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Friday, June 7, 2019

Another 50 Sects of Islam

50 More Sects of Islam

“Why do you have to bring Islam into everything” they whine
I guess they are from the double personality sect of Islam

With luxury hotels, malls and the clock tower, oily royals turned Mecca into a Vegas attraction
Every year ticket prices go up in the disneylandish sect of Islam

Like babies everyone thinks they're right and don't agree
Arguing, being defensive, and stubborn in the narcissistic sect of Islam

Hiding behind a hijab, a beard, a turban and rituals
Posing and showing off in the superficial sect of Islam

Leg-pulling, mistrusting, backbiting and self-serving
Defeated and humiliated in the divided-and-ruled sect of Islam

Co-signing the bullshit of family members even when they are wrong
Blindly loyal to blood ties in the hateful-in-laws sect of Islam

The latest iPhone, Prada, sexy lipstick and German car
Wielding brand name symbols in the fashionable sect of Islam

Strict, oppressive, wrathful, and opinionated
Pretending to be holy, in the intolerant sect of Islam

Hating the “non-believers” and bombing fellow Muslims
Staying a victim and blaming others in the extremist sect of Islam

Narrow-minded, intolerant, jealous, backbiting and vengeful
Looking down upon others in the judgemental sect of Islam

by Fazeel Azeez Chauhan

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Needed / Not / What is

Needed   /   Not   /   What is

Cop feels like force is needed
Soldier brags killing is needed
Ruler flaunts controlling is needed
Bartender supposes alcoholics are needed
Warmonger exclaims sanctions are needed
Banker shows debt is needed
Lifeguard surmises drowning is needed
Politician rejoices breakdowns are needed
Doctor begs disease is needed
Parent prays dependents are needed
Butcher contends slaughter is needed
Preacher professes his intercession is needed
Surgeon bets injury is needed
Celebrity touts his spotlight is needed
Lawyer reckons conflicts are needed
Photographer proclaims image effects are needed
Super power schemes coups are needed
Artist imagines audience is needed
Fireman proves fires are needed
Princess pretends maids are needed
Football lover conceives violence is needed
Spy argues assassinations are needed
Religion portrays hell is needed
Weapon seller brandishes bogeyman is needed
Dentist knows bad teeth are needed
Beautician insinuates ugliness is needed
Imperialist glorifies war is needed
Spouse advertises love is needed
Paramedic figures emergencies are needed
The paranoid avow enemies are needed
Cleaner presumes dirt is needed
Judge alleges guilt is needed
Warden realizes prisoners are needed
Insurance agent deems loss is needed
Economic hitman extols overthrows are needed
Performer perceives show is needed
Architect considers emptiness is needed
Graveyard reveals dead bodies are needed
Movie hero enshrines villains are needed
Pharmacist ponders illness is needed
Non-vegetarian surmises butchering is needed
Plumber envisions leads are needed
Magician implies illusions are needed
Secretary recognizes bosses are needed
Leader convinces followers are needed
Janitor contemplates excrement is needed
Liar affirms fools are needed
Global godfather shouts 6 billion slaves are needed
Therapist reminisces stress is needed
Priest claims sins are needed
White-supremacist projects minorities are needed
The haves announce the have-nots are needed
Humans submit death is needed

                                                                                     by Fazeel Azeez Chauhan 5-28-19

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Honoring African Americans

Honoring African Americans
by Fazeel Aziz Chauhan
(as published in Pakistan Link, Los Angeles, 1997)

February is Black History month and it serves as a great reminder of the immense contributions which African Americans have made to this society. Their teachings can profoundly help and accelerate the progress of Pakistanis and other Muslims in America. The extreme degree of their human experience and their devout legacy deserves tremendous honor. We need to thank all minorities who came before us. They have given their lives for obtaining Civil Rights for our children. They can teach us immensely if we are willing to be humble and accept that we have a common milieu. 

