Still here

Hey, sojourner! (: It’s been months since I last posted anything. Actually, there are lots of updates that are long overdue. For instance, I haven’t written yet about my experience in the National Youth Parliament (was elected as President despite being the only minority candidate! :’) Truly, alhamdullilah!) or in this outreach I did in a minority community down south my country. It’s crazy how the first seven months of 2014 was just filled with so many opportunities to grow and reach out. Sure, it was tiring but… It was also gratifying at the same time. Though I wasn’t able to spend those months pursuing “leisure” activities (ex: learning how to bake, mastering a language etc), I still spent those months developing and engaging in worthwhile endeavors with other young leaders, national organizations and socio-civic groups. I’ve met so many people (from here and abroad), gained new friends, expanded my network and just traveled more. So far, 2014 has been truly blessed (thank you, God!)

Then, August came… Specifically, mid-August, when law school finally started! (: Yup, you read that right! I’m back to full-time studying, sojourner!!! (: Even if school’s challenging and I get lots of sleepless nights, I still am so thankful to be studying here–in the premiere law school in my country. Lots of leaders–both good and bad–have graduated from my college. They were once students too, like me! This institution is just filled with so much history and opportunity. Opportunity to grow and become better as both a scholar and servant-leader. A law degree, for me, is a means to further long-term goals of servant-leadership to a wider scale. I pray that by being a good law student, I may further gain skills and knowledge that’ll enable me to be more critical, ingenuous and skilled in the fields that I would want to pursue in the future. We can do this, right? (: EACH DAY COUNTS!

Aaaaah, sojourner! Let’s DO this! Let’s keep the drive and passion burning. Don’t EVER lose hope.

Keep moving forward! (Okay. Back to work for me. Haha (: PS: I wish all of you reading this are well, really. Peace and blessings!)

Compassion for All

Compassionate is our God.
And blessed are we for His mercy:
Mercy that reaches
everyone and everything.

The Lord listens and knows,
sees and understands,
what to the mortal
is kept hidden and cloaked.

Mortals are quick to judge and condemn
but The Immortal is not.
For He…

He is the Most Patient and Most Wise,
Most Loving and Most Merciful.

Among many other things, the Lord chose to create my heart.
A heart that ultimately, beats out of His will.
He holds my heart, not in captivity, but in love.

By God’s grace, I am connected
–with stars shining above me
–with the grass beneath my feet
–with the birds chirping in the morning
–and with the people living around me.

Truly, all are blessed and dignified by His grace.

GOD,
from the bottom of my heart,
thank you.

Thank you for loving me
and
for never leaving me.

I am imperfect and flawed
yet God,
You never abandon me.

So please.
Please never let me go.

As cheesy as this may sound,
I will hold unto to You.
I will because I love You.

I love it when I find harmony in both the Bible and Qur’an. The passage above is taken from Isaiah 46:4. It evokes one of God’s 99 Names in Islam which is: “The Sustainer” — الرزاق (pronounced as: “Ar Razzaq”)

Why, dear God, are You so generous and kind? I yearn for Your comfort and rescue.

 

(Note: Theoretically speaking, Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God–i.e., the God whom Abraham submitted to. The Qur’an is considered as the “last Revelation”–authentic and free from corruption–in a series of revelations that has been sent before through earlier prophets.)

Submission

Cairo, Egypt.
Al Azhar mosque. A muslim prays. 1987.
© Abbas

Worshiping The Creator comes in different forms. Some people sing, place their hands together, sit in silence, meditate or correspond with nature.

For Muslims, there is an intricate pattern on the conduct of prayers. The Salat or the 5 daily prayers are performed following an established set of movements. This thousand-old tradition of prayer is infused with discipline. There is a certain art to which the Salat is performed.

Perhaps, among all of the acts involved in the Salat, the most humbling one would be the sujood (as pictured above). Across different cultures, this specific human prostration is associated with obeisance and surrender to a greater being. People do it when they honor royalties, when they plead for mercy, or when they seek to please those who are essentially of a higher status than them.

In Islam, the sujood is an act of prostration that signifies obedience not to any greater being but to The Greatest Being. It is an act of complete submission to God–and to God alone. It is an act of submitting to  God who calls on people to live a righteous path, to be honest and honorable, to be compassionate, kind and just. It is a physical affirmation of the personal choice to submit to the Lord who is the best of all guardians and the most loving and merciful of all.

When I look at that photo above, I imagine that person feeling a deep sense of peace and connection with God.  As one bows down to God, one becomes elevated in his or her relationship with The Creator. In that specific moment, he becomes a true “Muslim” in the most literal sense of the word. The word Muslim means “one who submits to the will of God“. The sujood is a physical declaration–sort of like an oath–to which one affirms his or her decision to freely submit to The Creator.

When you think about it, almost every person of faith, who chooses to obey God’s will, can be considered as a “Muslim”. A Catholic, for instance, who chooses to submit to God’s will becomes a “Muslim”. A person who meditates and shows compassion and kindness in his way of prayer can be considered submitting to God’s will– thus, becoming a “Muslim” as well.

Although there are different religions and ways of praying to God, all of us still inherently share that fundamental desire to connect to The Most Supreme. We may have various ways of praying, but we all share that universal goal to reach out to God. I believe that in conducting our prayers, what matters more than form or tradition is our sincerity.

Our sincerity–our honesty and devotion–marks the weight of our prayers–whatever form they may be.

 

Another Letter to You

To The Merciful and The Generous,

I pray that You enable me to become more patient. More patient in dealing with others who see the world in a completely different way. Others who see You differently than I do. Others who don’t even see You at all. Or others who do see You but refuse to embrace You.

I’m not perfect and I too have my flaws. I have no right to judge the other sheep within Your flock. All of us are equal after all, each bestowed with Your grace. For all I know, I too have my own imperfect view of the Perfect You. So who am I to judge when my own very eyes are flawed and  constrained?

So please, Oh Truth, grant me mercy. Mercy for the times I am stubborn and insistent. There is no compulsion in religion, I know this to be true. So please, once again, grant me the patience, understanding and endurance to treat ALL of your sheep with respect and tolerance–knowing that each sheep, whether one chooses to follow the path or walk astray, is blessed with grace. Grace and… Free will.

May you grant me the strength to balance both my duty to guide and my responsibility to respect such free will. Enlighten me to be more patient and wise, to be more respectful and kind, to all and everyone.

Lead me, my loved ones, and ALL of Your Beloved to You.

Gratitude

Sometimes, if not most of the time, we get so busy that we forget to give thanks. We become too focused on working hard and achieving our goals that we forget to express gratitude along the way.

I want to drown my heart with a strong sense of gratitude. My heart, which is so fragile and small, has been caressed by the soul of others, by the warmth of nature, and by the love of God.

Why then should I not give thanks?