The gravity of the battle means nothing to those at peace

Last night, my 20 year old son came home in a solemn mood.  One of his dear school friends had passed in an operating room from complications.  We spoke of death, funerals and post funeral customs and how  people of different cultures observe it.  Ssome celebrate it and others morn for months on end.  I recalled the most consoling A’zaa (wake) I had been to was one celebrating the life of the deceased.  Death is the only certainty and hard as it maybe one must accept Gods’ will and the universal truth.

Tonight, we arrived at Ali’s A’zaa to see dozens of his young friends walking in, filling the hallways, on their faces a look of shock and sadness. For many of it is the first time they experience the passing of a loved one.  I fought back the tears at the sight of his sweet sister telling my son “he’s inchaAllah where he belongs, in heaven, we should celebrate his life, thank you for coming to remember him”.

I didn’t expect Ali’s parents to be the ones consoling their visitors.  Dressed in their everyday clothes, they greeted us warmly.  They stood, with a warm smile receiving hugs, telling guests “Allah chose him in a blessed month, pray for him”.  The walls covered with Ali’s photos and a quote he loved;  the TV displayed photos of Ali smiling, living life with his friends and family.  A table of his favorite chocolates and drinks held a sign inviting visitors to eat his favorite candy.  His friends took turns going up to his room.. a sign leading to it said “Take a souvenir to remember Ali”. Ali’s family graciously gave everyone permission to breath a sigh of relief and reflect on Ali’s spirited life.

Ali’s parents have always been role models; both spiritual and calm with a lighthearted outlook on life.  Today, they taught us all what resolve and unwavering faith in Allah’s judgement means.  “Pray for him, and ask everyone to do the same” was his father said with a smile.

I ask you all to pray for Ali and for our sons and daughters in Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. May their souls rest in peace. May Allah continue to grant his family strength and mercy.

death - life - peace

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Giving beyond reason

Today felt heavy. I woke up at dawn, and prayed for the life of Amir Bedier. A man I had only heard of yesterday, when his brother and my friend Ahmed sent out this message: “Urgent please make dua for my brother Amir, who was just shot in the chest inside the Rabaa protest in Cairo.”

Moments after prayer, another message came through: “My brother Amir Bedier has returned to Our Lord. To Allah we belong and to Allah is the return. Amir was shot and killed by Egyptian police forces in Rabaa square today. We are proud of him and his courage to stand up for his beliefs and the rights of others. He was fasting and unarmed. He left behind a wife, two children, five brothers and his two parents and countless relatives and friends who loved him.”

A stream of condolences followed.

“إنا لله و إنا إليه راجعون”.. “we are for Allah and for Allah we shall return”. The only consoling words. We are all destined for death.

My thoughts were on his children and widow, and the heart wrenching pain they are feeling and will feel for years to come. I felt the emptiness and loneliness they will experience when the anger and sadness lifts and they realize he is gone forever. His seat at dinner is empty, he’s not there to take them to Friday prayer or school Parent conferences.  Seeing fathers supporting their children, hugging them, even reprimanding them becomes all they see around.  Thoughts of “what would he have done” become questions that can never be answered.

The events of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Palestine are tragic. They are creating generations of orphans who are left with an emptiness that can never be filled. Their childhoods are scarred.  Their psychology and emotional state is forever altered.  Their economic status will never be the same. For many, they are catapulted into poverty.

It is the way of the world, and there will be a tomorrow. A tomorrow with orphans places an added responsibility on the rest of society; on us.. me and you…

a responsibility  to give beyond reason,

to obsess about their rights and privileges,

to include their plans in our personal, family and community plans.

We must remember them when we are celebrating because they have non to celebrate with,

when we are traveling and they are unable to leave their camps or disadvantaged lives,

when put up our billboards forgetting the messages on it is only reminder of what’s beyond their reach,

when we embrace mother’s day and they are left to contemplate their missing loved ones.

I write this post as a declaration of what I am committed to, and a reminder to those who care to have a peaceful balanced world.  The emotional and economic deficit born in the lives of orphans is our collective responsibility.  Their security is the accountability of each and every one of us.

May Allah bless Amir Bedier and have mercy on his soul.  May Allah give us the courage to do what is unreasonable for his children.

#live2give

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If it makes you cry.. this one did!

A few years back I read this quote in the US National Newseum photography exhibit section:

“If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, that’s a good picture” Eddie Adams

Since then, I’ve been so conscious of the emotional value of photography.  Over the past year, like all Syrians I’ve been bombarded with horrific images of violence, pain, suffering, anger, violations of human dignity.  I avoid these images like the plague, because I firmly believe they leave a print of hatred in our minds and hearts.  They prevent us from seeing prospects of peace, hope and love.  I chose peace and chose to avoid seeing such images at all costs.

Today, I came across an image with a simple message on Facebook that had me crying for hours. My life felt empty. I feel humbled by the fact that I can do so little for this beautiful angel.  Mariam Al Fawal’s father has been in a Syrian prison for 5 months and 20 days.  Mariam is counting! Her message is a simple prayer for his safe return. Her father is a civilian who ran a children’s clothing factory. A father of four beautiful children, husband to an amazing woman and a man dedicated to serving the less fortunate.

Maher Al FawalThe only thing I can do for Maryam is spread her beautiful message of a simple, sweet wish.  Her and her father’s smiles are so peaceful and beautiful.  Please join me in praying for his safe return.

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The WAY 2 Gaza is?

The WAY 2 Gaza is PEACE. The people and children of Gaza are peaceful ..

We live it through our actions, we share Palestinian stories of peace, love, kindness, solidarity, humanity. Last week, I hiked in Kuwait with a group of Kuwaiti, Palestinian and British youth; they were training to climb Kilimanjaro. Their goal is to raise awareness for Mustaqbali, a youth development program in Gaza.

I was touched by stories I read about children in Mustaqbali (. I’ll be featuring their stories, lives and how they intersect with youth abroad. more about that later..

ImageThe WAY 2 Gaza

Throughout 2013, the Welfare Association Youth intend to build communication bridges between youth outside the Palestinian territories, and their brothers and sisters within. They will share stories of the children of the Mustaqbali Program (مستقبلي) and how the program had a positive impact on their lives.

“WAY2Gaza” is about peace, prosperity, love, humanity; a cultural, educational, victory.

what do you feel the WAY2Gaza is? complete the sentence..

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