Aug 27, 2004

Gmail, Islam, Understanding

A couple of days ago, a red link showed up in my Gmail inbox page below the mailbox list. It said `Invite a Friend' [to use Gmail], and I was like OK, this may be my only chance to invite someone for I dunno, six months or a year or something, so I better make it good. And the only person I could think of who might appreciate a Gmail account was Faisal (and yes, Marvin, but he recently got himself a 1 GB Walla account so I thought a Gmail invitation would just confuse the poor guy). And Yaman would certainly not even understand the big deal about Gmail. So it's 1 GB, so what? He doesn't even use his 2 MB Hotmail account much. When Hotmail upgrades him to 250 MB, as they've promised to do soon, he probably won't even notice the difference.

So I called up Faisal and indirectly asked him what he thought of a Gmail account. He was interested but for the life of him couldn't figure out why I was asking these silly questions. But then he's probably used to that from me by now. As an aside, if I were called up and asked what I thought of Gmail, I'd probably make the connection immediately and expect an invite, but what the hey.... :-)

So, having assured myself that he would appreciate the benefits of having a Gmail account, I sent out the invite and congratulated myself on my wise decision.

Today, I signed in to Gmail and what should I see but 6 -- not one, but six -- invitations that I can give out to friends. Yikes. Sue me, but I think I'm running out of friends to invite. Nevertheless, I think I'll try. Alia could probably use the storage space, given her volume of correspondence, and Marvin, now that I come to think of it, could probably be persuaded to part with Walla for Gmail. Actually, I think I'll just email them, so there.


Now, I've finally finished Karen Armstrong's `History of Islam' -- not that it was huge or anything, but rather because I took a rather long hiatus to read other stuff. Dadiamma could never figure out why Dada leaves a book unfinished to start another one, and then finishes the first after the second, but I think that like me, he gets bored with one book after a while, no matter how interesting it is.

Anyway, Armstrong said something about why Muslim women might want to veil themselves from head to toe -- even though that is not required by the Quran -- that reminded me of my own affinity for my beard even when it was criticised roundly by both friends and family. Part of my rationale for the beard was, I don't care how I look to the rest of the world as long as I can have my way. Or, screw the rest of the world, I don't give a damn what they think. Or even, screw the rest of the world, I'll keep the beard just to irritate them!

So my being like that, I can certainly appreciate why some women might subscribe to the veil. It might irritate people, but I can appreciate the black irony of that and congratulate myself (!) for it.


This might sound shallow after the last paragraph, but I've come to realise that the most important thing I can ever learn is how to put myself in another person's shoes. In another word, empathy. The master's disciple may have concentrated on anger management[1], but I think if you understand the motivations behind people's actions, you'll find it a lot easier to control your temper. Now if only I could drill this into my head with a chainsaw. But no, it will probably take many years to fully absorb this idea.

[1] The story goes like this. A master once left his disciples to go on a trip. When he returned, he asked each of them what they had learned in his absence. They each enumerated the things they had learned, and the master was well pleased. However, when he came to the last pupil, and asked him what he had learnt, the pupil said he had learned only one thing. Hearing this, the master became very angry and struck the pupil. Then he asked him what he had learned. Calmy, the pupil replied, `I have learned never to lose my temper.'


nadia? said...

so i'm taking you practice islam? my heritage is split between german and iranian, so my grandpartents are also islamic. i,on the other hand, am a mutt when it comes to religion. i find it difficult to focus on a single, potent practice. anyway, i know what you mean about keeping something to spite another, i used to do that, and i'm sure i do still, without my noticing...but i've tried to "become a better person" in the least cheesy sense. like learn and progress in everything and anything i do. i like the last bit about the pupil, did you come up with it yourself? and what is gmail? a type of email i'm assuming? oh, and you sound like you're living in europe [england, perhaps?] am i right? :D btw, thanks for changing the note security :]

Yawar said...

I promise I'll post soon on religion and morality. I have a lot of thoughts and opinions -- probably as much as the next guy -- on these things, and I'm taking some time to craft a post.

To answer your question about the story, I came across it in a popular Indian children's magazine but I think it's probably a tale from the `Panchatantra' (`Five Parts'), an old Indian story collection designed to educate young princes in the ways of wisdom.

Gmail is indeed a Web-based email service, like Hotmail. The reason I've been gushing about it is ... well, probably explains better than I can.

I live in Dhaka, Bangladesh. If I sound European, it's only because I had consistently good English teachers :-) Well OK I also read a lot. Pretty much everything from breakfast cereal boxes to tear-inducing encyclopædias.

Riyaad said...


I was just looking for someone to chat to on gmail. So I used google to search muslim gmail email address. So I stumbled on your blog. Anyways I am also busy reading Karen Amstrongs book.

Funny thing is that Islam came to South Africa from Indonesia and Malaysia when they were brought here as slaves. I am of Indian, Malay descent.