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The Pied Piper was a what?

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Fairy tale origins are interesting. Many of the ones people know of these days were stories, often with morals, passed shared from generation to generation. Look on an online search, two of the oldest commonly known fairy tales today is Beauty and the Beast, and Rumpelstiltskin. These stories are apparently about four thousand years old. They weren’t meant for children, but the ones we see were adapted to entertain them. I always like to look up the origins of fairy tales and compare them to their stories today.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. One of my children was given The Pied Piper to read as homework. I listen as they read through it, my usual curiosity with fairy tales led me to look it up shortly after. Instant results… hmm… oh wow, it was based on a true sto-pffffffffff asdfkjksdgisgbskjvbn WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT WAS BASED ON A TRUE STORY?!


Let’s recap the story as we know it today, shall we?

City of Hamelin has an issue with rats, some random pied piper appears and says he can rid the town of them in exchange for a reward. Mayor agrees, but when the pied piper delivers, he goes back on his promise. The pied piper begins to play a tune that has the most of the children of the town dancing out of it were never seen again.

Although most of it is legend, the last sentence was actually true. There are a number of inscriptions scattered, some telling us of a day when 130 children were led out of town by a piper dressed in multi-coloured clothes and never seen again. Nobody thought to add any details? No one?

Historians are left trying to figure out what happened. The way the inscriptions talk about it come across a lot like trauma, “It is 100 years since our children left”. The strongest theory lets us know how the years coincides with a a surge in migration. They looked into it further, turns out many of the family names common in Hamelin coincidentally and I guess eventually become surprisingly frequent in another city. Other theories account for other events, which in themselves are crazy to hear about. Dancing mania was apparently a thing, as in an actual plague that could have people dance to their deaths. Neither of these theories account for the random pied piper appearing out of nowhere and leading the children out though.

The End of the Day

Subhan-Allah, the stuff that happens in history we were never aware about. I’m not going to make random speculations or anything, but it does remind me of something said in the Qur’an,

We relate to you the best of stories through Our revelation of this Qur’an, though before this you were totally unaware.

Qur’an, 12:3

So much of history goes by without our knowledge, so many pieces missing we can never truly confirm.

It’s humbling.

At the end of the day, it’s not for me to attempt to fill in the gaps we know little of. I’m going to let this go, I’m going to go back to my life and make my way through it with Allah’s support. However, I will let it take a place in my mind as a reminder of how little I know, to let it make my steps in this life light.

That’s it for me. What are your thoughts on any of the original stories of fairy tales in general, or is this your first time hearing its origins aren’t what we know today?


Reflections on Rates of Divorce

Photo by Pixabay on | This totally seems like the opposite of what I should be using as an image given the title I’ve set, but hear me out.

I find it so interesting to consider the different divorce rates. You look up the statistics–rates and reasons for such–then compare them with the general ideas people hold close to. You start to reflect. You might end up questioning how much we actually understand life.

Stats on Divorce

We’re going to start with UK statistics on divorce. Out of every marriage recorded in 1965, about 30% ended in divorce, compared to 42% for those who married in 1995. Of the marriages petitioned for divorce, about 34% (male) or 48% (female) say they did so due unreasonable behaviour. This means a number of things to be fair, ranging from abuse to lack of love to bad habits.

Okay, sure. Unreasonable behaviour is so broad though, I wondered if the US statistics could be more specific. This time, I based it off a website from a firm calling themselves Wilkinson & Finkbeiner. About 50% of every marriage recorded ends in divorce, okay. Aha, about 73% claim lack of commitment, 56% say they were involved in too many arguments, 55% infidelity. They still seem a little vague. Okay then, let’s just end it with an online search of most common reasons for divorce. One website mentions incompatibility, infidelity, money issues. Another mentions infidelity, lack of intimacy, communication, money and addiction. While the first two seem to be based in the US, another based in the UK mentions similar. Each website seems to be a different firm based specialising in divorce.

If you’re like me, those numbers interested you for a moment, but then proceeded to fly over your head, so here’s the simple way of saying it: half of record marriages end in divorce, of which half mention lack unreasonable behaviour, of which the ones that stood out the most mentioned lacking love of some form, money or addiction.

The Ideals We Hold Close

Okay, sure. Wait a minute though, something feels off. I grew up constantly hearing the same values repeatedly time and time again. Before marriage, we have to be compatible, we have to have financially stable with noble careers, we have to be in love and we’ve got to take our time making sure they’re the one. That’s what makes a successful marriage, they say. And yet, what’s with these stats proving otherwise? Love lost, financial, incompatibility. On the other hand, there’s the manner in which these stats were combined in the UK: unreasonable behaviour. Let’s keep it simple though. We’ll draw our attention to the emphasis placed on love being the most significant factor in a marriage, then we’ll see how much stuff gets dragged into this as a result, maybe possibly make up for any outliers that don’t if too many appear after.

