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, August 21, 2006

Struggle within Christianity

Today I went to hear a lecture at the [Christian] Orthodox Club, by Maher Elia Khoury, son of the famous Anglican Bishop Elia Khoury, who was one of the leaders of the P.L.O. The talk was about the Christian fundamentalists and Evangelists in the USA, and how their teachings influence American foreign policy. The talk was sponsored by APN, the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature. According to their brossures, Israel is uprooting an average of 1 tree per minute in Palestine, and between 2001-2005, a total of 1,345,281 trees were uprooted. Their mission is to replant (at least) 1 million trees, and they have already achieved half that. Their slogan: They uproot trees, we plant them. I think that says a lot about Israel and the Palestinians.

But what does the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature have to do with Christian Fundamentalism? Well according to Maher Khoury, there's more than one kind of pollution: pollution of the environment, and pollution of thought. The ideas of the Christian fundamnetalists are polluting and destroying the original teachings of Christianity. In fact, these ppl have nothing to do with the fundamentals of Christianity, he says, which came about in the Arab world. The original, authentic Christianity is that practiced by the Orthodox and Catholic churches , and he even included the original Protestant church. What these Evangelists are doing are destroying Christianity and its message- they are taking the figure of Jesus and changing him completely, repackaging him and selling that new image to the world. They have destroyed the Jesus who was born, lived, preached, and was crucified in Palestine for the salvation of the world, the Jesus who came as light and Love.

Before I continue with what he was saying I should talk about a more important link between environtmentalist groups and the topic. Ok well instead of talking about it, I'll link you to an earlier post I wrote about this, which says it all much better in a concise manner, so here you go: "The End Days and the Environment".

Also the fact that all these trees are being uprooted for the sake of the settlements is due to support by the same Christians, who can't wait to see all Palestinians kicked out of Palestine, a new temple built on Mt. Zion, and well, Armageddon. They're ecstatic about this happening any moment soon, and they're doing all they can to help the Jews win and take the land of Palestine, only so that Jesus will descend and wipe out all the Jews who dont convert to Christianity, and establish his kingdom on Earth. (Apparently only 144,000 Jews will convert and be saved, and the rest will all be killed).

Well, back to the lecture. Not much to say, other than his denouncing of these Evengelists' ideas as an aberration, and how important it was for Christians the world over to fight against these ideas. He also made fun of the idea of Rapture (see the link above). He then called on all Christians from all churches to speak out against these people. Interestingly, he said that if any American missionary came here to preach these ideas, the Jordanian government would have to allow him to do so so that they could say they allow freedom of speech. Well, said Maher, they shouldn't allow him. He said the Christian churches should be the first to ask the Jordanian government to bar such people from preaching their ideas; that first, the Jordanian gov't should assemble a group of representatives of all the ancient and original churches to analyze the ideas of every missionary and to bar them from preaching if they subscribe to such fundamentalist beliefs. Most of the lecture however was about the history of this movement and their strong influence on the White House. It ended with a segment on the topic by 60 Minutes.

Another interesting thing that he said was his criticism of how literally they understand the Bible, including the age of the earth and other things. He said the authentic churches dont have a purely literal understanding of the Bible because the Bible, unlike the Qur'an, was written by people, not directly revealed by God, so it cant be taken absolutely literally. I'm not sure how much these churches, or his own father, a famous Bishop, would agree, but I'm no expert on these things. In clear contrast to this was something from the video, where a famous Evangelist (dont remember the name), said that it's wrong to say the Bible contained the word of God. The Bible is the word of God. By the way Maher said the early church fathers were hesitant about including the Book of Revelations (the fundamentalists' favourite section) in the Bible, because they were not sure of its authenticity.

Then came a round of what was supposed to be questions, but it was really listeners trying to force their opinions on everyone else. What interested me was the attitude of the Christian people who voiced their comments. One said we need both Islam and Christianity to unite under a framework of Arab nationalism. Another said he was Arab then Christian. I think every Christian who spoke put being Arab above being Christian, which didnt make sense to me. Shouldn't religion come before everything else? It also pleased me how they defended Islam against what the fundamentalists were saying and one Christian said that if these people succeed in destroying Islam then everything else will be destroyed too. Another said that the opposition to Israel in the Arab world is mostly done in Islamic terms today, but that Muslims should take into consideration the Christians who live amongst them, because the fight against Israeli should be an Arab fight, not an Islamic one: a fight by both Muslims and Christians together against Israel.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Pulling Cars

So, I was re-reading an old article on T-Nation called "The Lost Art of the Finisher", which I remembered talked about pushing cars, and I realized that there's one thing I totally didn't think of when I went pushing cars with G: pulling cars. So today I bought a rope and we decided to pull the car. I thought it would be a great rowing-style movement for the back, to balance out all the pushing from last time. So G came over, we did a lot of pullups on the new bar I had installed in the house, and did some pushups in between each set, and when our backs were fried, we thought we'd finish them off with the car pulling (hence the name, "the lost art of the finisher").

