Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Shariah Program VS Sunnipath Miftah Curriculum

I’ve been a student of the Toronto Shariah Program for a year and half now (online as well), and currently, I’m a teaching assistant to the summer course- Introductory Arabic on SunniPath. A lot of people have asked my advice on which is better, and all I can say is, I love both the courses!

Below is a table highlighting the similarities and differences:

Shariah Program

SunniPath Miftah Curriculum


Right from the beginning the Arabic and English terms are used interchangeably. So, you would know that ism ishara is demonstrative pronoun in English, and such. If you are a grammar person, being able to match the English and Arabic terms is helpful. But if you're not a grammar person, then you might take some time to get used to all the terms.

My first impression of the terminology was: This is weird. Passive is called doer-less form, masdars are called verbal noun, moreover, the raf, nasb and jar states go by R-, N- and J-states. There is no exposure to the terms in Arabic, and definitely no linking to the English grammar terms. This is probably good because there isn't a one-to-one match in grammar: Passive in Arabic is slightly different from that in English

Structure and Methodology

There is a pseudo-syllabus, and the instructor’s style is to introduce advanced concepts from the beginning, but not explain them formally until much later. I have to point something out: The instructor of this program has a very unique style that stimulates your mind. Often, he will bring examples from the Qur’an, Arabic poetry, and other grammar books. The very constructions are very interesting. The course goes fast, but with continuous repetitions.

Weekly lessons are concise, and there are lots and lots of slides. There are weekly tutorials that answer any questions the students have, and do further practice. Advanced concepts are “simplified”, and then later introduced as is (there’s an ‘unlearning’ feature). The course goes a bit slow, and the weekly assignments will keep you quite busy.


The total course time with the instructor is: 3 hours each on the weekend days, and 1.5 hour in the middle of the week.

2 half an hour each/week pre-recorded lessons by the instructor and 2.5 hour tutorial with the tutorial teacher


Check the website. The instructor has a unique style of teaching that doesn’t involve any grammar book for the first 8 months. After that, the grammar is repeated from a book called Hidayatun Nahw. No dictionary.

Check the website. The instructor has a unique style of teaching that doesn’t involve any grammar book. Use of the Hans Wehr dictionary is encouraged.


One instructor

Instructor, tutorial teacher, teaching assistant


Vocabulary is derived from the Stories of the Prophets (children’s version). The book is read in class word for word, and often, a sentence is pulled out for word-by-word analysis.

Vocabulary is derived from various passages on day to day activities/stories. A list of vocabulary words is provided. Each passage has application of the lesson of the corresponding week.


Once a week the students have a chance to recite the verb tables, which is great practice. Students are encouraged to recite with speed and from memory. Since the lessons are live, you can clarify concepts as you listen.

In the introductory Arabic course, there are weekly (1 or 2) assignments based on the lessons, so they make sure you learn as you go.

Since the lessons are pre-recorded, you only get to ask questions in the tutorial, once a week.


There’s an exam once in 4/5 months.

Test every 4 weeks, and weekly tutorial attendance.


Students can test their knowledge best by answering questions in class. Low grades don’t deter you from continuing.

Students receive feedback on their weekly assignments. If students do not meet the minimum, they can’t next the next course and are required to repeat it.


The program runs for 2 years in one go.

Courses are 3.5 months each, and repeated most semesters.


Paltalk [with audio video streaming], and online powerpoint conferencing. All lectures are recorded and free for download anytime.

SunniPath’s e-learning system that includes: audio, video, slides streaming, recordings, discussion forum [accessible for 2 semesters only]

Assignments require typing in Arabic (a pain for some)

Please note that the information provided does not cover the syllabus in detail. If you want to know what both the courses cover, you have to visit their websites.
You can download a PDF of this table here [It may differ from the table above.

