Friday, March 9, 2012

The Most Beautiful Arabic Poetry I've Read

I’ve translated an old tale which ends with one of the most beautiful Arabic poetry I have ever come across. It’s about one of the twelve Shia imams- Imam Ali Al Hadi. Although I do not believe in his (or their) purported immunity to have committed mistakes, I do, however, hold them with high regards as some of the leading and righteous men in Islam’s history.
Unfortunately, I haven’t read more about him or his lineage in the Imam chronicles, and inshallah, when the opportunity and time (really, mostly time), arises, I definitely will.

Mutawakkil was a typically cruel Abbasid caliph, and very hostile towards those who he viewed as being a threat to his reign and power, and especially influence. Imam Ali al-Hadi, lived in one of the Iraqi cities, and because of his great character, people admired and respected him immensely. Fearing him, Mutawakel called on Yahya bin Harthama, and ordered him to go into city, and look at the situation.

So Yahya narrated the story, saying, “I went to the city, and inquired about him, and when people heard my inquisitive questions, out of fear for Ali, they all gathered in riot to reassure me that this man was one whose heart has abandoned this world for the after, was always part of the mosque, did not have a tendency to have worldly desires, and has always been there to help and improve their lives.

They made me swear to be gentle, and I reassured them that I was not ordered to harm him, and that there is nothing wrong. Then I searched his home but did not find but copies of the Koran and prayers, and books of knowledge, And this made him grow in my eyes, and I assumed the service myself, and did well treating him kindly.”

When I reached Baghdad, Isaac Bin Abraham Al-Taheri, the ruler of Baghdad, began saying to me: ‘O Yahya, This man is the son of the messenger of God, and Mutawakkil, of whom you know, if you instigate him, will order his execution. And if this happens, the Messenger of Allah will be your opponent until the Day of Resurrection’.

“I said to him: By God, I have not stood by him, except in all matters sponsoring.”

“Then I escorted him to
Sirmenrai, I came across the Turkish Waseef, I told him of Ali’s arrival, he swore: 'By God, if a hair falls off this man, no one will be arrogated for it but you'.

When I entered the Caliph’s palace, Mutawakkil asked me about him, and I told him the man’s good biography, and the safety of his own way, and about his piety and humility, and that I searched his home and did not find but the Koran and books of knowledge, and about how the people of the city feared for his safety. Upon hearing this, Mutawakkil, honored him with a good prize, and granted him highest righteousness, and gave him a tour of Samarra.”

Although the Imam was living in the same country, Mutawakkil commissioned eyes and spies to monitor him closely. After sometime, some informant told Mutawakkil that the Imam had stored books and arms in his house from his followers in Qom (Iran), and that he was determined to execute a coup on the state.

He sent him a group of Turks, attacking his house at night, but they did not find anything.

They found the Imam in a closed room, covered in a woolen sweater, sitting on the sand and gravel, praying to God, reciting verses from the Koran. They proceeded to carry him the way he was to Mutawakkil, and said to him: “we did not find anything in his house, and when we found him, he was reading the Koran facing the Qiblah”.

Mutawakkil was sitting at his bar, and when he saw the Imam, honored and praised him, and seated him at his side, and offered him the cup which was in his hand.

The Imam responded: “By God, my flesh and blood have never been intoxicated, so pardon me”, so he pardoned him and said to him: “Recite us some poetry”.

The Imam excused himself with: “I'm little of a reciter of poetry”, so he urged him, “You must”.

So the Imam, sitting with him, improvised: (my rough translation)

They dwelled on the edges of mountains protected by the toughest of men, but the epitomes did not provide them sustenance.

And they were subverted, after all their prideful strongholds, and deposited into craters- such an abysmal decadence.

A caller shouted out to them after their entombment; where’s the kin, and the crowns, and the conveniences?

Where are the faces that were once prospering? Without it, the curtains and settings are flailing.

So the grave articulated during their interrogation- worms, on those faces, are now slaughtering.

Long since they’d devour decades and drinks, and have, after all the consumption, become consumed.

And long since they’ve aged their investments to harvest them, then departed those materials and relationships- got removed.

And long since they’ve treasured money and amassed, then bequeathed it onto enemies- got reduced.

Baring their homes into deserted wilderness, and their occupants, to the graves, have moved.

Ask the Caliph if his wishes are attained- where’s the protection, and where is the horse and the cavalry?

Where are the shooters, can’t you shelter behind their arrows, when you encountered death’s bolt, transferring?

