Category Archives: Fattouch

I did it !!! I finally did…


I cant believe that I did it…. To say I am proud of myself would be an understatement. To say this is a milestone in my life would be an overstatement but closer to the truth.

I ran a whole mile, continuously at good pace without stopping (I was going about 4.5 MPH). Okay, I know what you are thinking as you move the mouse towards the top-right of the screen (or top left for fellow mac users) and getting ready to erase me from your life, but hear me out.

1) Technically, I did not run a whole mile at a continuous speed (I probably did about 0.8 of a mile), but that was because I literally ran out of time and had to run to a meeting.

2) That is exactly why I am so proud of myself. In all my life I have always dreamed of being able to run 1 mile only, without being out of breath and wheezing on the side of the road. Never even imagined it is possible (ie very hard to reach). That why earlier this year I set what I believed was a very lofty goal of running 5 miles, so lofty I assumed that publishing an article in a prestigious journal to be more feasible (still working on it).

I look back at my day and I am amazed with how rewarding it is to stick to your guns and just do it… I had just finished work at five and had a meeting at 6 pm. I went the mosque and prayed and then looked at my watch and it was 5:11. I thought to myself, I need fifteen minutes to go to the gym and the same amount to go to my meeting. Thus left me with exactly twenty minutes to exercise !! Usually I am the person who thinks 20 min is not enough to do anything, why don’t I just lay down and wait for the meeting.

Back at the gym I start the treadmill and decide to go really easy and walk the first lap at 3 MPH, based on my father recommendations of warming up. After the lap is over,  I adjusted the speed to find the lowest speed where I can still run comfortably (it turns out that it is 4.5 MPH) and I just start running. 

Thirty seconds later, my brain starts shouting to me “enough already, the boredom is killing me”. However, right then a marching band passes right in front of me, followed by cheerleaders and people carrying huge P and U letters. I look back at the time and it turns out I have been running for two minutes. My heart rate has stabilized at 164 (which for my age is perfect) and then my legs start screaming at me “we cannot handle it anymore, please stop”. Somehow, it did not bother me that they were shouting and their voices got dimmer and I kept going. Five minutes passed and I was amazed, I have ran for five minutes straight. That is unheard of and the best part of it was, my heart rate and breathing were stable. It suddenly dawned on me that I can do it and I can run my mile and I continued until my time ran out… 

If you have read this far congratulations on your major accomplishment, you have reached the golden pot. I have not written this just to till you how my day at the gym went.  

Our greatest hurdles in front of us is not lack of opportunity, education or money. It is ourselves, yes that right we are the ones who place obstacles in front of ourselves. It then becomes up to us to either to remove these hurdles or feel bitter about these hurdles. We choose what path to take. One day I will expand upon this more, but for now….

Welcome back and special thanks to the family and friend who encouraged, supported and black mailed me into the gym 🙂 and apologies for the grammar, typing this as I am heading to bed !

Puzzles


I feel like there are very few life lessons that we learn all our lives, we just keep experiencing them at different levels and intensities as we age. How we respond to each of these situations is what ends up shaping us as individuals. If you look back at your 12 years of education (not including college) you will realize that we have been taught a very limited set of subjects (math, chemistry, biology, physics, social studies, history and language) throughout our schooling years. Each year we get to learn these subjects at greater depth and focus, I believe the same applies to life lessons.

What does this have to do with Puzzles you ask? Everything! Well at least from my perspective. Okay hear me out:

Last year I bought a puzzle and tried to play it, but it was too hectic and there really was no place to play it so I placed it away. Needing relief from the constant stresses of life, I took out the puzzle last month, placed it on the floor against the wishes of my wife and started solving it. I immediately attacked the most visible landmark in the puzzle, the boat, and in no time it was done. After that I tried to tackle other regions of the puzzle and quickly got overwhelmed with all the available options and other than placing a few pieces here and there I couldn’t move forward. My wife patience started running out, the floor in the living room was constantly dirty, and she started demanding I better cleanup or complete the puzzle or else !!! However, I was not willing to concede defeat and after some frustrating moments I remembered the old rule of puzzle playing. One must complete the border pieces first and then tackle the inside. So I cleaned up all the random puzzle pieces and started again this time focusing first on the outer edges and then moving to the interior pieces. Suddenly, it was no longer a chaotic work or impossible. Even though I still had a while to go, it was manageable. I was no longer lost or stuck and knew where to go next and which section to tackle next. I was able to finish the puzzle a week later (under the relentless gaze of my wife) and I then glued it together and hung it up to remind me of a life lesson one cannot forget.

