riyada in arabic means "training" or "discipline". It was used by the arabs in relation to horse taming. Sufis refer to their discipline as "riyadat an-nafs": disciplining the soul / training the ego. Today, the word riyada has come to mean "sports". There is an Arabic proverb that says: "The purpose of sports (riyada) is not to win cups, but to discipline the soul". This blog is here to help me discipline my soul and train my body.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Work of Men

This is the work as I see it, the path...

The nafs can never be destroyed permantently, for it is what makes us human. It is impossible to exist without a nafs. It is, however, possible to control and discipline the nafs, for it is the beast that carries us as the Sufis say. Al-Ghazzali gives an example of the nafs as a horse, if we spend all our time looking after it and feeding it, we would never get anywhere. Instead we're supposed to give it just enough attention so that it can carry us were we want to go without hampering us.

I think this example is incomplete. The nafs starts out like an untamed horse. The purpose of the work is to tame it, hence the term riyadat an-nafs, for riyada was used by the arabs in refernce to horse taming. But once the nafs is obedient and under control, why keep it weak and pathetic? Instead, we must give it strength and power so that it can carry us faster to our destination, and jump on top of any obstacles we face. The matter is not that of 'having ego=bad", "no ego = good". It's a matter of being controlled by your nafs vs. controling your nafs. If you have tamed the horse, keep it well fed and powerful so that it may proudly carry you.

The Prophet and the Sahaba had their egos under control and completely subdued so that they were the very personification of humility. But they remained fearsome men who asserted themselves. Sayyidna Umar walked around with a whip and everyone was afraid of him.... That however did not mean that his ego was not subdued and that his heart was not one of the most tender hearts, for he used to cry much in the presence of the Prophet (pbuh).

There were two men, however, that no one ever dared go against, and Umar was not one of them... They were the great commander Khalid ibn al-Walid, and Sayyidna Ali ibn Abi Talib. But there was a huge difference between them: Khalid had a huge ego and did not act like a proper Muslim, for which reason the Prophet told him that he can never reach the level of one of his companions, even if he donated a mountain's worth of gold to charity. Umar also sought to remove him from command of the armies for the same reason. As for sayyidna Ali however, he did not have such a ego. But still, his nafs was great and elevated. The difference here is that Khalid ibn al-Walid, the greatest army commander in history, was not able to command his own ego. He was ruled by his nafs, so that he walked proudly on the earth. Sayyidna Ali, on the other hand, ruled over his ego and controlled it, but he still asserted his nafs and was proud of his individuality and his self. Thus was sayyidna Ali and most of the blessed sahaba, may God guide us to the path of the righteous.

Imagine the kafir warrior Marhab screaming at sayyidna Ali in verse:

Khaibar knows certainly that I am Marhab
A fully armed and well-tried valorous warrior
When war comes spreading its flames.

Now imagine sayyidna Ali's reply:


(Haidar is one of the arabic names for a lion).

THEY WERE MEN! That is the real work!

The problem is that most people have fallen into (complete) predestination. When the Mu'tazila philosophers argued that man created his own actions, the proto-sunnis worried that this would take from the power of God, the All-Powerful, so they shot back with an extreme opposite philosophy, in which God creates everything so that he was the primary cause of everything. According to their logic, God destroys the world every instant and brings it back slightly different. For example, a fire does not bring water to boil (for that would be taking the power from Allah who is supposed to be the sole Agent in the world). What really happens is that Allah destroys the world and brings it back into existence an instant later with the water being a little hotter, and then destroys it and brings it back a little hotter, and so on until it reaches boiling point. In the same way, God creates all our actions and gives them to us.. This is called the iktisaab of actions. Thus all action is really done by God, but we "earn it".

This extreme view (the Ashari doctrine), a reactionry philosophy created as a response to Mu'tazilism, has become official doctrine of the Ahlul Sunna, and by extension, Sufis. But it is all predestination, and it gives mankind absolutely no power whatsoever, reducing him to nothing but a shadow, or a puppet controlled by God.