Where’s the soldiers, didn’t they shield, didn’t they rage? Where are the armies that defend with it states?

Never, they didn’t benefit anything, and they won’t fulfill your desires if destiny arrives and implicates.

So how can he hope an immortal living by connecting his soul onto mountains, when death- high atop mountains- can confiscate?

Mutawakkil wept until his beard soaked with tears, and so did the audience and then the Imam was returned to his home, honored.

So here's the original poem. I must mention that the essence really is in the Arabic version:

باتوا على قللِ الاجبال تحرسُهم ** غُـلْبُ الرجالِ فما أغنتهمُ القُللُ 

و استنزلوا بعد عزّ من معاقلهم ** وأودعوا حفراً يـابئس ما نزلوا 

ناداهمُ صارخٌ من بعد ما قبروا ** أين الاسرّةُ و التيجانُ و الحللُ 

أيـن الوجوه التي كانتْ منعمةً** من دونها تُضربُ الأستارُ والكللُ 

فـافـصـحَ القبرُ حين ساءلهم ** تـلك الوجوه عليها الدودُ يقتتلُ 

قد طالما أكلوا دهراً وما شربوا ** فأصبحوا بعد طول الأكلِ قد أكلوا 

و طالما عمّروا دوراً لتُحصنهم ** ففارقوا الدورَ و الأهلينَ وارتحلوا 

و طالما كنزوا الأموال و ادّخروا** فـخلّفوها على الأعداء و انتقلوا 

أضـحـت منازلُهم قفراً معطلةً **و ساكنوها الى الاجداث قد رحلوا 

سـل الـخـليفةَ إذ وافت منيتهُ** أين الحماة و أين الخيلُ و الخولُ 

ايـن الرماة ُ أما تُحمى بأسهمِهمْ ** لـمّـا أتـتك سهامُ الموتِ تنتقلُ 

أين الكماةُ أما حاموا أما اغتضبوا** أين الجيوش التي تُحمى بهاالدولُ 

هيهات ما نفعوا شيئاً و ما دفعوا ** عـنك المنية إن وافى بها الأجلُ 

فكيف يرجو دوامَ العيش متصلاً ** من روحه بجبالِ الموتِ تتصلُ

Friday, March 2, 2012

On Being a Persian In Bahrain

As a Persian native who considers his homeland to be Bahrain, it’s disheartening to see the current emergence of sectarian-driven suspicion my ethnicity has become subject to. It’s apparent beyond infantile minds, the result of murky politics of the Gulf monarchs trying to divide and conquer by inducing false suasion.

Bahrain is diverse with backgrounds as variant as Iran, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi, Jordan, Syria, Yemen of the predominant ones. And like archetypal diversity yields; the minorities and their communities face subtle and sometimes apparent antagonism from the rather accepted mainstream because of the subtle or apparent dissimilarities.

Arabic is the official first language and English is the second. I speak 3jmi at home (an Arabized version of Farsi) and my Arabic, before my Saudi uncle married into our family and our long Ramadhan discussions, sounded like a train-wreck about to capsize over the Niagra falls into the abyss of molten lava.

A popular joke around the Gulf is to claim bad-grammer short-circuited the fuse of electrical devices and the lights are about to go off. Farsi does not assign gender to inanimate objects so when I’m on a roll during conversation and have to be conscious of this, I might say my hand hurts but accidentally assigned the male gender to it when describing the verb. So what? I mean it is my hand.

I’m not writing to evoke empathy; I have always felt at home especially in Manama city. There are so many Persians and just mine is prodigious. I grew-up sheltered and the school I went to was an Indian administered one- mark of proletariat Persian families (now MKS is in competition). Citizenry and patriotism never came into question.

I remember one incident in Summer of 1998. I’d joined a sports club and we were about to play football when one of the kids in the group, overhearing me and a Persian buddy converse in 3jmi,blurted, “You are Persian, you don’t have passport.

It was so random and unprompted that I drew blanks. I couldn’t interpret the intention of that remark or his smirk because I never experienced this before. What was he saying? That I was from a different ethnicity and therefore not eligible for the Bahraini passport? Should I worry? I was only 12 and I did have one. And back then, I couldn’t care less as long as I got to travel. There were a few hiddenPersians in our group whom I wasn’t aware of and as it dawned on them that this prick was a racist piece of dung, they ganged up on him and we settled on verbally patronizing him. But I was lost, it didn’t occur to me that I was different from him (or that he thought I was) till he mentioned it. I just wanted that smirk off his face.

