Self-Inflicted Loss

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

I remember the times
that now seem so far away
when you stood by my side
no longer a stranger

but we've grown distant
oh so slowly
and my heart still aches
that you're no longer next to me

I reach out to you
but fail to understand
others tell me that I've forgotten
and that I've failed you

perhaps I deserve this loss
but it doesn't hurt any less
love isn't cheap
I see that

your strength still moves my heart
though you may not be mine
I do hope for your return
and for clarity in our union

Until then
I have no right to grieve
I've not abandoned you
I surely haven't

One day
We will smile together
Again, inshaAllah.
For His sake alone.
For His sake alone.

أحبك يا لغة القرآن
أحبك يا لغة العظيمة
أحبك يا لغة عربية

الصلاة و السلام على الرسول المصطفى

The Essence of Weddings

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

As Wedding Essence launches its new website (masha'Allahu wa alhamdulillah!), I'm reminded of the beauty of families. More specifically, I'm reminded of families who support each other, bring out the best in each other, and work together to facilitate each other's legit ambitions. It goes without saying that such blessings are from none other than Allah, the Most High, to whom belongs all praises, submission, and servitude. It is by His grace and facilitation that beauty manifests itself in our lives. In families, this beauty most often stems from husbands and wives, those of them who work towards beautifying the world with their joint efforts.

So, uhm, do I speaketh of ideals? Is reality much different? Perhaps it is! As my mother taught me, "Every bed of roses has its thorns." So the next time someone asks me "When are you getting married?" I think I might send them here to stew on the insights that Sherman and his buddies in the lagoon so nicely offer.

Enjoy!
***
[You'll have to click on the images to enlarge them. Sorry for the inconvenience.]

The agonizing question of when you're getting married finally pushes you to make an effort toward finding a suitable spouse. But if you decide to join the game, then make sure you at least have some game.

There must be a handbook for this process. Some people say "too honest" is a bad thing, but surely there should be a bright side to it.

You soon learn that the process is indeed challenging, but it's also very insightful. Perhaps a bit too insightful?

Those, however, who bravely persist after a failed venture might want to consider a new strategy.

But bravery and hopes only invite surprises. Be prepared.

Some of us though aren't that brave and instead the pressure only surmounts. God helps us all.

For those who make it past the meeting stage, it doesn't take much time before confidence takes the lead. Good thing friends are there to light the way.

Alas, you decide to marry...

And if you were wise enough to write the reasons down, you might want to make multiple copies. Maybe even hang one copy on the fridge too.

Okay, okay... a few peculiar preferences can be indulged, especially when your partner tries so hard to impress you.

Some surprises are better shared before the moment of truth. Otherwise, it's important that couples have effective methods for resolving conflicts.

Marriages do reach some strange plateaus. Love? What's that? Does it come with dip?

But through all the drama, selfless consideration shines through in its own uniquely beautiful way.

Marriage and fatherhood is sometimes a bit overwhelming for men, so let's take a peek at Hagar's scene for a reflective moment.

You see, wives are dependable. You can always count on them to set the record straight. Be prepared.

Men eventually learn to embrace the role of a father...

...ensuring that they impart their wisdom.

From singlehood to marriage to parenthood, we surpass those familial challenges. We then find ourselves being weighed down by the other demands of life.

But through it all, there are always friends who we can count on.

Alternatively, professional help will have to do.

Amply sufficient...

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

حسبي الله

A few months ago, I was officially required to get involved with society again. I had tried, rather unsuccessfully, to prepare myself mentally for the demands that awaited me in terms of interacting once again with society at large, a society that I've grown up in and know well enough to know that they still don't understand me, a Muslimah. Nonetheless, Allah placed me in this, and it has benefitted me tremendously to not forget that.

In Allah's generosity, kindness, and grace, He has made all practical considerations easy for me. As He always does. SubhanAllah. He tests me only in my gratefulness. In the demands of this world, He sends rays of sunshine my way just when I need them in the exact intensity that I need them. Sometimes, when my heart is in thousands of pieces, He sends that comfort, untouchable and brief though it may be, to be by my side. Alhamdulillah. It shouldn't have been suprising then when a colleague greeted me with "assalaamu'alaykum" when he first saw me despite not being a Muslim or when I met a Yemeni sister who, upon learning of my attempts to learn Arabic, began speaking to me in fus7a Arabic during our brief and sporadic conversations. Ashkuruka ya Rab...

I've since said goodbye to some of those people, and continue this journey with people whose company has thus far been enlightening. The world is a large place and the differences in people are unquantifiable. Being the boring person that I am, I have only one thing with which to connect with most people, and that is our shared humanity. And for me, it's sufficient. It is amply sufficient, bi ithnillah.

اللهم صلي على سيدنا حبيبنا محمد و على آله و صحبه و سلم
***


Khalid Belrhouzi - The Cloak

An Ink-less Pen

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Nope, today I won't write about the complications of myself. I won't write about the absurdity of consumerism. I won't write about the Hadhrami blue skies. I won't write about the voices of the heart. I won't write about the chaotic effects of selfishness and greed. I won't write about the sufferings of innocent people. I won't write about the monkey-like habits of man. I won't write about the challenges of this world. I won't write about the potential of dreams. I won't write about ineffective systems. I won't write about what is but that which we hate, or what isn't but that which we hope for, or what has passed but that which we still can't understand.

Add but a few more things to that list, and we have just about everything in my mind right now. And I don't want to think about any of them deeply. I can't, really.

If I have to liken my way of thinking as I face this world to something tangible, it would be a brick faced with the prospect of fitting through a smaller circular opening. And yet somehow it "works."

In all the ick of this life, there is so much to be grateful for. In all the illusions of this world, there is sufficient evidence of our reality. And really, that's about all I can swallow right now. To know that life is not in vain, that this world is not a place of amusement, and that we dwell here for only a short time is a great comfort for me. I want as little of it as it wants of me. It's a mutual hate-hate relationship, and tensions are just a part of the package.

Allah is Al Karim, and His graces are grand. Thank you Allah.

Gracefulness

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

All praise belongs to Allah, He who has supreme power over all, to whom we submit. May God's peace and blessings be upon His beloved, the Chosen One, Muhammad, and his family and companions.

"I love you from the world all the way to Pluto and then to the sun and around the sun infinity times." -ibnu ukhti

It soars across the sky with great elegance and ease. Hearts are moved by its expression of freedom as it glides amongst the clouds with superb gracefulness.

Birds embrace their world of flight, and I watch them with great admiration and fascination. Flight cannot have constrains, and thus it is that which keeps the human spirit bound to its environment. Only in rare and brief moments are most of us privileged with the taste of worldly release. Only rarely do we taste truth and the freedom that it allows. Otherwise, we firmly clutch truth within our palms as we immerse ourselves in work and commitments with such intensity that all expectations of functional grace are hardly achieved.

We are expert architects in building our spiritual hearts, so much so that we successfully mute its existence and govern its imprisonment. But by doing so, we deny ourselves the opportunity to ask ourselves "Why?" Why do we not experience clarity? Why are resolutions or any peaceful initiatives not a part of our lives? Why are we unable to soar with the birds? Why oh why is the world the way it is?

We attempt to bring light to our cardiac designs through love, but often we only intensify our denial of supreme power. Love is not quantifiable and yet if we cannot encompass it, how do we value it? Or even still, how do we know that it is what we claim it to be? We open our hearts to love, and through it we find more room for angst than tranquility.

There is only one key. There is only one solution. There is only one way. His way. The way of the One whose power is overpowering and supreme. It is only through the guidance, direction, and love that He blesses us with that we may soar. And some days, we do. Some days when we submit with our entire hearts, we smile with truth. Sincerity forms our dimples, and tranquility shapes our tears. Our beings tremble with the sweetness of gratitude and submission. The world, for those moments, is clear. The heart, for those blissful seconds, is by His design.

