Category Archives: Links to love

Lights in the sky are holes in the floor of heaven

Ramadan Mubarak!
From the Ramadan Cookie Project 2006 photoset, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz

To state the obvious, since everyone is talking and blogging about it these days, Ramadan is here! Has been here for a couple of weeks, actually. How are we nearly halfway through the month already?

I wasn’t fasting on Monday, so I took a slice – actually, two slices – of chocolate fudge cake with me to the office, because we all know that of course chocolate fudge cake totally counts as lunch. Late in the afternoon, when I finally remembered that I wasn’t fasting, I ducked into the kitchen to grab my little styrofoam container of cake. It wasn’t until I had polished off the entire slice that I realized the second slice was missing.

For a split second, I thought I was imagining things, that perhaps there never was a second slice. But then I remembered cutting two slices and deliberating at my kitchen counter at home about how to best place them into the same container. The most amusing part about this whole thing is that the culprit removed slice#2 so carefully and deliberately that it was as if it were never there – no smudges of frosting, no suspicious crumbs.

Days later, I still haven’t figured out who the culprit was. Clearly, someone needs to be stabbed – but one does not discuss stabbing sessions during Ramadan, and, in any case, the whole situation makes me laugh, anyway.


So, here we go, since we haven’t done this in a while:
Beautiful things: The Ramadan Edition

one. Before Ramadan even began, J texted me about hanging out in San Jose. I warned him that hanging-out sessions in the near future would not be involving food, due to the upcoming Ramadan. His sweet response reminded me why I love that kid so much:

“Es okay, you always fill my tummy with laughs, love, y joy.”

two. On the morning of the very first day of Ramadan, D text-messaged me with, “Eid mubarak!”

I collapsed theatrically into my chair at work, and laughed for a good minute straight.

My co-worker-in-crime turned around curiously. “What’s going on?”

“Eid mubarak!” I announced grandly, then laughed again and tried to think of how to tactfully reply. I texted D back: “Thanks so much, my love! Eid is actually at the very end, when the month is over and we celebrate. The thought is appreciated, though. I love and miss you!”

A minute later, my phone buzzed again: “Forgive my religious ignorance. Ramadan mubarak. Happy fasting.”

I replied: “I love you! And I bet you know more Muslim greetings than I know Hindu ones. We’ll work on me next time I see you.”

three. Driving home from work one evening during the beginning of Ramadan, I thought I spied a kufi on the head of the driver in front of me. I found my suspicions were correct when the little boy in the backseat fidgeted around and turned his head in profile, so that I could clearly see the gold-threaded embroidery winding along his white cotton cap, too. This made me smile, especially because it was close to sunset and I was anxiously watching my clock and the sky for signs of iftar time (the breaking of the fast), and I wondered if they were doing the same.

four. No matter how much I love music, I always try to take a break from it during Ramadan and listen to recitations of the Quran instead. My favorite recitation these days is Surah Layl, as recited by Saad al-Ghamidi. I play it on repeat, listening over and over, trying to memorize the verses. How can you not love this voice? [Translation] My hands-down favorite recitation by al-Ghamidi is Surah Yaseen (chapter 36). I have listened to the same one for years, especially on difficult days, chanting it sometimes under my breath and sometimes loudly until my throat is raw. It never fails to soothe me.

five. The lovely A wrote:

The first time I went to tarawih last week after Isha I turned and there was Yaz smiling at me. I felt so much better all of a sudden.

I am not a very good friend, I admit it. I never answer phone calls, I suck at giving advice (I just don’t know what to say. Also, I am impatient), and sometimes I deliberately tune people out over instant messenger or in person when they start lamenting about their issues and dramas, or otherwise talking too much about themselves. The only sort of advice I can really be counted on is, Okay, let’s get the hell over it already and move on, and that’s because that’s the one I always use on myself. But who knew all I had to do was smile at people? And not just at any people, but at my friends, and that that would be enough to make them feel good and make me feel – having read her post – as if I had done something constructive with my day? [Sidenote to A: I never tune you out, I promise!]

six. One evening last week, I met up with my beautiful halaqa ladies for iftar in San Ramon. [Halaqa = circle of learning/youth group/study circle. We usually meet Sunday mornings.] Dinner consisted of burritos and tacos and chips and salsa at Chipotle – an example of an American Ramadan at its finest. After breaking our fast, we headed out to the parking lot in shifts of 2-4; AF had laid out her raffia-type mats in one or two rows next to her little Volkswagen Golf, and we prayed solo, concrete beneath our feet, sky directly overhead. All the earth is a place of prayer and prostration, indeed. Times like these, I can’t help but smile and remember the Dawud Wharnsby Ali song, All the Crazy Spots. It was lovely.