The first generation immigrants of any ethnicity in any country usually suffer and the forbearers can either do considerably well by witnessing these struggles or develop inferiority complexes and atrophy. And there are quite a few delinquents in the Persian community in Bahrain. Sometimes, I get the impression that we reflect underground mobs in that we are very successful in attaining economic resources without concern for the politics. Not that we don’t want to be involved, our roots are viewed as the ultimate sin to the Arab monarchs.

Another vivid experience as a child was when a group of other Persian kids in the Mushberneighbourhood began picking on the three of us; my schoolfriend, cousin and myself. Things escalated and the leader challenged me to a fight. I chickened out of it and tried to set it up against my older cousin but to no avail. The leader was set on me. We tried to settle it the less violent way by attempting to talk but it heated up anyway when he began taunting me by removing my glasses. This made me react with a bit of anger as I edged emotional control and at the sign of it, and somewhere between us negotiating, they decided they had teased us enough. Things transformed into friendly relations (the norm during preadolescent interactions) and we were going to leave. Just then, a car passed whirring with commotion and at that moment, the gang leader whispered these words in my ear, “I want to f**k you”.

We were like 13, he was my age and somehow, my incognizant mind translated that into a taunt against the passing car so I echoed it with a,” Yeah, f**k you [Car]”.

I didn’t realize this until after we said our goodbyes and walked a few distance. The leader hollered my name again in an awkward attempt to call me back. This, my cousin somehow immediately understood, was a sign of homosexual invite. I didn’t ask for an explanation and I rationalized that he knew better because he was in a government school.

A popular stigma attached to young Persian males is that they’re jailbait especially in peer conglomerations like public high-schools because they’re good-looking. I don’t know if this is valid today because with the easy virtual access that the youth have to each other, boys are no longer sexually confined to the savanna of their institutes. Girls are at arms-length and have become, thanks to mainstream influence, a cherry pick. But during those times, there was an undeniable awareness of being prey, a feeling that partly fueled my excessive workouts and which I retrieve when considering why women’s rights are still lacking in our society.

Another reason I got obsessed with working out was/is because when one chooses to live life based on principles, one will inevitably invite antipathy or run across an ape who’s world is limited to spots and stripes and cannot comprehend why you can’t be lenient to their simplistic POV and then mentally tug at you in an effort to prove you wrong for being righteous. Women negotiate power by showing solidarity through dialogue and eventually discuss their POV. As a man amongst men, that doesn’t manifest well in underdeveloped societies unless you have big biceps so it seems you’re doing them the favor of concession.

Then, of course, we have the excellent Manama basketball club. Those guys are the local heroes. You mention Shahram or Noo7 Najaf and the likes of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant pale in comparison. Quite a few Persian slangs have entered the Bahraini colloquial, none so famous as Manama, Chitori?. Others are the profanities like Meerah, Show Beyow and Mal Mufti, Cheh Gofti? (the latter not a profanity per say but a crude gesture to wolf free-food). We’re ever so proud of the dumbing down of the Arabic language because to us, it’s a contribution, never mind the newspeak. We want to be integrated but we sense a tinge (or a cornucopia) of resentment towards our ethnicity and our race. In this sense, I have Pakistani friends who are more Bahraini than the typical Bahraini because they live and have become dependent on the public amenities that are provided to them- signature stultification of the typical Bahraini.
And then there are the monopolists who own everything from consulting agencies to exclusive car dealership because they bought government support- partly monetary and partly by abandoning their roots and Arabizing themselves to ease the latent hostility. The Howalas (Arabized Persians or Sunni Persians mostly from Basatak and Ahwaz in Iran, speak a different dialect from Tehran) are usually the head-in-ground ostriches. My mother is Holia and they tend to keep a low profile, speaking better Arabic than the Arabs themselves sometimes to chameleonate their ethnicity.

Some Persians believe Bahrain was a part of Iran and should still be. They are the Persians in Iran. The Bahraini Persians are today a new race. They have intermingled genes and when in Iran, feel home sick not because they miss the desert, but because of the symbol of unity and sovereignty that we’ve become accustomed to, notwithstanding the ruling monarchy.

