Monday, 5 December 2016

A new vision

Hello and Assalam 'alaykum,

Warning: this post will most likely have no structure so I ask you to just flow along with the lines.

Right, where do I start?

You know, if you've been reading me for a while on this blog (before I privatised most of the older posts) and also on Zawajland that I mention the words 'spiritual' and 'spirituality' quite a lot. I consider myself a spiritual person and I always enjoy working, talking and writing about my spirituality. This past year has been such an eye opener for me on many levels and particularly in terms of spirituality, I saw the awakening of something profound within me.

My journey to reconquer my spiritual side started with me becoming interested in the heart (not the physical organ), the actions of the heart, the power of the heart, the influence of our hearts and so on. I also looked into the mental aspect of thinking, the brain, the importance of positive thoughts, the effects of affirmation, the impact of negative thoughts and self-disbelief. Then, I turned my attention to gratitude and bought a few books on this subject. I even started using a gratitude journal that I updated on a daily basis; I really enjoyed that. After a while, my interest lead me to look into character building and the importance of building one's character. I became fascinated with the concept of working on my inside. More recently, the subject of love became my newest interest. What is love? How do we love? Spiritual love, human love ect. Very interesting. These, in a nutshell are the various steps I took this past year with one element leading me to another in learning more about myself.

I have been purposely surfing on this wave of working with my soul, trying to learn more, trying to explore different ventures. This is spirituality, well it is MY kind of spirituality. But I realised something else: I realised that the way I have been using my spirituality and approaching my spiritual side during all these years has not been used to its full potential. I realised that I'm such a baby threading on this path, a beginner and that I have so much to learn. It became clear to me that I have only looked at it from one small angle.

I still remember as a teen having my first experience with my soul. As you know, every single one of us is made of a body (the physical body) and a soul (the inside). Without the soul, the body is nothing. It is dead, cold, immobile. Yet, from the very moment we are born, the only thing that is tended to and taken care of is the outside. The body is fed, perfumed, clothes, caressed, protected, cleaned, moisturised. But our soul is terribly ignored. For those of us who grew up in religious households, then we may have escaped the total absence of soul-nurturing but for sure, I think we can all agree that most of us were not raised with our souls being given as much care and love as our bodies have been by our parents or careers.

During one evening.. I wasn't able to fall sleep, I began pushing my thoughts further and further. I began asking myself 'Wait, but who are you really Libin?' 'Who are you?' I kept asking that question until I felt my soul more than I felt my body. I felt that subtle out of body experience and it scared me a little bit. That question 'Who are you?' always impacted me. When you ask people (you may also ask yourself now) 'who are you?' they will give answer about their background, their origin, their profession, maybe they'll mention their qualifications.. but is this really who you are? Who are you without all these titles and achievements? Who are you deep inside? Do you even know? Why are we always thinking in terms of what we HAVE and not of what we ARE.

Asking myself 'who are you?' has always pushed me out of my comfort zone. It also scared me because it made me realise that this life is real. It's not a dream. Sometimes, life seems like a dream and that it's just going to end one day and that nothing we do really matters. But no. Life is not a dream. I am real. I am living. I have a soul. My body is just a distraction and a protection at the same time. It was an incredible realisation. Since that first time where I spoke to my soul, I have used that technique as a way to kick my butt when I wasn't doing what I was supposed to. Any time I felt I was low in my eeman, I would try to reconnect to my soul and it would give me the electroshock that I needed to get back up. The electroshock was also useful in helping me remember that I am not a robot and my actions don't need to be automatic.. without life.

Other times, I used the staring technique to reach to my soul. This involves you staring in your eyes via a mirror reflection until you can see past the physical sphere to reach the spirit inside. It's not easy but it is so worthwhile. I thought I was so weird for doing these things because I had never heard of someone else doing these things. One day, a few years ago now but I still remember it so well, I tweeted about these experiences of reaching to my soul and the feeling I got from it. A guy replied back saying that he knew exactly what I meant and that he also gets goosebumps, a reality-check and a revived god-consciousness spring out in him. I was so glad that this was not something I was alone in and it was very comforting.

Being a quiet person by nature enables you to think more than you talk which is a real blessing. I definitely think more than I speak and when I speak, I try to speak well (doesn't always work though). Thinking however is a word we use to refer to more mundane things while meditating is the more sophisticated way of thinking. Meditating and spirituality for me are like siblings. When I tell people about meditation, they childishly say 'oh, so you sit and hum is it?' ummmmmhhh ummhhh
Saxib, you couldn't be further from the reality. This is such a close-minded way to look at meditating. I don't understand people who don't take the time to pause and reflect on life, on things, on their behaviour. I don't understand how people can be so engrossed in their physical body and be unaware of their soul and spirit inside. Meditating doesn't require a time or space. It can be done anywhere at any given moment given your mind is willing to offer you that gift. Again, I started my meditation journey from the warmth of the masjid.

I could spend hours just thinking (aka meditating) about life, about my life, about people. I loved looking out the window from the masjid and seeing all these people walking out there.. walking by the masjid.. yet hearts and minds locked away from the Truth. How can people live without knowing Allah? How can people be smiling and laughing yet they are heedless? How can people reach old age and not know Allah? What kind of life is a life without the Lord? It was (and still is) a mystery to me. It was humbling, it generated so much empathy and gratitude within me, but I found myself finding refuge in meditating when things weren't going right. Soon, I only turned to it when I needed a boost. As a result, it became harder and harder to do. My thoughts wouldn't allow me to reach depth. For a while, I became separated from two of my best friends: meditation and spirituality were distant things and I was unhappy.

But, in the past year, things have changed a lot. I am learning.. slowly but surely to reincorporate these two treasures into my life. I am learning to make them permanent guests in my life and not just run to them when things aren't going well. I don't want to approach my spirituality and access my soul through fear. I also don't want to meditate just because things have taken a wrong turn. No, I want to be in touch with my soul just as I am in touch with my body. Does anyone of us forget to eat for days on end? Do we forget to cream our faces and bodies? Most likely the answer is no. Likewise, I want to take care of my soul through meditation and through spirituality. I don't want to be scared of my soul. It's the best thing I have! I knew from a young age that my body was not kind to me: my body prefers sleeping rather than praying at night, my body rather eat than fast, my body likes to be adorned with beautiful clothes and get compliments, my body has these low desires that had I allowed them to take over, would turn me into such a pathetic human, my body is weak, it can get sick, my body gets lazy, my body is capricious, it can throw tantrums. On the other hand, my soul is kind, it wants purity, it wants to attain Allah's Love and Pleasure, it's on my side, it was created before this body made of clay. So why don't I get to know this soul? Why don't I take care of it? Why don't I make it a priority? Why don't I remember it?

