An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Archive for 2013|Yearly archive page

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2013 at 10:43 pm

Dear Reader,

Thank you for visiting this blog. It was set up as an exploration and never meant as a definitive guide to parenting.  I hope you find something useful here. The faults are all mine.

Parenting is as Jon Kabat Zinn writes, “one of the most challenging, demanding and stressful jobs on the planet”…  especially if done mindfully. Yet it is also the most rewarding. The vision behind the blog was really to explore parenting from an Islamic spiritual perspective. This of course includes education – in the original sense of the word which relates to soul. Despite the rich living spiritual traditions Islam has produced,  I haven’t come across a good parenting guide or forum that discusses contemporary issues from an Islamic spiritual perspective nor a holistic educational model which is on par with Steiner or Montessori. The future isn’t predictable even by the experts in education and we are living in times in which fundamental paradigms are shifting. The digital age is one in which things are growing exponentially and presents its own challenges. Raising the next generation of children is the most important task we can undertake.




The Story of Salah by Luqman Ali

In Story telling on November 2, 2013 at 8:15 pm

The Salah of Seasons

The goodly tree within us begins as the seed of intention that is watered by wudu and then sprouts at the command of the adhan to become a shoot with the iqamah and then grows strong and lofty with deep roots nurtured by the Qur’anic springtime of the hearts. It then wilts in the summer time of glorifying Allah’s tremendum before falling prostrate to shed its attachments in the autumn. It is then blessed with a moment of self reflection before returning to the wintry earth.

The Story of Salah for Children

We would lead the children to mime the actions of wudu and salah while speaking in first person the story of salat as follows:

Performing wudu:  ‘I was created from clay and water – pure and worshipful was I made.’

Standing in qiyam:  ‘I was taught the names and purpose of all things as I recite the Qur’an.’

In ruku’: ‘I remember my parents Adam and Hawa (a) being given a preview of the world through the forbidden tree.’

Returning to qiyam: ‘I remember my parents’ repentance.’

Descent to 1st sajdah:  ‘I descended to the earth …’

1st Sajdah:     ‘ … through my mother’s womb …’

Interim julus:   ‘I am spending a brief time Read the rest of this entry »

Is He a Muslim?

In Education, Story telling on August 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Abu_HanifahCan Islamic philosophy be introduced to children to encourage debate, discussion, critical thinking etc as well learning some Islamic history? A question I hold. Maybe the following story cited by Dr Kamran Riaz on his blog* concerning Imam Abu Hanifa and his students, can offer some ideas.

“A man once came to the learning-circle of Imām Abū Hanīfah (may God have mercy on his soul) and asked the great Imam whether or not his neighbour was a Muslim. He asked the Imam that if his neighbour died, if he had to wash his body, bury him, and pray the janāzah prayer over him.

Imam Abu Hanīfah asked him, “Why do you think that he is not a Muslim?”

The man replied, “My neighbor says the following seven things, and because of this, I do not know whether or not he is still a Muslim. The first thing is that he says he has no imān (faith) in the signs of Allah that he sees. The second is that he says that he does not fear Allah. The third is that he says he does not have any hope for Paradise. The fourth is that he says he does not fear the Hell-Fire. The fifth is that when he prays, we see him praying without any bowing (rukū`) or prostration (sajdah). The sixth is that he says he eats meat that he already finds dead. The seventh, and last statement, is that he says that he doesn’t like truth (haqq) and he loves corruption/chaos (fitnah).”

The Imam smiled and looked around his circle of students and fellow scholars. He asked them, “What do you say after listening to this account? Is this man’s neighbor a Muslim?”… Read the rest of this entry »

A Short Story

In parenting, poetry, Story telling on August 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm

693523-yellow-and-pink-flowers-against-blue-skyI ran into a stranger as he passed by,

“Oh, excuse me, please” was my reply.

He said, “Please excuse me too;

I wasn’t watching for you”.

We were polite, this stranger and I,

We went our way saying goodbye.

But at home a different story is told,

How we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, cooking the evening meal,

My son stood beside me very still.

When I turned, I nearly knocked him down.

“Move out of the way,” I said with a frown.

He walked away, his little heart broken.

