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May 5th, 2015

“So let humanity look at their food…” (80.24)

I had a simple breakfast: a piece of toast with cream cheese and honey, a banana, and a cup of coffee with milk. But the story of my meal spans two continents.

The bread – a basic white bread produced by Whole Foods – is made primarily from wheat. I don’t know where the wheat comes from, perhaps the Midwest. But God made it: “How we poured down water in torrents, then we broke open the earth, splitting it [with sprouts], and caused to grow within it grain.” (80:25-27)

The cream cheese – a small tub of Philadelphia brand – is made primarily from milk. I don’t know where the milk is from, perhaps from the East Coast. But again, God made it: “Do they not see that We have created for them from what Our hands made, grazing livestock, and they are their owners? And We have tamed them for them, so some of them they ride, and some of them they eat. And for them therein are other benefits and drinks, so will they not be grateful?” (36:71-73)

The honey is from Montauk, the town farthest out on the tip of Long Island. Guess who made it? That’s right – God. “And your Lord inspired the bee, saying, ‘Build yourselves houses in the mountains and trees and what people construct. Then feed on all kinds of fruit and follow the ways made easy for you by your Lord.’ From their bellies comes a drink of different colours in which there is healing for people. There truly is a sign in this for those who think.” (16:68-69)

Assuming all of that was from North America, let us turn to Central and South America, where the production of commodities for consumption by North America has had a profound effect of the structure of society. Equal Exchange, the company from which I bought the coffee beans, recounts the history of coffee production in Guatemala in no uncertain terms. Drinking coffee from Guatemala in New York City reminds one of the verse of Qur’an: “God presents the example of a town that was secure and at ease, with provisions coming to it abundantly from all places. Then it became ungrateful for God’s blessings, so God afflicted it with the garment of famine and fear, for what its people had done.” (16:112)

Next to Ecuador, where my banana was from. Ecuador produces more bananas than anywhere else in the world. Most are produced on large plantations, but I ate one that comes from a small cooperative also connected to Equal Exchange. In English we have coined the term “Banana Republic” to refer to a country whose political system has been manipulated by American fruit corporations (Dole, Del Monte, etc.). The more that workers on massive banana plantations want fair wages, the higher prices that Walmart has to pay for the millions of bananas it purchases, which means less profit for shareholders. So companies do what they can to keep production costs down.

I hope that my coffee, bananas, and honey have no injustice in them. The story is often told of how Imam al-Nawawi (d. 1277) would not eat the fruits of Damascus because he was worried that the land on which they were grown was perhaps acquired or cultivated improperly. I have tried to follow his lead. But I don’t know where the wheat or milk I consumed was made. Perhaps the wheat was grown on land stolen from Native Americans through a broken treaty. Perhaps the cows that produced the milk I drank were kept in terrible conditions. It is things like this that make me fear God, for God is Just (al-‘Adl). He could ask me about it, and what would be my response? “I was too busy to look into it,” doesn’t seem like a good response to prepare for the Last Day. My breakfast was a lot fancier than many of the breakfasts of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him and his family. If anyone deserved a nice breakfast, it was him. And yet, God reminded him, “Then you will be asked that Day about the pleasures you enjoyed.” (102.8)

May God allow us to be more just in our usage of that which He has granted us, and may He forgive us for the evil we perpetuate in the world, and may He increase us in awareness of the myriad blessings that He bestows upon us every day, ameen.

People talk way too much about what they are against, or about what people shouldn’t do. That strikes me as a weird way to be, whether from a secular or religious perspective. Life is short, so it seems better to make the most of what we are given. With that in mind, here is my list of the top 20 things to do before we die!

  1. Read the Qur’an
  2. Read the biography of the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him and his family
  3. Pray 5 times a day
  4. Fast Ramadan
  5. Pay Zakat
  6. Make Hajj
  7. Say Subhan Allah regularly
  8. Say Alhamdulillah regularly
  9. Say La ilaha ill Allah regularly
  10. Say Allahu akbar regularly
  11. Say salawat on the Prophet and his family regularly, blessings and peace upon them
  12. Make istighfar regularly
  13. Pray some extra prayers
  14. Fast some extra fasts
  15. Give some sadaqa
  16. Make umrah
  17. Do something nice for your parents, grandparents, children, aunts/uncles, siblings, cousins, and nieces/nephews
  18. Do something you have to do and know to be right, even if it is hard and causes you pain in the process
  19. Make regular du’a for people you will never meet and never benefit from in this life (all the citizens of El Salvador, for example)
  20. Ask God to make you from those who are sincere (mukhlisun), and to accept whatever you did of #1-19 by means of Divine Mercy.