Eid Al Adha 2016 was an odd one for me. My family was scattered all over: my parents chilling in Saudi.. my sister having fun in the UAE, my other sister was busy preparing herself for her new job, my brother planned his day with his friends. That left me all by myself. I didn't really know what to do. I decided to go visit the hospital and see some patients. Mind you, I didn't know of anyone who was hospitalised but I saw this as a way to 1) get out of my comfort zone (a new challenge) 2) stack some rewards 3) do something. I got dressed and everything when .. (synchronicities (meaningful coincidences) are amazing) my father called me. After a bit, I told him what I was about to do.. and he didn't really understand my reasoning. My father is a logic man (like most men), he kept saying 'why' and I didn't have an answer to why I wanted to go. He believed that visiting random people that I don't even know to be a strange concept.

I dropped the idea despite being so motivated before our conversation. Instead, I decided to go to a masjid that I knew would most likely be empty. I went there and it was empty. I sat and let my mind do all sorts of wandering. My mind went through all kinds of thinking but it stayed longer on thinking about the hereafter, about the grave, about my future life, my meeting with my Creator ect. I was lost in my bubble when a Somali woman entered. She said salaam and I replied to her. I returned to my bubble and she was clearly not used to seeing someone just sitting and staring ahead without moving. (I usually sit up straight, arms crossed or hands on my chin..). After a bit, she asked me if everything was ok and I told her that I'm just thinking. In Somali culture, if you say to someone that you are 'thinking', it's badly taken, it means you have problems.

She told me that I shouldn't be 'thinking' but making du'a for whatever is 'bothering' me. I understood that she misunderstood what I was doing. I hesitated for a bit and said to her 'habo, I am not thinking about anything bad or terrible, I'm good alhamdulilah but it's just that I'm thinking about the akhirah'. Let me tell you that she became overwhelmed at my honest reply. She began getting emotional and she began 'thinking' loudly. She even thanked me for reminding her to 'think'. See how things change? That afternoon was amazing for me. I left the masjid with a new vision, I had fed my soul, I meditated about my creation and my purpose.. I felt strengthened.

You know, walking has always been an amazing hobby of mine. My siblings don't understand why walking is a key to my well being; they gently tease me about it. I try to get as many people to join in but interest is low. People think walking is boring. Will you believe me if I tell you that walking is probably the least boring thing you could do? You get fresh air, your muscles get some work, your heart gets some exercise, your mind gets some freedom, it's wonderful. For me, it's not rocket-science. Walking allows me to meditate and it allows my soul to feel liberated. People walk their dogs, I walk my soul. But, the walking I've been doing so far in my life has been limited in the things I could achieve through it. I realised that today.

Today, I woke up and decided to embrace spirituality in every thing I do. I don't want spiritual only in certain places and at specific times only. I don't want to meditate only in some designated places or strictly in a certain sitting position. I want to live in the moment. I want to take every breath and enjoy it. I want all my 5 senses to be appealed to. I want my soul to be free and love life. I want my gratitude to not be just lip service but something my heart feels deep inside. I want to feel grateful from every corner of my body and my soul.

So, when I went on my walk.. the first thing I decided to change is my posture. I usually try my best to walk straight, shoulders back, chest out, smooth pace but, I usually look down. It's just a habit, it's not because I'm super pious. It's also a way to avoid eye-contact, it's a way to stay in my own bubble. Today, I decided to look up the whole time and look at everything. I looked at the wonderful sky above me, I looked at all these trees and their different shapes, I saw all these birds and the most shocking thing is: I saw people!!

I don't think I have ever look at as many people's faces as I have this morning. It was amazing! As a habit, when someone is walking by me in the opposite direction, I typically look down or away as we pass each other. I don't know why, it's just easier to avoid that unnecessary 'discomfort' right? I mean, we live in a world where everything is deemed 'awkward'. 'Oh, someone smiled at me today.. it was so awkward' 'oh, someone said Good Morning to me, it was so weird'. No, no, you are the weird one.

I looked at all these people just thinking how great my Lord is. All these people, just like me have a body and a soul yet we all looked different. You know what the biggest fallacy is? It is to think that we are different one from another. That's the biggest lie. This man or woman outside is just like you. A human with fears, feelings, dreams, wishes, hopes and a soul that's probably as neglected as yours. We are have more similarities than differences with the rest of humanity but it is fear that is conditioning us to think ill of those different than us. I had this smile today that I couldn't even control on my face. I was just happy inside and I can't even explain why. Today's walk was so spiritual. My mind didn't pause for a second. There was something to admire and appreciate with every step I took. There was something to listen to in every turn. There was something to smell in the air. I had all these colours to appreciate. I touched the leaves, I touched the sparkly frost. I wanted to be in the moment, taking full advantage of all my senses.

They say that you should never let the child in you die. It's true and today I felt like a child. I would wonder in so many things. A child sees a big tree and says 'woah', he sees a pile of dead leaves, he says 'woah' and listens to the noise it makes as he steps on them, he sees a bird and says 'woah'. Everything a child sees is usually seen under an eye of wonder and of awe. Why do we let this quality die in us when we grow? People could have the most stunning view in front of them, yet they feel nothing.. their smartphones are too distracting. In the past year, things have worked in such a way where most of my social media accounts got closed one by one and my phone broke. I now have a simple smartphone (my 9 year-old neighbour has the same phone as me yay!) which I only use to its most basic capacity. I don't have wifi outside the house and I love it. I feel so free. I love getting lost, I love not feeling the urgency to check for my messages or emails when I'm out and about. No one needs to know what I'm up to, I don't need to update my status every minute. I love actually using my brain when I have to go to a new place that I haven't been to before instead of the GPS guiding me there like a dumb person (no offence). I love that my phone is not glued on my hand like my fellow citizens of the world. I love that if people really need me, they will call and we all know that it's only.. the real people who call nowadays.

