Friday, 25 February 2011

Muslim Pedagogy?

Dear Friends
One of the precursors and continuous determinants for a successful democracy is education especially higher education. In the western world higher education is supposed to inculcate independent thinking coupled with life long learning. Thus education is a process and product. Both learned helplessness and dependence are combated through a mixture of dynamic curriculums and cutting edge pedagogy.

Thus for democracy to work in the Muslim world there must be a revolution in pedagogy since most Muslim professionals and students I have worked with suffer from myopic thinking. Independent and creative thinking are frowned upon and students are at the whim of educators. Educational establishments are merely vehicles to enrich poorly educated entrepreneurs who routinely sacrifice quality and curriculums are at the mercy of Mullahs.

The irony is that this negative state of affairs is at logger heads with Muslim history and the Quran which requests Men and women to think and therefore debate, including scripture. The great Muslim colleges of medieval Andalucía were pioneers and beacons of knowledge and were modelled by and influenced continental institutions such the Sorbonne and Oxbridge.  Also Ijtehad or legal reasoning was a normal activity.

Only modern day Turkey comes close to the Andalucía miracle and credit is due to the great reformer Ataturk. Today Turkey is a member of the elite G20 and its higher education is world class.

ربِّ زِدْنِي عِلْماً

Rabi Zidni ilma…Allah increase my knowledge…(20:114)



Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Star Dust...

Dear Friends
I love the following Yankee anecdote:

''President Lyndon Johnson visited NASA and as he was walking the halls he came across a janitor who was cleaning up a storm, like the energizer bunny with a mop in his hand. The President walked over to the janitor and told him he was the best janitor he had ever seen and the janitor replied. 'Sir, I'm not just a janitor. I helped put a man on the moon…'

Consequently we are all special if we want to be and can make a difference or be part of history…especially when the cameras are not rolling…



Monday, 21 February 2011

From Educator to Liberator...

Dear Friends

Since I have taken the plunge into the deep ocean of higher education I have been blessed with many positive and negative experiences. The latter have tested my mettle but proved to be petrol for the soul...Thus I would not change anything even when I nearly threw in the 

I have read much around pedagogy and the science of curriculum and the following has stolen my imagination:

‘’In order to play the Prophetic role which education for liberation desperately needs, educators first need to become mystics, to recover their own potential for contemplation, wonder, stillness, relationship with the natural world, and a thirst for learning which transcends narrow curriculum limits’’.

(Spirituality and the Curriculum, page 79 – Educators as Mystics – Nixon & Parffrey)

The above is lyrical heroin! Wow! The implications are profound as the educator IS THE STUDENT!

Yes...I am to learn...and reminded of another Muslim tradition where the believer is a student from cradle to grave...

From Educator to Liberator is certainly my touch stone...


Business Cake...

Dear Friends

Ethics and corporate responsibility has shot up onto the top of business / accounting / finance curriculums especially in the top business schools such as Harvard. Since we do not want another global meltdown as we would probably not survive. Business graduates are being actively taught if not inculcated that their decisions have local if not global consequences and create history. Also our delicate eco-system can no longer sustain the current levels of individual greed and company exploitation which is undermining our role in persuading the emerging BRIC economies to diversify their energy needs.

Thus I am very distressed when I discovered that the implements being used to ‘control’ the protests in Egypt, Bahrain and Libya were supplied by British companies. And it beggars belief when the British Foreign Secretary condemns those repressive regimes and demands action!

I am reminded of Quranic wisdom that clearly says that the murder of one innocent is in fact the murder of the whole of humanity...Since we have always lived in an 
interconnected world...

You cannot have all your cake and eat it...There is enough cake for everyone's need but not greed....



Financial Mayaa / Illusion...

Dear Friends

The last boom was based on our unrealistic expectations and desires that property prices would continue to rise and the banks kept doling out the cash! Then the market collapsed and we were left with a financial debacle that will take decades to clean up especially as the bankers are still raking in the bonuses!

Was this boom an example of financial Mayaa / illusion?

So just because it looks, hears, smells, tastes and feels ‘real’ it may not be!

Caveat Emptor...Let the buyer beware!


Friday, 18 February 2011

Muslim Beards?