So we found love, we married because of it, then we managed to lose it. The question is, how was it lost? Maybe the love was impeded by irresponsibility, like money or addiction or lack of commitment to making it work. However, that would suggest that either love isn’t everything or love can be lost. Whereas the first has us wondering what could also contribute to a successful marriage, the second suggests that love can be lost and has to be cared for even after finding it. That’s probably why we want a stable career with a stable income before we get married then, plus why we wait to see how it pans out, right?

Maybe not. The statistics suggest that total divorces pan out after about 30 years. That’s an excessive amount of time to get to know someone before deciding you want to be married, isn’t it? Meanwhile, money issues make for a huge dent when it comes to reasons for divorce. Usually, that money comes from a stable career, which would suggest that they’ve either lost it or spend it on bad stuff. That’d explain those other common reasons for filing for divorce like addiction. Think a bit more on, you start to wonder if marriage is meant to be this shallow. Careers won’t be lifelong, neither will money. No one can predict their own stability, so when that wanes, will a marriage simply fail because we didn’t have the wealth or status to attract them anymore?

Let’s look back at that whole unreasonable behaviour and lack of commitment thing. Behaviour and commitment are aspects or maturity, not of love. Let me look that up for a moment actually. By that, I mean look up the reasons for a strong marriage. Surely enough, it seems like what builds a strong marriage isn’t only love, but maturity, like being able to handle arguments, to communicate, being honest. Huh… why is it I only ever hear people talk about love, wealth, and career?

Photo by Artem Saranin on | What happens when those lights go out? Will the trees in the background look cared for and strong, or neglected and dead?

Responsible, Mature

Admittedly, it makes sense, even though I disagree. You have money, you can spend; you have career, it’s easy to fall into the trap of confusing career with nobility; love feels good. Maturity though, isn’t that simply another word for responsible? That doesn’t sound exciting.

That’s probably the exact thing we need though. What comes up must go down. The exciting stuff eventually fizzles out until you’re left with the regular stuff you do day to day. You want to ensure those foundations themselves are sound, so that when the excitement goes away, you actually have something nice to lay back on and rest. Love feels good, it inspires us to try, but maturity is what keeps it going behind the scenes. It’s the part of you that remembers to look for gifts for your partner, to treat to them as an equal. It’s that part reminds you to adjust your life to make room for theirs, not only in times of struggle, but in times of peace. Isn’t that what keeps a marriage going?

Maybe it’s worth going back to the drawing board and revisiting our perspectives on what truly matters in life.

A Reasonable Gut

Bored. A toy next to me, looks something like a relay baton. I pick it up and throw it above me spinning. I tried to catch it, failed.

Ah! Thinking, Fast and Slow! A gross and inaccurate simplification, but our mind can considered as two parts: slow and thorough; fast and instinctive.


Let’s see if reason turns out to be better here. I thought about it before deciding to throw, the exact moment to look out for, the speed at which it turns. Maybe this lets me catch it first time. Failed. Failed Again. Failed.

Okay, so how about I stop thinking for a moment and simply feel for it. Yeah, I caught it first try, otherwise second.

How consistent could I be at it? I kept at it, feeling for the right moment. Slower. Too slow, maybe a little faster this time. My reasoning was lacklustre, like slower or faster has no explanation to it, no context, no nothing. Then again, you’re being too analytical in all the wrong ways. Shut it down for a moment, observe. Your eyes begin to take over, your hand as if being drawn to the baton at the moment it needs to be. You might fail at first, but bit by bit through practice, you subconsciously begin to realise the trick behind it. When you emphasise the mind too much, you fail to let the eyes, the hands, the body to do its job. There’s a disconnect. You’re trying too hard to understand; you can act, feel and observe degrees faster than years of research allows you to do so, so to focus only on the mind is to prevent basic common sense to kick in.

See, I think a lot. I’m thinking a lot about how best to learn to catch it on one hand, yet the other is amazed at the difference between knowing and feeling, instinct and reason. When I was using reason to figure out the best moment to catch it, I couldn’t catch it. I figured the best way was to hold out my hand shortly before I could see the makeshift baton. Makes a lot of sense in theory, but my mind couldn’t keep up with the speed, so I kept missing. I switch to feeling for it, my eyes start doing the work, my hand reacts, it sees the exact moment I need to extend and grab.