(Speaking of American Ramadans, you should watch this, if you haven’t already. [I haven’t yet either.])

seven. The lovely A just relayed the following to me over GMail chat:

Towards the end of taraweeh* today, the qari** kept taking long breaks after just two rakahs,*** and one of the aunties said it was because he was drinking green tea. I was like, man, hook it up.

* Taraweeh=nightly prayer during Ramadan, often performed in congregation; composed of either 8 or 20 (depending on how you roll) cycles of standing, bowing, and prostrating
** Qari=one who recites the Quran
*** Rakah=one cycle of prayer

eight. Conversation with Z over GMail chat, just a few days after Ramadan began (emphasis – in italics – is mine):

Z: How’s Ramadan going?
Yasmine: Ramadan is okay
Yasmine: Not really working on any self-betterment yet
Z: Happens when time is in short supply
Z: I guess it’s more what you do than how much
Yasmine: Yeah
Yasmine: But i haven’t been doing anything, really
Z: You could think
Z: I’m sure you have time for that
Z: Like a minute


Two Three totally rockstar and beautiful weblogs that I’ve been loving lately, and reading regularly (I would recommend you check out the archives on each of these):

The Faith Divide, by Eboo Patel of the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago

Hungry for Ramadan, by Shahed Amanullah, who has previously brought us rockstar websites such as,, and

CharityFocus weblog: An Incubator of Compassionate Action, by the rockingest rockstars ever

All facial hair should be ill-kept but not uneven

For Baji, my favorite robot monkey pirate
For Baji, my favorite robot monkey pirate, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

A few things, re. Talk Like a Pirate Day, which was on Sept. 19th (must mention them now, before I forget, because they amuse me):

one. My phone shows the following outgoing text message to Baji on August 11th, as I was walking down through San Francisco’s Chinatown (which is totally better than DC’s Chinatown) one afternoon:

Baji! Is today pirate day?! Interro-rarr! I keep seeing pirates everywhere!

two. My buddy, A, is perpetually bemused by my constant usage of the word “yaar” (sort of equivalent to “buddy” in various South Asian languages), and has been a good sport about sharing his confusion through emails progressing from May to August. Exhibit A:

you said “yarr,” made me laugh out loud. i pictured you on a boat yelling something at me and finishing it up with “yarr”….talking like a pirate and such.

Exhibit B:

when you write “yaar”, here is what i picture: you with an eye patch on, your finger in the form of a hook and a “pirate-ish” look on your face.

Exhibit C:

it’s friday, yaar. (finger hooked, voice lowered and walking on a peg-leg yaar.)

Exhibit D:

what language is “yaar”? i tried that this weekend and everybody i thought i was trying to be a pretentious pirate that talked all properly. dang the western world and their love for pirates, yaar.

three. My favorite pirate store is at 826 Valencia. Sadly, I have not been there yet, but here are a few of my favorite entries from the Store Log:

August 20, 2007
A customer bought a handful of mice — 6 to be exact — with a fistful of $2 bills. I mentioned to him he was a filthy, no good, lying, cheating excretion, and who is this …this Thomas Jefferson? Declaration of what? My mother? Why you…!

June 07, 2007
A gentleman lifted up the trap door that hides our toy snake.
“Why fake?” he inquired.
“You know, city ordinances,” I replied.
“Lawyers really do ruin everything,” he laughed.

May 03, 2007
Overheard in the store: My grandfather almost lost his eye a while ago. Apparently he mixed up the bottles for eye drops and superglue, and he squirted superglue onto his eyeball. At the hospital they just scraped it off and his eye was fine.

Glass eye book set? Anyone? Anyone? Don’t forget, though, the rules of the pirate store state, No haggling! Only bartering. So, stop trying to be all Desi, yaar.

This is the “six degrees of separation” version of finding Yasmine online, when it should have only been one degree

Trying to be difficult
Trying to be difficult at the Berkeley Marina, originally uploaded by yaznotjaz

Yesterday morning, I checked my emails and found the following facebook message from my sister’s friend and classmate (this makes her my friend by default, too, I think). S wrote:

hooooly, lardki!

omg omg omg, i just discovered your mad photo hobby. ummmm, what?? you take photos?? so i found this link to muslim-a-day photos, right?? and then i was like, hey, i want to do this! so i was reading up on the contributors, right??? and then i was like, hey there is a link to someone’s photos! so i clicked the link and it took me to yaznotjaz’s flickr photos.. and i was lookin at it and i saw a picture that said “today i am 8” and i was like.. hey, that looks like it was taken at the marina and then lo and behold there was another photo that was OBVIOUSLY the marina, and i was like, hey, this person knows berkeley. and then i clicked on a photo of the photographer’s reflection, and i was like, hey, that looks like… like… omg… i know that wardrobe. and then there was a comment that said, oh, there’s another picture of my face ish, and i clicked it and i was like, HEY THAT’S YASMINE ______!! HOLLLY!!! hahahahah… so i just wanted you to know that i got a pleasant surprise and it’s all your fault. :) and your photos are exceptionally beautiful. yeah.. i think i have not left anything out.. so
salaam alaikum !