While we walk upon the blood-stained earth, we beseech the protection and guidance of our generous Lord. May He invite us to His light. May He bestow upon our beings understanding. May He make our hearts those that seek none other than Him. May He and His beloved, the means by which He chooses, become priorities in our lives. May gratefulness be our garments and sincerity our footprints. May our steps of humility soar with wings of knowledge and complete submission. Ameen.

Breathe Easily

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Praise be to Allah, the One to whom we submit, upon whom we depend, and to whom we turn. As we approach the blessed month of Dhul Hijja, by the permission of Allah, I am reminded of an event that passed about a year ago. It was a simple yet significant occasion for me and sometimes I believe it was just that that has helped me keep afloat these last couple of months. Nonetheless, I've been near drowning, and it's only by Allah's grace that I haven't landed on the ocean's floor. I continue to wonder at the ways of this world, and even though the path ahead is as dark as could be, there is a flame in this darkness. It comes in different packages. Sometimes a Quranic ayah. A wird - daily litany. A selfless desire. A heartfelt prostration. A child's laughter. A sincere du'a. And sometimes, a tear.

The giggles, by God's grace, have returned. And for two short months, God willing, I will get to savour them. Perhaps I won't get to enjoy their company as much as time would have allowed before, nonetheless these are among the great blessings that God favours me with. Such blessings indeed.

My life's test, thus far, is only to be grateful. In my heart of hearts, I see that there is nothing I need that isn't already within my reach and dependent on my repentance and His forgiveness, generosity, and grace. But there are some things missing in my life. And there are things for which I ask Allah. As for one thing missing, a miswak. As for one thing for which I ask Allah, understanding.

And with that, God willing, may I sleep easily. And by His grace, may I rise to embrace the next day with gratitude and a desire to make aright the lump of flesh that has since replaced my heart.

From You, ya Allah, I ask for guidance and protection. Facilitate all efforts for Your sake, and make us, the believers, among the righteous, submitting to Your will, and turned to You in humble gratitude, ameen.

Burning Eyes

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

It was only three nights, but they were all followed by relatively busy days. My eyes opened before the alarm went off in the pre-dawn hours of the night, though my sleep was far from complete. Surprisingly, after Fajr I did not sleep. During the first two mornings, I took a walk by myself savouring the breathtaking sights of nature. Shaykh Abdullah and his wife walked at that time too. We would greet briefly, and then they would continue their walk on deeper trails.

I enjoyed the tranquility of the mornings as the sun peaked over the horizon. By the third morning, however, I considered perhaps catching one hour of sleep before getting ready to meet the day. But the morning air and whistling birds enticed me, and my heart refused. The body cannot rest easily without the cooperation of the heart. My eyes rebelled, and I could feel them stinging. But it was a superbly beautiful morning. It certainly was. SubhanAllah.

I feel a similar sensation in my eyes now. I think of Shaykh Abdullah and the presence of tranquil souls. I wonder at the restful state of the heart. Looking at the great beauty of the autumn leaves, I consciously avoid the effort of putting things into perspective, and that is a great injustice to the heart, mind, and soul. May it not take death at my door for truth's reality to become clear again.

A Littered Heart

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

Reminiscing...

The morning after my first night in a boarding school, I heard what sounded like rain splashing on the tiles right outside my door. "Ah beautiful rain" I thought. I desperately wanted to go see it, but I was in the peak of my illness and couldn't find the energy to move.

Eventually, I moved out from that room and settled in a room further away from the typical dorms. It was a classroom of a public school, nestled within the boarding school, that was used to house guests who could no longer be accommodated in the dormitory. It was after settling in that room that I learned that my first morning at the boarding school wasn't met by the sound of rain but rather by the pitter-pattering feet of many little girls heading to class.

Having never lived in a boarding school before and then having a bedroom in the midst of classrooms, it fascinated me how school and boarding co-existed. My schedule was different than everyone else's which afforded me a couple more hours of much-needed sleep in the mornings before I had to get to my one-hour long class for the day. By the time I returned, break time was over for the little girls and the walk back to my room was often marked by candy, chocolate, and chip wrappers strewn across the floor.

It became a habit for me to greet the two sisters who were responsible for cleaning up this mess, and often I would apologize to one as I continuously neglected to greet her with proper respect by using the plural form of address "Kayfa haalukum?" as opposed to the singular form which I was more accustomed to using "Kayfa haaluki?" She would always respond with a forgiving smile. Our conversations were usually quite simple because my Arabic is too weak and her Arabic is much too dialectal for me to have had much hope of understanding her words without taking up a lot of her time and patience (though I'm sure she had plenty in the patience department, masha'Allah).

There aren't many things that bothered me about life in Yemen, but litter was certainly an exception. Six days a week these ladies cleaned the school of garbage that could have been easily placed in a garbage bin by the guilty litter bugs. But it seemed not to bother others much, and thoughts of this type were definitely a part of my "Western baggage" that I needed to deal with.

One Western sister advised that the untidy garbage is problematic for us because it reflects a diseased condition of the spiritual heart and soul both of which need to be purified. I imagine some might want to challenge her words, but she's absolutely right. I suppose the first counter-response would be that cleanliness is an essential part of our deen. Sah, it is... but being personally bothered by the less-than-desirable habits of others is not.

For one to be able to clean the filth of others, in my opinion, points to some admirable characteristics of the soul.

I remember once when I returned from class and headed to the sinks to make wudhu. There I was met by, as you can imagine, the repulsive sight and stench of one sink clogged with vomit. When I returned much later, it was cleaned up, most likely by none other than one of the two sisters who I often greeted.

My respect for them is great, and I love them for the sake of Allah. In my eyes, they have hearts of gold and the way that they carried themselves is well worth reflecting upon. It's reasonable to expect that we may never meet again in this life, and I may never have the opportunity to thank them and to tell them how special I think they are. I suppose even if I did get such a chance, they wouldn't easily accept my words as true, such is their humility and bashfulness. May Allah unite us in Jannah, ameen.

I pray that one day we can be among the internally purified, and I pray that Allah blesses them and the many others like them with goodness in this world and the next. Ameen.

Written on March 19, 2009

Nope Squared

Bismillah


I've decided...*cough*
Drum roll please.
*drull roll*
... that....*ahem* I just don't care.
There. I-do-not-care.

Okay, okay, I do care.
But I don't want to.
Okay fine. That's not true either.
But why?
Why? With more intensity.

I don't know what irritates the heck out of me more
Why do these stupid things happen?
Yes, stupid is the peak of articulacy in this regard.
Or
Why do I not understand?
Why can I not make a triangular peg fit in a round hole.
It's a wonder, not an interrogative. Just a wonder.
Time to make the hole square I think.
Actually I don't really think so.

Not much of a rebel here, y'know.
Only with the big things like, y'know, big things
That won't irritate anyone else except the garbage man.
Blue, green, and black. It's how we sort.
And we have so much garbage to sort
While people die of starvation.

Where's the chisel at?
The hole has got to be square or just bigger

To make sense
Cuz I don't get it.
I just don't get it.


Too dumb.
Must be.

Sometimes I wonder...

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Sometimes I feel like I just have to pause my involvement in the world so that I can take a look at what's going on around me. Each person is for himself, and yet the actions of others inevitably affect us all.

Sometimes I wonder if my optimism in facing the crises of this world of ours would be diminished if I had children to raise. But I guess part of the urgency in change is to make the world more manageable for the world's children. And yet as I say this, I fully recognize that there is no equilibrium in their conditions. I guess this is the nature of the world, and when the appetites of power and privilege in men are not curbed, the conditions only worsen.

There is good in the society that I live in, but sometimes I wonder if the good outweighs the bad. The thousand and one pros and cons, ambitions and fears, and realities and illusions play in my mind. They sometimes keep me awake at night as I wonder what my role is in this chaotic world.

