Thursday, 31 March 2011

Teacher as Farmer...

Dear Friends
I feel like an ‘intellectual farmer’ whose job is to till and deepen the souls of my students.

However I want my students to transform into ‘knowledge constructors’ instead of ‘receivers of knowledge’ thus we will till the harvest together...

For I and my students are ‘co-learners’ on a magical journey of discovery and challenge....


Chechen Sufi Jamming...

Dear Friends

I deeply love Caucasus /  Central Asian Sufism since it has a distinct flavour and has sustained these oppressed folk for centuries...



Trees and Pilgrims...

Dear Friends

I am currently preparing for a Teaching and Learning Observation and I am expected to execute innovative pedagogical change. I will undoubtedly be taking a constructivist approach and hope to throw some seeds into the souls of my students.

I came across the following metaphor during my reading which has stolen my imagination:

‘’The learner is a growing tree or pilgrim on a journey.’’

WOW! Full of so much rich imagery and zauq / taste....

I am so proud to be a teacher in fact a student....for I AM TO LEARN...


Sufi snakes & ladders...

Dear Friends

One of the most enduring Sufi analogies / metaphors is the cosmic game of snakes and ladders...Thus the salik is expected to pick him or herself after each set back and march resolutely towards his Beloved Lord...

The knocks and ‘’snake bites’’ are actually lessons and top quality manure for the soul...Leading to the flowering of exquisite souls...Consequently the mercy of God is and will always remain superior to his wrath! Inshallah...

‘’Say: O My servants who have transgressed against their own souls, despair not of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surah az-Zumar 39:53)

So my friends be brave and roll that dice...

...even if you make it to the top of Sufi K2 keep climbing...



Ps ..

Monday, 28 March 2011

Divine Peek-a-boo...

Dear Friends
One of my favourite games with my daughter is peek-a-boo which she finds really entertaining. Zahra loves it when my face pops up from behind the cushion and she begins giggling!

This innocent game reminds me of my relationship with God.  He sure knows how to enthral and take my breath away. It’s such a shame he is not around long enough so I can engage in some serious philosophical dialogue. ..

What would I discuss with God? Probably why ...He assures me in the Koran that:

In time We shall make them fully understand. Our signs in the utmost horizons and within themselves, so that it will become clear unto them that this is indeed the truth...(Surah 41:Verse 53)

I am waiting...but am I ready?


The Tragedy...

Dear Friends

The tragedy of human existence is lack of freedom...Sometimes I feel that:

The rich are imprisoned by their desires
The poor are trapped by their stomachs
The educated are caged by their dreams
And the folk of God are captive to their separation...



Sunday, 27 March 2011

Fun Teacher!

Dear Friends
I have been blessed with many great teachers to date. Currently my baby daughter is also one of them! Such fun lectures! All play! No stress! No home work! Laughter and music! Above all just being present in the moment...
In Sufi philosophy actualising the station of Ibn-al-waqt / Son of the moment is probably second only to fana / annihilation in the Godhead.
In the mean back to playing!


Saturday, 26 March 2011

'Burning Paradise'...

Dear Friends

We are holding a dinner party today and whilst I was helping with some chores. It occurred to me that the preparation is as important as the actual dinner party. Then I had a wonderful insight that ablutions are as important as the actual canonical 5 daily prayers. The latter has been simmering in my mind for the last couple of hours.

It just dawned on me that this whole life is a preparation ultimately for death...A deeply sobering yet exhilarating thought...Whether I am destined for paradise or hell I do not know but I am reminded of the famous motifs of a burning torch and bucket of water used by Rabia, the almost mythical woman saint of 8th century Iraq...

Rabia fervently believed that love of God and not the promise of paradise should motivate a Muslim. Thus she wanted to burn paradise and quench the flames of hell...BRAVO!!!


Green Sufi Jamming...

Dear Friends

One of the prizes of the Sufi path is sohbet or gathering...For me this has taken place in some very unorthodox places such as in seedy bars, sheesha lounges and across the web especially with hippies!

The zenith of sohbet is the classroom since during moments of pure teaching the difference been student and teacher evaporates and a ‘green dialogue’ emerges...

The student is yellow and I am blue and intellectually we give birth to green...

Here is some dark green sufi jamming...