Wasn’t that great? Yes, indeed it was. As I was telling S, I couldn’t stop laughing to myself all day.

This is also an apposite time to encourage you all to stop by Muslim-A-Day, which has stunning photographs every single day. The project, a brainchild of the ever-creative HijabMan, strives to keep ignorance away by “debunking the myth of a Muslim Monolith.” On the About page, he writes:

The main thrust of Muslim-A-Day is simply to show the multiple facets of Muslims’ lives. The best ideas always seem to be the simplest ones, don’t they? Here we are, you and I, presented each day with images of Muslims as the enemy… the veiled, bearded, mysterious enemy that worships a God named Allah.

That’s where Muslim-A-Day enters. Muslim-A-Day aims to provide you with a photograph of a Muslim everyday. Here, you’ll find Muslims in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some have piercings, some wear the veil, some are clean shaven, some are even Malaysian (Imagine that!). They all believe in Al-lah. Literal translation? The [One] God.

When the opportunities presented themselves, I captured the faces that touched me. I love to witness the reflection of the Divine in all that I experience; I love to make you a witness by posting these photos.

I added one photo back in February (it was taken during the ISNA conference in Chicago, and originally uploaded here). I really need to get on the ball. While I get my life together and try to be more diligent in uploading photos to flickr and elsewhere, why don’t you add some of your own? Muslim-A-Day is always looking for contributors. Also, stop by the website and check out the beautiful photos and say hello to everyone else who lurks around there.

Back in business

This is just a Public Service Announcement to let you all know (as if you really care) that all my 2003-2007 archives have been imported over from Blogger!

Those of you who don’t care about such things can just ignore this post, but others who are interested in importing from Blogger to WordPress may find this helpful, for your future reference.

Hamza, who mysteriously seems to know all about this drama, pointed me to the New Blogger importer. If you have a free weblog hosted on, you just log in, click Dashboard > Manage > Import > Blogger, and you’re good to go!

However, I now have a independently-hosted weblog, and the dashboard only lets you import from what they call the Old Blogger; those of us on the .org who want to import from The New Blogger Formerly Known as Beta will have to wait until WordPress 2.2 comes out.

However, if you are like Yasminay, you are hella impatient. So, I sat down and read through the ten thousand bajillion (okay, only 141) comments on that post that Hamza pointed me to, and finally found something helpful. BRILLIANT! I logged into my placeholder account, clicked the “Import” tab, and imported everything from Blogger. Then I clicked the “Export” tab, saved the file. Then, I logged into my brandnew fancy schmancy account, clicked “Import,” selected the file I had just saved, and voila!

Regardless of which way you go, this migration tool imports all your Blogger posts, comments, and categories/labels, without modifying your Blogger weblog in any way. And now I have three copies of all my weblog posts all over the internet, so I guess I can finally stop worrying.

Basically: Hamza is a rockstar, even though he’s one of those instigating chai-lovers. Thanks, buddy!

Stop sniveling and get over it

Get stoned at work
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz

Driving along to work this morning, I heard on the radio that today is Get Over It Day. The website is hilarious – you can type out what you want to get over, and click “submit,” and it turns into a piece of paper that gets tossed into the blazing bonfire on the homepage. Here are some issues that people are getting over. Also, some girl called in to the radio station, sniffling that she wanted to get over her ex-boyfriend named Alex, who had just dumped her. Also, she was twelve. TWELVE! Yes, I laughed.

Anyway, one of my personal philosophies has always been, If you refuse to do anything about it, then you have no right to whine about it, and it’s served me well so far. In all honesty, though, Princess Pretty Pants and I whine quite a bit whenever we’re around one another – but, in our defense, at least it turns into fun stuff. Like the time PPP and HMan and I trudged up the summit path in Muir Woods. By the end of it, PPP and I were hella tired, we couldn’t even see the ocean from the top of the mountain, we whined about how much our feet ached, and we stubbornly refused to walk all the way down to my car.

So, we all hitchhiked instead. TWICE.

