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.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Admitting Defeat

Since I workout and I have goals of increasing muscle mass, losing fat, gaining strength, etc, the topic of nutrition has been one that I always end up reading about. After all, many of the world's most famous trainers believe(d) nutrition to be 80-90% of bodybuilding. But I never wanted to worry about it. I saw all those athletes counting calories, macronutrient ratios, etc, and I said to myself: "I never want to be like that". I just wanted to eat and train hard. Make up for the bad diet by training hard. I knew many people who trained hard and just ate normally and made good gains, and I read articles about prison inmates who make great gains even with very bad nutrition. But of course there is the matter of different people having different genetics, and being in different circumstances, etc.

Well, one year into the training and I've realized how much my gains have slowed down lately and had to admit defeat. I had been stalling and pretending everything was ok for the last 3 or 4 months, but I finally had to admit that I was wrong. I need to calculate my meals and create a meal plan, or my gains will come to a halt. I hated the idea, but I had to admit it, because if i kept lying to myself that it was unnecessary and that I could make great gains with only a fraction of what those other athletes are eating, then I will never get anywhere.

Well, I browsed through some of T-Nation's diet program articles, and I found the program that made a lot of sense to me. First, It was made by Christian Thibaudeau, who at one point was fat and has a body predisposed to gaining fat easily. Since I am also an FFB (former fat boy), I thought Christian's diets would be better suited for me than those of other experts like John Berardi for example, who was a skinny boy and had to eat massive amounts of food to bulk up (although this is not entirely fair because both of them have trained all types of athletes and know what to do for each person) . I also found that it agreed with some of my own ideas about eating: eating differently on training days than non-training days.

The program is called The Carb Cycling Codex, and it basically goes like this for a program like mine where there are three training days a week: two training days of high(er) carbs, one training day and one resting day of medium carbs, and three days of low(er) carbs. The quantities of protein and fat remain constant. But also on training days, most of the carbs are eaten post-workout, whereas in non-training days the carbs are eaten early in the day and non at night. It's still a bit more complex than that, and i spent a little over two hours calculating the protein, carb, and fat percentage of every meal of the week. 6 meals a day, 7 days a week (obviously), and the meals differ in protein, carb, and fat ratios, depending on time of day, type of day (training or non-training), and type of carb day (high, medium, low).

Well, after looking at the numbers and then looking at the macronutrient info of the foods i eat, i realized this was completely impossible. As long as I dont eat meat, there is no way I can even come close to satisfying the protein and fat percentages. Ok I could satisfy the protein requirements by spending hundreds of dollars on protein powder, but that's too expensive for me, bad for the health, and i still would not come near to satisfying 95% of the fat requirements!

(This is where my ego tries to convince me to start eating meat again. to make muscle gains. I did have a dream about this two days ago, where I went back to eating meat. It might be a signal from my body, but most likely not. Just a jumbled dream, and I will ignore it.)

So what I'm gonna do is get full milk instead of skimmed, to get more fat into me. I will also try to have 4-6 tablespoons of shredded coconut a day for extra fat, and also 9 grams of fish oil a day. And i'm gonna consider the numbers that i calculated as rough (very very very rough) and distant guidelines. If i do my very best, I might get one fourth the protein, one third the carbs, and less than one seventh of the fat required of me on this ideal diet. This is if i try my best. This tells you that my current diet is so poor, so horrible, that it's amazing I haven't imploded and created a mini-black hole.

Speaking of nutrition, I was listening yesterday to an interview on Super Human Radio (you can find it in the archives) with Randy Roach, who is writing an almost 800-page book about the history of bodybuilding nutrition and related topics. It all started with an article he was asked to write, as a bodybuilding historian, about the history of nutrition for bodybuilders, and he decided to expand it into a book, where he found it necessary to go into lots of details about all kinds of related topics. The book will be called Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors.

The article I had read a long time ago, it's called "Splendid Specimens:
The History of Nutrition in Bodybuilding"
, and it's a great read because it tells you about the golden age of bodybuilding, and even more importantly the age before that, the age of the Physical Culture movement where health was the top priority. These guys were concerned with health more than anything else, and so they designed their bodybuilding and their nutrition to give them maximum health and great physiques, whereas today's bodybuilders might sacrifice their health for the sake of extreme ugly muscle. Many of these guys back then were vegetarian, while others advocated less meat and more raw foods. Even those who advocated lots of meat would also advocate periods of time in which no meat was eaten so that the body would re-alkalize. Inshalla when the book comes out next year i'll read it and hopefully gain better insights into designing a good bodybuilding vegetarian diet, oldschool style. For now, I definitly recommend reading the article for any one interested in nutrition for the athlete, but the interview is not very informative.

that's it for now. Wassalam.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Inner Beauty

There's something about the khimar (usually given the wrong name "hijaab"). Whenever I see women wearing it, I find myself really attracted to them. I feel it makes them more beautiful. When I see other beautiful women who don't wear a khimaar, I find myself attracted to their physical body (I must admit I dont have the "lowering the gaze" thing mastered yet). You know, I see them, and I go "wow, she's beautiful". But I'm looking at her body. And then (hopefully), I lower my gaze and dont look back, (inshalla). But when a girl is wearing a khimar, I never ever find myself looking at her body. Even if she's dressed in jeans (sometimes even tight jeans) like any other girl. The fact that she has a khimaar on, it just makes me forget her body completely and I just look at the face. It's amazing how it does that.

And it does make them look more beautiful. For example, there was this girl called Layla. Oh man, she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She had that amazing smile, and the most amazing eyes... I kept thinking about her, dreaming about her. What I loved about her was her personality, and the look in her eyes, and her smile. They made me feel that she was a truly beautiful person. That is what I loved about her. She almost drove me crazy, and I ended up listening to a sufi song about the love of Layla repeatedly (for Sufi men, Layla is a symbol of the beloved that makes her lover crazy, so that he forgets everything else but her, so really Layla is a symbol of God).

