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Manuscripts Found in Accra: By Paulo Coelho

9 Jan

My recent read is “Manuscripts Found in Accra”.  Here’s a lovely excerpt about the importance of solitude relative to love:


“Without solitude, Love will not stay long by your side.

Because Love needs to rest as well, so that it can journey through the heavens and reveal itself in other forms.

Without solitude, no plant or animal can survive, no soil can remain productive for any length of time, no child can learn about life, no artist can create, no work can grow and be transformed.

Solitude is not the absence of Love, but its complement.
Solitude is not the absence of company, but the moment when our soul is free to speak to us and help us decide what to do with our life.

Therefore, blessed are those who do not fear solitude, who are not afraid of their own company, who are not always desperately looking for something to do, something to amuse themselves with, something to judge.

If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself.
And if you do not know yourself, you will begin to fear the void.

But the void does not exist. A vast world lies hidden in our soul, waiting to be discovered. There it is, with all its strength intact, but it is so new and so powerful that we are afraid to acknowledge its existence.

Just as Love is the divine condition, so solitude is the human condition. And for those who understand the miracle of life, those two states peacefully coexist.”


The Little Sweet Things that Make a Big Difference

8 Sep

Earlier this weekend, I spent it organizing some meetings and running some errands for my family.  I did make sure to spend the other half just for myself, relaxing with my new read and touring a local art gallery.  Sometimes, it’s the little sweet things that make a big difference.  Here were some highlights:

Fear Vs. Respect

8 Sep

Amidst all the challenges of everyday life, the trivial brunt of work, family, personal, social life, it’s always refreshing to shift perspective towards a greater picture.

Some of the many things I appreciate about studying faith is the emphasis placed on life, purpose, self-improvement, beauty, compassion, and appreciation of a greater Entity.  As of late, I’ve made it a point to study some of the Quran and read up on sermons from Najul Balagha, a book of sermons from Imam Ali.  He was known not just as the cousin and son-in law of Prophet Muhammed, but also as a character of strong spirituality, conduct in society,  education, and understanding of the universe.   After reading a chapter and sermon, I literally felt my mind broaden…

As I was experiencing the subtle ecstasy in reading through sermons,  something peculiar stood out,  I noticed that the English word, “fear” is often used in translations with regards to our relationship to God.   Do we ever question what this kind of fear means?  In my opinion, I feel as though “fear” has been the wrong choice of word to use in our relationship with God.  For how compassionate and merciful God is, our relationship shouldn’t have a negative connotation.   We should live in constant awareness of a greater Entity, Allah, God, the Creator, the Ultimate Energy.  There is a life after this life, and in order to peacefully follow through, we need to follow guidelines built to save our soul from internal destruction.  Positive habits, gestures, and routine prayers provide people with a sense of purpose, generosity, love, and a sound state of mind.  Instead of fear, we should live in constant “respect” and “awareness” of our Creator.

Here are some additional inspirational and wise excerpts I have come across:

He who busies himself with things other than improvement of his own self becomes
perplexed in darkness and entangled in ruination. His evil spirits immerse him deep in vices
and make his bad actions appear handsome. – Najul Balagha, Imam Ali

During civil disturbance adopt such an attitude that people do not attach any importance to you – they neither burden you with complicated affairs, nor try to derive any advantage out of you. -Najul Balagha, Imam Ali

… patience is a kind of bravery; to sever attachments with the wicked world is the greatest wealth; piety is the best weapon of defense.- Najul Balagha, Imam Ali

Submission to Allah’s will is the best companion; wisdom is the noblest heritage; theoretical and practical knowledge are the best signs of distinction; deep thinking will present the clearest picture of every problem. -Najul Balagha, Imam Ali

The mind of a wise man is the safest custody of secrets; cheerfulness is the key to friendship; patience and forbearance will conceal many defects. -Najul Balagha, Imam Ali

Man is a wonderful creature; he sees through the layers of fat (eyes), hears through a bone (ears) and speaks through a lump of flesh (tongue). -Najul Balagha, Imam Ali

Live amongst people in such a manner that if you die they weep over you and if you are alive they crave for your company. – Najul Balagha,

If you overpower your enemy, then pardon him by way of thankfulness to Allah, for being able to subdue him. – Najul Balagha

The Girls of Riyadh

18 Jul

My sister  had bought this book a few years back.  It was constantly in my book que , but I never seemed to have got to it till… Now.

Sex and City For the East

Released in 2005 in Arabic, this book quickly gained attention and was translated in other languages including English.  If you could imagine  an Eastern version of “Sex and the City”, this would be it.   The book observes the Saudi singles scene in Riyadh.  Four young women who are on the verge of discovering what love is through commitment, rebellion,  successes and disappointments.    At the crossroads of their lives, they find themselves torn by Western and Eastern expectations.  The girls find themselves figuratively and literally in between the West and the East.

Attack of the Culture Clash

I have a deep appreciation for this book simply because,  in this time of era, most women of strong bi-cultural backgrounds find themselves torn between cultures.  Being a young woman we are pressured to be vessels of purity… Yet, we live in a world of corruption, deceit, and illusion. In a sense, our traditional, religious/cultural root values ground us from our desires… However, the world teaches us, in order to gain appreciation for the values that define our faith, we must hit the ground, get hurt, be deceived.

Reality Sweeps Fairytale Off Her Feet

The four girls in this book identify four different personalities all who share the common hopes of being accepted, feeling love, and being happy.  As these character develop, they start to recognize the essence of life and its participants. Amidst their confusion,  sorrow, insecurities, a seed of wisdom is planted.

