“Change the Voices in Your Head”

In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved

When I first reflected on Pink’s hit song “Perfect,” I talked about how it would be when we stand before The Perfect, our Precious Beloved to Whom we shall all return. As I have listened to the song again and again, this passage continues to strike a deep chord with me:

You’re so mean
When you talk
About yourself
You are wrong
Change the voices
In your head
Make them like you

“Change the voices/In your head/Make them like you/Instead.” Very powerful words, because – as we all know – those “voices in your head” can be particularly harsh and vicious. They can be much worse than the myriad of voices from without that relentlessly criticize us. Yet, why should we “change the voices” in our head that attack us so incessantly?

Because we have a God that loves us.

How can you listen to “the voices/In your head” when the Lord our God declares His love for you? How can you heed the voices who attack you incessantly when our Precious Beloved says that you are special? How can you believe “the voices in your head” when His Voice says, “I love you”?

Whatever “the voices in your head” say: “you’re too fat,” “you’re not good enough,” “you’re too ugly,” “you’re not smart enough,” “you’re pathetic”…it should never matter when The One tells you, “I love you.” And in that Love, we should all rejoice.

That should go even more when it comes to the other voices – those outside of your head – who don’t like you. Whatever those voices say, you should say: “Who cares! I have a God that loves me.” Who cares what the voices of all those other people say about you, because your God, your Lord, your Sustainer loves you. And in that Love, we should all rejoice.

Knowing and living the fact that we have a God – a truly awesome God – who loves us gives us tremendous strength, power, and dignity. We can always walk with our head up high – not in arrogance – but in the calming truth that the One On High loves us. The power of that love is palpable to all…which is possibly the reason that some may lash out with their voices in hatred. But that should never matter to us, because we know that God loves us.

“Change the voices/in your head/make them like you/instead.” It is exactly like Pink says in the next part of the song:

So complicated, look how big you’ll make it
Filled with so much hatred, such a tired game
It’s enough, I’ve done all I can think
I’ve chased down all my demons, see you do the same

It is truly, “such a tired game.” Stop hating yourself; stop listening to “the voices in your head” and “make them like you instead.” That is because you have a God – a truly awesome God – who loves you. And in that Love, we should all rejoice.


The Best “Dream Lover” We Could Ever Have

In the Name of Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved Lord

Many years ago, Mariah Carey sang about her “Dream Lover,” the man who will love her forever:

I need a lover to give me
The kind of love that will last always
I need somebody uplifting
To take me away babe…oh yeah yeah

I want a lover who knows me yeah
Who understands how I feel inside
Someone to comfort and hold me

Through the long lonely nights
Till the dawn
Why don’t you take me away

She asks her “Dream Lover” to:

…come rescue me
Take me up take me down
Take me anywhere you want to baby now
I need you so desperately
Won’t you please come around
‘Cause I wanna share forever with you baby

This “lover of her dreams” should not be like this:

I don’t want another pretender
To disillusion me one more time
Whispering words of forever
Playin with my mind

I need someone to hold on to
The kind of love that won’t fly away
I just want someone to belong to
Of my life
So come and take me away

She infers that such a person is rare and few and far in between. Yet, all of us have such a “Dream Lover.” All of us have a “lover to give [us]/The kind of love that will last always.” All of us have a “lover who knows [us]/Who understands how [we] free inside/Someone [who comforts and holds us]/Through the long, lonely nights/Till the dawn.”

This “lover” is not a lover in the romantic sense of the word. This “lover” is Someone Who, as the literal definition of the word says, simply loves us: the Precious Beloved Lord our God.

The Lord our God, our Beautiful Precious Beloved, loves us unendingly. He gave us life when we were dead. He gave us sight when we were blind. He gave us hearing when we were deaf. He gave us strength when we were weak.

Every time we bask in the warmth of the sun, we bask in the light of His love. Every time we take in the beautiful eyes of our spouses, we take in the beauty of His love. Every time we melt at the smiles of our children, we melt in the heat of God’s love.

Only the Lord our God knows us the best and understands how we feel at all times. Our Precious Beloved Lord is not a “pretender/To disillusion [us] one more time/Whispering words of forever/Playin with [our minds].” This lover’s love “won’t fly away” and will be there forever and ever. There is no comfort like that of the Precious Beloved, and we should seek that comfort as much as we can.

In every way you look, the Precious Beloved Lord is the best “Dream Lover” we could ever have.

