The Start

He (saws) said to ‘Amr{ra},

Islām wipes away sins,

Hijrah wipes away sins,

And Hajj{mabrūr}wipes away sins.”

Could this be per-chance

An ode to joy. I’m not to

Sing, dance & prance

About. Justice is due.

So ‘Amr took the oath

And pledged his alliance,

He took it in delight

Tis’ witness ‘til our convergence.

A masterful piece,

A statement of divinity.

Curls the tongue, softens the heart

And renders the body immediately

Into raising the name

Of Allāh, Risālah penetrated the hearts

The companions fortified that aim

What’s more important than the start?

“Lā illāha il-Allāh.”

Glossary & Context:

Hijrah = to emigrate (for the sake of God in this context)

Hajj = Pilgrimage to Mecca

Mabrur = Accepted. The Accepted Hajj, therefore is one that is done with absolute sincerity and perfection.

Risalah = Prophethood

The Start that I refer to is a reference of the testimony of faith, it is the first pillar of faith. To repeat these words with firm belief makes one Muslim. This poem is essentially a story about a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (saws), his name was Amru ibn al ‘As. Below is a short narrative of his story.

Ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyah mentions in Kitab ar-Ruh:

Narrated Ibn Shumas Al-Mahri:

We went to ‘Amr bin Al-’As, and he was about to die. He wept for a long time and turned his face towards the wall.

His son said, “O father! Did the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, give you the tidings of this?”

He turned his face (towards the audience) and said:

“The best thing which we can count upon is the testimony that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Verily I have passed through three phases.

(The first one) on which I found myself an averse to no one else more than I was averse to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and there was no other desire stronger in me than that I should overpower him and kill him. Had I died in this state, I would have been definitely one of the denizens of Fire.

When Allah instilled the love of Islam in my heart, I came to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said, ‘Stretch out your right hand so that I may pledge allegiance to you.’ He stretched out his right hand, but I withdrew my hand. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘What has happened to you, O ‘Amr ?’

I replied ‘I intend to lay down some conditions.’

He asked, ‘What conditions do you intend to put forward?’

I said, ‘I should be granted pardon.’

He said, ‘Are you aware that Islam wipes out all the previous (misdeeds)? Verily, migration wipes out all the (previous) misdeeds. Verily, the pilgrimage wipes out all the (previous) misdeeds.’

And then no one was more dear to me than the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and none was more sublime in my eyes, than him. Never could I pluck courage to catch a full glimpse of his face due to its splendour. So if I am asked to describe his features, I cannot do that for I have not eyed him fully.

Had I died in this state I had every reason to hope that I would have been among the dwellers of Paradise. Then we were responsible for certain things (in the light of which) I am unable to know what is in store for me. When I die, let neither female mourner nor fire accompany me. When you bury me, fill my grave well with earth, then stand around it for the time within which a camel is slaughtered and its meat is distributed so that I may enjoy with your company and ascertain what answer I can give to the messengers (angels) of Allah.”

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

This poem doesn’t actually have a name. This was/is my first attempt at writing an Arabic poem, it was also the first time I had performed one of my poems to an audience. For those of you who cannot read Arabic, I can transliterate it if requested. It’s about matrimony and how it is akin to worship.  I tried to make it all rhyme and synchronise grammatically though there is one word which I think may not be altogether correct but I overlooked that: I think and hope it works. I’m sure someone will tell me if it doesn’t.

As a light-hearted side note, I looked to attach a picture here. They were all so corny that i decided against it!

There is also a translation (into English) that follows, it’s also a poem.

For context: A young beautiful lady and her dashing husband got married in California. The bride was/is my wife’s first cousin. This was one of two poems that I performed.

The portion of the poem in green is a verse of the Quran (Surah Ar-Rahman -The Beneficent ie.God)

قال الله في كتابه

إنّ الزواج من آياته

فَبِأَىِّ ءَالَآءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَان

و هذه العبادة تملحنا بالسعادة

ثمّ نبلّغ الهناء

                 بالكلمات الكريمة

فأذكروا الله بأسماءه

و سبّحوا بحمده

ثمّ ندعو لهما

              يا الوهاب

في هذه أيام العياد

نسألك أن توفقهما في الزواج

Allah says in the Quran,

From His signs are the endowment of woman & man,

So which of His signs will you deny?