Yes...There is no God / reality / truth but God / truth / reality....


The Lover and the Beloved....

Dear Friends
...a cracking zauq / taste  of the lover and beloved...



Dear Friends
One of the most distressing elements of the Sufi / spiritual enterprise is politics. This is not a new phenomenon as the jealous 13th century students of Rumi were instrumental in having his beloved Shams ejected permanently from Konya. However this sparked the great body of poetry composed by Mevlana Rumi namely the Mathnawi.
Present day Sufi brotherhoods can be breeding grounds of some of the most vicious games of intrigue, back stabbing and abuse of every kind imaginable. Hereditary orders that allow the enthronement of the Shaykhs son are the worst.
I have observed in disbelief at some of the shenanigans and always been puzzled. Is not the spiritual path the noblest human endeavour? Should it not inspire chivalry, great deeds and words?
Perhaps the prize is so great namely walayaa / friendship with Allah and earthly representation of the Prophet that the ends justify the means.
Personally I did not get hooked to the Sufi dream to build an empire on the back of broken and bleeding souls.
The inspiration remains to become a tool for the divine director...To see with his eyes...above all to laugh with him...

Time to get back on the road...Boots and Sand...Inshallah...For the road is the bread and butter of the salik / spiritual aspirant...



Thursday, 24 March 2011


Dear Friends
A great way to start the day...



Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Imperfect Perfection?

Dear Friends
The video is an example of decadent Islam / Sufism that I adore. Deeply sophisticated, flawed yet full of beauty...

Reminds me of another couplet by Rumi:

Many prayers are declined because of the rank odour of a corrupt heart rising through the beautiful words. Let the words be wrong, but the meaning right. That flawed utterance is dearer to God.

A toast to shades of grey and the imperfectly perfect....



Dear Friends
Muslims sincerely argue that the cornerstone of Islam is justice. However what is the definition of justice? As ever Rumi has something to say:
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]

This is a profound image that is applicable to many contexts…

One of the attributes of Allah is justice…Al Adl

Yaa Haq / Truth!


Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Love / Ishk..

Dear Friends
When you imbibe this you will disappear…Drink slowly and let your soul dance…Over to Mevlana Ji…
Love endures hardships at the hands of the Beloved.
Through love bitter things seem sweet,
Through love bits of copper are made gold.
Through love dregs taste like pure wine,
Through love pains are as healing balms.
Through love thorns become roses,
And through love vinegar becomes sweet wine.
Through love the stake becomes a throne,
Through love reverse of fortune seems good fortune.
Through love a prison seems a rose bower,
Without love a grate full of ashes seems a garden.
Through love burning fire is pleasing light,
Through love the Devil becomes a Houri.
Through love hard stones become soft as butter,
Without love soft wax becomes hard iron.
Through love grief is as joy,
Through love Ghouls turn into angels.
Through love stings are as honey,
Through love lions are harmless as mice.
Through love sickness is health,
Through love wrath is as mercy.
Through love the dead rise to life,
Through love the king becomes a slave.
Even when an evil befalls you, have due regard;
Regard well him who does you this ill turn.
The sight which regards the ebb and flow of good and ill
Opens a passage for you from misfortune to happiness.
Thence you see the one state moves you into the other,
One opposite state generating its opposite in exchange.
So long as you experience not fears after joys,
How can you look for pleasures after disgusts?
While ye fear the doom of the angel on the left hand,
Men hope for the bliss of the angel on the right.
May you gain two wings!  A fowl with only one wing
Is impotent to fly, O well-intentioned one!
Now either permit me to hold my peace altogether,
Or give me leave to explain the whole matter.
And if you dislike this and forbid that,
Who can tell what your desire is?
You must have the soul of Abraham in order with light
To see the mansions of Paradise in the fire.
Step by step he ascended above sun and moon,
And so lagged not below, as a ring that fastens a door.
Since the "Friend of God" ascended above the heavens,
And said, "I love not Gods that set;"
So this world of the body is a breeder of misconceptions
In all who have not fled from lust.



'Led astray by the Quran'...