It's clear to me that smartphones are joy-thieves. They force you to be somewhere physically but mentally elsewhere. You're eating and scrolling on your phone; well, most likely.. you are not enjoying your food because your mind is elsewhere. Someone is talking to you yet you are on your phone only half-listening. You have an amazing scenery in front of you, instead of taking it in.. you rather take a picture of it. Strange very strange. I am implementing this new rule for myself where I am not allowed to use my phone until at least 9:30am (pushing to 10am) in the morning. I don't want to know the news (one of the best things I've ever done is stop watching and reading the news!), I don't care what you ate last night, I'm not interested in knowing what your plan for the day is.. nope, I just want to make sure my day starts well, with great energy, a positive mind, an awaken soul and get cracking!

Well... I have decided that all the posts on my blog will be dealing with this topic of spirituality/meditation for the month of December. There are so many more things I want to write about, so many things I want to share..

Tooddles xo

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Signs after signs after signs

Good evening,

Another impromptu post.

I left my home right after maghrib prayer this evening to attend a Qur'an circle in the masjid. I didn't imagine that I would come back home with so many signs and lessons.

My bus wasn't too busy considering it was the peak of the rush hour. I zigzagged through and saw that there were seats available at the very back of the bus. I sat, looked around to see who would be my sitting neighbours during this short ride, there were college students all looking down to their smartphones, there was a lady who didn't seem too pleased about something and a young Muslim girl on my right. The most important detail however, was this man sitting right opposite me. Within seconds of sitting down, I could sense a certain tension and I immediately understood why. The man in front of me was an elderly (cool grand-pa) gentleman with a silver beard that beautifully contrasted with his tanned face, a pair of neat glasses, a moustache that was shaven a few days ago and bushy eyebrows. He had his backpack on the seat next to him. I could see that everyone at the back of the bus was looking towards him, holding in their breath and it's only once I heard him recite Qur'an that I could understand the cause for this palpable tension. What a surprise it was for me though! I'm not sure if he was already reciting before I sat (most likely) or if he started when I sat but regardless, I immediately felt awe. Not only was his recitation absolutely beautiful, tajweed and warsh meshed together but depending on the meaning of the verses, he would either slow it or speed it up a little. He was in his bubble, physically here but spiritually somewhere else.

I didn't know whether staring at him would be rude but I couldn't help myself. He didn't seem to mind at all because clearly, the stares he was receiving didn't faze him in the slightest. There I received my first reminder of the evening. Sometimes, well especially when I'm back in the UK, I feel self-conscious of other people seeing my lips move while I'm reading my adkar, making dikr or reading Qur'an. I don't want anyone to think I'm cuckoo in the head and I tend to stop if people get in my close perimeter. Seeing this grand-pa doing his thing showed me that when you love something deeply, it really doesn't matter what others may think of you. Maybe all the other people on the bus thought he was mad but his reality couldn't be further from this.

(Side note: I once read a narration (but I don't recall the details) where a man was asked why he talking to himself (he was making dikr) and whether it was madness that was making him do this. To which he replied 'I am not mad but I am curing my madness through this dikr'. How beautiful is this statement?)

He was reading from Surah Ar-Ra'ad, one of the most rhythmic surahs of the Qur'an. Its meanings clear and sharp will touch any heart. I was very touched. I took out my mini-mushaf from my pocket and decided to follow along with him. If I can't read aloud, let me at least share this mad moment with you grand-pa! As I did so, some people looked towards me. I couldn't stop smiling. I felt humbled at how strong his memorisation was. Soon however, my stop arrived and I gathered all my layers of clothes in order to prepare myself to head for the exit. He was still reciting, he didn't stop once. I saw from the corner of my eye that he was also getting ready to stand up for the stop.

I got off and stood at the bus stop because I was catching a second one. He got off as well and came to me. He actually came close as if we knew each other and said something in his strong north African Arabic. I didn't catch it the first time so he repeated. I still wasn't sure what he said but I understood he was talking about money. I asked him 'do you want money?' I was so confused. Was he really asking me for money because I listened to his recitation? Surely not.. He said again 'do you have money? Check..' 

I said no. He then showed me a £10 and £5 notes folded together. I checked my pockets and I was indeed missing my money. I must have dropped them when I reached for my mushaf. I thanked him for his kindness. He remained for a bit and asked me 'la bess?' to which I replied 'alhamdulilah'. He continued with: 'is everything ok?' I said 'yes'. I opened my lips to say 'جزاكم الله خيرا على هذه التلاوة الجميلة' but he turned around and ran for his bus. I don't think he heard me. Again, for a few seconds.. my heart was so grateful for this man I bumped with on the bus. Not only was he such a great reminder for me to not be afraid of people's looks and to also keep Allah's Book close but his honesty was remarkable. While I was indulging in these thoughts, his bus drove off in front of me. I saw him smiling at me and waving energetically at me. I waved back and gave him my biggest smile. And.. I couldn't help but shed a little tear. I wished I had the chance to ask him for advice about hifdh, I'm sure he would have given me a good piece of nassiha.. God bless his soul

Little did I know that I was to receive more lessons at the House of Allah. The sister who was leading the circle decided to give a reminder. Reminders benefit the believers and I guess if you fail to benefit from reminders.. then maybe ask yourself questions? She said: 'I want to share a little bit with you from this book called Shaytan and Shahawaat'. Already, I knew this was directly meant for me. Shaytan and shahawaat are my two worst enemies in this world. She also touched upon so many of my favourite ahadith, too many for me to be able to post them here (gratitude, death, Qur'an, dikr ect). We were about 7 sisters yet the aunt was only looking at me. I'm the kind of person who looks directly into people's eyes when they talk, giving them my full undivided attention and so we had this intense eye-to-eye thing going on. She was talking to me and I'm sure my eyes were shinning.

As she finished and everyone dispersed, I remained behind. I sat on the ground.. just digesting everything. Maybe I should mention here that the past couple of days were emotional days for me. I was sad for no reason, let's just say that my repentance ritual was overdue (if you read my post on this then you know what I mean). Everything the aunt had said resonated so loudly with me.. it was a clear sign for me to restart again.

The call for Isha was made and we stood for prayer. Again, here was yet another sign. The prayer was unusually long, may Allah bless the brother who was leading because it was beautifully lead. The brother himself was feeling emotional and you could feel he was really taking his time (BarakAllahu feeh). In the second rak'at, he started reading from surah Fatir and as he reached these ayat .. his breathing became stuffed and I felt like these were talking directly to me..

''O men! Certainly the promise of Allah is true. Let not then this present life deceive you, nor let the Chief Deceiver (Satan) deceive you about Allah. Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his adherents, that they may become Companions of the Blazing Fire.''