Standing Before The Perfect

In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved Lord

Here is another example of another famous artist making a song with an incredibly inspiring message. When I listen to this song, “Perfect” by Pink, there are so many images that come into my head. I imagine myself saying these very same words to any one of my daughters:

You’re so mean
When you talk
About yourself
You are wrong
Change the voices
In your head
Make them like you
So complicated
Look how big you’ll make it
Filled with so much hatred
Such a tired game
It’s enough
I’ve done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons
See you do the same

And, in fact, I have actually said to my eldest daughter that I echo these lyrics:

Pretty, pretty please
Don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you’re less than
less than perfect
Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you’re nothing
You are perfect to me

Moreover, I had a similar conversation with my late daughter, who was disabled, when she asked me, “Baba, do you love me even though I can’t walk?” I looked at her and said, without any hesitation: “I love you because you can’t walk.” If she was still with us today, I imagine I would have said the above to her as well, and when I think about it, I can’t help but shed a tear for my baby.

Yet, there is another conversation of which this song reminds me. It is a conversation that I should have, one day, when I will stand alone before the Lord, the One, the King. When all is said and done; when I have lived my life to the best of my ability, and I am now resurrected before my Creator, there will be nothing I could say for all the sins that I will bring before Him. All I can do is present myself and confess my weakness before The Perfect:

Made a wrong turn
Once or twice
Dug my way out
Blood and fire
Bad decisions
That’s alright
Welcome to my silly life
Mistreated, misplaced, missunderstood
Miss, no way it’s all good
It didn’t slow me down
Always second guessing
Look, I’m still around

Yet, you know what? I am hopeful – nay, confident – that the response from The Perfect will be something like this:

Pretty, pretty please
Don’t you ever, ever feel
Like you’re less than
less than perfect
Pretty, pretty please
If you ever, ever feel
Like you’re nothing
You are perfect to me

That is the Beauty of the Lord our God. All He wants is for us try our best; to struggle and work to the best of our ability to stay true to His path. And after a lifetime of trying, working, struggling on that path, when we come back to Our Creator, as long as we are not arrogant before His Face, He will say to us that it is OK, that we are perfect to Him. I confident that He will say something like this, because that is how Beautiful the Lord our God is. That is how Lovely the Lord our God is. That is how Wonderful the Lord our God is.

We have such an Awesome God, and so let us praise Him for all times, for ever and ever. Amen.

Reach Out to “The Remedy”

In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved Lord

When I first listened to Muslim hip hop group Native Deen’s newest album, “The Remedy,” I thought that its title track was another song about how Islam is “the remedy” for our ills and problems. I didn’t have high expectations, despite my really liking the album thus far.

How wrong I was.

The song “The Remedy” follows the fantastic song

about which I will reflect at a later time. “My Faith, My Voice” exhorts Muslims to assert that, despite what others say about Islam, it is our voices that matter. And so maybe, I thought, the lyrics of the song “The Remedy” would be an answer to the dilemma of being vilified because of the actions of Muslim extremists.

I was shocked to learn that the entire song consists of the repitition of God’s name, the Islamic shahadah (“testimony of faith”), and selected names of God. And it was masterfully weaved with a fantastic beat and rhythm. I have listened to it mulitple, multiple times. It has even brought tears to my eyes, as it made me reach out to the Precious Beloved with my heart and soul. My kids love the song as well.

And when I think about it, Native Deen is absolutely right: the only “remedy” for our ills should be God, and He alone. It is the Lord our God who is the remedy of our problems. It is to the Lord our God that we should turn when we need help, in both good time and bad. We should always remember the Lord our God when things are going well, so that – God forbid – if things do not go well, the Lord will come to you before you think about coming to Him.

I also found the names of God that ND chose to be interesting and fitting for the theme of the song:

Al-Malik (The King)
Al-Awal (The First)
Al-Khaliq (The Creator)
Al-Akhir (The Last)
Al-Qabid (The One who Moderates)
Al-Khafid (The One who Humbles)
Ar-Razzaq (The Provider)
Al-Fattah (The One who opens his Mercy to Mankind)
Al-Ghaffar (The Forgiving)
Al-Qahhar (The Subduer)
Al-Mu’ahkir (The One who gives us time to repent for our sins)
Al-Musawwir (The One who molds great beauty)
Al-Muhaymin (The Guardian)
Al-Muqadim (The one who delays punishment)
Al-Hadi (The Guide)
As-Salaam (The Source of Peace)
Al-Baqi (The Everlasting One)
Al-Rahman (The Most Forgiving)
Al-Mani (The One who prevents harm to come to those who ask)
Al-Haleem (The Forbearing)
Al-Wasi (The All-Comprehending)
Al-Kareem (The Most Generous)

Our Lord is the “remedy,” because He is the First and the Last, and He is the Only Everlasting King of all Kings. Our Lord is “the remedy,” because He is our Creator, and so He knows how best to help us in times of need. Our Lord is “the remedy,” because He is the Provider for everything in this Universe and beyond. Our Lord is “the remedy,” because He is our Guardian, our Guide, and our Source of Peace.

