Archive for September, 2003

bad magnet bad!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2003

I slam my laptop shut, grab the cords, the mouse, the wireless card popping out like fresh toast on a good morning. He holds my bag as I shove the notebook in, the others in various other compartments, little babies of mine needing to be bedded properly. I eye him quizzically, no idea what the rush was.

waleed” he growls. No capitals. No exclamation point. I hear none, yet I grin. It’s infectious. He shouts exuberantly, leaping down the stairs, jumping.
“I cut class early for this man!” his voice comes in between our stair leaps.
I laugh out loud, backpack flailing in the air, dragging behind me scared to death.

When he’s in a comical rush, he does this little hop run skip thing, his feet shuffling in a half run half walk, mad dash mad crash. I always walk behind and watch this this. This.

The doors barely shut. The engine fully revved. The stereo is naturally blasting Moe. We’re out. School free. Home free. Carefree. He takes the back roads, driving fast, sharp corners, quick stops, hop in betweens. I’m sliding in my chair, wishing for more seat belts, half fascinated by his driving, half thrilled, and half truly concerned about us.

“Did I miss something? A memo perhaps? What’s the big deal??” I finally ask. It’s a nice thing, as always, to be grabbed by a friend in the middle of your work and to be dragged away. It says something about your friendship I think. As a matter of fact, I’m always the one doing that to others.
It’s about time someone cared that annoyingly much, eh.

“Dude! We gotta get home man. We gotta get home NOW! It’s NipTuck!”


“NipTuck. Oh right. Yep. That makes sense now.”

“NipTuck…” he looks over mischievously, childishly ” and pizza of course.”

“Of course of course”. I’ve already had dinner at the Catholic Campus Ministry. But that’s never an excuse amongst us.

At home, Magnet the dog was waiting. Magnet belongs to the landlord apparently. Large, black, slobbering, he gets in a constant staring contest with me. Deciding victory was his, he lies down on my feet. I agree. He wins.

We watch, mouths gaping, half horrified, fully fascinated. It’s morbidly pulsating, this show.

AM Radio

Sunday, September 28th, 2003

Radio Interview
No. I’m not from Kuwait.

zip hush chup nada zilch

Sunday, September 28th, 2003

Everyday a dozen conversations go through my head, one after another. I try to write them out, or atleast think them out and type them if I can. I wish to capture them, carrying a pen and a small yellow legal pad on me. But there is a constant fear of letting out too much, of over expressing, of having a man aboard. I think we all feel as such.

It feels naked to say too much doesn’t it? Even as you read this, you’re thinking of all the things you don’t say outloud, that you don’t write down anywhere, that you don’t even speak outloud, all the things you keep quiet about and lower your eyes then. Even now the words try pushing out, even now they boil bubble trouble quadruple they-

Lower your eyes.

french, grandma and spooks

Friday, September 26th, 2003

Today was la cinq jour pour moi. Est-ce que je suis faitigue? Oui, un peu. Juste comme vous, peut-etre. He approaches the table, a black man from the Ivory Coast. With broken english, he speaks to me, I pick up a vibe of loneliness of being alone in a country away from wife and kids, to earn a little money. I try to be good, speaking in my rusty french. We exchanged cell numbers, to talk again one day. Insha-allah.

The old grandmother sits in a booth across to the right of mine. It’s a window manufacturing company for homes, yet she sits there giving out information about the company. I have no idea why. I offer her coffee, I offer her candy, she accepts one and takes a chair to sit on. She sits by herself the entire day, with a handful of air conversation with passer by’s who have little desire to learn more about windows at a fair. She still sits by herself, without a smile, frownless too, she simply sits and watches the people passing by. She hobbles over and sits next to me, asking ‘Why do Muslim women dress like spooks?’.
I already like her. She’s not insulting, she’s not rude, she’s polite and wanting to learn thus asking.
The question, this one, always alarms me. Almost all questions about Islam alarm me, I’m in constant fear, in a never ending concern, a tremble of a hand, to answer incorrectly for I am not a mullah. I always try to speak softly but aggresively. Sometimes it fails, sometimes it works.
‘Why do nuns dress like spooks?’ I reply. She’s quiet, thinking.
‘Muslim women cover themselves up out of respect for God, to be pious. When you see images of the Virgin Mary, or other pious women, do you not see them covered in modesty infront of God? Tell me, you have a daughter, yes? What would you do if she dressed in the current fashion statements and walked down the street?’
‘I’ll kill her’ her prompt answer shot back.
… We talk for a whilst, simply conversing. It’s people like these who make my day, who want intelligently talk about a single point and comprehend its implications, rather then a flood of assumptions with questions attached to them, not wanting to learn but simply wanting to say ‘hey, i think all this about you and you have 3 minutes to clear up your entire life to me’.

