Open call for stories: How do you pray?

I admit it: I struggle with prayer. The month of Ramadan is coming up in the Islamic calendar, which means I’ll be fasting from sunrise to sunset everyday for 30 days. (If you’re counting, that’s no food or drink from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m.)

It’s a time of introspection and prayer. Yet when I’m deprived of a good night’s sleep and regular food, I tend to space out. A few years ago, after my pre-dawn meal and morning prayers, I returned to bed for a few more hours of sleep before the start of the day. In a state of half-sleep during this holy month, I imagined I was in the Emperor’s throne room in a musical version of Return of the Jedi. The old guy can dance, let me tell you.

Yet despite the difficulty (and the show tunes), Ramadan is an essential part of my spiritual life. So is daily prayer; there are times in my life where prayer actually helped me survive. These practices help me cultivate a sense of gratitude and even optimism about my life. So, creating a space for that practice is important to me. Read more

Corbu’s favorite chair

“Once asked by a magazine editor to name his favourite chair, Le Corbusier cited the seat of a cockpit, and described the first time he ever saw an aeroplane, in the spring of 1909, in the sky above Paris—it was the aviator the Comte de Lambert taking a turn around the Eiffel Tower—as the most significant moment in his life.”

–Alain de Botton, from The Architecture of Happiness.

Overpowering brilliance

We’re working on a show about Abraham Joshua Heschel, a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s, an ally of his in the civil rights movement, an anti-Vietnam activist, a profound religious thinker of the 20th Century. In our interview with our guest, the chancellor of New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary (where Heschel taught during his life), our guest shared some unnervingly beautiful writing of the late Rabbi Heschel that I myself would like to share. Read more

A vulnerable God, and surrender

We’re currently producing a show featuring Jean Vanier, a wise old man who has spent his life doing charity work with mentally disabled individuals around the world. Although he’s Christian, his words and his gentleness are unsettling in their beauty and have given me plenty to think about as a Muslim. His notions of God’s vulnerability, in particular, make me understand the word islam better than I ever have. (I’m going to delve into the kind of theological matters I don’t typically discuss. I mean, yes, I do talk about religion often enough, but my own spiritual bent is difficult for me to pin down, even though I’m coming from an Islamic perspective. So I’ll be talking about God as a reality more than I usually do. That’s even uncomfortable for me to do because I think God is something that we are incapable of talking about well using language. It’s awkward, and language is limiting because of its precision and linearity. I’ll be addressing that awkwardness in this post, as well.) Read more

Approaching Ed Husain and The Islamist

One person we’re pursuing for an interview is Ed Husain, British Muslim and author of the controversial book The Islamist. We have a copy of his book at the office, and I picked it up and read it voraciously over the past few days. This upcoming show is one I desperately want us to get right.

Let’s talk a bit about the book first. I’m going to drop a few spoilers, so if you’re planning to read it, I suggest you skip ahead a bit (or even wait until you’ve read the book). Read more

At The Corner of Crescent and Sainte-Catherine

The cosmopolitan city of Montreal is home to immigrants from every corner of the world, including a vibrant Muslim community. But how will Muslims react when a government commission addresses the misplaced discontent of non-Muslims toward this growing, visible community? Read more

The End and the death of perpetual storytelling

A few minutes ago, I finished the outline of the final chapter of my novel. In some ways, I am relieved that the end is finally in sight. Yet I can’t help but acknowledge that a great part of me right now almost mourns the loss of that perpetuity, that ongoing storytelling process.

I’ve known for some time now that I love beginnings. That “once upon a time” magic is something that inevitably morphs into something else somewhere in the middle. You can’t sustain “once upon a time” until the end of the story. At some point, the story changes into a series of “and then, and then.” It all culminates with those fateful words: “The End.” But those first few pages of a story are the pages I most love to write, because I get into this authorial storyteller role that gives me the same high as most people get from talking about themselves. Besides, it’s just a whole lot of fun to break into a new story, to take someone away, to take hold of them and not let go. Read more