Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The challenge of Chief Seattle...

Dear Friends
The following is a letter by Chief Seattle to the President of the USA in the 19th century. Not only is it a masterpiece but a prophetic challenge which has not been met by ‘modern man’. The enlightenment has yielded much for the stomach and 5 senses but little for the soul...

"The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know - there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all."

Thanks & Welcome to my friends...

Peace be unto thee, stranger, enter and be not afraid.
I have left the gate open and thou art welcome to my home.
There is room in my house for all.
I have swept the hearth and lighted the fire.
The room is warm and cheerful and you will find comfort and rest within.
The table is laid and the fruits of Life are spread before thee.
The wine is here also, it sparkles in the light.
I have set a chair for you where the sunbeams dance through the shade.
Sit and rest and refresh your soul.
Eat of the fruit and drink the wine.
All, all is yours, and you are welcome.

[Ernest Holmes] 

'Foreign Aids'...

Dear Friends
In my last NGO role in 2008 I was a regional finance manager in charge of 14 country offices for a boutique INGO based in the UK.  At the time I was thrilled to bits as I had landed my dream job...However, it proved to be a turning point and I permanently left the international development scene in disgust and anger at the level of professional incompetence and corruption.

Fast forward to May 2011 and I was watching a debate about foreign aid and one of the participants made a comment which vindicated by career change. He explained how western foreign aid budgets were engineered to create middle classes in the third world that would assist in the exploitation of natural resources that the western economies badly needed. It was supposed to be a win-win situation as the exploited natural resources were converted into consumer goods which would flow back into the third world. 

Well I have to admit I have enjoyed Red Bull and the wifi in some weird and wonderful places but the poor appeared to getting poorer...

Foreign aid is really 'foreign aids' and the developing world will only catch up through good governance coupled with international trade.

And I find the Con-Dem slashes to public sector especially in higher education deeply offensive while we lavish major donations to despots, albeit ‘elected’ in some cases, across the world such as £600 million to President Zardari of Pakistan...Why don't the Pakistani people ask their rulers to put their money where there mouth is and wire some of those billions stashed in Swiss bank accounts!  



Sunday, 29 May 2011

Question marks ?????

Dear Friends
Today I heard a Presbyterian utter the following regarding the existence of heaven:

’Upon death the question marks (????) will  become exclamation marks (!!!!)’’...

Now that’s what I call vision...

Jai Ho!

It is written.... : )

Little Faisal

Sufi Champion's League...

Dear Friends
On paper the Sufi path in fact any serious spiritual path looks and feels like ‘a piece of cake’...However, an iron will coupled with nerves of steel and a bona fide teacher are vital to survive let alone flourish and taste eternity...The following are known as the 7 Mevlevi advices and I can think of perhaps only a handful of my associates who only meet several:

‘’In generosity and helping others be like a river
In compassion and grace be like the sun
In concealing others faults be like the night
In anger and fury be dead
In modesty and humility be like the earth
In tolerance be like the sea
Either exist as you are or be as you look’’

If you have actualised all 7 you are playing / operating in the Sufi Champion’s League...you are a Sufi Messi in my books! : )



Saturday, 28 May 2011

Spiritual Alchemy...

Dear Friends
According to spiritual alchemy the worker and his/her inner work change.  I always found this a very challenging concept to comprehend.

However, this morning I was watching a cookery show. It was the final. All the 3 contestants had been through a tough process of selection and testing. I marvelled at how they had changed. Suddenly I thought that’s it! Here was a clear example of spiritual alchemy. The contestants had definitely changed as they were more refined cooks. Crucially their ‘work’ namely the food had transformed into Michelin star standard!

Perhaps life including all its trials, tribulations, even rewards and our role is one grand alchemy.  And we ‘get’ more out according to our level and intensity of participation. Thus for any real engagement with life (including with God) we cannot be forced rather encouraged and nurtured. Consequently authentic humanity is helping our fellow wo(man) realise their potential and transform into gold...Inshallah / God Willing!

Carp Diem...Seize the moment...


Ps – I feel the concept of alchemy is going to become the touchstone of my teaching practice...and is a useful mechanism to keep the bigger picture in view...

Friday, 27 May 2011

A pilgrim returns...

Dear Friends
My little brother arrived several days ago after completing a spiritual pilgrimage of Konya, Turkey, the final resting place of Mevlana Rumi. He remains deeply ‘intoxicated’ and has been making me rather tipsy as well!

His tales of pure Sufi jamming especially Sema (whirling Dervishes) with the Mevlevi Dervishes has reignited my passion for the path which had begun to hibernate, like water disappearing in the desert.

Bro! This one’s for you:



Ps- I too went to Konya in December 2008 and Mevlana mended my broken being...

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Dare to peel onions?