This is not the work, this is not the path. This does not mean that Mu'tazilism is better than Asharism.

However, as Shams Tabrizi says, "The school of Sunnis is closer to the work than the school of the Mu'tazilites. The latter is near to philosophy". Thus the school of the Ashar'ites (for that is what Shams meant when he said the school of sunnis, as opposed to the rival Mu'tazilites) is still better than that of the Mu'tazila, but in many ways it is wrong.

"These great ones, they all fell into predestination - these gnostics. But the Path is something other than that. There is subtlety outside of predestination. God calls you "freely-choosing." Why do you call yourself predestined? He calls you "powerful" and He calls you "freely-choosing" because commandments and prohibitions, promises and threats, and sending messengers all demand free choice. There are a few verses on predestination, but not many."

- Shams Tabrizi [1].

Thus, the work is not that of predestination, for predestination takes all power out of our hands and leaves us weak and helpless. The work is other than that, for it requires WORK. It requires man to become a wali (sovereign, ruler) over his nafs, and his attributes, so that he may become a wali (a friend of God). He must be a powerful ruler. Not a helpless one who says that he has no power, like Abu Yazid when he said Glory be to me. That is predestination, because it means that by ridding oneself of his soul, all that remains is God's controlling of his servant, and so it is God who is speaking and saying "Glory be to me"!

"Glory be to me" is predestination. They all sank down in predestination." - Shams Tabrizi

"What is the meaning of walayat [sovereignty, sanctity]? Is it that someone should have armies and cities and fortresses? No! Rather, walayat is that someone should have walayat over his own soul, his own states, his own attributes, his own speech, and his own silence. Severity should be in the place of severity, and gentleness in the place of gentleness.

He must not start being a predestinarian like the gnostics: "I am helpless, and He is powerful." No, you must have power over all your own attributes, over silence in the place of silence, over response in the place of response, over severity in the place of severity, and over gentleness in the place of gentleness. Otherwise, a person's attributes will be his affliction and chastisement, because he does not rule over them. Rather, they rule over him."

- Shams Tabrizi [2]

This was exactly Allama Muhammad Iqbal's criticism of (most) sufis. Iqbal himself was very influenced by sufism, if not a sufi. His spiritual path began with a dream in which he saw Jalaluddin Rumi, and he considered Rumi to be his teacher. In his greatest work, Javed Nama, it is Rumi who takes him into the seven heavens and guides him in his miraj. But he criticized popular poets like Hafiz because of his insitence on the annihilation of the nafs and that brings weakness and helplessnes.

When asked about his idea of the nafs, Iqbal pointed to the Qur'an which said

“And do not become like the ones who forget Allah, for Allah makes them forget their own Nafs (soul). They are the ones who have wronged.” (Quran 59:19)

Iqbal’s individual khudi (nafs) runs contrary to the traditional theologian’s or devotional sufi’s view. Iqbal’s self is like a drop of water. Hallaj’s voice “I am the creative Truth”, in Iqbal’s eye, would not be a drop drowning in the limitless ocean; rather it would be a drop that remains outside the ocean and yet, claims to be a part of the ocean. Devotional Sufism encourages the drop to lose its individuality, but for Iqbal the ego or the Khudi of the individual drop is more sacred. It retains its independence with respect to the ocean, while confessing its atomistic essence to the be the same as that of the ocean. [3]

The nafs is too sacred to be destroyed. We must not lose our individuality and claim to be helpless. Instead, according to Iqbal, we must ASSERT our individuality and we must use our nafs as the animal with which we will do our work, travel the path, CHANGE THE WORLD. And Iqbal did change the world. Without him, there would be no country called Pakistan. It was due to his writings, his wisdom, his determination that this country was created, because he believe every individual had the POWER to change the world, that we were not helpless puppets on strings, controlled by God, "earning" our actions from the heavens. Iqbal travelled on the path and has many mystical experiences, including the dream in which he saw Rumi and a dream in which he saw sayyidna Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (r.a).