This experience reminded that while it important to be a hard worker and be determined to face your problems it in itself is not enough to succeed. My initial attempt at the puzzle failed not because I was not determined enough or did not give it enough time. I failed because I did not follow a structured approach to solving it. I did not place the boundaries needed to solve this problem. Before you comment, “okay Salah, this is just a puzzle, clearly it has nothing to do with real life”, think again. With regards to myself I found that this life lesson applies directly to my own research efforts that until last month were lagging. While I continuously produced results and read many theses and papers, I never successfully drew the boundaries and objectives of my research. This resulted in many hours lost pondering over small details that might or might not have been a part of the research.  By applying the lessons I learned from the puzzle I am now much further along in my research and can say with confidence I will be done this semester (God Willing). Many of you might respond by saying, this old news get with the program Salah. I agree and that why I specifically used the word ‘remind’ and not learn and that is what I am trying to point out, in life there are few lessons, but they are repeated over and over again in different circumstances with different intensities. Finishing the puzzle is not an important milestone in life, while finishing my masters is. But they both teach you the same lesson; you just learn new ways and tools on how to apply the life lesson to accomplish your goals. Now it is your turn to take some time off and ponder about the challenges that you face in your life, both the small insignificant ones and the Mount Everest ones. Maybe you will learn lessons from small items that impact your life in ways you can’t imagine, and if you do please don’t forget to share with me.

ANGER


We can no longer hear the cries for mercy

We can no longer see those who are suffering

Our hearts are boiling our minds are spinning.

We can only see and hear one thing….

ANGER

Our Prophet tried to warn us

That Shaitan is playing with us

But it is no use any longer for we can only hear our

ANGER

Our hearts are snarled in his sticky web

But we no longer try to fight it or try to free ourselves

We cannot even see it since the only thing we see is

ANGER

We construct an environment in such

If our beloved ignores us it makes us Angry

If he knocks on our doors it makes us Angrier

And if he tries to advice, warn him to beware of our

ANGER

In itself this feeling never lasts more than a day or two

Unless we feed it

We open up all the boxes of the past, long filled with dust

Immerse our hearts in a material that was never supposed to see day

Until we build a storm, stronger than a hurricane full of

ANGER

All emotions have the capacity to either benefit or hurt us

Except for one emotion that will destroy its creator and that is

ANGER

So let us destroy it in our hearts and minds

Before it destroys us

You Suck


I SUCK at this.”

“No but you don’t understand, I’m just really not good with this.” “Nono, you really don’t understand.”

Sounds familiar? If it doesn’t then congrats (you can stop reading now), if it does then you are part of the rest of us.

The rest of us that suck.

Yup you heard it, you actually do suck, no you really do. Why you may ask? Well the answer is simple: It’s because you said you do!

You see, there is one thing that is very important in life that is often neglected, it’s called attitude. Attitude is an extremely important concept that is often undervalued, however it is so powerful that in fact it can be all the difference between a winner and a loser. Ask yourself: How many times has a student that believes they are a C student ever scored straight As? How many times has a straight A student been one that always thinks of his/her self as a D student? The answer: Probably None to both questions. It this coincidence? Not at all. In fact if we look at most C students we will notice that they are often the ones saying they “just aren’t good at school” whereas the confident students are the ones scoring A’s.

Hmm…so what’s going on here you say?

Simple. The students with the better attitudes are performing better. This is simply because
they believe they will perform better, as such we see that attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you believe in something, you will work to make it possible.

Not only does attitude matter, it is arguably sometimes the only thing that matters. You see if you have a negative attitude then no matter what things will not work out for you; On the other hand, a person with a positive attitude will be extremely content and things will be better for them.

