Sunday, March 30, 2008

Password UnProtected

Doesn't it seem these days that passwords are getting less secure? When an effort is made to make them more secure... by forcing us to have longer, more complicated, harder to guess and harder to remember passwords, and changing them frequently--doesn't that ultimately make them less secure?

Here's why I think so. At work I have a personal password to get onto the network, and then I have to use another password to get onto the payroll system. One needs to be changed every two months, the other the same amount of time but it's on a different schedule--and I can't use the same password for both of them.

So every two months I have to change my password, it has to be a certain length, have at least one capital and one lowercase letter, and also a number or special character.

This is getting difficult to remember! Every couple of months I have to change my password to something obscure... and then I come in the next day or after a weekend or something and have to remember it! And I can't! So I've had to start writing down cues on little sheets of paper by my desk so I can remember them. I don't think I'm alone in this... but I think that being unable to remember these passwords is really counterproductive in the effort to make them more secure.

Plus I'm tired of continually changing it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Giving Da'wah -- Surat Al-Asr

WatchHow many times have we heard or recited Surat al-Asr, and maybe not really thought about how deep it is? I know a lot of times when I'm out with my friends, they usually lead the prayer and it's one of the most commonly recited surahs... because it's short. No comment about that, for now.

Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem
Inna al-insana lafee khusr
Illa allatheena amanoowaAAamiloo assalihati watawasaw bilhaqqiwatawasaw bissabr.

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate
By the time,
Indeed, mankind is in loss,
Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.

Allah swt is swearing by the time--and saying that all of mankind is in loss. Everyone is a loser, for sure. Well, not quite everyone, as we read in the third ayah, because the surah excludes the people described by four things. First, that they believed in Allah and done righteousness--submitting to God. But the last two, the Saheeh International translated (which I posted) reads as "advised"--this is advising to truth (haqq) and to patience.

And isn't that exactly what da'wah is? Exhorting to truth and patience. When the Prophet Muhammad (saws) was in Mecca before the migration to Medina, he was telling people about Islam--and this was the jihaad. To convey the message of Islam, and be patient even as people reject it.

And yet instead of that, we spend our time doing what? Watching the NCAA Tournament maybe? Watching ball games, watching TV, watching funny videos on youtube? Maybe talking on forums, blogging... and for what? Just wasting time... I know I waste a lot of time.

But more to the point, if anyone had doubt about the responsibility of every Muslim to convey the message of Islam (i.e., give da'wah), then they can recall that all of mankind is in loss, except for those that have believed, done righteousness, and called people to truth, and to patience.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


It's getting to be a bit of an annoying problem. I don't recall that while I was growing up I had all that many powerful nightmares. Maybe I did. It just seems that lately--in the last several months--I've had more, and they've been worse. I'm not sure why exactly...

But usually when I have a nightmare, the images are related somehow to some very powerful or frightening image I've seen recently. For example, several months ago I watched a movie I knew was a horror film... watched about an hour and a half and saw nothing particularly scary--only to see something that scared the bejeezees out of me. I shut the movie off right then and then had nightmares about that one thing for weeks! I can still see it clear as day, too, unfortunately.

Since then--after several varied and some recurring nightmares, I decided I should try to avoid when possible any kind of "horror" film, or scenes in any movie that I think might be disturbing. It's served me well. Just the other night though I left watching a movie with friends because I had read a review on the film which suggested it had a theme which I thought could give me nightmares--I'm starting to take it more seriously, you see.

But my roommate actually enjoys these kinds of films, and sometimes while I'm sitting on the couch doing something on the laptop, she'll be watching something like 'House on Haunted Hill' or 'Jeepers Creepers' and so on. I've gotten better about deliberately covering my eyes in parts and leaving the room.

I was talking to my dad not too long ago and he mentioned the same thing--having nightmares, and so he wouldn't watch any kind of horror film. I'm getting to be the same way now--staying away from it entirely because I know I will see it. Stuff like that which frightens me, I keep seeing it, the image just burned there in my mind. When I think about the movies people watch these days... I really wonder what is wrong with us that some people actually enjoy these things. I know for me at least, it's not healthy to watch that stuff... it just makes me think that make it's not good for anyone.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Chance to Say Alhamdulillah

The price of gas as of today is $3.23 a gallon--for regular! That's not a complaint, really, just a statement of fact. Such high gas prices--and they have been this high for months now--really strain an already tight budget. My budget. And so it frequently happens that after I have paid my bills and await my next paycheck (which might not come for two weeks) I am conserving every penny to pay for basic expenses like gas and food--which means trying to stretch the gas, and the food. It means eating cereal for breakfast a lot, and waitinng until the last minute to put any gas in the car.

I can't say about the cereal--it claims to lower cholesterol--but I know that running on empty is not good for the car. Now I really know that. (Another lesson I had to learn the hard way.)