That was about a year ago. I’m sorry, but I’m not done trying to understand yet. Of course there are a mountain of times when deliberate reason is far better. I want a moment though, a moment I feel stands out apart from the rest where it’s black and white, alongside other moments with shades of grey.

I found myself purchasing one of those sliding maze puzzles recently.


About five hundred levels with increasing difficulty, there came a point where of course I was stumped. I kept moving the pieces, bit by bit. I had an what was going on, but I couldn’t express it to myself, so it’d take about twenty minutes to figure out a puzzle. Even when I did, it frustrated me how I could feel for what was right, I knew what was going on, but because I couldn’t express it to myself clearly, it took so long to get there. Even when I did, it felt like I simply got lucky, so I felt like I learnt nothing.

My brother was nearby and pointed out something interesting. He said I had a tendency to group certain blocks in the puzzle together. For example, I’d never move an orange block except I’d attempt to move another like it, so he suggested thinking outside the box and considering each piece as different. They didn’t need to be together.

Outside the box it is. I know I had a feeling for what was right, I knew I was getting frustrated, so I stopped, spent the rest of my day doing whatever, got some sleep and then went back to it the next day. I stared at the puzzle, asking myself what it is I want to do with it. I began to talk to myself, letting myself know what obstacles were in front of me, how certain movements would end, the different movements I could make. A minute later, I’m moving. Solved the puzzle I struggled with from the day before, not a single mistake made. Next level. Again, not a single mistake. Next level. A few mistakes here and there, but the levels get increasingly difficult anyhow. Compared to the day before though, this was a major jump in ability.

Back and Forth

Seeing the mind as fast and slow is a gross simplification. We say it is to help us make sense of something complex. However, seeing as we’re doing what we can to make the complex easy, I may as well go along with it and build on it.

I’ve found that you start slow when the situation itself is stagnant, like the puzzle I was doing. I have ample time to figure it out, so I do. However, the fast part of the mind allows you to take in every little detail, it gives you information. You let your eyes wander, you feel for the concerns you have. The slow part once again takes over and takes those concerns into account. You act and come across a situation you hadn’t predicted, so your eyes once again wander and take in the moment. Rinse and repeat, until a moment comes where sometimes you can’t even distinguish fast from slow anymore.

The baton was no different. I felt for it, I began to notice certain moments led to certain outcomes, so I now I had the information I needed to make sense of what was happening. I became aware of certain habits I needed to let go of, alongside habits I should keep as I threw it. Then I shut my mind off and simply started throwing again, except my mind wasn’t technically shut down, I was simply allowing the rest of my body to do its job with the knowledge of the habits I provided it with.

Fast with Slow

There are book smarts, then there’s street wise. I’d say that book smarts require us to think slow, but being street wise means we’re thinking fast, thinking on our feet. I find we tend to ignore the second, something others have pointed out too,

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

Isaac Asimov

Anyone can tell you to respect your parents, but it seems few will know how that looks like when they start to disrespect your partner or when you have to let them know something they’re doing is wrong. Some insist you continue to show them respect, others tell you to fight back. Slow tells you to show respect, fast lets you know that you’re now having to consider enjoining truth, so the slow once again considers how best to express respect when it comes to enjoining truth, while the fast absorbs stores this knowledge in for any similar situations you might encounter in the future. In time, you build character. You learn you can defend your partner from your parents by bringing up his or her merits. You could’ve reminded them that it’s your responsibility to fulfil your partner’s right to feel safe, i.e., it’s not on them to judge or to act, it’s on you, even if it has to be against the parents. None of this involves kicking and screaming, only grace by Allah’s mercy.

This post isn’t about treating parents well though. It’s about finding the right balance between thinking fast and slow, allowing knowledge to become wisdom, vice versa.

Long story short, there’s such a thing as thinking too much. To act or feel is to simplify, which creates more space for us to learn.

That’s what I’ve come to learn anyhow. What are your own thoughts on thinking and feeling? Do you tend to emphasise one more so than the other?

Change of Pace

Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative on

If anyone’s interested, I’ve made a new blog called Huda Heights. It’s dedicated to typing up my reflections on Islam. I’ll most likely be actively writing there for a while, simply because I’ve been keen on journaling the religious aspect of my thoughts. For now, I’m set on making sure write up at least one of my thoughts for every verse in the 18th chapter of the Qur’an there. Allah willing, I definitely want to see that through.

Bittersweet Regrets

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Each of us has our own regrets, shortcomings we want to better or bad habits we want to break free from. It’s part of being human. Like anyone else, there are regrets I look back at. They humble me, motivate me, they remind me there’s more to do and so much to mend. It’s a journey I haven’t found an end to, so I go on. There’s one memory I have in mind right now from long ago, one I want to share today.

