Your light shines brighter than the best


Pencils so pretty, it makes you want to eat them, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

My (3 or more) Beautiful Things posts always contain snippets from a single given day of the week, but, in this case, I haven’t written in a while, so the following is a compilation of things from the past couple of weeks:

one. While driving to work the other morning, I saw a car with a bumper sticker pasted to its back corner. The long, thin strip simply stated mournfully, MY LIFE IS IN RUINS. Seeing as how the driver was at the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee and in seemingly good health, I felt it was safe to smile. Something I thought of just now, while typing out this paragraph: Maybe he’s quite a dedicated archaeologist? (Where’s Ayan with his puns?)

two. Although it’s been two weeks, thinking about the email from my friend about a recent halaqa trip in which I couldn’t participate still makes me laugh. The subject line: WE NEED YOU! The email:

i was just thinking that we can’t do this trip without you.
who will take the photos of every little thing that everyone else will not think about taking a photo of???
yasmine!!!
who will remind us to eat everytime our stomachs growl but the rest of us are too embarrassed to admit that we are hungry… again…

It’s good to know that even though I’m infamous amongst friends for often forgetting to eat real meals, I’m also paradoxically infamous for my shameless love of food. Oh, and at least someone doesn’t make fun of me for taking photos of seemingly trivial objects (like the evening at the Berkeley Marina, when my friend’s sister said snidely, “That’s just a water faucet.” I felt like stabbing her with someone’s fishing pole. Okay, must concentrate on beautiful things…)

three. I saw a man at the San Ramon gas station who was completely absorbed in leaning against his drivers-side door and reading a book while gas was being pumped into his car. Oblivious to the rest of the world, he remained standing like that for minutes after the pump clicked to signal that his tank was full.

four. Two weeks ago, I walked up to a familiar-looking young man at an event and asked, “Did I meet you at a conference in Oakland?” We established that I had not. He emailed me a few days later, asking if we could meet, since he was curious about my work as well as about my everyday life as a Muslim. I suggested we meet one evening for coffee and talk; we agreed on a time and place. (And I was pleased when he appended his note with, I like the endings to your emails. “Have beautiful days” seems to ensure that there are more to come.)

“I’m going to a coffee meeting with a guy,” I told my work buddy, B.

She was puzzled. “You don’t even drink coffee.”

“Yeah, I know. But saying, ‘Let’s meet over hot chocolate or cranberry juice’ doesn’t have quite the same ring.”

The guy and I met up yesterday at the gorgeous San Jose Museum of Art downtown, and walked over to the Peet’s down the street, where it was quickly established that neither of us are really coffee fans. We laughed and shrugged and ordered frozen blended drinks anyway, then walked back to the outdoor patio tables at the Museum, where I tried to answer his questions about my work and Islam to the best of my ability. In return, he told me about growing up in Iowa (“I have a friend from Cedar Rapids!” I said), the three weeks he spent in Spain (someday, I, too, will visit), and the summer he traveled to Greece to meet his relatives for the first time.

Also, he mentioned the time he and his college wrestling teammates were in the Czech Republic for training, and ran into an Arab team from the UAE, also training for some sporting event. He invited them to dinner with his team, they accepted, and the evening was mostly filled with nods and laughter over good food, since there was only one translator and he couldn’t fulfill everyone’s verbal communication needs. My new friend shrugged, “We didn’t have internet access, so I couldn’t Google them to see what the UAE team was doing in this tiny little city in the Czech Republic.”

I laughed. “Well, if it was three years ago and you still haven’t gotten to it, then just consider it serendipity, and a rocking evening spent making connections with strangers, while eating. You can’t go wrong if there’s food involved.”

Flipping radio stations while driving home, I came across another form of serendipity: KQED Radio broadcasting the Spirituality and Social Change: An Interfaith Roundtable, inspired by the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that was held at Stanford University in January. [Audio, video, and transcript are available on the website linked above.] Imam Zaid Shakir clearly and articulately touched on so much of what I had been struggling to explain to my new friend all evening. I drove home captivated by each speaker’s thoughts on spirituality and social responsibility, compassion and human connection. I remembered telling my friend that in Islam, we are encouraged to think critically, to question, to seek and analyze answers as one way of deepening our own spiritual growth. During the course of the Aurora Forum roundtable, the Rev. Dr. Warnock said something (in reference to Dr. King) that resonated:

For me, critical reflection is an act of worship. It’s part of what it means to be a person of faith, and he’s a thinker, but he’s an engaged thinker. I do think the first act, in a real sense, is what the liberation theologians call praxis: you’re engaged in the world; you’re actually involved in the effort of trying to make a difference.

five. Over dinner, my father was grousing about his recent speeding ticket, which he received while driving with his colleague to the Friday congregational prayers. “I gave him a guilt trip,” said the daddy-o. “I told him, ‘I always drive too fast, but you heading out of work only five minutes before the sermon begins doesn’t help matters, either.’ ”

“Did he offer to pay for part of the ticket?” I asked with interest.

“No,” he said, surprised. “I didn’t even think of that.”

My friends would have been more considerate, and offered to pay half, I bet you,” I said smugly.

“Oh, yeah?” He raised his eyebrows. “Would you offer to pay, if you were with your friend?”