As he reached this verse below, he couldn't continue due to his voice breaking and he went into ruk'u3

For those who reject Allah, is a terrible Penalty: but for those who believe and work righteous deeds, is Forgiveness, and a magnificent Reward.

I left the masjid.. with a renewed level of emotion within me. It was just incredible receiving all these sings and reminders in such a short space of time. I felt like I was being told something (from this man on the bus to the sister who was doing the reminder to the brother who lead the prayer).. these were not just all random. Thank You Lord for your signs and these lessons, I welcome them and I shall take heed..

Everyday we receive signs, some days are more significant than others but in everything and everyone is a lesson. Who will take heed? Who will pay attention? This is why I always say that we must live our lives consciously.

Be conscious, be aware...


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

In the middle of nowhere

Last night was a casual night in for me and we ordered pizza for dinner. Since our TV doesn't get much love from us, I chose to give some attention and see if there was anything interesting I could watch while devouring my dinner. A few channel flicks later and I fell on a documentary that seemed interesting enough and I was quickly drawn into it.

In brief, two -apparently well known- people went for a 2 weeks adventure. They weren't told where in the world they would be going except that it would be a very isolated place where people only lived with life's bare necessities. No other indication was given to them. They arrived at the airport blindfolded and with headphones on so that they wouldn't see or hear where their destination was until the plane had departed. How exciting it must have been! *eek*

Once the plane left, they were told about their destination and who the people/ethnic group they will be staying with are. In this case, they were going to Mongolia to stay with a family who raised camels as their livelihood. Here are some new things I learnt:

I learnt that Mongolia is apparently one of the least densely populated country in the world with only 2million inhabitants. The country is mainly open lands, mountains and huge deserts. Temperatures are extremely cold in the winter (-50 degrees) and extremely hot in the summer (50 degrees Celsius). I also learnt that due to climate change more and more Mongolians who had been farmers or cattle raisers (shepherds) and lived a nomadic lifestyle for generations are now forced to move to the suburbs of cities. Desertification means that their cattle can't get fat enough for them to financially benefit and sustain themselves through it.

So, the two westerners arrived literally in the middle of nowhere. It wasn't even a village. The family lived in a yurt (google a mongolian yurt to see a picture if you don't know what that looks like). A yurt doesn't have rooms or compartments; it's just one large circle space. The family used different corners for different activities: one side for the kitchen area (which really is just a fire place), one side for the sitting area (just a mattress to sit on) and at night, they would all bring out their mattresses and sleep in the centre. I loved how they all slept together and chatted as they fell asleep; it was touching. I find so sad that today, in our modern family dynamics, we can't or don't find the time to chat for long with our loved ones. Everyone is hooked on their smartphones and even though everyone could be in the same room, no one is actually together. The parents are on their phones and so are the kids. If someone tries to attempt a conversation, it's not really successful because minds and hearts are not present. So so sad.

The father or family man is a camel owner. If you didn't know, my favourite animal is the camel and it is one of my most precious dream to own a camel one day (a baby she-camel to be precise) inshAllah. So, I felt like this episode was picked just for me. The man had such a shining face, a beaming smile. I was amazed at how sparkling white their teeth were and how physically fit they all seemed to be even in -25 degrees. The man was asked why he chose to have camels since they're not as a good investment as sheep are. He said that between the camels and him is a love story and that they teach him so much. He said that camels are soft animals and will not obey unless you are kind and soft towards them. They feel your nervousness and anger and will replicate that. He said that thanks to his camels, he became a much calmer person. I found that to be so beautiful. When you start allowing yourself to learn from others and even learn life lessons from the animals, just know that you've just reach an awesome level. Beautiful mindset. I want to be that kind of person too, who takes lessons and reminders from the whole world.. animals, humans, plants.. there are signs and lessons in everything, if only we allowed ourselves to be open minded.

I don't know what touched me the most. Their simplicity, their minimalism, their happiness despite the little they owned, their pride (positive pride), their mentality. In hostile environments like the one in which they live, you will not go far unless you work together as a unit with all members of the family. I loved that. Sadly, in today's modern individualistic world.. it's every man for himself. The notion of family and unity is slowly disintegrating, even in Muslim households. 

In order to heat the yurt, they pick up camel stool (poop) and burn it. I had no idea this was something that was done. What a majestic animal! Even its stool can be used to provide heat, just amazing! Maybe you're wondering what kind of camel can resist to -50 degrees.. but the kind that this family owned were the mountain camels. They're much hairier than the 'regular' camels but just as gorgeous. 

The Mongolian couple was asked how they met and with so much modesty and shyness, the man said that he fell for his wife at the first sight and proposed to her immediately. She asked him to give her 10 days to reflect (she also said that she wasn't interested by him at first). He returned (and he lived far from her area) after 10 days and she accepted. She said that the fact he returned a second time just for her made him look so handsome and special to her. Even their story is beautiful. You know these people who live very differently than the rest of us have incredible shyness even if they're non-Muslims. The man was asked what he liked most about his wife and he said 'I don't like telling other people about my wife's qualities, in case someone tries to steal her off me'. Quirky but smart way to protect what is most precious to him. 

The kids worked hard to help out and you could see the amount of respect and admiration they held for their parents. Again, what a stark comparison with how 21st century kids look at their parents! Most believe that they are smarter, better ect. than their parents. Parental respect is heavily undermined nowadays. Kids nowadays are spoiled brats and we are responsible for creating a generation that is hooked on electronics from birth, literally. We don't take the time and effort to inculcate values and teach them basic things that will help them in life. I don't want to generalise everyone but that's definitely the majority. I've always thought that if I have kids inshAllah, I would like to live in the countryside or in a small village. I believe that such an environment is beneficial for children to develop themselves, to grow confident, to be outdoors. I feel so sorry for kids who stay indoors, inactive all day long. Anyway, I'm going on a tangent.. back to Mongolia.

The father was a true family man. He is in the one charge and the only responsible for the welfare of his family and cattle. He has to make the right decisions for the well-being of everyone. He has to make the call for when to move and pack everything in the spring time. He has to make sure all his animals are present and think about how to facilitate cattle reproduction. A very hands-on man yet he said at one point 'we all learn from each other' and praised his wife.