I am not an apologist for who I am, nor for where I came from, nor for where I stand now. But for many, all these realities are seemingly incompatible. In a recent discussion about racism and discrimination, I realized that it takes me a while to recall situations in which I've been discriminated against. My logic for this was that such acts are sourced in ignorance (and often arrogance), and by storing such incidents in my "easy recall" memory (the official term of this memory store is beyond me) I would be giving them value in my life. I don't value such things, but I value the need to change. Thus, it's necessary to examine the areas of error in order to find suitable solutions.

What am I talking about you wonder? Ah, I wish I could simplify it, but it's the complication of the world that we live in. We cannot wash our hands off of this world, and we must know that there are pockets of beauty in all this chaos. But I still find it difficult to witness greed when I know that poverty exists. I cannot accept unearned advantage where injustice exists. I cannot accept lies where morality is at stake. I cannot. And yet, what can I do about it?

From where does our world's degeneration stem? SubhanAllah... Ya Rab...

In this year's Eid ul Fitr khutba, Shaykh Ramzy Ajem mentioned that we live in a time when extreme opposites are easily visible. Perhaps in previous generations these dichotomies were discreet and only apparent to those of keen insight, but today, it defies blindness to not notice. And as I find myself reimmersed in these competing ideologies, I know that I have only one thing keeping me sane. He, the Almighty, placed me in this, and as uncomfortable as it may be sometimes, I submit to His plan for me.

I must remind myself that while the ways of this world continue and our challenges for establishing morality and justice increase, God's plan is in effect. My greatest challenge then is not to try to save myself from getting sucked into the tornado of chaos but instead it is to embrace the clarity of indisputable truth and let it be my strength. By God's grace, I know that at this point I have the means to survive this chaos where many others may not. While my thoughts walk along spiralling paths, eventually He will show me the light of balance. Praise be to God for every condition.

***
The following is a very enlightening lecture by Tim Wise entitled "The Pathology of White Privilege." He articulates the interconnectedness of power, privilege, and responsibility very well and I believe that many of us, regardless of our race, need to understand the systems at work including those of divide and conquer.


Convoluted Clarity

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

There I was standing on a mountain. The large village was clearly visible down below. My eyes scanned over the greenery and the sparsely placed clusters of homes and neighbourhoods. There I was standing on a mountain.

The air blew into my eyes. I lifted up my (face) veil and took in a deep breath as my veil carefully followed the lead of the calm wind. It was my only chance in life to scream my heart out. But I'm not a screamer. It was my only chance in life to fly with the birds. But I had no wings. Instead I savoured the scenery. The flavour still remains on my lips. There I was standing on a mountain.

My dreams no longer take me there, and I'm forced to handle my life here in both wakefulness and sleep. It's an honour in its own right. But I cannot forget that there is clarity on mountain tops. There is real clarity in every effort to elevate one's thoughts and purpose from the tangible, the menial, the inconsequential, and the ineffectual. There is great clarity in the heightened awareness of true value and worthy perspectives.

And when we cannot reach such heights in our efforts to reach this clarity, we grapple with whatever we can to try to decipher the world around us. But the only value that we get from this is a sense of anticipatory renewal or insight. Perhaps angst gives us hope as there must be clarity after confusion. No?

I really don't know. I wait and long for the chance to reach those heights where I can soar with the birds in their seemingly effortless flight. But I recognize that I am in a complete state of unawareness, and my heart challenges it every single day. Only God knows how much longer such subtle conflicts can persist without affecting serious damage. We put our trust in Him and pray for the best.

Success is with You ya Rab. Clarity is with You ya Haleem. Forgive us, guide us, teach us, and let us not be content with anything other than You and Your guidance and direction. On You alone we depend. And though we may stray, our hearts long for You and only You. There is nothing of the world we seek except You and Your love, mercy, and guidance. Grant us an awareness of what it means to know You and to be close to You. Let that be our sweetness, and let that be our success. Ameen.

Guilty

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Most days I feel like I can't pinpoint it
But some days I realize that I can
I don't deny that there is good in it
As it is all part of God's masterful plan

But as I like to tell myself that I submit
I know this cannot be true
And as difficult as it is to admit
I need to see myself anew

Yes, I am walking and only on Him I depend
But my restlessness is a source of concern
Are these emotions that I must suspend?
Or is there a lesson that I must now discern?

It's not greener on the other side
I'll be the first to say
But it's neither a matter of wealth or pride
But instead an effort to find a way

And though the path is increasingly unclear
We live only a moment at a time
Only with His guidance can I attempt to steer
An empty heart's life of crime

الحمد لله على كل حال

The Big Day

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Where are the sheets that will be used to wrap my body? Where is the wood that will be used to cover me? Where is the shovel that will dig the hole within which I shall eventually lay? Who will place me in my new home? Such preparations need to be made for death is our companion in every wakeful state.

Rather, you find me busying myself with vain endeavours, none of which are worth the time needed to make mention of them.

Check the calendar, and there it is marked. In invisible ink, the exact day is not seen, but it is the only scheduled occurrence worth anticipating.

As a bride prepares herself for her wedding, so too shall we prepare ourselves for our big day. Who will perform the final wash? Sidr instead of soap. All uncleanliness is removed. An odd number of washings, one, three, maybe five or more. Soaped, washed, and combed, complete with three braids. No cosmetics needed, but perhaps a few dabs of perfume.

Turned onto one's right side, the story of one's life is over, and a new chapter of existence is opened. The next realm of existence is met.

What awaits us? O Lord, what awaits us?

O Allah, my heart does not comprehend the reality of promised death, and my mind fails to deliver the reminder. Walking blindly in this world, we seek Your protection from the evils of ourselves and beg of Your vast mercy. Ya Rahman, Ya Rahim, forgive us, guide us, let our last moment be the best moment of our lives. Let that day be one of rejoice for us. Ya Allah, ighfir lana wa iftah qulubana ilayka, qawiy imanana, wa 'atiyna husnal khaatima, ameen.

Update 13-08-09:

Please watch "Washing and Shrouding the Deceased"
A Flash presentation by Islamway

Weakness

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

I cannot claim that I love you for I do not follow you as one would follow her beloved. But I long for you, ya Habib. I hope for a way to come to you, to know you, to love you, and to be united with you.

These days I am trying even harder to keep you and your reality in mind. But there is a great weakness in my commitment to you for reasons that I cannot process intellectually. Why would one want other than your love? Why would one who has no conflict with your personage or with a single word or action or decision attributed to you look for anything other than the sweetness of your company?

I met those who claim to love you, and I noted that their claim is followed by actions. Their patient smiles are only on account of following your way. Their gentle words emulate your character. Their anger, expressed only for His sake, reflects your anger. When my eyes met theirs, I knew that that which I thought I shared with you was in fact a mere illusion.

But in my hopes, in my long hopes, I hope that perhaps this longing is a seed of love that will eventually grow and perhaps even blossom. Perhaps one day I will be amongst those who shall be honoured to stand with you. I need not greet you. I need not know that you know me. The One knows me. And He has honoured you. For this reason, I want to see you. May my eyes one day behold your blessed presence, O you who is beloved to the One who has power over all, He who deserves all praises. To Him shall we return. You are the precursor, and His manifestation is the epitome of success and rewards.

You are my means to Him. You are the one who I need to walk with in order to get to that sweet end. You are the only one from creation that I want encompassing my life. But I remind myself again that these are only words. Perhaps one day actions will follow. Perhaps one day. Until then, forgive me. Forgive me for the great time that I have wasted and continue to waste wandering through meadows far from your reach. I wrong you not, and only I feel the pain of my misdirection. Forgive me for belittling love.

May God's peace and blessings be upon you ya Habibullah, and upon your family and your companions, and those who love you. May He unite us, those of us who long for your company and love, in the best of places and in the best of ways. Ameen.

***

Al Mahabba Awards 2008
Muhammad Nabina
صلى الله عليه و سلم
with Hamada Helal




Update 08-08-09:

Al Qasidah Al Muhammadiyah
with Ahbab Al Mustafa


(Al Qasidah Al Muhammadiyah is a cherished qasidah. You can watch a video which includes the Arabic and English text here.)

