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July 10, 2004

Trip to California

So I haven’t updated in about 10 days, and the hits per day has dropped down to only 33? Anyway, the reason I hadn’t updated for such a long time was because I was out in California July 1-5th, and then I’ve been catching up with stuff here that I forgot to update. To proceed:

Note: I went to California for a Deen Intensive Program on the Life and Works of Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. Those of you know me will understand then why despite my messed up leg and the costs/time associated with such a trip, I had to attend, given the topic and the shuyukh who were going to be teaching it:

The whole trip was something extraordinary, in the sense that so many things came together to make this a memorable experience. Starting from my departure itself on Thursday morning, I had a 6:50 am flight out of Midway to San Francisco. Being the good Desi Muslim that I am, I got there around 6:10, thinking this is plenty of time for me to get checked in and make the flight. Imagine my surprise then when I see that the check-in line is all the way out to the curb because apparently the lousy computers had crashed. So my mom had told me to take one crutch anyway, in case I needed it, but I decided to leave it in the car when she dropped me off, saying that I didn’t want to lug around a crutch the whole time. So I left it in the car, and limped my way to the back of the line. It’s about 6:20 now, and I’m thinking, there is no possible way that I’m going to make this flight. All of a sudden, this security guy comes along and announces that if anyone has a medical condition or is handicapped, they will be allowed priority check-in. Sweeeet. So I told them about my torn muscle and they took me to the front of the line inside, got me checked in, and then ordered in a wheelchair so that I could be taken to the boarding gate and catch my flight on time. As I took my seat on the plane, I couldn’t help but smiling at God and His amazing plans: had I not messed up my leg, I wouldn’t have caught the flight and made it to the DIP in first place. “And it may be that you hate something, and God will put in it for you much good.” Indeed.

I sat next to this newly-wed couple who were going out to Hawaii for the weekend. I felt bad for the guy, he was getting whupped already. Bechara wanted to sleep, but his wife made him write thank you cards to all their wedding guests. They were pretty cool though, cause when I took out Ghazali’s “Deliverance from Error” (Munqidh min al-Dalal), they were like, “You know, we both read that book a couple of months ago and we were amazed by the man’s brilliance and desire for the truth and how sincere he was in his search for it.” I was amazed not only by their understanding of Ghazali, but just the simple fact that Ghazali was being read by everyone. Such is Hujjat al-Islam (the Proof of Islam… he was given this title because the scholars after him said that one of the proofs that Islam is true is because it produced a man like Abu Hamid).

Anyway, I was going to originally post a super-long post about everything that transpired during these 5 blessed days, but I’m getting really sleepy. Hopefully this has been an appetizer for me to recount my adventures, a la Ibn Battuta, in a later post.

Resume posting:

So I arrived on Thursday morning in San Francisco and was picked up by one of the volunteers and taken to Rumi Bookstore. Along the way, we crossed the San Mateo Bridge, and I must say that this had to be one of the greatest feats of engineering that exists… and the view from it isn’t too bad either. I freakin need a digital camera so I can take pictures of these things. Living in the suburbs of Chicago, we don’t see things like mountains and oceans; and as much as I love Chicago, I have to say that scenery-wise, Cali easily takes the cake.

Anyway, we bummed around for a few hours and were then finally taken to the campsite, which was like another hour away. It was on the outskirts of Santa Cruz, a city that is apparently known as the cult capital of America.  Judging from the freaky houses that we saw along the way, it’s probably true. I also saw a lot of, uhm, “different” people in Cali… apparently the more away from fitrah you are, the more likely you are to live in Cali. One cool thing, however, is the prevalence of organic food stores and how every other person in Northern Cali is a “granola”, a term coined by a medical resident I met at the DIP to describe organic, environmental-friendly tree huggers… nothing wrong with that, I’m seriously considering going all organic myself, so it was refreshing to see so many people who are following that type of diet.

Moving on, the program started with an introduction by Shaykh Muhammad al-Ya’qoubi. I had never heard him in person, but I had heard tapes of him and had heard from other how amazing he was. However, hearing him in person, totally blew me away. The depth of knowledge, intelligence, sincerity, wisdom, and purity that emanates from him is indescribable. I felt like making tawbah (repentance) just by sitting near him, since I felt the ugliness and vileness of my sins polluting his presence.

Even Shaykh Hamza said that he was ashamed to be teaching at such a program when a scholar of Shaykh Ya’qoubi’s caliber was also teaching. Read on to see how he rocked my world with his knowledge on Saturday night.