Extreme weather brings flood chaos round the world

People in countries across the world, from China to India and Sudan to Indonesia, are coping with severe wet weather, highlighting the position of flooding as the most deadly of all natural disasters.
While single events cannot be linked to climate change, the flooding come as research suggests that global warming will increase rainfall in some parts of the world, including the Indian monsoon, and increase the number of hurricanes – both due increased evaporation in a warmer world.
One person in 10 worldwide, including one in eight city-dwellers, lives less than 10 metres above sea-level and near the coast. This is an "at-risk zone" for flooding and stronger storms exacerbated by climate change, a recent study found.

Read more.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Early this year I was heavily involved in the planning of a conference in Ottawa. My responsibilities included (but not limited to) global marketing of the conference. As such, I was in correspondance with a certain businessman from a war-struck country, who really wanted to attend the conference to leverage business deals, and expand his business and network. Through our email communication, I found him to be a very spirited, generous and determined man. He was working on getting visas for a group of people. People in my team were skeptical about his intentions.. "they just want to get the visa to come here". [And we did receive emails from a lot of people wanting to get letters to apply for visas. I handled each and every single case] I'm a cautious person, but I give everyone a chance.
The nearest Canadian embassy couldn't issue them the visa, and they were told to get it from another country.

His last email on the visa issue (below) made me very sad. it's been so many months, but I can't forget- how is it is for us, and how difficult it is for them...

Dear Humairah,

How are you doing i hope every thing well with you .
i am regreting to inform you that we won't be able to participate in the conference because there is no way for us to reach country that would issue visa [edited] by this time arround , they reject our permition demand to inter and that for security resons.
i am really confused and feeling very saad, i wanted to attend this conference because i am aware of the benefit i will get from there.

but that what allah want , and that use to country name [edited] all the time , ( reject& refused) .

thanks allot for all what you did and you high cooperation.

please accept my special saluts and respects.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

A bit on who really built this country

The world is all too familiar with craze around the spectacular development in UAE, specifically in Dubai. People talk about "walking on the streets barefeet", "streets being made of gold", and what not. A lot of it is not just myth. The rulers of UAE have been pushing for innovative, record-breaking, near-perfection designs in everything the contractors build. The country has extremely high levels of fine on littering. People living in high-rise buildings aren't allowed to "hang their clothes outside to dry" because it spoils the view of the city.

Behind all this glamour is the sad reality of the down-trodden, overworked, badly paid labour class. Cheap labour that UAE gets from countries like Phillipines, India, Pakistan, and other places.

In Al Ain, it's all too common to notice every Arab family has a maid accompanying them- either holding the groceries, carrying a child or pushing the shopping cart. Sometimes, if the Arab man goes shopping alone, the maid accompanies him too. I see this as modern day slavery, which human rights commissions across the Middle East have been condemning.
And here is where the awfully structured Kafala System come in.

What is the Kafala System?
Basically, the sponsorship system means that expatriate workers can only enter, work, and leave certain countries with the assistance or explicit permission of their sponsor or employer, who is a local in the country. This is basis upon which visas are issued.
Because of the domain in which they work - households – domestic workers also do not fall under any other national laws, and are essentially not legally classified as workers. Because their work is basically legally unrecognised and they are unrecognised as workers, they are explicitly unable to exercise the rights and freedoms afforded to workers.
Also because of their 'unrecognised' status, and even their unrecognised work, it is difficult to scrutinise and regulate their working and living conditions.

Human Rights Violation

"... they wake up to help their employer make suhoor (pre dawn meal) then the day begins with the children going to school in the morning, in the afternoon they prepare the futoor with their employer, and they stay up at night till the family goes to sleep – this includes all other duties of caring for the house and children – and the next day it begins again. They work for undefined hours, they are not able to practice their own religion freely, they are not given days off, there are cases of non-payment of salaries.They have controlled and limited freedom of movement - they are not free to move outside the sponsor's home and they are not free to receive visitors or have partners. Their passports are withheld. They have problems with living conditions, being fed, medical provisions - and these are the day to day sufferings that we do not hear about. And then comes the psychological, verbal, physical and sexual abuse which we have received cases of in Bahrain and seen minimal coverage of in the regional media in these cases the abusers have been the employers or sponsors but also their children or relatives"

In Bahrain the average number of hours worked per week was 108, in Kuwait 101, in the UAE 105. These women had an average of 1 day off per month. They all spoke of control on their freedom of movement. Every single one interviewed reported that their passport was held by their employer. None of them were given renumeration for working overtime. In each country, more than 40% of the women interviewed reported physical, verbal or sexual abuse.