Our Lord is the “remedy,” because He subdues and humbles those who wish to harm us, and He prevents harm from coming to us. Our Lord is “the remedy,” because if we fall, He is Most Generous in His Forbearance, Most Merciful towards our sins, and most Gracious in allowing us time to come back to Him in repentence.

Our Lord is “the remedy,” because He shaped us in the most beautiful of forms, and He shapes the beauty of this world for our benefit. Our Lord is “the remedy,” because He comprehends everything in this universe, and He can come to our aid at all times. It is only the Lord our God who is our remedy, and so it is very fitting that this song consists of the names of God.

I can’t help but listen to this song again, and again, and again. I imagine I will get tired of listening to it at some point: this usually happens with most songs to which I first listen to. Yet, whenever I go back to more “secular,” yet clean, songs on my iPod, my heart aches, and I immediately go back to ND’s newest album and listen to “The Remedy.” Perhaps this time, I will not tire of the song…ever.

“Live Like We’re Dying”

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

I must have missed the memo, because I reserved a tee time on early Sunday morning. But, apparently, the world is about to end on Saturday May 21, according to a group called Family Radio and a man called Harold Camping. Never mind that both Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them both) said that no one knows when the Last Day will come:

Prophet Muhammad: “The one being asked knows no more than the questioner.” (Bukhari)

Jesus Christ: “But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36)

Yet, that did not affect Camping, who took the money of many people to help pass the word by buying advertising space across the country. Yet, as I asked on my new blog on Beliefnet, “Common Word, Common Lord,” what should be our response? Thinking about this, it brings to my mind Kris Allen’s song “Live Like We’re Dying.”

The title of his song is one response to the “fact” that the Rapture will occur on Saturday: that we should “live like we are dying.” The first stanzas of his song outline well the current state of relations between many people:

Sometimes we fall down, can’t get back up
We’re hiding behind skin that’s too tough
How come we don’t say I love you enough
Till it’s to late, it’s not too late

Our hearts are hungry for a food that won’t come
And we could make a feast from these crumbs
And we’re all staring down the barrel of a gun
So if your life flashed before you,
What would you wish you would’ve done

He then outlines his solution to this state of affairs:

Yeah, we gotta start
Looking at the hands of the time we’ve been given
If this is all we got and we gotta start thinking
If every second counts on a clock that’s ticking
Gotta live like we’re dying

We only got 86,400 seconds in a day to
Turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell them that we love them
While we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we’re dying

He continues outlining why we must “live like we are dying”:

If your plane fell out of the skies
Who would you call with your last goodbye
Should be so careful who we let fall out our lives,
So when we long for absolution,
There’ll no one on the line, yeah

Then, he punctuates his view by stating a sad truth:

You never know a good thing till it’s gone
You never see a crash till it’s head on
Why do we think we’re right when we’re dead wrong
You never know a good thing till it’s gone

At first, I thought the the underlying basis of this song is negative: that there is nothing past this time on earth, so we should do everything we can to live in the now. But, when I reflected further, however, I feel that he is not saying this. Rather, he is saying that we should not put off until tomorrow what we can do today, especially when it comes to loving someone and telling them so. You get that inner motivation, that inner drive, to tell the person you love, “I love you very much,” but you say to yourself, “Later…I’m busy right now.”

Allen is saying, “No. Tell them now. Live like you’re dying.” Live like the Rapture is coming tomorrow, if you believe what Mr. Camping says.

This is along the very same line as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he said: ““If the Hour [Last Day] were to occur and you had a seed or small plant in your hand, and you are able to plant it before that, then plant it.” Even if you know the end is coming (like…tomorrow), you should still do as much good as you can, until the very last moment. The ultimate outcome doesn’t really matter. If the world does come to an end, that seedling you planted will never become a tree. But, at least you did your part: you planted it.

The same goes with our loved ones: yes, whether or not we say, “I love you,” the love we feel for them in our hearts is still there. Yet, it is still good to say it to them and, more importantly, act upon it every second of our lives. It is daily challenge, and so many times, we fail in this challenge. But, Kris Allen is reminding us in this song to continually re-kindle the commitment to truly love those whom we say we love and show it to them every single second of our lives, as if we are going to die tomorrow, even if it is quite probable that the end will not come tomorrow (sorry Mr. Camping…).