This worship fills us with contentment,

Which we express in delightful sentiments,

So innumerate Allah’s names,

& Glorify His praise,

Then supplicate for the couple,

O you who provides perpetually,

In these days of festivity,

We ask you to grant them success in matrimony.

Bricking it.

Her Smile

There is always something special about someone dear to you, for me it’s my wife’s smile.

There’s not a single part,

Of those lips that part

That I don’t love

Of those Pearly Whites.

It warms her face,

Her cheeks embrace

Those coming signs

Of a glow, ignites.

A comfort in my heart,

From a radiant shine

Buried to mine:

Pleasure overcome:

An abundance, & then some!

Typified it is,

This warmth that exists,

With her breath that quivers;

And stutters & dithers

Arrives in earnest,

Burning this furnace,

That is my heart.

All from…

Those lips that part

Mercies

There’s nothing I can add that will explain what is meant other than for you to read. What I will add, purely for context, is that there is an Islamic thought that states that rain is a mercy from God.

Today I felt as though:

I walked my own line;

Towed my own line

In the confines

of my own mind

There wasn’t a thing that I’d find

To free this blinding vision

That has now risen

Like a thousand mercies

Precipitated.

Images of “The Scream” painted,

Depressing and tainting my thoughts,

I ought to refrain,

And though help was sought

I can’t explain that I’m caught

Between misery and fraught with pain.

I hate it.

Darkness falls on my road

No peaks, just troughs

That goad my soul

But I’m alone.

My path is dark,

Dim lit, the stark-

Stare into neverness

An oversight of bare,

Barren roads:

My despair.

There’s a filter on my lens

That emits a darkened glow,

Emptiness, nothingness

Surrounds me

Comes before me

And follows me:

My broken road.

The clouds are darkened

but the mercies don’t fall.

The Environment: Take a Deep Breath (Ad Nauseum)

Londoners love their city; it’s one of the great capitals of the world and is fast becoming a strong competitor to New York as the world’s most cosmopolitan city. Personally I think it has already surpassed the Big Apple insofar as London being the melting pot. Having had said that there are some serious downfalls, for one we aren’t that environmentally conscious; although we may think longer and harder than a pompous few who consider themselves unbound by Geneva conventions.

Vastly populated with a strength-in-depth of willing workers, the rush hour prompts an immense amount of smoke and litter. Despite admirable attempts to curb high-volume traffic in the business hub of the capital, it transpires that the poor air quality has simply shifted abundantly around the outskirts of zone one, a bit like a doughnut. That doesn’t mean it’s completely devoid of traffic and pollution, the local services just increase their efforts to clear litter in tourist traps and love piling havoc on drivers. Technically, here is where I should impress upon you guys with my abundant knowledge of transport policies, strategies and their consequences, but this is meant to be a light read. So feel free to remove that frown and begin to smile yet again, after all it takes fewer muscles to smile than frown.

Hold that frown while I get this out the way: A quick word about zone 1 just to ensure that you’re well-informed. London is made up of a few travel zones on the TfL Tube map, consider it something of a Monopoly board, the deeper you go into the centre the greater the significance, at least in terms of money, business and entertainment. Oxford Circus for example is a shopping haven for would be day trippers, Canary Wharf and Liverpool Street are Money central for the nouveau yuppies and with the ultra-cool chic Old Spitalfields market a stones throw away the hip-crowd can gallivant and drown their worries in a pint. There are other areas such as the tourist delights: Tower of London, Pall Mall and the Houses of Parliament all fall within prime location. Clubs, pubs, bars, theatres and grand cinemas with red carpets are stationed in Leicester Square. The list goes on.

High litter, escalating carbon emissions, anti-ozone gases and smoke all pollute the London sky and earth. The River Thames is a murky looking passage of water which is losing its greatness, it’s also filthy and putrid in parts. Sewage builds up around plants in the Docklands and the odour is especially repugnant near the old sugar factory. Let’s be frank, the air is horrid and you can see it in the sky in all its asphyxiating glory in the summer when it is mixed in with all the pollen. All in all, it’s a far cry from the Highlands, Cotswold or Lake District and the big surprise is that you manage to survive with every cycle of inhalation.

I recall looking out of my fifth floor classroom window some years ago when I was still at school, I was squinting hard searching for my house in the distance, five hundred yards north. That shouldn’t be difficult to find, but amongst all the cloud before it all I could see was no further than the end of the street, half the distance of my house. I scoured the skyline in hope to find the towering library (now a listed building I add proudly) on the High Road to no avail.