عليه الصلاة و السلام

In the least, pray.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

If you were a mother who gave birth to a child at only five months gestation, and then you cared for him by yourself, in a new country as a refugee, at what point would you hope for easier conditions? If your child grew up never learning how to chew for himself as a result of medical malpractices and instead has only the opportunity to eat pudding or drink milk formula, would you remember to be grateful? If your son grew up to be stronger and taller than you, with unmanageable behavioural tendencies, would you have someone to turn to for support?

We take far too many things for granted. We forget many of the struggles that our parents have gone through and continue to go through on our account. Only recently, my parents worried over me as I didn't return home until late. They could have called me to see that I was alright, and I could have called them to tell them as much, except that I didn't want to disturb them as I figured that they must have gone to bed already. Little did I realize that they could not sleep knowing that I wasn't home yet. I hate even a single minute of worry that my family has endured on my account, but those minutes have been many. Nonetheless, at the same time, I am tremendously grateful to know that there are people in this world who care about me and my well being and who I can count on for support in my times of need. Praise be to God for these blessings.

Tonight though, I think many of us will have a difficult time putting our minds at ease as we think of a lady in our community who is facing a very difficult time in her life today, along with her son. Today she must admit him into the care of a mental hospital, and as much as she doesn't want to and as much as he doesn't want to go, they have no other option. Caring for him as a single mother has finally reached its limits, and this seems the only reasonable option, at least for the moment. I don't know what he might be thinking right now, but I'm sure he is insecure in his new environment and scared. Both mother and son have and will continue to shed more tears during this change in their lives, and for those of us who hear of their story, we seem to have little to offer them in support.

Pray for them and all the others who are facing troubled and lonely times. Pray for their ease in this world and their peace of mind. Pray for them to have patience during these trials and relief of these hardships. Pray that God opens a way for us to use ourselves as tools in His service helping to ease the difficulty of many situations faced by many of our sisters and brothers worldwide. Ameen.

Good Company

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

As the sun and rain work together, they are the means by which the earth is nourished, vegetation is fed, and life is restored. Such an intimate interplay is a great blessing from God, He who has power over all things. Interestingly, this same interaction continued over the last few days as Camp Nur 2009 was in effect. The weather easily and swiftly alternated between sunny and rainy such that as we enjoyed ourselves outside in the brightness of the sun, we could hear the rumbling of distant thunder. It was quite a fascinating and fitting interchange.

Most would consider rainfall during a summer camp to be something of a downer, but for me, it was nothing short of a great blessing. It is during gentle rainfall that we have a chance to witness God's mercy, and it is during bright sunshine that we can reflect on His compassion. Very practically speaking, rain can serve as medicine for the spiritual heart and the wondering mind. Supplications to God during the time that rain descends are answered. I tried to remember this as I arrived at the campsite and it started to drizzle. While I enjoyed the freshness and coolness of the rain, I attempted to remind myself not to take it for granted. SubhanAllahi wa bihamdihi, subhanAllahi al Azheem.


I cannot fully articulate the impact that this camp experience has had on me. Suffice to say, it was far from a normal camp phenomenon. The Muslim world has just entered the month of Sha'baan which is said to be the month of Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him. During our four days and three nights at camp, we had the opportunity to sit at the feet of a scholar who is a descendant of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his family. This fact in itself makes the reality of these past few days indescribable.

Shaykh Abdallah Al Haddad's involvement in the camp was heart moving to say the least. His presence, one that is always clothed with compassion and care, never failed to bring a smile to my face or heart. "Kayfa haaluki ya Farzeen?" he would ask me each day. "Anti bekhair?" In some ways, I regret not being in his presence more often over the last few days, but I know that Allah gave me what I needed in the exact dose that I needed it in lessons, good company, and simple fun.

There were only about fifty campers at Camp Nur this year. It was a small group, but they were gems. Each and every single one of them was a shining star. It really is a wonder that I can say this, as most times there is a rowdy one here or there who can't quite be trusted to keep to the rules. And while some of the young women under my care did push the boundaries of rules, they never went so far as to be unreasonable or rude.

I really enjoyed their company, and I benefited tremendously from it. It was my complete honour and privilege to play with them, swim with them, learn with them, read Quran with them, sing with them, eat with them, pray with them, laugh with them, see their excitement, and witness their challenges. In their inclination to whine about the nuisance of feasting mosquitoes and long walks on muddy trails, I invited them to see goodness in the world around them. And my only hope with respect to my interaction with them is that they've taken to heart this one simple invitation.

The organizers of the camp are a different story. Though gems in their own right, to me they seemed to be as brilliant as distant planets that are visible in our night sky. They glowed in their character, speech, and general presence. I'm sure that if the whole camp experience was put on mute, I would have benefited by simply observing their behaviour which included both subtle and bright smiles, hearty hugs, a gentle stroke over a child's head, a twinkle of the eyes, a knowing nod, appropriate frowns, and praiseworthy gentleness. Their demeanor spoke to me far more than their words, and I'm still struggling to encompass such beauty. In many ways, I didn't belong amongst them, but Allah placed me there and I pray that I will be able to utilize the benefits of such wonderful companionship.

It's only the second day after camp, but I miss their company. Along with the wisdom that our dear Shaykh Abdallah shared with us, it was food for my heart and soul. But as I think about my time there and its end, I know that I would not want it to have been prolonged, but rather I must focus my energy on making a sincere effort to find and practice the good which has been delivered directly to me. Thus, I am reminded of some profound words that were shared with me in recent months, "As it's said, if the veils were lifted you wouldn't choose for yourself other than what Allah has chosen."




Thank You Allah.

Smooth Sailing

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

In a deep, oceanic valley lies a deep thought that cannot be reached. The tongue could not move except out of complete necessity, and there remained that thought.

Now in type perhaps its silence can be removed, so with the deserving prophetic greetings of peace may it begin. But there is nothing to follow, and silence is the favoured option of the wise. Articulations betray one's secrets. Deeper meanings of simple words are easily captured by listening beyond the words themselves. This ultimate betrayal of the the soul begins and ends with the escape of just a single, untimely breath.

My nature is inclined to silence, though I've since overwhelmed it and learned to engage the amicable with both guarded insights or free thoughts. But it is in silence that sweetness settles upon the tongue. Eventually, what follows is tastier than any of the hasty appetizers that might have been served to avoid initial uncertainties. It's a meal well worth waiting for, perhaps. But then again, fasting is a gratifying option too. Let God choose the path, and whichever of the two prevails shall be superior.

As a friend gave voice to the challenges that life's directions offered, I listened. Offerings are only that, simple options. The choice need not be her own as it would necessarily be flawed. Chase, and chase, and chase some more, but you'll find your fruits at the end to be outwardly decent, perhaps even beautiful, but inwardly tasteless. Let Him choose, and you're guaranteed sweetness in every oasis you encounter.

I can regret a lot, but it would be a wasted effort. Instead, I thank my Gracious and Kind Lord for His many blessings, and I smile from my heart, deep within, wherein lies that thought. The thought that this life is only a journey. He will send us the provisions that we need as we feign self-dependent navigation. And in the silence of the night when deep thoughts can be heard, we will savour the pleasures of submission.

My Babies

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Sweet child, resting in my arms. I rock you gently as we listen to words, blessed in their own right, praising our beloved, the beloved of Allah, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him and his family.

Moments earlier tears rolled off your tender cheeks and soaked into your blanket. I still feel the moisture of your tears as I hold you close to me. I lightly stroke your cheeks, and you open your eyes very briefly. Sleep gets the better of you, and in your calm state you fall off into a deep slumber.

It seems like it was only yesterday when that was a reality. But time is moving quickly. In our separation, dreams kept us close. It seemed that not a day passed when I didn't think of you, miss you, pray for you, and hope for our reunion. When it came, you surprised me with your maturity, your strength, and your ability to 'take me down.' I've since learned to play the fighter, and enjoy every minute of our synchronized laughter filling the room.