It is a wonderful gauntlet to throw down to us, and I am glad he did so in his song.

Always In Front of My Eyes

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

The insanely famous Egyptian singer Amr Diab sings so many wonderful songs, and among my favorites are his ballads. One in particular, “Osad Ainy,” or “In Front of My Eyes,” strikes a particular nerve in me. The lyrics are exceptionally beautiful, and the narrator speaks about his love, and how she is always on his mind and “in front of [his] eyes.” Whenever I hear this song, apart from the beauty of his voice and how he sings the powerful lyrics, I think about my Precious Beloved, and I pray: “Lord, please keep Yourself always in front of my eyes.”

The most powerful part of this song is the Chorus:

Once again, I am certain I will return
I am melting and full of yearning
And I would never sell you out,
No matter who is in front of my eyes.

And I can’t take the days [apart]
And words cannot describe my desire
And throughout my night and before I sleep
You are in front of my eyes.

Indeed, these are very powerful words, especially in light of a powerful love between two people. Yet, there should be an even more powerful bond between the Lord and His servant. That bond should be stronger than any other bond on this earth. For, it is the Lord that has given us life when we were dead; it is the Lord who has provided us with everything in this universe; it is the Lord Whose mercy will save us when we finally come back to Him. Truly, it is the Lord who should be “in front of our eyes” at all times, day or night.

The song’s narrator definitely speaks the truth when he says:

There will be a meeting between us,
Even if we are far apart.
It is certain that I will return,
Even if there are many nations between us.

The song’s narrator continues:

In a day, we shall return.
Between us is a promise.
And in your absence,
It is certain that hope is still alive.

No matter where we are going in this world; no matter where we travel, whether up or down, we are all moving back to the Lord. All of our destinations end up before the Face of the Precious Beloved. And so, why not make the inevitable meeting with our Creator that much more pleasant by following in His path as best we can?

And we can do that by keeping Him “in front of our eyes” as much as possible. Whenever we transact with another human being, whether it be our spouses, our co-workers, our children, our neighbors, we should always keep the Lord “in front of our eyes.” No matter if no one can see what we are doing, we cannot mistreat anyone if we can see the Lord “in front of our eyes.” It is the way we can police ourselves from doing wrong: by keeping in our mind the fact that the Lord is always with us.

It is what the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) meant when he said that excellence is “worshipping God as if you see Him.” When you do everything in your life as if God is watching you, it is hard to do anything wrong purposefully and wontonly. When our Lord is always “in front of our eyes,” then we are always on our best behavior. We treat our families well because, our Lord is “in front of our eyes” We treat our friends and neighbors well because, the Lord is “in front of our eyes.” We treat our co-workers, customers, patients, and clients well because, our Lord is “in front of our eyes.”

It is not easy, and Lord knows that I have fallen way short of His ideal every day of my life. Even though I try to keep the Lord “in front of my eyes,” I have made so many mistakes in my life. I struggle every single day to live up to this ideal. But that is the point: it is a struggle, a noble “jihad,” in fact. What’s more, this struggle to be as best a person one can be; this daily strive to keep the Lord “in front of my eyes,” is an essential aspect of the much-maligned and feared “Sharia.” This is not sedition, as some in our country would have you believe. Rather, it is helping make me a better man, a better father, a better husband, a better doctor, a better neighbor, and a better citizen.

Yet, here is where the “hope” that the song talks about comes in. As we travel this path, trying to keep the Lord “in front of our eyes,” there is always the hope of mercy. As I make those mistakes, I must always keep the hope of God’s mercy alive in my heart. In every single sermon I give, I try to always remind the faithful that, no matter what we have done on this earth, nothing is greater than the mercy of God. No sin is greater than God’s mercy. When we keep that in mind, then our lives will always be filled with hope and light and, hopefully, God’s soothing, caressing mercy.

The emotion in this song is very, very strong, and the English translation does not give the song justice. But, as I listen to this song and reflect, it is my hope and prayer that I can love the Lord as much as the song’s narrator loves the person to whom he is speaking. It is my hope and prayer that I can yearn for the soothing Face of my Lord each and every day that I am away from Him on this earth, each and every day I move ever more closely back to Him. It is my hope and prayer that, day and night, I can see the Precious Beloved “in front of my eyes” and before all that I do. And I know that, when I do look at Him, I will see nothing but Beauty, Love, Happiness, and Ecstasy.

