Balancing this world and the hereafter

Balancing this world and the hereafter

What do we do when we are too concerned with only one part of our lives?

If we are obsessed with our looks, we might spend more time at the gym, always be concerned about makeup/hair, try new diets, worry about our wardrobes…

If we are obsessed with our kids, we might spend every waking moment keeping them entertained and happy, and worry about their every need…

If we are obsessed with going to the masjid/center, we might pray the jama’at namaz every day, take part in every program, volunteer every chance we get, and worry about what is going on or not going on at the masjid/center…

While each of these “obsessions” are valid, it signifies a huge problem prevalent in our communities today. We fail to balance our deen with the dunya, and that, unfortunately, can be detrimental in our journey to becoming a complete human being.

No one can be successful by focusing fully on only one facet of their lives. This is why the Islamic code for our lives — if followed correctly — really does serve as a way of life.

Nowhere in Islam does it recommend not caring for our bodies, or always being concerned with praying at the masjid. But yes, in Islam, God is the focal point. If we do everything in our lives with the intention of pleasing the Almighty, then it helps us put our actions into perspective.

You will see parents who refuse to give their children sugary drinks or snacks. But they might not be so concerned if they pray or not. They worry so much about what is going in their stomaches, but what about their spiritual health?

It is the same with those of us concerned with working out or always worried about looking our best. If we are just spending that time at the gym or putting on makeup, what is the intention? And although working out and maintaining a healthy body is a responsibility of every Muslim, is it necessary to post pictures of our bulging biceps? Or selfies with painted pouts?

And those of us who only focus on our religious obligations without concern of our place in this world. No, a person cannot just be concerned with prayers and not working to maintain a livelihood to support his family. Or

As Muslims we have a responsibility to live our lives with a purpose. This means everything we do should have a reason – what we say, what we eat, who we associate with, how we spend our free time, etc.

To some this may come as a form of dictatorship. But once we understand that our responsibility to please Allah goes hand in hand with leading a life of peace and tranquility, then it will be easier to live a life of purpose.

“Avoid speaking until there is reasonable occasion. Those who enter into useless talk, even if expressing truth, are found reprehensible.” – Imam Hussain

Thinking about Tehran

Thinking about Tehran

It’s summertime and alhamdulillah we are able to spend another summer visiting family back in the states. The month of Ramadan started soon after we arrived in New York, and we were busy fasting and trying to keep the kids busy while in vacation mode, when we heard the devastating news out of Tehran.

My husband told me right around the time of Fajr prayers.

“There was a bomb in the parliament building in Tehran.”

And a few minutes later…

“And a bomb blast at Imam Khomeini’s shrine.”

My heart sank. I couldn’t believe my ears. Bombs? Deaths? Injured? During Ramadan? Why? Who?

Slowly as the news reports came filing in, I couldn’t stop thinking about Tehran. First we heard 6 killed, then 12, and finally 17. There were dozens wounded. Closed circuit TV tapes showed Iranians running for cover with an armed man following them at close range with a gun.

Afterwards when I saw coverage of the funeral processions for those killed, my heart bled. I could only think about the families left behind with questions. Those killed who were fasting. They died a senseless death. And all thanks to the powers who only think about themselves, and what can benefit their own countries.

“Millat Iran darad harkat mi konad va peesh mi ravad; een tarqebaazi haaye ham ke imrooz shod, een ha ham dar iraadeye mardom taseeri nakhwahad guzasht.”

“The people of Iran are moving and going forward. These firecrackers that happened today, these also will not have any effect on the will and determination of the people.”

-Rahbar e moazzam, Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenei 

 

Yes, I am not Iranian. But for the past almost 5 years Iran has been my home. It’s where my kids go to school. It’s where we have made a community of many like us who have traveled from all over the world to study Islam in Qom.

I have to say I never ever thought about this kind of stuff happening in Qom. We live in relative peace in Iran. Sure we heard of the stories of Iranian guards stopping Daesh cells at the border, or potential attacks in the country, but that was all. With all Iran is called these days they do a pretty damn good job protecting their own. We don’t have to worry about a random crazy person shooting up a school, or a grocery store. We don’t have to think about a cop stopping a driver and beating them senseless. We don’t think about kids bringing weapons to school and hurting other kids.