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On Ziyara

I have been blessed to make ziyara to the graves of many righteous Muslims. Ziyara is an act of worship which both Sunni and Shi’i ‘ulama agree brings spiritual benefit and openings. The only dissenters are people like ISIS, who instead of asking God to bless them in the presence of the righteous, would prefer to detonate explosives.

I have visited the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him and his family), as well as the first three caliphs who are also buried in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. But I have yet to visit the fourth caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib, in Najaf, Iraq. It is my firm intention, relying upon Allah, to make ziyara to him.

In a time when men with guns openly proclaim their intention to destroy the tomb of Ali, as well as to massacre Muslims who believe in the efficacy of doing ziyara to him, this post is a public act of defiance. I have changed the pictures on this blog and on my related Twitter account to continuously remind me of Najaf until the time comes when Allah blesses me to walk upon its soil.

Ali ibn Abi Talib is unanimously agreed upon by both Sunni and Shi’i ‘ulama to be one of the denizens of Paradise, and an example to be followed. They agree that the Prophet said about him, “Whoever has me as his master, then so too is Ali his master,” although they differ on the interpretation of its meaning. From Ali come the spiritual lineages of all the Sufi communities except one. And so he is not a divisive figure, as some would have it. He is a actually a centralizing figure whose depth is so great that from him hundreds of millions draw inspiration, guidance, and spiritual unveiling.

So the ziyara to Najaf is the heritage of the entire Ummah of Muhammad, may blessings and peace be upon him and his family. And at a time when there are people who want to completely destroy this heritage, it is important to state so boldly and loudly.

May Allah accept this from me, count it amongst the righteous deeds I have done for His sake, bring benefit to humanity through it, correct my mistakes, forgive my sins, and guide me to the path of righteous, ameen.

sobriety does not suit me

i am drunk on reflections of You

faces filled with seeking’s agony

words laced with hope’s sweetness

each carrying traces of You

Eternal Refuge of the love lorn

Universally Sought of the yearning heart

to this one…give!

to that one…give!

to all…give give give!

what role do i play in the fulfillment of anyone’s request

– You fulfill them all from a spaceless space filled with Your provision! –

ya Kareem ya Kareem ya Kareem

i want to run through the streets of this city tonight

screaming Your name

ya Wahhab ya Wahhab ya Wahhab

come to the feast of hearts!

come to the banquet of souls!

come to the bed laid out with roses for every longing!

there is no fear nor grief

only Love’s enchanting inebriation

nurtured by the warm glow of salawat’s Grace

amidst a banquet of seekers

with secret truths

shining forth from honored hearts

with the slightest space

for la ilaha ill Allah

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how could i ever get my fill of speaking to You

You know me better than anyone else

You understand every tear i have ever shed

You are the only refuge from my greatest fears

You are You

Merciful You

Majestic You

i feel You in my fingertips

delicate and gentle decrees

manifest in this world of form

but i know that i will answer for the words i type

i

am

the

one

who

types

but i could have erased that

but i didn’t

still, i could erase it

but i won’t

the liminal space between You and me

but the truth is

i want whatever is me that keeps me from You

to wither away

to fade

to dissolve

until You are the fingertip with which i type

الله

i feel so helpless

i feel so weak

i am swimming in Your good grace

indebted recipient

of the eyes that allow me to see these words on the screen

and the hands that do what my brain tells them to do

flurblat!!!

my brain just told my hands to type that

schmikameroo!!!