Dear Friends

The beard in Islam is a deeply contentious issue. For some it is stamp of authority whilst for others it proves their devotion. A lot of young people use it as a way to 'rebel' along with donning Arab gear.

Personally I feel that you do not have to wear a big sign around your neck saying you are Muslim and demand sympathy / attention.

The beard is in Islam not the other way round!

Yes Muhammed (pbuh) had a beard but that was the trend of 7th century along with most places. Some of the most avowed enemies of early Islam such as Abu Lahab also kept a luxuriant beard and was the Prophets Uncle!

And surely God will judge our actions rather than the style or length of ones beard???



Thursday, 17 February 2011

Universal Islam???

Dear Friends
'Text and Context' is crucial to understanding any divine text especially the Torah, Bible, and Quran. All three have visions of a vengeful and loving God in equal measure.
I am amazed when Allah can immediately switch from displeasure regarding unbelievers to universal love, co-existence and understanding:

''That which has been revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase the wickedness and unbelief of many of them. But do not grieve for the unbelievers.
Believers, Jews, Sabeans, and Christians - whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does what is right - shall have nothing to fear or to regret.''
(Surah 5: Verses 68-69)

Surely the highlighted is a matchless example of universal tolerance, respect and love encompassing all of human religiosity including ethical atheists and pagans?

Peace Train calling…


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Android Man counsels...

Dear Friends
The Android Man counsels us as follows:
''I am faster than you
I am stronger than you
Certainly I will last much longer than you
You may think I am the future
But you are wrong. YOU ARE.
If I had a wish I'd wish to be HUMAN
To know how it feels,
To feel
To wonder
To hold
To love
To despair
I can achieve immortality by not wearing out
You can achieve immortality simply

Step by step to greatness…above all keep walking...



Dear Friends
Every great religious tradition teaches that lying is a grave sin or leads to ignorance.
I was absolutely gob smacked that today's Guardian led with the cover story of Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi who defected from Saddams regime and basically lied that they had WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction).
This lie was manipulated by George Bush et al to justify the invasion of Iraq. Rafid in his own words say:
'I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime'.
HOWEVER, at the expense of at least 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq and destabilisation of the entire Middle East. I am sorry but Saddam could have been toppled by other means such as the present day Egyptian reversion without screwing up so crazily…This is a classic example of the flawed 'the ends that justify the means' philosophy.
According to Rumi the soul is the reflection of the truth. Thus Rafid was a mirror image of his western handlers…I hope he is enjoying his freedom whilst his compatriots are rotting in a living hell.

Why do we Muslims sell our souls so cheaply?

Lies breeds more lies…


Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Hallaj...I am the Truth

Dear Friends
Mansur al-Hallaj is one of the more controversial figures of Sufism. Considered by many to be a great poet-saint, he was executed for blasphemy in the 9th century.

The name al-Hallaj means "wool carder," probably a reference to his family's traditional occupation. Al-Hallaj was born in the province of Fars, Persia (Iran). He later moved to what is now Iraq, where he took up religious studies, particularly the Sufi way.

Orthodox religious authorities took offense at his poetry and teachings, particularly the line in one of his great poems "Ana 'l-Haqq," which translates as "I am the Real," but can also be translated as "I am the Truth" or "I am God" -- acknowledging the mystical realization of unity with the Eternal.
He was condemned by a council of theologians, imprisoned for nine years, and eventually put to death. He is revered today as a martyr for truth by many Sufis and mystics.
Hallaj is one of my heroes and I love this poem:

Stillness, then silence, then random speech,
Then knowledge, intoxication, annihilation;

Earth, then fire, then light.
Coldness, then shade, then sunlight.

Thorny road, then a path, then the wilderness.
River, then ocean, then the shore;

Contentment, desire, then Love.
Closeness, union, intimacy;

Closing, then opening, then obliteration,
Separation, togetherness, then longing;

Signs for those of real understanding
Who find this world of little value.



