Friday, October 26, 2007


We went up to Jebel Hafeet last night (26 October 2007) to see the world from way up there. In the first photo are Abdullah, Hasan and me, drinking some Arabic coffee in the parking area at the last stop. In the second photo is Abdullah pouring more coffee with Amnah eagerly reaching for more.
Afterward we went to Al Bazarah at the foot of Hafeet and had a picnic on the beautiful green lawns in full view of the awesome majesty of the mountain. Youngsters were driving by on their motorcycles, people walking around chatting and just having a good time. Barbeque fires burning, children swimming and playing soccer, some climbing the grassy slopes. I watched the smartest sports cars imaginable driving past. This is the good life.
We sat talking about our school, Arabic culture and our Islamic faith. We marvelled at Allah's beautiful creation and at how privileged we are to be able to enjoy it all in good health. Walakal hamd!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Here is another response from someone who has read my blog. My responses follow.

Good Morning Haaike,This is a really good post on this subject, and I'm glad that you have presented your side so well. I absolutely agree that there needs to be respectful and open dialog between Muslims and Christians without preconditions of the type that John argues for. We all worship the same God, the Creator of the Universe. Obviously there are big differences in our theologies and beliefs, and those are important. It should not be necessary for either of us to compromise our beliefs for the sake of an artificial unity. But we should be able to respect each other as fellow believers.In that spirit, let me address some of the other issues that you raise. I agree, here in the UAE we Christians are more free to worship than in many Muslim countries, and for that I'm grateful. However, that is not quite the same thing as saying we are free here. Maybe you haven't seen Christians worshiping under cover for fear of persecution, but others have. I imagine that if a non-Muslim friend or co-worker asks you questions about Islam, you have no fear of answering them. The same cannot be said for Christians. We have to be careful that we are not accused of trying to spread our "unpleasant heresy", even if we are not the ones who initiated the discussion and are only responding.As an aside, can I point out that calling each other heretics or infidels or terrorists or other names isn't helpful. I have no problems with you pointing out Christian theology that you disagree with, even in strong terms. But such name calling also makes it easy to question how sincere you are. I agree with you that we need "hearts that are truly open toward each other, and minds that are willing to critically evaluate personal prejudice". Name calling does not really demonstrate such an open heart or mind.Moreover, even if that were not true, it still doesn't negate the fact that non-Muslims even here in the UAE are not treated like minority religions are in the USA. It is true that the larger Christian denominations (Catholic, Episcopalian, Orthodox, etc) have been able to build churches, but I also know that many of the smaller, less well-known denominations have been turned down and have had to worship in members homes.I cannot speak for the entire world, but I can tell you from experience living both here and in the US that Muslims in there are much freer there than Christians are here. For that matter, Muslims are freer to worship there than Muslims are here (e.g. There is no government department that monitors sermons in the US). None of this should stop us from dialoging, however.As to Iraq, I don't think that you can fairly say that the US and UK have "murdered" innocent civilians. Murder requires intent. If you believe that George Bush and Tony Blair sent troops there with the intent of killing civilians, then they are murderers. That doesn't make the war itself right. But we should be accurate in our statements. There have been US servicemen who have committed murder while in Iraq. But that is not the same as saying that the US and UK are led by murderers.I also think that your question "Who is killing whom?" is very appropriate