Muslims have this obligation to pray together every Friday a little past noon. Before it, a sermon. I’m there for the sermon and a guest speaker from abroad was leading for the day. He made a simple request for the people to come closer and close the gaps. In Islam, this is good. Although I was already close to the front, I made the effort to look around anyhow and began to stand up. Halfway up however, I noticed absolutely no one was moving. I’m also sure the speaker was looking at me with a look of shock. I was so confused, like what’s going on here? No one’s moving and I could swear the guy was looking towards me as he spoke. Maybe I was shy, maybe I thought I looked weird, maybe I started to question if I heard what I did. It was so long ago. To cut it short, I sat back down.

Ten minutes later, he begins to talk about the people and his fear for where we’re headed. To reference, he reminded us of his simple request to come closer and to close the gaps, but no one did. Strange that, probably a hundred or more people at the time, scattered–such an effortless request was for our faith and not for him–still no one bothered to move. I was humiliated and ashamed of myself for being so close, only to give up at the end. Whatever the reason, I let my concerns regarding the conduct of others prevent me from doing something good. We could say the issue wasn’t anything big, but that’s part of the issue, isn’t it? Anyone can say they want to be a master in such and such a field, then complain about the effort it takes to get there. It’s possible for someone to aim high, only to do everything in their power to skip the steps to get there. Sometimes it feels like it can get to to a point where without these shortcuts, it becomes tempting to drop it altogether.

I’d like to believe I’ve changed since then. At the same time, I’d like to believe I’m mature enough not to ruminate on the thought. Whether I’ve changed or not, what matters is that I’m constantly acting in a way that goes against that part of me. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve proven myself against it time and time again for the last decade or ten, it doesn’t matter if this is no longer a part of who I am, I don’t want ever want to see myself fall into it, whether that be within the next decade or ten. If it’s no longer who I am, then I’m sure I shouldn’t mind staying this way the rest of my life. Allah willing, I won’t let up.

Layers of Intent II

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I was having this wonderful chat with my wife about intentions in Islam recently. It’s this whole idea that actions are by intentions. There was something she brought up that I thought would be interesting to share on this blog.

Let’s say you live in a country with a horrendous work-life balance that leaves you with little free time and so decide to move to a country with better. In terms of intentions, is that considered a good thing or bad?

I thought it was interesting because I don’t think the issue here is with good or bad, it’s more to do with how vague the intent is. Let’s say you move and get the free time you wished for. What will you do with it? If the intent afterwards is to lose yourself in drink and drugs for example, that balance does nothing for you. What you gained from the free time wasn’t peace of mind, but the potential for it, which you wasted, so it was bad. If it were so you could spend time studying and practicing the religion, that would be good.

Then there’s everything in between. You could say you wanted the comfort to face the next day because the balance feels like it’s too much, but if your idea of comfort was by indulging on your phone or on a game, yet your usual experience with doing so is a feeling that leaves you telling yourself there’s never enough time, you won’t benefit no matter where you go in the world. Let’s say you somehow came across a country that said, “No work, we’ll pay you instead”. Sounds amazing on the surface, but you could still find yourself without enough free time with that sort of intent, so you’re left with the same pain you originally had. On the other hand, you wanted a moment where you could go swimming every other day at a set time, you knew that swimming would generally refresh you for the day, it let you come back to the rest of life feeling ready to go and do your best wherever you are, you’re taking a step in the right direction.

There are layers to our intentions. Without that clarity, it’s very easy for anyone or anything to drop in and fill up that void for you. On one hand, sometimes you want to look to at an intent and think bigger. In terms of religion and seeking a better work-life balance, the bigger picture is whether you meant to indulge in this life or prepare for the next. There are also layers beneath the bigger picture, which tell you how to get there. There’s the idea of preparing for the next life, which you need to have a better work-life balance for, with which you can use to go swimming as you know that to be a strong means of refreshing yourself to strive for and do good for the rest of your day.

Photo by Sohel Patel on | It’s nice to look back at our intent and refresh ourselves on what’s important.

So my question from me to you today is, do you think we often struggle more so with see the bigger picture or the finer details?

An Emphasis on Deduction

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Given my current streak of mentioning the limits science has, you’d think I have something against it, but no. I figure everyone should be well aware of its strengths, it’s like the dominating process of thought in today’s society, I don’t see much reason to parrot it. The limits to it however, that’s something I find people give extremely little thought to, to such an extent that I’d even give it the irony of labelling this as blind faith. Like my fascination with the science behind alcohol, I have a fascination with the conditions of science… then again, I have a fascination with the search for knowledge in general, but now we’re off-point. We want to get a little more into what science is today and make some more sense about what it can and can’t do for us. Like anything else I post, it’s food for thought, reflections I tend to make as I go about life, I’d love to discuss and understand more.