Ps - Additionally  there were many political reasons why he was murdered which I will discuss another time…Some commentators argue that he was the first spiritual communist in history…

Happily Depressed…

Dear Friends
We have become a nation if not globe of what I call 'happy junkies'…We will do any thing to stop negative feelings.
Recent medical know how is suggesting that depression may be a good thing as the mind, body abd soul is demanding our attention. In the case of depression we become more reflective and pose questions. Not that I am suggesting that these are pleasant states and where appropriate allopathic and homeopathic treatment should be sort. However these 'negative states' are there to teach something…
Rumi says “This being human is a guest-house. Every morning a new arrival, a joy, a depression, meanness…Welcome and entertain them all!”
Rumi continues, “still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.” In essence, each may be here to teach us something.

The Magnus opus of Rumi namely the Mathnawi is a piercing yearning of separation and loss. A masterpiece of heart poetry…



Monday, 14 February 2011


Dear Friends
Islam is the new cool...
My fellow Egyptian Muslims who covered all schools of thought and  political persuasions have once and for all debunked the crude myth that we are not HUMAN...Human beings  that have the same aspirations like us in the west...
The Egyptian revolution in fact REVERSION was orchestrated by young internet savvy 18-35 year olds who not only annihilated the old order but swept it away.
They have inspired people across the globe from Milan to Islamabad...Above all the reversion was executed PEACEFULLY and was well organised! Supposedly not Muslim characteristics! : )

Mark my words the best is yet to come...


Party On!


Dreaming in a War Zone...

Dear Friends
Pakistan is engulfed in an insurgency against radicals, unstable government, severe economic problems but still some dare to dream. The link is a 4 minute video of a Pakistani Muslim man who in spite of the latter challenges is living his dream...

(With English subtitles)



Ps – And we in the west have all the resources but how many of us actually LIVE OUR DREAMS????

Friday, 11 February 2011

Egypt is FREE...

Congratulations to my Egyptian Friends for casting off the yoke of oppression and tyranny!



The Soul of America...

Dear Friends
Please! Please! Listen to this especially my Muslim readers…This is the soul of America i.e. Allen Ginsberg…

It appears that the prodigious and precocious Beatnik generation has melted away. However some are academics or die hard activists while others are Sufi / Zen Masters. I have met some of them and drunk deeply from their hearts…

They are the salt of the earth…

Have a great weekend!


Connoisseurs of Truth…

Dear Friends
The best definition of Sufism / Ihsaan / Tasawuff is Zauq / Taste…Not until you literally taste the truth / divine the path will be analogous to plastic roses

So please demand and expect the best…and beware of cheap imitations!



The Political Prophet?

Dear Friends
Muslims follow the Lunar Calendar thus it is currently Rabi' al-awwal (ربيع الأوّل) the third month in the Muslim Calendar.

This month is on par with Ramadan as we celebrate the landmark birth of Muhammed (pbuh) who re-ignited the primordial Quranic revolution in 7th century Arabia that continues. He also successfully established his sunnah or way…Across the Muslim world there are celebrations which is similar to Christmas.

Muhammed (pbuh) is an enigma to the Western world as he was simultaneously worldly and otherworldly. He was a son, orphan, lover, shepherd, trader, husband, father, widower, teacher, friend, statesman, general, mystic and much more.

Muhammed (pbuh) signed, sealed and delivered a message in 63 glorious years that continues to reverberate across the cosmos…And yes I adore him with all my being…

In the words of Karen Armstrong in her seminal biography of the Prophet he was a 'spiritual and political genius'.

And Muslims have much to imbibe and learn from Mustapha (pbuh) as we are currently way off the mark…if not a source of embarrassment...

Muhammed was and Is…


Thursday, 10 February 2011

Power of Language...

Dear Friends
I am amazed that the spoken word has so much power. Several words of motivation can literally change a person's attitude if not life. Thus I am becoming increasingly mindful of my language as it can have such a negative and positive impact. I found a gem of a Quranic verse the other day which clearly demonstrates this crucial point:

''A kind word with forgiveness is better than charity followed by insult…'' (2:263)

Salaam / Peace...


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Future of Islam...

Dear Friends

Please kind the Preface of a wonderful book, by Karen Armstrong, entitled THE FUTURE OF ISLAM by J Esposito (must read for PM David Cameron et al). This book should once and for all prove that reformation and renewal of Islam is a continuous process and all Muslims are not extremists or terrorists or supporters of terror and mayhem...Inshallah

''This  is an important book. Those of us who have been on the front line of the effort, since the atrocities of September 11, 2001, to explain Islam in the Western world soon became aware not simply of the widespread ignorance of Muslim religion in both Europe and the United States but also of an entrenched reluctance to see Islam in a more favorable light.