Instead of negating the self, like most Sufis, he believed in asserting one's sacred Selfhood, and believed that this Selfhood held unlimited potential.... Iqbal argues that the ultimate purpose for man is not to have one's ego absorbed by God and negated so that one loses his identity, but instead that man absorbs within his self as many of God's qualities as possible. That is the highest rank, the rank of God's Viceregency. We are to "capture" the attributes of the angels, of the prophets, of God Himself. In the words of Rumi:

Under the empyrean’s fortresses are men who can
Seize angels, capture prophets, and get God Himself [4]

Thus Iqbal calls to men:

"O man of courage! Cast thy net for God Himself." [4]

What is life but the revealing of Selfhood’s essence?
Assert thyself- thy essence has remained unknown.[4]

Get out of the whirlpool of Being and Not Being;
Transcend this world that gains and losses counts:
Build up the spirit of Selfhood in thy soul;
Build a Kaaba within thyself, like Abraham.

Sufism says "As our fate has been pre-determined in our absence, if it is not to your satisfaction, do not complain". Or, "If the world does not agree with you or suit you, you should agree with the world". But Iqbal, the mystic, says "If the world does not agree with you, arise against it!". "The world" means the destiny and life of human beings. The human being is a wave, not a static shoreline. His or her being and becoming is in motion. What do I mean? It is to be in motion. In the mysticism of Iqbal, which is neither Hindu mysticism nor religious fanaticism, but Quranic mysticism, the human being must change the world. Quranic Islam has substituted "heavenly fate" in which the human being is nothing, with "human fate" in which the human being plays an important role. This is the greatest revolutionary, as well as progressive and constructive principle which Islam has created by its world view, philosophy of life, and ethics. [5]

There is no "heavenly fate". There is "human fate", where the divine determination of the universe depends on the deeds of man. Like the Qur'an says, "Allah does not change a people until they change what is in themselves". In other words, "destiny is the wrong term for divine dispensation which is conditioned by the deeds, even by the will of the individual self. "[4]

And so Iqbal says,

Raise thy Selfhood so high, that before each dispensation,
God Himself may ask thee what thy wishes are.

Whether or not you agree with everything Iqbal says, he is right in his critique of predetermination as causing helplessness and weakness in the umma. We must believe and know that we have the power to change the world, not to ride the currents of destiny, as some might say. The problem with most gnostics, says Shams Tabrizi, is that "they all sank down in predestination."

But there is "a subtlety outside of predestination" as Shams says. We are powerful. We can change the world. We are not puppets, or shadows. We are real. Our selves are real. Our selves are sacred. We must assert ourselves, like sayyidna Ali when he shouted,


Like our Prophet, when the Muslim army was scattered at the battle of Hunayn and he roared out loud so that he would draw them back to his voice, in verse:

ana annabiyy, bilaa khadhib!
ana'bnu abdul muttalib!!

"I am the Prophet, no lie!
The son (i.e grandson) of Abdul Muttalib!!"

Like Shams Tabrizi when he said,

"What then do you know of me? I went into that thicket where lions wouldn't dare to go ... and awesomeness settled into me."

Assert yourselves oh Muslims, go into the thicket were lions wouldn't dare to go.. Become the lions of Islam like Hamza, become the lions of Allah like Ali... Tame your souls and then ride them to the heavens, and cast your nets... Perhaps you'll catch something big ;) That is the real work, the work of men.

"'When the dust settles you will see
if you're riding a horse or a jackass.'