I would love to experience a life like theirs. The older I get, the more I desire a modest and simple life. City life doesn't interest me. The ideal for me would be to live away in an open field but with a quick reach to a city or town -just in case you know?. These folks live in the present. They don't have a watch that they constantly look at, thinking where they have to be next. Every moment is taken and appreciate as it comes. I loved how healthy they were, with no cars or other means of transportation, they only relied on their two feet and their camels to move around. The food they ate was free from all the mess we eat (like that pizza *oops*), no colourants, no preservatives and it definitely reflected on their faces, their teeth and their bodies. I dream of being able to live off organic food that would be coming straight from my farm. I hope this dream becomes true.

After the program, I was so inspired. I started imagining my life in a rural environment with only the bare essentials. I think I would handle it quite well. My mind was buzzing. I tried to imagine what it would be like it I left everything now and just lived in the desert, minding my life, owning camels, having a family, worshipping God and that's it. With the way the world is going, that's not even a bad idea. You know, I feel that most of us see life in one way.. we think there's only one way to live life because that's all we know right? But there are many lifestyles out there, and perhaps the western lifestyle isn't the most suited one for our needs. I feel like I would be most fulfilled and happiest in a more down-to-earth (in the literal sense) lifestyle.

I remember about 2 years ago, my father and I were on our way to Makkah and I had my dinner with me. I got hungry and I didn't want to mess up everything inside the car (pasto, suugo iyo hilib) so I asked my father if we could stop by the road (if your know the highway between Jeddah and Makkah then you've seen the desert before you reach the mountains). I wanted to eat in the desert and have that experience so we stopped. It was night-time and the stars were out for show. My dad had already eaten so he stayed in the car. Again, this is something that happens regularly in Saudi.. people will stop by the highway or road, sit behind the car so that your back is facing the traffic and eat, chat, chill. I sat and ate my food and I was so happy with my surroundings. I loved feeling the sand underneath me (not so much when I got sand in my food but hey), I love eating with my fingers, no cutlery, no plate, no table, no chair. Just simplicity. I then washed my hands with some water and we continued our journey. It may seem so basic but this was a highlight for me. I loved the feeling I got for that moment.

This program just reminded me of my dreams. My dream of owning a camel. My dream of having a close-knit family. My dream of learning lesson from everything in my environment. My dream of seeking happiness from within. My dream of living away from modern consumer lifestyle. My dream of eating fresh, organic food of my own produce. My dream of living minimalistically. My dream of having children in an environment that will allow them to grow maturely and safely. My dream of always living in the moment, of appreciating every minute as it comes. My dream of simplicity. 

It was a good night. Alhamdulilah.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Looks, Confidence, Heart

Assalam 'alaykum,

In the past couple of years, I am seeing a trend among my generation and the younger generation with regards to the level of importance that they give their looks. Makeup and cosmetics for the ladies, gym and protein shakes for the guys. I am seeing an unbelievable obsession with selfies, showing yourself online, a thirst for comments, a hunger for attention and appreciation from strangers. Even practising sisters aren't escaping from this and tabarruj is becoming a norm. It's even encouraged in some circles, I see it being praised, being shared, commented, supported, applauded. I see sisters in the masjid with faces beautified. I'm not sure what has happened in the 3 years I was abroad but really, I am seeing a huge transformation. I see an addiction from the younger girls to makeup. I say 'addiction' while I am conscious of the weight this word carries but how else do you explain young ladies wearing full makeup day in, day out? I see girls who look way older than their ages because of the heavy makeup they adorn. I see everyone looking the same: same eyebrows, same face shapes, same lips, same nose shapes. I see everyone having the same style: same tube skirts, tight clothing, camel-humps, same trainers, same coats, same tracksuits, same brands, same haircuts, same bags. Where has our individuality gone? Where has our personal style gone? Why do we want to copy and clone ourselves to look like other people? Why do we not accept hijab with all its conditions?

I don't have the answers to all these questions.

This over-weighed importance given to one's outward appearance has several pitfalls. Firstly, it is detrimental to the person. A person whose main concern merely resolves around 'how do I look?', 'how's my makeup?' 'how are my muscles?' is someone who has busied him/herself with futility. This kind of activity instils pride and arrogance in the heart. It plants seeds of unawareness. Ironically, it also encourages low self-confidence. Most of the people who enjoy posting themselves online tend to have a deficit in their confidence. I'm not making this up, I've read/heard this statement coming directly from these people. Maybe it's because they know that these images they're posting of themselves are not the real thing. Funny how it's those people we look up as being 'good-looking' by whatever standard.. are those who lack confidence the most.

Secondly, seeking attention is something natural in humans (and especially women). We like the feeling of being complimented, the power of attracting someone to us and being noticed. But, what a disaster when this is sought outside of our Islamic legislation. I am so grateful for my father who has always showered me with compliments and still up to today calls me 'gorgoss' (gorgeous) whenever the opportunity arises. Actually, my father doesn't even look for an opportunity to compliment me and that's how it should be. It's very important for a girl to feel important, loved and complimented by the first man in her life i.e: her father. Many girls don't have this and so, they seek that recognition outside. I doubt any fathers are reading my blog but if there are (and for all future fathers), your daughters need to hear you say how wonderful and beautiful they are. Don't be stingy with compliments. Same applies to husbands, brothers ect.

I also understand that times have changed. We are being bashed left, right and centre about the ideal look, shape, curves a woman (or man) should have. Our yardstick for beauty is distorted due to social media and the deterioration of society in general. Thank God I was in teenager in the mid 2000's where there was no IG or snapchat filters! But even though we didn't have any of these apps, it didn't mean that we escaped the generic body confidence issues when puberty hit. It's just that it wasn't as harsh as teens have it today. I remember being 16-ish and wishing 'i wish i had that more, and less of that, and this here bla bla' but that was all it was: a mere fleeting wish that evaporated as I left the bathroom. I remember being body-aware though and a lot of my spare time was spent in front of the mirror (like many other girls right?). I became intrigued by the world of beauty and I saw that I wasn't being looked as a kid anymore. But that's where my parents stepped in (mom particularly) where she guided me and advised me with all the motherly care that she has. She never said 'no' and she never shouted but she used such wisdom in talking to me. Again, mothers if you are reading this.. your teenage daughters need you to tell them what's right and wrong. They need your guidance! You need to be their role-model, don't be that over-the-top strict mother whose kids do all sorts behind her back because they can't approach her.

As a teen like many others, I just liked checking myself out (lol!) and because I didn't have someone to compare myself to, it was easy to spend hours in the bathroom and positively looking at all my angles. It's really funny how self-obsessed we are as teens. Anyway, I quite liked what I saw in the mirror (except the fleeting thoughts I mentioned above). But sadly, I have to admit that if I was a teenager today and I did the same thing.. maybe I would be looking for all the wrong things.

