Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Elements of Being" - a drawing

Elements of Being; oil pastel crayon on paper, August 2006 - Ramlas
I have been drawing. Again. After years.

This is a detail from an untitled oil pastel crayon on paper drawing, made one night in August 2006.

Oh! Inspiration!

I just chose a blog as well as drawing title: "Elements of Being."

Perfect! The drawing grows from layers of colored earth, and soars up to a fiery sun. Elements of Being. I like the sound of it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Should we give to the beggars?

Someone told me this formula:

There are three types of "people who ask/ who need:"

1. Bhikari/ The Begger: the types who'd throw you any line their professional knowledge knows will affect you. They will say things like, "Give 5 rupees/ money for food. God will give you ______." They are selling God, marriages, pilgrimage, happiness, etc. Do not buy God from them. Deny them flatly. If you still have a tender heart, know that these liars are earning thousands of rupees per day and are richer than you. In any case, why don't they just pack up after collecting, say, 100 rupees and go get the food/medicine they were in such dire need of?

2. Sayil/ The Needy: They may be rich or poor - but these are people who need our charity: monetary, or in kind. They need our time, attention, help, assistance, kindness. They may need to recover from accidents, or may be ill friends who need our time and love. Give them, in fact, we are commanded to give to them FROM OUR SALARIES. Those who wish may read parts of Sura-e-Baqr etc. to know that The Needy have a due part in ALL INCOME we earn, and that's after Zakat has been given.

3. The Fakir/ The Fulfilled: People who are beyond need. Whether they are given or not, it matters not to them. However, it is good for the society to be conscious of their needs. They must not be refused when they ask.

When ever we give, it is our duty to be aware of where the money is going to. My personal recommendation is to the LISTEN TO THE HEART which tells us exactly what to do. And to give INSTITUTIONAL CHARITY. Let's build institutions, not permanently needy individuals.

My response to the "Allah ke naam per..." thread on Karachi Metroblog

Monday, September 25, 2006

A peaceful funeral

Friday, I went to the house of the Mohsins. Mohsins are my favorite set of 4+1 people on earth. They are genuine, straight-forward, and harmless. They wish good for others, and are so helpful, you want to ask them to stop. Above all, they are positive human beings who do not complain.

This Friday, there was a long-expected death in the family. When I reached there, the Mohsin girls had dried up their tears, and wore their kind smiles. The family is religious, but not dogmatic. They were a little sad, as all families are after such a loss, as to why had people attending the funeral turned back to their normal conversations so promptly.

I invited the ladies, seven of us in total, to say a prayer granted to me by a friend of God. We sat with eyes closed in an almost-circle, and called the name of God's self - Allah. Once each person felt they had the attention of Allah, they prayed for forgiveness and whatever was in the hearts.

This was the first time I didn't feel an immense darknes spressing on me as the leader of prayers - that may be because the company of the Mohsins and their cousins was so pure and sincere. Taz asked, "How do we know if the prayer has been accepted?" Izz rested her hand on her right side, and said, "You know it in the heart." I am still a little curious as to why her instinctive resting was on the right of the heart? Does she know that the left is where is the heart is, and the right is the house of the soul in human constitution? I must tell her another time...

After the prayers, everyone felt positively cheerful. It was uncontrollable: the glee, the light-heartedness. We turned to what we often do when together: Kiran brought up a question relating to the beliefs of a convert atheist, and we discussed with reference to the Book. I shared with my friends another insight that gives credibility to the Chinese theory of the Yin/Yang. They were as incredulous as I was when I first "saw" it.

Among other things, I also reminded my friends, who were curiously pondering over the translations of the Quran over matters relating to women, that they must remember the Quran has been translated by men; and like prior religions, men have given the meanings that they saw in the Quran, often appending their own words in translations or modulating the degree of a word... and the result is sometimes a translation that is all masculine. This was the subject of an academic research which I want to have access to now.

An example is the word "zauj" which means the gender-neutral "spouse," but is often translated as "wife" wherever the word zauj seems to have a secondary value.

Kiran wanted to "help" the atheist-convert; my view was that educated jaahils are the worst to deal with, because they do what they do on purpose. They know exactly what they are doing, and most of them are looking for excuses to do wrong.