Thursday night was cold as frick. My leg got all stiff and I was pretty sour Friday morning cause by the time I got to the showers, all the hot water was gone and I had to take a cold shower in a stall that basically sprayed mist (like the mist that they spray on produce in the supermarket) instead of water. On top of it, it was still cold on Friday morning and they were holding class outside… So I was pretty surly when class started on Friday morning, but thankfully, Shaykh Ya’qoubi made up for it. He spent the morning sessions essentially dealing with the life of Ghazali. I thought I knew Ghazali before this, but he made Ghazali come alive, going into detail on how Ghazali sought the truth above all else, and was willing to give up the whole world for even a shred of certainty in what he believed. He talked about how Ghazali saved Orthodox Islam from the attacks of the Aristotleian philosophers (faylasufs like Ibn Sina), who began to claim that the souls wouldn’t be resurrected and drinking was a way to achieve ecstacy with God. What I found particularly interesting is how Ghazali dealt with the philosophers: rather than simply dismiss them as heretics, he took two years to study their works and lay out their arguments, in fact compiling them in a book titled “Maqasid al-Falsifa”… a book that many harped on him about, saying that his Cliff notes of Aristotleian philosophy was only helping the faylasufs agenda. Ghazali said about this in his Munqidh min al-Dalal (Deliverance from Error) that in order to disprove something, one must learn everything about the subject, and after this, one must then go beyond that and master that science so as to legitimize one’s point of view. This is what he did by producing the Maqasid, and then he followed it up by the famous Tahafut al-Falasifa (the Incoherence of the Philosophers). Consider this to modern Muslims and hot topics like evolution or cloning… everyone has a vehement opinion against it, but no one bothers to study the topic, master it, and then come up with a response to shut up all the arguments against the Orthodox Muslim view. I know if Ghazali were alive today, he’d have shut up the evolutionists by now… the Proof of Islam said, “Defeating people in arguments became easier for me than even drinking a glass of water.”

From Friday evening onwards, Shaykh Hamza and Shaykh Ya’qoubi taught from the Book of the Responsibilities of Brotherhood and from the Book of Knowledge (two books from the 40 books of the Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din [The Revivication of the Religious Sciences]). Shaykh Hamza was… well, of course, Shaykh Hamza, offering his insight and wisdom on some of these responsibilities, particularly obligations that Muslims have towards non-Muslims. Enough about HY, he’s awesome, mashallah, but let’s move on to Shaykh Ya’qoubi, who stole my heart and rocked the whole weekend.

While I can highlight many examples of what he said, suffice it to say, his greatness can be quintessentially defined by his speech on Saturday night at the Seerah conference that was held in San Jose (wasn’t part of the DIP, but they transported us there). His main point was that the doors of communication to the Prophet (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) arent closed; in other words, we can still communicate and see him in our dreams and one of the tragedies of modern Muslims is that we forget to ask Allah in our du’as (supplications) to grant us a vision of the Prophet in our dreams, something the early communities prayed for very regularly. He then went on to say that he was on the plane from England to America, and he was thinking about all the places in the classical texts wherein our scholars wrote about Prophetic dreams, in what state the Prophet appeared, and the outward meaning of that spiritual reality. He then thought to himself, “There’s no comprehensive resource for all these dreams as they’re scattered in various books (mainly Ibn Sireen).” So he proceed to write out, in the plane, by memory, all the places in various books wherein Prophetic dreams were mentioned and what their meanings was. So he’s speaking with no notes, and all of a sudden just lists out over 80 ways the Prophet has appeared in various dreams and their meanings, just reciting them out as if it were the multiplication table. I managed to write down about 72 of them, but he just listed them out like no body’s business. For example, if he appears taller than normal, it means a tribulation will come to you; if he appears shorter, it means you are a person of treachery, etc. Interestingly enough (for me at least), he said that if the Prophet gives you honey in a dream, it means you will memorize the Qur’an… thus explains the dream that I had when I was six years old and came came to completion, alhamdulillah, on June 19, 1996.

Alright, I’m tired and this is a huge post already. I’ll make another post about the astronomy session we had with Shaykh Hamza, when he took us outside and had this green laser pointer and started pointing out stars and explaining the significance and meaning in their movement and arrangement. It’s a worthwhile post, so I’ll save it for its own post.

Closing thought: “Wa ma adraaka ma Imam al-Ghazali?” (and what will explain to you who is Imam al-Ghazali?)

Note: I’m reading this book cause Lord knows I need to excise and cleanse out these diseases of the heart from my own heart more than anyone else.

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