This was in the halcyon days of chisel and hammer, long before the internet. I felt devastated, as one would have felt equally proud when searching for their house on Google Earth and telling the person sitting beside you with an invisible, subconscious nudge, “that’s my house!” If that doesn’t work you’d sit there with a smug expression and exaggerate the craning of your neck towards the pleasantries before you. Now, you can rotate that neck but it will defeat the objective, the only purpose of this exercise is to achieve acknowledgement of the person sitting beside you. Finally, said person would realise what you’re doing and give you an accepting nod of approval, as only us men know how to do. I should add on this side point, another sub-point: This nod of the head is for anyone ranked from best friend to arch foe, full of manliness.

I digressed, my subsequent action after being so crestfallen was to begin a campaign against smog complete with total adolescent fervour. The campaign survived no longer than a day, in fact I don’t recall it ever going past a principle or a moral obligation in my head. The reason for this failed campaign of Al Gore type standards (I’m referring to his presidential campaign), was because I looked out the window again the following day and saw something new in the skyline, a church steeple decorating the view looking lovely and white. Being roughly a kilometre away it became the new benchmark. Still, I couldn’t see my house, thank goodness for Google Earth. (NB. There is a grey area as to how my campaign lasted for a fleeting moment and nothing longer, so for the sake of the record we’ll say I was obstructed by the establishment.)

Look, I understand that I have just told you about something that you are probably fully aware of, but that is not the issue here, this was merely a precursor to the rest of the story. In any case, this isn’t about the English capital because under the following circumstances, I would never have thought that London air was so damn fresh in my life!

You know that time when you feel that you’re becoming ill, the air seems thick and hardly penetrates your lungs. When your eyes are half shut as though hay fever is about to hit you full throttle? Well, every single day in Cairo is just like that. Step out into the street and take a full swig of air out here in the Egyptian capital and you feel an urge to run back home to fill up a canister of the London-stuff to breathe from. You’d be happy to lug the canister everywhere with a huge strain on your back, even though you may end up looking like a modern day Rocketman.

If somehow though, we can cope in London, they can definitely cope out here in Cairo. And it’s not because of the love of the city; most people prefer their villages that are a few hours travel from the Egyptian capital. They cope because the money is here; there is no specifically allocated business, tourist or entertainment area because the city wasn’t built to serve those specific purposes. What you will find instead are small pockets of industry all over Cairo in every district. Actually, that’s not altogether true; I lived in Madinat Nasr, a small residential city within new Cairo. You see, much like London, the original parameters of the city had to be extended to accommodate the incredible demand. There are many gated cities being built, usually for the modern class and upwards, Madinat Nasr was of that ilk nearly 30 years ago. Times have changed, whereas it used to be a small residential development in the sand in the 1980’s, it has now become a bustling town. Beyond that, the areas of interest for tourists usually attract workers and market traders. Of course all this excess travel and industry doesn’t help the immediate environment or the ozone layer but the more immediate survival is much more paramount than the impending doom.

Most Arab countries were predominantly desert, some have been transformed by irrigation. Cairo being a very populous place has expanded and the further it stretches the more noticeable the desert becomes. With the desert comes sand and with people comes other heathen things like sewage, disease, litter, etc. There aren’t too many cities in the world that can compete with this one in terms of residents so you can imagine the carnage. Public services just can’t cope with the huge numbers in terms of welfare and health both of which are significantly disproportionate. There is a lot of poverty in this city, groups of marauding children sniff glue to endure the other hardships they suffer and they resort to begging and theft to feed themselves.

The old cars maraud that the streets would embarrass the tarmac in most European countries except possibly Eastern Europe, because that’s where most of them are from. Amongst these overpriced antiquities, there are taxis which chug along like Alex Higgins at the peak of his less-sober days. Smoke visibly spews from the pipe in the rear if not any other exit it can find. If you were to sit inside a taxi, the petrol fumes and smoke would overpower you immediately with nausea, compounded only by the incessant smoking of the driver besides you. Opening the window is of little benefit because most of the other cars and vans are spitting smoke at you. Your only real remedy is to hold your breath and take a gulp of air every twenty seconds. It would help your cause a little more if there was something filtering the air, like a hanky. Alternatively you can settle to breathe through your shirt, the downside is that you’ll look like a total idiot. Keep in mind that this isn’t Far East Asia, masks are only used in surgery and not to filter polluted air in the street.