I didn’t realise how harshly I’d spoken.

While I lay awake in bed,

A small voice came to me and said,

“While dealing with a stranger,

Common courtesy you use,

But the family you love, you seem to abuse.

Go and look on the kitchen floor,

You’ll find Read the rest of this entry »

Threshold UK Annual Retreat: Aug 30th – Sep 1st

In Meditation, Mevlevi Tradition, Religion, Spirit, heart & soul on August 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm

threshold logo

With Shaikh Kabir Helminski, Camille Helminski, & special guests: Celal Celebi & Jeremy Henzell-Thomas.

This year’s theme is Practical Sufism:

Sufism is a spiritual path that awakens and develops our latent human capacities; it is a uniquely subtle, comprehensive, and yet practical teaching. The nuanced poetry of Rumi, for instance, is not just great literature; it is an expression of a state of being that was cultivated through Sufi practice. During this weekend we will explore the practical side of the Sufi Path, including such subjects as: intention, presence, breath, meditation, dhikr, spiritual courtesy, right livelihood, and creative imagination.

Gaunts House, Dorset – set in 1600 acres of beautiful grounds and an 18th century mansion, join us for a weekend full of  spiritual practice, music and friendship.

We hope to see you there! For more information and registration form see here.

Gaunts House, Dorset

Gaunts House, Dorset

Islamic Education as Holistic Education By Jeremy HT

In Education on August 10, 2013 at 1:21 pm

splash-photo-sp-granada1(An extract from the report Contextualising Islam in Britain (phase 2) published in 2012 by the Centre of Islamic Studies, University of Cambridge, compiled by Jeremy Henzell-Thomas. The extract is based largely on the presentation by Jeremy to participants in the project on Islamic Education as Holistic Education)

Participants discussed ways in which Islamic education can legitimately be said to converge with the broad rationale of holistic education emphasising the balanced development of human faculties. A comprehensive and integrated concept of Islamic education based on the worldview of Divine Unity (tawhid) ideally encompasses not only the instruction and training of the mind and the transmission of knowledge (talim), but also the nurture of the whole being (tarbiya),moral discipline (tadib), and learning from one another in the spirit of critical openness and respect for diversity (taaruf). The teacher is therefore not only a muallim, a transmitter of knowledge, but also a murabbi, a nurturer of souls and developer of character. The Islamic educational system has never divorced the training of the mind from that of the soul.i

It is worth noting that Read the rest of this entry »

Book Club – August

In Book Club on July 29, 2013 at 2:52 am

image The recommended book for August is The If Machine by Peter Worley. This book introduces philosophy to primary school children. When this book was first recommended to me by a colleague, I was hesitant of the idea of having a philosophical discussion with my seven year old. How was that going to happen?  To me philosophy meant Nietzche, Iqbal, Krishnamurti, Kant… and was something taken up at A-level. However, from what we’ve read together so far, this book is absolutely brilliant. It’s filled with stories for children that are categorised according to age (5 — 10). My daughter has found them to be very stimulating and I have had many opportunities to pause and ask questions, such as ‘What might happen next?’ or ‘What do you think about that?’ In one of the stories we read (Billy Bash), the ending is left to the reader to finish off. This led to not only my daughter using her imagination but a good discussion at the end about why she had chosen that particular ending. Each story ends with suggested questions and extension activities.

What I like about the book is that Read the rest of this entry »

5 Difference Between the Covenants Initiative and a Common Word – Q & A with Charles Upton

In Religion on July 25, 2013 at 6:27 pm


  • ONE: Unlike A Common Word, the Covenants Initiative is based on newly-resdiscovered documents authored by the Prophet Muhammad himself, commanding Muslims not only to refrain from attacking and robbing peaceful Christian communities, but to actively protect them.
  • TWO: A Common Word is an initiative involving religious leaders; the Covenants Initiative seeks the support of any Muslim, whether prominent or unknown.
  • THREE: The Covenants Initiative is not an “interfaith” project in the usual sense of that word, not a “Word between Us and You”, but a unilateral Muslim action to publicize, as widely as possible—to Muslims, Christians, and anybody else, the existence and content of the Covenants—which are binding first upon Muslims since they are authored by Muhammad himself, the Prophet of Islam, peace and blessing be upon him. In the context of the expanding Islamic empire of his time they were treaties between Read the rest of this entry »

Feedback Request: The Covenants Initiative by Charles Upton

In Religion on July 19, 2013 at 12:14 pm


Discussion on Doubt, Faith and Certainty

In Qur'an, Spirit, heart & soul on July 13, 2013 at 9:10 am

Questions from Lesley Hazleton TED Talk

  1. Is certainty always rooted in arrogance? It’s interesting to see how certainty is connected to knowledge and our sense of self.
  2. Why aren’t any Muslim scholars on TED talking about these issues?