You might be tempted to stop reading right now, to click the “X” on the upper right corner of your browser and end this ridiculous preaching once and for all. You might even be tempted to thinking I’m crazy for advocating such a simplistic view to even large-scale problems, heck you may additionally be thinking to call your friends and tell them how crazy this all sounds. Well before you do any of that, what if I tell you I’m not crazy, what if I tell you I’m not even making this up, and what if I tell you I got a source to back this article.

That’s right, I do, and best of all it’s not just any source but it’s the world’s most factual and objective of teachers and also the best of creation: Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). He said it and he said it best when he said “Be optimistic with the good and you will find it”

WOAH! Really? Just be optimistic and you will find it. That is a very interesting perspective if one thinks deeply about it, it is extremely interesting how he used the action tense “WILL” find it, not “will seem to find it” or anything else. This means that enhanced attitude can actually enhance your outcome–which is concrete proof for the aforementioned statement that attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Another interesting thing in the wordage of this hadith is the use of the term “find it”, it’s as if good is something to be found amongst other things–let’s scroll back up a bit to the student example and ask ourselves: The student who is saying “I’m not good at school” or “Physics is just too hard for me”, why are they seeming to do bad? Well, it’s simple, they just aren’t looking for good–which is there. On the other hand, those who are scoring A’s have that attitude that they are looking for good, and in turn they can find it! This is why it is extremely rare to see an A student who thinks that they are just “not good at school” just like it is rare for somebody to find anything without actually looking for it.

Many articles can be written about this and about that hadith in specific and maybe they will be later, but we’ll stop here for now. Before we conclude though I want to ask you to do an exercise this week and try to change your attitude on something–or better yet, on everything, and if you do it properly and your life doesn’t change then don’t ever read anything I write. And you see, I can confidently say this (with a good attitude) because we already established you actually don’t have to take my word for any of this but rather you can take the word of the most factual and objective of teachers (PBUH) who said it himself better than anyone can say it. So start it today and I’m optimistic that your life will change inshAllah! 🙂

This article was guest written by Mostafa , an advocate of being positive.

Muslims are going to take over America, or is it ???


Lowes recently removed their ads from “All-American Muslim” on the TLC show and received a series of comments congratulating them and encouraging them on their act.

One of the comments (obtained from this website ) stated the following :

” BY THE WAY… for all those saying that we should just TOLERATE the Muslims and let them live their own lives… I might agree if they did not care about influencing how our COUNTRY works !! Yet Sharia Law is what they want. What does it say about our COUNTRY when our present-day politicians debase themselves to begging for Muslim votes at elections and later try to arrange political swindles with …”

Does the commenter not realize the irony of his own words? While he tries to condemn Muslims for trying to change the country and for the politicians trying to get the so called Muslim vote he forgets that the strongest lobby in Washington is the Jewish lobby. Every president wannabe must now go to pilgrimage to Israel and declare his support for Israel even at the expense of America. Does he not see the irony in this all? This reminds of the story of a loyal man who went out to defend his town against an often talked about but never seen monster in the forest and while valiantly defending his home from this monster his whole house gets robbed.

This is sadly what is happening to America, while we strongly warned against the monster of Islam/Muslims and warned against terrorism the wealth of the USA gets pocketed by corporations, it policies get set by foreign nations and it slowly getting ransacked in a much more thorough manner than Rome was ever ransacked.

I really hope that God will continue to protect America from all those who are trying to destroy it and wake the populace up before it too late. What makes America great is that it is the land of freedom and justice, but sadly these rights are rapidly disappearing under the guise of security and terrorism.

—————————–

Update 12/15/11 : I hope I did not make it sound like all corporations are bad and they are the bad guys. I do not believe that at all, however, I strongly believe that some corporation are exerting undue influence on our economic and political systems and abetting the current situation.

The purpose of the article is to point out the irony in the attitude people have about Muslims, which is why I used very large brushes when comparing it the actual circumstances

Management vs Leadership


Okay I tried a dark background, but I have to admit I could barely look at my blog. I guess I am back to white and slightly colorful.

