Rajab 1434 Begins

This evening the new crescent moon of Rajab for the Islamic year 1434 made its appearance.  It was a delicate moon and had the company of Venus as it set in the western sky.  A mild evening that at first posed some possible cloudy interference.  But as the sun set and the sky cooled, the clouds for the most part dissipated leaving the Moon and Venus in plain sight.

Rajab Crescent 1434 with Venus

Rajab Crescent 1434 with Venus

It was interesting that Venus was spotted first and was brighter in the sky than the crescent moon was, even though the moon is closer to us and many orders of magnitude larger.  We used Venus as our marker to find the moon, as we knew from an ephemeris that the two would be close to each other.

The moon was first sighted around 8:20 pm PDT and it was primarily in blank sky. I photographed it over the next half hour until it was just about to set.  The photograph above was made at approximately 8:45 pm PDT, as the dark band of clouds added an extra dimension to the scene.

Rajab is an important Islamic month as it helps in locking down the start times for the following month Sha’baan and then the month of Ramadan when fasting begins.  It ripples from this day onward for both the start of Ramadan and its end which ushers in Eid Al-Fitr, the festival of fast breaking.

I feel very fortunate living here on the west coast.  We have the best possibility, and in most cases, the last word on any given day for sighting the new moon each month.  I and my assistants were not the only ones who sighted the moon this evening, I did receive one other report from a long time friend and fellow crescent chaser who saw it as well from atop Mount Tamalpais about 60 miles north of my location, also a stunning location in its own right.  We were atop Russian Ridge in the northern reaches of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

To all my Muslim readers, Rajab Mubarak!

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Crying Black Tears

The earth is in pain.  We are hurting it.  We poison its water.  We choke its air. We cut it limbs and we slash into its flesh.  For all that we do to the Earth, it still takes care of us by the sky sending down its life giving rain, the fields still give their nourishing foods and trees still provide us with shade and the air we breath.  For some the earth is an inanimate object held in check by the laws of nature that govern how everything works.  For others, this author included, see the earth as a living and interactive organism that has a spirit and purpose.

There are a set of verses in the Qur’an, the text that Muslims believe was revealed by the Creator to guide humanity to what is ultimately their only success, that speaks of the Earth.  They mean as follows.

When the Earth is shaken with her final earthquake.

And the Earth yields up her burdens.

And man says “What is the matter with her?”

That day she will proclaim her tidings.

Because your Lord inspired her.

That day mankind will come forth in scattered groups to be shown their deeds.

And whoever has done a bit of good will see it then.

And whoever has done a bit of ill will see it then.

Its a weighty set of verses.  They frighten me.  But more than that they help me check myself with regards to what I do to and on the Earth.  I not only consider the Earth my home, but my companion in life and the physical source of what I need to stay alive.  It is my spiritual center and from which I learn many important things regarding how to live in peace with the Earth itself as well as with my fellow humans.  It is my teacher.  It has a persona that we all recognize, for do we not call her Mother Earth?

Everyone can learn from the Earth if we just open our eyes to what it has to teach. For millennial the Earth has taken care of us.  It saddens me that we do not reciprocate that care in kind today.  It seems that in past generations we, as humans, understood the necessity of mutual care between us and the Earth. That what was good for the Earth was ultimately good for us as well.  Today we seem to have lost our way in that respect.  We have become selfish, arrogant and blind that our actions, even though appearing self-serving, are in reality harmful to the Earth and to our own existence.

Faith and belief are sensitive topics, I know, but what if the Earth truly does have a memory.  A memory so sharp that it will tell all about what we individually have done on her back.  That it will stand as witness against us on that final day and bear a testimony that no matter what we do we cannot deny.  Which group do you wish to be among - those who have done good or those who have done ill?

I wonder if the Earth ‘looks’ at us and is saddened by what it must do to us to rectify its unbalanced state and return to equilibrium.  I think it will rid us, or most of us in the process.  I think it knows that and I wonder if it is crying black tears over it?

Crying Black Tears

Black Tear

Just some food for the mind to chew on.

Peace.

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Rabi Al-Awwal 1432 Begins

I will have more to say about this moon in the days to come.  It was an amazing sight to see this moon.  Not the youngest I have seen but certainly one of the thinest.  It marks the beginning of the third month in the Islamic Calendar, Rabi Al-Awwal and is also the month in which the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was born.  This year it also coincided with the beginning of the Chinese New Year.

Rabi Al-Awwal

Rabi Al-Awwal 1432

So Rabi Al-Awwal Mubarak to all my Muslim readers and Happy Chinese New Year to all my Asian readers.  It is a good time.

Peace.

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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.

Peace.

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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.

Strata

Strata

Till Tomorrow, Peace.

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