One of the most exciting experiences that I have is walking down Manama street. Today, it’s exactly how I envision Tamil Nadu to be. But beneath this flood lies the ancient architecture of our grandfathers, the alleys and backstreets where our fathers spent endless nights dallying next to the mosques and Ma’tams. The mothers gathered around hubble-bubbles in Hussainiyas crying over the chronicles of the Imam’s sacrifices and celebrating the folklore. During memorial days like Ashura’, it comes back- the chatters of retrospective stories and political discourse, the laughters and sometimes the profanities.

I remind myself of Richard Rodriguez as a 21st century human being saying, “I avoid falling into the black-and-white dialectic in which most of America still seems trapped. I have always recognized that as an American, I am in relationship with other parts of the world; that I have to measure myself against the Pacific, against Asia. Having to think of myself in relationship to that horizon has liberated me from the black-and-white checkerboard.

This is how we feel; we’re not ostracized, we’re pressed to adopt a broader skyline.

An Open Letter to the Middle-East Tyrants

I know you don’t like to be called that. Some of you like His Highness the Prince, others prefer the title His majesty the King, some simply the super-freakin’intelligent-otherworldly-leader. FYI, as long as you’re not elected, you can be Bongo the Chibacobra for all we care.

Look, I know you know we’re not loyal to you out of respect, hypocrites are out of fear. Only the devil and the U.S. corporations have great admiration and respect for you. Otherwise, the rest of us don’t appreciate your Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde attitude because we get jailed or killed in the process.

It’s not rational to like you, you know. I mean, we barely like ourselves for God’s sake, let alone our family, friends, co-workers. Ok, maybe we actually do have some form of affinity for the former two, but you? Let’s just say our empathy is proportional to how intimate we are. So when was the last time you climbed down the stairway from the clouds and got stuck in traffic? I mean I might empathize with you if we shared some form of misery. Ironically, we do, we make each other miserable. When people begin to ask questions, to demand rights, to expect you to be equal and fair, you get annoyed. And when you finally throw us in your dungeons, we disappear and so does all the noise.

To be elected as a representative of land is proportional to how well you serve us.

How did you manage to be a representative? History shows your grandparents (and in some instances yourselves) killed and pillaged. They were pirates. And tomorrow, your undeserving children will inherit your privilege, why? Because you run a modern day corsair.

How do we get rid of you?

Also, I know you don’t believe in God. Most of you don’t. It’s just a pretense. You laugh at us for actually believing you have a religion. I give you that, some of us are pretty dumb.

In Bahrain we call you Pharaoh. See he was pretty straight forward with his worshipme-or-die-a-merciless-death agenda. You guys are too fancy. If we challenge your authority, we get the “inciting the instability and provoking the peace” label from your myopic media.

I think the only redeeming thing in your lives is your cognitive dissonance. You actually believe people like and respect you. Go ahead, ask that servant if he/she does. I bet they’ll say yes. Go on, ask.


Okay you’re not all that bad personally. Maybe. But as an absolute authority immune to criticism, you begin to lose human traits and naturally, then, you’re adorable. Everyone just magically loves you and wants to take pictures of you and put you in headlines every time you send those cable-of-good-wishes and work from the pre-prepared things-to-do the CIA gave you.

Ask anybody what they think of you as a tyra...I mean leader and they’ll all respond with the same enthusiasm Mr. Leandro, the Swiss bank manager, does.

Let me tell you what makes us happy. Google work environment.

We want the same life that Google employees have; free gourmet food, free laundry, discounted massages and the other perks. Of course add to that the same propaganda effort administered into promoting your “leadership” with a real vision for progress and we’ll be just as productive. And you can be that portrait on the wall because you’re very good at photo-shoots I guess.

As long as you’re not held accountable, nothing you do will suffice since that implies that you’re a perfect human being. Imagine, then, how we feel about your excessive lifestyle and your belligerent bureaucracy and nepotism? Let alone the punishment entailing a vocal critic.

By definition, any intellectual is against an autocracy which explains their scarcity in your societies.

Again, how do we get rid of you? You, as in, the human impulse of hoarding power and piling-up wealth. Minus that, you’re just another human being. There’s something special about you, like all of us. We have a unique fingerprint and superstitiously capable of uniquely contributing to this world. I’m skeptical since it’s almost impossible for most of you to get back to ground zero- you’re already light years below on the negative scale. But I’m not the one to judge.

According to the US government, you are our “beacons” of “freedom” and “democracy”.

Of course that’ll reign as long you serve the purpose of fueling their currency and elites wallets and keep us deviant ones in check with a hammer. And in case, they already have their bases here to seal the deal.