Back in the day I used to think leadership and management are all the same thing. They were both synonyms for a position on top that everyone coveted. We all wanted to reach that to get more pay or more say in what going on in an organization. Initially that where I wanted to go, I even went ahead and took the GMAT and prepared to do business school as soon as I get done with bachelors. However, I ended up following advice from a respected friend who told me to wait until I worked for a few years. A few years of work placed me in J&J where my experience with management led me to flee with horror from ever considering that option and thus I ended up joining Purdue University. One year after joining Purdue a leadership position was thrust on me and suddenly I became the president of the Muslim Student Association. As President of MSA I noticed that while I can inspire people to conduct large scale events I couldn’t conduct them successfully myself (based on my criteria for success). It was out of my areas of expertise and I did not enjoy doing it. There were too many details to worry about that I might end up overlooking. I found out that I preferred conducting smaller more personal events were I can work directly with people. Okay I am going to stop mumbling about all the stuff I found out about and realized and will end with the following conclusions.

Leadership and management skills are two different sets of skills that people have in varying proportions. While it is possible to be a leader and a manager at the same time usually a person has one of the two skills. While I do believe these skills are learned, a person must show propensity to learn them and that I believe is associated with the person character.

Put simply, leaders are people who inspire the ones around them to work with them (note not work for them, big difference) to run programs. They are not necessarily involved in day to day planning of an event, but they do keep abreast of all developments in their organization. Managers on the other hand are excellent at coordinating and conducting events. They think of every detail concerning an event and usually plan for the unexpected. In terms of vision, leaders usually have long vision range of 2-3 years and sometime even farther. Managers usually plan it year by year or event by event. Leaders are passionate about their projects and can spread their passion to their supporters, while managers are critical thinkers and some would consider them risk averse. Lastly leaders are more charismatic and people friendly while managers are more task-oriented.

I want to point out again that these skills are not mutually exclusive. A leader to some degree must have management skills and a manager usually has leadership qualities. However, I noticed that people do lean mostly to one direction or another. In terms of Islamic institutions, we have many good managers but few good leaders in the top positions. While these good managers have great intentions it ends up causing strife in the community mostly due to communication and volunteering issues.

Well that all regarding my perspective of managers and leaders. I know depending on your experience you will have a different perspective and would love to hear yours.

Welcome Back!!! Mediocrity is the Key


Welcome back!!! I wonder who I am actually welcoming, is it my loyal followers (lol that sounds so wrong to me), or is the general blogging body or am I just welcoming myself. How does one restart blogging, do they start slow and rebuild their brand/name? Do they write banging blogs? Or just meek welcomes. I want to give you a meek welcome, and be on my way for next week blog, but that would not be fair to anyone including me.

So…

Mediocrity is the key to life. Yep, that the answer I know we all were looking for. It is the key to success that is if you plan to be average. And honestly, who really wants to be average. Mind you I am not suggesting being perfect since only Allah is perfect, but how about just above-average. I am sure we can all achieve this if we try hard enough.

When it comes to achieving our goals and vision we generally run
into two problems. The first is time and the second is lack of opportunity. How  many times we spent an hour on the phone complaining about how little time we  have? I know I have done it so many times yet it never occurs to me how silly I  must sound or how superficial my complaints really are. I am so used to the drill of saying no to spending an hour listening to a useful lecture and  instead spend 2 hours watching 5-min youtube clips in quick succession. Do I not see the irony of my own decisions? Truth be told my father said it best, there is no such thing as busy it just how you priorities your hours and your tasks.

The second part of being average is opportunities. We always
complain against them. I was not born in a rich family, I did not have a chance  to go to MIT and so forth. This was a point that I could not argue against until a recent
article published in New York Times that should be a read for everone (linked here)
. Read it….

What are you waiting for; it is a very important read especially if you still consider yourself young….