People often look balked and vaguely mutinous when, for example, you explain that the Qur’an does not in fact advocate the indiscriminate slaughter of the infidel or the propagation of the faith by the sword, and that even though there is still much to be done to promote gender equality in Muslim countries, the message of the Qur’an was initially friendly to the emancipation of women.

One of the most frequently asked questions is: ‘‘Why has Islam not had a reformation?’’ The query betrays an ignorance of both Islamic and Western history. It assumes that there was something special and unique about the reform movement initiated by Martin Luther (1483–1556) and John Calvin(1509–64) that points to the inherent superiority and progressive nature of our Western culture.

In fact, Luther’s was a typical premodern reformation, similar to many of the movements of islah (‘‘reform’’) and tajdid (‘‘renewal’’) that have regularly punctuated Muslim history. They all, Muslim or Christian, follow a similar agenda: they attempt to return to the wellsprings of tradition and cast aside the piety of the immediate past. Thus Luther and Calvin sought to return to the ‘‘pure’’ Christianity of the Bible and the Fathers of the Church, in exactly the same way as Ahmed ibn Taymiyyah of Damascus (1263–1328) advocated a return to the Qur’an and the sunnah (‘‘customal practice’’) of the Prophet Muhammad. In his desire to get back to basics, Ibn Taymiyyah also overturned much revered medieval jurisprudence and philosophy, just as Luther and Calvin attacked the medieval scholastic evidence, theologians; like any Muslim reformation, therefore, their movement was both reactionary and revolutionary.

Reform movements usually occur during a period of cultural change or in the wake of a great political disaster, when the old answers no longer suffice and reformers seek to bring the tradition up to date so that it can meet the contemporary challenge. The Protestant Reformation took place during the profound societal changes of the early modern period, when people found that they could no longer practice their faith in the same way as their medieval ancestors. It was, therefore, the product rather than a cause of modernization, and instead of being regarded as the instigator of change,
Luther should rather be seen as the spokesman of a current trend.

A similar process is now under way in the Muslim world, where the modernization process has been even more problematic than that of sixteenth-century Europe, because it has been complicated by the colonial disruption and continued Western influence in the internal affairs of the former colonies.

Again, Western people are often skeptical about the ability of Islam to reform itself and doubt the presence and effectiveness of Muslim reformers, in part because these creative thinkers get little coverage in the Western press. Thanks to this much-needed book, there is no longer any excuse for such ignorance. Professor Esposito has given a clear and informative introduction to the work of such reformers as Tariq Ramadan, Amr Khalid, Shaykh Ali Goma’a, Mustafa Ceric, Tim Winter, and Heba Raouf.

Like Luther, these individuals articulate an important trend in Muslim thinking that challenges the common Western view of Islam. This trend clearly does not regard a literal interpretation of scripture as normative; it is well aware that laws and customs have been conditioned by the historical circumstances in which they developed and must be interpreted in the light of this understanding; it regards self-criticism as creative, necessary, and a religious imperative; it abhors terrorism and violence; and it is anxious to initiate a ‘‘gender jihad.’’

Most important, Professor Esposito makes it clear that Western people simply cannot afford to remain uninformed about these developments in the Muslim world. He shows how the failure of Western foreign policy has been one of the causes of the current malaise in the region and that, for example, ignorance about the Sunni/Shia rift in Iraq made it impossible for the United States to identify friends and foes. We now live in one world and share a common predicament. What happens in Gaza or Afghanistan today is likely to have repercussions tomorrow in London or Washington, D.C. To persist in the belief that all Muslims support terrorism, oppose democracy, and are atavistically opposed to freedom is not only counterproductive to Western interests but, as we see in these pages, flies in the face of the such as that provided in the recent Gallup Poll.

Westerners can not expect Muslims to adopt a more positive view of their cultural values if they themselves persist in cultivating a stereotypical view of Islam that in some significant respects dates back to the Middle Ages. Unless we can learn to live together in a more just and rational way, we are unlikely to have a viable world to hand on to the next generation.