For two years now, Sri Lankan authorities have been trying to gain a pardon from the Saudi family who claim that their 17 year old maid a Sri Lankan girl, Rizana (sentenced to beheading in public), killed their 4 yr old infact. Fools. She obviously wasn't trained in childcare, and also she claims she didn't choke the baby. But I can't even call them fools because, most of these Arab families don't know any better. They don't know about human rights, about equal treatment, fairness, and most importantly, acquiring skilled labour.

Those are the women...

The men have an equally sad story. In a way, I admire these men- they work awfully long hours in the sun- more than 40 degree temperature on most days, hitting past 50- they sleep in cars, trunks, under the trees, trucks, anywhere. They do as they're told. All so that they can earn a few dirhams and send it to their families back home, whom they see once every few years.

  • Imagine selling newspapers at intersections, and moving from place to place carrying a heavy load of papers on your bike for 8 hours a day, and not having enough cold water to keep you hydrated?
  • Or, finding cars to sleep the night where you have to pay 5dhs for it?
  • Or, collecting cans, pieces of metals, glass to sell for a few dirhams?

No one bothers educating these men- Setting up English/Arabic language conversational programs for them, health insurance, hygienic accommodations, and everything else. As was mentioned on the UAE community blog, if labour wasn't dirt cheap, how would Dubai be where it is today?

Or, as a Vice President of an investment bank in Dubai was telling me a few months back, "Shouldn't the money be going to these people who're working day in and out? But no, the money goes to the rich companies. What are the Islamic banks doing?"

One of the emails Al Jazeera received on this issue read: "It's about time the country sets high standards by fair treatment of people, than by building scyscrapers".

But, perhaps, the saddest part of this whole ordeal is that... people, who watch everything and know everything turn a blind eye to it, since of course, they are benefitting from the fruits of these labours indirectly. Are we superior, just because we are educated? We've become so used to comfort and luxury and too desensitised to the point that we've just...stopped noticing.

Some reading:

  1. Female domestic workers living under the Kafala system in GCC states
  2. Seeking Pardon for Rizana

Friday, July 27, 2007


Amer, from Someone in Al Ain has very beautiful pictures of his travels. He posts regularly.
Take a look!

Al Jazeera on Ukrainian women

Yesterday at breakfast I briefly watched Al Jazeera. They were talking about the difficulty Ukrainian women have in finding long-term relationships. The Al Jazeera crew visited a popular match-making club. In a nutshell:

  • Ukrainian women complained a lot about the Ukrainian men because they "drink excessively", "they only love drinking", "abusive to their wives"..
  • So, they prefer "white" men (or American men) because they are kinder, sweeter and do not drink as much- and that's what most of these clubs are all about
  • Most women said they were seeking long-term relationships but the men think differently
  • They interviewed this one man, with a HUGE beer belly and he just said how he's looking forward to going and "picking another one"...
  • One of the girls wanting to get married explained how she felt as a bunch of the girls were sitting around, and a man comes and scrutinises them, one by one- "It was horrible"
  • "Thomas was talking to me, he seemed like a nice guy, but as soon as he met another one who knew more English than me, he left me for her"...
  • The women said that Ukrainian men are so bad that they have to resort to internet dating and match making clubs, "but they wished this wasn't the case"
  • They talked to men who had white hair (pretty disgusting) and asked them how the younger women felt about them, "if you do a good job in bed, the age doesn't matter any more", and he gave an equally disgusting smile.
  • someone women were upset when they had to go home "alone", and didn't find anyone.
  • They interviewed this one woman @ home. She was divorced with a 5 yr old daughter. My heart really went out to her. She said that after her divorce, she felt "alone and degraded", and these internet websites and all started making her feel good about herself. However, when she'd meet men, things would go well, until she'd tell them about her daughter, and most men would say, "I'm just not ready for that... "

The show talked about many other aspects. Last week, on the Toronto Star homepage was a video and a caption on "Canadian women are increasingly finding it difficult to find men because of sex imbalance demographics".

