Tag Archive: religion


 

yaslinbey

I just finished re-reading Manning Marable’s analysis of Malcolm X.  Marable ends with his belief that Malcolm would have denounced the 9/11 attacks as being fundamentally against everything Islam stands for, despite the claims of those who carried out the terrorism.  Marable’s thesis at the end is Malcolm should be held up as a symbol for hope and dignity across all cultures, in the way he’s an icon among the culture he fought the hardest for (the black underclass).

I use that introduction because that definition of Malcolm is very symbolic of how important, in a much larger sense, the ideal of ‘community’ is in Islam.  It’s tied into how we greet each other (Peace be unto you, and unto you be peace).  It’s tied into our facing the same direction, using the same physical prostrations.  It is, I believe, why we are considered to perfect half of our religion when we marry.  Beyond our internal community, I also feel that it extends to our larger sense of ‘community’, and our interdependence on each other as beings who are ‘renting’ this physical space we’re all sharing for however long we’re meant to share it.

A few of you know this, but 2Pac has been my example more than Malcolm when it comes to community works.  Specifically, 90 percent of your service is off the radar; only you and God and the recipient needs to know about it.  I’m not suggesting you’re wrong if you want more ‘credit’ for the good things you do, but I may be questioning who you need credit from if it’s truly a selfless act.  Truthfully if you find it in yourself to do anything for others, you’re one of the good ones.  This came up in the dinner conversation I had last night, and most of us see it whether you live in a metropolis or not, but the gap between the haves and the have nots isn’t getting smaller.  That’s just the way the world is going; what’s a little worrisome now though is that the haves seem much less inclined than ever to have empathy for the have nots.  Yeah, this could be a whole blog into itself, so let me get back on point…

As I’ve settled into my ‘spot’, I’m very thankful to have likewise found the right wavelength where I can contribute in whatever way I feel comfortable to spreading good karma in the world I live in.  As I’ve been telling friends recently, I bring 100 percent of my ego to my professional life, so it’s nice to balance that with trying to make the world a better place in relative anonymity.

Last Ramadan post for the year next week.

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malcolmlouis

For the second year in a row, I’ll begin Ramadan entering into a peak period of my life.  I’m no longer ‘hitting’ my stride, I’m living in it.  Around my birthday, I wrote a post referencing what it meant when you start living on ‘third base’.  Deep fundamental changes start taking place…

We all have certain needs and desires that define us, and I’m as human as anyone else.  At some point between this rapidly approaching Ramadan and the last, my paradigm shift began playing itself out within my prayers.  What’s one thing we all want?  The respect of our peers. I didn’t always feel that I had that, but that has come (in large part) to recognizing what my lane is and who my peers really are.  And as a result, I spend almost no time anymore in pointless confrontations.  In wrestling terms I get to play my natural ‘babyface’ role: being silly, giving of myself and my time without questioning if I’m sacrificing too much of myself in someone else’s agenda at the expense of my own.

What else do we all need?  Love. Something else I can say I always knew enough to recognize it but didn’t always feel I had it (or specifically, enough of it).  Over the course of a lifetime, I’ve almost completed building the private circle I’ve needed that makes it easier for me to share a significant part of ‘Malik Aziz’ with 7 billion people by writing a blog on the internet or standing on a stage or in front of a camera and playing a character.  So that part of my life is almost complete.

I have a roof over my head and I’m not overly concerned about not having one anytime soon.  I pay my bills with enough left to more or less have the social life I want.  Could I use more money?  Come on now. Could YOU use more money?  I thought so…

And so my life as a spiritual being has come to this: ‘What do you do when you’ve ‘won’?  When your basic needs are met…AND your basic desires are met…then what?  It is wrong…specifically, is it greedy of me to ask for these things when I realize what I’m truly asking for is more of the things I’ve already been blessed with?