If we as Muslims want to become aware of our predicament, we must begin by getting an accurate picture of American history. The book "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn is compulsory reading. It will shock you with the truth from page one. Native Americans were already here for thousands of years before the Europeans like Columbus arrived at the new world. Ironically, Columbus was actually looking for India, to enslave my own ancestors. Zinn's book quotes Columbus' own journal about his intentions of importing slaves and gold to Europe.
Historically, there has always been a small group of people exploiting a much larger group who may be the poor, weak or non-white. We must be aware of the idea that the media defines and divides the world into the categories of "the West and the Rest". In the scheme of American definitions, we are classified as minorities. We are included in the groups of Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and immigrants. We should join the ranks of our fellow minorities and do our fair share. If united, this group of "'minorities" can be very powerful. Otherwise we fall prey to being divided and conquered by other people. The people classified as "minorities" in America can teach each other astronomically because we share most common values. We may have different religions, but our culture, morals, behavior and predicament are the same as native or traditional people of the world.

The legacy and teachings of Native Americans also deserves tremendous honor. The first owners of this land are classified as a "minority" who did not "immigrate" to America. The first "non-Europeans" who immigrated here, but against their will, were Africans. It is guaranteed that their words will enlighten you. Their experience will help you progress much faster. We are not the first minority or the first immigrants here. Africans, have been here for hundreds of years before us. We should always enlist their help and cooperation so that we do not have to keep re-inventing the wheel. Thus we need to appreciate and honor them.

If you are facing raci~m, ask an African American about the experience of his ancestors. If you feel that you are among aliens, watch movies like "Amistad." Invite an African American family over for dinner and engage in a dialogue about your common issues. Their heart, hope, persistence, faith, humbleness, pride and power will invigorate and catapult you. In addition to dialogue, read books written by African Americans and other minorities. Get beyond only watching movies such as Malcolm X. Find out who struggled for hundreds of years, bit by bit, to get equal rights for "people of color". As a rule, any dominant culture tries hard to maintain the status quo. It wasn't Anglo-Americans who initiated the ideas of Civil Rights against slavery, apartheid and racism.
Our Muslim parents push their kids to pursue careers which are only financially rewarding such as business or medicine. Why should it take five more decades to realize that we need to encourage kids into the arts, politics and social work? The Jewish people are a great example of a small group of people who became very influential by teaching their kids to go into the powerful areas of media, politics and finance. We should learn from them. Your children can be the next heroes for people around the world, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mohammed Ali. African Americans are usually the best athletes but why are they, prevented from being coaches? The best Cricket, Squash, Kabaddi and Hockey players in the world are in our genes. Why do we keep them dormant?

White supremacists continue to use IQ tests and various studies to prove that other minorities somehow lack certain human elements. But look at how African Americans prove them wrong by their accomplishment in science, as well as arts. Louis Lattimer is a famous scientist and inventor. African American scientists are not well publicized but artists will tell you that even art involves a high level of mathematical and scientific abilities. Notice that often Anglo-Americans are made legendary by the media while minorities are ignored. For example the notion that "Elvis is King". What about Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Miles Davis and Jimmy Hendrix? African Americans are the pioneers of pop music. They sang gospel and the blues from the time of slavery and later invented the highly complex style called jazz. Actors churn up their ancestral emotions and deliver heart wrenching performances in the theater. Dancing is so instinctive for African Americans that their beautiful dance of life leaves us envious. Tony Morrison is a Nobel Laureate for Literature.

Some of our Muslim brethren look down upon other sects. But any human being who claims that he is a Muslim, probably shares at least 70% of your beliefs. So why not joyfully embrace him for that? Us Pakistanis have the common disease of pointing the finger at others and being unable to see that the other three fingers are always pointing at us. The Nation of Islam has done a lot of revolutionary and brave work. Most Anglo-Americans believe the trash on TV and don't even know who is Allah or Muhammed. If a group of people like the Nation of Islam can teach someone the basics of Allah, Muhammed and Quran, then each student receives thousands of benefits. Instead of dividing people based on differences, and judging other groups, we should accept them for being like us. Which Muslim group will organize the next Million Man March?