and almost never answered. If you visit the Iraq Body Count site and examine this month's figures, you will see that as of Tuesday the 23rd, the US forces have caused the death of 87 civilians in October. But there have been 863 reported civilian deaths in October. This means that almost 90% of the civilians that have been killed in October have been killed by fellow Muslims. Now, you can argue that those Muslim-on-Muslim killings only took place because of the war and the removal of Saddam. But, in a like way, I can just as easily say that those US-on-Muslim killings only took place because of the insurgency.Sorry for going on so long. Again, I think that we definitely need an open and respectful dialog, and I'm glad that you brought this subject up.
Let me just respond to a few matters:
[1] Do we all worship the same god? This is where a Muslim cannot agree, ever. There is no uncertainty in a Muslim's mind about the identity of God - laa illaha illa'llah! Whatever the commonality is that exists between Christians and Muslims, it is most certainly not the fact that we worhip "the same god". The Holy Qur'an states: And you will find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians [5:82]. And yet the Holy Qur'an also warns Muslims: O you who believe, don't take the Jews and Christians for friends, they are friends one to another [5:51]. This prohibition necessitates caution in Muslims' interaction with Christians because of the latter's proximity with and affinity for the Jews who have rejected both Jesus (peace be upon him!) and Mohammad (peace be upon him!). In other words, Muslims have some commonality of faith with Christians because of the importance of the person of Jesus, the Messiah, and not because we share in a common worship of the same god. The problem with Christian faith, from a Qur'anic perspective is simple: And with those who say: "We are Christians," We made a covenant, but they forgot a part of that whereof they were admonished [5:14]. Christians have not embraced the fullness of Islam and have wandered off into shirk. Not only have Christians departed from the revelation that God gave them through the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him!), but they also insist that others follow their ways: And the Jews will not be pleased with you, nor will the Christians, till you follow their creed [2:120]. This naturally leads me to the following point in response - what my blog reader referred to as "name calling".
[2] Are Christians "believers"? It is true indeed that we are all creatures of the same God, but it is not true that we are all worshippers of this same God. About this the Holy Qur'an is very clear: He who chooses disbelief instead of faith, verily he has gone astray from a plain road [2:108]. Disbelievers have certain specific characteristics: Those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers, and seek to make distinction between Allah and His messengers, and say: "We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and seek to choose a way in between." Such are disbelievers in truth [4:150-151]. The irony never escapes Muslims that we accept the prophets of Judaism and Christianity, but Judaism rejects any prophets after their own, so do Christians. The essence of Christian heresy is the fact that they have rejected the final revelation of God through the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him!) and hence they reject the Holy Qur'an. The term "al kafireen" [deniers/disbelievers] is used 93 times in the Holy Qur'an and many of these references are to Christians and Jews. Especially Christians get the whole thing wrong when they view Jesus (peace be upon him!) as some kind of "god" and a companion for God: They indeed have disbelieved who say: Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary [5:17; 5:72]. The mere thought of some kind of "trinity" proposes that God has companions, and this is utterly reprehensible to Muslims: They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three [5:73]. As I pointed out above - Muslims are very clear about the fact that we do not worship the god of the Jews or the god of the Christians - laa illaha illa'llah, wahdahu wa sharikalah! The penalty for this Christian heresy is severe: Lo! Those who disbelieve the revelations of Allah, theirs will be a severe punishment [3:4]...And those who disbelieve the revelations of their Lord, for them there is painful doom and wrath [45;11]. The Holy Qur'an makes no ambiguous statements about the lot of those, like Christians, who reject the truth. In fact: Indeed Allah has cursed the disbelievers and for them is a flaming fire [Al Ahzab:64]. And so I can go on and on.
