Sajed Bhandari

America, Books, Cooking, Muslims and some other things

Archive for June 2010

On Priorities

My mother and I had a discussion on priorities before I left Minnesota.  We sat on the couch and discussed careers if I recall correctly.  My mother, like every other good Muslim mother, wanted her son (me) to become a doctor.  This article is not about medicine by any means, however.  I told my mom that on my deathbed, I have a general idea of what I will be thinking about.  I will think about my parents, my family, and my friends.  I explained to her that I wont be very concerned with which zip code I lived in during my life, how much was in my bank account, and what car I drove to work or even what it is that I worked as.  She understood.   My parents are the best, just letting you all know.  I listen to the stories my friends tell me about their parents and I feel blessed that I was given the mom and dad that I was given.

This article is not about my parents either however.  What it is about is priorities and needs.  Over the last year, I had a growing obsession with the idea of living simply.  This obsession was a combination of the Zen teachings I was introduced to thanks to, the life of Rasulillah SAW and the very constrained budget of a then recent graduate into The Great Recession (not sure if “constrained budget” is an understatement or euphemism in this context).  This combination forced me to question what were my priorities, what were my needs?

I was faced with a limited supply of resources  (Time and Money) and a seemingly infinite demand of desires that I thought I needed.  But I began to evaluate my consumption.  Did I need to eat out everyday?  Did I need to go out every night?  Did I need to eat certain types of foods?  These were some of the questions I asked myself.  The particular questions however were not important.  What was important was the need to reevaluate my desires and understand what I needed and what I did not need.  This reevaluation lead me to the understanding that my demands were not actually infinite at all, rather they were very limited and finite.  This would allow for an optimized allocation of my resources amongst my demands.

Things I Need (in no particular order):

1)      Family (includes the loved one.)

2)      Friends

3)      Reading

4)      Writing

5)      Personal growth (intellectual, physical and spiritual)

Things I do not Need (in no particular order):

1)      Excessive Money

2)      Prestige

3)      Fame

4)      Influence

5)      Material Wealth in the form of land, buildings and equipment

A note on the Category: Things I do not need.  I limited this category to things I do not need yet still desired.  If it was a list of things I do not need and do not desire then the list would be rather large and have to included, a gunshot to the stomach, failing grades,  and Hannah Montana (actually all teeny bopper acts).

This list allows me to focus on my priorities.  If the only things I really care about are family, friends, reading, writing and personal growth, then those are the things I ought to focus on right now and become mindful of.  Many people choose careers that offer high-end salaries because they desire security, stability and such.  That road to a six-figure salary is wrought with distractions from what a person truly holds as important.  Even that person who is seeking a high salary at the end of the day wants the money to enjoy it with his family, friends and what have you.

I decided that instead of pushing off focusing on what is important to me until I had enough money to retire or at least have a “comfortable” life, I would become mindful of these things right now.  I am happy with my family, my friends and everything else on that list at the moment.  I do not wish to focus on anything else.  Does this mean I am going to go live in a cave and not worry about getting into a career?  Absolutely not.  I just cannot have my career as the main focus in my life.  I need to see a career as the portion of my life that allows me to enjoy the things I want to be enjoying.  This is the key to my happiness right now.

This article dealt with addressing what I desire.  The next article iA will discuss why I desire.  I am not so sure I have an answer for that question but I would like to think out loud iA.

– Sajed Bhandari


Written by sajedbhandari

June 15, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Posted in Living Simply

Letter to a Young Muslim


It was known in both the political science literature and in liberal news sources that Muslims in America were less prone to radicalization than their counterparts in Europe.  That notion began to change with homegrown terrorists attempting attacks in the homeland as well as seeking training in foreign countries.  It became obvious that many of these Muslims were self-radicalized through the internet.  Muslim-American groups, such as MPAC, quickly began to create an online presence to provide an alternate political understanding for these young Muslims and in the process, attack the efforts of extremist groups that had found a home online.