However, we discussed a few matters of our personal faith, and then moved on to helping with dinner. By that time, we were almost laughing and getting rather noisy and playful. It happens after all funerals, yet this time I felt a genuine aura of happiness and contentment. The Mohsins are soulful people.

It was the most pleasant and peaceful funeral that I attended.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Once again: I am in love!

I belong to a kind of people I call "The Constant Lovers," the kind who always are in love though the object of their love might change often - and here I am in love again.

Something that I had been working on for the past two years, quietly and steadily, has entered a promising phase. It's a project related to beauty and life.

But my taste is not for the ethereal. It is for the existential - for the moment to moment change, for the glimpses of Divine beauty that I see in everything. It's a manner of knowing and seeing; once you have that manner you see that all you see is neither changing, nor going anywhere, it is merely the existential display of one beauty. And then what appears to be "different objects" of love are actually the love of one, and many displays of it.

And what I am working on is a way to love One in Many Ways. I am working with forms of arts that help humans connect amongst themselves first, and then with the Divine, through Beauty.

I am working with genres of art that have a great potential to cure humanity. Not that art is the way, but it's one of the many ways, and one that has largely been misleading so far.

All right ways lead to one objective; and in my work, the objective is above the way.

God knows how, little by little all my life, I have been on a quest for this beauty! God knows I have loved and accepted ugliness deeply in order to understand and one day have access to the beautiful.

After all, ugliness is a form of beauty, for those who see.

More on this another time?

This work is what has kept me very occupied recently. I hope, inshaAllah, that it will be ready to be unveiled by the end of this year.

Prayers, of course, are what I always strongly believe in. Send one my way!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

How to split your soul in two

According to Harry Potter, the thing that splits a human's soul in two is committing murder. I think murder merely kills a part of humankind, and in some way chips away at the collective soul of the world, but it's not the crime that splits the soul.

In Maya, a Jostein Gaarder novel that I understood late, the evolutionist-anthropologist protagonist Frank laments the loss of a part of human history in him if he dies without a child. A part of human history that is capsuled deep within his genetic code – thousands and thousands of years' worth of history in danger of being lost forever with his childless death. And so, I think, murder kills a part of human history and evolution of the journey of man.

But it's not committing murder that splits a human's soul in two. The crime that accomplishes that is telling a lie.

One World or Another
There is this popular theory about "possible worlds." Variants of it exist, known as "parallel worlds," "multiverses," etc. Simply, this theory means that every moment, or at every "event node," the world splits in to two (or more) possibilities. For example, the day I decided to join my university, the world splits in two: one in which I joined my university, and another in which I didn't. Where is that world, and what is the rejecter "I" doing in there? I know not. But "I" only know of the world in which I chose the university (and I can tell I'd really really like a little glimpse of the other).


The possible worlds theory is often, as those who can see must be seeing, also tied up closely to the concept of Destiny. You know, that devilish thing we always think of: what if? What if? But destiny is not a matter to be discussed by or with a common mind, so we leave it here.

The fascinating theory of possibilities also has a significant presence in literature. The finest of the possible world stories that I read is also the only one I read: The Garden of Forking Paths. A man commits an essential but unpleasant misdeed, and hopes that in another world, he was caught before he did.

I feel that a lie puts a human in another world intentionally and knowingly. In doing so, a lie splits our memory in two. In Forking Paths, the central character only wondered: what if? And the thought – the subconscious wish that he was stopped before his misdeed – tormented him so that he wrote his story. A liar wittingly divides themselves in two worlds, or more, depending upon the variations of the lie. Memory, as most other intangible functions of the human mind, is retrieved by the human soul. To split one's memory in two places means that the soul is split in two spaces. One of them is true space, another is not – and lying stresses the soul to consistently try to reconcile its split existence.

A lie is different from imagination. Imagination is known to be imagination, and it belongs to the first world that a person is living in. In itself, it is separate from Memory, and the Soul accesses the Imagination as an entity independent, though not exclusive, of Memory. And the Soul accesses many creations of God.

A lie is not known to be imagination; for the audience, it is something that exists in the first world – where they would never find it were they to look. A lie is not part of the Reality that we all share. And it permanently alienates the liar from the truthful, in as much as the lie diverged from reality.