Anyway, just last night I was driving to the masjid to see a lecture after maghrib by Sheikh Muhammad Salah from HUDA TV who was visiting town this week. On my way, I get stopped at a stoplight--I usually get stopped there, since it's the side street to a main intersection--which happens to be on an upward incline. And when the light turns green, as I try to accelerate through the intersection, the car stalls out.


So I try to turn it on again and give it another go and... it stalls out again. Turning on my flashers I try to gesture to the drivers behind me to go around. (There was ample space to do so, so I did not clog traffic or anything--alhamdulillah!) As I sit there trying to figure what I should do, I do the thing that most girls probably do in such a situation--call my dad.

But about that time, my friend drives past--alhamdulillah! She was on her way to the same lecture. Of course now it's maghrib time and the sun has set and it's getting dark out. At first she didn't see and was in a hurry but called me a minute later to see if that had been me. Alhamdulillah. I tell her the problem, I know that I'm out of gas, so she goes to a nearby gas station (there were plenty around, alhamdulillah!) and gets a container and a gallon to bring me.

She pulled up behind my car (which was still in the intersection) and we poured the gasoline into the tank and I tried to start it again. It would start, but only stall out again a second later--and did so after a few more attempts.

By then some police officers had arrived alhamdulillah, and they helped me move the car back (basically let it roll down the hill) to ground that was a little more level, but by then the car wouldn't start at all. So we moved the car onto the grass--off the road entirely. They told me that maybe I had "flooded the engine" and needed to let it wait a little while before trying to start it again--half an hour, or an hour, they said.

I didn't know what flooding the engine meant--so I asked. And the officer told me he didn't really know either. But he told me it was like a paper towel, and if you pour water on a paper towel it gets soaked and you can't use it, but if you let it dry out then you can use the paper towel again. I'm still not seeing how a car engine is like a paper towel... if someone can explain that better please try...

Anyway, my friend and I left the car there in the grass and went to the lecture (which we were now kind of late for, but still happy to attend, it was a nice lecture alhamdulillah) We prayed 'isha there at the masjid too and the talk went slightly after that, followed by another brother making an announcement, and we stayed around even later to talk to another sister about some masjid business. By then it is around 10:00pm, around 2 hours after we had left the car on the curb.

So we go back and try to start it--and it won't start. It wouldn't catch, is what I mean. So we tried getting another gallon of gas to put in it. And still it wouldn't start. So she took me home. Despite being a typically busy intersection (during the day) it's not in the best part of town, and I didn't know how long a tow truck would take to get there--and it already being so late, I didn't want to stay there with the car.

I called a tow truck the next day--today--and began making my way towards the car. At that time, I figured the filter or pump had been ruined by trying to restart the car and that it would need to be repaired. There is a AAA Car Center in walking distance to my house so I was going to have it towed there. But seeing as how I was putting off even getting more gas, paying for repairs on my car was obviously not in my budget. Not that there was anything I could do about it--at such times the only thing to do is try to be patient, and trust in Allah. And alhamdulillah.

So to get to my car, I planned to take the bus. Unfortunately, the bus that I got on, the one that comes closest to my apartment (I had to walk to get to the stop) was not the same that went past my car--which was my mistake. So I stayed on it at the time when I needed to switch from one route to another to stay on the same street. (There was another route that went right past my car!) But by the time I realized it it was too late. So I got off the bus on campus, and basically started walking towards the car. I had to beat the tow truck and didn't have all day to get there. All the buses go the opposite direction that I was so I thought walking straight there would be faster than catching another bus and riding the whole route for 30 minutes or more to get to that stop where my car was.

So I walked. I tend to be kind of lazy, and not walk places unless I have to. So as far as I had to walk, that's a serious thing for me. But alhamdulillah, it only took me about 20 minutes to get there, and the tow truck hadn't arrived yet. At this point, I check to see if anyone had broken into the car. Already my back two windows are being held up by duct tape because they're broken (another problem I can't yet afford to fix).

In fact, even though they've been broken a while I haven't had anyone break in to my car. I of course don't keep anything valuable in it because it is so easy to break in to now, but simple things like a blanket, books--these things I have had stolen out of my car in the past, but alhamdulillah, everything in my car was as I had left it. And since I figure it can't do any harm--if the car is already broken--I try to start the car again.

And alhamdulillah!!!

It started!


So I got to call off the tow truck, drive to put in even more gas, and come straight home. Alhamdulillah.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

What's wrong with Sympathy?

This might not be a great time to make this post, given the current situation in Gaza. On the other hand, it's a small insight that might only contribute to hostilities against Palestinians.

A few nights ago I went to Borders with some friends, while waiting for someone else we meandered over to the religion section to see what books were available on Islam. There was a case with 4 shelves labeled "Judaica," and next to that a case with 4 shelves labeled "Islamic studies." Of these 4 shelves under "Islamic studies" there was almost half a shelf of books from the Ahmediyya movement, a shelf and a half of books on the Holocaust, another half a shelf on Islam, the remaining shelf and a half with books on Sufism and Shi'ism.