Truth is- you’re cancer. You consume our resources and channel very little our way to keep us content and just enough for the defense mechanism not to notice. You metastasize the more your family members gain prominent positions in the ministries which urges people into hypocrisy. Ultimately, however, you poison society in principle with your socio-political system, and clientelistic politics.

A warning: out of your efforts to portray the facade of freedom and democracy by creating the “simulated” infrastructures that please the western watch groups, a veritable version will seep through the political boundaries and come into existence one day. But that’ll prevail just like how chemo does. It’ll destroy the healthy cells along with the carcinogens. It’s usually a lose/lose situation.

No ones going to listen. All that money and power has bloated your egos to vast proportions, the compromise of which would cost so many lives. So many wasted lives for the pleasure of a few diseased ones. That’s the only genuine impression you’ll leave behind.

And if there's anything reasonable that I want you to conclude from this, it's that we're significant based on how sincerely we serve the majority.

And, God is greater.

You'll see.

Monday, December 28, 2009

“The lower you fall, the higher you'll fly.” - Chuck Palahniuk

You’d think you know yourself and because of that knowledge, you assume you’re in control.

Spend extended periods of time alone, trying to live your dreams and taking responsibility for them and you’ll realize how wrong your assumptions are.

You know you based on the situation and the circumstance. You know you when you’re home, at work, at school, with friends, at a restaurant. They tend to play out as we have perceived them to be from our social cues, be it television, music, culture etc. Once you come across a new, unfamiliar scenario, you can lose you because you’ve lost your point of reference.

I study on a daily basis, trying to compress years of info into half-a-dozen months.

Most the energy I muster gets dwindled into settling down. My mind spends more time in the past and future than in the present.

Eight hours a day, no more than four hours of quality study takes place. Half my time is lost in conflict; where I should’ve been and what I should’ve been saying, how things are supposed to be.

Usually, the nostalgic conciliation of the past gives me the illusion that I’m in control now and can be too in the future.

I enjoy it sometimes. Especially when the lie is humungous.

We all feel cheated, like we’ve been treated unfairly in some way by mother nature so we create a seclusive imagination to help us deal with this depressing present.

But I also know that I must accept mine first and correlate it with time.

The seconds ticking away determine what I become.

The world, for me, is ‘right now’ and a science textbook. A ‘this moment’, one day at a time, and my dream.

A vain day-dream is nothing more than a lucid drawing on the shore. A regular schedule is concrete.

Once you chose your path, appreciate the bitterness of it’s now as a sacrifice for the after. Because after all, the after will be a product of the culmination of nows’.

And there’s no other way- there are no shortcuts. Just an accumulation of unpleasant presents.

Aj’s my cousin, Ali (the guy in the pic)

During a phase of my adolescent years, I used to enjoy seeing things from his POV to the point, and where in my opinion, I was obsessed about making it my own.

He was a wonderful storyteller and had a colourful perspective on life, which is, discernibly, a reflection of his attitude and character.

He had a good childhood at home until pubescence and, as life is sometimes, things spiraled out of control.

It gave him the opportunity to realize, very early on, that life can be lived in only two ways: responsibly or be delegated; independently, detached from the scenario and rooted from the self or dependently, with a shield named ‘blame’ and guided by expectations and false hope. The latter was my pattern.

He was mature and responsible and his circumstance labored him to stretch his stride.

I resent the fact that I used to take his presence in my life for granted. To the extent that I enjoyed his company, I never before shared his pain, the reality which he resisted constantly everyday.

In retrospect, I remember that I hardly went out of my way for him. Partly because he was so damn good in pretending to be all-right that I would usually compete with his style and ways.

Most people who live through broken homes lose rectitude and I've seen it and listened to them and can't help but admire him afterwards.

He is raw energy and always fun to be around in spite of crying in his sleep or having to find shelter some place random in the middle of the night or live through most of his life with empty pockets. He has the power to lift us up; to stir our imagination.

To care.

He gave no matter how much it took from him.

And it's most unfortunate that people who meet him never know that they've met someone who has an excellent story to tell about life’s bitter nows’.

A concoction of many painful realities woven to compose one beautiful consciousness.

He was lucky in a sense because he had no choice. For those of us who live a comfortable life, I feel truly sorry for you.

You have no scars. You’ve made no progress.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why Bodybuilding Helped Me Understand Success.

I read once that writers have this advantage: they can literally reproduce their thoughts and disentangle many issues on paper and as a result, they have the potential of solving their problems way better than non-writing? people.