Wrong to who? Nothing on your body is wrong. It's exactly been designed for you. This is something you realise as an adult. Your body is just good as it is. Stop looking at it with such negative eyes. If you are your biggest critic then how do you expect to exult confidence? Not gonna happen. There are things I used to feel negative about when I was younger but with maturity, growth and self affirmation, I don't mind any longer. I don't mind my body as much. I'll take care of it, I'll preserve it to the best of my ability but I refuse to give it more attention than it deserves. Let's be honest, my body is hardly going to do me favours in the grave. This body will turn into dust with nothing remaining. And even before death, it will weaken and become fragile.

What I want to give all my dedication and importance is my heart. I want to strengthen my heart. I want to beautify it. I want to purify it. I want to elevate it. I want to glow from inside. I have been reading quite a bit about the heart (not the physical organ), character-building ect in the past couple of months. It has re-emphasised everything I want for myself. I believe it was Ibn Qayyim who stated that we all have 4 eyes, 2 physical eyes to see the world and 2 in the heart to navigate our spirituality. These are the eyes I want to see the rest of my life with. I want my heart to lead the way, provided it is righteous of course.

Unfortunately, this aspect of beauty (inner beauty) is neglected like crazy. Our physical eyes have become blinded by a false impression of beauty. I want to be a beautiful person through my actions, through my interactions with people, through the love and care I show to others, through the reassuring voice I give.. not because of something so mundane as 'my body or features'. My teacher once told us 'never be proud of something you had no choice in, instead be proud in things you have had a choice in'. This has struck with me. As far as I know, none of has chosen how our bodies look or the colour of our eyes or our hair type. So why do we display pride in these things and our appearances in general? Be proud of being a genuine person, be proud if you display beautiful character, if you know how to self-discipline yourself, if you show restraint ect.

Perhaps people prefer working on their external beauty (through makeup, muscle building ect) because that is easier to do than inner building. It has a superficial impact (shows on the outside) whereas the other is deep inside. Something like character-building will take a lifetime to be perfected.. I also think that when you focus on being a good person with a good heart and a beautiful character.. confidence will follow because you're not giving it a choice. You know what you're doing right so confidence has no alternative but to follow you.

Now I am not saying that looking good doesn't matter. It does. Looking cute is cool even with the help of cosmetics but not the way people are doing it nowadays. And especially not if you only want to look cute to fish for compliments from strangers. That's not cute. It's like those people who are into fitness and are into counting every calorie, macro counting. How do you live? Imagine if you put all this dedication, discipline into something that will actually benefit you in the hereafter? Imagine putting this amount of hard work and sacrifice for your eeman (faith)? Man, you would be an amazing scholar!

In any case, the middle path is always the best. Remember your looks, your body, your features.. will all go soon. Sooner than you imagine. They are a trust (amaanah), they are subservient to you (not the other way around). Use them wisely, take care of them but also remember your heart. Take care of your heart. Clean it often with repentance, with beautiful thoughts, with pure intentions. Affirm yourself, compliment yourself, love yourself.. thank God for your health and your beauty. Understand that there isn't one standardised beauty, find beauty in everything and everyone and be happy! Happiness is attractive, gratitude is gorgeous, kindness is beautiful, intelligence is hot!

Toddles :)

Saturday, 26 November 2016

My Qur'an Journey

Assalam 'alaykum people,

وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ 

'..and indeed We have made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember, then is there anyone that will remember?'

Today, I thought it would be a lovely idea to share my Qur'an journey. Maybe it will boost one or two readers, maybe it will re-motivate a few ones, maybe it will encourage some to begin this incredible journey. This is something I am passionate about and I just want to tell the world about the beauty and the eeman-boosting hifdh gives.

As a child, unlike most Somali kids, my siblings and I got on the hifdh (memorisation) bandwagon pretty late. I remember being around 7-ish when my mother started teaching us from Juz 'Amma. It was purely memory work as we weren't taught how to read the Arabic script until much later. We had tapes from Shaykh Hussary (the one where the little girls repeat each verse after him) and we played that to help us learn. We also had a Qur'an that was transliterated in roman script. But I wasn't very good at it (the Qur'an). I remember getting so nervous when it would be my turn to recite and everything I had learnt would evaporate quickly from my mind. I dreaded Saturdays and Sundays because those were the days we would have our Qur'an class with mom and I remember staring outside the window wishing for the afternoon to be finished already. It was harder in the summer when I could hear all the other kids playing outside and having fun, I thought I was the unluckiest child in the world. Added to all that, the fact that my two younger sisters were better at learning/memorising than me didn't help my confidence either, they were quicker and made less mistakes than I.

I don't know what it was with me but even surah al-Falaq was difficult. I used to get stuck on the last verse and hooyo once got angry and said: 'Wa min sharri hasidin idha hasad' - xaasid ma taqanid miya?Qofka xaasidka ah marku wax xaasido! xasidin idha xasad! Sas ku xasuso' Aaah, so this is what it means? I didn't forget that verse after that time! However, I remained stuck in Juz 'Amma pretty much all my childhood and teenage years which is embarrassing especially since Somalis are known to be good at hifdh. But when it came to me there was a clear blockage. I loved the Qur'an but I wasn't able to remember much. I came to a point where I hated when family members would ask 'so which surah are you in now?' Mate, you don't want to know! I avoided that question like the plague and never gave a direct answer.

During my teen years (13 to 15 yrs), we attended a local madrassah on the weekends. Our Qur'an teacher was a young Algerian brother named Bilal and I really liked him. I can still picture him in my mind with his white thobe and shimagh. He was kind, patient and encouraging. I -somehow- became top of the class and won £30 as a recompense. I was so happy ^_^  but I think being the teacher's pet had something to do with this! In the years that followed, we had several teachers who came to our house (a pakistani teacher who made us laugh so much, a somali one who was scary, another Algerian brother who was wonderful), but only little progress was made on my end despite my desire to learn.

I only learnt how to read the Arabic script at age 16/17 which is very late but alhamdulilah. This is also the time when I became practising and I was eager to learn Qur'an. I mainly focused in reading translations of the Qur'an and listening to it intensively. I was connected to the Qur'an and a day would rarely pass without at least listening to a portion of it and following along but, memorising was definitely not in the agenda (apart for my weekly class). I convinced myself that it wasn't for me and instead, I focused on tafsir and in deepening my understanding & knowledge of the Qur'an. I used to complete reading the translation of the Qur'an on a monthly basis and this helped tremendously to improve my Arabic. But still nothing was happening in terms of memorisation.