Charles Upton: Interestingly enough, I heard Seyyed Hossein Nasr address the issue of certainty during the short panel discussion after his talk to the Festival of the Faiths last month in Louisville, Kentucky (linked below. Q&A @ 1:55). His fellow panelist identified certainty with religious fanaticism. Dr. Nasr vociferously disagreed, declaring that man is made for certainty. To say that certainty can only be based on arrogance or ideological indoctrination is to say that the human soul can never encounter Allah, which is one short step from Read the rest of this entry »

Theme: al-Qur’an

In theme on July 13, 2013 at 9:08 am

“Will they not then ponder the Qur’an or are there locks upon their hearts?” [Muhammad, 47:24]


Narrated by Ibn Mas’ud: “The Qur’an has an interior (batn) and an exterior (zhir), a limit (hadd) and a point of ascension (matla’ or matli’) – Quoted by Ibn Hibban.

“For Moslem orthodoxy, the Qur’an is not only the uncreated Word of God – uncreated though expressing itself through created elements such as words, sounds and letters – but also the model par excellence of the perfection of language.” [Frithjof Schuon, Understanding Islam]

“If as Ai’sha said, the character of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was just like the Qur’an, we can learn more about him by a deep reading of the Holy Book — and more about the Book through meditating on the Prophet’s character: each is a mirror for the other.” [Charles Upton, The Virtues of the Prophet]

Technology Is Not Sacred by Charles Upton

In technology on June 22, 2013 at 8:38 pm

islamic_fractal_star_-_outlined_-_full_product_pageTechnology has no intrinsic relationship to the sacred one way or another; it is a category of al-Dunya. To the degree we have realized Allah in the Inner, we can see the objects and events of the outer world as signs of His nature and action—but if we try to seek Him in the outer without having first met Him in the Inner, we will be led astray. 

God is not one of the objects of the universe; to believe that He is such an object is the essence of idolatry. An idol is anything that the ego identifies with in order to posit its own separate reality. To worship the stars, the moon, the sun is essentially to say: “I am stars, moon and sun because I can recognize them and encompass them with my individual consciousness; in worshipping them I worship myself” [cf. Qur’an 6:77-79]. But Allah cannot be encompassed by our individual consciousness; He is not an idol; He is al-Haqq, the Real.

Sun, moon and stars are not divine, but they are signs Read the rest of this entry »

In Loving Memory of Imam Mehdi Rizvi by Rabia Malik and Mahmoud Mostafa

In Spirit, heart & soul on June 10, 2013 at 9:25 pm

IMG_2353Dear Friends

I wanted to share some sad news with you, of the passing of my Teacher Imam Mehdi Rizvi. I have alluded to him indirectly and directly at times and shared his baraka with you.  He has had a profound effect on my life.  I went to meet him at a time when my life had crashed, I was lost and broken and was questioning all that I had put my faith in. What I saw in him the moment we met was a profound love and humility.  What struck me most was his deep love and respect for women.  There he was, such a traditional looking man, with his long white beard and yet he spoke of his mother, sister, wife and daughter with such love.  Although he had had many great teachers, he would tell me his first and last teacher was his mother.  He trained a remarkable woman – Halima Krausen – to be his successor in the mosque and laid the way for Muslim women to take up their place alongside men.  It was funny, I learnt more about being a Muslim woman from this man then I did from anyone else.  He was unlike any other man I had met, and made me begin to see the qualities that the Prophet must have had. In any matter he was so balanced, revealing the truth in a way that brought clarity and ease. He would never give me the answer straight away or let me take the easy way out of things – but when Read the rest of this entry »

Reading in the Digital Age by Saqib Safdar

In Education, technology on May 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

This is not

the age of information.