Of course people are going to now seek long-term relationships. That's the fitra of humans, and because left and right people have messed up their moral values and degraded society beyond disgust, that people are beginning to realise they need to find solutions. And, they're so far from morality that, the most obvious solutions, which for us Muslims have been laid out so clearly in the Qur'an, will take them a very long time to adapt. Until then, men and women alike, are going be like stray cats, feeding off peer pressure and not knowing where they belong.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Book Review- Our iceberg is melting

I went to the mall a couple of days ago with the intention of picking up some exercise items, and ended up at BooksPlus. I really didn't have time for more books, especially when I'm reading Robert Fisk's 1300+ page book and The Tipping Point...

Anyways, I picked up Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber, simply because Kotter's from the Harvard Business School. And I finished the book overnight.

The book is a story of a penguin colony. The story is written extremely well, and it's very simple. I think all parents should make their children read it and implement it. The ideas and solutions for change management are very systematic, and will definitely make you think about what you face in real life as you go through the book.

The 8 steps of change management are:

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Pull together the guiding team
  3. Develop the vision and change strategy
  4. Communicate for understanding and buy-in
  5. Empower others to act
  6. Produce short-term wins
  7. Don’t let up
  8. Create a new culture

The penguins really are addictive. I made my 16 year old sister also read the book, and today she said, "I really miss the penguins".

Alice was my favorite character in the book.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Couldn't sleep

Most days I sleep before 12, and get up by 3:30-4am, just before fajr.
I have to run a few errands in a bit, but mummy told me to take a nap between 9-10:30am.

I had milk @ 5am, a conference call meeting @ 5:30am, spoke with Hafsa around 6:30am.
Woke up my brother for work after 7, ironed his shirt, and graded assignments until about 8:30am.
I went downstairs, washed some dishes and had breakfast with my father, that's when mummy suggested I take a nap because I had to for 11am, pick up my sister's friend and drop both of them for tuitions (not to mention search for the place since her teacher moved last week) and then take mummy to the doctor first, pick up some grocery and then to the dentist. I had to exchange a book myself.
I came back upstairs and spend about 10 minutes trying to get my sister out of bed. Did some work on my laptop and then @ 9:16, told her to wake me up at 10:20.

But, I couldn't sleep because....

What if I'm not able to wake up on time?
I hope mummy's ready on time so that my sister isn't late...
Oh dear, I've to type up the meeting minutes from today morning's meeting...
I'm glad my friend liked my gift that she received in the mail today...
And when am I going to study for my midterm that's due by Saturday?
Listening to 5 lessons should be a problem...
I never got that email from my team on the conference, I should follow up
Thank goodness I finished grading the assignments, they always take forever...
I have to practice verb tables for tomorrow's class.
Still haven't called up my friend to tell her I want to throw a party for her before she leaves for India to get married
I better schedule completing my hajj account for next week
Should I go swimming tomorrow?
What was her phone number? 8231966...Alhamdulillah, didn't forget!
Oh man, why can't I sleep!
I wish I didn't have to take the Kia today, it's no fun driving that car anymore
I wonder if my sister had breakfast? Did mummy go to sleep?
I didn't iron my clothes I'm going to wear... should I even sleep?
I should also study for my exam on Sunday sometime today since it's going to be quite intense...

Perhaps, reading a book will help, I might still be able to get 1/2 hour of sleep. I grabbed the Robert Fisk book. In retrospect, I should've grabbed the other book, The Tipping Point, since the pages I read were on prison torture during the Shah's regime in Iran. How horrible.
All of a sudden, my phone rang, and what do you know, a wrong number. Well, at least it pulled me away from the book.