The point I am making above is that it is not "name calling" to call Christians "disbelievers" and "heretics" since they have indeed departed from the revelation of God to them through the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon them!). There is no commonality of worship between Christians and Muslims, and there will never be.
[3] The reader makes a good point about the Muslim-to-Muslim violence that takes place in Iraq. Of this Holy Qur'an says: Whoever kills a believer of set purpose, his reward is hell forever. Allah is angry witih him and He has cursed him and prepared for him an awful doom [4:93]. A Muslim who kills another Muslim has his or her fate cast in concrete, and the curse of Allah rests on that person. However, let us not trivialise the murder of innocent Iraqis by "coalition forces" as if some "oops!" happened. How on earth does one "mistakenly kill" 85,000 innocent people, oops? The same fate awaits those coalition forces who kill innocent Muslims as awaits those Muslims who kill innocent Muslims. Thing is - it is the so-called Christian "West" that perpetrates these hideous murders in the name of "civilised values" that are based on Judaeo-Christian doctrine.
[4] Do Christians have religious freedom in Islamic countries? What is often forgotten by Christians is that Islamic jurisprudence is not the result of intellectual and democratic processes, but the application of the laws of God. The way we choose to govern ourselves is a direct expression of the way we worship. Shari'ah law is the application of Qur'anic revelation and not the application of "mob insight". Thus, the democratic values that underpin the sentiments of my blog reader are not exactly relevant in an Islamic society, and the mistake is made to assume that democratic jurisprudence is inherently superior to Islamic jurisprudence. My reader assumes that in Islamic countries it is not a tit-for-tat that reciprocates the kindness and "freedom" of Muslims in non-Islamic countries. But this assumes, again, that Islamic jurisprudence is fundamentally flawed because it does not attain to the lofty morals and ideals of a secular democracy. Muslims expect the freedom to worship as Muslims in non-Islamic, democratic countries since those who shaped and uphold those societies pride themselves of their inclusive permissiveness. Thus, Muslims expect only what those societies themselves set out to achieve! No Islamic country has ever suggested that Christians (and other religionists) are free to do as they please in an Islamic country. Christians who visit or live in an Islamic country should expect only what that Islamic country has set out to do: to uphold and apply the Divine Law of God, as found in the Holy Qur'an and the authentic ahadeeth.
In summary: let us explore commonality where this exists (in our mutual prophetic heritage), but let us, likewise, be clear about our differences. Just as Christians wish and pray for Jews to embrace the fullness of the Christian faith, so Muslims wish and pray for Jews and Christians to embrace the fullness of Islam.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Below is a reply from someone who had read my blog. I tried to respond to the message, but the blogger is not identifiable. So, I decided to post his message here (evidently his name is John).
There can be no dialogue with Islam until Muslims start treating other religions with respect in those countries where they dominate.When Non-Muslims have the freedom to preach, worship, build temples and churches in Islamic countries, we can talk.When Muslims quit preaching hate toward other religions in the mosques, schools and media, we can talk.When Muslims apologize for the hate and violence against Non-Muslims in the Quran and ahadith, we can talk.

