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Mercy: Day 2 – Hunger

Its now 1 PM and my stomach starts to grumble.  I feel hungry but I am in the middle of only the second day of fasting.  Its now that most will start to feel the change of the eating pattern.  That is okay, I can push through.  Its now 4 PM and the grumbles return, but I ignore them.  I start to wonder what it must be like for some one who is under fed, someone who feels like this all the time.  It is an unsettling feeling.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing of God upon him, said “Those who are merciful will have mercy shown to them by the most Merciful.  Show mercy to those who are on the Earth and The One who is in heaven will show mercy on you”.  Those are powerful words, and to be reminded of this during these first 10 days of Ramadan, during the days of mercy resonate within me.

My hunger will subside when the sun goes down, but for millions, and maybe for even more, around the globe they will go to sleep hungry, wake up hungry and live their days hungry.  At the same time we walk into a super market and find an unimaginable abundance of food that if it is not sold with in a week’s time is thrown out in the garbage!

I remember growing up and watching my neighbor hauling out boxes of produce from his truck that he salvaged from the supermarket garbage bin.  It was perfectly good food except it came out of a garbage bin.

When I was studying in graduate school at Stanford University, I would love to go into the library and read up on all the various subjects that interested me outside of engineering.  Once I was in the government documents library and ran across a United Nations report on hunger.  It was noted in a study conducted back in 1980 that if the United States would give just 2% of the excess wheat that it dumps into the ocean to keep wheat prices high, they could wipe out world famine! TWO PERCENT of the EXCESS! I was beside myself to say the least.

There is no mercy being on the receiving end of hunger.  There is however great mercy for the one who puts him or her self through hunger voluntarily to know what it means and then does something about it to alleviate it from others.  Showing mercy to others produces a multiplicity effect that continues to grow.

On Saturday, August 15th, 2010 a local charitable foundation and food bank, Rahima Foundation will be conducting their 7th annual Human Dignity Day by feeding the homeless in San Jose, CA.  They are looking for volunteers and it is a wonderful way to help show mercy to those who need mercy.

In The Shadow

Giving is Good.

Till tomorrow, Peace.

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Mercy: Day 1 – Sleep

Its 3:30 AM and I wake in a stupor to the rustling sounds of my wife getting dressed in a rush as she prepares to leave to help a woman give birth as her Doula. Its about 15 minutes before the alarm clock was destined to go off and wake us up for our first pre-dawn meal of Ramadan. In my half asleep state I remind her to eat and drink before she runs out. Asking me what time dawn enters, she dashes out. We have not seen her since.

Once she goes into action sleep is not an option until the miracle of birth is over.  I know the routine, having been in her shoes four times with my own children.  It is incredibly tiring, physically, mentally and emotionally.

So after she leaves, the alarm starts to blare and wakes me again.  Still tired, I wrangle myself out of bed and proceed to wake three of my four kids.  They get very excited to fast with us in Ramadan and they are getting to that age when they will have to fast, so getting used to it is not a bad idea.  The youngest of the three is only allowed to fast until he feels hungry, and the other two, well they insist on the whole day.  With all of us awake we make our way into the kitchen to prepare our meal.

Once we finish eating, I feel like I can return to bed, but the kids are now wide awake and want to get busy with their day.  Its 5 AM and its still dark out!  We do our dawn prayer and then, back to bed before its off to work.  Its now 7 AM, the alarm wakes me once more.  I wake the kids who ended up sleeping anyway.  We get dressed and we are out the door.  First off to grandma’s house to drop off the kids and then to class.

I still feel tired and wish that I could still be wrapped up and cozy in my bed.  But I push through.  The urge to lay myself down and close my eyes is great, I just want a little more rest.

The day comes to a close.  When arrive to pick up my kids, my oldest son is out like a light on the easy chair.  My oldest daughter is groggy and about to go out on the couch, the other two are still bumping around but not for long.  They have been up for nearly 12 hours, my self as well!  On the way home, a 15 minute drive, they all fall asleep, and I am starting to nod off as well.  We clamber out of the car and into the house.  Within ten minutes, we have all found a comfortable place and sleep overtakes all of us.