It’s just not a problem we have to worry about.

And it is also one of the issues I have with some Iranians who often wonder with awe why we bothered to leave the “great nation of America” to live in Iran. Well doesn’t every country have their issues? Doesn’t every nation have their strengths and weaknesses? Why is it that Iran must be terrible because of rules of hijab and America is great because there is no hijab? You have Imam don’t you? You have the blood of shaheed that saved your country from being a toy in the hands of imperialists. Doesn’t any of that matter?

Thinking about you Tehran, and having just passed Imam Khomeini’s shrine about a month ago. We were going to visit but didn’t have time….

There will never be a perfect country. There will always be problems and issues that will make the other side look a whole bunch greener. But every country has to strive for a better day. And every country should fight those who try to meddle in their affairs. Every sovereign nation has a right to pick their own leaders, and deal with their own issues their way, without having another country funding dissent, or overthrowing leaders or supporting terror attacks.

I will say this: Sanctions stink, but they have made Iran stronger. They have showed the true resolve of the Iranian people. They have taught them that you might have to struggle but at least you won’t have to succumb to lapdog status.

And that, in itself, is a victory.

“Millat Iran darad harkat mi konad va peesh mi ravad; een tarqebaazi haaye ham ke imrooz shod, een ha ham dar iraadeye mardom taseeri nakhwahad guzasht.”

“The people of Iran are moving and going forward. These firecrackers that happened today, these also will not have any effect on the will and determination of the people.”

-Rahbar e moazzam, Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenei 

When mom life meets hawza life

When mom life meets hawza life

I apologize for not updating the blog in a long time but I’ve been literally taking exams for the past month. And I still have two more to go.

The one thing you learn pretty quickly as a hawza student is that one must always be ready for anything. Like having midterms a week before finals. (Don’t ask)

In between regular life, cram sessions, midterms, wiladat celebrations, fasting, and finals, I have realized life is really what you make of it. There have been days when I feel like just closing my books and quitting hawza. When I first started hawza with Farsi language classes, it didn’t seem so difficult to manage a home life with school. But now as I finish my first term as an official hawza student I’ve gotten just a glimpse into what it takes to learn about Islam.

Our classes are not a joke – Sarf (Arabic grammar), aqaid (beliefs), akhlaq (Islamic code of ethics), tareekh (history), ahkam (Islamic laws of practice), khanvadeh dar Islam (family in Islam), and some classes based on Shaheed Mortaza Motahhari’s books.

Attending classes this term felt like I was quenching this inner thirst. Our teachers opened our eyes to different concepts, helped us realize our true identities as Muslims, and what it means to follow the path we are on. Every time I felt like dropping out, I just told myself it’ll get better.

Our akhlaq teacher was one of the best of the bunch. She started every class with a verse from the Quran and encouraged us to read and understand at least one verse a day.

I didn’t just learn religion this term; I learned life. I learned about sisterhood, overcoming obstacles, prioritizing, keeping a schedule, and that going back to school is never a bad thing.

My kids wonder why I’m still in “school” if I’m a mom. They wonder why I get homework, and if my teachers are nice. I don’t dare do homework on my kids’ time – that’s just asking for trouble. I wait until they’re asleep to crack open the books and feel like an adult again.

Once you’re a parent you get really good at making life work and anything that comes in the way – school, work, etc – gets organized accordingly. You have no choice but to make it work, for your sanity.

It’s been a while since I’ve been back in the school grind, but I have to say I’m enjoying every moment. From getting new notebooks to eyeing the clock for the end-of-class dua, school life is truly magnificent.

The Holy Prophet told us to “seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave,” and I’m humbled with the opportunity to be here learning, and hopefully pass this valuable information to others.

22 Bahman in pictures

22 Bahman in pictures

Today marked the 38th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. We went out for the rahpaymah, or procession, in Qom.

Below: “The movement continues…”

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Today those of us in Iran answered Trump’s threats by coming out on the streets in large numbers.

No, we don’t fear you. Bring it on.

The day we met a Sunni in Iran…

The day we met a Sunni in Iran…

And contrary to what mainstream media tells me, he actually was happily living here.