Let me point out a few interesting observations I have about this message:

[1] "There can be no dialogue until..." - This is exactly the kind of thing that makes Muslims sincerely doubt the intentions of Christians. Dialogue starts with hearts that are truly open toward each other, and minds that are willing to critically evaluate personal prejudice. The point is valid, never the less, but it is enormously frustrating for me as a Muslim (and ex-Christian!) to have these Christians sentiments in my face from the start as if it were the Christian agenda that were truly important here. It is so easy to respond with something like: "There can be no dialogue until Christians change their Muslim=terrorist equation." Maybe John has never been to the UAE, because here he would find that the Government grants Christian communities land free of charge so that they can build their churches. Just recently, for example, President Vladimir Putin visited Abu Dhabi and attended the ground-breaking ceremony of a Russian Orthodox Church there. Muslim dignitories were there too. I ain't seen no Christians having to worship under cover here or hide for fear of persecution. They worship as openly as Muslims do, provided they do not actively spread among Muslims the unpleasant heresy that they profess.
[2] I'm not sure whether John forgot the awful sin that was committed by George Bush and Tony Blair in their murdering of inccocent Iraqis. The current body count is over 82,000 innocent civilians who were killed by the hate-inspired speech and military action of so-called "Christians". Who is hating whom here? Who is killing whom? Are there Islamic armies in the USA or in the UK that are killing innocent civilians? Check out some of these websites for a sobering view:
Estimates are that around 55% of those killed so brutally by these "peace-loving" Christians are women and children under the age of 12.
John - salaam aleikum warachmatu'llah wabarakatuh! May the peace, mercy and blessing of Allah be upon you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I have been experiencing inner peace and contentment like seldom before in my life. I have become a critical judge of my own experience so that I am always able to distinguish authentic spiritual growth from some kind of emotional hype that is the result of the novelty of having become a Muslim. I have made my shahadah and in it, essentially, I have done two things: [1] I have rejected the shirk and polytheistic faith of my past as a Christian - laa illaha - there is no god, [2] and I have also embraced and accepted Allah's Religion and my faith in one God - illa'llah. My Muslim faith is a constant expression of this dual act of rejection-acceptance. Every time I say these holy words I renew my rejection of my polytheistic past, and I embrace my acceptance of my monotheistic present.
It is simply not possible to write about an experience that has to be experienced in order for it to be understood. There is only one way to know what an orange tastes like - taste it! There is only one way to know what Islam tastes like - reject all other gods and accept Allah only. Some people may read these words and have no resonance with them. This is to be expected because they will only be reading about someone else's experience of tasting an orange, but this will not enable them to know what an orange tastes like. Tonight, as I write these words, I am filled with inexpressible praise to Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala for drawing me closer to His light and His truth. Here is a verse from the Holy Qur'an that two of my Muslim brothers shared with me earlier tonight:
Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with you unless you follow their form of religion. Say: the guidance of Allah, is the (only) guidance. If you were to follow their desires after the knowledge which has reached you, then you would find neither protector nor helper against Allah [2:12].
Having become a Muslim was not some trivial and unimportant thing to me, neither was it an after-thought or an impulsive indulgence. It was and is an informed, heart-felt, mind-willed, spirit-intended and body-expressing decision that enables me to be fully alive and available to Allah and His ummah. It is my joy to surround myself with those who know and who speak the words of Allah. Here is what the Qur'an says about those who do not know Allah:
And when they [the believers] hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say: To us our deeds, and to you yours. Peace be to you: we seek not the ignorant [28:55].
It is clear to me that, as a Muslim, my path is the straight path - ihdinas siratal mustaqeem, siratal ladhina an amta ala'yim - the path of those whose portion is not wrath [the Jews] or those who have gone astray [the Christians] [Al Fatihah:6-7]. I have chosen to walk the straight path because I have chosen to reject the path that led me astray. Every time I make salat, when I recite Al Fatihah, I choose anew, freely and fully, to reject the shirk that I had embraced in the past, and I choose anew, also, to accept the straight path of Allah's Religion which has brought me so much joy and peace. Here is a beautiful verse from the Holy Qur'an that tells what happens when one who was astray returns home to the only Religion that brings truth and peace:
Those who sustain the throne [of Allah] and those around it sing the glory and praise of their Lord; believe in Him, and implore forgiveness for those who believe: Our Lord! Your reach is over all things, in mercy and knowledge forgive, then, those who turn in repentance, and follow Your path; and preserve them from the penalty of the blazing fire [40:7].
As Muslim, I am covered by the prayers of those who sustain the throne of Allah, those who plead for mercy for all Muslims, and for those who return to the straight path of Allah. May Allah be praised for ever for leading me to the straight path!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


I am pensive today. Have been here in the UAE almost 2 months and yet it feels like a lifetime, a good lifetime. I cannot believe how time has flown, how settled I feel, how happy I am. We've had our short Eid holiday and tomorrow it is back to school for the next stretch that will take us to the December vacation. All is well and to Allah be all praise.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Here is the foyer of the hotel and a photo of the roof. What you can see in these photos is just the visual impact - you have to also EXPERIENCE the impact of this on the senses.


Now, here is something you simply have to see. The Emirates Palace Hotel is a feast for the eyes. Every square inch is sheer delight. The gold that is used in the opulent splendour is an unqualified pleasure. From the lawns outside, to the carpets, to the friendly faces of the staff - an absolute MUST SEE!!


Here is a photo of the Chamber of Commerce (first photo) and the main street leading into Abu Dhabi.


OK, here's the problem - I always fall in love too fast, but I can't help falling in love with Abu Dhabi. What an awesome place it is! A colleague took a few of us in her Jeep to Abu Dhabi yesterday (15 October, 2007).

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Here is one of my students on ice. Wow! He's an expert, and he knows it. He was happy to show me and his other English teacher how good he really is. Well done Nasr!