Now that you have read it, it really raises a great point. Everyone gets a series of good and bad luck or in other words opportunities. It becomes up to us to take the lead on these opportunities and turn them into successes, whether monetary or otherwise, or we end up missing them and complain about our bad luck when the car breaks down. As the article said the extremely successful people were extremely disciplined and took advantage of opportunities (good and bad) and were not afraid to change their plans (as in Bill Gates example of dropping college to establish Microsoft).  The sad truth is each opportunity seems to build on each other, kind of like the GRE. If you answer the first question correctly, you jump in points and you get another harder question and it keeps cycling through questions till it finds your actual potential (for the sake of this article I guess). It makes me wonder about all the opportunities I lost; but hey we can’t look back just forward. In all honestly I really do not care about monetary reward or recognition (I guess Nobel Prize) but I am still far from success based on my definitions.

Okay my fellow friends, let’s hold hands and make a circle around the camp fire and let’s sing. “I do not want to be average”.

Books…. The Joy of Reading


It official, I am on a book binge right now as we speak. The only question in my mind is why did I ever stop?

Books are truly amazing, each time you open a book you enter a mind of a faraway author. Concepts and ideas that you have never even imagined thinking of suddenly are at the door steps of your brain. The moment that you open the door and let them enter fireworks explode. Suddenly, experiences that feel completely different become linked and mysteries and puzzle solve themselves. It is truly a wonderful experience and all a person needs to do is it pick a book. Well, yes one also needs to pick the right book, but that about it.

Thinking about this wonderful and marvelous experience I am going through made me think of my Prophet (peace be upon him) who more than 1400 years ago received the following revelation:

“Read, O Prophet, in the name of your Lord who has created!. He has created man from a clinging clot. Read! For your lord is the Most Gracious One, who has taught by the pen, has taught man what he has known not! : (The Holy Quran 96: 1-5)

These were the first verses to ever be revealed to our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him and how marvelous they are. Allah tells us in one word that he has taught by the pen, taught us what we know not. WOW….

Okay, you are probably saying what up with this dude. It just amazing what books can give you. They honestly make my brain go spinning and give me a deeper appreciation for what I am experiencing and help me resolve my struggles. Of course there is no book that provides a total solution or is complete. Also, a person might not even agree with everything that a book says. But that’s it; each book helps you to take one step higher towards understanding yourself, the world around you and most importantly your relationship with your Lord. In the end you have to do the thinking and processing and reaching your own conclusions, the books just open doors for you and make new bridges where you thought was not possible. It is no wonder to me that the libraries were the first buildings to be destroyed when an army invades. No better way to destroy a civilization than to destroy their books.

Like everything in life, to become an avid reader one must take steps. Slow baby steps. One starts with reading baby books with lots of pictures and very little words. They then transitions to comics or to short story books, then to story books with in-depth storyline and finally to books that really open your mind. I think I have finally made that last transition. Not that I do not like stories or fiction, I still love them and read them I just have a deeper appreciation for books that now give me an Aha moment.

So why did I ever stop? I claimed I was too busy and instead got my entertainment from TV (youtube for me :), anasheed/music, news or other games. While each form of entertainment is entertaining and can be even considered beneficial to yon they pale in comparison to books. Think about it, in books you control the speed of the show, you control what significant by pausing at it or what useless by skimming over it. They act as a reference that you can go back to anytime you have questions or want to ponder a concept more. In TV, even the most educational ones, shows are made for your entertainment and to keep you busy. They throw fact after fact at you, but give you little time to ponder over the significance of that fact. Lastly your options are extremely limited. I am not bashing TV, it is just completely pales in comparison to books. Yep, to all the books in the world, I am coming after you.

In a shout out to a friend of mine, it reading the books that give the Aha moment, not buying them 😉

For my avid readers, I will soon create a list of books that I recommend reading and hey maybe we can spawn an online book reading club.

Lastly, I strongly urge you to pick a book and read. Let it be on a subject that you have strong interest in, but little knowledge about and get ready for a journey of a life time (My selected topics now are nature and love ) and please do suggest a good book in the comments. I would love to read it.

You are what you eat and see and hear


We have all heard the phrase you are what you eat and generally people agree with it. If one constantly eats unhealthy foods with lots of fat they end up feeling constantly tired and lazy. However, when one eats healthy and wisely they generate energy in themselves to keep them going and remain active.

