Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Waterspout over Pensacola Beach

Waterspout over Pensacola Beach

Waterspout over Pensacola Beach

Posted: 15 Sep 2014 06:03 PM PDT

Waterspout over Pensacola Beach. Photographed from Garcon Point and across East Bay. Just east of Pensacola, Florida. 09.15.14

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More to Islam than meets the eye

Posted: 15 Sep 2014 03:17 PM PDT

Life is bizarre. It is constantly pushing us to the ground and knocking our teeth in. Yet there is something unsettling about a life where everything goes smoothly with little to no tribulations, considering that such a life even exits to begin with. In a world designed to crush souls, Islam is what keeps my sanity intact.

I grew up in a predominantly Muslim culture, and as such had felt that the religion was an unsolicited birthright, and constantly questioned the purpose of faith in its wide spectrum – not limited to just Islam. I dwelled in a state of utter antipathy during my early adolescent years, coupled with a strong sense of self-righteousness under the guise that I had it all figured out. Looking back, I realize that my cynicism was strongly the result of being exposed to binary ideologies of what makes a person a "true Muslim." Being told that doing so-and-so or that doing something in a such-and-such manner was "wrong" and bound to doom the person in question to an eternal punishment was very off-putting. It still is. It is an epidemic that is sadly disregarded by many who practice Islam and other faiths alike.

After wallowing in my antagonism for a couple of years, I woke up to the realization that I knew nothing, and that I had to fill in the gap of ignorance and find the answers I needed. The process of doing so naturally led me to realize the vast extent of which I did not know, and how I will always be in the dark about countless of matters. It was a much-needed wake-up call that brought to me to my knees in a state of prostration, absolutely humbled by my arrogance, and looking forward to a new calling of seeking whatever knowledge I can grasp on this beautiful and misunderstood faith. A little less than a decade has passed since then, in which I can report how, to me, Islam has been a constant source of enlightenment and self-improvement.

Despite the prevalent idea being sold to everyone of what happiness is, I learned that it is not something one strives to "achieve" in their lifetime. Islam teaches to persevere when things go wrong – better yet, it teaches to accept that everyone will face their ups and downs in life, and that neither side of the pole of human emotional conditions will permanently outweigh the other. The "happiness" you work hard for may be snatched away from you in the blink of an eye. The state of utter depression you have fallen into may not last as long as you sense it will. There are also those ordinary times where everything will flow as mundanely as possible. Muslims who take it upon themselves to read and study the Holy Quran are regularly reminded that "Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear" (Quran, 2:286). Islam is a reminder that struggling is not a sign of weak faith, or weak character for that matter. The struggles faced in this world, if confronted with perseverance, are signs of when a Muslim needs their Lord the most.

In terms of practical worship, Islam is anything but routine. It is not limited to the rituals that may come off as repetitive on the surface. Every action you take traces back to your intention – something that is so deep, personal and versatile that should be of no one else's business should it not trespass on others' matters. The degree to which personal decisions and privacy are valued in Islam has always struck me as one of its most beautiful aspects that speak to the human condition. I understand that the media tends to propagate Islam as a strict religion, but further study of the faith teaches that even conviction itself is not something that should come with force. It encourages critical thinking and promotes tolerance. It truly teaches to take care of and look after yourself while still accepting others as they are. There is no such as a person who is Muslim by name being "better" than someone of a different creed; everything, everything, traces back to your intentions.

In spite of the infamous misconception, I learned that Islam absolutely stands behind women and encourages them to obtain their rights. It baffles me that, to this day and age, men and women of various creeds (Muslims included) are still battling to determine women's rights when it should be a no-brainer. Islam has, in fact, bestowed basic human rights to women long ago, if only one educates him or herself on the subject outside of a superficial "skimming" of the Islamic faith. I believe that Islam has granted women one of the most essential and innate rights that every human being desires: Independence. Unfortunately, outdated cultural traditions tend to clash with many Islamic teachings in the Muslim world, which obviously makes gender double standards seem justifiable. This is all the more reason for Muslims to educate themselves beyond what they learn at home or in a classroom.

Extracurricular learning about Islam has only made me want to embrace it further. Every bit of knowledge I gained about my religion thus far enlightens me more than anything else. I am glad that I am surrounded by people of different ideologies and that we can co-exist and learn from one another. It gives me great joy to discuss and dissect the finer aspects of Islam that are either overlooked or misinterpreted, all while accepting others' views. I feel blessed to wear the hijab fulltime to express my gratefulness and identity as a Muslim. I am happy to wear my faith on my sleeve… or around my head, to be more precise.

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Muslims, as we are

Posted: 15 Sep 2014 11:41 AM PDT

Muslim is a word that has become synonymous with long bearded, black wearing and gun wielding terrorists since the past decade or so. But Muslims are certainly not that, they are not represented by that image of blood thirsty extremists. We were never poised to be that and it is not something taught to us by our religion. I, as a born Muslim, know that. We resent that image and we resent the fact that the world stereotypes us as that. It's not who we are and it's not something we endorse.
As Muslims, we are directed to follow the teachings of our Holy Prophet Peace Be Upon Him who said that the one who takes the life of a single human being, takes the life of the entire humanity. So how can someone who calls himself a Muslim take a human life and not be haunted, held responsible and reprimanded by the injunctions of our Holy Prophet (PBUH)? Can he even be a Muslim if he does that? Muslims are the people who wouldn't hurt a fly let alone a human being. Our lives are so much directed and dictated by our religion that we cannot even think of negating it. We are the global nation that wants peace for everyone as taught by our Prophet. Islam was not spread by bombing cities and killing innocent people. Our Prophet even forgave the woman who chewed the heart of his Uncle. He forgave his worst enemies. That was what led Islam to be the 2nd largest religion as of today.
I am a Muslim and I was never taught to kill people so that I get my way. I am a Muslim and I was taught to be tolerant and peace loving. I am a Muslim and I am proud of it.
#Muslims #TheRealStory #Terrorism

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Solar Storm Bubbles

Posted: 15 Sep 2014 08:41 AM PDT

After learning about strong solar events impacting the earth this weekend my granddaughter, Cinneidi, and I did a little experiment to see how bubbles in the sky would look.

We have no idea if some of the coloring was solar related but made for some interesting pictures. Also was a great way to spend the afternoon together. Thanks for the view!

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Dusk in Tuscany

Posted: 12 Sep 2014 12:13 PM PDT

I snapped this photo a couple of weeks ago while crossing a bride in Florence, Italy. It was my first trip to the country and this photo is just one of many beautiful shots that I took as we traveled north to south through Italy.

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