One comes away from this book convinced that the future of Islam does not simply depend on the effectiveness of a few Muslim reformers but that the United States and Europe also have a major role to play. If short-sighted Western policies have helped to create the current impasse, they will, if not corrected, continue to have a negative effect upon the region, will weaken the cause of reform, and play into the hands of extremists. In the Qur’an, God calls all men and women to appreciate the unity and equality of the human race: ‘‘O people! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into Nations and tribes so that you might come to knowone another’’ (49:13). One of the major tasks of our generation is to build a global community, where people of all persuasions can live together in harmony and mutual respect. In writing this book, which will help many Western readers to achieve a more balanced, informed, and nuanced appreciation of the Muslim world, Professor Esposito has made a major contribution''



Monday, 7 February 2011

Simon & Garfunkel...

Dear Friends

Just rediscovered these folks again...The spirit of Yankee Land...Reminds me of my beloved San Francisco...and the whole counter-culture movement...This is the real and beautiful America that alot of my fellow Muslims have never experienced...

God Bless America!!!



Dear Friends
One of my big personal challenges is the modern curse of procrastination. However today I caught myself red handed and understood its nature.
I had to chase my insurance company about a pressing issue and as I was about to pick up the phone I thought I should leave it as it was lunch time. However almost instantly I felt that I was delaying the call and that I was setting up a barrier namely ‘lunchtime’ to get things done.
Eureka! I realised that my procrastinating is self-generating and crucially sustained by ‘mind barriers’. NO MORE!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

New Bottle...

Dear Friends
I have just returned from a ‘traditional’ Sufi Muslim gathering that was conducted in English. Quite frankly it was intellectual torture particularly when blind faith was being invoked to justify an argument.
As I looked around the hall I could see and feel the spiritual hunger however the ‘Shaykh’ was so out of touch. He was not preparing / inspiring young people for the big bad world where simple albeit satisfying piety will not actualise a successful life.
Kids have to be prepared to face if not relish socio-economic-spiritual challenges which will test their mettle and ensure their passage into (wo)manhood and allow them to make a meaningful contribution to the world. And possibly roll forward the great ball of truth...
On the other hand one could argue that seeds were being planted that may sprout in the future. However the bottle has to change...otherwise the lush and primordial wine will not be enjoyed...
Good Nightzzzzz....

Multiculturalism failed..HUM BUG!

Dear Friends
Yesterday in a key note speech the British PM, David Cameron, declared that Multiculturalism has failed but he thankfully made a clear distinction between Islam and Islamism / Political Islam. He basically called upon if not challenged British Muslims to uphold British values which he has redefined as ‘muscular liberalism’.
Initially I was stunned as I am a product of this multicultural system and I have always strongly refuted Muslim extremism especially during my working life. I have enjoyed a cosmopolitan education that has and continues to broaden my horizons beyond measure.
Multiculturalism has ensured social cohesion for the last 40 years and has transformed the United Kingdom into one of the most diverse and tolerant societies on the planet. It is also one of the key ingredients that have established London as the global capital of finance which is the engine of our economy. Consequently the richest man in England is a person of Indian origin namely Laksmi Mittal and one of the national favourites is chicken tikka masala which is an excellent example of the fusion between east and west. It is also a little known fact but one of the leading wine tasters / connoisseurs is a British Muslim! Recently Muhammed Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize for this pioneering work fighting poverty initially in Bangladesh and now in New York as well.
So what is muscular liberalism and why are the actions of a tiny minority of extremist Muslims dictating UK social policy? Is not the peaceful co-existence of all peoples and creeds a noble ideal? Thus it is an irony that the Prince Charles upon his investiture would like to become defender of the faiths rather than the faith!
I appreciate that there is a challenge of extremism in my community but I feel that the PM is severely out of touch with the intense intra-Muslim debates that raging  all over the world. I agree with  Slavoj Zizek that ‘leftist’ thinking is a bulwark against all types of extremism thus we do not need to choose between Islamism or material liberalism. The ‘leftist’ tradition in my faith has always been Sufism and throughout history great Muslim saints / Sufis have successfully challenged extreme orthodoxy and oppression.
I find it strange that the PM is asking me to uphold the rule of law, respect the rights of all minorities and women, respect freedom of speech especially when it may hurt my sensibilities, endorse sexual freedom and choice etctctct...Which I willingly and crucially enjoy doing when UK PLC continues to cut deals and wine and dine oppressive regimes whose human rights records would not even score a fail in our educational system.
I am so glad that I tore up my Conservative membership several years ago!
And a toast to MULTICULTURALISM...which has helped me to become the son, brother, father, husband, friend, teacher, researcher, consultant and above all MUSLIM that I am...