And then I saw her identical twin. Identical physically, except that the sister did not wear a khimar or cover her hair. And that's when I realized, she doesn't really look beautiful at all. She's ok, she looks acceptable. But nothing special or even above-average, nothing I would give a second glance to. And then I looked back at Layla, and I realized she looked the same. But still, I found Layla to be so beautiful, so amazing. Even though she looked exactly like her sister! And then I realized how much more beautiful the khimar made her appear. It made her inner beauty come out- her beautiful personality reflected in her eyes and her smile. I still wished I could marry her, even though I realized she wouldn't look as beautiful when she took the khimar off, but it doesnt matter because I had seen her inner beauty.

There's a lot of other girls like this. When I look at them, I find them beautiful. Then I try to imagine them without the khimar, and I realize they are, at best, average. But it doesnt matter anymore, because I have seen how beautiful they can be in the khimar, and it doesnt matter anymore what they "really" look like without it.

Maybe it's just me, I dont know.

Well now Layla is no more, I dont know where she is or how she is. But there is this other girl, Imaan. Oh man, do I find her beautiful. But then one time I really looked at her face, and I realized she's not that pretty. It was the khimar again. And today, she came in a slender black 'abaaya, covering her whole body except for the hands and face, and with beautiful embroidery on the back of the head. And it was my favourite type of abaya for a girl, the one with a white or colored fabric coming out like this:

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(except hers was red instead of white).

Man, I've really begun to love these abayas on women. Whenever I see a girl wearing one, I suddenly feel this extra respect and admiration for her. I've noticed especially many girls wearing this that seem to carry themselves with a lot of dignity and pride... One girl I saw wearing this, she simply exudes power and confidence... The way she walks and carries herself, I am left in awe.

So when I saw Imaan in this abaya, I found her even more beautiful than in the khimar! I dunno, I think they just bring out one's inner beauty or something, and they also make me feel more admiration or respect or something. I'm still not quite sure what it is. All I know is they seem so much more beautiful, so more like better people somehow.

One thing I realized while writing this post is I should definitly cut back on looking at girls! (Even though it's their inner beauty that gets to me, that itself is also a temptation of sorts).

Another thing that happened today:

There is is this poor man who shines shoes in the street, and I pass by him a lot. He looks so sweet, so kind, so good, and he always greats me with a smile and an "assalamu alaykum". Sometimes I give him change if I have any, and he practically begs me to shine my shoes in return. He wants to earn the money, and more so he wants to pay me back for whatever little amount I give him. I try telling him that my training shoes are not something you'd shine, but he insists he could clean them at least. He once asked for help because his mother was in the hospital, and I didnt have anything to to give him, so this time I asked about his mother, and he told me how she has heart problems and showed me the doctor's prescription for medicine. He also showed me her address and asked me to come visit her. I decided to give him something to make up for last time, and he stood up to thank me, and man, can you tell how beautiful he is on the inside. He is just... such a good person. I'm just happy everytime I see him, because of the amount of goodness that I see in him.

I dont know why, but he showed me pictures of his daughters too, which he kept in his wallet. He told me how he works shining shoes to support his family and how it is not enough to pay for his mother.

So now I bid him farewell and I pray for his mother's health, and then he says, "wait, I just want to tell you one thing". So he said, "Are you American or British?" (I dont look Arab at all, I'm always mistaken for an American, an Englishman, or a Russian). Anyway, I told him I come from Jordan.

"Are you Muslim?", he asked.
- al hamdu li-Llah.
- al hamdu li-Llah!.

"Let me just tell you one thing", he continued. "Always keep God before everything else. Keep God always on your mind. Forget this world, and forget everything that is in it. Don't pay attention to how beautiful it is, because its beauty will not last. Only God lasts. So always remember God, and always act for God, and don't be tempted by this world. The only thing that matters in this world is God, and loving others. If you like me, for example, then that is a beautiful thing, because that is what the world is about. But if you hate me, for example, then that is a horrible thing, because that is not what the world is for."

So I thanked him for the great advice, and I asked him to pray for me- I was going to say, "Pray that I do well in all my studies"... but I'm glad I didn't, I just said, "Pray for me"... He prayed for something far better, that I may become the best Muslim. I hope I become a fraction of the good Muslim that I perceive him to be. I swear I could almost see goodness coming out of him.

A beautiful person, he is. May I become more like him, inshalla.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Current Training and Diet

Well, last time I went to jordan for 10 days, I lost around 3.5 kg. I had changed my diet by incorporating some things from the Fit 4 Life system. I would wake up and drink hot water and lemon. Half an hour later I'd eat a delicious plate of fruits, and then I'd eat more fruits whenever (if ever) i get hungry again. At 12, I'd drink carrot juice, and then lunch at 1:30 or so. I'd also have my least meal (usually a protein shake with bananas and milk) at 8 or so.

Here in Egypt, It's kinda similar:

Upon waking up, I'd have watermelons or another fruit.

Thirty minutes or so later, I'd have Hemp Protein Powder with either water or fruit juice. That reminds me, I gotta get more fruit juice. The Hemp powder doesn't taste as "delicious" or "nutty" as advertised on the cover, nor does it make me "want to eat it straight out of the bottle". WHY WOULD THEY LIE TO ME? WHY?! There's only 15 servings in the bottle and they're almost finished, so I dont know what im gonna replace it with.

At 12 I'd have a small shake made out of milk, bananas, and dates.

Then at around 3:30 I'd have lunch, which is white beans basically. I'm trying to eat the same dish every single day. Let's see how long I can last. That's what ascetics used to do and i'm trying to get myself used to it, even though i'm not exactly living an ascetic life. But it's good to learn to eat the same food everyday. Plus it's the most beneficial lunch for me as a vegetarian. I stuff myself with as much white beans as possible, and I dont have rice with it.

Then if it's a gym day I sip a post-workout drink (half protein, half carbs) pre and mid-workout (post-workout drinks are actually more effective during and right before a workout). If it's not a gym day I dont have anything. I'm doing Chad Waterbury's Total Body Training, 3 days a week.