It’s Never Too Late

In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

I always was intrigued and moved by this song by OneRepublic, “Apologize.” It always sounded nice to me, but I was not motivated to add it to my iPod until I saw it rendered into an acapella version on NBC. Almost right away, you can tell that the song Narrator has a lot of bitterness towards his love interest, who let him down:

I’m holding on your rope,
Got me ten feet off the ground
I’m hearin what you say but I just can’t make a sound
You tell me that you need me
Then you go and cut me down, but wait
You tell me that you’re sorry
Didn’t think I’d turn around, and say…

It’s too late to apologize, it’s too late
I said it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late

The bitterness of the Narrator continues:

I’d take another chance, take a fall
Take a shot for you
And I need you like a heart needs a beat
But it’s nothin new
I loved you with a fire red-
Now it’s turning blue, and you say…
“Sorry” like the angel heaven let me think was you
But I’m afraid…

It’s too late to apologize, it’s too late
I said it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late

Many times, people can hurt each other, and the apologies come too late. Sometimes, the person to whom the apology is directed, like the song Narrator, actually says, “Too little, too late.” You know what, many times we do apologize too late to the ones we love and may have hurt. That’s because, many times, it is very hard to apologize. It is very hard to swallow your ego and pride and admit that you were wrong and feel sorry for the hurt you have caused.

Why is this so?

Are we so arrogant that we cannot see when we do wrong ourselves? Partly, yes. Are we so arrogant that we cannot show humility to someone else? Partly, yes. Yet, it is also hard to face the fact that you have caused someone you care about very much emotional harm and pain. It is also difficult to remind yourself that you are not perfect, and that you do make mistakes.

For all that and more is involved by simply saying, “I’m sorry.” So, let us all commit ourselves to try to say “I’m sorry” sooner whenever we make a mistake and hurt the ones we love. That way, we won’t be told, “It’s too late to apologize, it’s too late…”

Yet, there is Someone to Whom it is never too late to apologize: our Precious Beloved Lord. I am always reminded of this fact when I listen to this song. It is never too late to say to the Lord, “I’m sorry.” The Lord is always there, waiting for us to come back to Him and re-enter his fold. For whenever we sin, we estrange ourselves from our Precious Beloved. We place a barrier between us and He. We fall as our father Adam (pbuh) fell all those years ago.

Yet, just as our father came back to his Lord, it is never too late to come back to Ours. He has given us so much, not the least of which is life when we were dead nothing. The Qur’an reminds us of this fact: “Has there not been a period of time when humanity was nothing to be mentioned at all?” (76:1) Indeed, there was probably a long period of time when we were nothing. Yet, the Lord our God gave us life. For this fact alone, we should be coming back to the Lord and apologizing to Him every single hour for our sins against Him.

All the same challenges with apologies apply here, as well. It may be difficult to show to admit that you were wrong. It may be difficult to swallow your pride and come back with humility to the Lord. Yet, it should not be. There is no more Beautiful Being to which to come back. The Lord will never say, “Too little, too late” as long as we come back to Him while we are alive in this world. The Lord will not chastise us for all that we did. He will not make us feel terrible for the wrongs we have committed. In fact, we can never delude ourselves by thinking that our sin is bigger than God’s mercy. Never. When we come to Him, He will simply open His arms to us and let us into His soothing mercy.

There is a Sacred Hadith, which is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in which he relays what God has said, that illustrates this perfectly:

“A man sinned greatly against himself, and when death came to him he charged his sons, saying: ‘When I have died, burn me, then crush me and scatter [my ashes] into the sea, for, by Allah, if my Lord takes possession of me, He will punish me in a manner in which He has punished no one [else].’ So they did that to him. Then He said to the earth: ‘Produce what you have taken – and there he was!’ And He said to him: ‘What induced you to do what you did?’ He said: ‘Being afraid of You, O my Lord (or he said: ‘Being frightened of You’),’ and because of that He forgave him.”

The hadith literature is full of stories like this, of the immense and truly immeasurable mercy of the Lord. It is out of His Love that He is like this. In fact, the Lord says in another hadith: “My Mercy prevails over my Wrath.” What a Beautiful and Awesome God we have. So why not come back to Him as many times as we can? Why not say “Sorry” as often as possible and receive the warmth and healing of His mercy? We will not regret it in the least.

Yes, human beings can be spiteful and cruel and unforgiving when we say “I’m sorry” to them. It may be that they are truly hurt, and it is hard for them to “forgive and forget” right then and there. But, that is not the case with the Lord. When we sin against Him, we do not harm the Lord one iota. We only harm ourselves by estranging ourselves from the Face of God. And when we come back to Him and say, “I’m so sorry, Lord,” He will forgive on the spot. He told us so. And as long as we live and breathe on God’s green earth, it is never too late.