Hamza Yusuf’s tribute to Martin Lings

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Martin Lings aka Abu Bakar Sirajuddin, the author of Muhammad: His Life Based on Earliest Sources, passed away some 7 years ago. Although the book is not free from criticisms, is arguably the best English-language biography on the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ out there today.

A good friend recently forwarded me an article, in which Hamza Yusuf pays tribute to Martin Lings.


I remember purchasing a small metaphysical treatise by an author with a foreign name way back in 1976 as I was browsing the shelves in a small spiritual bookstore located amidst a beautiful garden in Ojai, California. The title was The Book of Certainty: The Sufi Doctrine of Faith, Vision and Gnosis, and the author was Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din. At the time, I knew nothing of Islam, let alone who the author was, yet the title intrigued me. It was, in essence, what I was searching for – certainty. I read as much of the book as I could but recall not understanding very much. It quoted extensively from the Quran and offered highly esoteric commentaries in a language quite foreign to me. I set it aside, but my curiosity had been piqued that shortly thereafter, in a life-altering transaction, I purchased a Quran and began to read a very personal revelation that would compel me to convert to the religion of Islam.

After more than a decade abroad seeking sacred knowledge, I returned to the United States and was soon teaching courses on Islam. Not long after I was asked to teach a series of lectures based upon the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him. I agreed but needed a text in English for the students. I began looking for a sound biography of the Prophet that was written in an English style that did justice to the story. Surprisingly, for a man who the American historian Michael Hart ranked the single most influential human being who every lived, hardly anything serious biographical literature was available other than poorly written works published in far-off places or polemics and misrepresentations. I was somewhat despondent and then I discovered the finely produced Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources, by Dr Martin Lings. I knew who he was because I had been warned that I should be careful when reading his books. What I didn’t know at the time was that Dr. Martin Lings and Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din, the man whose book led me to the Quran, were one and the same person. Nevertheless, I decided to read the book and assess it for myself.

I was quickly immersed in a story told by a master storyteller whose English oft-times sang and always soared. The Prophet’s life was masterfully narrated through a series of short chapters in a prose as engaging and poetic as Lytton Strachey’s in Eminent Victorians, only the subject matter was not on an eminent Victorian but rather written by one who appeared to be. My father, a fine critic of English literature, remarked after reading it that unfortunately the prejudice Westerners have for the topic has prevented it from being recognised as one of the great biographies of the English language.

He also touched on the issue of orthodox and heterodox thoughts with regards to the Islamic tradition, in relation to some of Martin Lings’ controversial views. Worth the read.

Link to full article below, in PDF format.

Hamza Yusuf, “A Spiritual Giant in an Age of Dwarfed Terrestrial Aspirations,” Q-News, No. 363, June 2005/Jamad al-Ula 1426, 53-58.



DIY personal bidet

Various types of bidet and, um, how not to use them. (1, 2)

If you’ve gone the “water way,” you know there’s absolutely no turning back. Toilet papers are for those who walk around with sticky dried up stains down their back. Nothing feels as fresh as using water to cleanse yourself. Especially when number two beckons, if you know what I mean.

I admit, this one is rudimentary at best. But it serves its purpose well enough.

This came about as I was stuck at a workshop in some hotel for a whole day, and was forced to improvise. Luckily they have bountiful supply of bottled water.

So all you need is bottled water, and a pen.

1. Steal Acquire bottled water. Usually at conferences, they provide smaller bottles (250ml~) which you can easily smuggle into the toilet without arousing suspicion.

2. Use pen to poke a hole in the bottle cap. As the ball-point may be damaged in the process, use the complimentary pen provided by the conference organizer instead of that $30 Sheaffer or $300 Mont Blanc.

And instead of doing this in full view of  everyone, a more discreet way would be by removing the bottle cap first, place it on the table, and poke away. It’s always wiser to avoid awkward stares in doing these things. So do so only if you are seated at the back, or do the whole “project” in the washroom cubicle itself.

3. Test it! Poke more holes if you want, at the expense of water pressure.


Hamzah Kashghri and the Muslims’ failing PR department

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Not again, my brothers. I am disappointed.

Why such the fuss about Hamzah Kashghri? Granted, he showed disrespect the Prophet ﷺ, but for those of you calling for his execution, that is by far the worst reaction one can do.