I still have 22 minutes, if I really want to catch a quick nap...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bleeding Words

Posting another one from my old blog:

When things are not what they seem
When you dont know real from dream
And it's hard to scream
What can make everything better
Except letting yourself bleed

These pills of emotions
Drown me in a universe of void
Silence becomes sacred
With bleeding words flowing outside

The whispers lie to me
With promises of freedom
from the forces of darkness

And these bleeding words
Continue to flow
Through my heart
Through my hands
Pouring over me
As the moon slowly yields

And the red colours blend around me
With my dreams flowing away
Leaving my soul aching
Chasing your distant rainbow
That they may never reach

The doves brush past my scars
Leaving me to be
As their wings span the horizon
The words continue to bleed...

Written on April 6, 2006

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Creating a hydration plan for a better workout

Research suggests that as little as two percent dehydration can cause a drop in endurance, and conversely, exercsies who drink fluid may go 33% longer in training then exercisers who don't drink anything.

So, here are a few tips for staying well-hydrated during a work out:

  1. Drink fluids every 15 minutes during your workout
  2. Think of fluids as a part of your gym equipment.
  3. If you don't like the taste of water (and I can't imagine anyone who doesn't) try a lightly flavoured beverage, such as Propel Vitamin Supplement.
  4. Weigh yourself before and after the work out. The amount of weight lost is the amount of sweat you've lost from your body, it's not fat. The Gatorade Sports Science insititute has an equation to calculate hourly sweat rate:
    Weight lost during exercise (in ounces) +
    Fluid consumed during exercise (in ounces) =
    The amount (in ounces) you should be drinking to replace sweat loss

    -> A good rule of thumb is: 7-10 "gulps" every 15 min of exercise
  5. When active, don't rely on thirst alone. Drink before your scheduled exercise and afterwards as well to keep yourself long hydrated.

Here's a good article: Eating for Exericse And here's another one: Are you drinking enough water?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How to find a gym & the basics of muscular conditioning

A few weeks ago one of my friends was telling me his dilemma when he goes to a gym. When he walks into one, he doesn't know a thing about the equipment, and does what "people tell me to do. I know squat about muscular conditioning".
I'm a trained fitness instructor, but I know I'd feel the same way walking into a gym because I don't like machines. I prefer free-style aerobics or other group exercises where you are not dependent on equipment.
Nevertheless, gym machines have been developed by industry experts and definitely have a lot of value in them. There are machines for anything you want to do- from curls, presses, extensions, pull downs to running.

I was going to type this all up, but I found an excellent article online on How to Find a Gym. Here are some of the points from it, but I encourage you to read all 5 posts from: http://www.60in3.com/category/series/series-how-to-find-a-gym/

The Beginnings

  • Get the right shoes, comfortable clothes
  • The first week: Explore the gym and familiarise yourself with it. Even drop in to some of the classes. There are lots of options. Talk to a trainer and ask for gym education and general advice.
  • Attend orientation if there is any. Ask for a free workout pass.
  • You have taken the first step, don't get discouraged!
  • Money: don't go overboard by getting a membership at a fancy gym, if you're just a beginner. Also, proximity is key. If the gym is too far from where you work or live, chances are, you wont go there as often. Many gyms have chains across the city and you can use your membership card between them.

Setting up a routine

  • One of the biggest motivators is going with a friend. However, don't depend on your friend completely.
  • Variety: You want to be able to workout all the parts of your body.
  • Intensity: With muscular conditioning, start with low number of repetitions and increase gradually to build endurance. Adding resistance (weights) builds strength.
  • It's important to learn how to use the equipment properly. So make sure you take the time to do it. Start with the easier ones, such as cable pull downs, bench presses, and whatever looks easy.
  • Keep yourself hydrated! Can't stress this enough
  • And most importantly, be conscious of your breathing. Take deep breaths in and out.


  • The technique is very important. Improper use of equipment can cause long term injuries. So you may be working out for a long time and getting into shape, but actually wearing away your knee joint. That's why, when observing people in the gym, watch them for getting familiar with the equipment, but not for the technique.
  • Keep your movements slow and controlled. Use the joint's entire range of motion whenever possible.
  • Always position yourself properly. Keep a neutral spine and pelvis and tuck your tummy in.
  • When doing floor work, keep your back rounded.
  • Stretching after muscular conditioning is extremely important. Stretching reduces excess muscle tension in areas such as the upper back.


