Protected: Not Without

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Leave a Comment: Enter your password to view comments.

In Light of Sadness and Love

Sadness washes over me this evening like something I am not sure I have felt before.  I am flabbergasted at how we treat each other.  Our teachers, those great stalwarts of truth, compassion, mercy and justice commissioned by the One in whose hands all our souls reside, would…no…must be crying at how we act towards each other.  None of them ever taught that we should act in such a degenerate manner.

Our Creator revealed in the Last Revelation:

By the Fig and the Olive

By Mount Sinai

And by this Sacred City

Truly We have created man in the most noble mould

Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low

Except those who believe and do good works; for they will have an unfailing reward

What can, after this, contradict you as to the Judgement?

Is not God the wisest of all Judges?

What the world needs more than ever now is Love.

Love is one of the greatest mercies endowed among humans. It binds us together and is the impetus that fuels our ever growing population and what makes us hold on to those who have passed away. Love is that emotion, that emotive force that drives the lover to do anything for the sake of the beloved willingly without hesitation even if it is not in the best interest of the lover. The lover not only loves the beloved, but loves everything that the beloved does, or makes, or says. When this love is directed towards the Creator, the lover’s love becomes unlimited and extends to everything that the Creator has ever touched, done or will do as everything is in the fold the Creator’s Will. In fact one of the 99 beautiful names of God happens to be The Loving as our Creator is indeed One that Loves His creation so much so that even in spite of our transgressions we still enjoy every blessing we could think of. But to love the creation like that, for the sake of the our Beloved, The Loving, would move us to a high station indeed. What mercy could extend to others if we loved them the way God loves them? How many wars would cease? How few there would be that were hungry, or thirsty, or homeless or orphaned? What a world this would be if our hearts popped with the Mercy of Love!

My Heart Pops

My Heart Pops

And the great man, Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, who is decried in our times taught:

“The merciful will have mercy shown to them by the Most Merciful.  So have mercy to those who are on the earth and the One who is in Heaven will have mercy on you.”

Please for your own sake, be excellent to each other.


Leave a Comment: Comments (0)

Guarding Mercy

Shawwal Crescent 1433

Shawwal Crescent 1433

Over 1400 years ago as the Mercy to all of Creation fled persecution from his birthplace in Mecca to his eventual resting place in Medina, he looked up to the sky and saw this heavenly body, the same moon that we see in our sky.  He called out while looking at a crescent in supplication: Oh God, bring us into this month with this moon, in safety and faith, and in peace and in submission to you.  Then as he pointed to himself and then to the moon addressing it and said: My Lord and your Lord is Allah (God).

From that day onward, the Muslims have used the new crescent moon to mark the months and years of their calendar, a purely lunar calendar.  It is a unique calendar in the entire world.  Many other cultures rely on the moon for their calendar as well but include the sun with it forming a luni-solar calendar, which has intercalations that add additional months every so often to keep holidays aligned in certain seasons.

The Islamic calendar however is cyclic with respect to the seasons and the tropical year, which is governed by the sun, or more accurately by the orbit of the Earth around the sun.  The months in the Islamic calendar begin traditionally by the sighting of the new crescent moon the same way the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did during his emigration and establishing this tradition.  The lunar cycle however is not one that is completed in an integral number of days; rather its average length is 29.5 days (varying between 29.2 and 29.8 days).  What this amounts to is that some months the moon will only be seen after 30 days and some after only 29 days, and with the number of months fixed at twelve the Islamic year is only 354 or 355 days long.  This forces the months in the Islamic year to occur 10 to 11 days earlier each tropical year and taking 33 years for the Islamic months to cycle through the Tropical year.

Astronomy has reached a level of sophistication that the position of the moon in the sky and its cycle can be calculated with amazing accuracy.  However, the science behind when and where the new crescent moon can be seen is altogether different.  Seeing the new crescent moon depends on many factors.  These factors include, the age of the moon past conjunction, the elongation, the percent illumination, its altitude above the horizon at the time of sunset, and the lag time or how long it will be in the sky after sunset before it sets as well.  Each of these parameters has specific values that must be met in combination in order for the crescent moon to be “seen” in varying degrees.  Those degrees include easily visible with the naked eyes, visible with naked eyes under perfect sky conditions, visible with optical aid, visible with optical aid under perfect sky conditions, and finally the Danjon Limit, under which the moon is impossible to see under any circumstances.