So I started pulling the jeep in the same street we found last time, but i realized our big mistake: while i could push a Jeep Cherokee using my legs, and even push it with my arms with my legs in place, it was damn hard to pull the thing toward me with a rope, with my body twisted in an angle (like pulling rope). I mean sure I got the Jeep moving but it was really hard and slow, and it made me wish I was wearing gloves.

After I thought I couldn't pull anymore, I felt like grabbing on to the top of the jeep (the luggage rack), with my feet on the step coming out of the jeep, while my friend drove off. It was only meant to be while the car turned around so we could continue on a small incline. But then we decided to keep driving with me hanging on to the car from outside for a while, and the rope was with me. It was still attached to the front of the car. So what I did was I rapped it around me and hooked it to the luggage rack on top of the car, until I felt secure. Now I could let go of both hands as my friend drove around the neighborhood, and I was secure on the outside of the car, the rope holding me in place. It was fun looking at all the people looking at us with a confused look, with both my arms in the air.

Well, we kept driving around, having fun, until all of a sudden the rope started shaking and we heard a strange noise, at which point I grabbed on to the rack and told my friend to stop the car. I got off and found out that the rope slipped down to the side of the car and was being cut by the tire. In fact, it had been torn apart so much that there was only a tiny strand left on the rope. If we hadn't stopped the car, the rope would have snapped any second later. Had I not grabbed on to the rack upon hearing the sound, I might have flown off the car! haha. Well, I know how stupid that was, but it was fun, and alhamdulillah nothing happened. I was joking with G and said to him, "you know why I'm still alive? Because when we just passed by that mosque I told you how beautiful it was, so God decided to let me live a little longer." By the way that was a really cool mosque, and I was happy to see a lot of young guys coming out of it after isha prayer.

hopefully either tomorrow or the day after I'm gonna post something long about the shaykh that I have come to admire most, Ahmad ibn Idris.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pushing Cars

I drove around with my friend "G" tonight looking for an empty street somewhere in the neighborhood where I can push the car around freely. Pushing cars is one of the greatest exercises: it's a whole-body exercise, recruiting every muscle in your body. I had done this exercise once before with a friend in Cairo, on an old volvo, which is quite heavy- it's older than i am! Well, this time it was a 96 Jeep Cherokee. Apparently it's much heavier than the volvo! I mean I was able to push the volvo up a (very small) incline, but with the jeep it was impossible. I would keep shouting at G, "ARE YOU SURE YOU LET GO OF THE BRAKES?!?!?!" So we had to keep looking for a street that was perfectly flat, at which point I could push it. And if it got easy I would ask him to press on the brakes slightly to increase resistance.

Not only is this a great whole-body exercise -and whole-body exercises are great at releasing growth hormone for 24-28 hours after exercise, depending on how hard you trained- but it's one of the most functional exercises. It gives you strength applicable in the real world, whereas most exercises you see being done in the gym do not look like anything you do outside the gym.

It's also a very versatile exercise. I can put my arms against the car, and push with my legs, working my whole lower body, with emphasis on the front quads. Or, I can push off not from the whole foot, but only the toes, at which point you're blasting the calves. Alternatively, you can push with your back to car, which puts more focus on the inner leg muscles and the posterior chain (hamstrings, etc). Finally, you can stand in place, legs secure, and push only with your upper body, working back, chest, shoulders, arms, pretty much the entire upper body.

But while all these body parts certainly burned during the workout, the one body part that hurt all the way home was the abs. The abs have the function of stabilizing your body. For example, you're pushing with your upper body, while the car would naturally be rolling back or standing still. All this pressure on your upper body might break your body in half if not for the powerful abdominal muscles keeping it in place and stabilizing the whole thing. And damn did my abs hurt for a long time after the workout.

Tip: a street with bumps is more fun. Try getting pushing a jeep cherokee over a bump! Another tip: make sure you have a lot of Deep Heat (or any other muscle pain cream) ready after the workout.

In the end, this was an amazing workout, and hopefully I'll do it again next week. Obviously you need a partner to steer the car (while the gear is on neutral), to stop the car when needed, to step on the breaks (gently) if it gets too easy, and to hopefully stop the car from rolling back at you should you fail to push it on an incline or over a big bump.

Speaking of strength training, one thing I'm striving for is increased muscle mass. but not for aesthetic reasons. Well, if you consider not having a soft body or a belly an aesthetic reason, ok.. but its definitly not for vanity. It's mostly for increased strength and a raised metabolism and some other stuff. Anyway, I do notice myself looking at the mirror and flexing a lot lately, and this worries me. I'm trying to discipline my ego and keep it in check, and yet this seems like something that would increase my ego. I think its dangerous territory to be fighting against your ego and building muscle, but right now I think its not a problem and I'm pretty sure i'm ok. Yeah i do find myself looking at the mirror more before going into the shower, and even flexing, but that's also because im happy about the results of my hard work and dedication and the progress.