My listening skills are good -thank God- and with the consistent listening, I became accustomed to the different chapters. I could recognise in which chapters certain verses were, if I wanted to look for particular stories (qisas), I knew which chapters to go to, I could even bring out verses that I wanted to use for daleel in our classes. I was o.k with that for a while but deep down, something was cogitating. With uni life, keeping up my daily reading portion became tough and days on end could pass without me picking up the mushaf. I was so jealous of my sister -who unlike me- seemed to have her reading portion fully integrated in her daily routine when I so clearly struggled. This is something I've always admired in her: no matter her circumstances, she will not miss her daily reading of the Qur'an.

In 2011, my uncle encouraged me to start memorising so I tried. I really gave it a genuine try but without support (no teacher), I didn't get far. The only good thing that came out of this first self-driven attempt was that I got to taste the sweetness of striving fisabilillaah. I also saw that I could memorise, yes it was difficult but I could if I put the work in. I managed to get through the first 90 verses from surah Baqarah.. which I forgot as quickly as I had learnt them.

It was around that time that I made a ridiculous promise (never promise anything under the impulse of emotion), I promised myself and God that I will not get married before I had memorised the whole Qur'an. At the time, I saw this as a way to motivate myself since I wanted to get married. But, I mean.. really? Knowing my poor memorisation skills, what a dumb promise to make! I realised soon that this promise wasn't cutting it. I put the level down to at least half. I need to have memorised at least half the Qur'an before someone puts a ring on it. Half sounded better and I enthusiastically started from surah Ankabut (15th juzz) and decided to start from there going down. However once again, the same thing happened: no teacher, no support, nothing = I soon stopped.

I forgot about hifdh for a while.. trying to lick my wounds and soothe my failures.. telling myself that memorising the Qur'an is not a condition for me to be a good Muslim.. making excuses such as.. others have better memory than I do, they started at a younger age, anyway you're busy already, it's not like you've totally abandoned the Qur'an.. excuses were plentiful. But, your girl didn't forget that silly promise and it was at the back of my mind. What if.. this nadhr (promise) was actually raised up to Allah? I did mean it sincerely at the time but.. I can't even memorise to save my life! AAAH, I asked Allah to not hold me accountable for this promise if if was beyond my capacity. And, I asked for mercy and put the level down at 10 ajza'a. Desperate circumstances called for desperate measures.

Then I moved to Saudi. I thought I could finally start working on this promise thing because you know.. time is running. I'm talking to some potentials and I'm nowhere near 10 juzz. I told my mother about this ridiculous promise because I was concerned that it was going to become reality and that as a result, I would never get married. Mother told me not to be silly. Long story short, I didn't learn anything during those 2 and a half years in Saudi. Circumstances were not optimal and I was dealing with other issues that needed more focus at the time. Every time I wanted to restart my memorisation, I would remember how bad and poor all my previous attempts had been. I kept telling myself that memorisation is just not for me. I ended up accepting this and internalising it. Khalass, it's not for me. And that promise? Please forgive me my Lord as I'm not able to fulfil it.

In one of the classes that I was teaching, I had a student who caught my attention from the very beginning. I'm a very observant person and there are people I am drawn towards almost immediately (I'll talk about this in another post inshAllah) and I could see there was something different about this girl. Months and months later, during a conversation I had with her, we started talking about the Qur'an. I had asked her if there was a place in Jeddah where I could learn hifdh. Her face lit up at my question and she told me about an institute (Al-Huda Institute). I then randomly asked where she was in the Qur'an and she told me that she completed her hifdh and is currently undergoing revision. I was pleasantly surprised. I could see she was a special girl but I didn't imagine that she was a hafidha, allahuma Barik laha.

I opened up to her about my desire to learn and my concerns about my bad memory but she was so encouraging. She believed that I could do it. I think she believed in me before I even believed in myself. She was very excited for me to join the journey and this is the moment the idea and the desire was reignited inside me. Do you know how encouraging it is to see someone believe in you? It's amazing. But despite this ignition, nothing happened for a good few weeks. Logistical reasons were the cause of the delay. However, I had made my mind up and decided that 2016 was going to be the year for me to prove myself with regards to the Qur'an.

End of February finally brought along the opportunity I had been awaiting all this time. My family signed up with a teacher through Skype and my mother asked me whether I wanted to join. I hesitated for a bit (I'm going to be nervous, my memory is not good, can I really do it ect.) but decided to go for it. We all started from Juz 'Amma and flashbacks from my childhood came back. When I was younger, I could never remember the order of the suwar in that 30th portion and ... 20 years later, I found myself still struggling. But my teacher saw that I could achieve more and upon agreement, we decided to start memorising from surah Baqarah towards the end of March 2016. I felt finally ready and I decided to let go of all these negative thoughts that I had internalised in my mind about my supposed inability to memorise. I decided to place my trust in Allah and try my best. It's not easy to let go of things you've accepted as facts about yourself, but I had to let my mind flow with positivism. I am a positive person and I always tend to see the cup half full so why is it that for this I kept negatively putting myself down for all these years!? I decided to change my narrative and change all these 'I can't'   into   'I can inshAllah'.

My student now friend has been an incredible support in this journey. She's the first person I tell when I complete a chapter and I can feel her happiness for me through her reactions. She doesn't know it but she has been a huge inspiration to me. Starting to memorise the Qur'an has been the best decision of my life and I'm not exaggerating in saying that. I don't think there has been anything in my life that has made me happier and more fulfilled than memorising. It's not easy, it's testing, it's trying but that's beautiful. There are downs and there are ups. Allah (swt) will test you to see how sincere you are in threading His path and in memorising His Words. It's not given to everyone. It's only for those whom Allah desires to bring closer to Him.

It has always been my fantasy to be able to read the Qur'an by heart while going about my business. Reciting while cleaning, or wandering in a forest, or walking on a beach. Reciting from any given place. Reciting verses that touch me without having to reach and flick the pages to find them. Reciting longer in my prayers, Praying at night with no longer the excuse of not knowing much. Reciting the Qur'an flawlessly as I read surah Fatiha. Being someone attached to the Qur'an.