The People

Science can be thought of as a system with a purpose upheld by the people. Its purpose is knowledge, measured against a standard that wants to ensure the claims we make are credibility. If it’s upheld by the people, well, the people themselves are flawed. Like religion, you have people who follow it, yet deviate the instant it no longer suits them, twisting it into something else. Peer reviews are meant to ensure our studies fulfil a professional standard, but can easily be used to deny the people you hate. I could write a journal which embodies perfection in accordance to science, then make mention of my gratitude to God for having given me the knowledge and boom, human bias kicks in, scours every inch of my journal to look for a potential flaw to blow up out of proportion. The human aspect is simple enough. Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow, goes into it further and gives you ample reason to see how expertise is far from a guarantee against it if you want a more thorough look into how our minds process information.

The System

Now we’re going to jump into the system that science revolves around. Let’s view it in terms of purpose. If you know it, you’ll see the extent of its reach, then begin to consider whether that reach encompasses everything. In other words, we want to know, does it have a limit?

For consistency, we’re going to express science as Daniel Levitin has in his book, A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics. Science is built upon deductive reasoning. It takes something and attempts to understand the why through what we’re already certain of. This is different from inductive reasoning, which is reason based on observation. I interview a hundred students in a school with a thousand of them, then find the majority say bananas are their favourite fruit. By extension, it may be safe to assume the majority of the students in the school feels the same way by extension. This is reasoning by observation: it uses something small to make sense of the big picture. It gives you an idea of something, but doesn’t tell you why. Deductive reasoning is when you ask them why they think that is and they tell you it’s sweet, so you study the contents of the banana and find it’s high in sugar, which is a feel-good ingredient. You looked into it, connected the dots and straightened it out into one neat line, then explained the situation for what it is. Then there’s abductive reasoning, which is when you read the room and conjure up a number of possibilities, opting for the one most likely to happen. This is when you verbally ask a group of friends what fruit they prefer, only to find someone initially on the side about his preference suddenly insists he prefers bananas. Did he feel pressured into saying it when he noticed a number of his friends claimed to have liked it, was it because the fruit was put to the forefront of his mind given the number of times it was mentioned, or did he genuinely like bananas? Given your observation of social cues, such as the discomfort on his face and his eagerness to tell his friends how good it tasted versus actually telling you up front, you figure it was most likely peer pressure.

To put it blunt, science focuses on the why, but different types of reasoning exist. You can’t grab that dude from the group of friends and study him in excruciating detail to pin down a reason, you instead take the cues, consider the possibilities, generate an educated opinion. Science–and so deductive reasoning–likes to keep things neat and clean. It absolutely struggles in chaos, which so happens to feel like the default for life. You can think of science like a laboratory experiment. It’s purpose is to isolate a conditions to observe the effects it has on something, but in your attempt to control the rest of the conditions, you risk setting up a scenario detached from the actual reality of things. To act on that study alone is difficult because you can’t be certain it’ll play out the same way in reality. It’s like saying you know seventy-percent of the Earth’s surface is water, so we should focus the bulk of our time on advancements relating to the oceans. Try insisting that to the dude who lives a few hundred miles away from the closest shore or the dude in the middle of a desert. You need the water, you have to have a way of getting to it, yes, no doubt, but read the room. Like trade is a thing, so finding the value in what you have in front of you and developing good relations to trade with is also a viable solution for acquiring water too. You don’t want to pull the doctor and the firefighter away from their thing and tell them to spend seventy-percent of their time on studying the oceans too.

Photo by Tiham Ul Haq on | Extremes are generally bad because they dedicate themselves to one issue by ignoring another entirely.

Final Thoughts

I think science is an accurate reflection of much of the confusion we see today. We have the facts, yet it seems to fall short every time, so we’re constantly pulling at our hair wondering why. Nothing ever works out, even though we feel as if it’s all there.

In his book Why We Eat (Too Much), Andrew Jenkinson mentions at the end of the book that if you genuinely want to lose weight, you’re going to struggle by making that your thing. It’s a short term goal, it encourages a short term mindset, so you’re going to be tempted by those quick fixes and loathe the long yet proven process, losing faith long before the results can show. For many of us, losing weight probably isn’t a priority given everything else in life we have going on, so there’s no determination to see it through to the end and maintain it after. It’s a lifestyle, so you ideally want a purpose that lasts through life. What I’m getting at here is that, sometimes we fail to see something for what it is because we become infatuated with how it should be instead. In this case, we can have the exercise, the science, the food and the sleep down, yet no determination to see it through, so we wonder where it went wrong. The issue had nothing to do with the facts, they can be even foolproof, but our lives and our selves aren’t.