Seriously, look at the news now. Newsmakers can sniff scandals from miles away. Add “Islam” to that, and it’ll help sell their news ten times faster, thank you very much.

Remember the Satanic Verses? I’m quite sure no one bothered to read it when it was first published. But when the fatwa on Salman Rushdie’s head was given, that was enough to propel that book to the bestseller’s list. What about the nasty, immature cartoons on out beloved Prophet? It was rotting in the Danish background for months until some people decided to protest openly about it. And the rest is history.

So how far on top have Islam and Muslims come out of these incidents?

And now we have Hamzah Kashghri. Based on our past experiences, I thought we have learnt our lesson in public relations.

Oh how wrong am I.

If he needs counseling, then go to him. By openly calling for his execution, we are undoing the positive image of Islam.

And for what? Some guy saying he won’t kiss the Prophet’s hand? In the Prophet’s time, people used to throw animal intestines on him while he was praying. How about that  for disrespect? And what did he do? He ignored them. People threw bloodied gut on you, and you, ﷺ, ignored them. SubhanAllah, Such patience!

And what about the time in Taif when he was stoned until he was bleeding? Rock-solid patience. In fact, he asked Allah to forgive them.

Where are we now? Calling for the head of another Muslim, who is in need of merciful guidance more than ever.

The rest of us, we need a good PR department.


What I’ve learnt about smart people

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Gasp! Harvard kid discovered the secret of smart people!

…I have noticed one overarching theme among smart people: they ask questions. When someone explains something new to me, I’ll usually just nod my head like I know what they’re talking about. If I don’t understand something, I’ll just Google it later. After all, I don’t want this person to think I’m a moron. Smart people are different. If they don’t understand something, or even if they think they understand something, they’ll ask questions.

But I’m pretty sure that nodding along thing happens especially in customarily patriarchal, feudalistic Asia. Source? My own non-extensive personal experience, where I notice that Caucasians are more likely to ask tough questions than Asians.

Good reminder.


Source: Tommy’s Tenacious Tumblr

How to profile Arab tourists 101: Thobes and abayas

Saw those tourists at the mosque or shopping centres? Wonder which rich Arabic country they are from?

Here’s a quick guide for men:

And women:

(I believe the two images above are originally from Brownbook Magazone)

Of course, it takes no astute political scientist to note that the men are the ones who don traditional Arabic thobe (or thawb; which literally means shirt) anywhere they go. Generally the women Middle-Eastern tourists are almost always identifiable by their abayas. Others may wear some other long-sleeved attire. So if they are wearing the hijab, look at the head covering for clues.

What’s an abaya, you ask?


Related post:

Of Veil and Oppression

How come got opposition rally in SOPA?

So I was watching the video above explaining why we should not support SOPA. Normally I try not to read too much into domestic US issues, but with heavyweights like Wikipedia shutting down their websites in protest of SOPA, I took special note of this.

Basically, the SOPA detractors are worried that this new bill will be dominated by the lobbying music and movie industry to unfairly target and sue websites that they deem infringing on copyright (now which Youtube video doesn’t use some popular song or movie clip?). The video noted that even baby clips are taken down because background music belongs to some giant record label.

Also if the US SOPA bill gets passed, other governments may be over-zealously end up censoring things on the internet with their own version of SOPA. Such as, censoring speeches or videos from those who disagree with their rule.

[The internet is] a vital and vibrant medium. Our government is tampering with it’s basic structure so people will maybe buy more Hollywood movies. But Hollywood movies don’t get grassroots candidates elected. They don’t overthrow corrupt regime.”

Suddenly I notice this. With the HDB flats as a dead giveaway, I’m sure that is one of the Singapore opposition political parties’ rally. But I don’t know which one it is.

And the voiceover that comes with this image? “But Hollywood movies don’t get grassroots candidates elected.”


Inner Ugly Shows

As a parent, I plan to teach my kids many things. And this will definitely be one of them.

From Roald Dahl’s The Twits

On a related note, if anyone’s looking to buy books online, the best site I’ve found so far is bookdepository.co.uk. Free shipping worldwide! Though some of my friends say the range is not as expansive as Amazon’s, the price difference is a big pull factor.