A truly awesome place to be this Al Ain Mall. The spirit is festive with Eid. Below these banners is the ice skating area where I bumped into a student - photos above. The second photo shows you how beautiful the marble floors are in this place.


The first photo is inside a computer shop in the Al Ain Mall complex. The second photo is of the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank just outside the Al Ain Mall.


The first photo was taken outside the Al Ain Mall earlier today. It's weekend, so it's time for loafing and relaxing. Had some cinnamon rolls and coffee inside - pure delight, utter decadence! The second photo is of the McDonalds inside Al Jimi Mall.


Here is me at Al Jimi Mall. Multicoloured camels are scarce, but not at the Mall. A colleague and I went for a McDonalds's breakfast to celebrate Eid and eating in public again after a month. The second photo is the main entrance to the Mall.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


What a heart-warming article on the front page in today's edition of the GULF NEWS! 138 leading Muslim leaders and scholars have written an open letter to the leaders of the Christian world in which they extend their hand in friendship and peace. Some of the signatories include: Shaikh Dr Mohammed Salim Al Awa, the Secretary General of the International Union of Muslim Scholars; Dr Abdul Aziz Bin Othman Al Twaijiri, the Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Culture Organisation [ISESCO]; Prof Dr Abdul Wahab Bin Ebrahim Abu Sulaiman, member of the Comittee of Senior Ulama, Saudi Arabia; and several other Muslim scholars and leaders here from the United Arab Emirates. Here are some of the extracts from this open letter to all Christian leaders [Gulf News, p.2, Friday, October 12, 2007]:
  • As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes.
  • As Muslims, and in obedience to the Holy Qur'an, we ask Christians to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions...that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take other lords beside God. Let this common ground be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us.
  • If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world's inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake.
  • So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works.
  • Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to one another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.
  • Love of the neighbour is an essential part of faith in God and love of God because in Islam without love of the neighbour there is no true faith in God and no righteousness.

How awesome is this initiative! It makes my Muslim heart beat so much faster because of my love for my brothers who participated in this initiative and for the excellent example of Islamic peace, tolerance and love for justice that is demonstrated in it.


The first photo is of the Abela Supermarket on top of which we live. It is taken from across the road where construction may soon take place for yet another residential complex. You can see that it is reasonably quiet in our neck of the woods. The complex behind the building that you see comprises larger living units (town houses) for larger families. Each has a little garden for people to pot around in. There is also a recreation centre at the back of the complex where there is a swimming pool and ping pong tables. All very convenient indeed!
The second photo is of the street that leads up to the mosque (which will be on the right). I walk up this street daily to pray at Twam Masjid.


There is so much development taking place in Al Ain. Everywhere you go there are new construction sites, like the one in the first photo. This is right across the road from where we live. Often, the work crews work during the night because it is simply too hot during the day. In the seond photo is the Famous Cafeteria, right next to Twam Masjid. We often go to have supper there because the fare is good and cheap. There are only 2 tables inside, so it tends to get a little crowded at times. This is where i had my first ever avocado milkshake - an experience I am not too keen on repeating too soon!


The entrance to Twam Masjid and the minaret.
Sitting inside the masjid when the adhaan sounds for Al-Isha is an awesome experience in itself. I normally get to the mosque at about 19.00 and then I retire to the corner at the right of the first picture, where I sit and read the English translation of the Holy Qur'an. Sometimes there are other brothers inside too. When adhaan sounds, everything inside the mosque stops to listen in awe as believers are called to prayer and to success. As the holy words echo over the rooftops of Asharej District, one can feel the tangible presence of centuries of Islamic worship in confluence of praise and adoration, flowing through every space and into every heart that is touched by it.