So we have the facts, yet fail to consider the reality. There’s this mismatch we have to make up for, a bridge we need to build that recognises the fact, yet understands the reality preventing us from realising it. Without it, we force ourselves to choose between what we see and what we know, except to insist only on what we know alone is to lose substance to meaning, while to insist only on what we see is to stray from the truth entirely. They’re both bad.

This might seem like a controversial take, but I really feel it’s worth it to take a step back from the facts, not because we want to turn away from it, but because we want to see the bigger picture and realise how our environment and our own selves can prevent us from making sense of it.

Buzz, Buzz. A Form of Admiration Granted by God

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My mind likes to buzz. I talk about something, I can jump to another. I was reflecting on this one verse in the Qur’an, found myself referencing a saying to make sense of it, then I had a line of thought in parallel formed to reflect on the nuances of the saying itself. If I want to be coherent, of course I’m going to prioritise and resist the urge to make mention of it before I clutter the point I’m getting at. Well, now’s the time to bring up some of that clutter because the point is la fin, zit, ada megaga, clearly making up words as I go along here, boom.

The Test of Time

The saying in question is as below,

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “If Allah loves a person, He calls Gabriel saying: ‘Allah loves so and so; Gabriel, love him.’ Gabriel would love him, and then Gabriel would make an announcement among the residents of the Heaven, ‘Allah loves so-and-so, therefore, you should love him also.’ So, all the residents of the Heavens would love him and then he is granted the pleasure of the people of the earth.”

Sahih Bukhari, 6040

At first thought, I’d get it if you got confused after thinking on it a little because the people can misunderstand and hate on someone who does good and make their lives hard for them, we see it a lot. You could be drinking literal water and someone manages to get angry at you for it these days. So how do we make sense of how something like this plays out in life?

The story of Joseph, otherwise known as Yusuf (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) in Islam is something the Qur’an gets into at length, having dedicated the 12th chapter to a major chunk of his journey. His brothers hated him, he was sold into slavery, his master’s wife turned on him, his master and the people eventually gave judgement against him when it was already clear at first he was innocent, the prisoner he helped forgot about him after he got into a position of authority. You’d think, if God loved him and this would lead the heavens and the people to love him, where’s the love?

Anyone who knows this story knows how it ends, though you might not notice the journey in terms of Islam and how Yusuf got there. You’ll find the proofs throughout the chapter, but in every case, you’ll have noticed the people were on his side as much as they were against. His brothers were jealous of him, yet when Joseph had become and authority and met his brothers once again, they attempted to plead with his better side when they were accused of stealing, having stated they saw him as a figure of good (Qur’an, 12:78). His master bought him because he figured he was someone who could benefit him much (Qur’an, 12:21). The prisoners sought his knowledge on their dreams because they perceived him to be a figure of excellence (Qur’an, 12:36). Even his master’s wife who sought to seduce him and the women who were eventually in on it attested to his character (Qur’an, 12:51). Literally everyone could attest to his character–only when they weren’t driven by lust or misled by misinformation. Yusuf’s consistency in character meant that, no matter what went his way, he was eventually cleared for everything because even his enemies couldn’t help but admit to the good in him.

Photo by Ian Turnell on | Really difficult to hate on a thing of beauty without first admiring it.

The Worth of the Journey

Almost everyone surrounded by Yusuf would find themselves either misled by misinformation or driven to go against him by lust, some form or another. Those lies piled up on him, but like they say, the issue with lies is that it’s hard to keep track of. Excellence, in contrast, builds on itself with truths like layers until those lies covering it can’t keep up and fall on themselves. Eventually, even the liars begin to seek his input because it’s in their best interests to look for it.

There are those you meet who make your hairs stand on end and constantly keep you on your toes, no matter how disarming their behaviours come across as. On the other hand, there are those who you meet and it seems as though every inch of your body is calling you to them, but then you realise you can’t let them look better than you, so you take what they have and beat them down until you’re led to believe they can’t stand back up. Then you realise the guy’s a protagonist with plot armour and goes through a training arc leading to a showdown where he shows you up without even trying,

The messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Allah the Exalted has said, ‘I will declare war against him who shows hostility to a pious worshipper of Mine. And the most beloved thing with which My slave comes nearer to Me is what I have enjoined upon him; and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing the optional till I love him. When I love him, I become his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks from Me, I give him, and if he asks My Protection, I protect him”

Riyad As-Salihin, 95

I’m totally simplifying this but you get the point. Excellence draws people to you like an illuminating light in utter darkness. They run to you because they’re in admiration of what you’ve gained, whether that leads them to act in gratitude or in greed. You’re a stranger with a lantern in the dark: there are people who come to realise you not only have a lantern, but have knowledge of how to use it alongside a lifetime of having traversed through the darkness, so look to you for the way; then there are those who see the light and want to be you, so they try to take it, but they ultimately have no clue how to maintain it when they do, so they go around stealing lights to fuel their trip and can tell you little about your surroundings.