This is not

the age of information.

Forget the news,

and the radio

and the blurred screen.

This is the time

of loaves

and fishes.

People are hungry,

and one good word is bread

for  a thousand.

David Whyte, “Loaves and Fishes”

Watkins Books LtdA good word is a charitable act.” Hadith of the Prophet Muhammed pbuh.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity of visiting Watkins bookstore. I normally pop in every time I’m in central London. Established over a 100 years ago, it’s one of the world’s oldest bookstores which specialises in esoterica (mind, body & spirit). I have been visiting Watkins bookstore for over a Read the rest of this entry »

Presence – Relationship with Divine Love with Kabir Helminski May 20 – June 14, 2013

In Spirit, heart & soul on May 16, 2013 at 12:03 am

Led by Kabir Helminski, Mary Ann Brussat

presencelrgWhen someone says “Be present,” what comes to mind? Be mindful. Be here now. Pay attention. To be present, for many, is a mental act. On the spiritual path, however, presence is something much greater.

Presence enables us to enter a more conscious relationship with Divine Love. It is our passport to spiritual reality. It is an awareness that allows all our human functions — thought, feeling, and action — to be known, developed, and harmonized. Presence shapes our self-image and emotional tone, and it determines the degree of our alertness, openness, and warmth.

Presence is what makes the difference between Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing All That We Do by Jeremy Henzell-Thomas

In technology on April 29, 2013 at 9:17 am

I am pasting below an article I wrote for emel Magazine in 2007. It is even more relevant today, especially in the light of the recent news that private drone aircraft will soon be available to Americans to spy on their neighbours. The article does not attempt to address the positive benefits of technology for spiritual development, but seeks only to inject a note of warning in one area where invasive technology represents a usurpation of the fundamental spiritual principle that only God is All-Seeing.

We hear many dire warnings these days about how Britain is sleepwalking into an intrusive Surveillance Society. They vary in intensity from moderate concern about the gradual erosion of civil liberties to shrill alarm at the ever-tightening control exercised by an Orwellian “Security State” dominated by fear, suspicion, and mistrust and obsessed with control. Warnings are not confined to what one commentator has called the “barely scrutinized extension of police power that is being allowed” (Henry Porter, Observer, 3 Dec 2006) and which threatens to undermine freedom and Read the rest of this entry »

Theme: Technology and the Sacred

In Education, technology on April 27, 2013 at 8:40 pm

The internet is a tool that can help the consciousness of humanity evolve” Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Weapons of mass distraction or a sacred organ of consciousness? The theme ‘technology and the sacred’ explores the effects of television, computers, smartphones…on consciousness, child development, education and family life.

Letting Go and the Wisdom of Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov by Daniel Dyer

In Food & Cooking on April 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Omraam.Mikhael.Aivanhov Recently, my wife ordered a shoulder of lamb from Willowbrook Farm, and I slow roasted it to make dinner for us and her three brothers. I had never cooked shoulder of lamb before. I really enjoyed preparing the unusual combination of spices to coat the lamb (rosemary, cumin, fennel, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, and a pinch of chilli), and after 6 hours left in the oven it was delicious.

I’m not much of a cook and this meal was unusual for me. I make music, I write, I draw, but cookery is not an art I have really tried to cultivate. Cooking the lamb got me thinking about Read the rest of this entry »

Gathering by Jeremy HT

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2013 at 11:59 am


A note in response to the inspiring recent posts about gathering, collectedness and mindfulness:

The English word ‘gather’ comes from Germanic gath– (‘bring together, unite’),  a word which also produced English ‘good’. It also produced German gatte, ‘husband, spouse’, originally ‘companion’.

This excavation of underlying meanings brings to light some revealing connections. To gather to eat is an act of togetherness on a physical level, especially when the table is a round one, in which case it becomes a halka, a circle, a symbol of unity and equality. I generally do not enjoy sitting at long tables where the only people one can comfortably converse with are to the left or the right or opposite, and where special eminence may be given to the one sitting at the ‘head’ of the table. A round table can be a better and more natural gathering of  ‘hearts’, in the same way as a yurt can be a better meeting place than a rectangular hall.