Then after I get back home, I either have another smaller serving of the post-workout drink (if it's a gym day), or I have a shake made out of protein powder, milk, bananas, and flax seeds. I only have flax seeds in my shakes on the non-workout days because the fats slow down the protein absorption and when having a shake around a workout the point is to have the fastest absorption possible. I also add a serving of Greens+ to these shakes to help balance the out the acidity of the protein, and simply because it's good for you.

Unlike the Fit 4 Life and what I did in Amman, here in Egypt I might still have my shake at 9 or later, but I dont have anything later than that. That's it, I dont eat much. Sometimes I'd have a small salad or something at night. I should be eating more but i'm having a hard time doing so. As for today, I'm gonna save my shake till late at night, because I'm gonna go to Tabbouleh at 7:30 or so, the best damn Lebanese restaurant in the whole damn world!

Check out this picture from BBC online today:

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"A bodybuilder pumps iron during a power blackout at a gym in Baghdad. The sport is a popular one in the war-torn city." BBC

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Why the Caged Bird Sings

Egyptian prisons are a horrible thing, more horrible than you can ever imagine. And I don't mean the normal prisons for criminals, I mean the prisons for suspected terrorists or members of political opposition parties, or any group that threatens the dictatorship of Mubarak. I heard a man describe these places once.. He was claims he became one of the leaders of a large underground Christian movement in Egypt. Mubarak doesn't like religious movements, whether Christian or Muslim. He doesn't like Muslim groups because they threaten his position in power, and he doesn't like Christian movements because they upset the peace and the status quo. So what are such prisons like? In them, every international law is violated, and torture is an art. The Egyptian authorities are so worried about any part of their system being exposed that even the jailers and policemen and torturers in these prisons never use names. They all have numbers by which they call themselves. That way, it is impossible for any prisoner to identify anyone involved. The prisoner described how he was put naked in a room, and had two vicious dogs unleashed on him (until he was saved by a miracle of Jesus). That was what he said, but it was on a Christian televangelist show in Canada, and I dont know how much of the story to trust.

Anyway, today I was in tahreer square, and 6 large trucks full of prisoners passed by. From these trucks, we heard the sound of hundreds of prisoners, all chanting in unison. It was unclear what they were saying, because at the front and the back of the trucks were police cars whose only purpose was to sound their sirens, in order to drown the voices of the prisoners. It was clear that the sirens had no other purpose. There police cars where not attempting to get ahead of other cars, nor did they want anyone to move out of the way. And I could see from the policemen in the cars and the expressions on their faces.. The sirens were at full blast for one reason only: to drown the chants of the prisoners.

I don't know what the prisoners were chanting, all in unison, from six different trucks. All I could hear was "...rasool Allah" ("...the Messenger of Allah"), and later, after many inaudible chants, "we are the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen": We are the Muslim Brothers (The Muslim Brotherhood).

Were they freshly picked up from a protest? A raid? Or where they being moved from one prison to another? No body knows, and I think that no body will ever know. Hundreds of such people are lost in the inner dungeons in Egypt, never to be heard of again. It felt for me like this was their only chance to say anything, to be heard.. the only chance for people to know that they even exist. Being moved from one pit of darkness into another, no one might ever hear from them again. They might just dissapear. I felt like that might be their one last trip in the sunlight, the only time other people might hear what they have to say, might know of their existence. And so they chanted, and they shouted as loud as they can... they chanted in unison, trying to get some message across, trying to raise their voices above the sounds of the police sirens. But ultimately, their voices were drowned. I could hear nothing of what they were trying to say, except that they were of the Muslim Brotherhood. As for their fate, and why they were imprisoned, I doubt anyone got to hear it, and I doubt anyone ever will. Maybe they've been plunged back into the deep dark abyss, into living non-existence.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


(Read my first post on the subject first)

Daily arms shipments are arriving in Somalia in violation of a United Nations arms embargo, a senior UN official has told the BBC. ...

...the UN refugee agency has warned that unless a peaceful solution could be found, Somalia's humanitarian problems would "increase tremendously", AFP news agency reported. ...

[Bruno Schiemsky, co-ordinator of the UN Monitoring Group] describes a growing build-up of arms inside Somalia with deliveries coming in by air and by sea on a daily basis. ...

Somalia is struggling to emerge from 15 years of anarchy and violence which have seen it with no functioning government since the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991. ("UN Fears New Conflict in Somalia")

Last week, UN monitors released a report to the Security Council saying that they were investigating an unnamed country's violation of an arms embargo through clandestine support for a local warlord group.

It is widely believed among officials of Somalia's interim government and U.S Africa policy analysts that this country is the United States. ("Is the U.S. Government Fueling Civil War in Somalia?")

On Saturday, the Islamists complained that Ethiopian troops had crossed into Somalia - a claim denied by Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has supported the transitional president, and is determined not to see an Islamic state founded in Somalia.

Independent sources are now also saying that about 500 Ethiopian troops are indeed inside Somalia - just east of Baidoa.

With both sides re-arming, and credible reports of foreign troops inside the country, the situation in Somalia looks increasingly grim, the BBC's Martin Plaut says. ("UN Fears New Conflict in Somalia")

America has been equipping the warlords with weapons. These are the very same warlords who have been accommodated in Yusuf’s government as part of a power sharing agreement. These warlords include those who hold the portfolios of security, trade, religion, disarmament and reconstruction. Furthermore the US has also subverted any attempt to interrupt the supply of weapons to both sides. A United Nations report called for a tighter arms embargo on Somalia but this was rejected by the Security Council. The report stated that an unnamed country had been flouting the weapons ban to help local groups fight the Islamic militants. It said that Ethiopia was supplying weapons to Mr Yusuf’s interim government, while Eritrea was arming the Islamists

The American plan is to fragment the country into regions and then encourage the energy laden areas to cede and fall in line with US interests. This bears strong resemblance to America’s plan to divide Sudan. ("The Great Game in Somalia")

Saturday, June 17, 2006

May God Protect Somalia from the Terrorists

For the last 15 years, Somalia has had no effective government. Warlords fought for control of land and power, leaving the country devastated. There was no law, there was only choas, and war, and death. And for the thousands of Somalis dying of starvation, there was little hope of international aid. Why? A representative of a Muslim aid organization that tries to help the Somalis spoke about this on al-Jazeera: trucks carrying food have to pass through tens of checkpoints all throughout Somalia on their way to the lands suffering from starvation, each checkpoint controlled by a different tribe or warlord. At any checkpoint they might be killed or the food taken. It was hopeless. Most aid organizations simply left the food in the main cities and did not dare to take it where it is actually needed, in the lands of the warlords.