Now the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, liked to give names to what little things he possessed. Sometimes these were humerous, like calling his mule Duldul (swaying back and forth), sarcastic, like calling his pair of scissors Jaami' (uniter), and sometimes more serious. The name that the Messenger of God gave his small mirror is Mudilla (the one that leads astray). That is something I should keep in mind everytime i catch myself looking at the mirror.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hot Coals

"There will be a time when your religion will be like a hot piece of coal in the palm of your hand; you will not be able to hold it". The Prophet of Islam was gazing into the future while he talked to his followers early in the 7th century in Arabia. "Would this mean there would be very few Muslims?" someone asked. "No," replied the Prophet, "They will be large in numbers, more than ever before, but powerless like the foam on the ocean waves."

In the past two months I have read about at least 5 terrorist plots that were thwarted by intelligence agencies across the world. From Australia to Canada, America to England, and now most recently the plot to destroy airplanes in the air.... Time and time again, these terrorists try. The question is: how long will the intelligence agencies be able to stop them? How long before these terrorists actually succeed? I'm so worried about the number of attemps and their scale. It's... scary. What if they succeed? More than once? All over the world?

I know what... Islam will become hated all over the world. Blamed for the actions of these terrorists, who have nothing to do with Islam.

In their hearts is a disease, and Allah increaseth their disease. A painful doom is theirs because they lie. And when it is said to them:'Cause not corruption [or mischief] in the land', they say: 'We are nothing if not reformers (innama nahnu muslihoona).' Nay, unknown to themselves they are workers of corruption [or mischief]. (Qur'an 2:11-12)

And what do the millions of Muslims do? They are as numerous and powerless as the foams in the sea. They sit by while their religion is corrupted by those who think they are setting things right in the world (muslihoon). They sit by, unable to do anything about these people, while the image of their religion becomes so ruined, that holding on to it will be as holding coals in the palm of one hand.

But insha'Allah, even if everyone in the world turned against Islam, and even if we became the most persecuted and hated and misunderstood people on the earth, insha'Allah I will hold on to Islam, no matter how painful that will be. Everyone will look at Islam and perceive it as fire, when it is nothing but cool water. But hopefully, hopefully that time is yet far away, and hopefully God will send those who will raise Islam to glory, and destroy the workers of mischief and corruption.

The Prophet (pbuh) said about Ad-Dajjal[1] that he would have water and fire with him: his fire would (in truth) be cold water and his water would (actually) be fire.

[Sahih Al-Bukhari, 9.244]

He also said, "Then the Dajjal will come forth accompanied by a river and fire. He who falls into his fire will certainly receive his reward, and have his load taken off him, but he who falls into his river will have his load retained and his reward taken from him." Someone asked: "What will come next?" He said: "The Last Hour will come."

[Sunan of Abu Dawud #4232]

[update]: regarding the arrests made in England of the Pakistanis who attempted to blow up planes in the air, it seems that the arrests were made thanks to tip offs from the Muslim community in England. According to a British intelligence official, the original information about the plot came from a tip from the Muslim community in Britain, by persons concerned about the activities of their acquaintances. This is one thing we Muslims can do. We still have some power and ability to do something.

1. The word ad-Dajjal means "the one who deceives and misguides".

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

George Galloway on Hizbullah

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The War on Lebanon, and How the Arab World is Changing

pretty good report by the Guardian. Here's some quotes.

The anger in Egypt ranges across the spectrum from the Muslim Brotherhood - which has offered to "send immediately 10,000 mujahideen to fight the Zionists alongside Hizbullah" - to business associations. Chambers of commerce and trade unions have organised gala dinners to raise money for war victims and the two mobile operators, MobiNil and Vodafone, have set up a premium-rate hotline whose profits are sent to Lebanon.

The Shia organisation and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, have become symbols of resistance even in such unlikely places as the Gulf countries where Sunnis and Shias have been spotted waving the yellow-and-green flag. Christians are joining in as well. In Damascus yesterday, a Catholic church held a special mass. "Pray for the resistance, pray for Hassan Nasrallah. He is defending justice," Father Elias Zahlawi urged his congregation.

Khaled Almaeena, editor-in-chief of Arab News, a liberal daily based in Jeddah, has been expressing his anger in a series of columns since hostilities broke out. "There is a surging tide of bitterness and alienation," he said. "It is not simply because of Lebanon, but Lebanon may be the straw that breaks the camel's back."

In Baghdad yesterday hundreds of thousands of Shia youths waved Hizbullah flags, proclaiming their willingness to die for Lebanon.