Several times the dust has cleared, and I saw that I'm riding an Arabian stallion." - Shams Tabrizi [6]


1. Me & Rumi pg 86.
2. Ibid.
3. Highlights of Iqbal’s Thought (pdf)
4. Intro to Iqbal's Poetry
5. A Manifestation of Self-reconstruction and Reformation
6. Me & Rumi pg 129.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Silencer 3, Nafs 0

Yep, I'm finally back to prayer after having had to stop because of the hand thing and then not being able to come back to it for a while. Alhamdulillah, I'm back to it. Three nights so far, doing all my prayers together.. well except tonight since it's friday, I did the friday prayer in the mosque and then after it I made up for the fajr prayer. At night I just did isha, maghrib and asr. It's much better this way since you get at least two prayers in their right time and because doing all prayers at night is really long and tiring. So inshalla starting tomorrow, I'll start doing the same schema, and eventually move up to praying three times a day (morning, zuhr+asr, maghrib+isha). This is actually how many- maybe most- Shiites pray. The Qur'an only actually mentions three of the five prayer times and many Shiites combine zuhr+asr as well as maghrib+isha, praying three times a day. They also rely on certain ahadith that say the Prophet used to combine prayers thus in Medina when it rained or something, but of course such a hadith is actually proof that they're wrong because it presents the Prophet's doing so as an exception and not the norm. And of course, why would there be five prayers to be done at 3 times? That's completely illogical. If there were only three prayer times a day, there would only be three prayers a day, not five.

But anyway, for now my goal is to do that, until I get myself back to doing 5. Remember the rule: don't start something that you won't be able to finish because you'll give up soon. Always start gradually with things you can stick with until you feel you're ready to move up and you'll be able to stick with the next goal.

The point is: counterattack against the nafs is underway. (Images from "Battlestar: Galactica" are going through my head as I'm in the middle of season 2 and it kicks ass!) This is exactly what this blog is here for, to incourage me to stick to my duties and discipline myself. Starting this blog was such a good idea!

It's also here to help me improve my body... which brings us to:

Reason 54 to get BIG:

I was walking last night to the gym, but not to work out as it was a rest day. The gym is just down the street from my apartment and i got a craving for one of their shakes as they're far tastier than any shake I can do. Turns out however, that vanilla flavoured egg protien powder mixed with milk and strawberries, without sugar, is not that good. Should have stuck with the usual milk and bananas.

Anyway, on the way there, this tall muscular guy gets out of a car and heads into the park i'm passing by. He had no beard at all, but a super long moustache, like the ones you see in moustache competitions, and I think he was holding it together with a gel. It came out about 5 inches each side from his face. Now not many people can walk around sporting such a thing... you just can't get away with it. But he did. Why? Because of how huge he was. In fact, I was looking at hime in awe.

He instantly reminded me of the following picture and caption from an old T-nation article:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Scott Abel demonstrating how big you have to be to wear pants that ugly.

Hilarious. And it's true.. at one point you're so big you can get away with anything. In fact, you can make the weirdest stupidest things cool. Like the moustache guy... He actually looked cool in it. And back when I was studying in Canada, I practiced the Systema martial art for a short while (had to stop cause of some knee problems), and there was this HUUUUGE russian guy who once came in wearing all red. Yes, red. And he turned red into such a manly color. He actually looked scarier in red than any other color.

Of course being 5'7 I'll never be big enough to get away with anything, no matter how big I get. You need to be tall too. But i'll get big enough to get away with some things, haha (inshalla).