Well, now there is hope. For the first time in 15 years, peace and stability and rising. The warlords have been defeated by the Union of Islamic Courts, and things are finally looking up for the country. If they consolidate control over all of Somalia, aid organizations will find it much easier to save the people who are starving.

The Union of Islamic Courts has also imposed Sharia in the capital city of Mogadishu, brining back order and justice to the lands that have been lawless for 15 years.

Residents in the nearby area have reported a drop in robberies, murder and general lawlessness since the court began its work, Radio HornAfrik said. [1]

"The Islamic courts say they want to promote Islamic law rather than clan allegiance, which has divided Somalis over the past 15 years." They have become "the most popular political force in the country". [2].

The residents of Mogadishu are "pleased" to enjoy law and order, in contrast to parts of Somalia still not controlled by the Courts, where crime is rampant. Even those residents who do not want an Islamic goverment are more in favor of having a single group or authority in control, to end the lawlessnes. "And most will prefer Islamic preachers to the warlords who have repeatedly fought over and in many cases systematically looted the city since 1991." [2].

Now the Courts have moved out of Mogadishu to other parts of Somalia and are taking control of one city after another. Their leader, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, is what the west would consider a "moderate" Muslim. [2].

So what's the problem? America has been backing the warlords and does not want to see an Islamic goverment in Somalia. They are endangering the lives of thousands of Somalis and extending the wars and chaos by supporting these warlords.

"The US is behind the latest violence through its financial and military support of warlords and its interference in the country's internal affairs." - Somali Health Minister Abdel Aziz Sheikh Yussef [3]

What's their excuse? They don't want Al-Qaida terrorists to find refuge in Somalia!

Al-Qaida.... In somalia....



They are holding an international meeting to discuss the situation (American gov't basically chose the countries that it likes and asked them to "discuss" the issue with it). They have not invited any Arab countries to the discussion, and the Arab League is unhappy about being excluded. [4]

On June 16th, thousands of protesters have come out for the second day against US plans to meddle with the country's affairs or talks about sending international troops to take control of the country.

The protesters held placards with slogans such as "open your eyes and ears America, Sharia law is the only solution" (for maintaining law and order).... [5]

I think the following is the best way to view the situation:

Editor of the BBC Somali service Yusuf Garaad Omar says the fact that a single entity controls the capital is a huge opportunity to bring peace to Somalia.

"The Islamic courts and the transitional government need each other," he says. "One is the legal government, the other is a popular force in control of the capital."

But he warns that it is only a step forward on a long road towards the end of war.

He says the Islamic courts are likely to become whatever others want them to be.

If treated with respect - as partners - they could turn into the group which delivers the capital to the government and so end years of conflict.

But if they are viewed as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, that too, could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
[6] (emphasis mine)


...[Roland Marchal, a Horn of Africa expert from France’s CNRS institute, who recently returned from a trip to Somalia,] said it was essential for the international community to open up channels of communication with the moderate elements in the Islamic courts as soon as possible.

“To cry that this is an al-Qaeda plot will only radicalise the population. We are busy creating an enemy that didn’t exist two months ago.” [7]

So America... keep treating the Union of Islamic Courts as terrorists and extremists, and they will become just what you are accusing them of being. But treat them with respect and allow them their space, and they will most likely work side by side with the transitional goverment to bringing peace to Somalia. After all, they can easily kick out the transitional goverment from their seat of (supposed) power [6], but they dont seem to want to do that. When there is peace, and when people are content, there are no terrorists.

O God, don't let the American gov't screw this up. Don't let them return Somalia to choas and war and suffering and starvation. O God, keep their greedy paws off Somalia. (Yes, this is about resources like Uranium, natural gas, and most importantly: tons and tons of Oil. Read "The Great Game in Somalia") And protect them, O God, from the kind of terrorism that the Iraqi people are suffering at their hands. Amen.

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Oil-rich Arab countries: You know that poem, "First they came for..."? By the time they're through raping Palestine and Iraq, then Iran, Syria, and Somalia, they'll be coming for you. Who will help you then?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Gyms and Terrorists

Well, I'm back in Egypt, and enjoying the World Cup. You know, studies have shown that when the team you're rooting for wins, your testosterone increases, and when they lose it decreases. Well, watching Iran lose 3-1 to Mexico just shut down my test production. But damnit i'm proud of them, they played just as good, and were more dangerous, than the 4th best team in the world (according to FIFA's latest rankings)! But after the second goal by Mexico, caused by a mistake, the Iranians lost it and another goal followed. Oh well.

The teams i'm rooting for are (in that order):

1) Tunisia
2) Iran

Then, after they both lose (gotta be realistic here),

I'm rooting for Sweden. I like their style. Maybe even Japan or Holland but first I gotta see them play cause I only watch soccer during the World Cup and the Euro Cup, and gotta make sure I still like them this time around. My fave team is actually Denmark (for more emotional reasons connected with my childhood and the '92 Euro Cup), but they didnt make it to the World Cup this time. FIFA did recently rank them as number 11 in the world though.

Anyway, was just reading this article... It suggests that Islamic terrorists could be created not in mosques, but in gyms. So seeing as how my devotion to fitness is a big theme in this blog, I thought I should discuss it.

According to the author, the terrorists of 9/11, the Madrid Bombings, and the London Bombings came from different backgrounds and had slightly different ideologies. Yet one thing that they had in common was their "immersion in gym culture."