there it goes again

a brain that You built

in a momentless moment with You

that to us seems like 14 billion years

الله

with You

i am already in paradise

or hell

only You know

ya Rahman ya Raheem ya Salam ya Rafi’ ya Mu’izz ya Kareem ya Wahhab ya Samad ya Ahad ya Ra’uf ya Ghafur ya Ghaffar

make it paradise

that is the only option

and You are the only Chooser

and so choose me for paradise

so that i can unfold in time that which is already in your pre-eternal decree

ya Qahhar ya Jabbar ya fa’al li ma yureed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i

robert david coolidge

the composite of chemicals

neurons firing

am utterly Your slave

what basis is there for self-centered pride

in a form that was fashioned purely by You

let my words be glorification of You

praise of You

for it is all about You

the One who brings the cold down upon New York City

the One who puts the flavor in my crunchy cereal

the One who i believe will resurrect Deah, Yusor, and Razan

the One who put the light yellows and oranges into the twilight clouds

the One who has already created Hell

and warned us of its existence

in the book revealed

on the tongue of Your messenger

may Your peace and blessings be upon him and his family

and preserved it for 1400 years

in the hearts of millions of women and men

so that it could reach these ears that You created

to hear Your speech breathed into history

and terrify me

for oblivion is sweet

when compared with the tree of Zaqqum

New York Winter Night - East Village Snow-XL

yā Zayn al-‘Ābidīn

I believe you are alive in the barzakh

and perhaps Allah will permit you to know these words

I am approaching you through two books

one conveys words of prayer attributed to you

the other conveys a wealth of information about you

I am not learned enough to judge the authenticity of anything attributed to you

I am dependent on Dr. Chittick and Shaykh al-Qarashī (Allah grant them entrance into Jannah!)

but it is the best I have access to right now

it is the means that Allah has given me to know something about you

and through them I feel myself falling in love with you

What would I pay to be able to see you inside the tent at Karbalā’ with my own eyes?!

What would I give to hear you speak in the court of Yazīd with my own ears?!

What would I do in order to be present at your return to Madīna with my own body?!

But I cannot

Even if I had all the wealth of the Earth

I am trapped in this time – 1436

I am trapped in this place – New York City

and all I have is my God-given imagination to form an image of you

and the blessing of my mind to perceive the beauty of the words attributed to you

and the secret of my heart to tremble at the thought of sitting next to you

learning from you

asking for your du‘ā

serving you for the love of your father

your grandfather

and your great grandfather (O Allah, bless him and his family!)

so that through you

I might know my Lord better

just as your collected prayers have taught me so much already

you are the light in the darkness for all those who have suffered

those who have witnessed tragedies

the Imam of the degraded

the one who lets us know through station, deed and word

that nothing in this world can strip us of the dignity that Allah placed within us

and get between us and the Most Merciful

the One who rules beyond time

and through time

and in time

and after time

and before time

and has prepared that which no eye has ever seen

no ear has ever heard

and nothing that we have ever conceived

to wipe away every tear

console every heart

uplift every soul

with manifestations of Mercy untold

so let me be one of your students and servants

let me be somehow

someway

connected to you in the most real of ways

by the permission of the Lord for whom I feel what I feel

the Lord who permitted me a glimpse of who you are

the Lord who decrees all things

such as this moment of longing and patience

at the barrier between my self and your majlis

yā Fattāḥ I can do nothing but what You decree

and am seeking You with the means that You have given me

so please bless Muhammad and his family

and forgive this simple boy with his books

for the lack of adab in his dreams

āmīn

I humbly request the reader to make a du’a for me

that Allah bless me with a true connection for His sake

to al-Sajjād ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn Zayn al-‘Ābidīn

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fathers and sons

yā Allāh yā Qahhār yā Jabbār yā Qawī

I am terrified at this moment.

You know that I have been a Muslim for 16 years

and I have tried to prepare myself to be a father

who could raise a righteous child.

I thought I was ready

but now I am not so sure.

For if Mu‘āwiya b. Abī Ṣufyān

and S‘ad b. Abī Waqqāṣ

were not able to raise their sons Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiya and ‘Umar b. S‘ad

to stay their hands from shedding so much sacred blood

then what hope is there for me?!

I want my son to love and honor al-Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī

the beloved of Your beloved

and his son ‘Alī al-Akbar

so where shall I find that tawfīq?!

I can only come as a beggar to Your Door

weeping and pleading

for You to grant my son what You granted to al-Ḥurr al-Riyāḥī

for through his story I now know more deeply

that You alone guide whom You will.

yā Hādī yā Karīm yā Wadūd yā Allāh

Obliterate the misguidance that comes from me

and replace it with the Guidance that comes only from You

and save my son and I from the punishment of the Fire.

Allāhumma ṣalli ‘alā Muhammadin wa ālihi wa sallim

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