Dear Friends
The last couplet in this Rumi poem is very important as it is a reflection of the current state of Muslims today. We forget orthopraxy / right conduct is and will always be superior to orthodoxy / right thought…

For lovers, the only lecturer is the beauty of the Beloved;
their only book and lecture and lesson is the Face.
They are silent outwardly,
but their penetrating remembrance rises
to the high throne of their Friend.
Their only lesson is enthusiasm, whirling, and trembling,
not the fine points of jurisprudence.
[III, 3847-9]

That which God said to the rose,
and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty,
He said to my heart,
and made it a hundred times more beautiful.
[III, 4129]

Many have been led astray by the Qur'an:
by clinging to that rope many have fallen into the well.
There is no fault in the rope, O perverse man,
for it was you who had no desire to reach the top.

[III, 4210-11]



Rumi's Invocation...

Praise be to Thee, the One and Only God,
The Creator and Sustainer of our lives.
Thee do we praise, and Thee we give thanks.
Thou art the First Cause and the Last Effect,
And Thou art the Owner of the Most Beautiful Names.
The Most Compassionate, the only Guide,
And it is Thou Who grants forgiveness
For our mistakes and our ignorance.
Within Thee is the Matrix of Life,
And the Beauty of Thy Names.
We pray that the Beauty of Thy Names in the Heavenly spheres
May sound the same beauty here on earth,
And lighten our hearths with Thy Wisdom,
Thy Power, Thy Glory and Thy Peace.
For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory
Forever and ever.

...yes just one moment...


Non-existence, Zikr, and Freedom

Dear Friends

Rumi explains why we should persevere with zikr / remembrance / meditation…

The light of the senses and spirit of our fathers
is not totally perishable like the grass,
but, like the stars and moonbeams,
they vanish in the radiance of the Sun.

It's like the naked man who jumped into the water,
so that he might escape from the hornets' stings:
the hornets circled above him, and whenever
he put out his head they would not spare him.

The water is recollection of God,
and the hornet is the thought, during this time,
of such-and-such a woman or man.

Hold your breath in the water of remembrance and show strength,
so you may be freed from old thoughts and temptations.
After that, you yourself will assume
the nature of that pure water, entirely from head to foot.

As the noxious hornet flees from the water,
so will it be afraid of approaching you.

After that be far from the water, if you wish;
for in your inmost soul you are of the same nature as the water,

Those persons then, who have passed from the world
are not non-existent, but they are absorbed in the attributes of God,
even as the star disappears in the presence of the sun.

[IV, 432-3;435-43]

…This is an exquisite piece of imagery and continues to linger in my soul…


The Wine of Religion...

Dear Friends
I adore the following astute statement by the Harvard Rumi scholar, Abdulkarim Soroush, regarding religion:

I told him that religion is like wine; it magnifies things. It makes brutes more brutish and humans, more human.

Dr. Soroush is one of those rare public intellectuals who dare to challenge the crazy Muslim status quo and actively use the sword of reason to challenge and demand reformation.

He is an inspiration…


Ps -

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Rumi on War and Conflict...

Dear Friends
Here is some much needed 800 hundred year old balm for aching if not bleeding souls everywhere...Over to Mevlana Ji... 

‘’ Move beyond any attachment to names.
Every war and every conflict
between human beings
has happened because of some disagreement
about names.
It’s such an unnecessary foolishness,
because just beyond the arguing
there’s a long table of companionship,
set and waiting for us to sit down.
What is praised is one, so the praise is
one too,
many jugs being poured into a huge
All religions, all this singing, one song.
The differences are just illusion and
Sunlight looks slightly different on this
wall than it does on that wall.
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still one light.
We have borrowed these clothes,
these time-and-space personalities,
from a light,
and when we praise,
we pour them back in.



Dear Friends
I am being absolutely honest that last night I experienced a stomach churning nightmare due to the current allied military offensive albeit UN sanctioned against Libya.

Yes it may well be to prevent a bloody massacre against the million or so inhabitants of Benghazi. However why are the fighter planes not flying over Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Yemen whose Muslim dictators are butchering their own unarmed people?

Why cannot the Arab League independently enforce a no-fly zone across Libya after all the west has armed them with the latest military hardware and know how? Saudi Arabia successfully deployed 2000 troops last week to protect their family relative who runs Bahrain on their behalf.

This latest allied adventure has all the hallmarks of the Bush invasion of Iraq but part Deux / 2.0. This is a serious case of déjà vu.