No wonder that the persistent split of the soul, the to and fro drift of the soul from the real to the false world, is hard on the liar who always feels the need to hide their condition and create distractions. It is a painful situation, more painful for those who still share the common reality, and have not permanently drifted mentally off into their false worlds. Nothing can be said about those who have the misfortune to have permanently chosen their false world, constantly powered by a web of more lies, delusions, unnatural beliefs, and tyranny for the humankind. (Certainly, no one can shift into that world without first creating by force conditions around them that would lead others to accept their situation. Sometimes these liars are in positions of power, and make an entire faction of humanity believe in things such as "this war is good.")

Taking Lying Down
I have the experience of knowing at least one terrible liar, other than the many who grace my TV screen everyday. I had the experience of watching that person's soul split, split, and split. It was painful just to watch; by way of a connection of heart, I felt a degree of that torment too.

There are no words to explain the drastic positive difference that I felt when I returned to the world of Reality – which I found rather insipid and detail-less initially upon return, but every bit my home eventually. Not to mention, I have developed, too, the eye that sees the beauty of the real world now that I know how agonizing the false world can be like, no matter what promising perpetual possibilities prosper there.

They say that the best diamonds are colorless, as color denotes elemental traces. (You know. Minerals & metallic ions give colors to earth and what lies within). The most beautiful things in the world are the purest, the most real, the most untainted. Above all, they have an integrated Self. They are One.

To live in the true world is to be in one place, not needing to hide or allude, always with an undivided one happy soul.



Do they matter?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A thing of Intrigue: The Jetta Report

The Jetta Report, its ad link claimed, was an eye-opening account on the owners of Jetta. I clicked the link believing it to the auto-industry's equivalent of The Constant Gardener - some spill-al account prepped by an NGO.

What the site really is, though, is... oh, check it out yourself! It's clever, smart, daring... and very funny. Oh, BTW, some of the "comparisons" on the site - and JR is big on them - make me seethe with amused fury!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Thing of Beauty: Visual Dhikr - contemporary Muslim art

Visual Dhikr is a prayer answered. Just when I was wondering if I could ever find a very decent graphic designer who hopefully was adept at Islamic calligraphy, along came Visual Dhikr.

Visual Dhikr features contemporary Islamic art by Ruh al-Alam, and was co-found by Ruh and Abu Ta-Ha.

Dhikr is a spiritual term meaning remembrance of God.... a continued, attentive, conscious remembrance. Visual Dhikr uses artwork as a medium to stimulate a continued remembrance of the Divine.

The artists do more than just Islamic artwork, but all work is within the very unique parameters that faith describes for artistic expression. Islamic art is often geometric and floral, representing concepts of infinity, Divine beauty, and peace.

Visual Dhikr awed me for several reasons:

1. It's so politically misplaced! In this day, one has to be daring to put the Islamic identity first unless one is on a preaching mission. For two artists to wear Islam on their sleeves is an amusing exception to the norm - where contemporary art in the Muslim world is pre-dominated by culture either local or imported. To wed digital media with art with Islam is a marriage of great un-convention.

2. It works. There are no error scripts, no wildly outdated links.

3. To create a visual tradition of remembrance amongst traditions of primarily auditory dhikr is an interesting experiment. It's always been done - after all Islam is submission to Allah and the constant remembrance of Hu - but I have rarely seen a modern Muslim artist in the West make this a declared mission.

Be: a calligraphic rendition of the Arabic letter Be4. The site has an astounding background musical that just about induces trance. So the art is not just visual, but also musical. It touches many senses. I must say that to have a uniquely modern, Muslim experience is a rarity that I have loved.

5. Visual Dhikr extends my identity as a Muslim in the cyber-space, and in the space of arts. You see, I believe every identity in the modern real world needs a platform, a place of reference, an authentication. Everyday, we see - though perhaps not notice with awareness - instances upon instances of people and nations who are perfectly correct in their belief, but without a reference group, a platform, a social contract that validates them.

Art has long been employed by humanity to create identities, to create culture, to create an image that one can refer to and declare: "I am something of that thing!"

Sadly, art has often imposed the identities of one or few onto many - the lone man or group projecting onto the world, a romanticized notion in all art. The art of this new age is one that reflects the global society, and its diversity. One that gives the members of humanity points of reference, which lets them say: "That thing is something of who we are!"

The only taboo in art today is its alienation and elitism... In the modern world, technology has begun to work for the disadvantaged. Today, an artist of any culture or background can use technology to perpetuate and make de facto through art their identity.