On the table, a brown book of Peter Sanders photography lies, open randomly to one page or another. I fall asleep at the desk, exhausted.

say hello to your neighbor

Friday, September 26th, 2003

I live with a methodist christian family. We live in peace, and amazing harmony, despite my absolutely odd working hours. These people here are a uniqueness in the society today.

At the dawah table, I stand and I simply want to educate people about what is true, what is not, to remove misconceptions about Islam, to hopefuly rid of negative stereotypes that be. I don’t expect people to agree with me, or convert to Islam. I don’t, because Islam itself preaches that all you can do is inform people. Should they choose to learn more, read more, perhaps even accept the religion, it is their and only their choice.
Just as I am sharing information about my religion, I would like to learn about yours, so I too am educated, a more learnt man, thanks to you dear stranger.

I just don’t like it when folks come to my face and repeat, over and over again, a broken record eventually, that I am going to hell because I don’t accept Jesus as my saviour. Alhamdulilah, Islam teaches us that nobody (except those who were promised) is guaranteed Heaven or Hell; each position is to be earned by you. I tell this again and again to people as they pass by.

I think of Surah Fatiha, of its seven basic verses, encompassing, complete. I read out passages of the Quran that I know of to people, asking them to think if that statement is something they agree with or not. Everybody avoids answering my question, I let them pass. I can only inform.

I can only tell them the truth of The Creator.


Thursday, September 25th, 2003

Some questions came easy, others asked me directly.
‘What are you doing to stop the terrorists?’
I tell them I’m here, giving out information, to teach and educate the public. Terrorists don’t have to use physical weapons. Some hate. Others discriminate. That’s what I’m doing to stop the terrorists.

I must have talked to over a hundred people today. My voice is lost but not. It’s gone but not afar. It’s done for, for You.

I realized but the book I was giving out, I had not yet finished reading myself. A puzzlement, it stood in front of me amidst the crowd, a tall stranger with crossed arms and a concerned look on its face. Its eyes searched for mine constantly but never aggressively. The choice was mine. The compulsion I had to seed myself. I didn’t want to acknowledge it, I tried to avert my gaze, to be busy here and there look look I’m occupied I have things to do soon soon I promise I’ll do that. The stranger never went away…

We sat in a half circle finally, our heads leaning in to hear each other. Our breaths half cool in the mist evening, the music from the background had become a pulse to us, throbbing moving pushing. We ate our egg gyro’s that a wife made us, water in white foam cups. I held his hand, a grandfather, a social worker, a tall black caring man, with pale white deep eyes, an exhaustion that was half etched half faded in his constant smile. He smiled and asked me to read out loud to him Ayat Al Qursi. At each phrase, he nodded affirming.
He looked at me and suggested I read the next verse too.

Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

Touch words, that cannot change. Caress phrases that dance away. Wrap sounds that melt from your lips to your tongue to your mouth to your throat down to your very soul itself.



Sunday, September 21st, 2003

The annual _________ Fair is the 149th year in its running. Each year, they have 8 days of absolute havoc planned out for the entire town, from Demolition Derbies to artists of various genre performing. In the past years, the town has hosted Dave Matthews, Hootie and the Blowfish and sadly enough, even Michael Bolton has been a main attraction, for the lovers, for the haters.

We’re located indoors, our booth stall is. It’s a simple setup, four tables covered with pamphlets and home-made information packets. We’re giving away Suzzane Haneef’s book for free, if you sign up for it though. Our qurans are beautiful orange paperback editions, translated by Yusuf Ali. The table hides behind it 8 metal chairs that we drove an hour to pick up. The large TV blares lout a video repeatedly, about what is Islam. Next to it, is a large pitcher of coffee that we’re giving away to any. Black strong Maxwell.

We just sit behind the table, our Discover Islam poster hanging from the metal ceiling above. Be courteous, naturally. Smile, sincerely.

Yesterday, we recorded over a hundred people actually interacting with us and the material in front of us. Over an 8 day period, we’re hoping to reach hundreds more. But we’re not out to convert, we’re simply out to inform. Just know that we exist, in this part of Pennsylvania.

The MSA at PSU has been quite helpful, volunteers driving down for hours to help us out. I’m the only local townie here, living but 6 blocks away. The rest of the people take hours to drive down. Walking one of them to their car at my house, he speaks to us, passionately wanting to only inform, and let God do the rest.