The letter which follows is a fictional letter.  It is an amalgam of Muslims I have met who have gone through this process of self-radicalization.  It is not about anyone in particular.  I do not expect it to make a significant difference, however, I can only try to offer a small entry on this important project of criticizing the fundamentalist foundations of a violent extremist ideology.


Dear Young Man,

You would not come up to me the other day when I visited my old school.  I had visited for the first time in months.  My friend had landed a few weeks prior and was staying there.  All the others had stood up and walked to greet me.  But you stood there, in the back not approaching.  You knew better than these other youths who were blinded by my charm and wit.  My ability to quote obscure references and convince others of the truth in my lies or falsehoods.  But you, you were able to see the kufr and nifaq that was in my heart.  I understand.  It was your principled stance against that old secularist who came back.  I would have reacted the same way when I was traveling through the stage you are in now.  After all, “Secular Muslim” is a contradiction in terms in the ideology you and I once shared.

I greeted the ones that came up to me.  I could not help however, but wonder about your protest.  Your protest did not offend me.  I respect you for your principled stance.  Your protest made me wonder more about my own evolution in thought throughout the years.  I had waited in high school to find someone like me.  I waited for someone who saw the weaknesses in man-made systems, the similarity of irjaa amongst the murji’a and the khurooj of the Khawarij, someone who understood the subtle nuances that existed in the manhaj of Abu Hamza and the manhaj of Omar Bakri.

I too listened to those lectures, printed those PDF documents (who needs glossy covers when he or she has the haqq), and visited those websites.  The process of radicalization was as much a social as it was an individual effort.  I understood you, in your protest, in your walking away.  I understood your self-righteous loneliness.  It must be a solitary experience to have the truth.  Did not Ibn Masood teach that the jama’ah is that which is upon the truth, even if it is one person?

I understood you better than I understood the ones who greeted me.

Your protest resonated with me.  For once, I understood another person’s emotions.  I empathized.  You thought you were upon the haqq and that it was your duty to avoid ahlul Biddah.  Your teachers, through their MP3’s, blogs and websites, taught you to not associate or give the Salam to such individuals.

I have been there too.  I have been on the same journey you are on right now.  But, I had to eventually ask myself, what were the intentions behind these protests of mine?  Were these the commands of Allah as I told others?  Or was it more to prove others wrong, to feel as if I was part of the firqatul najiya; better yet, at taifa al mansourah?  Was my faith only vindicated by my attacks on the beliefs of others?

Is that the basis of your own faith?

We all want the same things for our community.  We want honor, stability, a just conclusion to the struggles that plague them around the world.  But ask yourself, what are you doing to construct a better future, not only for the community, but also for yourself?  The books you are reading, the lectures you are listening to, the arguments you are having, what are they creating?  The amount of arguments you win will not help you and it will not help the community.  It will only destroy what is good in you.

And you are a good person at heart.  You only want what is best for the Muslims around the world.  That is a sign of compassion.  But ask yourself, how many of these same Muslims would the ideology you carry with you write off as mubtadi, munafiq, zindiq, murtad and worst of all, kaffir? Are the Shia in Iran in your sphere of “compassion” or are they the Rawafidh who should be killed?  Are the Turks also Muslims who should be defended or are they secularists who have sold out?  How about the Saudis or are they slaves to the Madhkali establishment?  They are not true Salafis to begin with right?  Then how about the Muslims in Indonesia?  Malaysia?  Bangladesh?  How about the Muslims in those countries?  Does your ideology teach you to be compassionate towards the Muslims who inhabit these countries?  Or does your ideology teach you that their faith, their Aqeedah is flawed?

Ask yourself then, is it love for your brother that motivates you or is it the love of your ego and hatred of those who would harm it that which motivates?

If you want to help the Muslim world and the Muslims who live in it, then learn to love the ones who disagree with you.  If you can learn that, you can change the world.

Sajed Bhandari


I will send more letters to you iA.

Written by sajedbhandari

June 5, 2010 at 2:33 am

Posted in Engaging Extremism