Back story: We were driving back home to Qom from Mashhad, and stopped in Aradan. In the village of Deh Namak there was an old fortress used in the time of Shah Abbas (according to the manager it was some 500 years old) which had been turned into a hotel/restaurant/rest stop, called Caravan Saraye Deh Namak.

It was a beautiful fortress. We went inside and the hayat had gardens and small fountains. There were individual rooms you could rent for the night. I wish we could have stayed longer.

But we were hungry and ready to just hit the road and get back home. We met the manager who led us inside the restaurant. It was a sunnati, or traditional, restaurant, which means they serve the typical kabab platters (koobideh, joojeh), deyzi, among other dishes. The seating arrangement was quite lovely – you go up these small steps to private areas furnished with rugs and cushions so you can relax and eat on the floor.

My husband struck up a conversation with the manager and finds out he is Ahle Sunnat.

“Do you find yourself being discriminated against here?” my husband asks.

“No, not really,” the manager says. “I find no trouble at all.”

He has leased the fortress from the government and is currently living there with his wife while he tries to finish renovating it. He has two kids – one is a university student and one is married.

My husband then tells him that we often read articles about how Sunnis are discriminated against in Iran, a predominantly Shia country.

The manager again confirmed that he has no problems here, but that there are plenty of people who exaggerate these issues for their own benefits.

“Extremism on either side is a problem,” he said. “A person who doesn’t eat at all is harming his health, just like someone who eats too much.”

So now if someone tells you Sunnis are being discriminated in Iran, at least you can say you know one who says this is not the case.

Lady Ma’suma (SA), the heart of Qom

Lady Ma’suma (SA), the heart of Qom

Salaam alaikum dear readers! We would like to introduce a guest writer on the Qomlife blog. Sumaira Fatima is a student at Amir-ul-Momineen Islamic Seminary in Qom. 

In the West, as you walk through the downtown of any relatively big city, you encounter tall buildings reaching towards the sky, grand shopping malls carrying expensive brand names, the hustle and bustle of people hurrying about their day to earn their incomes – in short, a polished, glittering manifestation of materialism.

But where I live – the blessed city of Qom, Iran – “downtown” is something entirely different.

If you look at a map of Qom, you will see that it is a fairly small city in the approximate shape of a circle, about 10 km in diameter at its widest point. Right at the very center of the circle lies the haram of Sayeda Fatimah Ma’suma, the blessed lady of Qom.

In the traditions of our Imams (as), this shrine – and in fact, the entire city of Qom – has been referred to as the “haram-e-Ahlulbayt (as)” (sanctuary of the Prophet and his Holy Progeny).

The haram is a place of worship, of remembrance of God and the purpose for which He created us, of contemplation upon the verses of God, and of conversation with the beloveds of God.

This blessed place lies at the very heart of the city – a constant reminder to us Qomites to always keep God at the center of our lives.

No matter where you live in Qom, reaching the haram via public transport is an easy task. Every single public bus route eventually leads to the haram. From every main street, you can find shared taxis that will drive you there. It is as if the city is designed in such a way that those who truly wish to go towards Truth will easily find themselves at the haram, in the presence of the blessed lady, at the place best suited for spiritual cleansing and growth. This is a reminder of the beautiful Islamic principle that if one truly wishes to find God, He will open ways for them to reach Him.

Compare this to the structure of cities in the West. The placement of symbols and products of materialism at the center of these cities encourages citizens to put their worldly desires at the forefront of their lives. Islam teaches us that mankind’s perfection lies in self-discipline which leads to self-purification, whereas western liberal ideology encourages us to work for physical wellbeing limited to this world only and to make our desires our gods.

And so, in a dizzyingly beautiful way, the structure of Qom reflects the city’s importance in being the spiritual and intellectual epicenter of the Shi’a Muslim world and thus a place of spirituality and attention towards the divine. In the same way, the structure of western cities pays tribute to the increasing drive of the West towards the material.

Therefore, living in Qom is amazingly, incredibly effective in purifying the heart and clarifying the mind, not only because it is a city of knowledge and piety, but also because even its physical structure is in accordance with the Tawhidi outlook on life.

What a truly blessed place this is, that even something so simple as its layout can serve as a constant reminder of God!

-Sumaira Fatima can be reached via e-mail at: Sfahmed313@gmail.com