The calculation methods used to determine to what level the moon is visible is not a formulaic theoretical computation like that of the position of the moon in the sky.  Rather it is a regression analysis of data on crescent moon sightings and non-sightings from archival records, originally from the Ottoman Empire and as of late from modern observation data added to the original pool.  The predictions are statistical in nature and although they have a high degree of correlation are still subject to outliers.

However, what these predictions cannot take into account is the weather.  The weather is completely outside of the realm of predictability as sky conditions can change on the hour and hence the crescent sighting predictions can only be that, predictions.  And by weather I do not just mean clouds in the sky.  A cloudless sky does not constitute perfect viewing conditions.  Other parameters like atmospheric pressure, relative humidity of the air, air quality and pollution, haze,  light pollution, altitude of the viewing location and even the geography on the horizon all play a factor in the visibility of the crescent.  In addition to all those factors every person who goes out to look for the moon brings with then their own set of variables that are never even considered, things such as experience, knowledge, eyesight, patience, prudence, etc..  These, of course, cannot be determined from a visibility prediction chart, nor from a very brief conversation one might have with that person in discerning if what he or she actually saw was the moon.

It is because of this and the juristic condition of seeing the moon to start an Islamic month that having someone actually go out and physically see the moon is still an activity that is played out each month among Muslims.  In fact, juristically, it is considered a communal obligation that at least one person from each community be charged with the task of discerning the beginnings of each Islamic month so that when the important months like Ramadan and the month of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, arrive they are started and ended correctly.  In addition, juristically, looking for the new crescent moon becomes an individual obligation on each Muslim when its appearance brings on individual religious obligations like fasting in the month of Ramadan.  Note that seeing the moon is not the obligation, rather just looking for it is the obligation.

In the last few years, many calculation schemes have been put forward to bring some expediency to the starts of the Islamic months.  Some of them make sense and some do not.  What I find troubling about them is that they all find reason to avoid having to look up in the sky a day or two after conjunction to physically see the new crescent moon.  Establishing a date is not what is at stake here.  If that was the case, then simply determining sun-moon conjunction times, which are exceedingly accurate, plus one or two days added to ensure moon visibility could be used to nail down the beginnings of months with 100% accuracy.

What is at stake here is tradition.   The body of Islamic Jurisprudence on a whole, which covers every aspect of human life, is and always has been a means for ANY Muslim to learn and understand how to perform the religious obligations on their own.  For example it would be considered to much of a hardship if everyone was required to learn how to compute exact conjunction times of the moon and sun in order to establish the times when fasting in Ramadan was to commence and end.  However it is not out of the question to ask individuals to simply go out and look in the western sky after sunset to see if the new moon is visible or not.  In addition to this, following the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in fulfilling religious obligations is also an obligation in itself.  The ‘how’ of many of the religious obligations outlined in the Qur’an, are just that, outlines.  The ‘how’ was left to the Prophet, peace be upon him, to explain to the believers exactly how to perform the obligations.

The traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, are second to the Qur’an in understanding the religion and how its obligations are to be performed.  The traditions are so important, in fact, that they have been preserved with the same level of preservation as the Qur’an itself.   Immense volumes of traditions are memorized word by word, including information on who narrated it and the entire chain of narration leading back to the Prophet, peace be upon him, himself, with additional notation on the character of each of the narrators in the chain resulting in various levels of authenticity for each tradition.  In fact, there is no other historical record of what any human being said or did that is more accurate and exact as that of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.  To say the traditions are not important is to deny most of what Islam is.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was referred to by God in the Qur’an as a Mercy to all of Creation.  An examination of his blessed life gives credence to that.  Everything he did or said brought mercy to those of his time and to those who followed afterwards, and when taken with sincerity and practiced, mercy is what is found in his traditions, and not just to humans, but also to animals and plants as well.  One of the aspects of prophethood is that prophets elucidate what the future holds for people, not in specific, but in general.  The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, left no stone unturned when it came to matters of the end of days.  I won’t delve into those matters as that deserves its own study, but one thing that I will say is that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did relate that knowledge of Islam and his traditions would slowly vanish over time and one of the last things that would remain before the end of days occurred was prayer.  For one reason or another, much of what came with Islam through the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, has already eroded away. Watching his traditions erode away and die off is like watching the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, scrubbed from existence entirely.  However, if we hold onto the traditions it is like keeping him alive, and if we revive one of his traditions that did die it would be as if we had revived him.

