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Discovering the Pleasure of Prayer

Midnight.

I had been in bed since 10pm.

But I was still tossing and turning.

I hadn’t eaten since 2pm, and my stomach was screaming for food.

So I got out of bed, and made my way towards the kitchen.

I opened the fridge, and out tumbled a glass jar.

SMASH!

It crashed on the ground and broke into pieces.

“Oh great! Just what I needed Now what do I do?” I thought to myself.

It was dark & I didn’t have any footwear on. One wrong move and I would have sharp glass pieces in my foot. So I began to tread with careful steps towards the switch.

My senses were heightened. My mind was on full alert. And I was completely in the present moment.

I had no thoughts other than the single purpose of getting to the light switch unharmed.

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[Interview] Umaar Ejaz on how the humanitarian crisis inspired him to create his new charity project I.Calligraphy

Meet Umaar Ejaz: the founder and artist of I.Calligraphy. Having completed a degree in Engineering at Brunel University (London) and a Masters in Education and Philosophy, Umaar pursued work for various blue chip companies before deciding to embark upon his passions of education, faith and social justice in his current work and projects.

He is now a full time teacher, runs an engineering business, and has recently launched his calligraphy project, creating bespoke artwork on wood and donating the pieces and funds to various charitable causes.

Umaar was inspired to start I.Calligraphy six months ago due to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Palestine and other countries, and feeling a sense hopelessness initially. “I wanted to do more to help, no matter how insignificant it may be. I must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. From this pretext, I have seen I.Calligraphy flourish from strength to strength because of this intention.”

Read my interview with Umaar as he explains how he learnt the art of calligraphy, what makes his style different to others, and some valuable insights and advice for aspiring artists and entrepreneurs. Also, view some of his personalized calligraphy pieces below, they are stunning!

Who and what inspires you?

If I had a flower for each moment my mother showed me kindness and love, I could forever walk in the garden of eternity. My mother was my first teacher, my first friend, my first mentor, everything that I have accomplished in life both personally, academically and professionally is because of foundation that she lay at home for me to be nurtured and grow as a human being. I cannot emphasise the pivotal importance of a mother; she is the root of a family and the foundation from which any husband, child can truly prosper.

There is no faith without humility. My faith inspires me, thus I strive daily to improve my self. Through this seed being at the core of my roots. To develop my understanding of faith through meaning, this compromises of reading the Quran through tafsir and study of the Prophetic traditions.

I cannot express enough gratitude to every single person, who has shown me kindness and supported me the past six months since the first conception of I.Calligraphy. Working with countless individuals, organisations and charities that Interpal, Amirah Foundation, Penny Appeal, Human Relief Foundation, Muslim Aid, Palestinian International Medical Aid, Human Care Syria, CARE Pakistan, Pearl Education Foundation, and Save the Children. All of whom that have attained and retained the pivotal role of making I.Calligraphy into what it has become today.

What is the story and inspiration behind I.Calligraphy?

Art is a universal language and as medium of expression, it allows us to understand a story without words. If there is a profound narrative that reflects the human condition but still retains a personal meaning. I would like to believe that the core of my work is a means to bring myself closer to God and convey the beauty of my faith. Morally, ethically and spiritually speaking, the story behind each canvas resides in reflecting my own akhlaq (practice of virtue, morality and manners in Islamic theology and philosophy) in meaning.

For example one of the calligraphy canvases ‘One Essence. One Soul’ (below) begins with Arabic calligraphy with words that depict a family, consisting of a mother, baby and father. The words are a poem by Saadi and have been written exactly 14 times, the meaning translates to:

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

‘One Essence. One Soul’ Arabic calligraphy with poetic words of Saadi which depict a family.
‘One Essence. One Soul’ Arabic calligraphy with poetic words of Saadi which depict a family.

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How to be Free from Bitterness?

It happened one evening.

I’d just moved to London and was busy settling in. Exploring the city, making new friends – the typical stuff international students do when they first arrive.

I was in a cafe when it happened. Someone put their hands in my coat and stole my things.

At first, I felt violated, then angry, and finally, vengeful.

I didn’t know what to do. Eventually I realized there wasn’t much I could do about it.

Even though the robbery didn’t leave me destitute, it still left a scar inside me. Whenever I thought about it, my heart would feel heavy, as if I was carrying a burden inside me.

Part of me wanted to forgive and forget. But I just couldn’t. How could I? It wasn’t fair. I had done nothing to offend the robber. I didn’t deserve to be robbed.

I wanted justice.

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So much inequality. Why doesn’t God do something?

#BAD2014, #Inequality, Blog Action Day
#BAD2014, #Inequality, Blog Action Day

We live in a world of stark contrasts.

A world where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

A wealthy businessman spends £3 billion on a yacht made from solid gold and platinum, while 300 million children around the world go hungry every day.

The richest 300 people in Europe and North America have the same income as 4.7 billion poor people.

Citizens around the world struggle for their basic rights and freedoms, whilst powerful and corrupt leaders still rule.

Inequality surrounds from the top to the bottom. We only have to go outside to witness it.

And it’s depressing. What can one man or woman do? It seems like only divine intervention can get us out of this mess.

But the Qur’an has something different to say. “Allah does not change the condition of people until they change what is in themselves.” (13:11)

It’s so true.

Society doesn’t reform, till the individual takes responsibility for their actions. Think about it. How can society reform if the individual doesn’t care enough to take any action?

Change begins with ourselves. It starts with us. It starts with me.

Today is Blog Action Day 2014! Join the global conversation about Inequality, with people around the world. Tweet #BAD2014.