Saturday, 5 February 2011

The Peace Train...Ps

Dear Friends

This song makes me feel proud to be human...Yes as a species we kill, judge, hate...but the intellect can lead to this and MORE...Inshallah / God Willing...

To the thinking revolution....



Friday, 4 February 2011

The Peace Train...

Dear Friends

Yes…Thinking about the World on the peace train…with Yusuf Islam…


Jamming with The Rabbi!

Dear Friends
Last night I had the honour of hosting one of the leading Reform Rabbi's in the North West. It was deeply moving breaking bread and sharing our respective traditions that originate from our common patriarch Abraham (pbuh). It was an authentic and exquisite dialogue that resulted in much manure for the soul.
I have long believed and experienced that the 'other' is crucial in religious devotion and self-understanding. It is a great opportunity for 'green' to flow just like last night. I was so inspired by the Rabbi that I really want to 'worship' God with my complete mind, body and soul…
This is the victory of inter-faith dialogue usually  remaining hidden but in tune with the heart of the cosmos…Ameen. Suma Ameen.

Let us praise...and melt away…


Thursday, 3 February 2011

Education, Education, Education...

Dear Friends
Recently I watched an animated interview with the leader of EDL, the English Defence League, which is an extremist organisation and highly anti-Islam.
People like Stephen Lennon used to really wind me up and plunge my soul into a deep melancholy. However ever since I have become a teacher and student of educational theory / pedagogy I pity people like Stephen.
People like him and Muslim extremists are generally poorly travelled and read and are usually under achievers. Granted Muslim extremists can be highly intelligent but they under achieve due to identity crisis and lack of exposure to Sufi Philosophy and Islamic history in general. In the past I have taught people like Stephen and I noticed that their inner and outer violence dissolves before genuine care and attention.
The only solution is EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION…especially Philosophy / Love of Wisdom…

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Substance Over Form...

Dear Friends
Substance over form is crucial in worldly and otherworldly affairs otherwise plutocrats especially of the religious ilk will monopolise the truth…As Rumi inspires and reminds us:
Many prayers are declined because of the rank odour of a corrupt heart rising through the words. Let the words be wrong, but the meaning right. That flawed utterance is dearer to God.
-- The Life and Thought of Rumi


Social Justice...

Dear Friends
Commentators are correct when they argue that the raison d'être of Islam is social justice. Let's see what Rumi has to say on this:
What is justice? Giving water to trees.
What is injustice? To give water to thorns.
Justice consists in bestowing bounty in its proper place,
not on every root that will absorb water. -- Mathnawi [V, 1089-1090]



Green / Rainbow Dialogue...

Dear Friends
I really love meeting people from all socio-economic-religious (inc. no religion & materialists) backgrounds as it is an opportunity to engage in what I call green dialogue.

For example I meet someone and let us assume that they are the colour yellow and I am blue when there is a genuine encounter GREEN is produced…which is an individual and collective healing sorely required in these tumultuous times...

I attempt to bring this into my classroom as well however what emerges is a Rainbow Dialogue

A toast to the colours of life!


Dear Friends
Yesterday in Liberation Square, the heart of Cairo, a Christian protestor was hoisted on the shoulders of Muslims and he bellowed 'The Crescent and Cross are together'…Today there are millions on the streets of Egypt, encompassing all shades of opinion, demanding their rights and exercising their collective voice which has been in hibernation for 30 years…

This movement is of the people, by the people, FOR THE PEOPLE…

When I was an under-grad I was involved in a deep and passionate love affair with Marxism and I vividly remember the following quote:
I do not want to rise above the people