In the Prophet’s time, there were many battles between the believers and idolaters of Mecca.  In one of the battles, the Battle of Uhud, in what initially looked like a Muslim victory turned into a rout and victory for the idolaters.  In the midst of the rout, as the Muslim ranks were breaking and men were fleeing from the battle, the Prophet and a few of his companions were surrounded.  Among those who were surrounded was a woman, Umm ‘Umara Nusayba bint Ka’b.  She was among those who came to the battle to provide water to the soldiers.  Her husband and two sons were also in this battle and were surrounded in the rout.  One of her sons was injured during the rout and she tended to his wound, only to find herself wielding a shield and sword and in the midst of the battle.  She threw herself in front of the Prophet, peace be upon him and defended him.  Later the Prophet, peace be upon him, commented that in Uhud, no matter where he turned to face in the battle he saw Umm ‘Umara in front of him fighting.  Umm ‘Umara had the courage and the love in her heart to stand up and guard the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him, when even men fled in fear for their life.  In the course of that battle she sustained 13 sword and arrow wounds to her body and among one of the sword wounds was a sever one to her neck which required an entire year to heal. In the midst of that rout, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, supplicated that Umm ‘Umara and her family would be among his companions in Paradise.

In a time when threats to the Prophet’s life were real, the men and women around him were willing to sacrifice their own life to protect his.  Today in a time when threats to life and limb in a civilized world are far and few in between, I find it alarmingly astounding that we can sit by and allow the last vestiges of the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be on upon him, to fall by the wayside because it is not expedient to wait until the moon is seen to mark our days.  Rather, it has become the fashion to know the dates of holidays years in advance that we may plan our perfect little lives around them.  I know that my actions in following the traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, will never bring him back to life, but doing so brings me a deep sense of comfort and certainty that he, peace be upon him, is still alive in my heart and that I can expend a little effort to emulate my beloved.  I do not think for a minute that the little that I do in keeping his tradition of sighting the moon each month alive would get me into Paradise.  However, I can find solace that on the day when the debts fall due and I am standing in front of my Lord, I can say with certainty that I did not let the Prophet, His most Beloved, Muhammad, peace be upon him, die in my heart or in my actions.

Festive Moon of Shawwal 1433

Festive Moon of Shawwal 1433

I beseech all of my Muslim readers to take up this tradition and keep the spirit of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, alive in their own lives.  Moreover, to those readers, who follow another of God’s Messengers, hold onto their traditions as well.  In our days, it is these traditions that keep our connection to our Lord healthy and strong.  Do not rob yourselves of the deep spiritual connection that can be formed with the Creator as you see the moon emerge in the evening sky from apparent non-existence into the realm of existence right before your very eyes.

Peace to you all.


Leave a Comment: Comments (2)

In Earth’s Shroud

Last night a celestial event occurred in our sky that has not happened in 372 years.  The Earth eclipsed the full moon on the winter solstice and for those fortunate enough to be in an area in North America with clear skies they saw a truly amazing and awe inspiring sight.

Total Lunar Eclipse of December 2010.

In Earth's Shroud

While there are some that feel that certain astronomical events have an influence on the behavior of humanity and other natural events, as a man of science I must say that such a belief is a bit incredulous as proof is hard to establish.  While at the same time, as a man of faith, belief in the dominion of the Creator over all of creation is central in my understanding of how the universe exists, how it is sustained and how it behaves.