Sleep is such a blessing.  One of the great mercies of our Creator.  Every thing sleeps in one way or another.  From animals to plants, they all have a down time. To stretch out, to let your body sink in relaxation, to close tired eyes and to take a deep breath and letting go of all the worries of life brings a state of peace and tranquility to the soul. To relinquish all responsibility back to the Lord of the all things, and to put your trust in Him with certainty that all will be fine once we wake brings reassurance to the heart and repose to the mind that we are not in control and need not be.

Sleep brings peace to every facet of who we are and regardless of whether we become tired physically, emotionally, mentally – in any combination or all three.  It is a Mercy for every living thing and is a hallmark of the stamp of the Merciful in all of creation.  I am tried now, so I think I will go get me some Mercy.

Windy Hill Under Moon Light

Nighty Night

Till tomorrow, Peace.

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Ten Days of Mercy

The sun set in silence on the western horizon.  There was a slight breeze that caressed the face.  Suddenly a sliver of light emerged in the sky and the month of Mercy began.  Without fanfare or pomp, the month of Ramadan entered into our lives once again bringing with it the promise of great tidings.  It is a month in which the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of God upon him, said “Its first ten days are a mercy, its second ten days are forgiveness and its third ten days freedom from the punishment of hellfire”.

With the ushering in of the crescent moon, the days of mercy begin wherein we slow down, unplug from the madness of the modern world, look within ourselves and find the shortcomings that need rectification and head down that path holding on to the Rope of God in constant remembrance with the hope of becoming better than we are.  Ten days for a settled heart, a calm mind, and a peaceful soul to find the solace they need to regenerate a beleaguered body back to its spiritual and physical center.

This month brings with it many blessings , too many to enumerate, too many to even know.  It is a classroom in ‘time’ that gives us the opportunity to focus on the improvement of ourselves, to strenghten the bonds of freinds and family and to reconnect with the community at large.  This opportunity comes but once a year and not taking full advantage of it, leaves one longing to see it again, with no certainty of ever making back.  Make use of this month to garner all that you can.  These first ten days, are for you to re-engage with your Lord.  So lets get to it.


Crescent Moon of Ramadan 1431

Ramadan 1, 1431

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After The Rain Wins Prestigious Honor

After The Rain was a photograph I made back in 2003 down in Southern California during the wildflower bloom on the Gorman Hills. It was the most extensive wildflower bloom on record there in Gorman. A similar bloom occured in 1992, but not as extensive. The hills run for about 7 miles along Gorman Post Road which parallels Hwy 5. For the entire lenght of Gorman Post Road and from the base of the hills to the top, it was socked in color like that seen in this image.

I decided to drive down from the San Francisco Bay Area on Easter weekend with the notion that on Easter no one would be out and about, as it was a family day and a religious holiday that would be observed. Well I was sorely wrong. However, my actual intention was not Gorman, but the John Gavrillis who had also photographed the extensive bloom at Gorman and had THIS photograph on display as 40″x50″ enlargement. It certainly was quite impressive to see. I asked when he had taken it and he told me Saturday, the day before I was there. I told him I had the same photo – you know how we photogrpahers like to hear that from other photographers – and he chuckled and said ahh huh! I invited him to my booth and pointed at my version and he said wow, that is better than mine. We walked back to his booth and I pointed out where in his composition you could see mine. We both had a good laugh.

After the Rain has been my number 1 runaway best selling image. To me the photo speaks to what gratitude is truly about. These hills are dry and yellow for most of the year. Even in winter and spring they sometimes don’t flush out with color as they depend heavily on ample rain. When it does come, they just burst out in color as if to say Thank You for the life giving rain and in their gratitude, they give off this amazing display of wlid flowers. It has brought some viewers to tears, for reasons they could not explain. It stops almost everyone who passes by my show booth. It is an amazing scene.

It has placed in many photographic competitions, however this award, even though it was only Runner-Up in the International Conservation Photography Awards is still its greatest accolade to date. The open invitational is put on by famed landscape photographer and convservationist Art Wolfe. The winners of this year’s competiontion will be on display from August 30th to October 12th, 2008 at the Museum of History and Industry located in McCurdy Park at 2700 24th Avenue East, Seattle, WA. If you are in the neighborhood stop by and take a look. Let me know what you think of the image in real life. I am sure it will knock your socks off.

Peace – Youssef

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