We also import prejudices from the old country where human supremacy based on skin color and money is rapidly becoming common. We need to be aware of how beautifully these lies are fed around the world through TV and movies. African Americans and Muslims are portrayed as criminals and sub-human.

Caucasians are portrayed as admirable heroes, even if they are shown as killers. Some churches which present Jesus as a White man, subtly give the message that Caucasians are godly and can't do no wrong. Immigrants like us were lucky enough to have experienced life in other environments. We are very perceptive and can also in return be good teachers. These statements are not anti-anglo. They are human beings like the rest of us, but no race or skin is superior. The extreme of unity is Allah. The benefit of human unity is that we can teach each other and together, greatly accelerate our progress.

Abandonment of Religion

Abandonment of Religion
Fazeel Aziz Chauhan
(as published in Pakistan Link, Los Angeles, 10-17-97)

When we come to America, our beliefs are tested and challenged like never before. In the old country, you are usually conditioned to living in a homogenous community. This may have been a predominantly Muslim society or a native or eastern culture. Thus the bombardment of all the western and alien elements in the new and contrary environment can often send you into a headspin. So much so that the process of adaptation or assimilation can make you abandon your religion. The loss of these beliefs also translates into the severance of your roots and the crumbling of your personality's foundation. This issue is of great concern specially when it comes to the new generation. Hopefully sooner than later, you realize that you have lost your way. Now how do you get back to the right path?
Life in the States can be very unstable. The opportunities are available for both paths: to learn and progress or to slip and drown. Under the new flag, you may experience more freedom of choice and decide that nobody can tell you what to do anymore. In the past, your father told you to be responsible and held you accountable for your actions. Mother told you to be a good boy and stay away from the company of partying people. Teachers told you to behave yourself and obey authority. Your community pressured you to conform to their religious and cultural norms. 
What leads a person to abandon religion? It probably begins soon after migration when a person first tries to assimilate into the American way of life. You may feel that all those old pressures and restrictions were bogus and need to go out the window. You begin to taste all the forbidden fruits and turn a blind eye toward your beliefs. You see that many Americans laugh at the idea of religion and God, and that concept begins to brainwash you too. Under the influence of this scientific and logical-brain oriented society, you begin to mistrust your heart and soul. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan quotes Allama Iqbal in a Qawali "Man Kee Dunya May Na Daykha May Nay Afrangi Ka Raaj".
Believing the values of the pop culture, you perceive organized religion as being empty and meaningless, only full of dogma and rituals. You entertain the idea that you haven't seen God and that he doesn't exist. The emphasis on individualism, consumerism, and the pleasure principle also encourage you toward worldly things and away from spirituality. Crutches like sex, medicines and alcohol only provide temporary happiness and escape from harsh realities. Some people subscribe to the melting pot philosophy and end up losing their own identity. 

The process of moving away from being Muslim and Pakistani, and into being American involves losses as well as gains. After the initial mild or severe culture shock has diminished, you begin to realize where you are and what you've lost. "By Gosh Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore". The solitary life, separation from family, lack of belongingness, payment of bills and incompatible values can all become very stressful. The loss of a supportive culture can also lead to a loss of the intertwined religious beliefs. 

As your beliefs weaken, any difficulty can turn into a test of faith which can cause you to lose hope and abandon religion. For example, a lack of loving relationships takes a heavy emotional toll and makes you lost and lonely. Not understanding the new culture's values can cause a lot of suffering and confusion. Often you feel stranded between two worlds and even simple decisions can create conflicts that tear you up inside. The harsh American life and lack of ikhlaaq (caring) among people in the big cities stabs at you to cause ulcers. A major problem develops into a test of faith, as you turn to God and pray for help and guidance. And if God doesn't answer in a timely manner, you can feel frustrated and overwhelmed. You can get trapped by grief or heavy burdens and become hopeless, angry, cynical and rebellious. You may end up thinking that maybe there is no God, and religion is not true. Also, folks who become rich or happy with stable lives can say "I don't have a problem, Why do I need religion?". 