Three of the London bombers, it seems were fitness fanatics. One of them set up two gyms, and met the second person in command in the gym. A third member was more interested in jujitsu than in going to mosques. In fact, one of the gyms set up by the leader of the London Bombers was known my local Muslims as "The al-Qaeda gym." Even other suspected terrorist cells in London share this enthusiasm for sports, their members being interested in "Camping, canoeing, white-water rafting, paintballing and other outward bound type activities..."

As for one chief suspect of the Madrid bombings, the person who supplied the cellphones that were used to detonate the bombs, he was "a gym loving man" whose friends were shocked to hear he could have any part in the bombings because his main concerns in life were the "gym or the discotèchque." The ringleader of the Madrid bombings seemed to also work out in the gym, where he discussed politics with the other guy.

As for the 9/11 terrorists, the three pilots were very devoted to exercising and keeping fit, and worked out very seriously in the gym. The rest of the 9/11 terrorists apparently went to the gym to become stronger so that they can overpower the airline staff, but barely lifted any weights in the gym and just went there to talk.

Is there something about today's preening and narcissistic gym culture that either nurtures terrorists or massages their self-delusions and desires?

But looking at all this leads me to disagree with the author on his assessment of most the terrorists.

First, the guys who were mentioned last, the 9/11 hijckers, don't count. They truly didnt care about fitness and just went there to talk. They were supposed to work out in order to get stronger so that they could take control of the planes, but they "never push[ed] any weights". We also have the person who supplied cell phone to the Madrid bombers. I'm not sure if that makes him a terrorist really, and he certainly wasnt a Muslim extremist, because he was mainly concerned with going to the disco. Maybe he worked out so that he'd look good in the disco, who knows? The ring leader did work out though, even though it seems that Islam for him was nothing more than a "comfort blanket" (according to the reports and studies done on the terrorists).

So that leaves us with the pilots of 9/11 and the London bombers. Atta seems to have been obsessed with bodily appearance, according to the article. Now the author claims that Atta "embraced a mystical (and pretty much made-up) version of Islam", but that is complete B.S. Atta was NOT a Muslim. He uttered blasphemy which I dare not even hint at. He also loved pork chops, had a stripper for a girlfriend, loved to party, drink and snort coke, and seems to have been some kind of agent, knowing several languages and having ID's for lots of nationalities. I don't know the reason he was involved in 9/11 but it certainly was not related to being a Muslim, which he wasn't. (See for example, "Top Ten Things You Never Knew About Mohamed Atta" and "Mohamed Atta loved pork chops, and 49 other things you may not know") He was just obsessed with looking good, and maybe he was angry because his stripper girlfriend dumped him, for not looking good in swimming shorts and embarassing her (apparently he had a "flanky ass" see "Top Ten Things..").

What does that leave us with? Two of the 9/11 hijackers, about which I can't really tell you, and the London Bombers.

So what does the article say about the London bombers?

They "were into community-based Islam, which emphasized being good and resisting a life of decadence."

Khan (the leader of the group) seemed to view gym and sports activities as more than an opportunity for physical bonding; he also appeared to consider them moral and pure, an alternative to the decadent temptations of contemporary society. Healthy living, as a doctrine, appears to have been close to his radical heart. In Khan's talks to young Muslims and potential recruits, he reportedly made numerous references to keeping fit. His talks "focused on clean living, staying away from crime and drugs, and the value of sport and outdoor activity," says the British government's 7/7 report.

According to the British govt's report on these bombers, three of the four seem to have been radicalized in the gym, not in the mosque!

The author is saying that for these men were dedicated to being fit, to being morally pure and upright. They wanted to stay away from sin and society's decadent temptations... They were focused on clean living, staying healthy, and doing good for the community.

So, according to the author, this led them to see themselves as superior to the decadent society in which they lived. They thought of themselves as real men, pure and upright and healthy, they thought that they were good and that the rest of the people were "rotten".

hmmmm... Does that mean I'm gonna become a terrorist, because I dedicate myself to improving my body and mind and spirit, because I live clean and try to stay away from sin, and to be morally upright.... Does this mean I will start to look down on all those obese, lazy, ignorant, slutty music video -watching people around me and consider them rotten? (Oh wait...Ehm...No no, I really don't.)

Of course, none of this is enough to make a terrorist out of anybody. Sure, these London bombers might have thought that they were superior to the people around them, but that is not enough to make them kill anyone. Had they had a sound and traditional Islamic ideology, they wouldn't go out and kill even a sinful, rotten, corrupt, ignorant kafir. Muslims fight only against soldiers in combat, soldiers do not want a peaceful resolution, for "...if the enemy inclines towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace" (The Quran 8:61). Muslims never kill civilians. Ever. Ultimately, it was their ideology (and whatever psychological issues they had that made them accept these ideologies), that made terrorists out of them.

Of course at the same time, there is some fishy stuff going on, since many of these guys seem to have been more concerned with the gym, jujitsu, the disco, strippers, night clubs, and pork chops than they were in going to the mosque. The Madrid bombers conveniently left their truck in the scene of the crime, complete with a Quran tape in the casette player, and the 9/11 hijackers left us their Quran and flight instruction manual in the car.. and of course, there was the blaspheming secret agent Atta's indestructible passport which survived the plane crash and the massive explosion and was "found" in the debris.

Ah well... I think every Muslim should strive to be healthy and live clean and stay away from sin, and to be active in the Muslim community and to rise above those who only live to satisfy their base desires. Every Muslim should do that, and it will not make a terrorist out of anybody. It is only the wrong ideology that they had that made them terrorists, an ideology that is completely wrong and unacceptable.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Living in the Name of...

