Monday, April 27, 2009


One thing that I learned at the Shepherd's Path seminar I went to a few months back was that Muhammad (saws) used to treat each of his Companions like they were his favorite. For instance, Abdullah bin 'Amr bin al-'As said that whenever the Prophet (saws) would look at him, he would smile, which made him think that he was the favorite of the Prophet (saws).

To test his theory, one day he asked the Prophet (saws) if he was better than Abu Bakr, but the Prophet (saws) responded that Abu Bakr was better. And then he asked if he was better than 'Umar, but the Prophet (saws) told him that 'Umar was better.

Then he realized that this was the way that the Prophet (saws) was towards everyone.

The lesson was that we should treat all our brothers and sisters in Islam this way--like they are our favorite person to be around. And honestly, it's a real treat to be around someone who treats you that way.

Image a person who smiles whenever he sees you. Or whenever she sees you, if you're a sister. A person who rushes to hug you, and greets you like you were the person they'd been looking for. Every single time they see you. It's a different kind of favoritism--not favoring one person over everyone else, but making everyone to feel as if they are your favorites.

People love that kind of attention--it's true. Hearing that story about 'Abdullah bin 'Amr bin al-'As puts it into a new perspective, thinking about how the Prophet (saws) acted around his Companions, and why they loved him so much.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ups and Downs


Your arms and legs are outstretched, holding on fiercely to the side of a cliff. You can feel sweat dripping down the back of your neck, as you try to climb the rock face: one foot, one hand at a time. You could let go--and fall down, perilously down--it wouldn't be a good idea. There's a fire down there. A burning, angry fire, waiting to catch you if you let go, or if you lose your grip, or lose your focus. Climbing upwards is harder. There is no enemy upwards--only safety. But you have to keep climbing. Too tired? Stuck where you are? You don't want to stay there, because that fire below you? It's rising, like lava.

Maybe life doesn't seem that way, when you hit the snooze button for fajr. It doesn't seem like you just lost your footing a bit. Maybe taking off a scarf doesn't seem like slipping down the face of the cliff a ways. But I think it is like that. Climbing up isn't easy. Getting up early to pray isn't going to be easy at first. Carving out time for Qur'an instead of video games--might not be easy. Each time you raise your foot and pull yourself upwards, you're getting further from the fire.

Until you slow down--until you let go of the practices you've added to help get you up the cliff. And then the fire starts keeping up. You can't stay still. You must keep moving, up, higher and higher. It means adding more, doing more, avoiding complacency. You have to push yourself--pull yourself, constantly, to get to the top, and to avoid the fire.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Learning Foresight and Hindsight

Today in my senior design class we had an interesting activity--Q&A with the department head. Strictly speaking it wasn't all that important to attend, and looking back I might have better spent my time working on my projects which are due next week. But since I did go, I started thinking about some perspectives of other students.

At my university, there are a few general education requirements for all students, of all degrees--and they are humanities courses. So engineering students must take at least this number of liberal arts classes from a given list. In order to matriculate into the degree program, it is necessary for students to take a number of basic science and math classes also. In my department, completion of the degree requires taking a certain number of mandatory classes, a certain number of departmental electives, and a small number of "technical electives" which are classes in other departments that are useful on a particular exam engineers need to take for licensure.

It just so happens that in my degree, the number of departmental elective requirements is the same as the number of general humanities requirements. One student brought that up, and he honestly hated this idea that he had to take these courses (humanities) which he insisted would not help him at all in his career. He wanted to take only engineering/technical classes, and not waste his time, so to speak, with classes like history or literature which didn't contribute anything to his career aspirations.

I, on the other hand, fully enjoyed my non-technical classes. I even took extra ones because I enjoyed the subject matter so much, and might have even adopted a minor if I had the time to do it, and weren't so late in my degree already. I've also found that what I've learned in those classes helped me grow as a person far more than any technical class. And I think I care about that a little more.

The department head agreed with me, actually, telling the student that the classes he took himself when he was undergrad in psychology helped him in his job (as dept. head) more than any technical class, and that the skills one can acquire in them are universal, unlike technical skills which are more specific.

He also gave the example of students who had graduated already and were in industry--there was only one class they found to be useful at all, which was senior design. The logic there is that senior design prepares them (or intends to) for the "real world" of industry, and the design process. Whereas other classes are "pencil pushing" and theoretical only.

I guess I'm more of a pencil-pusher type. I don't intend to go into industry, I hate senior design, and I loved the mathematical classes I took, more so than the design-oriented, and as I mentioned before, I liked the non-technical classes, too. When I started college, I never would have pictured myself where I am now, but I'm not disappointed with what I have learned--I really wish I could have learned more. While I am looking forward to graduation and finishing my degree, there is a part of me that wants to continue learning. And I don't mean learning something specific, but just learning in general.

Thursday, April 09, 2009


It's a pretty common (and as weak as it is common) attack on myself on the Catholic forum where I sometimes post, for someone to claim that I am brainwashed. After all, according to the point of view of some more angry intolerant types, I converted to the Dark Side. I mean, I am preferring the rights of women in Islam (which they consider barbaric and medieval) to those of American women, for instance. But in so many ways I prefer Islam to American culture or law, leading people to accuse me of being brainwashed.

But when it comes to brainwashing, these videos are very insightful. I came across them a few days ago over at Egyptian Gumbo, and was incredibly impressed. I hope others can take a look and see things that maybe weren't so obvious before.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Basically they show how Fox News (especially Sean Hannity) goes about trying to program people's brains (NLP is neurolinguistic programming) to think a certain way.