The Painful End of Another Semester


If you're still a full-time student or have recently spoken to a full-time student, then you know why there seems to be that much more stress in the air these days. Alas, another semester is coming to an end. Students are scrabbling to get assignments completed in the midst of studying for exams with, of course, little time to enjoy for sleeping.

Since I was in my mid-teens, I have had three "life skills" goals - learn to sew, cook, and drive. I guess I figured that once I had these under my belt, I would be set to go through the motions of life, married or not. I have not proven mastery in any of these domains, yet I wonder if I ever will. My idea of 'achieving' these goals is to develop them to a point of automaticity, yet I observe others who have been doing them for years and years but they still run into 'problems' and experience learning curves. So really, I cannot count on being competent enough to have the luxury of slacking in my delivery of any of these essential skills for a 21st century Muslim woman. But does it matter? It doesn't, because that's not the point of achieving these skills.

My reflective point, you ask? Well, any goals that I have in my worldly life are hopefully a means to making things better in my eternal life. Meaning that I only want or need to be perform certain acts diligently for the sake of benefiting myself and my family for the sake of earning God's pleasure for the sake of being among those He chooses to bestow His infinite mercy upon. That's my hope, God willing.

Here's the problem, I'm not stressed enough. I am not like full-time students, and yet I am in the midst of an exam as I write this. I kid you not. This life is a test, and this is absolutely no joke. It's reality, the only reality that a sane person can accept. Yet I feel my failure. I sense it because I am looking for the point where I will be equipped without worry over certain things so that maybe I'll be peaceful enough to concentrate on the exam. Do you see the sad irony of what I'm saying??

I'd like this to make sense to more than just myself, so consider this quotation from the English translation of Imam Mawlud's "Purification of the Heart" with the commentary by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf:

Imam Mawlud says that dissatisfaction is a motivator to seek out better character. A human being is spiritually stalled as long as he content and smug with his state.

Thus, I must ask, do I have unrest because of minor things of this world that won't serve my goal, yet at the same time I experience some element of peace in that which is everlasting but of which I cannot claim possession?

The simplest way to summarize the underlying thoughts of this post is this... most exams don't deserve stress, but this one does. This test of life requires full dedication and the sacrifice of more rather than less. Am I even aware that this is a test? Is my internal self conscious of what the test is meant to achieve? And finally, what sincere effort am I putting toward success in this test?

Glory be to God, the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth, the One deserving of all praises. May His blessings be upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad, his companions, his family, all the messengers and prophets, and all the righteous people.

Healthy Appetites?


Some say that the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Unfortunately, I think there is some truth to it, but I like to think that besides the stomach and eyes, it could be through the mind. It is then not much of a wonder that to battle one's nafs we need to control both our gaze and food consumption (among other things).

Years ago, while grocery shopping with my Mom, I took a moment to survey my surroundings. I was amazed at what I saw. Amongst rows of neatly piled fruits and vegetables were a variety of different people all intensely examining each item before throwing it into a bag. "Feeding time at the zoo," I told my Mom. She didn't think that was very nice of me to say, so I elaborated a little by saying that while we grocery shop we are all so focused on trying to get the best of something that is far superior anyway that it seems as though we are experiencing hunger pangs - a rare experiential phenomenon in this community.

My selection of fruits or vegetables now is always coupled with the story of one shaykh who would choose the worst of the fruits available so that he could eat them before they were discarded as waste. SubhanAllah.

Food is like a lot of other things in this world. Outwardly, it has immense appeal, but if not used appropriately it can hinder us beyond belief. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him, set the balance for us through Islam. Through him, peace be upon him, we know that there is a tremendous amount of benefit in abstinence, such as through fasting, yet continuous fasting is not the Islamic way because it is a blessing of God to have and appreciate food.

Food is from God, it is by His blessing that we can sow seeds and reap the benefits of them through numerous types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs that potentially provide millions of unique, palate-tantalizing combinations. So again, it is not surprising that it is a farmer's duty (Islamically speaking) to ensure that part of his harvest goes to those in need since the farmer's harvest is not due to his work, but in reality is it a blessing of God to be shared by all.