The room is now silent. And in its silence, I must take a lesson.

I no longer hope for what may never be, but I try to remember to focus on our guarantees. You are blessings by Allah's will only. Your presence warms the hearts of those who love you, and this is none other than a gift from God. I try to refrain myself from believing that my selfishness for your company is something worthwhile. God has opened another path for you, and as I plead with Him to take care of you and all your affairs, I trust His plan for you and us all completely.

I cannot afford to love you for anything other than His sake. Regardless, my love for you knows no bounds. You'll always be my babies regardless of the changes that we face.

Until we meet again, God willing... May Allah keep you both safe, make you blessings for your mother and loved ones, and make you among the righteous, ameen.
I love you too.

For tomorrow...

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll fill my day with dedicated study and fruitful reflections.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll dedicate only a few hours to sleeping and eating.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll avoid any distractions and remain focused.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll speak only good or remain silent.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll honour my family members.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll beautify my character.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll treat time as a gift.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll repent for my sins.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll savour my prayers.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll serve others.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I'll begin today.

For the tomorrow that never comes, I weep.

Gentle Eyes

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Those eyes. Even a clone could not imitate them. There is a soul that shines through those brilliant eyes. Your eyes. Likened to a radiating star that challenges the darkness of the night. Peace rests in those eyes.

Eyes are windows to the soul. Not mascara, nor eyeliner or kohl, nor eye shadow, nor anything tangible can add or detract from the beauty of the messages hidden beneath those lowered eyelids. Only in rare and discreet glimpses are the messages, a raiment of hidden jewels, shared and another given entry.

Such is the appeal I find in my gentle giants who shelter their families and mourn their deceased. Though clothed with an intimidating demeanor, they exemplify patient tolerance, dedication, and a promise to care.

But I also see their sadness, and my eyes share their pain. Hunted, caged, abused, and mocked. How can we cage souls for entertainment? How can we justify the torment of any soul? We forget that punishments can only be carried out with just reasons and in accordance with the guidelines of the One who created all that the universe contains. His laws uphold justice and peace. Actions that go beyond His laws are transgressions for which we will be held accountable.

O gentle eyes, o sweet eyes, you see the way. For you, the path is clear, but for me it is not. Your eyes are innocent and your purpose lived, but not so for me. I look into your eyes and hope and pray for the same enlightenment and strength. You opened the window to your soul, though only for a brief moment, and then I knew that were I to do the same one would find only dust.

May the light of your eyes lead the way, by the permission of God. May He forgive us all for our guilty transgressions and may He establish our hearts in the firm and lovingly remembrance of His transcendence and generosity. Ameen.

A Gentle Glimmer



Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Like dust floating aimlessly from one surface to the next, as it is easily affected by changing wind patterns or eager dust rags, there is sometimes no meaningful direction in sight. Ambitions are only glorious words, and opportunities are closed gates.

But sometimes, as we sit in our reflective corners, we subconsciously turn our faces to the room's generous window. Our gaze lingers without a focus as we toss around those perturbing thoughts, and then our consciousness taps into a sea of shimmering molecules. The sun's wisdom caresses the directionless dust, and in their tranquil and harmonious interaction we find a suitable door through which we may lead our thoughts.

It is through such a door that I hope to carry (and not drag) some of my thoughts.

The human condition is a disappointing one. People will let us down, even if we think that our expectations of them are elementary. It seems too much to expect sincerity in most. It's becoming second nature to consider most promises as good as empty. But that's okay. As frustrating as it may be, in the grand scheme of things it is ineffectual and thus it must not be given more attention than it is worth.

We must live with our principles that carry us, our certainty of faith that guides us, and our dependence on God that supports us. And while we continue to stumble over the same rocks and new pebbles, we must pick ourselves up, even though we may stand alone, and carry on with the preparations that must be achieved for the life of eternity that awaits us.

From irritable indifference, there needed to be a way out. And while the path out and beyond the sheltered cave isn't clearly marked, there is a gentle glimmer.

And it's called hope.

Rock and Paper Scissors

Bismillah

Now let's look to the moon again and beg for a lesson. Switch off the sun and see how its counterpart responds. O bright moon, you aren't to be found. Lost in a galaxy of darkness, bereft of a crown. Such is the case when you take out truth.

What's a textbook word, a plastered face, and lip service except falsehood, an oppressive injustice. Trying to bring in the bling but forgetting that dignified integrity is the only shine worth keeping.

We holla' simple, but don't misunderstand that for glorified cheap. The price is high. A moral conscience and sincere actions are priceless, the absence of which sets one's worth at zero.

It won't bleed though, not a single tear. Such is the nature of a rock. And what is this world except a collection of eroding rocks?

And so it is, the moon too is just a rock. And we are much the same. Our jewels are not our own. An easy flick of the switch - kun fa-yakun - be and it is. Then what?

If the narcissism of others is intolerable, then what of our own selfish natures? This world offers nothing but a mirror. An ugly reflection indeed.
"Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth."
-Henry David Thoreau

The Lone Dandelion

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

"You forgot one dandelion" the little boy informed his grandfather. They spent some time in the garden tending to the flower beds, lawn, and the many weeds. The astute four-year-old was an eager helper enjoying his time with his grandparents. But this young assistant takes his surroundings for granted as he has to yet to discover his family's history and all that it entails. It is a history of migration and something that he must learn to embrace.

The term "immigrant" is tossed around in various political or economic arenas. People question the wisdom in allowing "others" into "their" country often times neglecting their own histories of migration. Regardless, countries are dependent on migrants, and citizens owe it to themselves to recognize that a country only grows richer with increased cooperation.

My family was like that lone dandelion in the garden. We immigrated to Canada almost twenty years ago from a life of relative comfort in a country of despicable corruption to a life of sacrifice in a country of relative peace. It was not easy trying to build a new life for ourselves as we faced a new array of challenges in a place where we lacked social networks and supports. But God takes care of our affairs, and after some time it has become the only place that we are familiar enough with to call home.

I am very grateful for my history of migration as it offers me an alternate lens to view the world. It's almost as good as travelling except that the "them" that my fellow citizens use to refer to immigrants will always be an "us" for me.

There are a host of psychological readjustments that immigrants must adopt in their new homes. Tariq Ramadan speaks of these, and once mentioned a very simplistic yet profound idea, "there is no such thing as a minority citizen." The implications of such a truthful statement are vast and demand the attention of all citizens.

The challenges that refugees face are a lot more multifaceted and increasingly more difficult. A refugee, by definition, is one who flees for safety, especially to another (foreign) country. A forced migration often times means one comes from an unstable environment to a new land without the means to easily establish oneself there.

Al Amaanah is an organization based in Houston, Texas that strives to serve the needs of the refugee population in that vicinity. Their name points directly to the responsibility that they acknowledge each community has towards the struggling (refugee) segment of the population. It was very inspiring watching these three (1, 2, 3) videos regarding their work.

One young man specifically mentioned that it is difficult for people in need to ask for a helping hand and it is upon those who are able to offer themselves and their contributions before a person is forced to ask. He also mentioned that every community has people who are need and it is up the rest of the community to seek these people out and offer them help in honourable ways.

I pray that God gives this organization divine success (tawfiq) and facilitates their efforts for His sake. May He help other communities combine and utilize their resources in the service of others for His sake, and may He give ease to all those who are suffering worldwide, ameen.

In closing, my use of the term dandelion in reference to immigrants is absolutely not meant to belittle. In fact, I'm hoping that it would invite us to think deeper about how we classify newcomers in our midst. Those who know the value of the dandelion plant actually seek it, collect it, and use it to improve their health. Most of us though cannot see its beauty and instead take cheap shots as we uproot it from a place it deserves to flourish.

As with many things, it only takes an initial effort to put ourselves in other people's shoes in order for us to be more productive and empathetic towards the situations that we face as communities.

And success is from God alone.