I'll leave you with a useful tip: After finishing every prayer, the Prophet (pbuh) used to ask God's forgiveness three times (say astaghfirullah three times) and then say:

"Allahumma antassalaamu wa minkassalaamu, tabaarakta ya dhal jalaali wal ikraam": Oh Allah, You are Peace, and from You comes (all) Peace, Blessed are You Oh Majestic and Honorable One.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In Herod's Keep

I'm back in Egypt. Forgot my training shoes back in Amman, and I can't use the shoes I wear the rest of the time cause they're... not normal. Anyway, spent too long today in the Adidas and Nike shops across from my apt, without finding anything good enough. I need something that is mostly flat, wide, and firm, so I can use it for weightlifing (especially important for squats and deadlifts). But at the same time something I can run around and train kung fu with. Found out online that "Samba" by Adidas are perfect, but sadly the Adidas guy tells me they havent been sold in Egypt for three years. Apparently they're "old". The new version is called "Chile" but they have cleets. Guess I'll keep looking. Maybe I'll find some good Nike crosstrainers tomorrow. I shudder at the thought of having to go to the City Stars mall. For that reason I missed my workout today. God willing, I'll find something tomorrow so I dont keep missing workouts.

Also, my hands, which are waaaay too sensitive, are dry once more from too much washing. If i dont start really limiting washing my hands now they'll get dry and chappped and then i really gotta limit any contact with water. the problem is: wudu. This is a problem i often face and what ends up happening is that I usually dont limit washing my hands early enough until my hands are screwed up and then I can't pray anymore because I can't have contact with water more than once or twice a day. I thought about tayammum but dunno where I can get some nice clean sand. The park across my apt is a big dog livingground so it's out of the question. I need me some clean desert sand in a bucket... too bad they dont sell those. So what happens time and time again? I stop praying until my hands are ok again, and by then I havent prayed in a while and its hard for me to get back into it for another week or two of laziness, sometimes more. I can't keep doing this. So what I will do inshalla, starting tonight, is do all my prayers at night so I only have to do wudu once a day, so that way I do all my prayers every day even though they are late, and I never get out of "the groove" of prayer and have no excuse to leave it.
I thought about that in previous times but shaytan got the better of me. No more. Inshalla tomorrow i'll proudly be able to say: did all my prayers tonight and did not succumb to my excuses and satan's whisperings.

So what does all this have to do with the title, "In Herod's Keep"? Nothing. There's a very cool website called http://www.omphaloskepsis.com/ (don't ask me to pronounce that). They have completely free sufi books online, in their entirety.. great translations. I definitly recommend everyone download the following, and read some sections every now and again:

- Attar, Farid al-Din. Muslim Saints and Mystics (aka Remembrance of the Saints), the most famous collection of stories about the earliest sufis.

- Rumi: Fihi ma Fihi (aka Discourses of Rumi)

- Rumi: The Mathnawi (Abridged)

- Sa'di: The Orchard

- Sa'di: The Rosegarden (translation 1 is much better than 2)

The ones i read most are the Sa'di ones. They're short and sweet. Remembrance of the Saints is also great (but don't beleive all of it, its mostly hagriography). I've also read some of Rumi's Discourses, some of which are amazing.

Anyway, there was another one I downloaded but I had never read:

"The End of Reason" by Dawud Shawni. I read its description yesterday and realized how cool that book should be. So today I opened it to see what it's like, and the last thing I know, i'm sitting on the computer for hours reading it, until I finished the first 54 pages (ok so maybe it didnt take that long)!

The book is divided into three parts:

- In Herod's Keep (the one i read so far). In it, Herod is talking to the imprisoned Prophet Yahya (John the Baptist), peace be upon him, and asking him about God. Herod is an athiest and wants the Prophet to convince him of the existence of God. It's quite good (like I said, i read all 54 pages of it in one sitting.. it's really easy and fun cause it's all sufi stories and lessons, so it flows by real fast like a river). By the way, the remains of Herod's Keep (well, the remains of the castle) where the Prophet Yahya was decapitated are in a beautiful location in Jordan. Inshalla I will visit that place next time I go there (summer break).

- The Madness of God: A conversation between the monk Bahira and Iblis. 'The question that the characters return to repeatedly is, if God is all-powerful and if nothing occurs without “His explicit command,” how are men to blamed for their faults? As Iblis declares in his own defense, “Hath not the Potter power enough over the pot?” If so, Iblis reasons, then the horrors and injustices of the world are God's fault. If not, then God cannot be all-powerful.'