Western society runs on the concept of continued consumption, but the price that we may ultimately pay for it is much too high. In the words of a wise person, "Be a people of abstinence, not a people of indulgence." That's something worth chewing on for a while.

Renewed Perspective


Travelling has its benefits. Despite the hassles it takes to prepare and actually carry out the venture, the consequences of it never ceases to enlighten me.

I recently returned from a wedding in New York. I would never even be able to imagine a wedding as such since it went beyond sufficient and tapped into the domain of 'dream like' for some. Generally, weddings aren't my thing. I really love to hear of a marriage, but rarely (though there have been exceptions) can fully appreciate the actual wedding reception. AlhamduliAllah, it went well and the families seemed happy.

As I watched from afar, my brother and I sticking together for much of the time, I couldn't help but feel grateful for not ever wanting to have such an extravagant wedding. It's nothing that I can credit myself for, but instead I praise God for protecting me from it.

Travelling often allows one the opportunity to appreciate that which is right under one's nose yet one may fail to appreciate it as fully as it is worth. While I generally recognize my disconnect from certain social and/or cultural practices, I was given the chance to witness that I've been blessed to feel this way. AlhamduliAllah. It is also something that if Allah wills, He could take from me and I could be among those who fall victim to social pressures with little action directed towards protecting me from the consequences of such practices.

The above may seem a little arrogant, and perhaps it is. But while I recognize all that, I also realize how important it is for me to work harder to improve my state of imaan. I may be blessed to not want a certain type of wedding, but this is by no means an indicator of my state in the Hereafter. In fact, I realize that my ability to see where others err is actually quite telling that I am weak and thus I do not focus as heartily on where I err. The people of wisdom work to purify themselves instead of wasting time criticizing others. May Allah bless me and my loved ones with this wisdom, ameen.

May Allah protect us all from earning His wrath, may He make our last moment of life the best moment of our lives, and may He cause us to meet Him in a state which is pleasing to Him, ameen.

The Other Side... or Not


As my sister and I perched ourselves on the floor in front of the fireplace, we talked about the quality of blog entries that we've seen, and we both agreed that there aren't a significant number of blogs that either of us have chanced upon that are both insightful and enjoyable reads. Redirecting the conversation, I said, "I know, my blog is boring. I wonder if anyone could make sense of my last post and give it a context." She responded, "Hmm.... well I read it, but I couldn't comment. I thought 'that's Farzeen again.'" I then decided that I would make my next post for her, a little entertaining and a bit of my other side.

Armed with this idea and a half-living laptop (more like half-dying, but I'm trying to be positive), I sat in the living room. As my family watched the news, I proceeded to log into Blogger. The internet connection is faulty on this laptop and especially slow today. As I waited for the Blogger page to load, I turned my attention to the news. There are increased suicide rates among women in Kabul this year, the news reported. Women who are forced to marry or face other cultural problems seek a solution through suicide, worst yet they carry this out by burning themselves to death. My heart dropped. SubhanAllah....The next story was far from uplifting, reporting on a soldier who raped and murdered an Iraqi girl. My jaws clenched.

It is reasons such as these reports that I find it very difficult to sit down, open a door to my thoughts, and still write something light-hearted. With this said though, I don't believe in depressive responses to world atrocities. In fact, I think it is quite ridiculous that people, as pampered in life as I, can respond to the world's problems by reducing their mental health to that of a cabbage via some form of depression. The only point of credit here is that at least it is, shall I say, a noble way to be depressed -- if such a thing is possible.

I also don't believe it is justified to despair (which is distinctly different than being emotionally moved or even upset) over the state of the people today because I believe that to fall into despair would indicate a loss of recognition that there is something greater than all of us and that His plan is ultimately being played out. His, most glorified is He, plan will prevail.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did not despair over people. When the people of Ta'if humiliated him and physically harmed him by getting their community's children to throw stones at the him, the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed for them. He prayed! That's what we need to do. [Please read this article which discusses
why our prayers remain unanswered.] This was the thinking of great leaders, of great people. Another example is that of Sallahadin Ayyubi who was trained in medicine. When his enemy fell ill and the doctors failed to cure him, Sallahadin disguised himself and went into the enemy camp, successfully treated the enemy's leader, and then left again.