Gathering is not only the act of bringing people together, often for a meal, but also an act of collecting oneself, or mindfulness. The word ‘collect’ is itself derived from a Latin word meaning Read the rest of this entry »

Soul Food by Sadat Malik

In Food & Cooking on March 12, 2013 at 9:57 am

boy-with-strawberry2My father worked in the buses when I was a little boy.

I remember wintry evenings when we ate together after he returned home, tired from a hard day’s work in the years before power-assisted steering. We’d gather around the small wooden table, my father, mother, brother, and I. I can remember clearly the sound of the howling wind outside, the comforting warmth of the old gas fireplace, and a child’s fond sense of contentment and togetherness in sharing a simple meal with his family.  Read the rest of this entry »

Dede Chicken Karahi by Mehvish Khan

In Food & Cooking on March 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm


Dede Chicken Karahi

(It only became known Dede Chicken after Dede said he liked it so much and then asked Mehvish for the recipe)

 Ingredients: Read the rest of this entry »

Mindfulness Blessings: 1922 Breaking Bread with a Stranger on a Train to Jerusalem

In Food & Cooking on March 10, 2013 at 11:25 am

Screen shot 2013-03-10 at 10.30.50Over this month I’ve been more conscious and attentive at the dinning table. Coming together to share a meal and to feed our bodies can also be a time to nourish our souls – by opening our hearts to create a field of loving kindness. I’ve come to appreciate the value and power of the spoken word at such times. My daughter, Fatimah Zahra, normally takes the lead and recites, ‘Bismillahi Rahmani Raheem’ – ‘In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful’. I’ve found myself reciting Bismillah out loud to centre myself every now and then as my mind journeys ahead of me. My daughter would be quick to ask, ‘Papa, why are you starting again?’ Something in my heart is touched with her innocent yet profound questions. She gives me a taste of gratitude as I value the presence of her soul in my life and being able to be a part of hers – as with everybody else around the table. Each word… Bismillah, Alhamdulillah, MashallahRead the rest of this entry »

Sometimes a Man Stands Up – Reflections by Jeremy Henzell-Thomas

In Education, Food & Cooking on February 24, 2013 at 12:38 am
Sometimes a man stands up during supper

and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And other man, who remains inside his own house,
stays there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot

Rainer Maria Rilke

rainer-maria-rilke1This morning (Friday, 22nd February) there was a discussion on the Today Programme on Radio 4 about the fact that far more mothers read to their children than fathers. Although an excuse was made that many men come home too late after work to read to their children, the consensus seemed to be that this is something they should be much more involved in, not merely as a worthy duty, but because it was ‘fun’.

Reading to one’s children may seem rather tame in comparison to the  dramatic import of Rilke’s poem about a man who walks away from his house to find that ‘church’ in the East, but is it? Read the rest of this entry »

Love After Love

In Food & Cooking on February 22, 2013 at 9:38 am

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~ Derek Walcott ~

Sometimes a Man Stands Up

In Education, Food & Cooking on February 21, 2013 at 7:43 am


Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,
stays there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.”
―    Rainer Maria Rilke

Please feel free to share reflections…

Theme: The Dinner Table

In Food & Cooking on February 16, 2013 at 8:53 pm

SpaghettiMarinaraSomeone says, “I can’t help feeding my family.
I have to work so hard to earn a living.”
He can do without God,
but not without food;
he can do without Religion,
but not without idols.
Where is one who’ll say,“If I eat eat bread without awareness of God,
I will choke.”

[Mathnawi II, 3071-79]

I was reminded today of these beautiful lines from Mevlana while eating at the dinner table. I had lapsed into some moments of eating unconsciously and realised I had eaten without being aware that I was eating, let alone of what I was eating. It is also occurred to me how easy it is to fall into a state of unawareness, particularly at the end of the day when one is tired.

It is said in the Mevlevi tradition, that the kitchen is as sacred a place as the prayer hall. A shared meal, along with the collective prayer (salat), is a wonderful opportunity to practise prayer, intention, attention, awareness, and presence*. Maybe it can be used as a focal point in the day when Read the rest of this entry »