Weighing Words: Yours vs. Mine

BismiLahir Rahmanir Raheem

*What if you knew about all that I do? The things that I think? The me that is true? Would you call me a hypocrite? Call me a liar? Would you curse out my name or would you damn me to fire? Would you know what to say or would you just walk away afraid the me I've tried to hide would too closely resemble the truth of you that lies inside?*
- Dawud W. Ali

"Communication, communication, communication" is said to be the key to successful relationships. This advice sounds as good as the golden rule to good real estate "location, location, location." But buying a house on a busy, main road is going to drive any sane person nuts just as any store owner will be bored out of his mind (and surely out of business) with a store in the middle of farmland. My point you ask? Well, let's put communication into perspective because sometimes it seems not to work as well as we'd like.

Successful communication requires the interlocutors to understand each other with few or no baseless assumptions about the other. The message from person A reaches and is understood by person B as clearly as person A thought of it in his/her own mind. Quite a feat, eh? It's not a wonder that most conversations require some level of clarification. Nonetheless, this blessing of communication seems to work, perhaps not as perfectly as described above, but that's because most topics aren't sensitive enough to notice a lack of precision in understanding. What happens though when the topic is sensitive to either party and where the dialogue seems to progress only slightly if at all? No doubt, such a case would necessitate tact, diplomacy, and consideration for the receiver's reaction to whatever is coming from the other interlocutor. Simple enough, right?

Nope! Not that simple... This is where it seems to all go down the drain with all parties claiming to have had good intentions and not responsible for the other person's misunderstanding. Good intentions do not negate a person's negative response to a well-intended action, but instead they facilitate efforts in the reconciliation process. Communication is a two-way process, and where it fails, it requires an effort from both sides to reach a solution. It is not fair to say, "Well I meant it in a good way, therefore he/she can't feel that way as a result of what happened."

No one has the right to say that another "cannot" or "should not" feel a certain way about something. All feelings are valid, even if they stem from miscommunication. And because each feeling is valid, they must be addressed with care so as to fill in the blanks and readdress the areas of confusion and misunderstanding. To illustrate, a lady once told me that her husband thinks she hates him. She undervalued his feelings on the basis that she knows she doesn't hate him and attributed his claim perhaps to his own personal issues. After some exploration, we soon discovered reasons that may have contributed to her husband feeling as though she didn't care much for him. She finally made the effort to understand his feelings, a first step towards solving their problems.

Communication is a messy process sometimes, but giving the other person the benefit of the doubt and trusting our loved ones to be sincere with us is a starting point of enjoyable dialogue, one that can withstand even a hurricane. It seems to me that communication can only make remarkable leaps when we ask ourselves "What did he/she understand?" instead of "What did I mean?"

Just don't ever forget, it's not all about you or me... it's about us.

Smile. There's light at the end of every dark tunnel, God willing!

O Lord, let our return to You be sweet, our lives be fruitful, our relationships be beautiful, and our every moment bear witness to Your greatness, ameen.

Mercy like the rain...

BismiAllahir Rahmanir Raheem

Written July 5, 2007 - Selected portions of an e-mail...

So you might be wondering why I'm online at this time, that is if you figured out this isn't my normal online time. It's 9 PM now. I had been online before Maghrib. I was talking to someone and it was pourrring. Well guess what? When it came time to leave the Internet cafe all I saw was a flooded street. So for me to leave I would have to walk right in the rain water that poured down the street. It was fine the first couple of steps until I stepped off the curb and onto the road, which of course was deeper. My shoes and bottom of my pants were, of course, soaked! And I had to go buy some dinner.. So I went to the supermarket with my completely soaked shoes, bought some tomatoes, tuna, water, and juice. Then I went to the bakery, and finally made my way home. [Btw, I didn't mind walking in the flood waters... the closest to swimming I'll get for some time.] SubhanAllah, in front of the supermarket there are the regular people who sit at the curb there, beggars and vendors. Their faces are all too familiar to me now. One of the beggars, who has a crippled hand saw me coming toward the curb near the supermarket and told me to go around a bit because of the drain. There were a few people there trying to direct me so I could avoid the drain that was of course in a big spiral with all the water. SubhanAllah... every day I pass these people and feel such a shame overcome me when I leave their opened hands empty. SubhanAllah. I really have to go to a bank and get some change. I can't live like this where I pass them everyday and give them nothing.

As I left the bakery, an old (and I mean old!) man asked me for money. I dug into my bag and gave him a handful of coins. I think he was surprised cuz most ppl just give one coin. SubhanAllah.. really it's something. When something different from the norm strikes, the reality of our existence kind of sets in. Meaning in this context, I pass these people everyday, and somehow I manage to sleep at night having given them no money. Yet when it poured and the street was flooded, without any benefit to themselves, they advised me how to get to the curb in a way that would keep me safer. SubhanAllah. We're all just people. We all come from different walks of life and we have different challenges ahead of us. Yet if we forget to use our resources or we make excuses for using our resources to benefit others, we really have missed the point entirely. SubhanAllah. I can't get over it.

That's the first time I've been in the "flood." (The water has since subsided. The entire street wasn't flooded, just this side of the road... a good few meters from the curb of the stores I came out of and needed to go into). Oh, so why am I back at the Internet cafe? Well, cuz I went home and I was thinking about the files I sent to my sister from the MP3 player and remembered that in my fascination with the rain, I neglected to take the MP3 player out of the USB port. But the dudes here know me. And when I came in and asked him if he saw my MP3 player, he was already reaching into the drawer to get it for me.

