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.

2011 in review


Moving Forward….  I had hoped to publish a total of 27 posts this year, but fell short with only 16 posts. Thank you to all my readers and all the comments I get in my gmail chat !!! Yes I heard your requests and hopefully next year will include more ideas, moments of “inspiration” and maybe a couple of crazy recipes.

Okay so here is my official  2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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.

Islamic Education


Well yesterday I got elected to become the Islamic Education Board Coordinator for ISGL. Sounds like a mouthful, but simply put it means I will be in charge of making sure the Islamic weekend school remains functional. This is not a position I ever imagined for myself, but subhanallah it what my community asked of me and I guess what Allah gave me. This reminded me of I talk I gave about a month ago in Kansas City about the importance of an Islamic School. While I do not think the talk is good by any standards, I did promise my family that I will publish my talk. So here we go, and I guess I trust you as the judge for my talk.

Kansas City Talk

I was given a very simple task (speech on Islamic schools) today and while preparing for it I turned it into an obnoxious complex problem that only produces headaches. It took a call from my mother who candidly told me my draft speech was horrible to fully realize the purpose of this event. That is why for my presentation today I will share with you only one story, and it the story of my experience in the Islamic school system. I have been in this system all my life starting in Kansas, then Jordan, Pakistan and finally ending in NJ and thus I can be considered a product of this system. Being in this system meant that I was always next to masajid and immersed in Muslim culture. This meant I learnt the importance of prayer without ever having to think what my pears will think of me. I wore shilwar qameeses and dishdashis without ever feeling like an odd case. This carried on with me to my professional life where I found it easy to ask my employers for religious accommodations. Nor do I find it weird or embarrassing to wear a shilwar qamees to my graduate committee meetings. My wife used to ask “what if students stare at you?” and I respond” excellent this way I can smile at them and wish them a good morning”.

We all know that kids and teens absorb like sponges and Islamic schools create an atmosphere where Muslim culture and worship of Allah are the norms that the kids absorb. This is why I loved my Muslim High school (NUI). They successfully created an environment of brotherhood/sisterhood. We all felt part of a whole; we assisted each other, played with each other and in the end built our foundations of faith together. It was my Muslim high school that first showed my parents that I had the potential to start college early and propelled my college career where I graduated from Rutgers University at the age of 19. For that I will always be indebted to them.

When I moved to Lafayette two years ago, I noticed that outside Ramadan there was no such thing as community. More importantly I noticed the youth did not have any form of connections with each other. With the help of a few colleagues of mine, we started a youth group where we focused on their hearts, minds and body by developing a program that encouraged sports, learning and community service while strongly connected to the masjid.

To put it mildly, the impact was better than expected. To see youth transform from being ordered to pray by their parents to praying on their own is priceless! To see a high school student unconnected and uninterested in the Muslim community become so comfortable in this environment that he laughs out loud without worrying about being judged is priceless.

Lastly establishing a youth group brought together a diverse group of parents that in general would never interact together with their kids as their common goal. Suddenly it brought life to our community in the non-Ramadan month. That is why I support Islamic schools, it builds youth, parents and their communities and it insures the future for all.
____________________

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”.

My last blog post…


I know it hard to fathom that this could be my last blog. I shake my head in disillusion, no way, I have so many ideas and words to share with the world; how can it be my last blog?  They generally say that when you are at the end of your life you can see your whole life in front of you and this is no exception to the rule. It been slightly more than twenty month since I started blogging, yet it feels as if it was only yesterday when I wrote Hello World that ushered my words into the internet. I remember the day walking back from Fajr prayer when I tried to following the lane line on the bike path. Every time I looked up I ended up straying from the line. That led to my first inspirational blog The Straight Path, a blog post that remains one of my favorites ever.  Another of my favorite is my Determination blog.  I wrote it after watching Karate Kid and I spent the whole trip back in the car wondering about what it means to have determination. Like all wonderings of mine, it led me to our great Prophet Muhammad may peace and blessings be upon him. Suddenly I could see him in a new light and better understand the challenges that he faced.

Well enough mumbling about the past, I am just happy to say that in this period I was able to write 45 blogs (well technically 43, plus two guest articles). This amounts to a total of 60 pages of blogging and over 26,000 words. Wow who would have imagined that I would have written so much (well for me) and even caused someone somewhere somehow laughed.

Salah, Salah why are you leaving the blogging sphere. Yeah I am wondering the same thing and then I look left and right to my dear blogging friends and find out that after momentous occasions such as getting a baby or marriage they left the blogging sphere to dust. So in full anticipation of my wedding night and the blessings and dreams to come afterwards I declare that this is my last blog.

Before I would leave I would like to sincerely thank my old friend of mine who inspired me to start blogging. A tip to the hat for Ahmad and your blog for the inspiration you provided me. It saddens me that you were one of the first casualties from the blogging sphere. Secondly, I want to thank my family who provided me support by reading every other blog and commenting every once in a while. Finally, I want to thank my two dedicated friends in Indiana and NJ who have probably read every blog I ever published. Thank you, your comments and the constant prodding was amazing.