I’m not a writer per say but I do enjoy expressing myself because it encourages me to dig deep down and find new insights.

To me life is like bodybuilding, which is why you can find many references to it on the blog. (Bodybuilding or I guess any stressful athletic pursuit). The reason being that it has so many parallels to principled living that I find myself making a connection every time I introspect.

No pain, no gain; say no to Morphine!

No words can express the pain one must endure every second in a workout to make the average gains on a weekly basis.

No words.

I mean I can say it hurts like hell, and that would probably make for figure of speech but you wouldn't be able to fully comprehend how it HURTS LIKE M@#$@%#$%@#$@#$ HELL!

You probably have a stronger sense about it now. But what if I say I get past the point of nausea and feel like I’m about to pass out once a week? And when I wake in the morning, my body feels like I was trapped in a children’s party as a piñata. Yes, it’s bad.

Trainers generally provide an abstract sense of the pain by explaining that every set should be taken to the point of concentric muscular failure: the point at which one is unable to complete an additional positive repetition of a given exercise despite one’s greatest efforts.

On the other hand, if I knew that it took what I endure today, I would’ve never considered it. That’s because I never had a grasp on the term ‘good pain’. But thanks to the exponential nature of human comprehension and tolerance, I’ve persevered.

That which we persist in doing becomes easier- not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased” Emerson

Also, we never talk about the pain in the gym. You can see guys heaving and huffing and screaming and in pain. But when a conversation sparks, there’s a collective-consciousness conscientious of the pain as our signal to improvement.

See the body does not want excess muscle because it is a metabolically expensive inconvenience. It is considered an unnatural state and so we were meant to be lean and smaller framed. When a person stops training (and I am living example to this), their excess muscle tissue is broken down for use as energy because the body wants to get rid of it! Thereupon comes the need to FORCE muscle growth upon it; hypertrophy.

I have to walk into the gym every week and increase the strain in order to leave no choice for my body but to adapt and grow. In doing this, the muscle-mass increases to protect them from a possible future strain.

Since the body is always working to protect itself against potentially dangerous situations in nature, it will have no other option but to respond to threats. The body must make adjustments so that if the situation were to arise again in the future it would be properly equipped to deal with it.

Growth is all about adaptation to the environment so we must present ourselves with the incentive for change.

Are you starting to see the big picture?

If you constantly present yourself with tasks that do not threaten your current reserve resources, no new adaptations will be built and no new strength will be gained.

Some have a lifestyle in which they have it easy and things are smoothly controlled. They have no genuine struggles for progress, and don’t even begin to break a sweat. Or worse still, they bicker and seethe because things are not going their way and they expect things to be different either too quickly or passively, the result of which is the sum-total of their insecurities, which is very real. They do what they usually do (and have excelled at it) and that’s all there is to it.

Why on earth would their body build new skills in response to this? It already has plenty of resources to complete the usual task. There is absolutely no reason at all to build upon the existing resources.

If you want to see a positive change in your life, the work you perform MUST be intense enough that they threaten your current resources. They must place you under enough stress that it forces the build up over your existing capabilities as an adaptive response.

These guys are not just meat-heads, some of them are the smartest and soft-spoken people I know. In fact, I have yet to meet the stereotypical ‘roid-raged driven Neanderthal.

And if a bodybuilder decides one day that he/she wants to become a success in other aspects of life, they know what it would take. I would also add that they wouldn’t appreciate their progress unless they felt the pain of progress first-hand.

The improvement occurs in a progressive way of course and traumatizing oneself with unrealistic burden is dangerous.

I decided, not long back, to get into the science field. I am studying for my Advanced level certificate and sure enough, I study daily and don’t feel satisfied until I can’t digest any longer.

Until I feel the ‘good pain’.

Remember, if you continually present your body with the same stimulus, it will have no reason to grow.

C'est la vie, so up the intensity.

The bigger Jihad; bodybuilding happens in the kitchen.

The most excellent Jihad is that for the conquest of self.”- Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

The Battle of the Trench was one of Islam’s most endangering battles. It was a war of attrition (thanks to the trench) in which each side was waiting for the other to wear out.

The Muslims were outnumbered almost 10:1 and their very existence was at risk. After about a month or so, the hostile Qurayshi army quit.

When the news of the victory spread, an excited Muslim warrior frenzied towards the Prophet (PBUH) announcing their triumph. The Prophet (PBUH), unfazed, responded, “We are now heading from the smaller jihad towards the bigger jihad [pointing at their tents].”