  • Perform 20-30 minutes of resistance training: 2 seconds lift, 2 seconds hold and 4 seconds lowering. 1 set [8-12 repetitions] takes about 60-90 seconds, then rest 30-90 seconds.
  • How do you know when to stop? It's recommended that the participant exercise to temporary muscle fatigue or maximal failure (where the lifter can't do 1 more repetition) with good technique, muscle control, and a full range of motion.
  • Make sure you give your muscles enough rest after the work out. 2-4 times a week is good.

I hope this is helpful. It's quite amazing how advanced the fitness industry is. There's just so much you can do, so no excuse for not exercising :)

My Life Without My Dad

Lines written by Johaina Aamer, the 9-year old daughter of Shaker Aamer, 29 June 2007.

After school, when I have reached home,
“I have a surprise for you,” says my mum.

I get excited. What if my dad has returned?
It would be the best thing that ever happened.

“A chocolate cake and some games for fun.”
How can I say, “Thanks mum, but I want none.”

I run to my room with my heart broken.
My dad in a cage, locked up in a prison.

He was sold to the people with no hearts or emotions.
Where is the justice, for my dad is innocent’?

A long, long waiting but no sign of return.
Each day is same for my brothers, me and mum.

I miss you everyday, you are never forgotten.
I wish to say goodbye to the world of corruption

So we can be together and rejoice in heaven.
I hide my tears and smile for this reason.

Read more [Shaker Aamer, A South London Man in Guantánamo: The Children Speak]

Monday, July 16, 2007

From Surah Nur

Read Surah Nur tonight before going to bed.

24:39 But the Unbelievers,- their deeds are like a mirage in sandy deserts, which the man parched with thirst mistakes for water; until when he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing: But he finds Allah (ever) with him, and Allah will pay him his account: and Allah is swift in taking account.
وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَعْمَالُهُمْ كَسَرَابٍ بِقِيعَةٍ يَحْسَبُهُ الظَّمْآنُ مَاء حَتَّى إِذَا جَاءهُ لَمْ يَجِدْهُ شَيْئًا وَوَجَدَ اللَّهَ عِندَهُ فَوَفَّاهُ حِسَابَهُ وَاللَّهُ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ (24:39)

24:40 Or (the Unbelievers' state) is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean, overwhelmed with billow topped by billow, topped by (dark) clouds: depths of darkness, one above another: if a man stretches out his hands, he can hardly see it! for any to whom Allah giveth not light, there is no light!
أَوْ كَظُلُمَاتٍ فِي بَحْرٍ لُّجِّيٍّ يَغْشَاهُ مَوْجٌ مِّن فَوْقِهِ مَوْجٌ مِّن فَوْقِهِ سَحَابٌ ظُلُمَاتٌ بَعْضُهَا فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ إِذَا أَخْرَجَ يَدَهُ لَمْ يَكَدْ يَرَاهَا وَمَن لَّمْ يَجْعَلِ اللَّهُ لَهُ نُورًا فَمَا لَهُ مِن نُّورٍ (24:40)