Following is a lesson that I found really helpful in my life and of great benefit. Everytime something is not going well, I remember this lesson, and say Bismillaah ar-Rahmaan ar-Raheem, and everything starts to go right again! But it should not be an automatic bismillah without thought, but one in which you think about the following lesson and trust in it. It always works, wal-hamdu Lillahi Rabb il-aalameen

Bismillah is the start of all good things, so we shall start with it. This blessed phrase is a mark of Islam, one constantly recited by all creatures through their tongues of disposition. If you want to perceive its inexhaustible source of strength and blessing, consider the following allegory:

Travelers in Arabian deserts must travel under a tribal chief's name and protection, or else they will be bothered by bandits and unable to acquire what they need for the journey. Two people, one humble and the other arrogant, set out on a journey. The humble one obtained the name of a tribal chief; the arrogant one did not. The former traveled everywhere in safety. Whenever he met a bandit, he said: "I am travelling in the name of this chief," and so was left alone. He was treated with respect in every tent he entered. In contrast, the arrogant one suffered disaster and constant fear, for he had to struggle and beg for every need. He became base and vile.

O arrogant soul! You are that traveler, and this world is the desert. Your weakness and poverty are endless, and the enemies and privations to which you are exposed are beyond number. Given this, invoke the name of the Eternal Owner and the Everlasting Ruler of the world, for only this can deliver you from such begging and fear.

Bismillah is a blessed treasure. It transforms your boundless weakness and poverty, by binding you to the Omnipotent and Merciful One's infinite Power and Mercy, into the most heeded intercessor at His Exalted Court. When you say bismillah, you act in His name. You are like a soldier acting in the state's name, fearing no one, doing all things in the name of the law and the state, and persisting against all odds.

- Bedi'uzzaman Said Nursi, Humanity's Encounter with the Divine Series: Humanity, Belief, and Islam, pg 3-5.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

James the Muslim

Since my last post was about Jesus and things, and since I've been reading "The Jesus Papers" lately, my interest has really peaked about James the Just, brother of Jesus (peace be upon him). I remember reading a letter by James in the Bible that started out with him calling himself "the servant of God" (and a footnote saying it also means "the slave of God"), so basically he called himself a abd of Allah. And I remember how there was absolutely no contradiction between that letter and anything in the Qur'an, and that it impressed me highly.

Well, from reading "The Jesus Papers" I found out that James was the successor of Jesus and the leader of their movement, and that they had Paul expelled from the area. Finding most footnotes about James referring to works by Eisenman, I looked up his books on amazon and what I found out from reading about them is that the beliefs of James are pretty much the same as those of Islam. I also found out that Paul attacked James, trying to kill him!

Well, an email came to me in those same very days of high interest in the matter, an email about a new book comparing the teachings of James and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I haven't read it yet, but I have read many of the writings of its author and I can assure you he is VERY knowledgeable in the Old and New Testaments, having studied them extensively, and is also very knowledgeable in the eastern religious and wisdom traditions. I will definitly recommend this new book of his, and ask as many people as possible to buy a copy to support him and his further research to spread the truth about the teachings of Isa bin Maryam, peace be upon him, and how they were distorted by Paul.

You can read this article of his online, showing the debates between Paul and James and how James was upholding the teachings of Jesus, peace be upon him, the teachings of islaam, while Paul was teaching something completely different. It might give you a small taste and hopefully encourage you to read his indepth study of the matter.

(click on the image to see it larger)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Jesus Papers

"Don't believe everything you read. But definitely don't just read what you believe." [1]

I found the newly published The Jesus Papers in my father's library, and decided to read it, see what it has to say. Written by Michael Baigent, author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, upon which The Da Vinci Code is based, the book is presenting a new theory: that Jesus did not die on the cross.

... wa qawlihim innaa qatalnal masiha Isa-bna Maryama rasula Llahi wa ma qataluhu wa ma salabuhu wa-lakin shubbiha lahum. (Qur'an 4:157)

The above verse says that the Jews did not kill God's messenger, the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary. It also says, wa ma salabuhu: and they did not crucify him, wa-lakin shubbiha lahum: but it was made to appear to them as such.

According to the traditional Sunni Islam point of view, what happened was that God took Jesus up to him, and by a miracle made the traitor Judas look like Jesus, so that he would be crucified instead as punishment for what he did. This is in NEITHER Qur'an nor Hadith, just conjecture or legend. It could also be a different interpretation of shubbiha lahum, instead of "it was made to appear so to them" it could also be interpreted as someone looking like Jesus in their eyes. (See the Gospel of Barnabas for a detailed account of what happened according to the traditional Islamic version of the story).

One thing I like about this theory is that it explains the "God why have you forsaken me?" which makes absolutely no sense if Jesus had come with the intention of dying on the cross for the sake of men. According to this version, it is Judas who is asking God- the God whose true religion he believed he was protecting- why he has forsaken him and let the false messiah Jesus live.

So they led him to Mount Calvary, where they used to hang malefactors, and there they crucified him naked; for the greater ignominy. *Judas truly did nothing else but cry out: 'God, why have you forsaken me, seeing the malefactor has escaped and I die unjustly?' *Truly I say that the voice, the face, and the person of Judas were so like to Jesus, that his disciples and believers entirely believed that he was Jesus; wherefore some departed from the doctrine of Jesus, believing that Jesus had been a false prophet, and that by art magic he had done the miracles which he did: for Jesus had said that he should not die till near the end of the world; for that at that time he should be taken away from the world.

But they that stood firm in the doctrine of Jesus were so encompassed with sorrow, seeing him die who was entirely like to Jesus, that they remembered not what Jesus had said. [5]

"And (the Jews) planned and God also planned and God is the best of planners. When Allah said, "O Jesus, I will take you and raise you in My presence and save you from those who disbelieve..." (Qur'an 3:54-55)

Personally, I'm not sure about this "taking him up" interpretation by the majority of the Muslims, because the heavens and the spiritual realm are not a physical place to which Jesus could go to in his body (and God knows best), nor is God up in the sky somewhere. Maybe it was his spirit that was taken "up", and maybe it took place later, after he died a normal death.

The Qur'an mentions the death of Jesus when it quotes him saying,

"Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! (Qur'an 19:33).

But according to the majority Muslim view, this death is after the return of Jesus before the end times, when he will return to earth, fight against the Antichrist, establish peace on earth, live and then die.