Evidently, he was implying that it is easier to struggle with the troubles that are tangible and ‘out there’ rather than the ones that are intangible and within the self.

Why? IMHO, because the visual cortex is not involved. You can’t see the benefit of delayed gratification and self-control, so it isn’t flashing the limbic system as much as it should. (This ‘mis-wiring’, if I may, is also why we have the tendency to judge things based on their aesthetics. It does have it’s evolutionary advantages though!).

Truly, I wonder, were it not for the balance of religion (or religious myth), that deterred us from our innate hedonistic selves as we intellectually evolved through time, would we’ve been able to develop a civilization? (Some people, in the guise of religion, have attempted to set in motion their own personal or political agendas that were destructive and if one were to remain objective, that would not be an appropriate argument against my implicit question.)

The Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon cranial capacities, for example, were larger than Homo sapiens, indicating that their latent potential intelligence may have been equal to or even greater than ours. So how is it that these surprisingly latent abilities emerged in the pre-historic brain but have only been realized in the last five thousand years?

The answer is because we developed the idea of principles and the need to incorporate them into our lives.

Only 20% of the labored-work in bodybuilding is exerted at the gym. There’s the 60% that dominates consuming an appropriate diet and the 20% of rest and recovery that compete for the bodybuilder’s attention on a daily basis and complete the struggle for a healthier, fitter body.

This is to say that bodybuilding is more than just the hour of training. It spreads into your entire day’s schedule.

It is a principled lifestyle.

It’s a lifestyle I wasn’t prepared for back in 2004. I had not gotten over the 3 meal/day mentality. And I may have increased my strength, but I have, by no means, increased muscle mass till today.

The 3 meal/day mentality must be replaced and forgotten with the 5-6 meal/day that is evened out during the course of a day, two or three hours apart. And by ‘appropriate diet’ I mean consuming 1-2 times of protein the body-weight in pounds. And that’s just proteins! There’s the right proportion for carbs, essential fatty-acid oil, creatine monohydrate and many other additional nutritional requirements.

The body is in constant state of building and repair so it continually needs to have the resources to do so.

If you spend say 20BD on a monthly gym membership, you may end up spending up to 70BD for nutritional supplements. Just supplements and not meals, those are different. Check out the disparity!

If the body is in short supply of ingredients to do both build new tissue fibers and provide the energy for exertion, it will always use up the available resources to provide energy. The pituitary gland secretes the hormone Cortisol to inform the body that it needs to trim off the muscle to convert to energy in response to the scarcity. It’s called being in a catabolic state.

So you’re either building and repairing or tearing and catching up. Unless you actually follow a maintenance schedule that has it’s own set of exercises and diet, you won’t be able to maintain the muscle mass that you’ve worked so hard to build.

There’s moving forward or going backwards. You can’t have a neutral condition if you’re careless.

Of course you can no longer accommodate late nights if you have to wake-up early for work or school. Sleep is the most essential time for building and recovery. You need to get enough hours daily. And apparently, so is the requirement if you want to be creative!

You can also no longer accommodate delinquencies such as smoking or drinking or pornography etc. Your body will automatically offer you symptom-like ultimatums.

My point is bodybuilding permeates many areas of one’s life and holds us accountable on our next visit to the gym. A lack of sleep, nutrition and every carelessness is paid in double the compromise levels with pain.

Win or lose pain; competition podium or hospital bed pain.

I remember as a noob, countless times where I lay on the bench, exhausted and transpired to almost a corpse, reassessing whether I place more value on my health and physique or my bad habits, and whether I should continue having the same values as my peers.

That led to my transformation (apart from other similar jolting experiences).

“One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.” -- James Russell Lowell

I realized that I could not lie to my body- I cannot live life the way that I want, or the way that I’m conditioned by my habits, and expect things to yield my way.

There are natural laws (hypertrophy and metabolism) that my body’s biochemistry is governed by and the only way forward is to apply them rather than ignore or trivialize them.

I would’ve never guessed I wanted to do something in science. My passion was music. I had no religion, no information and certainly no talent. I was lucky to have some friends who instigated my doubts and questioned the sincerity of my beliefs. They reminded me that living a preconditioned life was as useless as draining my body and ignoring it’s other, more important needs, and then expecting progress.

One who has an unexamined belief system can never improve or generate the motivation or aspiration to change. So if you’re lazing and have no worries (I should say reasonable fears) about your life, then you’re dead, right?