Most of the people that I've encountered here in Sana'a are really, really good... masha'Allah. As people tried to find some shallow water with the flooded streets, we walked at the edges, on the 'sidewalk' (slightly elevated ground). I was walking towards my gate (by my house) and there were some men in front of me walking towards me. One stood in the crook of a doorway so I could pass easily, and the other literally stepped into the flooded water on the road so I could pass. I didn't mind stepping into it, but the fact that he did was a display of good adab... masha'Allah. May Allah reward them all, ameen.

As I go to sleep tonight, bed bugs and/or mosquitos will likely meet me... and that's okay because I know that today the people of the streets are going to have an even more difficult night. There's a makeshift house here on the street... I wish you could see it... I thank Allah every time for what I have..alhamduliAllah.

When I went home and made wudhu for Esha just now (before coming here to the Internet cafe), I saw a cockroach in my bathtub again. I decided to ignore it. It crawls out from the drain, and as I watched it, it crawled back in. They have their space, and I have mine. AlhamduliAllah for all. But yes, I know, if it gets further than the vicinity of the drain, I will have to kill it... and hopefully it will be a short ordeal for the both of us.

With that my dears, consider this ramble over. Take care of yourselves. Be happy, safe, and keep striving. May Allah guide us all, ameen!


BismiAllahir Rahmanir Raheem

Can't stop them from flowing
Rivers too precious for some to hold
Pebbles marking our graves when we die
Searching for the answer as to why we cry...

The reflection is unbearably hideous
The sand of the hourglass cultivating no change
Shovel out the dirt and settle in
Enthusiasm spent in the face of great sin

Hide beautiful rainbow
Shattered stained glass, a new emblem
Cradling selfish turmoil, seemingly endless
With peace's absence lives remain friendless

Freedom is philosophized to no end
Words feeding the already satiated
Battling with pangs of inevitable hunger
Soon to be lying six feet under...

Written January 13, 2008

A Passing Thought...

BismiAllahir Rahmanir Raheem

My mind is a remix of the sweetest kind, though I am still trying to find some coherence in my thoughts. Soon enough, it will come together, insha'Allah, but for now, I must write.

But what should I write about? How about love? I've previously written about this topic, but there are many things in recent months that have affected my understanding of this overly-used, hardly-lived word.

We limit our love in so many ways. While there are many philosophical sentences that could attempt to get at the essence of this word, they miss their mark because love is something real - lived and experienced.

A few days ago, I went to visit my friend. The day before my visit, she went to the doctor and received several injections making both her arms as stiff as a board on the day I saw her. Her pain was clearly there. We sat together for a while, and then she told me that she had to go out to pick up some things. I accompanied her. Our first stop was to get a jug of water filled with distilled water (this is for people who don't use tap water for cooking). Then we went to their local supermarket and bought some drinking water and some vegetables. We argued a little bit as I insisted that she allow me to carry the basket, since she was obviously in pain. She resisted, but eventually gave in. Fortunately, she also allowed me to pick the vegetables that she needed knowing that she would be in pain if she extended her arms.

I went home that night quite distressed. I couldn't and still fail to understand how her brother, who was at home, well and healthy, as we went shopping could have asked her to run those errands. It would be so simple for him to have gone himself, being the head of their household and a man in a world where men are more involved in the marketplace than women.

When I saw him that night, I told him that I thought he shouldn't send his sister to get the water filled there since its terribly awkward for women to go to an area filled with men. He brushed off my concerns, suggesting ways she could distance herself from them. Generally, he's a nice guy, but my respect for him diminished slightly that night.

In my eyes, the solution was simple. I think of what my family would have done. I know for a fact that no one in my family would have allowed to me to run those errands, let alone asked me, if I was in pain. But never mind what my family would do, we all come from different families... What would our beloved, the beloved of Allah, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, have done? Would he ever give priority to his comfort over the comfort and ease of others? Never.

So how can we say we love certain people when we put ourselves ahead of them? Love is not selfish. I have little tolerance for selfishness, especially when one allows it to enter a relationship that should be and is said to be enveloped in love.

The world is a lot bigger when it's not about ourselves. And, ironically, I say this when my world is currently all about me.

I've been living alone for the last three months. I don't have anyone else to be directly concerned about, but the bonds of love that I share with some keeps them forever in my thoughts.

I've lived a life of privilege in terms of love. Now, just to hear the voices of the ones that I love is hard to come by, it's infrequent. But my heart is with them.

The pain of separation from loved ones is the price I'm paying for lessons no book could teach. My greatest lesson has been about independence.

Never before have I been alone for so long. This is what people call independence right? For me, independence means depending entirely on my Lord. His love is generous, and some days I feel it. Every day I sense it. Were it not for His love, I wouldn't have been able to survive so long without my loved ones.

A couple of months ago I turned on the TV and I came across a show called "Stairway to Paradise" with Moez Masoud (from Egypt). He was talking about giving up the things we love for the sake of coming close to our Lord. One example he mentioned, simply, was sleep. Do we deny ourselves those extra hours of sleep for the sake of coming closer to our Lord when He tells us to call on Him for anything we may want or need in the pre-dawn hours?

What are we giving up for the sake of the love we claim to have?

Written August 26, 2007

May God guide us to the truth, ameen.
"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]