Beautiful solution.

A lot of my whining lately has been about work – when I can even muster up the energy to whine. And, of course, there are always random trivial things I should get over.

Things I’d like to get over:

– People who call me and don’t leave voicemessages, and then get offended when I deliberately don’t return their calls
– People who answer the phone with a tentative, questioning, “Hello?”, even though they can perfectly well tell it’s I who am calling
– People who reply to my text message(s) by immediately calling me back. If I had really wanted to have a verbal conversation with you, don’t you think I would have called you directly?

Okay, enough with the phone.


– Work-related meetings on weekday evenings
– Work-related meetings/events on weekends
– People who are micro-managers
– Traffic
– People who don’t wave when you let them merge into your lane
– People who make hanging-out plans that don’t involve food. What kind of friend are you?
– Friends who make me miss the previews when we go out to see a movie together (I LOVE previews, dammit)
– People who borrow my beloved books and music CDs and then lose them or somehow just never get around to returning them to me
– My own possessiveness about personal items like clothes, books, and accessories

What would you like to get over?

Links to love on this online webbed world

San Francisco 70
My buddy S and I stand still for a moment during our hanging-out session with Anjum, early this year. Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

I keep bookmarking websites and then not doing anything with them, so perhaps I should share them with you all. Here are some stops I’ve made on the internet lately [apologies for not giving credit where it’s due; I always forget how I initially came across such links]:

Hamza’s photographs on flickr [He messaged me to say he enjoyed my Zaytuna photos, which is how I found his photos in turn.]
– Archived photos on the Muslim Cultures weblog
The Olive Ream‘s photos at Over a Mile

Google Reader, you make my weblog-surfing so much more efficient!
The Bravia paint ad: So many colors! ROCKING.
– Beautiful poetry by Murtaza Danish [Check Coffee in Times of War]

Seeing the downside of ’cause celebs’
– For my fellow bookworms: Librarian Avengers [Their weblog description on says: Librarians need a blog to avenge their low pay and appalling working conditions. This is that blog. With jokes.]
– flickr photoset: The Vicissitudes of Moi, Moi, Moi

– Reading up on Tin-Tin (“billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!”)
Juan Mann and his “free hugs” campaign
– “We are here”: Mission schoolkids urge grownups to set a good example

Where the hell is Matt?
I’m Hip, I’m With it! – How To Talk Like Sumana Harihareswara

Rock, Paper, Scissors: Reffing the RPS state championship is no job for the nervous
Four Steps to a More Meaningful, Less Commercialized Holiday — with Kids [No, I don’t have kids of my own, in case any of you were confused about that]

– One of the most talented people I don’t know, though I’ve seen videos of her performances, years ago while in college: Anna Deavere Smith (1, 2, 3)
[Check out Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 the play in book format, as well as the film.]

* Some weblog posts I’ve especially loved reading lately:
– Brimful – most of all, when snowflakes fall and inarticulate speech of the heart
– One Female Canuck – Rules for Life
– HijabMan – Bio Data Construction For Dummies (Men’s edition)
– BrooklynBrown – What You Should Do When There Is A Death In Your Friend’s Family
– And my favorite: Chai’s post entitled Magical Nights, Magical Connections. In all the weeks (months) I attended the Wednesday evening meditations, I was never able to articulate the beauty of it through writing as Chai managed to do so well after the single evening she attended with me last week. is back!

Our favorite, funny balloon-maker and t-shirt seller is back, and better than ever. Check out the newly-relaunched for all sorts of good stuff, including his gorgeous photos, of which he explains:

I’m not a photographer nor am I a journalist trained to seek out interesting subjects and present them neatly labeled and interpreted. My only explanations are that 1. I’ve been living my life in freeze frames since the age of 12, and 2. I love beautiful things. I am just a Muslim who travels, studies, and sells funky t-shirts along the way. When the opportunities presented themselves, I captured the faces that touched me. I love to witness the reflection of the Divine in all that I experience; I love to make you a witness by posting these photos.

I know HijabMan personally, so when he says he’s aiming to spread “a message of consciousness, of justice, of living a life free of people and institutions that exploit others,” you can be sure he is indeed working on those goals. Also, you should buy his t-shirts.

Meanwhile, I’m highly amused that, over at, this little ol’ weblog of mine is linked right smack in between Khaled Abou El Fadl and Tariq Ramadan‘s respective websites. Wow, now I really gotta get all smart and intellectual.

The Soul Behind the Music: Enlightened, but still Outlandish

The Danish group Outlandish is one of my favorite music bands, so I was delighted to recently find in my inbox a Divanee Magazine interview with Waqas Qadri. Qadri is ethnically Pakistani; the other two band members are ethnically Moroccan and Cuban/Honduran.