What would we do? What do we do?

May the Almighty give us success with Him, and place us among those whom He is pleased with, ameen.

Update: 2006-11-16

Please listen to this lecture: 25 Promises of Allah to the Believers by Shaykh Anwar Al-Awlaki.

Rise Again O Sad One, Rise Again


How is it that as time passes conditions worsen? Is it that a soul will rot while maintaining its right to exist? Or is it simply that the lump of flesh which is worth more than all worldly commodities is festering beneath my very nose?

Travelling back, I see one who is familiar yet strange. One with contentment. With no plans, one who still achieves beyond thoughtful goals. The mirror shows a transition, providing evidence which proves the guilt of long hopes. Its destructive nature is certain and becomes increasingly ugly when combined with an unsettled soul.

The flavours of the past have their bitterness and are worth avoiding. To seek them again would only lead to increased turmoil, again leading further away from what needs to be sought. The path that once led to tranquility is renewed, though distant from the abode of long ago.

The difficulty comes in taming the nafs which is wildly out of control. Theories will not suffice, as it already harbours ideas but willingly and consistently rejects their application.

What can save such decrepitude?

There is hope for even the worst of conditions, but change needs to occur. Change must occur. A return to truth is in order. But how, pray tell, can this be achieved? Must it be through increased heartache towards what is frivolous to begin with? There must be a better way. Then perhaps it is in resigning oneself to inactivity and no ambitions? Is this the way of wisdom? Perhaps, though likely not. Or maybe, just maybe, it's time to beat the nafs into submission. But who will administer such an order? This is likely to backfire as weakness is the only available executor.

The resolution is within reach. The hurdles are mighty and the terrain is rugged. The soul hangs to these thoughts by a mere few threads. The day of miracles are over. Fall, fall, and fall again, but never be enticed to murder the soul nor sell it to the one who seeks it. Guard it. Fight for it. Pray for it.

O Lord, You know the state of our hearts and minds. You know what benefits us and where we err. I submit to Your greatness and ask that You don't let us sell our souls to the devil. I ask that You give us, this ummah, contentment and strengthen us to fight that which distracts us from sincerity towards You. Give us consistency in our good works, and cause us to have a joyful return to You. Protect us from doing anything that prevents us from experiencing the joy of being with You and those whom You love. Ameen.

The Online Affair


Let the games begin my friends! The Online World, the amusement park nearest you. Despite the clarity of the situation, it seems sometimes that no one can really figure out how things should work with Muslim brothers and sisters interacting in the real world, never mind the world wide web. So here it is, a chipped-chopped (and probably quite tamed) version of what awaits you online.

In some way, I am a veteran user of the world wide web. I probably first entered a chat room when I was 16 (a thing I've long ceased doing) and have come across some strange individuals. I'm not proud of this extended history, but I can tell you a little something about the way men and women interact, often laced with some story I'd prefer to deny knowing. On the bright side, I can say I've learnt a lot with little risk to maintenance of my dignity.

brother: salam, a/s/l?
-- The most annoying question anyone could ask me online. That's when I consider ignoring them, but feel obliged to answer their shortened prophetic greeting, despite its deviance from the sunnah.
me: Wa 'alaykum assalaam. Does it matter?
-- silence. Success. I don't have to be rude and eventually block this person who has already decided to leave me alone.

brother: Assalaamu'alaykum
-- Ooh, a full prophetic greeting, nice.
me: Wa 'alaykum assalaam
-- If he says a/s/l, I will have to ignore him.
brother: How are you?
-- Hmm.. surprise surprise. He's polite too.
AlhamduliAllah, well thanks, and you?
-- Maybe it won't be a/s/l, but the extended way of figuring the same thing out.
brother: AlhamduliAllah, pretty good. I was hoping there was someone who had something worthwhile to talk about. Do you know anything about the importance of the six fasts of Shawwal?
-- Ah, finally, someone who isn't trying to mack.