Part of this section was stolen and published before Shawni had finished writing the whole thing, and many critics attacked him, accusing him of being the devil's advocate. His reply to his critics (<---- read the letter) is what really convinced me to read the whole book "The End of Reason". Can't wait to get to this part next.

Anyway, read the description to find out about the whole thing and the third part. But basically that's what I've read today, aside from more chapters from Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources on the plane. I'm taking it slowly.

For PC users, I would never read these large pdfs on the computer because Adobe acrobat is so slow, and i dont like the way it shows the books. That's why I love using Preview on my Mac. It's much more elegant and beautiful and fast for reading books in pdf format.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bellies and Green Coconuts

Well, it seems that even in Amman i can't stick to the "ideal" i posted about last time. Although the last time i came to Amman for a bit over a month I was able to stick with such a plan, this time i didn't. At many times I'd be too full from my meals to have a protein shake 3 hours later. Then, i found to my relief, that my "ideal" plan was not ideal at all. A new article was posted on T-Nation by nutrition expert Dave Barr, called "21st Century Eating". What he argues is that "eat every three hours" rule is too simple and may be hindering the results of athletes..."We need to update the idea of meal timing", he says, "in order to truly optimize our fat loss and muscle growth."

So how do I apply it to my goals? Well, first of all I have to figure out what my goals are, and I'm facing somewhat of a dilemma. My number one priority is power and strength, as well as size. I want most of all to become really strong and lift big weights when it comes to squats, deadlifts and maybe bench press (the "big three" powerlifting lifts). But I also want to be big. I'm progressing well enough with both these goals, but the side effect I didnt want is a bigger belly: it's getting bigger and now I can only fit into three of my pants. So, I want to lose fat in my belly, but I'm worried about my strength and muscle size.

And here is when I ask myself, "what would jesus do?"- err, i mean, "what were the sahaba like?" They were warriors, powerful men. Some of them were big and scary like Umar (r.a.) Did they worry about how they looked or how big their bellies were? Well, no they wouldn't have, but at the same time they would not have big bellies because they lived ascetic lifestyles and ate very little. It is said that Ali (r.a) had a big belly, but i'm not sure how that's possible with his ascetic lifestyle... unless it was all that stress-induced cortisol! Anyway, they were powerful despite eating little because they were warriors. In fact, they usually ate no more than one proper meal a day, while snacking on some dates or milk the rest of the day. It is even related that the Prophet (pbuh) once saw Aisha (r.a.) eating a second large meal in one day and said, "Do you do nothing but eat all day?"

I have to diverge from the way of the sahaba in this instance and have to eat a lot in order to have power and strength, because I'm not living in the desert, walking long distances every day, moving from place to place, riding horses, and fighting battles. But what about the belly? Even though the sahaba wouldn't probably have cared about having bellies out of concern for looking good (and I have to admit I do care about getting rid of the belly for aesthetic reasons as well), they lived such lives that they would not have to worry about it. And I think, being the warriors-ascetics that they were, they probably would have frowned upon bellies. I think that a Muslim should not have a big belly. The prophet (pbuh) once saw a man with a big belly and told him, "That which you fed this belly of yours would have done you more good in the belly of a poor person"[1]. He also predicted that fatness will appear among the later generations of Muslims[2]. Ånd so, I think I have the justification and proper reasons to lose my belly: it is not befitting of Muslims to have big bellies. Bellies also give the impression of laziness and stuff. (YEAH, STUFF! THE RIGHT WORD DIDN'T COME TO MIND!) So, hopefully I'll start attempting to burn some fat soon, hopefully without compromising strength or shape. But if I feel my strength diminishing I'm gonna stop because for now I feel it is more important to be physically fit and powerful like the sahaba were.