Another reason for reaching the point of abandonment of religion is the lack of a strong belief system (Imaan). Some of us were not educated with the proper religious knowledge and understanding. Instead, blind faith, rote memorization and fear tactics were emphasized. Bad experiences with other Muslims who may be unkind, not trustworthy, insincere, deceptive, liars, cheats, greedy, selfish, uncooperative, self-righteous, prejudiced and narrow minded, make us doubtful and bitter. We may start believing the local media who criminalize Muslims and attempt to defeat, belittle and deceive us. 

How does a person come back to God and religion? After abandonment, a person may have embarked on a search for truth and spiritual fulfillment through other means. Many philosophies can help a person find a good path. But a proper understanding of religious teachings can provide guidance on a precise road map. A person can come back home to Islam through the front door, by studying the Quran and Hadith. The ability to decipher the truth can increase with age. It would help if practical solutions to common problems are provided through the mosques. A more progressive approach needs to be promoted to better apply Islamic teachings into every day life. In this matter, new African American and Hispanic Muslims provide us with fresh perspectives, hope and inspiration.

A person can also find his way back home to Islam through outside channels. Yoga, self-help books, psychology, meditation, support groups, music, 12 step programs, counseling, and self expression through the arts can heal a person. Learning and testing the truth through these alternative methods can validate Islamic teachings. Thus a person can discover that what he was taught in childhood was true after all and he can then return to the right path. The best healer and guide is a sincere and trustworthy friend. Are you going to help someone by being that Muslim friend who serves as an example - like Prophet Mohammed or Hazrat Ali "The Walking Quran"?

Khan Rocks the Pyramid

Khan Rocks the Pyramid

(as published in Pakistan Link, Los Angeles, 9-19-95)
by Fazeel Aziz Chauhan

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan should be in the next Memorex commercial. In one of their old TV ads, a woman is shown singing in a high pitch and she causes a glass to break with her powerful voice. But in the new commercial, Khan saheb should be shown causing an avalanche on K-2.
After watching Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's concert in L.A. on Saturday, I wonder if there is a better male vocalist in the world. Is there another example like the great Khan, whose family's musical legacy is hundreds of years old? He took the stage of the Pyramid Arena at Cal State Long Beach in front of a restless audience. They had been anxiously waiting for this concert since the date was announced about three months ago.

Several people bought their tickets in advance from TicketMaster and experienced very long delays at the Will Call window. Some were angry but strangely, this anger was only surface level and very temporary. There was a special feeling in the air. Under similar circumstances, at any other concert, tempers would have been flaring and cursing and fighting would have occurred. But these people who had come to hear Khan were different. They were quiet and mellow. They complained mostly because they were anxious to get inside and dive into the magical ambience Khan had created under the Pyramid. Inside and out, there was a general warm feeling of peace and joy.

According to Khan, Qawali started about eight hundred years ago in the area which is now Afghanistan. A Qawal is a man singing a Qawl. A Qawl is a saying. I suppose it's literally similar to the word Rap. The great difference is that in Rap music, someone is usually making a social or political statement and usually the feeling is harsh. On the other hand, Qawals go to the furthest depths of the soul and sing about Islamic spirituality, creating a state of delicious ecstasy.

The lyrics being sung are usually hundreds of years old and were written by various spiritual leaders. Many of these pious men were Sufi and are also referred to as "Pir" and "Faqeer". They are great men who make incredible sacrifices to reach enlightenment through meditation, Zikr and other means. The spiritual poets often write about their intoxication in the love for Allah and his Prophet Mohammed. The powerful words were obtained as precious gifts after paying the great price of annihilating the self. These spiritual leaders distributed these gifts among their followers. When Qawals sing these words, the music literally transforms the audience into a trance. Since its inception, this enlightening music has helped expose people to the message of Islam.