Henceforth, you enjoy discussing various issues with this person, who obviously seems to use his intellect, coupled with some decent manners, and most importantly an inclination to learn more about Islam. How bad can it be? He knows his limits, you know yours. It's all good, right? Actually, it's not all good. Shaytan's workforce is also employed on the world wide web. Emotions can be expressed, feelings can be shared, and a mutual sense of care can and will likely form. So what's wrong with that? Well, apart from the risk of having to later pick up the pieces of your broken heart and put it together again, it can lead to undisputed acts of haram. Game over.

You may try explaining this interaction to some of your real life friends, but they fail to understand how you can get along with someone who you have never met. You're not sure you can explain it yourself. Most likely the attachment occurs because it means that there is someone, somewhere who is taking the time from life to consider what you have to say and responds to it in a way that makes you feel worthwhile (this can be done with all sincerity, so it's not something that's easy to let go of). Humans are social beings, so there is no doubt some appeal in finding someone who you feel understands you. In fact, psychologists attribute the excitement of marriage (as understood in the West) precisely to the fact that someone has chosen another over every other potential in the entire world. Quite flattering, eh?

We're Muslims, so the bottom line has to come from Islam. The interaction between men and women in Islam is wisely guarded. Different cultures, though all Muslims, approach this situation in different ways. Suffice to say, adultery is common place in society, and we would be fools to think that it doesn't exist among Muslims. I'm telling you it does, as do other illicit relations. We have to set our standards above this.

Consider this. All the prophets and messengers of God came from legit relationships throughout their lineages. From the beginning of time, there is not a single illicit relationship that bore the prophets and messengers (may God's peace and mercy be upon them all). This is a proof of the importance and sacredness of marriage.

It's a bit ironic that I speak about the problems that sisters and brothers may have in figuring out online interactions when physical interactions in daily life itself has been put on the back burner. To each their own. For those who care, here's one way of looking at it. Men and women were created in pairs. When one marries, one becomes connected to an eternal partner. It may be that your spouse goes to Heaven and doesn't find you there and asks for you; and God, in His infinite mercy, removes you from the fires of Hell and unites you with your spouse. That's the greatness of the relationship. That's the honour of it. Why cheapen it by allowing yourself to get involved with others who have not made noble intentions when interacting with you?

You must admit, for a man to engage in close discussions - including but not limited to jokes, expression of his current feelings, life problems, etc. - with a woman that is not his wife is wrong, no? (The same would be true if it were a woman talking to another man who is not her husband.) This type of interaction becomes too intimate for a wise person. Wouldn't it be wronging one's spouse through a form of betrayal? I would say that it is wrong. The same can be said of a single person towards that person's future spouse.

The take home message is this, "If you have no shame, do what you will." But if you do have some shame, assess the situation as objectively as you can. Sometimes it gets tough, so if you have some trouble, consult one whose opinion you respect. Don't follow your nafs, and when that red light goes off, pay attention and respond appropriately. It's completely okay to consider marrying one who you have met online, but I warn you to consult people of wisdom and to continue the process in the right way (by the book, that is, inform your families and proceed through a third party).

Keep in mind, mixed-gendered relationships are sneaky. Sometimes the other person is emotionally moved by the interaction, where you may not be; but you are duty bound to correct the situation and take steps to terminate the interaction when you sense trouble.

Finally, I remind myself foremost, and ask that you, too, remember this: Illusory trust is a secured foe. You deserve better than an illusion.

For more information, read

Raising Clarity, Abasing Deception


It has a way of spoiling the good of previous experiences and the hope of smoothly reconciling conflicts. It is worse than sighting a rain cloud during a momentous outdoor event. Not only does it burden the carrier, but it also plagues the one who senses its presence. I call it pride.

I have been thinking about this topic for a while, knowing that it is something that plagues the heart, yet ironically it takes a lot of energy to maintain. I believe it to be related to arrogance to some extent, but its relation is best known to those who have studied the diseases of the heart. All I know is that I don't like it, nor do I want it.