What is so upsetting is that this action will destroy all the inter-faith bridges so carefully and painstakingly constructed since the last Iraq war. It will give ammunition to extremists on all sides and drown enlightened voices of people such as Ziauddin Sardar and Rowan Williams. And discourse will descend into the ‘them versus us’ and solutions will be ‘black and white’.

What deeply angers me is that the Cameron government can slash the budget for English higher education and raise tuition fees but fund a no fly zone that will cost in excess of £1billion to fund a year. And the irony is that the M.O.D budget is also being slashed and our troops are being sent into theatre ill-equipped and post-conflict rely upon charity for their basic survival.

Why are we mortgaging the future of our children and socio- economic well being for another costly Middle Eastern debacle? Why cannot we throw off the shackles of our Imperialist past and transform into an economic and nice superpower like Germany or South Korea?

The current war cabinet are a bunch of public school lads drunk on a heady yet deadly cocktail of honour and ego. Surely they can leave their mark on history in other ways such as making UK PLC an economic powerhouse. Granted this is not as sexy as war mongering but hey we will not have the blood of Gaddafi or innocents on our hands!

Well done Mr. Cameron et al for another right royal and expensive mess that will be funded by the tax payer !!! Mr. Cameron is proving that Blairism is alive and kicking...


Saturday, 19 March 2011

What is Sufism?

Dear Friends
What is Sufism? This question has perplexed mystics for centuries. For some it is ‘zauq’ / taste for others it is the inculcation of virtues or Ihsaan.
Personally whenever I feel that I have the answer it manages to slip away like the choicest sand grains.
I read the following by the great Hafiz who is alluding to something which is simultaneously so deep yet delicate and in my humble opinion sums up the entire Sufi (if not Muslim) enterprise and journey:

Awake my dear,
Be kind to your sleeping heart
Take it out to the vast
Field of light
And let it breathe

Let us breathe / pray / meditate / dream / taste / do good...Ameen. Suma Ameen


'Theatre of Dreams'...

Dear Friends
The school year is slowly winding down. Students are preparing for finals or finishing coursework or begging for extensions!
It has been one heck of a rock n roll academic year peppered with many highs and lows. However even the latter have been exhilarating and superior to my previous highs during other professional incarnations.
Without a shadow of a doubt the best and worst experiences have been in the classroom which I am totally smitten by. The classroom is the ‘theatre of dreams’ and it has been an honour to facilitate the development of my students and see them transforming hopefully into better human beings.
The really cool thing is that I am realising one of my greatest ambitions namely to make history...I had no idea it was going to take place like this...
As ever there is a Bollywood song for this moment! : )

Party on!


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Muslim Emotional Intelligence?

Dear Friends

One of the hallmarks of my Pakistani-Muslim heritage is emotion bordering on insanity which is simultaneously a flaw and genius. The latter flowers beautifully during the care of the sick and elderly and mysticism however it degenerates into a deadly farce when it is exploited by sick politicians or mad mullahs or 'elders'.

The only way to transform this emotion into ‘emotional intelligence’ is education especially the scientific method. This is my private struggle...slackers need not apply!

Power to the Heart!

Rishi Faisal 

Ps - The above bollywood song inspired the renowned composer Andrew Lloyd Webber! Dil se...From the heart...

Now we are FREE...

Dear Friends

I passionately believe that freedom (socio-economic-religious) is the birth right of every human being.

Thus I feel that it one of my functions as an educator to facilitate the student’s path to freedom which will enable them to become global citizens of the first rate.

However it is also important to manage expectations and demonstrate to them that this a challenging process full of countless trials, tribulations and rewards. What I call the alchemy of the heart...

Now we are free


Ps - Sometimes I view myself as a midwife facilitating the birth of butterflies...


Dear Friends

I successfully sat an exam yesterday as part of my teacher training that was a really rewarding experience. The last week was spent burning midnight oil and getting stressed out. I was very nervous as I was sitting an exam after 7 or 8 years and it was a computer based assessment!

I now have more empathy for my students but will continue to inspire and push them.

As Muhammad (pbuh) uttered 1400 hundred years ago:

‘’Seek knowledge even thou hast to go to China’’.



Thursday, 10 March 2011

'Hebrew Framing'...