Dear Friends
One of the joys of travelling is meeting people from different backgrounds.  Recently I met a German executive and it occurred to me that deep down we share a common humanity that is masked by colour, creed and gender. If we are brave enough to peel this ‘onion’ the results are potentially life changing...
In my humble opinion it begins with language that has to be deconstructed. We meet friends for coffee but drink tea or cocoa. We have all kinds of coded language for business, fraternity, romance, politics and popular culture that will vary across the globe.
This is where the role of the ‘business counsellor’ , diplomat, perhaps even spiritual teacher  becomes crucial in building bridges of common understanding that enable mutual trust, confidence and ultimately transcendence.
A highly evolved example is the great Sufi sage Ibn Arabi who uttered 800 hundred years ago:
My heart has become able
To take on all forms.
It is a pasture for gazelles,
For monks an abbey.

It is a temple for idols
And for whoever circumambulates it, the Kaaba.
It is the tablets of the Torah
And also the leaves of the Koran.

I believe in the religion
Of Love
Whatever direction its caravans may take,
For love is my religion and my faith.

Salaam / Peace...


Monday, 23 May 2011


Dear Friends
As the British public sector is being slashed in the wake of the global down turn pensions are a source of serious cooler chat. Personally I don’t expect even a state pension and I am more than happy to work till the day I die...
The adage ‘olde is gold’ springs to mind...There is so much to see, do, learn, experience and change...As I do not believe in re-incarnation this life is no dress rehearsal...
It occurred to me today that my life is like a river and upon death it will merge with the primal source...So I want to keep flowing and working...
Happiness is a journey not a destination...


Sunday, 22 May 2011


Dear Friends
I will formally begin my research career this September as I embark on a Doctorate of Business Administration. It feels as if this will be beginning of a journey that I begun when I graduated in 1997.
Back then I intended to pursue a post grad degree in Theology but backed out at the last minute due to my reading of Karen Armstrong’s seminal A history of God. I was puzzled why Armstrong lacked any strong faith although on paper she had appeared to master many. I figured I did not want to end up confused...Little did I know that I would still end up confused! : )
The word research is composed of two syllables, re and search.

re is a prefix meaning again, anew or over again
search is a verb meaning to examine closely and carefully, to test and try, or to probe.

Together they form a noun describing a careful, systematic, patient study and investigation in some field of knowledge, undertaken to establish facts or principles. Research is a structured enquiry that utilizes acceptable scientific methodology to solve problems and creates new knowledge that is generally applicable.

It is a great pity that very few Muslims especially in the Muslim World have embarked on this noble mission to create new knowledge and push the frontiers of the mind. Some analysts blame the piestic tendencies of Sufism especially Imam Ghazali’s insistence on the inferiority of rational discourse.
Personally I believe the problem is rooted in poverty – How can someone with an empty stomach start rationally thinking let alone conduct research? It is no wonder that the promise of rivers of milk and honey coupled with wide eyed houri’s peddled by the Mullahs motivates and inspires the poor, down trodden and suicide bombers.
On the other hand it is heartening to read that several Turkish and one Egyptian have entered the top 200 global Universities. The Turkish revival is no doubt due to the vision of Kemal Ataturk the Father of modern Turkey who singlehandedly reformed the rotting Ottoman Empire.

I leave you with some food for thought:
. “...Say: ‘Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know?  It is those who are endowed with understanding that receive admonition.’”  (Qur’an, 39:9)
“Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear?  Truly it is not the eyes that are blind, but the hearts which are in their breasts.”  (22:46)



Saturday, 21 May 2011

The 3 R's...

Dear Friends
This is my kind of faith:
‘’Catholic: In order to become a new self according to God's wish, one has to go through transformation through reflection, reconciliation and reform.’’

In Islam the 3 R’s namely reflection, reconciliation, and reform are supplied in abundance through the practice of Sufism...This spiritual alchemy is best described by Rumi who says:

I died as a mineral and became a plant;
I died as a plant and rose to animal;
I died as animal and I was a man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as man to soar
With angels blest. But even from an angel
I must pass on: all except God must perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel soul,
I shall become what no mind ever conceived.

Die before you die...That is the challenge and reward of Sufism...



Friday, 20 May 2011

A Questioning faith...