Focusing In

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

وَ قُل رَبِّي زِدنِي عِلماً

Have you noticed how perseverant the devil is in his oath to distract mankind from the worship and servitude of the One and True Lord of all that exists? His arrogance led him to make such an oath, and he works wonders in trying to fulfill his goals.

It amazes me how we, people in general, are able to persevere in our wrong actions. I suppose we have both the support of the ego (nafs) and Shaytan that makes that path easier. As Shaykh Abdullah Al Haddad (of Fes) mentioned once, the nafs is the daughter of Shaytan. They're a lethal father-daughter tag team that are very easily sustained.

However, intellectually, I don't blame Shaytan for my wrongdoings. He probably has a portion of blame, but only insofar as delivering an invitation to follow a misguided and undesirable way. Acceptance of that invitation and execution of its requirements are all matters that sit firmly on my plate of life's choices. And this is a burden I place on myself.

If the world was like a video game that has a power bar in the peripheries of our vision continuously telling us how much we earn in terms of rewards and how much punishment we've reaped from our misdeeds, most of us would likely despair. But life is not a video game, and our ability to rectify our situation is always an accessible option. It's almost like a game that has 'cheats' but in life (since life isn't a game) there are windows of opportunity to overcome the negative effects of our transgressions.

This is simply achieved, as I see it, by directing our sincere efforts to praiseworthy endeavours and most importantly sincerely seeking God's forgiveness with the resolve not to continue nor return to our wrongdoings.

It seems quite the challenge to remain focused in the honourable pursuits of life because they are harder to sustain. I suppose a firm support system needs to be established, and often times that comes from one's home. And more importantly, I imagine that our efforts toward good are only made easier by seeking knowledge for His sake.

Shaykh Abdullah Al Haddad visited Toronto in the summer of 2007. In my absence, my friend kindly shared some of his words with me. She had asked him about knowledge and how some students of (beneficial) knowledge feel weak or lack perseverance in their studies. She said his response was lengthy but he essentially said, something to the effect, "Many people ask regarding this issue. However, if we only realized the importance of this knowledge, we would never feel this way (lazy or lacking in motivation)." He also said that if we were sensitive to the responsibility we have concerning this knowledge ('ilm), these feelings would be impossible.

We cannot worship God in fear of Hell, nor can we worship Him in anticipation of Paradise. Our entry into Paradise is only granted by His mercy. But we must strive to worship Him and to perfect our worship of Him because He is deserving of this complete servitude.

The road is not an easy one, but half the time I think most of us are looking for the actual path, never mind attempting to tread it. Again, I think it's by the light which God bestows through knowledge that the path will become clearer, God willing.

May Allah bless us with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. May He forgive our sins and help us draw closer to Him. May He protect us from deceiving ourselves and distracting ourselves in fruitless and blameworthy pursuits. And may He take us back to Him in the best of states. Ameen.

Update 19/05/09:

Narrated Dirar ibn Murrah: Iblis said: "If I am successful in persuading man to do three things, then that will be all I need: to make forget his sins, to regard his good deeds as too many, and to be proud of his opinion."

.رب انفعنا بما علمتنا... رب علمنا الذي ينفعنا, آمين

Recharge

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

Most seem not to need to recharge during this time of the year. Spring, by itself, invites renewed enthusiasm. And how can it not? With budding leaves, blossoming flowers, emerging butterflies, and refreshing rain, it begs one to look ahead with positive and optimistic anticipation.

But even though I welcome this spring season, it seems not to be the same as I've previously seen it. As I listen to today's howling wind that co-exists alongside whistling birds and the bright evening sun, I recognize that some of us still sing with that very same wind.

So instead, I find my sense of renewal, at least for now, in words that a sister documented last year during her forty days in Tarim, Hadramawt, Yemen.

***
Day 25
Just like you die if you stay three days without water, your heart will die if it stays three days without listening to anything that reminds you of Allah, whether it is Qur'an recitations, lectures etc. So what if you're not only not listening to things that remind you of Allah, but listening to things that make you forget Him? Habib Umar

Every time you sin layers are added to your heart, until eventually your feelings [towards Allah] are blocked. Every time you feed your body what it wants, it just wants more. And when you do that your soul is dying. If it could talk to you it would tell you to feed it; the food of souls is worship. Sheikh Imaad

Day 15
It's ok to sometimes meander from the spiritual path. As long as you have a goal in mind, you can always get back to it, just like a car can get back on the road if it takes a right or left. Habib Umar

Day 35
"[Don't be] the man who wants to be learned in the sciences of religion but spends his time in idelness and says, 'God is generous and merciful, able to fill my heart with that knowledge with which He filled the hearts of His prophets and saints, without any effort on my part, any repetition, any learning from a teacher. Again, you resemble the man who wants wealth, yet does not engage in farming or commerce or any gainful occupation." Imam al-Ghazali

Day 36
To attain the secret of knowledge, act upon it. To attain the secret of dhikr, do copious amounts of it. To attain the secret of prayer, have presence in it. Habib Kathim

Day 39
People are sick of kalaam [talk] and they won't listen to it anymore. We don't need people who talk anymore, we need people who act, and who do da'wah through their character and behavior, not their speech. Habib Ali

A Breath Away

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

For much of this past year, I've felt like a fish out of water. Yesterday marked one year when I last breathed Yemeni air, and I do miss it. I miss it a lot.

As I listen to the rainfall this early morning, I can't seem to get back to sleep. It poured and poured the night that I was scheduled to fly out of Sana'a delaying my flight by five hours. And while many might have found the delay a nuisance, it was yet another blessing in God's ultimate plan for me. By the time I made it to Frankfurt to catch my connecting flight, I only needed to wait in the boarding terminal for about half an hour before boarding. My preference, by far, was to spend five hours sitting in Sana'a's humble airport.

There are endless memories - thoughts, reflections, dreams, experiences, interactions, sights - from my time in Yemen that I've drawn from over the last year. Interestingly, they have helped me in many ways as I lived through what has been the most challenging year of my life thus far. My life is far better than most, alhamduliLlah, and it is pretty problem-free, but there are things that I've almost taken for granted that have changed and that force me to restructure my approach to life. I am confident that peace will eventually meet me if I persevere, God willing.

Perseverance. It's really a difficult word to describe, and my life has been far too easy for me to ever claim to have any insights into its deeper meaning. But in my own simple way, I have had a taste of it.

I suppose it's fair to say that most who know me note that I'm particularly fond of Arabic. It was in search of her sweetness, at least initially, that took me to Yemen (and God knows best). However, it might surprise these same people to know that sometimes I wanted to give up. Though I only studied for about sixty percent of the time that I was in Yemen, I devoted my attention at those times wholeheartedly to my studies. After my short class each day, I'd return to my abode, be it my empty though peaceful apartment, or a home of generous though trying strangers, or the confines of a bustling boarding school, and studied alone with my trusty dictionary ever nearby.

I would sometimes get frustrated with myself when I noted that I was looking up the same word in the dictionary for about the fourth time (if not more). I wondered why I couldn't remember its meaning the first or second time around. Nonetheless, it was what I had to do, so I did it. I couldn't detect the progress that I was making in the language, and I couldn't anticipate any end.

Finally, it was time to write a mid-term exam. My teacher had far more confidence in my abilities than I had (and still have) in myself (yet another blessing, alhamduliAllah), and thus prepared a somewhat challenging exam. I suppose it was about one hour into writing the exam when I realized that I was smiling. I probably smiled the entire duration of the exam as I engaged with the questions. True enough, I didn't know all the answers and I made some silly mistakes, but that's the meaning of learning, and I was learning.

Now, I'm afraid to even look at that same exam which I still have with me because it'll evidence all that I've forgotten or failed to build upon.

A year of my life has passed, and I have not achieved even a minute percentage of the goals that I put before myself as I made my way back home. I suppose my goals are superficial in their own right, and I need only focus my attention on the needs of my heart, but that's an even heavier weight which I'd be blessed to be able to carry.