The cars themselves go through little mechanical repair and would quite easily fail European legistlatory checks, it’s a good thing they aren’t bound by them. Mechanics knock a spanner against the bonnet and that suffices a decent repair job. Petrol is ridiculously cheaper than several hundred miles North of Alexandria, but on a cost-of-living ratio it is still very high. Nevertheless, an un-economically run car can swig a few pints before needed a refill of this depleting fuel.

There are trolley bins tactically located around residential areas to encourage people to throw their unwanted items into it. They are nowhere near as effective or abundant as those in London but nevertheless they are there. However, the route to the bin itself it commonly populated with litter itself, why use the bin when you can help the littered path proliferate? In some other cases you may find littered points in random places along the street releasing unpleasant odours into your nose. Fortunately, the litter is cleaned almost every day or if not, un-fortunately it’s burned releasing smoke alongside noxious vapours into the air. The idea is that getting rid of the pungent odour is fine, even if you burn plastic, metal and whatever else lay in the vicinity.

Water is used excessively and then some people have the gall to say that there are serious water shortages in Cairo. Cars are cleaned almost every day, some aren’t even utilised yet sparklingly clean, even the Ladas and Yugos. Seriously, why would you clean a Yugo? It looks better dirty! It’s no wonder some people don’t mind body odour, because if you have a clean car you’ve already kept up with the Joneses, or Hussains or whatever. Of all the intoxicating things, an armpit in your face in a packed bus is the worst, especially when their vehicle has had more showers than the driver.

The skyline is pretty balanced, buildings don’t tend to go much higher than 10 storeys; I guess that’s the extent of the town planning. Cairo isn’t that much of an uneven place either, meaning that it isn’t very hilly. Looking across from a high vantage point on a sunny day will allow you to see only a limited distance, nowhere near as far as the local library from my old classroom window. Does that mean London is cleaner? Not necessarily, but I can really feel the difference and even see it when I blow my nose; the remnants of dusty Cairo on my tissue.

Overall, the green issue isn’t the most important because the majority of people suffer from poverty and cannot afford to address it. Those who can, I speculate, there is an aura of complacency amongst most of them and they are willing to follow bad habits. Another speculative suggestion is that people don’t really know the impact of waste or lack of environmental concern, what is required in that regard is education. Egyptians and resident foreigners alike contribute to poor air and low environmental standards and it doesn’t look likely to be fixed any time soon.

Maths: Percentages

Understanding Maths Series:

[Percent (%) = per  cent = in relation to (one) hundred]

The following are a series of calculations on how to reach (the sum of)

You should understand the relation of all figures in the equation. The MAIN VARIABLE will determine whether you use the multiply/divide by 0.xx% or 1.xx%. Generally, if the main variable is to increase, then we use 1.xx% but, if the main variable decreases then we should use 0.xx% . Therefore, identifying the main variable is imperative and find out whether we need to extract a larger or smaller figure from it.

Look out for this in the examples below:

  • How do I find a percentage of a number?

Q. What is 12% of  48?

The figure we are looking for is a smaller portion of 48, therefore 12% is represented as the decimal 0.12

x= ∑ 48 x 0.12

x= 5.76

In Q.1 the main variable is 48 . The extracted figure was smaller than the base, which is also the main variable. We multiplied it by .12

  • How do I find out the result of x percent increase?

Q. I have £48 and it increases by 12%

In this calculation, the base figure (48) increases by 12% which means that x = 112% of the base.

112% is represented here by the decimal 1.12  (it is merely 112 represented as a rational number ÷100)

x= ∑ 48 x 1.12

x= 53.76

In Q.2 the main variable was still 48, this time the figure was to INCREASE so we multiply it by 1.12

NB. the base is not increasing by 112% but is increasing only by 12%. To increase by 112% the calculation is more than 2 x base, the figure to multiply by would be 2.12

  • How do I find out the result of x percent decrease?

Q. I have £48 and it decreases by 12%

In this calculation, the base figure (48) decreases by 12% which means that x= 88% of the base.