Dear Friends
During my under grad days I was a great devourer and devotee of Marx however his stance on religion prevented me from blossoming into a full blown Marxist. Since, graduating I have travelled the world, read widely and been exposed to many cultures. And now I am back in the class room...
Now upon deeper examination of the Muslim world, based primarily on my experiences, the pristine religion of Islam has not only become an opiate it has also transformed into a tool of oppression and mechanism to arrest development of the masses.
I am horrified that people like Dr. Zakir Naik and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf are considered role models for young Muslims and are inspiring droves of Western Muslims into becoming ‘scholars’.  The latter wannabe scholars forget the wisdom of our Prophet that ‘Poverty leads to kuffar / unbelief’, consequently today Muslims rank at the bottom of most global socio-economic indicators. Thus poverty is neither holy or sexy...
Religion is supposed to unite but the Sunni-Shia divide continues to fester. Muslim on Muslim violence is at unprecedented levels and global conspiracies are the only intellectual response to the challenge of the west.
Islam promised much but Muslims have delivered little in the last hundred or so years.
The aforementioned was swirling in my mind as I caught a taxi to visit a placement student today. I rarely talk to cabbies / taxi drivers however, we struck up a conversation and religion entered the communication. The cabby was a non-practising British Pakistani Muslim however; his observations shook me to the core.
He felt that we should all live in peace and harmony and rather than referring to a religious identity we should merely state our location such as Manchester. He went on to discuss his trials and tribulations with his personal faith and that he did not consider Quran to be the absolute truth.
After years of study he still felt perplexed and confused with certain theological issues such the ‘permissible beating of wives’. Usually at this point I would interject and give a sermon. However I sat mesmerised by his brutal yet refreshing honesty and stated that he should keep questioning and explore Sufism which emphasised a personal and direct relationship with God. For him orthopraxy / right conduct was superior to orthodoxy / right thought which I totally endorse as well.  He ended by saying that he wanted to enjoy his life but within limits.



Au Revoir..."Until we see each other again"

Dear Friends
Yesterday I attended a function arranged in the honour of our outgoing Dean of the Business School. Christine Booths' speech was deeply reflective and I appreciated the fact that she acknowledged so many colleagues, friends and family who all helped to 'open doors'.
She mentioned a useful and interesting model entitled 'No regrets by Sunday' as a way of implicitly measuring success. Thus we should take each day as it comes and try our upmost to realise all our goals / ambitions.

The road to success is always under construction…



Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Queens visit to Ireland...

Dear Friends
The current Queens visit to Ireland is full of poignancy and symbolism and proves that if nations are brave enough they can move forward and heal the past. This is an excellent example for nations such as Pakistan and India who have been mired in decades of  mistrust and blood letting. There is even talk of and proof of engagement with the Taleban in Afghanistan which is dampening the whole clash of civilisations thesis.
Conflict is always resolved with dialogue and proves the utter futility of war. Even if a nation wins they still have to live and work with the loser. On the other hand war could be viewed as the price of peace and thus a necessary evil that serves as painful reminder when guns do the talking. Personally I do not know and merely hope for a global future of peace, reconciliation and goodwill.



Monday, 16 May 2011

England calling...

Dear Friends
I am back! Very jet lagged and groggy...As usual when I am away and all the fun and games / fireworks start on my blog! : )

I have to write a report about my trip and will duly post...In the mean time all I can say it was a fabulous trip and I managed to meet my objectives of connecting with Chinese academics and engaging with students. I have a feeling this trip will prove to be a personal turning point and augurs well for the future. Inshallah  / God Willing...

In a nutshell China is very much open for business and means business...The Chinese are a deeply hospitable and forward looking people...


Ps- I have no intention of replying or engaging with the negative comments and hope that the individual concerned can do something more constructive with their time.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

China calling...

Dear Friends
I am flying to China this weekend on a University sponsored weeklong trip. I am really looking forward to engaging with fellow Chinese academics and prospective students. Also this will be a golden opportunity to experience authentic Chinese culture and broaden my horizons.

This trip is very important for my spiritual development as Muslim Tradition recommends that:

I am to learn...


Becoming a Man...

Dear Friends
Fatherhood is one of the greatest blessings that a man can receive.

My baby daughter is such a joy. I used to think that fatherhood would clip my wings now I want to see the world with her and above all through her eyes. Believe me caring for her is beyond words...(Although my wife feels she already has me wrapped round her tiny finger!)

My respect for women has increased immeasurably especially mothers (my own Mother happens to be my Sufi Teacher!). My wife has sacrificed a lot…I always remind her that heaven is at her feet not mine!

When ever I see Zahra I am reminded by the exquisite track…Tuhje mein rab dihkta hai / I see the divine in you…

Cometh the hour…Cometh the Man…



Monday, 2 May 2011

Osama Bin Laden (D. 02/05/2011)

Dear Friends
Osama bin Laden is no more!

This will provide some comfort and justice for the victims of the families of US 9 /11, UK 7/7 and SPAIN 3/3. However the conflict continues as the Osama-esque ideology remains alive and kicking.

The real celebration will take place when the extreme Salafi-Wahabi school of thought permanently retreats into the mountains. This will happen in my life time as the Muslim Arab Spring has been conducted by largely secular and media savvy Muslim youth...

The following is a sobering reminder that:
All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers.Francois Fenelon

Salaam / Peace


Sunday, 1 May 2011

'Gratitude is the best attitude'...

Dear Friends

We owe thankfulness to God, not sour faces.
—Rumi , Mathnawi, I.1525

So true!  : )