“If they were running late and speeding because of me?” I almost said, Hell yeah!, but swallowed those words and added instead, “Of course!”

The daddy-o laughed and raised his hand for a high-five. “See? That’s because I raised you well.”

28 thoughts on “Your light shines brighter than the best

  1. Love it, great post as usual! The pic is delicious!! i LOVE the colors, and the composition is awesome too. It’s great that you’re turning your 3BT into real posts. :)

  2. first thing that sprung to mind after reading your post: what colour do those crayons colour in?!

    second thing: i need an uncle like your dad :-)

  3. hahaha… i love your dad’s comment… right… all credit and glory and applause be to him :p
    but yes, he did raise a rockstar…

    dude. questions about religion end up boggling me no ends. and i mostly cant find the answers and i end up feeling totally miserable about myself

  4. you know me too well. Before even reading the comment you made about me, i was like, he is probably an Incan descendant or something. We call this Inca, and we call this, Incapable! (Moevie reference, for those who can get it, you get nothing).

  5. You spend much time introspecting and inspecting at gas stations. Maybe this whole sweep the sunshine thing is a facade, and you are actually an attendant? Sort of like waiterrant? That is actually a great idea, I think I am going to start a blog “pretending” like I am a fas station attendant, and write about all the wierdos who stop by and how they act. This might not make sense to non-new jerseyans; are we the only ones who don’t have self serve?

  6. NJ is the only state i’ve been to that doesn’t have self-serve. ayan, when are you coming to DC already?! i thought you’d have been here by now.

  7. Whats up? I like the new location. Its easier to remember. Anything new? How is work/life? I think you still owe me an e-mail from like a year ago. :-D

  8. Baji: not until August. Law schools not done until May remember? PLUS I am looking for a job in the NJ/NY area, dads been getting sicker, so I don’t want to stay here now (even though I did already accept the position in DC).

  9. Your Dad should start a blog of his own… I am sure he would give you a run for your money. Seriously.

    That UAE team… if it was a wrestling team – it was probably there to train hard, real hard; so that they could beat the Qataris, the Bahrainis, the Yemenis and the Saudis only to lose out to the Iranis in the finals. The Iranians quite likely would have beaten the Omanis, the Kuwaitis, the Jordanians and the Kazakhs in their round robin matches.

    If it was not the wrestling team, they were probably there to train hard, real hard; so that they cou….

  10. lol @ knicq! haha

    I always thought UAE locals to be crappy idiots who do no good except to ask for job percentage of their own in every company .. haha

    I hate it :(

  11. Lovely post :) I like that you take pictures of everything that catches your eye. It’s a blessing of curiousity. And your dad is great. Did you tell him about meeting a strange boy? hmmm. hehe

    Ya Haqq!

  12. critical reflection IS an act of worship -
    it honours my spirituality and my
    active part in our beautiful world -
    it allows me to make a difference and
    hold what is dear near – through experience…

    i can’t get past the name of your blog -
    i love it!

    the pencils – i am off to sketch in my joural now -

    coffee? hmmm – i adore chai – have my very own
    amazing recipe -

    road trips – love them

    food – duh

    great blog

    Have you read any Karen Armstrong?

    hugs:)

  13. As salaam alaikum.

    Just surfing through sister. I am a Canadian Muslim writer. Come by insha’Allah if you have some time to read.

    Ma’as salaama,

    nuh ibn

  14. Yasmine, I haven’t been here in a while…but when I do manage a quiet morning…your blog is part of the routine…just wanted to say, I absolutely, positively love your posts. :) MashaAllah.

  15. dude. questions about religion end up boggling me no ends. and i mostly cant find the answers and i end up feeling totally miserable about myself

    Hemlock,
    Dude, I’m like that all the time. Well, less miserable, maybe, and more flippant. Luckily, God puts up with my smartass tendencies. Also, I’m not at all articulate when it comes to talking about religion/faith/spirituality.

    You spend much time introspecting and inspecting at gas stations. Maybe this whole sweep the sunshine thing is a facade, and you are actually an attendant?

    Ayan,
    You’re on crack. Best comment EVER. And you’ve left lots of rocking ones. Also, I didn’t get the INCAPABLE movie reference. *sigh* Need to get out more. And, FINALLY, you’re getting a weblog? I don’t believe you. Also, wishing your dad good health, inshaAllah.

    And your dad is great. Did you tell him about meeting a strange boy? hmmm. hehe

    Irving,
    Wait ’til I tell you all about the random boy I ran into on the train. I told my dad that story, and he shook his head and asked, “Was he on drugs?” I guess my dad thinks the only guys who’d be interested in me would be crack addicts.

    Brown Sugar,
    Let’s do it! =) Miss you, now that we’ve run into each other again after all these years!

    Madlyne,
    That first part of your comment (about spirituality) read like poetry. Thank you. You can borrow the Three Beautiful Things idea anytime – it’s not even mine, I borrowed it from here. And I do ‘em anytime, regardless of what day it is, although I’ve seen some bloggers designate a specific day, i.e., Three Beautiful Things Thursday.

    Sorry for the hit-n-run comment response, you guys. Much love to every single rockstar one of you!

  16. Lovely post :) I like that you take pictures of everything that catches your eye. It’s a blessing of curiousity. And your dad is great. Did you tell him about meeting a strange boy? hmmm. hehe

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