From the Outlandish website:

We live in times when political positions are becoming polarized and cultures are considered fenced-in entities that cannot be united. The world is often viewed through a faulty prism that divides “us” from “them.” That’s why it is such a tension-breaker when someone takes the time and uses their talent to remind us that we are all human beings. That the blood running through your veins is not significantly different from the blood that flows through your neighbor’s body, even though you may not share the same social status, political views, religious conviction or hail from the same latitude or longitude. This is where Outlandish enters the picture.

The story of Outlandish is an uplifting tale about three friends’ common adventure, which starts in the youth clubs and soccer fields of the western Copenhagen suburbs… At the same time, Outlandish is the story of a band that insists on the vantage point called “the world we live in,” and through subjective, grass-root musical narratives, tries make a difference.

In my favorite part of the Divanee interview, Qadri says:

The other artists would take a break beat and sample from Marvin Gaye or old jazz . The samples often came from records their parents used to listen to. So I went home and went through my parents’ record collection and I couldn’t find Marvin Gaye and other artists like that. All I could find was Mehdi Hassan or Lata Mangeshkar. I talked to Isam and Lenny, and Isam found some Arabic and Lenny had de Mercedes Sosa. So we said, ‘What the heck, let’s try this’ and decided to put it all together. We picked up a record and took it to the studio. The producer was like, ‘What the hell are you doing? You can’t mix hip hop with Asian music. Or Latin music. That won’t work; bring me some Stevie Wonder or something like that.’

I honor the place in you, of love, of light, of truth

I firmly believe that roses are overrated
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

A recent edition of the San Francisco Chronicle contained an article I read with interest. FINDING MY RELIGION: Nipun and Guri Mehta talk about their $1-a-day pilgrimage through India is an interview with two people I am blessed to know, although it’s been months since I’ve seen them in person.

I’ve mentioned Nipun and Guri (and Viral and Mark and Dipti) in passing before, describing them as people who are so beautifully inspiring on a daily basis that my words will never do them justice. I first met them all in November 2004, when – through an introduction from my friend SS – the crazy crackstabber, Mark, invited me to a Wednesday evening meditation at the home of Nipun and Viral’s parents in the South Bay. Nearly every Wednesday evening over the next five, six months, I regularly drove two hours from the Sacramento area to the South Bay, where I sat on the floor of a Silicon Valley living room with dozens of other people from all walks of life, cross-legged, eyes closed, in silence for an hour. After that, I would participate in an hour-long roundtable sharing of thoughts with the others, gratefully accept a homecooked vegetarian meal from Nipun’s mother, and then hit the road for the hour-long drive home to the East Bay.

Those few hours spent in the company of such conscious individuals are amongst the most peaceful I can remember. Time and again, I have started writing about them, only to discard my writing, leaving it half-finished. It’s true, I’ll never be able to suitably articulate their spirit of service, their compassion, the beauty of these people I’ve met through the Wednesday evenings. I’ll try again soon, though, because everyone should be lucky to know people even half as beautiful as these.

From the SF Chronicle article:

There’s a question posted on your personal Web site: “Do you have a spiritual teacher?” Your answer to that was, “Yes, you.” Is it sometimes a struggle to see everyone as your teacher?

Nipun: I try to see life with reverence — all life. When we were walking, we learned a lot of things. We learned to see the goodness in everybody, to try to learn from everybody and everything, even if it’s just a tree. I mean, when you’re walking and it’s really hot, and you see a tree and you say, “Wow!” — it’s just there giving shade to you selflessly!

So I try to approach everything with humility. You never know what can teach you spiritual lessons you need to learn.

Nipun’s brother, Viral, once gave a talk that, to me, sums up the spirit of CharityFocus and the people who are, in various ways, affiliated with it:

Namaste — in India when we meet and greet, we say Namaste, and Ram Dass gives a beautiful definition: Namaste means I honor the place in you, where the entire universe resides. I honor the place in you, of love, of light, of truth. I honor that place in you, where if you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us.

The Road to Guantanamo

[Riz Ahmed, Farhad Harun and Arfan Usman star as the “Tipton Three” in Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross’ THE ROAD TO GUANTANAMO. Photos courtesy of Roadside Attractions.]

Everyone needs to go see The Road to Guantanamo, about the Tipton Three at Guantanamo Bay.

Special thanks to 2Scoops, who first brought the film to my attention weeks (months?) ago, and to my sister’s friend S, who told us about the free screening at Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive, where we saw The Road to Guantanamo early last week.