24:41 Hast thou not seen that Allah, He it is Whom all who are in the heavens and the earth praise; and the birds in their flight? Of each He knoweth verily the worship and the praise; and Allah is Aware of what they do.
أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَالطَّيْرُ صَافَّاتٍ كُلٌّ قَدْ عَلِمَ صَلَاتَهُ وَتَسْبِيحَهُ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَفْعَلُونَ (24:41)
24:43 Hast thou not seen how Allah wafteth the clouds, then gathereth them, then maketh them layers, and thou seest the rain come forth from between them; He sendeth down from the heaven mountains wherein is hail, and smiteth therewith whom He will, and averteth it from whom He will. The flashing of His lightning all but snatcheth away the sight.
أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُزْجِي سَحَابًا ثُمَّ يُؤَلِّفُ بَيْنَهُ ثُمَّ يَجْعَلُهُ رُكَامًا فَتَرَى الْوَدْقَ يَخْرُجُ مِنْ خِلَالِهِ وَيُنَزِّلُ مِنَ السَّمَاء مِن جِبَالٍ فِيهَا مِن بَرَدٍ فَيُصِيبُ بِهِ مَن يَشَاء وَيَصْرِفُهُ عَن مَّن يَشَاء يَكَادُ سَنَا بَرْقِهِ يَذْهَبُ بِالْأَبْصَارِ (24:43)
24:45 Allah hath created every animal of water. Of them is (a kind) that goeth upon its belly and (a kind) that goeth upon two legs and (a kind) that goeth upon four. Allah createth what He will. Lo! Allah is Able to do all things.
وَاللَّهُ خَلَقَ كُلَّ دَابَّةٍ مِن مَّاء فَمِنْهُم مَّن يَمْشِي عَلَى بَطْنِهِ وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَمْشِي عَلَى رِجْلَيْنِ وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَمْشِي عَلَى أَرْبَعٍ يَخْلُقُ اللَّهُ مَا يَشَاء إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ (24:45)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

SO Adorable!

My brother came running to me with the paper today and said: "Baji, you're in the news! Look..."

Al Ain zoo has successfully bred in captivity sand cats - an endangered smallest member of the Arabian cats' family.

The new born sand cats are now over four weeks old, and growing robust and active by the day.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Finding the Purpose

"I haven't seen you in a while.."

"yea, been busy", I said.

And then silence.

"I have to go, long day ahead."

"Not quite.", said The Rock, "I know you didn't like what I told you last time."

"I don't like talking in circles."

"Woah...we weren't going round in circles."

"Yes, we were. I was trying to get out of the confusion, and you just pushed me deeper into it."

"I'm sorry, that was not my intention. We can talk, what do you think?"

I thought about it for a minute. And then another.

"Well, okay... ". I thought for another minute and continued. "I think I'm having problems having a constant attitude towards my life. Sometimes I'm happy with it, and at other times, I feel as if I'm not in control. And when I feel like that, all the happy times just seem as if I was really wasting..."

"Slow down", The Rock interrupted, "let's talk about the purpose of life."

"That's simple, enjoining in good, forbidding in evil; promoting brotherhood, excelling in whatever we do, and fulfilling the rights of others with excellence."

"True. Very true. And if one always keeps that in mind, they'd be such an amazing person. But, all that comes afterwards. Is that really the purpose? Why are we here? And where are we headed?"

"umm... we are here because Allah (swt) created us, and we're headed towards the Hereafter... where every person will either be in hell, or paradise..."

"Isn't it strange though", said The Rock, "that we all know it, yet, when we look at our lives, much of what we do does not even take us close to that real goal?"
And it continued...
"It can't be that everyone has the same purpose in life, otherwise, our lives would not be so different. Hence, so many people spend their lives trying to get somewhere, believing that that is their purpose. But once they get there, they're off on another quest, because they haven't quite achieved what they thought they wanted. It just seems as if they are under an illusion, and that perhaps, is another thing common to people.

And often in these quests, we reach plains of spiritual wilderness. We are frustrated that life is so rich, but it has deceived us. We question our significance, and then we long for intimacy with Allah (swt). Did we ever have it? And then we do all sorts of things to cultivate our spiritual growth to discover the abundant life we were meant to live...

And some of us find answers. Some people find the inner peace in Islam, and enter the religion, while others go astray. Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an: "Remember me, and I will remember you"... yet, we make to-do lists, 5 year plans, 10 year plans, promises, schedules, and what not, just to find that purpose- and we don't realise it, because we forget the picture since we're so shortsighted. As humans we complicate the simplest things, and the last thing that is complicated is...becoming intimate with Our Creator. Everyone can do it, from the lay person to the doctor.

And because everyone can do it, that's why life is such a positive experience. I mean, life should be a positive experience. And all of us, each one of us in this search for the purpose of life, is in a constant synergy, a powerful force that keeps us going- This force, that allows us to look at the lives of others, and say "oh man, things could have been worse if that happened to me, Alhamdulillah", or, doing little acts of charity that fill our hearts of happiness, and I can give countless examples...