This was the question I posed first, to my brother who I consider my spiritual mentor.  His response was so ‘right’, so obvious, that it struck me like a thunderbolt.  I was so electrified by it, that I wanted to hear other people’s responses to the question…

And this is when it became an extraordinary experience.  First naturally I went to other Muslims I know.  Their responses echoed the initial response.  Next, I went outside of that group: to my Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Mormon friends.  As you might expect, the phrasing started to change, BUT the ‘answer’ was the same.  Every single time, among these people, most of whom will never meet each other, the response was always the same.

At this point, I was spiritually high, so I figured ‘why not’?  Through whatever channels I had at my disposal, I sent my question to those who I have no personal relationship with, but who I thought would give me an answer to think about.  Popes, Dalai Lamas, ‘gurus’, you name it.  Out of that group of people, only one responded.  And you may or may not be surprised by who took the time to respond, but you shouldn’t be surprised that his advice matched everyone else’s.

Because his response was the most eloquently phrased of the group, I’m reposting it here.  Here was Minister Farrakhan’s response to my question (unedited):

‘Well, you should be grateful that God has supplied your needs, and then ask yourself the question: Why?  

He’s supplying your needs, that you might be His helper in helping to supply the needs of others.’

I really want to stop writing there, but I owe you my full reaction.  As is often the case when I’m hit with the Truth, I’m motivated and inspired.  Ashamed and humbled that I needed to ask for help, while at the same time thankful and blessed that when I do need to be steered in a certain direction, I can let go of my pride and ego and listen to others.

And I feel that I do more than some in trying to help others.  But I can also confess that it’s always been on ‘my’ time.  As I use this next month to focus again on being the best possible version of Malik Aziz I can possibly be, I take on the challenge of doing more to help supply the needs of others.  Not ‘someday’ when I have Denzel’s money, or ‘someday’ after I have a few more residual checks I won’t miss.  Today.  Now.  Every day for however much longer I have inside of this flesh.

Other than the Minister, I know everyone else who I asked for advice checks this space out.  I thank you as always for being a friend and helping me move closer to being the man I aspire to be.

Next week, I’ll talk about Love.

 

tupac5-in-spectacles-from-lascafiablogspot

Can’t close my eyes cause all I see is terror
I hate the man in the mirror
Cause his reflection makes the pain turn realer
Times of Armageddeon, murder in mass amounts
In this society where only gettin the cash counts
I started out as a beginner
Entered the criminal lifestyle became a sinner
I make my money and vacate, evade prison
Went from the chosen one to outcast, unforgiven
And all the Hennessy and weed can’t hide, the pain I feel inside
You know, it’s like I’m livin just to die
I fall on my knees and beg for mercy, not knowin if I’m worthy
Livin life thinkin no man can hurt me
So I’m askin — before I lay me down to sleep
Before you judge me, look at all the shit you did to me, my misery
I rose up from the slums, made it out the flames
In my search for fame will I change? I’m askin…

New Muslim Cool

 

The documentary New Muslim Cool is available on Netflix Instant.  Made a couple years back, the film follows a Puerto Rican brother by the name of Hamza, who converted to Islam and credits the religion for turning his life around.  In my opinion, this doc offers one of the better, more personal views of what it’s like to be an American Muslim in a post 9/11 society.  Through Hamza’s eyes, we see him and others build a community for themselves in Pittsburgh, we see his family’s reaction (confusion that becomes acceptance), we see his ‘courtship’ and marriage to a Muslim sister, and the family they build together.

A proud member of the hip hop nation, we also see Hamza express himself both as a rap artist, and then as a cleric going to counsel brothers in the prison system.  It’s  only verbalized once, but there’s also a strong subplot involving the Patriot Act that does a great job of voicing the paranoia many American Muslims have.  There’s the universal desire we all have to provide for our wives and protect our children; and then there’s the McCarthy-esque shadow that only hangs over some of us, thinking  the powers that be can pull your world apart at any given time with no explanation given.

Was that a dramatic enough tease for you?  Seriously, the doc is only 82 minutes long.  If you have a long lunch or dinner break, I recommend it.