My longing for Yemen has little to do with the country itself (though it is a beautiful place) but rather focuses in on what it offered me. I remind myself that those offerings come from a single source, and it is to Him we must submit.

Peace is only a breath away, and I pray that it's a breath that finds its way to me before I breathe my last, insha'Allah wa ameen.

Walk With Me - Part II

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

... a continuation

When people ask us "What's it like being a twin?" we can only respond with a similar question, "What's it like not being a twin?" It's the only way we know. Our sisterhood is something we can take for granted, but our friendship, though transient in nature, is something that not all twins share.

It's not easy trying to articulate the specifics, and a part of me really doesn't want to. But for the sake of making a clear connection, I will have to try.

Our sisterhood, as with other familial relations, means that we'll eventually forgive each other. If we really need the other, we can eventually find the other helping. If we need someone to listen to our confusion and offer some insights, we can find this person with ease. If we need the reminder of another's compassion, care, and love, we need only spend some quality time together. If we need something as drastic as a kidney, we need only ensure that the doctors are prepared to perform the surgery.

Our friendship, as I've never seen in any other (parents excluded), means we forgive each other before the wrongdoing is complete. If only the thought of some basic need comes to mind, we find the other already facilitating its acquisition. If we speak to each other, any angst or distress present soon vanishes. We never seek a reminder of the other's love, compassion, and care as its evident in all our interactions. And if we ever need something as urgently as a heart transplant, we would only settle on sharing that one heart knowing that one's loss would be too great for the other to bear.

You might think that I'm exaggerating in my descriptions, but in essence, it's the complete truth. The friendship we have shared indicates that we care for each other more than ourselves and the other person's pain hurts us far more than our own. Our individual successes are shared by us both with equal enthusiasm, and we embrace being true to ourselves while in each other's company. Perhaps this is exactly what is meant by sakinah - tranquility, or to be at complete ease with another. It's a beautiful thing, alhamduliAllah.

But how does this all relate to marriage? In her life, it means that her best friend needs to be her husband. Their relationship is eternal in nature, unlike our own, and necessitates their complete commitment. In my life, it means that my closest attachment has to be beyond the tangible. Let me elaborate.

God blesses marriages with love, mercy, and tranquility (mawadah, rahmah, wa sakinah), and by virtue of such blessings, one might expect that married couples share all that I described above. We do not doubt, not for even a nanosecond, that God's promises are true. He has equipped all marriages with these essential items of true companionship that will hopefully be utilized by both husband and wife as they strive for something greater than the superficial and ephemeral.

Marriage is nothing other than a means to helping us achieve our goal of coming closer to our Lord and serving Him as He invites us to do, and yet, this beauty of sakinah and companionship is not easily visible among most married couples. Yes, I know, marriage is difficult. Growing up, my sister and I bickered enough for me to know that discord is a part of life. But how often do couples get through it and use it to improve their relationships? God only knows.

Again, I readily admit that I am in no position to speak about marriage. But if I can articulate my hopes in this regard, it would be that husbands and wives are also best friends. It goes beyond their obligations to each other as spouses and it embraces love and mercy manifesting itself into a life of tranquility, God willing.

The difference between marriage and friendship is that Shaytan prides himself and his people on destroying marriages, and he will fight couples relentlessly to achieve this end. As I've heard from teachers, the way to combat his interference is for both husband and wife to unite as they fill their home with dhikr, the remembrance of God. Shaytan is repelled by this, and it will deter his hopes. Please don't give him the pleasure of destroying a relationship that has the potential to grow into a beautiful abode in this chaotic world.

Sometimes though, some marriages just don't work. And God knows best why that it is. If such should occur, it still remains an obligation on both husband and wife to separate in a good way. As my father says, "Start with dignity, and end with dignity."

For those who are single and may never marry, there is something profound in it too. Should Allah will for you to marry, you will marry. And if not, you won't. It's as simple as that. But do you think that Ar Raheem, The Most Mericful, does not have something sweet for you too? Kalla, no. Have a good opinion of your Lord, and you'll always find sweetness in front of you, God willing.

As I tell myself now, there are two doors from which we (married or single) can enter into this sweetness - the love of the Quraan and the love of HabibiLlah, the beloved of God, Prophet Muhammad, may God's peace and blessings be upon him and his family. In fact, we all must strive to enter from both doors, and know that Allah will send us what we need, be it marriage or otherwise, if we truly seek success with Him alone.

For more information (this is my very polite way of insisting) about developing a relationship with Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, listen to these lessons (and this one in Arabic), insha'Allah.

Walk With Me - Part I

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

So let's combine my idealistic and peripheral observations with my continuously unachieved hope for worthwhile reflections. It's a dangerous combination given my lack of both direct experience and a suitable personal frame by which to place these thoughts. Consider yourself forewarned. You'll get only what you want to get from this, God willing - nothing more and nothing less.

***

Parenthood aside, marriage seems to be inspired by romantic ideals. But it takes a lot to keep the flames of such fanciful notions alive given the daunting task of trying to live with someone after some 20 or 30 odd years of not having to deal with that person, his habits, personality, interests, family, and moods.

For others, the dominant appeal in marriage seems to lie squarely on religious progression. But that too cannot be taken for granted, especially when you find that your significant other is struggling just as much as you with his spiritual aspirations and neither of you have any idea how you can help yourselves let alone each other.

Financial and worldly ambitions aside, there remains the hope of finding a companion in one's spouse. And it is from this point which I hope to make some leaps in my thinking, bi ithniLlah.

By God's grace, I am no stranger to companionship. Before I was born, I met my playmate, my confidant, and my best friend - my sister and my twin. To strangers, our faces are one and the same. To intimate acquaintances, we delightfully compliment each other. And to family and loved ones, we are complete individuals always playing on the same team.

There aren't words sufficient enough for me to thank God for this great blessing of companionship, and I'm sure within in too He has a lesson for us both.

My twin sister is a wife, a mother, and a step-mother of a few loving and beautiful (masha'Allah wa alhamduliAllah) children, all of whom are gems and gifts from God. She is a selfless woman with a big heart who attempts to raise her children with high moral and ethical consciousness. Her strength, perseverance, vision, and hearty sense of humour (that often keeps me laughing) are few of the many beautiful characteristics that Allah has blessed her with (alhamduliAllah).

However, the inherent nature of this world is change and this blessed relationship must endure the same. But as with everything in life, we must face these changes with complete confidence in God and His plan for us.

***

Were my writing aids pen and paper, the ink in my pen has suddenly run dry and will remain as such until I can reclaim the balance between heart and mind. Only with that can I hope to find the clarity which I seek, by the infinite grace of Allah.

...continued here

Acquire knowledge.
It enables its possessor to distinguish right from wrong;
it lights the way to Heaven;
it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless;
it guides us to happiness;
it sustains us in misery;
it is an ornament amongst friends;
and an armour against enemies.
-- Prophet Muhammad
....may God's peace and blessings be upon him

If I may...

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

Excuse me for a moment, I want to complain. Yes, I just want to complain.

I want to mention something and tell whoever might bump into this insignificant portion of the web hoping to pass some of their precious time in a fruitless pursuit that the random thing which I choose to mention is annoying and irritating me. That's a complaint, right? To whine about something because it's bothering you or maybe because you just want to hear your own voice so you pick on anything or anyone and attempt to start a case. (It takes too much energy to find good things to say, so why bother, eh?)

But you see, I'm too boring. And I currently can't think of anything to complain about. Not even myself which is usually a good place to go to get a good and decent topic for a complaint. But no, I have nothing. Zip. Zilch.

And you know what? It feels great! Just great!

But say something happens, and then I do have a complaint, and I voice it out to you. Yes you... No no, not you, but you. Clear? As clear as mud. I hoped as much. You can add that to your list of complaints. Yes, say I was to present a complaint to you, what would you do? Because you know, I'd only tell you if I trusted you enough to be able to respond to my complaints in a worthy way.

