnuts(150g) > 28g protein, 5g carbs, 102g fat, 1050kcal
    11 am Lunch
    Tuna in oil(100g) > 25g protein, 4g fat, 130kcal Protein shake > 60g protein, 10g BCAA, 14g of Glutamine, 110kcal Fullcorn bread(200g) > 36g protein, 42g carbs, 19g fat, 516kcal
    1 pm Snack
    1 Banana > 27g carbs, 125kcal walnuts(150g) > 28g protein, 5g carbs, 102g fat, 1050kcal
    4 pm pre workout
    1 large steak(250g) > 56g protein, 263kcal Rice wild(150g) > 12g protein, 109g carbs, 516kcal Broccoli(200) > 6.4g protein, 5g carbs, 60kcal
    Post workout
    Protein shake > 60g protein, 10g BCAA, 14g of Glutamine, 110kcal 1 Banana > 27g carbs, 125kcal walnuts(150g) > 28g protein, 5g carbs, 102g fat, 1050kcal
    6pm dinner
    1 large steak(250g) > 56g protein, 263kcal Rice wild(150g) > 12g protein, 109g carbs, 516kcal Broccoli(200) > 6.4g protein, 5g carbs, 60kcal 8 pm Snack
    1 Banana > 27g carbs, 125kcal walnuts(150g) > 28g protein, 5g carbs, 102g fat, 1050kcal 11 pm Night meal
    Rice porridge(300g) > 10g protein, 36g carbs, 264kcal 4 egg omlette > 28g protein, 22g fat, 310kcal Glutamine 5g, Creatine 10g, Multivitamines, 2 spoons of omega 3 and 6 oils  Total Values:
    Protein: 531.4g
    Carbs: 470g
    Fat: 400g
    Calories: 6500kcal

    Workout Routine:
    Morning before breakfast:
    250 crunches
    250 legraises

    Weightlifting around 5pm
    Day 1: Chest and Biceps Day 2: Shoulders and Traps Day 3: Upper back and Triceps Day 4: Rest Day 5: Lower back and legs Day 6: Triceps and Biceps Day 7: Repeat day 1 Structure:
    6 exercises on each body part mentioned, all in super sets. Meaning when you are done with exercise 1 you immediately do exercise 2. Except Bench-press, dead-lift and squats which are done in normal sets as they are core movements and needs fulls strength and focus. 
    Buildup for each exercise is split pyramid with 4 sets of 12/10/8/6 reps. The lower the rep the heaver the weight gets. 

    Example - Benchpress
    Set 1: 110kg 12 reps
    60 seconds break
    Set 2: 115kg 10 reps
    60 seconds break
    Set 3: 120kg 8 reps
    60 seconds break
    Set 4: 125kg 6 reps

    Example superset Biceps:
    Dumbell curls + Zbar curl
    Set 1: 6 reps DC 6 reps Zbar
    60 seconds break
    Set 2: 5 reps DC 5 reps Zbar
    60 seconds break
    Set 3: 4 reps DC 4 reps Zbar
    60 seconds break
    Set 4: 3 reps DC 3 reps Zbar


      
  8. Like
    Marbles reacted to Ruq for a blog entry, Before bear became wavey   
    Wavey bear started life as a stationary, standing bear. His first words were somewhat anti-social

    He experienced some conflict of identity at first

    The stress of being a bear in a signature on Shia Chat would also cause him to morph into other bear sub-species

     
    After a shaky start he settled into his role and started to become more friendly

    Little did he know of the drama that was about to ensue. The forum under went an update and wavey bear disappeared! members were informed that a new restriction on signature size was in place and wavey bear was too tall to remain. So, being a bear, he naturally adapted
     

     
    and continued to bestow felicitations
     

    and generally get quite cosy.

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