It’s not the excellence you reach that makes you special, it’s the excellence you strive for that becomes a worth no one can take away. They can take the lantern, but not the person; they can take your success, but not the conditions that led you to it.

Faith Misunderstood

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I feel faith is something misunderstood. Well, with Muslims, the word faith is synonymous with religion, so when someone says something like, “We don’t do faith, we do science”, that makes sense because you’re saying you don’t believe in God if that’s when we mean. However, when someone’s talking about having faith in the process or in someone, only to be met with the same response, that’s cap.

Let me explain myself. Whenever I bring up the general concept of science and what it means in terms of its limits, sometimes it gets to a point where they simply say science will soon catch up to address those issues. No guarantee, no proof to say what they’re aiming for is possible, but you seem super confident it will. That’s called faith.

I’ll give you another scenario. They talk about the advancements we’ve made so far, the rate at which we’re understanding a matter, so they say it’s only a matter of time before we get there. We envision all these possibilities in the future of the lives we can have with the tech we’ll have at hand. All these things that don’t exist, with no guarantee it will, but you insist it’s only a matter of time. That’s also called faith.

Once more. Science has invented something new. Let’s take something recent to make it hit home, like self-driving cars. Lots of fears about its safety, but there are some who go all in, sit back and relax, let the car drive. Science said it did it, so you act as its pioneer, you jump in as if it could never go wrong, you’re committed from the get go, you want to be at the forefront of the cause. That’s also called faith.

Photo by Pixabay on | Should I use that nail and hammer image again because oh boy am I ready to slap it on and send it if I have to.

See, the definition of faith is devotion. It’s the confidence you show in something, whether that be built upon blind following or a record of success. There’s no actual proof, but your conviction pushes you onward until you reach it, whether or not it’s actually there. This is important because when you deny the concept of faith altogether, you ironically become blind to the process that gave you faith in science. Blind, faith. You know, two and two.

This brings up an interesting thought. Faith can inspire us, direct us, make us hope, make us patient. In essence, it’s a core aspect of character because we’re shaped by how much of it we place in any given matter. Faith can be weak or it can be strong. It’s weak when you put no thought nor effort into it. It’s strong when you genuinely built it upon solid grounds. If you think about it in terms of science, you have a range of checks: validity, reliability, accuracy, precision. Each has it’s own branches and support each other to fulfil its purpose. You can’t be reliable, yet have no accuracy, precision, nor validity because you’d have failed to gain any insight into what you were trying to make sense of. Similarly, to be strong of faith is to have a strong set of principles with which to adhere to, each pillar a part of and supporting the whole. It has a track record of success, it does what was meant to do, it regularly hits the mark, it’s efficient. The proofs build up over time, so consistency is key. There’s this entire aspect of character we refuse to acknowledge because we think it’s about being blind, when in actual reality, it can be anything but.

I think we all know how it feels like to lose faith in something. The issue is, we don’t know how to gain it back. Makes sense though, we thought faith was blind, so we told ourselves we didn’t need it back. Maybe it’s worth blowing the dust off that book and reading into it once again. What do you think?

The Roots of Division

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There’s this verse I find interesting because of the different implications it has if you were to dwell a little further on it. You might even call it a strong justification behind my inclination to stay away from the claim to be sunni, shia, sufi, salafi, preferring to refer to myself only ever as Muslim. In general, it’s why I often emphasise the significance of being together.

A Trait of Hypocrisy

The verse in mind is one describing the trait of hypocrisy*, one of the earliest you’ll find and within the earliest set were you to read the Qur’an structured as it is now**.

The first trait to be described is about the dissonance they hold within themselves; the second about their attempts to deceive; the third their insistence on being the ones to mend matters when asked about the corruption they bring; the fourth,

And when it is said to them, “Believe as the people have believed”, they say, “Should we believe as the foolish have believed?” Truly, they are the foolish, but they know not.