“We have these sweets we give for free, yes? So people take, let them take, baklava and other things. They don’t pick up material, that’s ok yes? yes it is, it is perfectly ok. Because then, they’ll like what they eat and want more. Who knows, years later, they see Arab or Turkish restaurant and they want to try. They go in to eat, at a muslim store. Who knows. There, they may want to learn the recipes of the food they eat and enjoy, and remember the baklava they once had. Who knows. Who knows that there, they may start to talk to someone, a muslim brother or sister, who just talks to them and they learn and want to learn and then the truth will be clear to them. Who knows.
All because, you see, we gave them a sweet with no strings attached and let Allah do the rest. Who knows our reward in all of that then, yes? Yes, i think so”.
His south African British accent spoke with winds of an Islam i have never seen in a continent I’ve never been to. He spoke of his love, his Islam.

We sit together, us muslims at this booth in this giant fair, under the protection of Allah. We don’t even know each other’s name, that’s ok. We don’t need to. We’re laughing, joking with each other, our ice broken because someone called the adhaan and we instinctively stood together, brother to brother, shoulder to shoulder, united, in front of a God one.

YUSUFALI: To you be your Way, and to me mine.
PICKTHAL: Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.
SHAKIR: You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.

titled ‘satisfaction and serenity’ for now

Friday, September 19th, 2003

I sit here, a blank text box, a pleasing machine waiting for my bidding but words don’t come, words don’t flow through me. I stare at my hands, I take off my glasses and look at them, clean them, and place them back carelessly on my face.

I sit back.

Apparently, a houseful of silence has captured words once verbose. Thoughts mull about, refusing to be examined, waiting for actions to speak on their behalf. I don’t argue. I know them too well, these shy thoughts with brash bottled actions. I wonder in a small corner of my mind, the few thoughts I can control fatigued huddle on the side, a defense party, examine from far binocular eyes the remaining mental plateau.

I stretch myself.

The mirror on the wall remains defiant smugly, showing me only what I show it first. ‘Unfair!’ I proclaim, my hands trying to cover what I show. The images still come through, the gaps between my fingers leaking a truth I cannot deny. It stuns me, a slow punch in the chest which you see coming a mile away. A realization slow, a dawn faster, I stare at the truth through my fingers and desperately wish to accept. The controls below the mirror remain unscathed by stupidity, lacking a monkey wrench that always seems to screw up things. Unbelievable.

I grin into empty air.

I am consciously aware of being muslim. Of there being my Allah. Of submitting. Of Him being there. Given that I am human, I err. Given that I am a being, I tire. Given that I am me, I stumble mumble bumble jumble crumple what I should not. I am not enlightened of the true serenity of Islam, far from it. I seek it and I destroy my searches ignoramously. But I know, even as I type this, as the Hurricane Isabel causes power to flicker on|off but for the aid of my laptop battery…as it plunges inland, as it caresses virgin land with its beautifully dangerous kisses, dancing to a death to a phoenix rebirth…

I seek forgiveness.

of shovels and shallow graves

Tuesday, September 16th, 2003

Yet then again there are moments when you let the silence speak volumes, giant encyclopedias of absolute compressed verbal muteness. Pages and pages of white words on white paper, a wooden pen dripping with ink, the ink burning away everything but nothing eventually. Then take your words and re-examine them, pick them up and twist them around, stretch them far and watch them come, poke them hard and see them steadfast remain. Let them float above your head as you walk down the street, let them bobble ghostly as you hobble mentally. Every breath is a reminder of their existence, every glance is a pause to see them be. Forgetfulness is a mercy, each reminder a sharp jab of reality.

Should you choose to swallow your words then bury them deep, be the verbal gravedigger and do your duty, faithfully, soberly. and painfully.
when you dig my grave
could you make it shallow
so I can feel the rain.

But let your conscience decide when you come to your personal fork…

my oh my you know it just don’t stop

Sunday, September 14th, 2003

Some conversations I wish I could keep forever. Content so enriching, that it leaves colors in the black pearl sky. Streaks of blue, green and orange fluttering about, cluttering about in an excited brownian motion. A dissipating disappearing streak of personal nature that exists outside of yourself. The trees around, bend over you to cover you from the raindrops splattering carefully outside, a coven a shelter just for you. Stand up and taste the wet leaves themselves, drink the water pure in cups of nature. Leave the bench and stand up against the tree, the rough scabrous brown bark a smooth massage to your back, the pelting of the drops soothingly rubbing your mind to calmdom. Each drop dripping a message to you, a million thoughts every second, each drop a saviour, each drop an instant history. And you sit back against the bare tree, feet damp, hand in hand with a conversation liquid, definite without being demanding.
Some conversations I wish I could keep forever.
Some conversationalists I could drink forever.