 Okay let me back track a bit. I am assuming this will be my last blog based on the experience of my other blogging friends. I really do not know if this will be my last blog (but encouraging comments will make me more likely to continue). Who knows, maybe my wife will strongly encourage me to write and you will hear from me in a week. Maybe, after I get back from my honeymoon. Who knows  when, where and how the next article will come. However, just as a precaution I am writing this as a final chapter. Just so my blog is complete and does not stop at a random point.

Also, this is the last blog for the stage of life I am in (the 8th to be exact, I am now entering my ninth stage).  So even if I write next week, it will be from a different stage :).

To leave on a more optimistic point I cannot imagine that I will stop writing, so subscribe to my blog and leave a comment and God willing you will hear from me soon.

Salam Alakium (Peace Be Upon You)

Salah

The List of the Forgotten


Ever feel that for some reason you are always out of the loop, well read on this might be for you. In this busy network of life one usually finds himself on the list of “to be informed” or “not to be informed” unless you are like me on a third list of the forgotten. Being on this list means that we get the benefits of neither, people assume we know so we don’t get the benefit of being considered ignorant. While at the same time we are not informed, so we also miss out on the benefit of being in the loop.

I recently found out that I was on the third list and recent events that have transpired have further confirmed it for me beyond the shadow of a doubt. Before I begin the story, let me give you a quick backdrop. I have two sisters in my home country that I depend on providing me news and updates about my extended family. I am also engaged/married depending on how you define marriage (and you thought life was that easy).

A couple weeks back I call my sister to tell her about a certain dream I had. To make things short I basically had a dream of my first child and what her name will be. After I told my sister the dream, she told me that she got to name my Aunt’s son based on a dream she had about him. Wait a minute; my Aunt had a son I respond in shock. To which she replies, yes a few month ago, didn’t anyone tell you. Now if this the first time I called my sister that fine I guess. But I call her about once a week, plus I am also in weekly contact with my other sister who lives in the same building as my Aunt!!! Now, if my whole family in the US and I all did not know it would be okay, but it turns out I am the only one that did not have a clue about anything! After that she gives me a string of surprises and updates and helped me come to the realization that I am squarely on the forgotten list.

Small events here and there kept bringing and confirming my place on this third list of the almost non-existent, but only the events of today prompted me to write this blog of protest. The irony of all this is that one could almost call me a news addict. I love reading news and I am constantly checking it and reading it all day yet I find myself extremely uninformed about my own family.

Okay so what happened today to warrant such a blog? Well, to start it all off I had this nice but quick conversation with my brother about nothing relevant to this blog. Thirty minutes later, my brother’s good friend (and mine too) decides to open his gmail chat box and send me a quick “How you doing?” I respond and we start a fun conversation (by our standards), until he suddenly tells me that he can’t believe that my family is moving further south. Moving? I inquire. Yes he tells me, I deduced it from your brother’s conversation with me and he confirmed it with me yesterday.  My head is now going through a complete spiral, I just left home four days ago and will be back in eight more days. When did this happen? To make it worse, I just spoke to my brother not even thirty minutes ago and he did not mention or hint at anything! I jokingly tell my friend that it confirmed I am on this list of the forgotten and I wonder what surprises will I find on my wedding day.

But, wait don’t close your browser yet, because the story is not done yet. Four hours later I get a call from my brother-in-law (my sister’s husband). I found this very surprising, because he usually never calls me, well at least not on Friday at 6:30PM. Anyway, he asks for my father-in-law phone number and I reply sure no problem and start the process of locating it. In my mind I am thinking thats nice, he is probably going to invite him for dinner just as my father-in-law invited us all to dinner last weekend. Casually, I ask him so why do you want the number. I want to talk to him he replies. Okay that was very helpful I think but reply I am just wondering what do you want to talk to him about? I want to talk to him about your fiancé? My fiancé?! Here I am imagining all random scenarios, is he going to complain, give advice, what going on? Yes, don’t you know your fiancé got into a car accident he finally informs me. Accident?! What when where, what are you talking about? And you basically got the story; I was out of the loop again. This time regarding my wife, wow, I am firmly on the forgotten list.  Here is how bad it is, my brother-in-law probably found out from my sister, who found out from my parents, who found out from her parents, who found out when the car failed to show up. How did I get skipped over? Shouldn’t I be there somewhere between my parents and her parents? Btw I am not looking for answers; I just find my predicament funny and just wanted to share it with everyone. Hopefully I can give you something to laugh about and maybe get/give some sympathy.

BTW Alhamdullah, my wife is in good condition and nothing bad happened, but regardless, this is a very good excuse and reason for you to keep my family and I in your duaa and prayers

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