Back to Dave Barr and what he said about updating the "eat every three hours" rule if your goal is fat loss:

Well, if you're eating for fat loss, and your last meal was a large slow digesting meal that is still releasing nutrients into your system 3 hours later, adding a liquid meal would blunt your fat loss by "adding more nutrients to an already fed system — even if [your] solid meal had been smaller."

If we're bulking we likely need to eat more frequently than every three hours, but what about if we're trying to lose fat while maintaining muscle? Well, in this case we can eat even less frequently than every 3 hours to optimize fat loss. Again, it all comes back to how the nutrients are being delivered from our gut, and not when we're eating.

Remember the big meal Mike had, the one with the salad and steak? Well, if he were cutting, this meal isn't all that bad because it ensures that he's fed for many hours to come. What is a bad idea...is that he felt the need to ingest something three hours later. This latter meal would be completely unnecessary because he had already met the specific nutrient requirements and was still being fed by the food in his gut.

After all, Mike was still protein-fed and his blood sugar and insulin levels were being managed, so why consume more food?

Also, young coconuts can finally be found in Jordan now! Why is that exciting to me? Well first of all, coconuts are a great source of MCTs which are fats that are very beneficial for building muscle and losing fat, and their water has amino acids and lots of other good stuff... But that's not the real reason I'm excited.

The water in young coconuts, which are usually still green, is a plasma substitute that was used in WWII. It was injected into soldiers as a plasma substitute when they ran out of real plasma. According to the argument, by drinking that water everyday, one is increasing their blood volume, or plasma level. By doing that, you get much better pumps when working out and you get much more nutrients to your muscle, because blood is what carries nutrients into the muscle. (full argument here, wildly exaggerated of course). Now I know when you inject it into your blood then it works, you will get more blood volume and all the rest. But when you injest it? I'm not sure if it still does that. But then again, while drinking that young coconut's water today, our Sri Lankan maid* said to me,

-you know, this water is really good for you because it's like saline
- what's saline?
- the stuff that gets injected into your blood when you lose blood
- yeah i know that, but how did you know that?
- our doctors in sri lanka told us this, and they said that whenever we get really tired, we should open a baby coconut and drink its water and it restores your strength.

And so, today I had my first young coconut drink! There's two more such green coconuts in the fridge, waiting for me to drink their water tomorrow and the day after. Now if only I could find them in Egypt, I'd have them every day!

1. Reported by Tabarani. The Path of Muhammad pg 301.
2. "The best generation is my generation, followed by the one after them then the one after them. Then will come a people who bear witness but are not asked to bear witness, who swear oaths but do not fulfill them and fatness will appear among them." (reported by Bukhari and Muslim)

*Most middle-class and upper-class households in Jordan have maids, mostly from Sri Lanka

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Working out in Amman

Bism Allah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim.

i'll probably give a good introduction to this blog later. But now I thought about just mentioning my typical day in Jordan because this is to me the ideal plan, which I sadly cannot follow when living in Egypt. This of course is just a breakdown of the nutrition and exercise part of the day. Hanging out with friends and visiting relatives take place at night and between the things i mention, respectively.

Morning: (Somewhere between 8-9 a.m):
Breakfast consisting of large plate of labaneh*, zaatar**, tomotoes, olive oil, and eaten with toasted brown bread. There was no zaatar this morning so instead I had cheese mana'eesh*** for breakfast. This is the only part that is not as good as what I do in Egypt. I'll discuss my daily breakfast in some other post.

12: One scoop egg white protein powder (Egg Pro by Universal Nutrition). Today was the first time I try egg protein powder. I used to love eggs as a kid and then one day for some reason or another I stopped eating them and haven't eaten them in more than 10 years. I just dont like them. Hopefully now that I'm taking egg protein powder I'll eventually start eating eggs again. But then again, when I see the whole thing in front of me, with the yolk, I remember that eggs are a chicken's period... and then I don't feel like eating them anymore. (Well that's my theory of what eggs are at any rate).

