Heart's Form

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Imagine iron molded into a heart`s form. From the external, one can easily see a jewel embedded in the heart`s case. Its location is unique as it fills a hole allowing it dual access with its radiance shining brightly outward to the onlooker while simultaneously illuminating the inward with intimate light. There is, however, an even more fascinating jewel hidden in the hollow of the mold. It is embedded firmly within a protective casing of the metal and thus its radiance is confined to the inward alone. In its secret and humble abode, it dazzles and enlightens the heart chambers with impressive grace. Rare is it for the inward jewel to displays its charms, but its luminous existence is never forgotten. Jewels of the heart are rare to find.



Aug.21, 2013

Beauty

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In a frame of ambiguity, I cannot prevent my heart from a smile at the sight of what it cannot behold. Guilty are my indulgences, the flavour of tastelessness savoured. How can something be so beautiful and yet warn of lethal consequences? It cannot be as such because beauty, as I see it, is not a physical sight but a soulful gesture. Sometimes I think my imagination writes the master script, and yet I have the evidence of rough drafts and the culmination of fateful serendipity. There is no such thing as random, inconsequential, and purposeless. 

So in all that, I only really want to say thank you. To the One whose all-encompassing knowledge garnishes my heart with aromatic fumes that continue to linger. How bountiful an experience. How precious a memory. How grateful I remain, forever indebted to Him who knows that some smiles are shaped from tears and some tears are formed by smiles. Beautiful either way. It is beautiful either way.

الشكر والشوق

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

قلتُ: أشكر اللهَ أنه وضعني في هذا المكان معكُنّ الطيبات. الحمد الله
 قالتْ صديقتي: كل طيبات (قصدتْ في تلك المدينة الصغيرة)
قلتُ: لا... لسن كل الطيبات
ضحكت صديقتي

As odd as it may be, I am sometimes reluctant to try new dishes with the logic that if I really like any, then there is the possibility that I may want it again later on. I suppose seeking anything of the ephemeral world that is not in front of me only serves to complicate life. Yet, despite my general thought to not get attached, I do. In the world of insignificance, I would quite thoroughly enjoy a plate of mahshi malfoof and kusa - made with Egyptian rice - followed by a serving of konafa. But worst still is trying to get my heart and head around that which and those whom I miss.

I miss the athan, the scenery, and the serenity. I miss the sights and sounds of children playing on the street - barefoot and kicking around a ball, the honking horn of the bread man's van around 'asr time, (a sound that was once a nuisance), the morning greetings, the smiles, the language - both the Egyptian dialect and the attempts at fus7a, the du'as, and the general mirth that develops over time once understandings are developed. I miss the simplicity. I miss the sincerity. 

I do, however, recognize that because I was an outsider, I was spared the internal drama that close communities and families sometimes experience, and I'm grateful for the peace that that offered.

But to say that I miss a part of my life which I was blessed to experience does not negate the fact that my time there had come to an end and that this side of the ocean, too, contains intangibles and people to miss. I suppose it's the same as tasting a delicious dish or beverage. Who can forget a sweet drink that once quenched a deep thirst? 

The fine difference here lies between two phenomena: the natural disposition to remember good that we experience, and to desire the return of the goodness which is no longer a part of our immediate reality. The first, I imagine, is rooted in gratitude while the second is embedded and maintained in long and quite often false hopes.

و الله أعلم


Aug. 28, 2015

"I shouldn't miss you this much, but I do." (12/08/09)

Wholesome Ways

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

A superior once asked my co-teacher for her thoughts about something. She responded with a less favourable response and when asked why, she said, "because Farzeen doesn't like it." She meant it when she said that as we worked closely in the same space we would be a unified team, reflecting each other in whatever we did. Initially, I thought it an ambitious vision for a work environment, but our relationship has blossomed into a friendship and inevitably has, mostly, taken on this characteristic. 