Recently, I saw it approaching me. I accepted it, welcomed it, and gave it a home. Yes, I'll do that. It's better for me anyway. If I keep this up, then I'm going to lose out in the end. So I accept your way. I'll have my peace. But I don't have my peace with that because that's not called a resolution for me. It's called proud avoidance, and it continues to eat at me. Sometimes when life throws out a struggle, it's easy to say, "Forget that. I'm beyond that. I don't need that. I'm just going to blah, blah, blah." But we can't just blah, blah, blah. Etiquette and values cannot be dropped because of hardship, rejection, challenges, or internal strife.

I love the feeling of taking a problem and breaking it down until it becomes crystal clear and I see the true worth of it because I know that this is possible with every problem. It's sort of like trying to solve a brain teaser. You know there's an answer, it just takes some time to figure it out. Sometimes though, life doesn't offer a problem. Sometimes it's just a minor nuisance or something that can't quite be articulated as 'bad' but is nonetheless troublesome to the heart. This I consider a challenge, and it is exactly what I almost temporarily reconciled with a dash of pride.

Peace doesn't come from pride, nor contentment. Its sources are clear. We cannot depend on people, but this is not to be understood in the proud way such as "people aren't trustworthy nor reliable and depending on them will only lead to disappointments." Certainly, having expectations of people will lead to disappointments because for the most part we don't have the right to have some of these expectations nor are these expectations all together fair. The reality of it all though is that we each have a place in this world, as do other people. It is very possible to know this place, but we neglect to see it because our hearts are clouded with the other whisperings of our egos.

I only get a glimpse of this place on rare occasions... and how sweet it is. Really, it is one of the sweetest moments. I remember once, years ago, I sat in the car to go somewhere and I remember thinking to myself, "If Allah takes my soul now, I won't miss a thing in this world. I'll be going home." I miss those thoughts because they stemmed from contentment not despair.

My cousin once gave me this frame that says, "Home is where the feet may leave but not the heart." I love reading it because it always reminds me of the reality of human life. Our home is in heaven. That's where our father Adam (peace be upon him) was brought into existence, and that is where we hope to return; and though we may not be there physically, our hearts can be there. Can.

There are just so many distractions in this world. I guess this is why it is so important to have good company, regardless of the ways that we are able to interact with this company. To be able to share with people who live for the eternal is a blessing regardless if it is through telephone conversations, e-mail, the much frowned up chat services, or treasured dinner discussions. However, it is often not easy maintaining relationships without occasionally swallowing one's own pride.

These incoherent thoughts lead to one final thought, and that is that when we forget that we were created to worship God as He wants us to worship Him and to serve Him by following His laws, we end up in trouble. It is necessary to continuously utilize our resources in an effort to get our thoughts and actions back on track -- that is to sincerely strive towards eternal success. This is what this life is all about. It really is. Everything else is just... history.

Update 2006-12-04

I want to clarify one point above regarding my thoughts one day when getting into a car. When I said that I would not miss anything of the world, I did not then mean that I wished for death. SubhanAllah. Please watch this short clip called "Don't Desire Death" for a brief elaboration on the topic.

Comic Relief


Sometimes we all need a little bit of comic relief. I'm not complaining about life, praise be to God... "Wondrous is the affair of the believer." With that said though, I do have some comics that hit home for me these days. [My secret hobby of collecting random comics unveils itself.]

I've provided links for them since this blog template doesn't accomodate much width in my posts. My apologies for the inconvenience.

This first one is sad in essence, but coming from a crab it isn't too bad...

And this one always cracks me up...

[Calvin and Hobbes - Copyright Watterson/Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate]

Update: 2006-11-12

This one appeared in the Toronto Star shortly after I posted the comics above. Poor Sherman. I think they're going to need some professional help in the lagoon soon.

"Do you think that you will enter the Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried: 'When (will come) the help of God?' Ah! Verily the help of God is (always) near!" [2:214]



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"Be mindful of God, and God will protect you. Be mindful of God, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of God. If you seek help, seek help of God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. And if the whole world were to gather together to harm you, it would harm you only with something that God has already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried."
--Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]