Other Arab governments including Egypt and Saudi Arabia - have [, besides Jordan,] also toughened their stance but this cuts little ice with many of the demonstrators."Egypt! Jordan! Saudi Arabia! Nasrallah has bested you all," they chanted in the Cairo square on Thursday. Hizbullah's defiance was contrasted favourably with the somnolence of Arab regimes. "The Arab world has changed," Mr Almaeena said. "It has a new breed of young people ... They will not put up with the same old status quo. The political scene in the Arab world is changing too. In a few years there will be those who will resist even more. "

you should read the whole thing though.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Waking Up for Fajr

Well, having stayed in Jordan for about 10 or 11 days, I'm happy to report that i've been able to do all my prayers in their proper times- every post-fajr prayer, that is. Only one time in these 10 days have I had to make up a prayer, and that was because I went to a charity concert in support of the youths of Lebanon and Palestine which caused me to miss maghreb and have to make it up after isha. This is a huge difference from what I was doing in Egypt before coming here, and hopefully I will keep this up and be able to continue this when back in Egypt. And God is our support.

Anyway, I've been missing fajr every night, and to be honest I haven't actually tried or wanted to wake up for fajr. I didn't feel I was ready to try doing so yet, before feeling secure with my previous accomplishments first. But now that I feel like my other prayers are well-established, i'm ready to take on fajr. And if i can get myself to do it in congregation in the mosque (which is nearby, that that would be amazing).

"There is no prayer heavier on the hypocrites than Fajr and Isha. If they only knew what is in them, they would come to them even if they had to crawl."
- Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) [1]

This leaves me with a problem: even if i use an alarm to wake me up, I usually wake up, turn off the alarm, and go back to sleep. And most times I dont remember doing this, but figure it out when I wake up next morning.

But I'm going to try another method, which I learned from bodybuilders. You see, bodybuilders are crazy. Well, they're not all crazy, but a lot of them are. Now the body has natural cycles of anabolism, the phase in which your body builds stuff, like storing food and buildig muscle, and catabolism, when your body breaks things down, such as muscle, for energy. Both are important. For example, the act of working out itself is considered the most anabolic thing you can do, but it is also the most catabolic period of your day. You see, during the workout itself, you go into high catabolism: you're releasing energy and breaking down muscle. You do this only so that your body will overcompensate with anabolism to make your muscles grow back even bigger than before. The more catabolic your workout, the more anabolic the body's response will be, and so the workout could be said to be anabolic.

Thus, both anabolism and catabolism are important and inseperable. If you are trying to stay in an anabolic state all the time, your anabolism is slow and weak. But if you go through long or strong catabolism, your body will react with even stronger anabolism. Sleeping is a perfect time for your body to be in a fasting, catabolic state, after which you can return anabolism the rest of the day.

But most bodybuilders fear the word catabolism. They have been taught my magazine ads that they need to be in a state of anabolism all the time. That catabolism is pure evil. Thus they want their body taking in nutrients every second of their existence. Before they sleep, they take a slow-releasing protein drink that will keep releasing protein in their system for hours. But that is not enough for the crazy bodybuilder (again, the word crazy here is for distinction, not labelling all bodybuilders). These guys actually wake themselves up late at night in order to drink a protein drink. Yes, they wake themselves up at about 3 or 4 a.m, drink a protein shake, and go back to sleep! All from fear of the evil catabolism. IT'S THE ADVERTISEMENTS THAT ARE EVIL, DAMMIT! Give your body a damn break!

So anyway, how do said bodybuilders get themselves to wake up and drink their protein shakes, and avoid going back to sleep? Well, we know that we can easily turn off the alarm clock and go back to sleep, even if it's on the desk across the room. So, what they do is drink a lot of liquid just before going to bed. This way, they have to wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, an activity that requires more alertness than turning off an alarm clock. Yes, there are tons of bodybilders out there, many of them skinny beginners, drinking tons of water before going to bed so that they can wake up for their mid-night protein drinks, to keep that evil catabolism at bay.

So I figured i'd try this for fajr prayer. The problem is, with bodybuilders, it doesnt really matter whether it's 3, 4 or any other time that your bladder wakes you up at night. But for fajr, there is a specific time for prayer. So I will give this a try tonight inshalla, and see if it works or not, and when i will wake up. Hopefully, it will be around fajr time, or up to 30 minutes earlier. Either way, it would be acceptable. But to wake up an hour earlier and have to wait that long (or waking up way after fajr), that would not work, and i might have to find another way. (Maybe I could train a small harmless snake to bite me at fajr time every night! But them again I'm sure i'd just kill it and go back to sleep. J/K).

So, hopefully this bodybuilding tip will help me in my religious practices. If not, then at least I tried. And success comes from Allah.


1. Riyad as-Salihin: Encouragement to attend the Group Prayers at Subh and Isha