It should be said that we never started off this way. While the basics of politeness always existed, there, too, were doubts and misunderstandings which I imagine were rooted in previous negative experiences. Alhamdulillah, we have since reached a plateau of mutual consideration and trust. How? By Allah's grace alone, but if words were used to describe efforts that have been invested in this relationship - and any good relationship - they might be: 

1) Have high intentions
2) Be sincere
3) Have a good opinion
4) Forgive
5) Seek all that is good 
6) Be tolerant
7) Be patient
8) Laugh together
9) Make sacrifices
10) Share i.e. thoughts, ideas, opinions, concerns, belongings, food,  etc.
11) Be loyal
12) Apologize and appreciate
13) Be flexible 
14) Compromise
15) Be dependable
16) Respect the other's perspective on life
17) Make it for Allah's sake

***

We recently discussed the shari'ah perspective on a woman's earnings. "A woman doesn't need to give them to her husband for household expenses if she doesn't wish," I said to her. She said, "Spouses are one unit. If my husband allows me to go and work, should I not be grateful and ease his responsibilities as well? There is no such thing as "mine and his." We breathe as one, and we are one." I smiled, recalling a similar approach in my parents. "You're right," I told her. "When marriage becomes a matter of demanding rights, it's doomed." We were saying the same thing, in essence. Despite the legal flexibility for a woman to do with her earnings as she wishes, a woman who perceives those earnings in a considerate or a selfish way will likely see the fruits of that choice respectively.

Two days ago, I asked a co-worker when she started wearing niqab. She told me that her  husband asked her to wear it upon his return from hajj.  أمرني زوجي بلباس النقاب I hesitate in translating the word أمرني because as "modern" (for lack of a better word, as it is not a phenomenon exclusive to the west) women, we are standoffish with the idea that anyone, especially a man, will tell us what we must do. A woman of insight, however, will acknowledge and accept wholeheartedly the role that a husband (and father), by divine wisdom, has in the family.

It takes two to tango, and the boorish type of husband who demands of his family as he wills, without engaging their emotional, intellectual, and psychological states or simply being polite, can expect to be met by a fight from his wife, however implicit it may be. As I've seen, it may well lead to some level of deception, disrespect, and a general aura of dislike. Harsh? Yes, but a wise man knows that the way he approaches his loved ones will be how they - at their best - respond to him.

I honestly don't think everything has to be so complicated. Respect. That's all it is. Keep the nafs in check and respect one another, and sometimes respecting the other means being patient and understanding that we all make mistakes. Sometimes it takes time before we realize these mistakes and attempt to remedy them. But alas, all is entirely in vain if done for the sake of each other. It will only prosper and flourish when done for Allah's sake. May Allah protect us from doing anything except that it is done for His sake and His ridha alone, ameen.

"It's about Allah and nothing else." 

April 24, 2015

All Is Good الحمد لله

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Ramadhan has come and passed. May Allah forgive us for our negligence in it and accept our efforts for His sake, ameen. Thoughts have thundered and passed. Memories linger and leave me with questions but no answers. I suppose it's another lesson to learn. All anxieties have indeed come to fruition, almost to the point of wondering about the worth of my decision, but I know it had to be made and I am content with where I am despite the challenges of a transition. I remind myself that gratitude (shukr) must surpass any feelings of sadness (huzn). This is undoubtedly the best for it is as the Almighty wills. Alhamdulillah for all.
***

My 5-year-old niece gave me a moment's pause this morning.

"Farzeen Khala, why don't you get married?" she asked.

"Uhh...Because nobody asked me," I said. That wasn't entirely true, so I said, "Well someone asked me, but some things about him irritated me."

She then said something about her brothers and how they bother her but she still likes them. 

"Yes, that's true, but I don't think I could have lived nicely with him," I said.

"I believe in Allah," she said. Unsure of where she was going with her words, I waited for her to continue. "I really believe in Allah. Do you remember when I was four years old? There was a swing (glider) at the park that I was really scared of.. do you remember?

"Uh huh" I said, not quite sure which "swing" she meant since I had left before she turned four.

"Well, now it's easy and I'm not scared anymore."

"I see. It seems you're trying to teach me a lesson here Fatimah. What should I learn from your story?"

"Well, if you really believe in Allah, then maybe he, i.e. that guy, won't bother you so much."

I said, "Well that's why I ask Allah guide to me to what is best for me and to open my heart to what is best because I don't know."

She said, "Why don't you just pick someone and ask?"

"Do you mean I should ask someone to marry me?" I asked.

"Yah."

"Well, I can't just go and talk to brothers like that. It's not appropriate."

"I can do it for you," she offered.

"You'll go to a brother and say "hey brother, do you want to marry my Farzeen Khala?"

"Yah" she said with barely a moment's hesitation.

I smiled at the thought. "That's very kind of you. I think it's better we leave it with Allah. He will take care of it and give us what is best for us."

***
May we always find ourselves firmly connected to a good opinion of our Gracious Lord, upon Whom we depend and Whose guidance we seek and need. Ameen

Hidden

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Tonight, inshaAllah, marks the beginning of the three white nights of Sha'baan. I can hardly believe that we are at the halfway mark of this glorious month - the gateway to Ramadhan. Allahumma baarika lana fi Sha'baan wa balighna Ramadhan, ameen.