This is why I loved Visual Dhikr in all its simplicity. I like the promise this art makes.

BTW. Did I tell you that Visual Dhikr was commissioned to work for Sony PSP Exhibition launch? And the catalog is a must download!


Monday, September 11, 2006


There is a certain kind of silence which is not silence at all, but the powerlessness to express the many many words one suddenly must say to express the many many ideas one has suddenly acquired... but knows not how with the limited way in which popular human language has developed.

Last month, I went trekking in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, in a valley called Haramosh, some 110 kms northeast of Gilgit. From our base camp in a village called Barshi, we were to trek up to the village of Kutwal, with only a rudimentary idea of the distance... the trekking trail has been unexplored since many years. It took no less than six hours to trek up, with mountain after mountain to traverse. I have no idea of miles and kilometers, so I reckon it was no less than 6-8 kilometers with at least a 1000 meters of height gained, in scorching daylight.

Fields of Gold

We passed many a small settlements on the way. We reached levelled grounds, we trekked up steep climbs, we walked down... and the trail wouldn't end, and Kutwal wouldn't come. We stopped. We ate. We took in the scenery. And then we moved. I passed by a tiny field which was barricaded off, and in that tiny field, golden king butterflies silently fluttered by... and then I moved on. Over a rock perched over the noisy Barshi River, I stopped to breathe deep and relax my feet. An hour from our destination, we were awed by the sight of a glacier visible through a gorge, at the foot of which many river-lets dropped into the main river, and in which the few visible birds of the areas soared, aloft on the wings of wind...

But we got up and moved on. For none of these were our destinations, though they enriched us tremendously with the knowledge of hunger and thirst, relaxation, peace, the flow of water, and the beauty of life.

We talked, we marvelled, we wondered all the way. We exchanged notes on the unexpectedly long trail, the unimagined hot weather, the unbelievable beauty of the golden-flowered fields, and the unforgettable hospitality of the villagers... yet when Kutwal came, there was silence.

Plainly Hiding

The silence not just of exhaustion, but of exhilaration, and of suddenly walking onto a plateau hitherto non-visible to our eyes... yet it embraced us, took us in whole, as we stepped on to it. You have to step up to reach the plain of Kutwal, down from the hike below. And then there is a large plain patch of grassland to cross, after which, turning left, the whole expanse of Kutwal rises to the scene.

Its ancient-ness is breath-taking. Its quiet and peace has a sound of its own. And in that moment of just turning left, and letting the hidden scene meet the eye, one is suddenly enriched with the knowledge of an entire hidden village, a valley, an existence. The knowledge of a destination. And it brings an overwhelming silence... not for the lack of ideas, but the inexpressionability of a tremendous knowledge aspired for days, and acquired in an instance.

Secret Kutwal

I took that trek as a symbol of my personal development, to test my mettle, and to see what feelings does climbing up a mountain - a classical symbolic act of achievement - brings me. I can say now, with cognizance comes silence. Metaphorically, in my life, in my stages of learning and personal development too, I am in just such a phase.... I am silent.

For I feel I have walked into a hidden valley where in an instant, a whole scene has risen to my view.... a new world, a different world. A world where many things become meaningless in an instance, and others become significant, for they truly are significant.

And nothing else matters.

As always: edited many times. Photos added.

Each beautiful, marvelous day

Each day, I open my eyes to the beauty of life. And each day, life reveals an instance of its marvels to me. Each day, my eyes take in a little more, see a little more, understand a little more. Each day, this quest for beauty is rewarded.

Prompted by a dream last year - that told me beauty is not to be created, but to realized - I have been keeping the senses alert. The treasures have come everyday.

I have been keeping the treasures found to me, enjoying in privacy... but by my philosophy, what is a thing that is not shared with all? For everything comes from All, and must return to All. I am but a medium.

I want to share the occasional bits of happiness that come my way. They come in the shape of good news, emotions of all variety, and the works of other humans. What I love above all is that I find what I had been looking for just moments ago.

If memory serves me right, Sophie in Sophie's World learns about the white crow that is always there, waiting to be seen. The white crow... I think this is what her teacher said to her.

And now. I want to share. A marvel. A tajalli. A beautiful find. A glimpse into the ever created beauty of this evolving life.