I also understood that you cannot erase bad habits. You can only replace them with better ones because “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. We are only limited by what we know so our ultimate quest is to further expand that circle of knowledge. And just as many times as one fall’s back on their bad habits during stressful periods, one needs to proactively double the intensity towards something good. Catch up with something better.

Verily, a man hath performed prayers, fasts, charity, pilgrimage and all other good works; but he will not be rewarded except by the proportion of his understanding.” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

The real reason why bodybuilders convey power; the will of steel.

If I were to ask you what it is that you strive for? I think, if you’re the average individual, your response would be that you wanted freedom. Financial freedom coming from the root of doing and being what you want.

People get caught up doing something monotonous and have a hard day, and then they come back to relieve the tension by spending the rest of the time in front of the TV or a cafe or the internet and justify it with their lack of freedom and time.

It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, 'What are we busy about?'” -- Henry David Thoreau

I myself started out with finding tones of excuses to avoid going to the gym along those lines. I would end up not going for days on end. I thought I had a perfectly good reason not to.

After a while, when I pushed it too far, and my guilt-ridden conscience forced me to face my weakness, I conceded. However, I also observed something I’d never noticed before, most of them were ordinary people and they were there not because they wanted to be there either.

They knew they had to make a choice between being a victim of their daily routines and settling for an inferior mindset or take the opportunity of making a conscious decision that would overcome. Overcome the TV, the cafe and their shackles. They had to chose between adhering to the pressing frontiers of their lives or accept the responsibility to breach it. That automatically creates a stronger sense of control in us as humans.

Some of us are imprisoned in the wrong job, the wrong relationships and ultimately the wrong life and we would like to escape that captivity, but we don’t know how!?

Not only that, but the faint awareness is dressed in the steel-overcoat of excess and self pity. Otherwise, our addictions.

Freewill means that you can do what you want, when you want and how you want. And that is what gives you freedom. It’s scary because there is responsibility attached too.

"You can no longer blame your parents if things go wrong, or your job or your society (because the government conspired against you), and trap yourself in an unfulfilling universe.

It means you have to let go of the blame crutch and walk unaided, and compromise everything you are. You stop waiting for the nod, and instead give yourself permission. You stop waiting to be discovered and discover yourself." -Geoff Thompson

It’s all down to you.

Is your pulse racing? Are you getting scared?

You’ve been telling yourself stories about what you would do if you won a million dinars, where you would go and how you would live. You thought that that would make you a free person :)

To acquire freedom you must empower your freewill. And to empower the freewill, you must let go of all that certainty that you’ve grown up with. Of course, you get compensated with a different type of assurance. For example, time comes from being scheduled and having a schedule comes from our freewill; which also gives birth to freedom. And just as many times as things go wrong, that many times things will go right. The problems we might face, might offer the very solutions we need to the other problems we may have in our lives as well.

When you try something new, when you're faced with a challenge, realize that you cannot lose. It's impossible because even if you don't set out to accomplish what you tried to do, you learn something you never learned before because you never had that experience. You gain knowledge. And as the saying goes, we all know that KNOWLEDGE is POWER. POTENTIAL power. That you should convert into kinetic power (aka action) once again to learn some more.” Brian Kim

Big shots are little shots who kept shooting.” -- Christopher Morley

People over-eat and over-stupor because there is reliability in them. No rejections. The rejection is felt by our true, innocent, unprotected self, that requires unconditional love. But it is at this crucial time that you must listen and feel that pain in order to invoke the powerful, avenging hero inside us all.

Like I earlier explained, it is good that we have a challenge because we are not much interested and don't much care what happens when there is nothing to overcome, nothing to be discovered, no ingenuity and problem solving.

You'll spend years on something and you've been let down. So you sit and ask and the solutions stare at you right in face. But implementing them is too hard.

We can only take action that flows from who we are and where we are. If we are not sure about either, we can ask what our avenging hero would do and use our imagination.

We learn to respond to events from a deep sense of our own truth.

All that may seem reliable, even dependable, is ultimately, a prison sentence for the weak willed, and the ignorant, because the reliability of addictions comes at the cost of our freedom. That’s why, although I don’t know each individual that works out, every time I walk in that hot and humid place, I am filled with humility and respect.

I understand that every one of them has their battles to fight. These are our courageous warriors; the cornerstones of society. They’re honing, practicing, surveying, improving.

Without them, or their example, what can we hold on to?

And then I am reminded of a very simple truth- darkness is simply the absence of light.