Really, life is beautiful... I wish we weren't such a failure at realising that..."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Language of Dead Bodies

Reverend Coffin said, “Improve the quality of your suffering.”
Sometimes only an act born from the most outrageous grief and love, an act that tears your own heart, can actually do that — save the life of a not yet shattered child.

Robert Shetterly, Brooksville, Maine

Monday, July 09, 2007

U.S. Military Losses Hit 4,000 in Iraq, Afghanistan

Four thousand U.S. service members have died in U.S. President George W. Bush's ``war on terror'' in Iraq and Afghanistan 5 1/2 years after American forces ousted the Taliban in December 2001.
A total of 3,596 have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion that removed Saddam Hussein from power. Some 2,957 of that number were killed in action, according to the latest Department of Defense figures. More than 26,500 personnel have been wounded in that conflict, 11,959 of them so seriously they couldn't return to duty.


Between 66,939 and 73,253 civilians have died in Iraq since March 2003,
according to the Iraq Body Count Web site that counts casualties reported by at
least two media outlets.
Read on Bloomberg

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Good days

I just finished making my fruit custard ice-cream chocolate chip cake. The fruits I used are: cherries, melons, mangos, peaches and aaloo bukhara, and the ice-cream is: raspberry ripple. Now it's in the freezer for chilling.
3 days ago I was @ the Mall of the Emirates and I ran into a girl who was a year senior to me in high school. Yesterday, I ran into one of my own class mates. We exchanged numbers and emails and today Suben called me; he was pretty upset about the fact that I've been in Al Ain since November, and if I had not run into Fritzy, he would never have known.
Just before I left for Canada, I had spoken to Amit over the phone, who's working in Dubai, and was a year junior to me. And Huda's here until August, from Ottawa. Funny I tried so hard to meet up with her in Ottawa, and it didn't work out. I spoke with Ruby over the phone, her and I have been very close to each other for many many years, and she's getting married in August.
Also spoke with a friend who got married here in Dubai... can't wait to see her and her little son.
I can meet and connect with so many people around me... but the best of people are those whom I met in Toronto.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Living for a purpose

There were very few days I felt lost and confused about priorities in life, but when I lapsed into that state today, I knew talking to the Rock would be the only way to get me out of it.

I slipped out of my house, and went and sat besides The Rock. I was quiet for some time. I felt a surge inside me, of so many feelings and thoughts, and it was rare for my feelings to mix and fight with my thoughts, but something like that was happening.
"How are things ever going to change for me, when I can't make decisions fast enough? And I can't produce results efficient enough? And I can't experience change frequent enough?"
"Take a deep breath. There's no reason to worry!"
"Yes there is. Sometimes I know where I'm headed, but most of the times, I'm really shooting arrows in the dark."
"What's wrong with shooting arrows in the dark? With practice, one does not need the light if they know their target well."
"That doesn't make any sense. Life isn't perfect like that. And you're talking about a lifetime of a practice. And I don't want to shoot arrows in the dark. Why stumble?"
"Because sometimes, that's the only way to learn. And sometimes, lessons learnt that way are the lessons that will light up your path."

I was confused. The Rock was telling me that it's okay to continue to live the way I was living, the confusion was normal, because I'll learn as I go, and that'll take me to my goal. But.. it can't be that simple, can it?
"Well, what about the other ways to learn?"
"You experience those as well. Everyone does. In life, everything is so dynamic, how much can you plan, and expect it to go according to your plans?"
"But.. one has to plan, thereafter if things don't go as planned, that's a different story. In this world we're not just meant to sit and wait for things to happen, we have to work for them."
"Yes, that's right. You are right."
"Then what??"
I was exasperated. The Rock and I were just talking in circles, without getting anywhere. Maybe this was something I had to figure out myself.
"Nothing... thanks. I have to run. Bye".
The Rock smiled. Apparently, it was amused, as always. It looked at the colorless horizon. and knew that times were changing for her.
"Because, you still have to learn to live for a purpose", it whispered. But she was gone...