Allahu akbar wallahil hamd! Allah is the greatest and to Him be all praise!
Here are some photos of the mosque where I worship. Within these sacred walls I find refuge in Allah and I enter into the peace that He gives to those who call on Him. It is like a calm haven in the storm. It is like a cool breeze in the desert heat. It is like home from home...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

IFTAR WITH COLLEAGUES - 27 Ramadaan, 1428

Here is a bunch of us having Iftar at the Leisure Restaurant in Al Ain. To my greatest amusement (ailurophile that I am!), there were many cats to keep my company in between the discussions with colleagues. One of them easily earned the nickname "Garfield" for reasons that you can easily see. Garfield was not too happy with me for suffering the indignity of sitting on my lap and being hugged like a fat baby. We both survived the ordeal, though, to my delight.
In the back row with me is my brother in Islam, Abdullah, who has been a true friend and support in my journey deeper into Islam. Right in front of me, in the red hijaab, is my sister in Islam, Amnah, who is (like me) a revert to Islam. She is from the USA.

Saturday, October 6, 2007



You are All, Everything, and More.

Like a rose to a bee,

like a stream to a fish,

like a sunrise to a morning:


Overflowing is my heart,

never-ending is my praise,

eternal is my thanks:


Like a mother to a child,

like a father to a son,

like a husband to a wife:


Like stars to the night,

like an oasis to a thirst,

like the eye to the storm:


Friday, October 5, 2007

FRIDAY - 5 October

Had a peaceful chat with colleagues from Romania and the USA. Talking about this and that. The weekend is a time for preparation for school, and a time to recharge my batteries. This reminds me that life is a celebration of faith - with all its ups and with all its downs. And this, in turn, reminds me of one of my favourite spiritual truths [from Teilhard de Chardin] -
We are not human beings having spiritual experiences;
we are spiritual beings having human experiences.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Ramadaan is rushing to a close. Itikaaf has arrived and Muslims' hearts are awaiting Lailatul-Qadr. It is easy to be introspective and soul-searching at this time. Last night I attended taraweeh at the Masjid up the road from me. What a blessed time! How touched I was by the presence of Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, for the earth and all the heavens are His alone, and He is also alive in the hearts and minds of those who worship Him. Naturally, I wondered whether my faith, as Muslim, made any difference to my own life, and to the lives of those around me. Does it matter that I am a Muslim? Does it matter to others that I am a Muslim? Here is a most beautiful passage from the Holy Qur'an that answered my questions:

One day shall you see the believing men and the believing women - how their Light runs forward before them and by their right hands: (their greeting will be): "Good News for you this Day! Gardens beneath which flow rivers! To dwell therein for ever! This is indeed the highest achievement!" One day will the hypocrites - men and women - say to the believers: "Wait for us! Let us borrow (a light) from your light!! It will be said: "Turn your back to your rear! Then seek a light (where you can)!" So a wall will be put up between them, with a gate therein. Within it will be Mercy throughout, and without it, all alongside, will be (wrath and) punishment!...Has not the time arrived for the believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the truth which has been revealed (to them), and that they should not become like those to whom was given revelation aforetime, but long ages passed over them and their hearts grew hard. For many among them are rebellious transgressors. Know you (all) that Allah gives life to the earth after its death! Already have We shown the signs plainly to you, that you may learn wisdom. For those who give in charity, men and women, and loan to Allah a Beautiful Loan, it shall be increased manifold (to their credit), and they shall have (besides) a liberal reward. And those who believe in Allah and His Messengers - they are the sincere (lovers of truth), and they are witnesses (who testify), in the eyes of the Lord: They shall have their reward and their Light. But those who reject Allah and deny Our signs - they are the companions of hell-fire. [Al-Hadid - 57:12-19]

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

AL-MULK [The Dominion] - Surah 67

Blessed be He in Whose hands is dominion; and He over all things has power - He Who created death and life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving - He Who created the seven heavens one above another: no want of proportion will you see in the creation of (Allah) Most Gracious. So turn your vision again: see you any flaw? Again turn your vision a second time: (your) vision will come back to you dull and discomfited, in a state worn out. And We have, (from of old), adorned the lowest heaven with Lamps, and We have made such (Lamps) (as) missiles to drive away the Evil Ones, and have prepared for them the penalty of the blazing fire [:1-5].