Food For Thought

This book definitely serves as a good food for thought.  When it comes towards our own set of “Great Expectations”, why is it that life often unravels in unexpected ways that challenge these expectations?  As one who has experienced many trivial moments, I have learnt that each experience has helped mold my perspective on this world and our purpose.  At this point, I welcome  moments that shift direction in my journey… And this book captures the essence of those trivial moments.

Girls of Riyadh

~Love, InshAllah~

10 Mar

I just recently read the book, “Love, InshAllah” It is a compilation of 25 love stories narrated by a diverse group of American Muslim women.   Each story provides a unique perspective on love.  The stories are as diverse as each woman.  Although all are Muslim, they range from different backgrounds, South Asian, Middle Eastern, Black, White, Lesbians, Sunnis, Shias.

The book definitely made me self reflect on my love life.  As I look back, I too have taken the pleasure of falling in love.  I have fallen in love not just with one person (man), but  with family, and friends.  Each chapter in my life, God never falls short in bringing people into my life, inspiring me to mysteriously transform to the sound of  love’s wisdom.

We tend to suppress love’s definition to an image.  It goes beyond the image below.  Love is unruly, unpredictable, unconditional, and runs wild, mashAllah.  Love is an amazing feeling that exists deep within each one of us.

~The Forty Rules of Love~

27 Jan

The Forty Rules of Love,  by Elif Shafak, creatively combines two parallel narratives strung together by Rumi’s message of love and the courage to consort to its mystical ability of transformation.

On one side, the book tells the tale of Ella Ruebenstein, a Massachusetts local struggling to understand what love is.  On the other side, we have Rumi who encounters his spiritual mentor, the Shams of Tabriz, and is transformed from a doleful cleric, to a mystic devotee of love.

While reading this, one can’t help but reassess their own definition of love.  Often, we view love as something that is simply acquired.  Here are some wonderful excerpts that challenge the typical outlook on love:

“Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation.  If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough.”

“Submission does not mean being weak or passive.  It leads to neither fatalism nor capitulation.  Just the opposite.  True power resides in submission – a power that comes from within.  Those who submit to the divine essence of life will live in unperturbed tranquility and peace even when the whole wide world goes through turbulence after turbulence.”

“Yet human beings  become infatuated with the toy or disrespectfully break it and throw it aside.  In this life stay away from all kinds of extremities, for they will destroy your inner balance.”

“Did you know that Shams says the world is a huge cauldron and something big is cooking in it?  We don’t know what yet.  Everything we do, feel , or think is a n ingredient in that mixture.  We need to ask ourselves what we are adding to the cauldron.  Are we adding resentments, animosities, anger, and violence?  Or are we adding love and harmony?”

“This world is like a snowy mountain that echoes your voice.  Whatever you speak, good or evil, will somehow come back to you.  Therefore, if there is someone who harbors ill thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about him will only make matters worse.  You will be locked in a vicious circle of malevolent energy.  Instead for forty days and nights say and think nice things about that person.  Everything will be different at the end of forty day, because you will be different inside.”

“The universe is one being.  Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories.  Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation.  Do no harm.  Practice compassion.  And do not gossip behind anyone’s back-not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space, and they will come back to us in due time.  One man’s pain will hurt us all.  One man’s joy will make everyone smile… This is what one of the forty rules reminds us.”

“Ali was about to thrust his sword into the other man’s heart when all of a sudden the infidel raised his head and spit at him.  Ali immediately dropped his sword, took a deep breath, and walked away.  The infidel was stunned.  He ran after Ali and asked him why he was letting him go.  “Because I’m very angry at you,” said Ali. ” ” Then why don’t you kill me?” the infidel asked.  “Ali explained, “When you spit in my face, I got very angry.  My pride was provoked, yearning for revenge.  If I kill you now, I’ll be following my worse instincts.  And that would be a huge mistake.”

“If you want to change the way others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself.  Unless you learn to love yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved.  Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that other might throw at you.  It is a sign that you will soon be showered in roses.”

Love, Forgiveness, and Reincarnation?

7 Dec

A couple of weeks ago, I had picked up Paulo Coehlo’s latest book- “Aleph”(he is known for his world-famous book, “The Alchemist”).   The book goes into detail about his latest inner-spiratual crisis.

As a side note, The thing I like about Coehlo’s writings, all are centered around exploration of the human spirit and potential.  So, as you can tell, I was pretty excited about “Aleph”.

The book is based on his own personal experience about traveling the world to experience new things and new theories, while reconnecting with old people and places. Guided by subtle signs, Paulo sets off on a journey through Trans-Siberia, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Coelho beautifully describes the experiences he had traveling by train with his publishers and a girl named Hilal, which is not her real name, who insists on joining them. In the story, Paulo describes Hilal as the girl he fell in love with in another life time (FYI, Coehlo is married to another woman).  The two become involved in deep conversations about their earlier relationship, and the author describes Hilal as “the woman he betrayed in an act of cowardice so far-reaching that it prevents him from finding real happiness in this life.”  Together they address the notion of reincarnation, the here-after, forgiveness, and love.

I love how Coehlo includes excerpts from the Quran and other major religious sources to help his readers question the topics in his books.  Although some may find Coehlo’s views distasteful,  ‘Aleph’ invites us to consider the meaning of our own personal journeys.

This book might not be everyone’s “cup of tea”, but it definitely made me self-reflect.