Qur’an, 2:13

Let’s simplify this. In our attempts to make sense of hypocrisy in Islam, we can say that it has a tendency to split, to insist on division. They don’t like being committed to any one side, so they swing back and forth between belief and disbelief, hoping to have the best of both. If you want to know how this looks like, think of it from the lens of someone who masks malicious intent through kindness. If you’re cruel, you can ram and rush your way into something you want, but people see this clearly and fight back; if you’re kind, the people are more forgiving of you, but you often feel as though you have to lose something to gain something, if any. Having not considered properly the potential flaws of this line of thought, someone eventually begins to wonder if there’s a way to blend the two to get the pros of both, without having to deal with any of the cons.

*Rather than labelling it hypocrisy, it more accurately introduces a people who say they believe, but don’t. The first use of the label appears a chapter later, around seventy pages after if I’m correct.
**The wording there is a technicality referring to the timing of revelation, which we don’t need to get into.

Simple Clarity

With this information, let’s get into some theory crafting then. As usual, I’m going to do so through the lens of religion first.

I’m a Muslim. The defining trait with which I expect everyone to know me by is there is no god but Allah ﷻ, and Muhammad ﷺ is His messenger. Another Muslim comes along and claims another messenger came along, considers me distant from him. To make this distinction clear, he labels himself Muslim A. Another comes along, emphasising and emphasising the significance of feeling the love for the religion through the heart, considers me distant from him too. He labels himself Muslim B. Then another comes along, emphasising and emphasising the significance of an authority who came by claiming to have spoken to God directly, considers me distant from him too. He labels himself Muslim C. A similar pattern appears until we end up with Muslim Q and I get tired of these differences that stray from the religion. These labels have confused the people, I need to stand my ground and set myself apart from them, show them the true religion as it was meant to be. I call myself Muslim R. Oh yeah, more divisions appear. Suddenly, Muslim Z exists too.

If someone from outside the religion were to look at us, they’d see A-Z, simplify them all as Muslims with their own special beliefs. Too many to study, this is going to get confusing. If you ask them what they believe the defining trait of a Muslim is however, they’ll hopefully respond with there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger. That’s exactly what you want people to say. When that happens, there’s a simple argument with which anyone can tell when they’re listening to hypocrisy and when they’re learning about Islam: no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.

  • Muslim A claims there’s another messenger and defines himself as being a follower of such. The defining traits makes no such mention of this. False.
  • Muslim B venerates the heart. The religion talks about the significance of the heart, but if the people should see you as a person of heart more so than the defining traits you’re meant to be associated by, you’ve gone wrong. False.
  • Muslim C claims to know of someone else and defines himself as a follower of such. Never mentioned in the defining traits. False.

Muslims D, E, F, G, H–if they contain something which has no relation to the defining trait of a Muslim or should be venerated to such an extent they’re associated with that trait more so than the usual defining traits, they’re false. The moment I decide to label myself anything other than a Muslim is the moment I confuse the people and get lost in a sea of sects, even if what I was on is true. When I insist on being a Muslim, those who want to split will split because they can’t stand being together with me. If you’re a layman relatively new to the religion, you’d rather have a hundred sects all vying for the defined title of Muslim than to have a hundred sects to study before deciding on which to follow. No matter what comes up, the only thing they have to measure their beliefs against are two: no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger. If anything gets venerated to be either equal to or above Allah and then His messenger, it’s false. If anything comes up irrelevant to them, false. You repeat these traits so many times as claims are brought along with it until it becomes second nature to say no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on | I’m really trying to drive that nail into the ground here, as if my peace of mind hinged on it.

Easy on the Shoulders

As an afterthought, this is simply one of many reasons for why I don’t like to fuel arguments, whether on religion or anything else. When those who stray don’t clearly express their resentment, I’ll clear up the confusion by being extra clear on the basics. When they can’t take it anymore, those who want to argue will start it themselves, only for me to put it out by taking them back to the basics. I don’t need to stand out, I need to be consistent in who I am. I don’t need to think about the flaws of others more so than I need to be think about how well I’m adhering to the basics. Those basics with which we direct our lives mean so much– when they’re clear and strong, you’re never confused.

I’m definitely starting to digress more and more, but it’s interesting, the branches with which you can take this idea. I can’t help but wonder about the direction society is headed in. Again and again, I keep hearing about the pride we have in how advanced we are, how fast we’ve developed in comparison to humanity’s history. There’s a simple, yet blatant flaw in this though. Put it this way, a professional computer capable to handling the most powerful applications you need to write and edit with may cost thousands, it may cost hundreds to repair. A pen and paper can cost less than ten, an equal amount to replace. The words written will be the same either way. When you go for the best every time without purpose, you’ll end up with burdens you’ve not got the means to cope with, with nothing to show for regardless.

Life’s less stressful on the shoulders simple, you only advance so much as your simple basics are sound and secure.