What people forget is that the stomach is only one of the vessels of the Human. We have another set of vessels for our hearts and brains, whose inputs could be our sensory organs. What we see, hear, touch and say affects our hearts and brain as much as what we eat affects our stomach and energy reserves. Even though these are some of the most important vessels in our lives, I feel as if I am constantly neglecting them or not giving them the correct attention and nutrition they need.

Okay let me step back a second before I lose everyone. I want you to take a minute to look at your heart; your heart is your feeling and emotion organ. It also what holds your faith or level of imaan. At this point a scientist might want to point out to that the heart only pumps blood and does nothing more or less and that everything is from the brain. Technically he has a point, but from the point of view of the average human when we feel afraid, angry or love it comes from our heart.  Scientifically one could say  we feel these emotions through the change in the beating pattern of our heart and thus we associate emotions with our heart. It does not matter, for my purpose your heat is your feeling and emotion vessel and sorry for taking you on a loop :). Consider a relationship with any random person. If you constantly get positive input from that person you start liking them and they become your friend. If you constantly get negative input you start hating them and they become your enemy. If you just keep getting mixed signals, then they will probably will remain as acquaintances. Either way it was a series of inputs that filled your heart and made you consider a person in such a light. Thus your heart acted as a vessel in terms of your relation with that person. In the same sense your heart and brains are vessels for your own self and how you treat and fill them will directly affect how you treat the outside world and what you make of yourself.

For the sake of simplicity I will treat the heart and brain as one vessel since it sometimes hard to separate when each of the vessels are being filled by our sensory inputs. When you sit down and watch a movie, you receive a barrage of sensory inputs from your eyes and ears.  One might consider a movie harmless entertainment; where you have fun and move on to more important things. It not harmless, everything affects and fills your vessel and this movie went right down and filled your vessel just as a cup of chocolate milk goes right down to your stomach (yum, just experienced it). In the bigger scheme of things, let say you spend every day studying religion for 5 hours and just watch a movie once a month. Yes it might not have such a big impact, but it will have an impact and we must be aware of how it impacts our hearts and brains. In reality one actually spends considerable less amount of time developing their hearts and brains and more time filling them with garbage.

We must really start paying attention to what we listen, what we see and what we read. Too many times I have heard the concept “oh I am just seeing what others listen to” or “it does not matter, I am never going to do what the movie tells me to, I know what right and wrong”. Sadly, what we do not realize is that our hearts and minds change so slowly that we never notice until it’s too late. When we start filling them with negative influences it will start affecting us immediately but in non-observable ways. We can’t just say oh if I notice it is affecting me, I will immediately change to something better, because at that time it would be too late.

It such a hard article to write and I write it mostly to remind myself than for anybody else.  Just as much our body is an amana (trust) given to us by Allah, so is our hearts and brains and we must protect them at all costs. Otherwise, one day we will wake up and find ourselves not in the spot that we planned and hoped to be.

I will leave you with this; take a blank sheet of paper and make a list of all the different inputs that go into your heart and brain. Include reading, studying, comics, movies, music, religious studies, talking with friends, alone time, and prayer and so on.  This list should encompass all you do in a single week. After that take the list and split it into two categories, beneficial to the heart/mind and non-beneficial/harmful. Take your time and think about each item and think how and if it made you a better person. If it did place it in your beneficial list, otherwise place it in the other list. This will give you a visual aid to see how you are filling your vessels. Hopefully one can then take advantage of that new information and may we all prosper and succeed in this life and the next.

Finally, I am not telling you remove all entertainment and fun from your life. They do have a purpose in our lives as long as they are within limits and in the end will help inspire us and refresh us to continue to develop and improve ourselves.

Quilt of Humanity – Picture of the Egyptian Protest Movement


I love this picture. I found it in Al-Jazeera English and they own this picture

To me this picture represents humanity, who by working and supporting each other can accomplish impossible deeds. This fact that this was taken while all were praying is extremely symbolic to me as it signifies that Islam can and should act as a unifying element amongst people and should never be accepted as a tool for division. Finally seeing the Egyptian flag in the middle, represents gives me hope that the focus is upon improving the nation as a whole, by the people for the people, and not just helping a few. In the quote area, I placed a quote that describes my fears and hopes for Egypt very well.

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