In a sacred tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of God be upon him) said one morning after the dawn prayer that occurred after a rainy night, turned to the congregation and said “Do you know what your Lord has revealed?” The people replied, “God and His Apostle know better.” He said, “God has said, ‘In this morning some of my slaves remained as true believers and some became non-believers; whoever said that the rain was due to the Blessings and the Mercy of God had belief in Me and he disbelieves in the stars, and whoever said that it rained because of a particular star had no belief in Me but believes in that star.’

A passage in the Qur’an describes the motion of the sun and the moon and through implicit understanding so too the Earth and all visible objects in the heavens.  Each of these celestial bodies follow and obey what we in science refer to as physical laws which we understand and know how they dictate the motions of the heavenly bodies.  However, those of us who go beyond science and have some knowledge of the Knower understand that these laws are not merely physical, but Divine.

When I see an event like an eclipse, my heart is in awe of the power of the Incomparable for not only setting such beauty into place but sustaining it as well.  The skill to capture it and present it to others is a gift that I am aware of and grateful to posses.  I have searched the web today for photos of last night’s eclipse and while there some nice images, I did not find one that moved me in the same way as seeing it in person.  I hope what I have presented above will do that for some.  Enjoy.


Leave a Comment: Comments (1)

Mercy: Day 4 – Diversity

Living in the United States, and North America in general, poses some interesting problems.  One issue that is absent from practically every other nation on the face of the planet is that of diversity.  We have ethnicities from all over the world living within these borders.  Not only that, this country was built by a diverse ethnic labor force, that spanned the globe.  Almost every people have had a hand in making the United States what it is today and it is also what keeps the nation going.  Some unfortunately see this as a problem rather than a strength.

The only other nation that experienced such a diverse make up was that of the Muslim nation.  Within 100 years of the advent of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, Islam had spread as far west as Morocco and Spain and as far east as China.  Islam brought with it one unifying trait and that was to recognize that the Creator was One.  Other than that and the primary tents of the faith, such as daily prayer, alms giving, fasting in Ramadan and making pilgrimage to the ancient ancient house of worship in Mecca, the faith allowed for much diversity.  All strata of life and from all corners of the Earth, people were accepted as who they were and seen as equal to any other person, regardless of skin color, language, or financial class.  The only trait that distinguished a person from another was that of piety, and that could only be judged by the Judge Himself on the day when we all return to Him.

This diversity is what made the Muslim nation so powerful and why whenever Muslims went to new lands, people accepted what they brought as a new way of life.  The Muslims also incorporated what these new cultures had in the way of philosophy, science, industry as long as it aligned with the tenets of the faith and this propelled civilization to great heights during the 800 years of the golden age of Islam, as it has been called.  It was on the shoulders of this Giant that the new world benefited from greatly in its formation.  However, this time, the diversity came to the new land rather than diversification coming to it.  Growth and prosperity seemed to follow diversity wherever it appeared.

However as of late, there seems to be a push toward conformity, purity, and indistinguishability.  The unfortunate by-product of such an idea is that of oppression and, I don’t want to say ethnic-cleansing as that is to narrow a view, but rather a difference-cleansing.  Anyone that is different needs to be removed from society and expunged from history.  And whether this is coming from here in the West or from the East, it is a corruption and the very antithesis of not only diversity but Creation itself.

Just look out into the natural world and count the number different types of trees, fish, mammals, insects,  or anything else for that matter.  The beauty of this is that every one of those different entities have a role to play in the grand scheme of the the universe.  Diversity is the hallmark of all of Creation.  In a scared tradition or hadith qudsi from the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God be upon him, the Prophet said “When God decreed the Creation He pledged Himself by writing in His book which is laid down with Him: My mercy prevails over my wrath”.

This being the case and the fact that we can see an incredibly diverse universe should be self-evident that diversity is Mercy.  Why anyone would want to remove oneself from the Mercy of God is beyond me.

Unity, true unity,  comes from within through the recognition that we are all the same and that we can be in concert with the rest of Creation unified in the glorification of The One who made us all.

In that we will find beauty, peace and a Mercy from the Most Merciful will pervade us all and we will exhibit that to each other.



