The Muslim Musical Metronome: My Journey Through Music in Islam

musical-notes

A few weeks ago, the internet experienced a minor rumble about a story regarding a supposed fatwa issued by 42 clerics against Indian singer Nahid Afrin. International media caught wind and it became a story about religious clergy banning someone’s freedom of expression. As is the case with such a story, the world got riled up.

Of course, now there’s some speculation if the “fatwa” was even a fatwa at all, or rather just an appeal made by citizens concerned with hosting a concert at a college.

Now, I’m not here to comment on the story or vilify or condemn one party over the other. Instead, I’m using this story as a launching point for my own personal story about my relationship with music. Continue reading “The Muslim Musical Metronome: My Journey Through Music in Islam”

30. “Muzdalifah” (The Hajj Journal)

Groups of pilgrims in white cloth sitting on rocky ground under a light in the middle of the night.
Muzdalifah (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

September 24, 2015

After Arafat, pilgrims spend the night in a place called Muzdalifah, which is just south of Arafat. We spend the night on bare ground, without a tent, under the open sky. It’s kind of funny when I look at it this way. We started our journey in 2 high-end hotels. Then we went to the dorms in Aziziya, which made me miss the hotel. Then the tent camp in Mina, which made me miss Aziziya. Then the bare ground of Muzdalifah, which made me miss Mina.

If I could summarize Muzdalifah in one word: raw. Continue reading “30. “Muzdalifah” (The Hajj Journal)”

Hajj: One Year Later

Kaba at day

Hajj is often touted as a life changing journey. It marks the final act a Muslim must fulfil that is owed to God. Completing it by no means makes you a complete Muslim. But it does complete the 5 pillars you owe to God as a person who submits to Him.

A year ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to go for Hajj. During my time, I documented my experiences in my Hajj Journal; I’ve also spoken about it on the radio. Hajj was a journey that is impossible to fully describe. It’s an all-encompassing spiritual and physical and mental journey where each event that occurs is tailored to you, personally, by God.

What terrified me most about Hajj was the notion that it was going to change me into a different person. Change, in general, is frightening. Spiritual change is terrifying. My fear was that I would become a super-strict, ultra-hardline, everything-is-haram Muslim. I remember standing on the roof of our hotel on the eve of Hajj with both fear and excitement, wondering who I would be at the end of Hajj.

Well, it’s been a year now. And here is who I am. Continue reading “Hajj: One Year Later”

23. “The best actions…” (The Hajj Journal)

September 19, 2015

The best actions are those that benefit others. The Prophet (p) [emphasized] many acts of selflessness, like feeding others, bringing a smile to someone, going out of your way to help someone with their challenges… Many acts of worship that benefit others have more weight than acts that are solitary. A good deed ripples around you, and you may not know where it ends. Continue reading “23. “The best actions…” (The Hajj Journal)”

16. “Ihram” (The Hajj Journal)

Aaron wearing ihramSeptember 13, 2016

Today we also put on our ihrams and are on our way to Mecca. Ihram is a dress specifically for Umra and Hajj. It consists of a single, white sheet wrapped around the waist, and another wrapped around the body. Something one of our group guides said stuck with me: “this is your shroud.” That keeps repeating in my mind. I’m wearing my shroud. A Muslim is buried in white sheets. However, the end result of Hajj is, as the Prophet (p) said, is that we come out as the day we were born: free of sin. A rebirth. A new beginning. The ihram is a double reminder of both death and rebirth. We are all born, all die, and are all resurrected in the next life. The deciding factor is complying with God’s commandment. And as with every reflection about death, it’s not about getting mopey and upset; instead it is about life. How to life your life, according to God’s will.

Continue reading “16. “Ihram” (The Hajj Journal)”

14. “Josh” (The Hajj Journal)

September 13, 2015

On my first day here I spotted another convert. He was pretty easy to spot, since his shorts and t-shirt and stubbly facial hair and white complexion were about similar to my own. Also, his backpack had the name “Joshua” written on it. And based on that alone, I assumed he was a new Muslim, perhaps sponsored to go for Hajj like some new Muslims are. Last night I actually got to talk with him. And for once I, in my khurta, felt like I as the one who became Arabized. He’s a really cool guy. He’s been Muslim almost as long as I—7 years—and is here with his wife and father-in-law. He’s planning on doing Umrah for himself first, then on behalf of his mother-in-law. His sister converted before him, and she lived in Edmonton (and I may actually have met her.) He was actually the mahram (male representative) for her wedding, and even though her parents were against [her] marriage, Josh did something amazing: he interviewed her suitor, spoke with his boss, co-workers, friends and others to get a feel for who he was. Then he took all this information and spread it out in front of his Dad. His Dad looked it over and said, “This is exactly what a father-in-law would want.” So he successfully convinced his Dad of the Islamic marriage process by actually doing the Islamic marriage process. [Josh] came to Islam by studying different religions, studying the Qur’an, and writing down questions. He took his questions to an Islamic conference and [spoke with] Zakir Naik. Josh said he spent months coming up with these questions, and Zakir Naik’s responses were just bullet-quick, in his usual style… [A] few months later, [Josh] accepted [Islam]. Pretty much everything I mentioned above has humbled me.

Continue reading “14. “Josh” (The Hajj Journal)”

8. “The other” (The Hajj Journal)

Aaron wearing a kurta

September 12, 2015

I also experienced how it feels to be “the other”. In my jeans and button-up shirt and hiking shoes, I felt like an oddity among the sea of white thaubs and kurtas. At least 90% of the people wore some form of Arabic clothing. For so long I fought against the notion of having to “Arabize” myself. But now it’s pretty much become a necessity. And I mean that quite literally, because even with my tolerance for warm temperatures, I’m nearly dying in my jeans, shirt and socks. I bought a couple thaubs and a kurtah... [which have] helped me to feel more comfortable (both physically and emotionally –these things pretty much breathe when you’re outside).

Continue reading “8. “The other” (The Hajj Journal)”

A Heavy Light | Part 1

How I felt when I became a Muslim.

A thick candle.

People sometimes ask me, “What was it like when you converted?” and they must be expecting some kind of rapturous event where I saw the light and felt a huge burden lift off my shoulders and my heart set free. But my conversion to Islam wasn’t so much about seeing the light, but rather realizing that the light was always there. I just didn’t realize it.

And let’s be straight: that light was heavy. Continue reading “A Heavy Light | Part 1”

The In-Between

Old stone bridge across the river with two people on it.Being a Muslim convert means you’re almost constantly balancing this strange in-between world, living neither here nor there. On the one hand, you have your old life: your family, friends, habits, and actions that were around prior to you accepting Islam. On the other hand, you have your new life: a life of God, brotherhood, mosques, imams and worship. And to each you are, in a way, an oddity. Continue reading “The In-Between”