88% is represented here by the decimal 0.88  (it is merely 88 represented as a rational number ÷100)

x= ∑ 48 x 0.88

x= 42.24

Alternatively, if we use the 0.12 (12%) we will arrive at the sum 5.76 which you can subtract from the base, like so:

48 x 0.12 = 5.76 (this is 12% of the base)

48 – 5.76 = 42.24 (if you subtract the 12% from the base you arrive at the sum)

In Q.3 main variable is 48 yet again. The extracted figure was smaller than the base, which is also the main variable. We multiplied it by .88

  • Percentages as a proportionate figure

Q. 48 is 12% of x, how do I find ‘x’?

The result is 12% of x so we convert 12% into it’s decimal format: 0.12

x (multiplied by) 0.12 = 48

:. (therefore) 48 ÷ 0.12 = x

x = 400

Q.4 the main variable is ‘x’. The formula is actually x (multiplied by) y% = z. The figure represented by ‘x‘ is larger than the base figure(48), therefore to find 12% of x we would use the sum: ‘x’ multiplied by 0.12 but that is not the question.

What we are doing is finding a smaller figure from x, the main variable.

We know 12% of is 48 so we divide 48 by 12% of it’s parent (x) using 0.12

‘x’ X 12% = 48 —-> ‘x’ X 0.12 = 48 —-> We now rearrange the formula:

x’ X 0.12 ÷ 0.12 = 48 ÷ 0.12 —-> x’ X 0.12 ÷ 0.12 = 48 ÷ 0.12 —->x’ = 48 ÷ 0.12

oh, alternatively! (48 ÷ 12) X 100 🙂 but that’s too easy!

  • Representative percentage increases

Q. I had £x and it increased by 12% to £48, what is x?

I’m trying to find out what I used to have, so this becomes the main figure.  The result is 112% of ‘x’

x (multiplied by) 1.12 = 48

:. 48 ÷ 1.12 = 42.86

Q.5 main variable = x. The formula is actually x (multiplied by) y% = z.

‘x’ increased in size therefore we use the figure: 1.12

x’ X 12% = 48 —-> ‘x’ X 1.12 = 48 —-> We now rearrange the formula:

x’ X 1.12 ÷ 1.12 = 48 ÷ 1.12 —-> x’ X 1.12 ÷ 1.12 = 48 ÷ 1.12 —->x’ = 48 ÷ 1.12

  • Representative percentage decreases

Q. I had £x and it decreased by 12% to £48, what is x?

I’m trying to find out what I used to have, so this (x) becomes the main figure.  The result decreased (by 12% which is equal to 88% value of ‘x‘) so x is obviously larger than 48.

We know that 48 is 88% (100 – 12) of ‘x’

x (multiplied by) 0.88 = 48

:. 48 ÷ 0.88 = 54.54 (r)

Q.6 the main variable is again x. This is because, like in question 4, the formula is actually x (multiplied by) y% = z. In this case we have x (multiplied by) 88% = 48 because we are trying to find 88% of ‘x‘ Once again, we are searching for a smaller figure of x

Here is another example:

I have $48 to spend on CD’s. The shop has a discount of 20% on selected items, what is the highest pre-discount priced item I can purchase?

:. the formula is:  x X y% = 48

If we multiply x by 1.2 it will = a mark the price upwards. This is not correct becausex’ is greater than 48.

If we multiply x by o.2 it will = a 20% reflection of the price not a 20% reduction. This is not correct.

:. we need to represent x with a 20% decrease in value, this is done by multiplying by 0.8 (See Q.3)

:. x X 0.8 = 48 —-> We now rearrange the formula:

x’ X 0.8 ÷ 0.8 = 48 ÷ 0.8 —-> x’ X 0.8 ÷ 0.8 = 48 ÷ 0.8 —-> x = 48 ÷ 0.8

x = 60

  • Percentage increase differences

This is very simple.

Q. I have 48 apples, yesterday I had 40, what is the % increase?

the difference between the two figures is 48-40 = 8

8 ÷ previous amount —-> 8 ÷ 40 = 20

the increase is 20%

  • Percentage decrease differences

Q. I have 48 apples, yesterday I had 60, what is the % increase?

the difference between the two figures is 48-60 = 12

12 ÷ previous amount —-> 8 ÷ 60 = 20

the decrease is 20%

Hope that all makes sense!

The Veterans

Too many of the sons of man

Have spent more than ever needed.

And to those who have spent so much,

I salute you.

I’m here because you aren’t.

Salutations to you:

Veterans of peace.