Till Tomorrow, Peace.

Leave a Comment: Comments (0)

The Decisions We Make


In my senior year in college I was finishing up all of my general education classes, classes that would have normally been taken in the first couple of years.  I was more interested in math and science so I delayed my general ed classes.  One of the more interesting and challenging classes I attended was Philosophy 101.  It was in this class that we were introduced to deductive logic, reasoning and how to argue and prove a line of thinking.

We had a term paper due at the end of the semester, one of our choosing, with professor approval of course (so much for choice).  I was clueless as to what I would write about and try to prove.  Then one day in class the professor spoke on the topic of free will.  She mentioned that past philosophers argued and proved that humans have free will.  This rubbed me the wrong way, and of course I did not agree.  I approached her after class and debated with her that as humans we do not have free will and that I would like to tackle this topic as the subject of my term paper.  At first she was very reluctant to allow me  to work on this topic, insisting that there was no way I could disprove free will.  After a little cajoling she allowed me to write on that topic, but gave me a caveat that I would not  be successful.  Well, throwing the gauntlet down at my feet only kindled my fervor and I set out on my task.

If you are interested in reading that short paper, I think I could find it stashed away in my notes somewhere.  But the basic premise of my argument was that rather than free will, which implies the ability to do as one wishes, what we truly have is merely the freedom of choice.  We can choose whatever we wish freely, from our actions, decisions, preferences and so on.  However, the outcomes of our choices are not in our control, nor do we have any foreknowledge of what the outcomes of our choices will be.  Of course this premise is not as attractive as that of a free will, where we have the freedom to choose, but also, in addition to that, we would know and have control over the outcome of our choices.  My argument did not find favor with my professor and she had notes in the margins arguing almost every statement I made.

Then I introduced the concept of a being that would have complete and total free will and described how such an entity would literally have control over everything and that there could only be one such entity for otherwise the universe as we know it would fall into complete chaos as the multiple entities would be battling for superiority – willing this and that in to being over each other.  I named this entity, for lack of any better term God.  At this point, her comments seemed to dwindle and then vanish from the page.  My final conclusion was that if we truly had free will there would be nothing to stop us for vying for control and becoming gods ourselves.  And since this has never happened and probably never will, free will for us mere humans is a fallacy.

Which brings me to the reason I post this story today.  Choices.  Four years ago I photographed that stoic valley oak in the local hills surrounding the San Jose, CA area.  It was nice but it never seemed to call out to me to do anything with it.  So I decided to just file it away.  Two weeks ago a client requests an image that can portray informed decision making for a website landing page.  Well this photo comes to mind. Continue Reading »

Leave a Comment: Comments (0)


What if we were forsaken?

A few days ago during the first of three weekends of the 2010 Open Studio exhibit, I included my 4×5 camera as part of the show.  Placed on its tripod it served to initiate conversation about how the displayed photographs were made.  I warned my children to stay away from the tripod and not to engage in horseplay in or around the exhibit.  Little was heeded of what I said.

Late on the first day while I worked in the studio just a few feet from the display outside, I heard a crash.  As I peered out the door I find my youngest on the ground wrapped around the legs of the tripod and the camera…well it was not pretty.

As the camera lay on the ground that afternoon, I scolded my young daughter for what she had done.  I sent her to her room in tears and once I picked up the camera and examined it to find the damage I returned to her room and scolded her further.  I made up my mind not to speak to her until she came forward and apologized for what she had done.

I picked up the camera and removed it from the tripod and just set it on my living room floor and continued with the exhibit meeting and speaking with visitors, all the while wondering how I was going to continue making photographs without a camera.

That night I searched for a replacement online.  Disappointed with what I found, I retired.  The next morning I proceeded to disassemble my camera and asses the true extent of the damage.

Broken 4x5 camera

Taking the camera apart was a bit intimidating, but once the screws were removed and the full extent of the damage seen, it did not seem like the damage was not repairable

Broken 4x5 camera

The broken side rail was fractured in two places and ran back about two inches.

Broken 4x5 camera

Broken 4x5 camera

I used a liberal amount of Elmer’s Wood glue and clamped the pieces back in place and waited for the glue to dry.