This afternoon, as I felt the aftereffects of hot oil splashing onto my hand, I remembered the story of a beautiful and blessed woman. During the ascension - Al Isra wal Mi'raj, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, smelled a lovely smell and asked about it. He was told it was the place where a woman was buried. 

Who was this woman? As I recall, the story goes something like this. One day, as this woman brushed the hair of Fir'awn's daughter, she dropped the brush and upon picking it up she mentioned the name of Allah. Because of the suspected belief that this woman did not accept Fir'awn as a deity, Fir'awn's daughter reported this lady to her father. When asked if she believed in Allah and His Oneness, she affirmed this truth, rejecting any self-attributed claims that Fir'awn had to lordship. Fir'awn then ordered that this woman's children be thrown into a cauldron of hot oil, and after watching her children be killed in such horrendous and painful manner, she too met the same end. But how short-sighted it is to consider that the end. That was the end of the beginning and only Allah knows her state with Him now. 
 نسألك يا ربنا الكريم رضاك و الجنة و نعوذ بك من سخطك و النار آمين

I have not listened to any lessons in a very long time, neither in recent days about Al Isra wal Mi'raj nor about Sha'baan and its merits. I do, however, recall that advice is often given in Sha'baan to increase in salawaat or sending blessings on the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam. However, this year, a respected teacher and shaykh advised that we recite the following in abundance:


I find this such profound and fitting advice in that we not merely read it but that we especially reflect on it. I'm not sure I know how to, but by Allah's grace, there are lessons in front of me if I choose to learn from them.

A friend recently complained to me about someone who was honestly quite unjust towards her. It was an ongoing tension and she unfortunately sought some counsel from me, but my words did not sit well with her. She said that that night she prayed and instead of seeing herself as a recipient of injustice, she prayed for the goodness of the one who had wronged her. While she wept before her Lord, in her sincerest prayers, she acknowledged herself as the wrongdoer - saying this very same du'a. The next day she came to tell me about her prayer and that it was answered that day through the means of an apology from the one who had done her wrong.

Unfortunately, I recognize that my retelling of this incident is weak, but I write it as a reminder for myself that sometimes when we feel wronged, it may well just be a reminder of our own wrongdoings and we owe it to ourselves to return to Our Lord, beseech His forgiveness and to recognize and acknowledge our wrongs - however well we may hide them from ourselves. 

This process of seeing the wrongs within ourselves is weighty as it is not as apparent as we would like to think. I've most certainly wronged myself in my "counsel" to her, and the hardest part about it is that I believed - at least superficially - that I did not say anything wrong. The issue, however, is that I did not say anything right.

I'm learning now that saying and doing what is right must necessarily be connected to the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Had I reflected on his life and his way, I might have told her something other than I did. 

Alas, this has come full circle. In the the month of the beloved of Allah, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, we are required to dig deep within ourselves and sort out what we do, say, and think into what is permissible and what is best, and we can only know what is best by connecting ourselves to the life and the reality of our beloved Prophet and Messenger, Muhammad, salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

Ya Allah, to You belong all praises, gratitude, and submission. Forgive us for wronging ourselves, knowingly and unknowingly, and guide us to that which is most pleasing to You. Ya Allah, connect us with Your beloved, Sayyidina Muhammad salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, inwardly and outwardly, throughout our days and nights, and protect us from straying from his way and Your guidance, ameen.

Silver Crowns

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

رَبِّ أَوۡزِعۡنِىٓ أَنۡ أَشۡكُرَ نِعۡمَتَكَ ٱلَّتِىٓ أَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَىَّ وَعَلَىٰ وَٲلِدَىَّ وَأَنۡ أَعۡمَلَ صَـٰلِحًا تَرۡضَٮٰهُ وَأَدۡخِلۡنِى بِرَحۡمَتِكَ فِى عِبَادِكَ ٱلصَّـٰلِحِينَ
 My Lord, arouse me to be thankful for Thy favour wherewith Thou hast favoured me and my parents, and to do good that shall be pleasing unto Thee, and include me in (the number of) Thy righteous slaves. 
(Surah An Naml - 27, Ayah 19)

***

It's my mother's birthday today and incidentally my father's birthday in a week inshaAllah. May Allah continue to bless them and grant them His good pleasure. May He have mercy on their parents filling their graves with His nur, and grant them and all their loved ones a good ending, ameen.