Some Muslims feel strongly against the involvement of Islam with music, dance and Sufism. However, one might say that the Azan, recitations of Quran and Naat are also forms of music. The Whirling Dervishes of Turkey use dance as a tool in their quest for enlightenment. Chanting and Zikr have a rhythmic element and are also used as tools to meditate, concentrate, contemplate and to detach from the self. Any tool can be misused so we should not throw away the baby with the bath-water. Indeed Allama Iqbal practiced Sufism too.

It was very moving to see thousands of people gathered under the Pyramid to hear the message to their soul. There is a theory among the practitioners of Transcendental Meditation that if 1 percent of the people of a city gather together and meditate for an hour, they can cause a positive change in the entire population of the city. There was something definitely magical that happened at the Pyramid on Saturday and many of us could not put the feelings into words.

The thirsty ears and hungry eyes awaited the great Khan for hours. When he arrived, a crowd of reporters swarmed him on the way backstage. He took the stage with eight of his "Humnawa". They included four background singers, three other alternating singers, two harmonium player and Dildar Hussain with his heart pounding tabla beats.

The musicians sat down on the ground in the form of a crescent, facing the audience, and Khan began with the famous "Allahu". The crowd immediately responded with loud approvals of joy. Allahu is a common mantra used in the practice of Zikr. Thus five thousand people began a collective meditation of 75 minutes. The audience clapped along with the musicians and responded to the entrancing verses with roars of pleasure.

Lots of people shouted their requests during the brief pauses. Khan responded with the next Qawali "Iss Karam Ka Karun Shukr Kaisay Ada". It means: How do I give thanks for this blessing? The next Qawali lit the Pyramid on fire. "Ali Da Malang" caused people to get up and start dancing. Lights were turned on so that everybody could see this great moment of celebration. People started showering Khan with money when he sang "Mera Piya Ghar Aya". There were scores of non-Desi people in the audience and they could not understand why people were throwing money at Khan. But we all understood something that was much more deeper. This was one of the rarest occasions in life when people of all colors, religions, cultures, countries, classes and races were brought together in a peaceful celebration of the human spirit. The vibes of truth were in the air.

"Mast Nazron Say Allah Bacha-ay" caused more people to dance. In Pakistan, people are freely allowed to dance to Qawali and it can put them in a state of trance or "Mast". Unfortunately, people dancing near the stage were told to stop by two large wrestlers. Khan continued with some moving verses that caused the crowd to go wild. Soon it was intermission and people rushed to grab the Desi food. There were a lot of smiles under the pyramid. The concert had brought many young people. For example, there were a lot of Desi young women who appeared very westernized. They are usually not seen at Desi shows because they probably relate more to western music. They were the proof that Khan can bring together all kinds of people. Especially those of us who migrated here at a young age or were born here and have trouble formulating our identities. Khan provides a deeper meaning, especially for those who experience conflicts of belongingness.

Another 75 minute long meditation started after the intermission. Khan sang two short versions of "Sanson Ki Mala Pay Simroon May Pi Ka Naam" and "Mitr Pyaray Noo Haal Mureedan Da Kehna". The latter is a very beautiful piece about followers or "Mureeds" of a spiritual teacher or "Pir". Khan sang powerful sequences of scale tones, waving his hands and arms in circular motions, pointing up, going back and forth, from very low to very high pitches, arriving at a big crescendo that caused loud responses from the listeners. The listeners appeared more like seekers and Khan handed out cup-fulls of intoxicating melodies and enlightening lyrics for their souls.

Some people shouted to request "Gorakh Dhanda" and Khan's keen ear again somehow picked it up out of the joyful noise. When he sang "Jhoolay Jhoolay Laal Dam Must Qalandar", several people went out of control. Many of them danced in their seats and in the aisles. The dancing continued for the rest of the evening. Khan spoke only two sentences during the whole show. And then came time to say goodbye. People gave a long standing ovation and expressed how happy they were. What great gifts Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan gave to the people that night! He gave them love, peace and joy. And most importantly, he fed their spiritually starving souls. There is no bigger service to mankind than that