Don't listen to me whine for the sake of my whining having an audience because then your being would be easily likened to a worthless board which my whining rebounds against and comes back to me exactly the same way. Noise. I might as well complain here, on the world wide web where everything bounces back even uglier than when it leaves my grasp.

If I should so burden you with my complaints, please listen. And then, offer some fruitful feedback.

Why? Because whining for the sake of whining is a waste of time.

So quit yer whining sweetheart!

A Brief Second

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

It was, as always, in the midst of the night
When the shadow that danced upon the walls
Ceased to complete its infamously graceful steps
In concern, or was it despair, I arose to discover its purpose
Silenced, it could not be discerned
Where its steps ceased to exist, so too did its form
I waited
One second
And two
My breathing pausing alongside my anticipation
And then, there was motion
But only slight enough for the proctor to notice
And I did
And it hid its presence again
We had only just started the choreography
Of a speechless symphony
And as I stared into the darkness
Searching the walls for any sign of permanence
The world became clearer
For a second
A brief second
I knew that my waiting was in vain
The certitude of history beckoned acknowledgement
And the suspected guarantee of failure enlightened
The journey will be solitary for me

As hope cannot flourish in mere shadows
And in the deep crevices of the night
I still search for some strength

For a chariot of some sort to help carry me
To the abode of promises fulfilled
For it is by His graces alone
That in this world we can live

O Ramadhan

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

Reminiscing...

Ramadhan was finally upon us. Any thought of it in the months preceding its arrival was difficult to bear. I wasn't sure of what the changes that year would mean to me. Suffice to say, it has almost been two years since then and thoughts of it still linger.

The location was breathtaking in the day, but especially so at night. How I loved the nights! The stars stood overhead, each smiling brightly. The moon giggled and when no one was looking, I'm sure she winked too. We were living with the stars, and it was spectacular.

The night sky has its way of stealing me, and so it did that very night as we sat in pitch darkness, the electricity cut again, on the porch of the neighbour's house. Her front yard boasted a small farm, one small enough that the house which I was then a resident of was easily visible.

For some years prior, my sister and I developed a tradition of singing a Ramadhan song together upon the arrival of Ramadhan. I probably hadn't had the chance to speak to her yet, and as I gazed at the beautiful night canopy, I thought of the song.

As the neighbour and her sisters fussed in the dark preparing coffee and snacks, I sat in silence savouring the beauty of the moon. I debated over the temptation to honour the family tradition alone, but I really didn't want the others to hear me. I soon gave in and started singing the song softly to myself while enjoying the splendor of the night sky.

My humming, unfortunately, caught the attention of my companions who quickly started 'hushing' each other so they could hear me better. I, of course, stopped. They asked that I continue, but being acutely aware of their full attention and my preference to minimize it and disappear into the night, I refused. They pleaded. I figured that it was God's blessing that the electricity was still not working, and with darkness as my cloak, I indulged their request allowing myself to embrace the meaning of the words. After which, I butchered the song in my attempts to offer a translation.

I relate this story because the fifth new moon that appears in our skies from now, God willing, will mark our beloved Ramadhan, and perhaps it's time we start preparing to meet her. I know I tell myself this every year, and every year I fail, but it seems to be about the only thing glowing on my horizon, and I owe it to myself to do something about it, insha'Allah.

One beauty of writing is that thoughts can be preserved, so I remind myself about these suggestions which I wrote a few years ago in attempt to prepare for Ramadhan's arrival.

May the Almighty allow us to live long enough to meet Ramadhan. May He help us as we try to renew ourselves for His sake, may He forgive our sins, and may He shower His infinite blessings upon us and our loved ones, ameen.

"Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part, Happy to Meet Again"

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

Pain is a part of life, and it was a part of the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Beyond the physical challenges that he met in his life, be it hunger or illness, he also experienced a great level of emotional pain.

I wonder how it was that he responded to each situation. He experienced the loss of many who were not only close to him, but they were beloved to him. God placed them each as a source of comfort in his life, and these people included his mother Aminah, his grandfather Abdul Muttalib, his uncle Abu Talib, his wife Khadijah, his daughters Ruqayyah, Um Kulthum, and Zaynab, among many other significant people, may God's mercy and peace be upon them all.

I'm sure he wept, and yet I'm also sure that none of these many incidences in his life caused him to falter in his focus on reality and the purpose of life. After all, he is the last and final Prophet of God, peace and blessings be upon him. He was aware of the nature of this world, which inherently includes joyful meetings and sorrowful partings.

We need to reflect on his life and his way of doing things so that perhaps we can have some share of a grasp on reality in our lives.

Most don't like saying goodbye to those whom they respect, care about, and love. It's hard to let go of the joys of such company, and yet sometimes it's necessary. I can recall, quite vividly, the most difficult goodbyes in my life, and still, there are more ahead, by the will of God.

I can face them with the thought that I'm losing something, or I can face them with the affirmation that peace and contentment is with God alone. And as I say goodbye to those I love, I must acknowledge that I have been blessed by the Almighty to have tasted such a sweet connection in the first place.

I remember my last face-to-face interaction with one dear sister. We had only met each other a few months prior to our parting, but time did not play much of a factor in connecting our hearts. As my departure time neared, she came to see me to share some parting words which started with, "You know, I really don't like goodbyes." We then decided that it would not be a goodbye, but rather it would be an "until we meet again, God willing" moment. It was a slight reframing of the same concept, but now it offered so much more.

This life ends, but souls do not perish by God's will. God, Most Generous is He, unites people again, and we pray that He unites us with our loved ones in the best of places, in Jannah, with the most beloved of creation, Al Habib, Al Mustafa, Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Ameen.

Darkness

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Rahim

It was a windy and stormy night. I shuddered at the intensity of the night's thunder as I focused intensely on the road ahead of me. I'm not sure what exactly happened next, though I remember hearing the gratingly loud and irksome noise of metal crushing.

Shortly after, the sound of relentlessly loud honking filled my ears. I hoped it would stop soon as it was a merciless sound, but I soon realized that it was on account of my head resting on the steering wheel. I guess the airbag didn't activate. I tried to lift my head, now a dead weight, but I couldn't. I had no more control over my body.

I was in my final moments, and I realized that the Angel of Death was soon on his way to meet me. I was alone in a car far from anyone who normally offered me comfort. Panic started to set in as the reality of my situation became clear. Distress overtook me, and I wished there was someone nearby to read tasbih or Ya-Sin to lessen the pain in the process of my spirit's departure from my body.

It was the only moment of truth I would have in my life, and I continued to tremble at the thought of its approach. Tears flowed from my eyes, accompanied by ragged and terrified breathing. I tried to say the shahadah, and though it left my lips once, they were not my last words as I begged for God's forgiveness.

My fear was overwhelming, and I counselled myself to have a good opinion of my Lord, as He, the Exalted says, "I am as my servant thinks Me to be, and I am with him when he remembers Me." [Hadith] I tried to remind myself about a man's response when asked about his state as he lay on his deathbed. "Hoping in my Lord and fearful of my sins," he said. One then declared, "Never do these two things unite in the heart of a Muslim, in such a situation as this, but that God grants him what he hopes for, and gives him safekeeping from what he fears."

I opened my eyes and found myself alone looking at the ceiling of my bedroom, the experience evidenced by my tears.

I suppose all I had was a taste of what awaits me, and in God's great generosity, He allows me to live longer so that perhaps when the inevitable time comes for me to meet with the Angel of Death I may be better prepared.

Ya Rab, the veils of deception in this world are too great for me. I have nothing to hang onto except what You favour me with. Ya Allah, take us back to You in the best of states, let us meet You with a smile, and let our lives not be in vain. To You we submit, and from You alone we seek help. Let the purpose of our lives reflect in our actions, and protect us from wronging the bodies and souls with which you've blessed us. Ameen.


الله معي, الله شاهدي, الله حاضري, الله ناظري, الله قريب مني
"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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Inspiration

"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]