We long stopped acknowledging birthdays with gifts or anything more than a few words - if that. I suppose none in the family care for it as a celebration, but I do believe it is an important day to some extent. It is a reminder of life and an opportunity to reflect on where we have been and towards that which we're heading.

Celebrating our own lives seems to feed a culture of "me, myself, and I." Instead, I consider birthdays as a day of gratitude. It is a day when we must make a point of turning to our Lord and thanking Him for His continuous graces. It is only by His command and will that we continue to breathe and that life remains in us. How absurd it is that we exalt ourselves on a day when humility should be at its peak.

Secondary to gratitude to our Lord is at least a word of thanks to our parents. Raising a child is a 24-hour-a-day labour of love. It is rifled with challenges and heartache and adorned with patience and selflessness. And it ends only at death. 

It is at the hands of our parents that many of us build foundations that steady us throughout our lives.  Let us not neglect and undermine a great service because it seems all too common. I suspect a lifetime of gratitude would not recompense our parents for even their preparations for our births. In the least, it would do us well to acknowledge their sacrifices and service if not to return their efforts by serving them well in their lives too.

February 2, 2015
***


وَٱخۡفِضۡ لَهُمَا جَنَاحَ ٱلذُّلِّ مِنَ ٱلرَّحۡمَةِ وَقُل رَّبِّ ٱرۡحَمۡهُمَا كَمَا رَبَّيَانِى صَغِيرً۬ا 
And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little. 
(Surah Al Isra -17, Ayah 24)

رَبَّنَا ٱغۡفِرۡ لِى وَلِوَٲلِدَىَّ وَلِلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَ يَوۡمَ يَقُومُ ٱلۡحِسَابُ
Our Lord! Forgive me and my parents and believers on the day when the account is cast.
(Surah Ibrahim - 14 - Ayah 41) 

A Return

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

O ye who believe! Turn unto Allah in sincere repentance! It may be that your Lord will remit from you your evil deeds and bring you into Gardens underneath which rivers flow, on the day when Allah will not abase the Prophet and those who believe with him. Their light will run before them and on their right hands; they will say: Our Lord! Perfect our light for us, and forgive us! Lo! Thou art Able to do all things.(Ayah 8, Surah 66) 
I'm moved to speechlessness as I recognize that I, like you, have been granted the honour and an explicit invitation to come back to my Gracious Creator. How far we sometimes go, and yet He calls us back again and again, opening the doors of renewal constantly. With every prayer and good deed, during every third part of the night, during every Thursday night, on every Friday, throughout each day of this blessed month of Rajab, among many more times in the year, we are called to rectify our hearts and ways.

I find Rajab particularly touching in its meaning. Being the "month of Allah," we are reminded of our outstanding debt of repentance and we are granted promises of finding a way to return to our Lord specifically in these days and nights. 

We can never hide from our Lord, despite the shame of our lowliness, but why should we ever want to? He is the only One who deserves all praises and servitude and there are no secrets with Him. He calls us to Him despite our insincerity, arrogance, laziness, and weaknesses. Ya Rabb, laka kullu al hamd wa kullu ash shukr. O Lord, all praises and gratitude belong to You alone.

In these days when most of the world is enduring extreme challenges and human rights are violated to the worst degree and in the ugliest of ways, few of us can sleep well at night. I think about my Arabic teacher who is now in Iraq with her husband and young children. I wonder about their states, if they have food to eat and what they possibly witness in their days and hear into their nights. I listen to my neighbour telling me about her parents and adult children in Syria. I admire her parents' wisdom and faith and their restful states with their Lord and His decree. I am at a loss for comforting words as my friend, her husband, and their young son are faced with a forced return to Yemen where people are killing and being killed without just cause making daily life a struggle. Have a good opinion of Allah. To Him we entrust all our affairs. I shed a tear or more for all those who are persecuted, who watch helplessly as their children starve to death or who spend their days demanding that the world come together for the rights of their family members - men and women - who are wrongly imprisoned, tortured, and killed. I admire their strength and I pray for ease in all their affairs and peace in all their hearts.

And yet each day, I am faced with the meaning of potential as I spend my hours with 5-year-old children. I wonder what type of adults they might grow into and what they might need to figure out this insane world and be of benefit to it. 