The Ahmadiyya sect of Islam believe that Jesus remained alive after the supposed crucifiction and died a natural death. I would also like to quote from a very intersting little chapter from the Inspirations of Shaykh Badruddin of Simawna (d. 1420), translated and interpreted by Shaykh Tosun Bayrak (I think this includes the Shaikh Bayrak's commentary as well). I do not necessarily believe it, but I think it is plausible.

The prophet Jesus, may Allah bless his soul, is always alive in spirit, but his blessed body is dead and gone. His spirituality exceeds his physical existence, for his spirit is from Allah. Since spirit is contained within the body and the body disappears at death, the ones who think that physical being is in the image of the soul and that the two are inseparable, claim that he did not die.

Everything that is created dies. The soul of Jesus (upon him be peace), which is from Allah, is alive, for it is eternal. When the soul rises from the body at death, the coarse matter of the body is left behind. The body indeed is a materialized reflection of the soul, but its form and shape are related to and in harmony with the realm of appearances of this world and will stay in it when the soul leaves it.

The ones who believe that Allah raised Jesus to heaven body and soul say that Jesus (upon him be peace) will return to this world and will live the life of a man, will have a family and children. But Allah raised his soul to Him.

As his enemies planned to destroy him, Allah planned to save him.

"And (the Jews) planned and God also planned and God is the best of planners. When Allah said, "O Jesus, I will take you and raise you in My presence and save you from those who disbelieve..." (Qur'an 3:54-55)

His being was raised in a spiritual ascension cleansed of the natural elements of this world. Allah says,

And for their saying, "We have killed the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah," and they killed him not, nor did they cause his death on the cross, but he was made to appear to them as such." (Qur'an 4:157)

He was saved from the cross and lived his natural life amongst his people, and his physical being died a natural death. As Allah quotes him,

I was a witness of them as long as I was among them. But when You did cause me to die, You were the watcher over them." (Qur'an 5:117)

The traditional view, however, is that here tawaffaytani means "took me back" and not "caused me to die". Nowadays the word is used exclusively in the sense of death. Note also that the Prophet Muhammad said,

...Then [on the Day of Resurrection] I will say as the pious servant Jesus, son of Mary, said: 'And I was a witness over them while I dwelt amongst them. When you caused me to die ('tawaffaytani') you were the watcher over them, and you are a witness to all things...' (Sahih Bukhari)

BUT this does not deny the possibility that the word means "when You took me back to You" in the case of the Prophet, as death means the return to Allah (swt). The difference in the meanings is only important in the case of Jesus (pbuh) because we know he didn't die on the cross, so does it mean he returned to God right there and then (without having physically died) or that he continued to live and then died?

Anyway, Shaikh Badruddin continues,

In reality his return is a moral and spiritual one.

They say that his coming will be close to the apocalypse. Some of the signs of the coming of the end are:

* that the sun will rise from the west;
* that there will be an invasion of the Yellow People;
* God and Magog will appear;
* Dabbat al-Ard, a miraculous creature, and the Mahdi, will appear'
* Dajjal, the Antichrist, will come to rule the world, and Jesus, in his second coming, will slay him.

All these signs are here now and always were. So is the spiritual and moral presence of Jesus, combating Dajjal.

Dajjals are the people of all times whose lives are consecrated to being worldbound. They are the tyrants who have reached high stations, arrogant ones claiming to be owners and rulers of others.

Dajjal is the manifestation of the false reality of the world. He is blind in the right eye- thus, he cannot see the truth. Allah says:

The ones who are blind to the truth in this world will not see their Lord in the Hereafter.

Jesus (upon him be peace) is the manifestation of the truth. His combat with the Dajjal is the fight between wordly rationalization and wisdom, the battle between truth and falsehood. [2]

Baigent says that the Vatican has documents that prove Jesus was alive in 45 CE, a decade after his supposed death, but that he has no proof of this. [3]

"Baigent says he’s breaking his silence because he’s seen and held shocking documents, including two he named his book after, calling them 'The Jesus Papers.' "  [4]

He says these papers were discovered by a rich Israeli businessman, a wealthy collector who bought a home in the Old City of Jerusalem, under which he excavated, and found the letters. They are from 34 C.E, written by a man who called himself the Messiah of the Children of Israel.

"They were answers to a charge made by the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin had been accusing someone of claiming that he was god.  This someone wrote back in his defense. And this Messiah was writing back to the Sanhedrin saying in effect, 'No no no, I’m not saying that I’m god. I’m saying that I’m filled with the spirit of god.'"

If these letters are real, Baigent contends it would mean Jesus was saying he was an ordinary man and not divine.  But Baigent admits he can’t back up his claim.


"The Vatican asked [the Israeli businessman] to destroy them. But he refused. But he did promise that he would keep them under wraps for 25 years. Now when I met with him, he had long passed the 25 year mark." [4]

According to Baigent, there is another document proving that Jesus was alive in 45 CE that was found in France. The document has long been destroyed, but some of the priests who have seen it left clues- clues that we can all see and evaluate ourselves- telling us that Jesus did not die on the cross. See the 4th footnote for more details.

So what happened if Jesus was not crucified?

Well, according to the clues left by these priests, and a detailed study of the Bible, Jesus made a deal with the Romans. They drugged him so that he doesnt lose too much blood from the crucifiction, crucified him for a very short time (compared to other cruficitions, as death by crucifiction takes a much longer time), and then at night he was brought down and healed and medicated. (Sadiq Alam made a blog about this recently, examining some quotations from the Bible that suggest Jesus was not crucified. See also footnote 3 for more details on Baigent's theory of how it took place).

Another theory is that someone else was cruficied in his place, someone that they made to look like him.

Baigent also argues that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, but that's highly improbable and most scholars believe this to be ridiculous. Dan Brown argues that as a Jew he must have been married, but according to scholars, as a member of the Essene sect, he would have been single. Also I doubt all those other Gospels are so far off the mark on something so large and so obvious to the thousands of people at the time. Of course anything about Jesus' progeny becoming kings in France is complete rubbish.