 

I found myself nodding quite a bit as I watched this one.  Here’s the (hopefully not) last edition of Ask a Muslim.  The subject is 9/11:

 

 

So I have something fun and exciting that I’ve been working on that I’ll start pubbing Sunday night/Monday morning.  Before then, here’s your last post to go into the weekend, a humourous edition (in my opinion at least) of the Ask a Muslim Series:

 

 

 

This is a story of passion, so let’s begin by using one of our passions as a way of easing into the story…

I was watching The Matrix Revolutions the other day.  Not as bad as people remember, but as we all know, the third film in trilogies have a habit of leaving some people very disappointed.  ANYWAY, on this particular viewing, I was struck by the last meeting between Neo and the Oracle.  Like Luke Skywalker before him, Neo gets petulant when his mentor has seemed to deny him vital information that she knew all along.  When Neo is stunned by her response that he wasn’t ready for the information, the Oracle points him toward a sign that’s been hanging over the door from the first time he met her: ‘Temet Nosce’ (Know Thyself).

I favor that analogy alot as of late.  As most of this calendar year has been spent pushing my abilities to their highest possible level, I’ve used this Ramadan to recognize how much of my natural laid back attitude I have allowed to seep into the core of who I am.  In plainer terms, I’ve felt that I’ve been a good Muslim for most of my life, but I certainly haven’t been the best Muslim I can possibly be.  The easy comeback is to blame it fully on a lack of maturity, but in ‘knowing thyself’ I know that is far too simplistic an explanation.

So, in the spirit of the comic book persona I’ve co-opted for so many years, I set a goal this month to rebuild ‘Malik Aziz’ from the ground floor.  Instead of simply trying to ‘correct’ bad habits that would be hard to break in a few weeks, I wanted to rebuild the entire foundation.  My goal for this Ramadan was to learn the Arabic alphabet; (I learned my prayers in Arabic many years ago, but I was/am still entirely too dependent on translation in other areas).  It’s a little embarrassing to admit this, but I didn’t have the ability to read or write my own name in its original language.  All of that has been corrected.  As the foundation of the house has been rebuilt, the other aspects of my life are on much stronger footing.  Still, that was essentially an educational goal.

The stars aligned this Ramadan for me to be a part of a study group, with other minds like mine who sought fellowship and a better understanding of the religion (and of ourselves).  This, in turn, opened the door to more iftars; some large events sponsored by organizations, some much more personal and domestic.  Not to go all Malcolm on you, but as an American Muslim it is one of the great advantages.  It’s a virtual Thanksgiving every night, with different specialties depending on the native culture of the host.  One of my goals for my next Ramadan is to host an iftar of my own.  No matter what Hank Williams Jr. thinks, I assure you the President of the United States is not a Muslim.  But for Obama to host an iftar at the White House, and for to not host one of my own now feels strangely out of place.  As I said though, that’s another thing that’s easily correctable.  My naturally open mind and free spirit hasn’t changed I assure you, but my renewed discipline is a welcome counterbalance to where I’m at now.

I’ll wrap this up with another old story.  Way back when we first came to this town, I remember vividly having a conversation with another classmate who was new to the City of Angels.  We were trading notes about our dreams.  He seemed impressed by the clarity of what I wanted: Part One is simply doing what I ‘do’, hopefully providing some positivity along the way.  And Part Two was not having what I do also become the defining characteristic of my home life; ideally it will provide for my wife and my children, but it won’t be something I have to ‘bring home’.  I can leave ‘work’ at work, and my ‘home’ would be my sanctuary.

And now, on the other side of this Ramadan, I’m 90 percent complete on my dream.  Or Islamically, I suppose I’m 50 percent (inside joke).  Either way, I’m a better man today than I was 30 days ago, which is an accomplishment unto itself.

A final Eid Mubarak to my Muslim brothers and sisters around the globe.  All praise is due to Allah, only the mistakes are mine.

Here is Episode 2 of the Ask of Muslim Series I referenced earlier this month:

I have something I’ve been working on for Eid which I’ll post Sunday night/Monday morning.  Until then, have a good weekend!

 

Ask a Muslim

 

This was an idea I’ve had for the past few years to answer various questions my non-Muslim friends had about the faith.  I just never made time for ti. Glad someone else grabbed the ball and is running with it.  Enjoy!