I hate many things I see in myself, and I pray that despite my pathetic offerings, Allah will accept my attempts to be a better servant of Him. May Allah the Almighty and Merciful guide us all and let the miracles of the Quran manifest themselves to us inwardly and outwardly. May He protect us all from the evils of ourselves, mankind, and jinn. May He unite families in all that is beautiful and may He heal our hearts. May He make us from the people of the Quran, inwardly and outwardly. May He make us, all our loved ones, and our descendants from among those who receive His good pleasure and a sweet return to Him. O Allah, have mercy on us and this ummah. O Allah, shower your mercy on us and on our deceased. Ya Rabb, fill the graves of Your servants with the sights and scents of Jannah, and let us join them in the best of states as we return back to You. O Allah, let us die for Your sake and accept from us our repentance and efforts to make aright the wrongs in our actions and hearts. Ameen.

ربَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا وَإِسْرَافَنَا فِي أَمْرِنَا وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَنَا وانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ
Our Lord, forgive us our sins and our transgressions, make our feet firm and assist us against those who reject faith. (3:147)

Lost In Translation

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

I can't help but feel the way that I do. With a pitted feeling in my gut and some nervousness too. It's as though I have something big in life to face, but no, this is nothing new. I've left before and returned too. It wasn't fun. Neither here nor there. Then why leave in the first place? This was and is my fate. But with almost two years building, it's a lot for me to taste.

Previously it was a year, 11.5 months to be exact. I had few reservations and no potential worries of the impact. Perhaps I was ignorant and expected that maybe nothing would have changed. How overly self-concerned to think that anyone's affairs would stop for me. But it's not that. It is beautiful for experiences to be free. Lord knows how pleasing it is to see. But again, it remains that I am still me, and I cannot see, even now, anything but a decline. I am not trying to whine but only trying to find something much deeper and greater, and to feel assured that all was not in vain. How much of life will be the same? How much worse will I be? Is there a chance that I can be a better me?

So gracious is my Lord, constantly. But specifically, in those days long past, Who sent an unexpected friend, a golden pearl, to whom some details were passed. But even greater, with whom the meanings and essences were clarified. Intensified. Partially realized. I have lived with those words by my side, inspired I'm sure by the One who guides. And I try to remember the clarity of that brief encounter and the confusion that followed, but perhaps I have lost more than I know. The ability to decipher. The ability to grow. No, I do not accept. There is nothing to regret. There is nothing lost, but only another beautiful bridge that is nearly crossed. 

I'm still struggling to prepare the inward to meet the outward. I have weak answers to the big questions. All attempts failed at an introspection. Expectant are the tears, for they are my glue. Always offering me a subtle clue. Ways of the heart are built, as you know, in parts. Insights and experiences are weaved together as brilliant art. It is what we need, the process. And by it, we can truly reflect on life and attempt to assess. Are we nearing our personal best?

I have changed, but meanings are often lost in translation and perhaps I will not be understood, by myself or others. I must learn to translate the essence of the meanings and not so much the words. The strength of my intentions and not so much the weakness of my actions. I must learn to forgive what I do not understand. To respond with a helping hand. I must learn to close my eyes and hold my tongue. To speak with thoughtfulness and to think without emotion. I must learn to unhear what I cannot handle and let patient gratitude be my candle. I must want for myself nothing from the hand of another. For truly, I seek only my Lord's good pleasure.

اللهم إني أسألك رضاك والجنة وأعوذ بك من سخطك والنار
آمين


Quiet Sentiments

بسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

Change forces one to learn. Solitude forces one to think. But what inspires one to blossom or simply improve?
March 27, 2015
 ***

Sometimes a feeling momentarily hits me of being alone. I realize then that the lengthy conversation I'm having is actually just my own thoughts and my physical world is entirely silent. I don't dwell on the realization too long as it is quite a sad notion in its own right, but there is really nothing to be sad about in my life. There's only much for which to be grateful.
March 19, 2015
 ***

Things of great beauty all seem to have an element of motion and yet somehow, absolute stillness is awesome.
Jan. 25, 2015
 ***

While they, 'alayhim as-salaatu wa as-salaam, complained to Allah of the people and sought comfort in Allah's good pleasure, the culture of "today's liberation" complains of Allah's commands and seeks comfort in society's approval.
Dec. 14, 2014

Come Back

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Silence is the best keeper of secrets
But it's an unjust punishment
Forcing the world into freezing temperatures
Few opening their doors
Many in denial 
Of the intense
Terrifying 
Horrors 
That so many must endure
Despite their potential
To join the family of humanity
That liberates man 
From destructive shackles
By which
He chooses evil
When good
In all her glory
Remains waiting
For his return.
Come back.
Leave
Your worst.
Come back.
And be
Your best.
"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]