That's right. Half a shelf only of books representating mainstream Islam, but yet so many books on the Holocaust. I just found that interesting. But one of the books on the Holocaust shelves was the Diary of Anne Frank--the diary of a young Jewish girl who was in hiding during Nazi occupation. It's pretty much a staple of the public school curriculums here, but one of my friends informed me that it was deliberately not taught at the local Islamic school.

When I asked her why, she told me that the administration of the school did not want to encourage sympathy!!

Sympathy for whom, you wonder? Naturally, sympathy for Jews. It's an answer which thoroughly disgusted me. True injustice is when neither side is capable of viewing the other as human beings. When Palestinians--really, any Muslims in fact--stop seeing Israelis--or really any Jews--as human beings, they become in some sense an oppressor. While I don't mean to deny cruelty done to Palestinians, to seek enmity rather than peace is, in my opinion, nothing other than evil, and a route to more violence, and more oppression.

Peace comes from justice--we are all going to be judged by God.

And I just wanted to express my concern for young Muslims who might be so inclined to develop such an animosity towards a group of people who have suffered grievously as well. And if society cannot pause to reflect on an evil history and condemn it in the strongest terms, the same society dooms itself to suffer from the same wickedness. I mean to say that Muslims in America are in danger of being persecuted similarly, and have therefore another reason to remember, and remind the world, and also to stand up for justice in all forms.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A Da'wah Initiative

There are a few people in my life who I talk to the most often. If you were to ask them which subjects I talk about the most, they would probably tell you: Politics/World Affairs and Islam--specifically da'wah. Aren't politics and religion the two topics that are not welcome in polite conversation? Perhaps.

So I'm going to talk about what I've been doing lately. :-)

First of all, thanks to the brother who helped ease me into Islam, da'wah has been important to me since I embraced the religion. I have been attending meetings of the da'wah committee at my masjid for a while now, and without taking a formal position I have tried to contribute. Last year I attended a seminar for ING and eventually became certified to present for them, so since last spring I have had the opportunity to give a number of presentations about Islam.

I have also given presentations on behalf of the da'wah committee--which until just recently had a remarkably similar presentation. More recently, I have developed another new presentation for the da'wah committee with the help of the sheikh, which I've been able to deliver a few times as well.

But a few months ago, probably November or early December, the committee discussed in a meeting that they wanted more speakers, they wanted a more active presentation group, people to give presentations about Islam. I and another sister were charged with creating a program to train volunteers in speaking. We decided to start in the new year because she was going on hajj.

So she gets back and I start trying to push to get this done. We began with just the two of us and then got another brother involved. We met with the sheikh and started to toss around ideas of what we needed to teach people, and how, and we developed something of a higher quality than I originally had in mind, but also with a smaller scope than my partner had in mind.

Her idea was to have a long-range program with several levels, certification, advanced levels of learning. The problem I had with it is that first we only need a few people immediately and while I want to see more people involved, we aren't qualified to teach several levels and we'd have to put ourselves through it first. Also, weeks and months of required training would put people off of the idea, I think, and also waste their time.

Yet originally we had a 6 week program, but decided that we needed to include a foundational session on aqeedah--which meant having the imam instruct part of it. Then I worked out the rest of what we wanted to cover, we at another time worked on scheduling and blah blah blah, we came up with a 4-session course, with 4-hour sessions meeting once a week. Now it's exciting to do advertising and recruiting people--alhamdulillah people are definitely showing interest in it.

But now I have to ask the question--if they come, what are they getting out of it, really? I don't think someone having only taken this course would be quite ready to go out giving presentations about Islam--though they might be close. I would hope, though, that it would give them enough basic knowledge to encourage them, embolden them to talk to people about Islam.

I really think that people only have a couple of excuses for not giving da'wah. I certainly see it as an obligation on the Muslims--after all, it is commanded in the Qur'an to invite people to the way of their Lord. This is what the prophets have done, conveyed the message to the people. And in the farewell khutbah Muhammad saws said for those present to convey to those who were absent. How could Islam spread if we keep it to ourselves? Won't we be held accountable for that? As Muslims we not only need to live righteously but bring righteousness--encourage it in others.

But some people are shy--and they think that calling to Islam means handing out brochures on the street. Or maybe they think that it's okay for them to just be a "good example" and then keep to themselves. But that's not enough.

So I hope that these Muslims who hear about the program, that they will see how they are asked about Islam--because Muslims are asked about Islam all the time! And I hope they will see how people want to learn about Islam, and why they shouldn't be afraid to talk about it. And that if they know how to answer, they won't be afraid of the questions. And ultimately I'm hoping to see a larger group of people available for da'wah activities like an open house or fair booths etc. A larger group of people reaching out, proud of their Islam instead of trying to hide it.

Anyway, just some thoughts so you don't have to look at the moon anymore. :-)