Dear Friends

I adore the following Jewish / Talmudic lore:

"We do not see things as they are.
We see them as we are."

I agree with Flora Brown wholeheartedly when she states:

If the places and people you find yourself in are not to your liking, it's time to take a look at the part you are playing to create what you see. If you want to change your relationships, work environment and other settings, start with being the person you want to see.

Power to the HEART!


Monday, 7 March 2011

'Muslim Constructivism'...

Dear Friends

Rumi reminds us that;

Love and imagination are magicians
Who create an image of the Beloved in your mind
With which you share your secret intimate moments.

This apparition is made of nothing at all,
But from its mouth comes the question,
“Am I not your Loved One?”
and from you the soft reply”Yes.Yes.Yes.”



Ps - Muslim Endurance sport...

A prime example of a Sufi gathering gone pear shaped big time:

Surely this is not what the great Mystics of Islam  or the Prophet were teaching???????

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Muslim 'Endurance Sport'...

Dear Friends
I have recently attended several traditional Muslim gatherings and been deeply distraught at the poor intellectual rigour. The Quran is reduced to an ‘endurance sport’ where the quantity of worship becomes of paramount significance rather than the essence or spiritual efficacy to transform. I am shocked when people are actually impressed with numeric measures such as this person has recited this Quranic surah a gazillion times!
It is like being with a crowd of sheep who are guided by lazy shepherds that care more for their image then their roles and responsibilities. I also find the blind obedience deeply distasteful as it is bordering on idolatry. Discussion is frowned upon and the didactic approach to teaching transforms into intellectual dictatorship.
I pine for the medieval Andalucía gatherings that were populated by Jews, Muslims and Christians engaged in deep discourse and debate, or the poetic gatherings of the great 18th century Urdu poet Ghalib or the public lectures by the Sufi martyr Hallaj
In the mean time I will drown my sorrows in Rumi and a cup of chai...


Saturday, 5 March 2011

Money Talks...

Dear Friends
It is very easy to trash the London School of Economics (LSE) for their links to the Libyan regime of Colonel Gaddafi. However, the government has slashed University funding consequently these bastions of knowledge will have to and are diversifying their income streams.  Every University across Great Britain loves international students and powerful foreign alumni. Who else is going to fund cutting edge research and pay the bills?
Granted the links between LSE and the Libyans predates the current funding crisis in Higher Education (H.E) however they were doing some excellent work especially training Libyan civil servants. Surely the H.E route is an excellent way to promote the rule of law and democracy across the world especially in the Muslim World which is rotten to the core?
On the other hand it can be argued that western educated elites in the Muslim World are merely extensions of neo-colonial powers and oppress the indigenous masses and culture. Take for example the Brown Sahibs of Pakistan such as the late Benazir Bhutto or Imran Khan.
The events in the middle-east have caught everyone by surprise especially London and Washington.  This is the 1989 moment for this region and hopefully South Asia is next...


Wednesday, 2 March 2011

From homeless to Harvard...

Dear Friends

Sometimes I wonder why God tests so much. After all what difference is it going to make to his greatness?

A clue can be found in the concept of 'Resilience' which is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual “bouncing back” to a previous state of normal functioning, or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a “steeling effect” and function better than expected (much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease).

Below is a link to a kick ass example of resilience…Simply inspiring:

From homeless to Harvard: graduate sets sight on success:

Finally I am reminded of the following:
“I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”

The only easy day was yesterday.
(Navy Seals)



Tuesday, 1 March 2011

'Bloody' Fatwa...

Dear Friends
During the current Libyan peoples struggle for freedom the 'respected' Scholar - Yusuf al-Qaradawi - has issued a fatwa or legal edict sanctioning the assassination of Colonel Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi.
This plays straight into the hands of the neo-cons who contend that the Muslim World is not fit or ready for democracy. Qaradawi should be calling for his arrest, public trial, and imprisonment along with his sons who should spend the remainder of their lives rotting in jail especially Saif al-Islam who can meditate on his doctorate earned from the London School of Economics discussing democracy.
Will the head of Gaddafi help to quench the anguish of those countless mothers whose sons and daughters were murdered in Libya?
When will this bloody cycle of violence end in the Muslim World?
When will Muslims realize that their birth right is not heaven but individual responsibility?