Broken 4x5 camera

For the remainder of the day I did not speak to my daughter.  Although to her it seemed as if the incident never occured!   Throughout the day she would call to me with her sweet little voice, “Babaa…”  It was absolutely heart wrenching not replying to her calls.  When she would persist, I would turn away from her hoping that she would get the message and show me some remorse for what she had done.

The next morning I came into the studio to examine the camera.  The glue had dried sufficiently and I proceeded to stress the joints lightly to see if they would give.  Just then my daughter walked in and with the sweetest of voices said “Baba, I’m sorry”.  I asked her why she was apologizing and she said “for breaking your camera” and then began to cry.  I gave her a hug and dried her tears and then I asked her what she thought I should do now without a camera.  Her reply, “I’ll make you a new one!” About a day later, a perfect little box camera, complete with tripod was sitting on the dining room table and  is now part of my camera collection. Getting it to work is a whole other ball of wax.

New mat board camera

New mat board camera on Tripod

Later that day after putting the 4×5 camera back together   I was reflecting on what had transpired.  In some respects I had, at least for a day, forsaken my little girl.  It was painful to do so, but I wanted to show her my displeasure in what she had done.

I then pondered on our condition, that is the human condition on a whole, with regards to the state of our world.  Everything is chaotic.  I began to wonder if our collective behavior, our plundering of the Earth and of each other and our general disobedience to our Creator has not in some ways rendered us forsaken with respect to the Divine.  Yes we still have our daily bread, at least most of us, but where have the blessings in that bread gone?  Why is it that the food we eat has become so unhealthy?  Where have the blessings in our time vanished to?  Most of us work everyday of the week just to keep afloat leaving us with no time for what is important in life – namely family.  And what has happened to the blessings of family?  It used to be that when hardship fell, family was there with a net to catch you and get you back on your feet.  Today in place of family, we have turned to virtual digital friends in cyberspace – but they really don’t exist outside of the computer monitor that you see them on.  And more than half of all those trying to start their own families end up broken in divorce!  That should be very alarming.

Are we in fact forsaken?  I hope not, I want my prayers and calls heard and answered.  Be excellent to each other my fellow cybernauts, and be good with God.  Let not our actions be a reason for finding ourselves without the hand of providence there to guide us.


P.S.  I really like my new camera. 🙂

P.P.S.  I think the repair on the 4×5 will work, the camera seems functional.

Leave a Comment: Comments (5)

Organic Light Press – In The Name Of God 2009 Calendar

It is with great pleaseure to announce that Organic Light Press has released another 2009 calendar publication.

The “In the Name Of God 2009 Wall Calendar” with 12 stunning Islamic Calligraphic art works by artist Nabeela Sajjad. Her work can be viewed at her website

A portion of the proceeds go to support the Non-Profit educational Tayba Foundation

To purchase a copy visit the Press page on the Organic Light Photography Website – Quantities are Limited.

Leave a Comment: Comments (0)


Sometimes an image just happens to come to you. It appears as if by magic at your feet, and in this case it literally did. Even more amazing is when an image just captivates your imagination and conveys to you exactly what you are feeling.

Such was the case with this photo of twisted sage brush in the Eastern Sierra. Continue Reading »

Leave a Comment: Comments (0)

Out Of Control

Controlled Chaos
The month of Ramadan is just about over. In less than 24 hours, the search for the new crescent moon will begin for those who follow the tradition set more than 1400 years ago in marking the beginnings of the months. The day the follows the end of Ramadan is known as Eid Al-Fitr, the festival of fast breaking, and is celebrated the world round by observant Muslims. It is a joyous day that marks not only the end of a month-long devotion to our Creator but also that as Muslims we were able to stay away from and curb our desires during daylight hours. It is a month where those who observe it hope to gain the self-control and discipline to tame our egos, grow more conscience of the Divine, and foster love, mercy and compassion to all of humanity.

And so it is with this as a backdrop that the current events unfolding leave me somewhat introspective on our future. Continue Reading »

Leave a Comment: Comments (0)

Next Page »