Well, while I most likely will not agree with much of what Baigent has to say, I think much of it is also in line with the traditional Islamic account and makes sense. I'm starting to think that Jesus might have stayed alive and died a normal death years after the supposed cruci-fiction, and then his spirit returned to God. And God knows best.

Even though I do not believe the gospel of Barnabas to be a "true" gospel, I would like to end this blog with the last paragraph of that gospel, because it is a fitting ending:

After Jesus had departed, the disciples scattered through the different parts of Israel and of the world, and the truth, hated of Satan, was persecuted, as it always is, by falsehood. For certain evil men, pretending to be disciples, preached that Jesus died and rose not again. Others preached that he really died, but rose again. Others preached, and yet preach, that Jesus is the Son of God, among whom is Paul deceived. But we - as much as I have written - we preach to those that fear God, that they may be saved in the last day of God's Judgment. Amen. [6]

1. Elite coach Mike Boyle to Alwyn Cosgrove
2. Inspirations on the Path of Blame. A commentary by Shaikh Tosun Bayrak al-Jerrahi al-Halveti on the Inspirations of Shaikh Badruddin of Simawna. Pg 147-149.
3. The Black Iris of Jordan: On the Jesus Papers
4. Dateline NBC: The Mystery of 'The Jesus Papers'
5. Gospel of Barnabas. Judas Scourned and Mocked
6. Gospel of Barnabas. Jesus Carried Up to Heaven

Brief note on the Gospel of Barnabas: It seems to have been written in the Middle Ages by a European convert to Islam, but it is based on ancient Ebionite and Carmelite writings, and so reflects the beliefs of ancient Christian sects. It might even include the actual Gospel of Barnabas, but with many changes and forged chapters added to it. This also explains why the gospel is at odds with Islam on many things. Ebionites share many beliefs with Islam but differ in many others. I only quote it because I like these passages, but of course they are not evidence of anything since the gospel is a forgery. Full discussion here.

The Rich & The Pauper

Today vs the past.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

King Hussein Mosque

Went today for Jum'a prayer at the new King Hussien Mosque, the largest (and i think most beautiful) mosque in Jordan.

man, the adhan was so beautiful. it was... i can't describe it. it was so beautiful and yet so heartbreaking. i was never moved so much by an adhan before..

subhanallah. subhannallah. I had only intended to go there once, to check out the place. But I intend to go next friday as well, inshalla, only for the sake of hearing that adhan. In fact, I wish everyone could hear that adhan once before they die. At least, I wish extremists would hear this adhan, that maybe it would remove some of the hardness from their hearts.

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(pic from http://gurry.jeeran.com/archive/2006/4/40775.html)

apparently jordan celebrated its 60th year of independence last week, so the khutba was about how important it is to love the country.. of the things that the khutba mentioned:

1) to love the county is to be proud to work for it, and to do anything you can for its advancement. it means not to stay away from any jobs, there is no such thing as a shameful profession. (there is a big problem in jordan that people do not want to work in "shameful" professions like construction, cleaning the streets, etc.. all these are left to tens of thousands of Egyptians, while there is a large amount of unemployment in Jordan.

2) to be kind to everyone in the country, and to help them, and think of them as your brothers. Whether or not they are of the same religion, they are still your brothers as the sons of Adam. The khatib then related a story of a man who needed something from the Caliph Muawiya. At the gate, he was asked who he was, and told the guards that he was Muawiya's brother. They let him enter, and Muawiya said, "I was told that my brother wanted to see me, and you are not my brother, so who are you?" The man replied, "I am your brother from Adam", and Muawiya honored him for that reply and gave him what he asked for.

3) how the Prophet loved his hometown of Mecca, and how he departed from it in sadness, but Allah revealed to him a verse assuring him that he shall return to it.

4) how Jordan is a country that has been doing a lot for improving the world's perception of Islam, and has held many meetings of muslim delegations for the benefit of Islam. Therefore we should love the country and appreciate its leadership.

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Now the mosque is near a military base, and a huge section of those praying there were military men. What is really strange, and sad, is that we have so many overweight officers! What kind of military is this? Why's everyone so fat? (well ok, not everone). But i noticed this also with police men, or at least the higher-level officers... they're usually overweight.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Jordan, Nutrition

well, i'm here, alhamdulillah,

The trip was nice and short, and I read from The Hundred Letters of Sharafuddin Maneri, a great Sufi master and founder of the Firdausi order in India. The Firdausi order is a relatively small order in India, eclisped by the more famous orders like the Chishti and Qadiri, Naqshbandi, etc.. Yet this book, and this shaykh who wrote this book, have left disproportionately large effect, subhanallah, it won great fame and respect, and this shaykh is possibly the one sufi shaykh in India who is respected the most by Muslims and Hindus combined (well there's also Kabir).

I know i had said i would be reading Prayer Fashions Man, a collection of writings by Frithjof Schuon, but I put it back in the shelf when a small book that I had ordered arrived, called Thrive. It's a tiny book written by a Brendan Brazier, a vegan professional athlete, talking about how to thrive on a vegan diet. It didnt try to convince anyone to be vegan, it assumes you're already vegan. While i'm not vegan, i learned some very important principles from that book that I will try to adhere to as much as possible. In the same way, discussion with Lucky convinced me to read "Fit For Life" which I found lying around in my father's library. Again, I dont plan to follow it as it is, but I'm sure I will benefit a lot from reading it and incorporate some of its ideas into my nutrition plan.

I'm not sure how often I'll be writing in this blog, cause now that I'm here I might start filling up my Notes blog with quotes and pieces of info that I think i might make use of later, from some of the books I have here in Jordan.

And finally, I want to share something with you... something very special to my heart. It's an experience that I had when I arrived yesterday from the airport, an experience I have everytime I come to Jordan... It's something I call the Elixir of Joy, the Coolness of the Eyes, the Scent of Layla, the Balsam of the Body, the Red Sulphur of the Soul, and the Incontestable Proof of God!