2 or 3 p.m: Lunch

usually a traditional Middle Eastern stew with rice, minus any type of flesh. I'm kinda vegetarian. Well, I can't exactly call myself vegetarian when I eat fish, but I'd like to think I am. I mean, some people eat fish and call themselves vegetarian. Today for example, I had molokhia****. Other days I might have okra or something.

5 or 6 p.m: Another scoop of egg protein powder with milk.

7 or 8 p.m: I go workout at the gym. Today's workout was intense! But the gym was way too crowded for some reason. I guess that's a good thing, I'm glad to see so many Jordanians working out. One man was so huge, and looked just like a character from one of those Playstation fighting games. Don't remember which game or which character. Just a HUUUUGE russian character. Looked just like him. There was a good looking girl in tight black clothes (and too much skin showing on her back between the top and the pants), working out right next to me. Seeing her there, looking at me while working out, made me push really really hard. Harder than I've pushed myself in a while. I guess eye zina does have its benefits. That's no excuse tho:
They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is a great sin, and some benefit for men, but the sin of them is greater than their benefit." (Q 2:219) . But really, I tried my best not to have my eyesight fall on her. Except a couple glances at the beginning. And then maybe another two later. Damn my eyes!! And to think just this morning I read the following story:


I happened to be walking down one of the lanes of our town behind Husayn ibn Mansur (says Musa of Bayda), when the shadow of some person standing on a roof fell across him. Lifting his head to see who it was, he found himself gazing at a very beautiful woman.

He turned sharp round. You shall see, he said to me, though you may wait long to see it, that the wrong my eyes have done will come home to roost someday.

On the day, long after, when he was gibbeted, I was there in the crowd, weeping; and he noticed me from the scaffold. Musa, he said, the man who raised his head to the thing you saw, the man who raised himself to what was forbidden him, has to be raised above the heads of the crowd now, even as you see. And he pointed to the gibbet.

- Schroeder, Eric. Muhammad's People. Pg 523


After the workout, I have a whey protein shake with milk and bananas in the gym. Then I go home and have me two large plates of greek salad. Well, almost greek salad. Let's see, it had:

lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, green bell peppers, onions, fennel, and lots and lots of corn. Mmmmm, corn. And for the greek touch, fetta cheese, but sometimes it's ricotta cheese instead.

That, for me, is the ideal plan for eating. But sadly, the way I eat in Egypt is way off, and this will only last a week. This is also considered a "detoxing week". Simply because I'm not in Egypt. Don't get me started about the pollution and the horrible horrible state of their produce. How amazing it is to once again eat fruits and vegetables that actually have a smell, and look fresh and have nice bright colors.

Also before heading to the airport from Egypt I decided to get a book to read on the plane, and I FINALLY picked up Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources from my shelf. Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj ad-Din (for that's Martin Lings' Muslim name), is an AMAAAAAZING writer. The way he writes, it's as if he lived with the Prophet and knew him intimately. So that's what I'm reading for now.

* Labaneh, aka Labneh: a Middle Eastern 'yoghurt cheese', that has a consistency between that of yoghurt and that of cheese. Recipe here.
** Zaatar: A mixture of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds.
*** Mana'eesh / Manakeesh: traditional Middle Eastern baked bread, usually topped by either cheese or zaatar.
**** an Middle Eastern food, originally from Egypt and the Sudan that used to be referred to sometimes as Egyptian Spinach. But now for some reason, it has been given the name "Jew's Mallow".

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


...i'm going to Beirut, Lebanon tomorrow morning (Friday the 14th), until Monday the 17th when I will go to Amman, Jordan inshalla for 7 or 8 days... (Spring Break). Then I gotta get back to Cairo to resume my studies. (I can get more personal now that I'm not crusading anymore).

Anyway, it's tough to get things in order when travelling so inshalla i'll get things going once i'm back here.