I've nearly committed 1/4 of the Qur'an by memory (purely by the Grace of Allah) and it's nothing short of a miracle. Yes, I am that girl who thought she couldn't memorise, who struggled all her life with Juzz 'Amma, I'm that girl that used to forget everything she learnt. But I'm also that girl who never allowed giving up as an option, I'm that girl who decided to challenge herself, I'm that girl who fought negative thoughts with abundance of positive thoughts. Ahamdulilah. And I believe, more than anything, that if I can do it then ANYONE can do it. I want to be that encouraging voice to other sisters. I want to tell everyone that it's doable, I want everyone to experience the joys of memorising. It's an incredible journey.

Having said that, I know that I have such a LONG way to go. I've just only started and the way is long as my teacher often reminds me when my confidence tries to act prestige (lol). But I am ready and willing to go the difficult lows, I'm o.k sacrificing chill-out time, I'm o.k secluding myself to learn or review the Qur'an. As for that promise, well.. I'm very soon approaching so I'll let ya'll know what happens (lol).

On a serious note though, what is truly life-changing once you start memorising is the intimate relationship you develop with the Word of Allah. Each word, each vowel is given its right. You can't afford to miss two days without reading in a row because you know you either have a new page to learn or something to revise. You become linked with the Qur'an in a unique way. You also become linked for life with the mushaf during memorisation and even upon completion because you will be revising and reviewing all your life. It's a lifetime journey and I feel so honoured to be threading on this journey. Thank You my Lord

Don't waste another moment my dear friend, go for it, place your trust in Allah, find yourself a righteous teacher and start your lifetime journey.

This is my story, a shortened version..  maybe I'll revisit it soon and add other details.

Toddles xo

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Repentance Ritual

Peace be upon those who follow Guidance,

If there's one thing that has been surprisingly consistent in my life for the past 10 years, it is my tawbah ritual. Until very recently, I saw this has a dark patch of my life story. If I have to repent this much and so often, it means that I sin often, if I sin often then what kind of slave am I?

Firstly, falling into a sin is rarely something that just falls on me randomly. It usually is coming from far, it is preventable (most of the time), it is foreseeable. Again, I didn't realise this point until later. The symptoms are as follows: slowly but surely, the level of remembrance (dikr) will reduce, nawafil (voluntary actions) will stop gradually, the khushu' (focus) in prayer will diminish, carelessness will fill the heart. Once these symptoms appear and last over a few days, then falling and trespassing divine limits is an easy thing for the devil to suggest. You are already weak, your protection is down, you are -in other words- an easy prey. 

Secondly, understand that one sin never comes alone. A sin will almost always be accompanied by other sins (buy one get a few free kind-of). It is said that sins open doors to other sins just as good deeds open doors to other good deeds. Look at your own life, isn't this pattern also true for you? This is very true and I ask Allah to make the doors of goods deeds forever open to us. Unfortunately, I do not escape from this rule and if I fall into a sin, it's usually several sins that occur and not just one. No matter what the sin is, whether big or fall, significant to your eyes or minuscule, as a believer every transgression is a source of anguish, pain and regret. A trick a lot of people fall into is minimising sins but if faith has truly entered your heart, the very moment you stumble out of the commands of the All-Mighty, you already know you're in the wrong. Personally, I have never committed a sin without being strangled with veils of regret and sorrow immediately upon the realisation of my mistake. Sometimes, I feel anger overcoming me. Sometimes, it is sadness. But disappointment is always present. 

Now, once you are down.. how do you get back up? As for me, I cannot get back up and resume life until I have shown God how sorry, how regretful and ashamed I am for my transgression. Until I break down in front of Him (swt), until I acknowledge my errors, until my sighs of self-desperation become so heavy on my heart, until warm tears are shed, until I beg Him (swt) for forgiveness, until I plead for a fresh start and a new page with Him (swt).. until then, I can't get back to normal. But.. and there is a but. Reaching this emotional peak can take time: managing to find both the timing and the energy to do this soul-cleansing can take a few days. And let me tell you that these moments -especially if they turn into days/weeks/months- are difficult, excruciating and painful. They are difficult to bear because you know what wrong you've done yet life continues. Your obligations and duties are awaiting you. You are in spiritual crisis, but most likely no one knows your ordeal. 

Maybe you're thinking 'duh, why don't you just repent then?' Like I've said, my tawbah routine is a 'give-it-all', I don't do 'half-hearted' or 'lip service' or 'quick and get over it' kind of repentance. It doesn't fulfil me. Again, this is a recent realisation. Now, I know that after a sin that has hurt my soul, I must make the time to do my ''ritual'' otherwise, I will remain unhappy and feeling down. For many years, I didn't know how to deal with sins and I struggled with mood swings but I am so grateful that Allah (swt) kept me striving nonetheless. A technique I used to use a lot back then was that as soon as I fell into a sin, I would immediately seclude myself in the masjid and if immediately wasn't possible then asap. This was systematic. I considered sins as dirt and cleaning myself was imperative. How do you clean yourself spiritually? For me, going to the masjid and reflecting on my mistakes was a wonderful way to do this soul-cleaning. This is one of the reasons why I am an advocate for sisters attending the masjid. The masjid has been a life-saver in my spiritual journey and I know it also is for many sisters. Do not prevent the female slaves of the Lord going to His house, please.

Many times, I had to conduct sisters' circles with the burden of fresh sins. Do you know how hard that is? But, alhamdulilah, I never let the whispers of shaytan tell me 'oh, who do you think you are telling them to be righteous when you're not even righteous yourself, go home'. I never allowed that to cross my mind. Every time, I would pick myself up, put on a brave face, deliver the reminder -which was a reminder to myself tbh- and go back home to grieve before repenting properly. No wonder why msot of the reminders I used to give tended to revolve around the topics of tawbah (repentance), taqwah (God-consciousness), muraqabatu-llah (closeness to the Lord) ect. Sisters would often compliment me for the heart-softening reminders unaware and oblivious to the fact that it was my hurt soul and heart that was speaking to them. This also helped me to keep level-headed, their compliments meant very little to me because I knew my own reality. How could their praise mean anything to me when I knew the battles I was fighting in secret?

The one time shaytan managed to plant a whisper in my mind was back in 2009, during Ramadan. This guy was supposed to be imprisoned in Ramadan right? I don't know how he pulled this one! A sister I loved and looked up to for the sake of Allah was fund raising for the drought that was happening in Somalia and she had asked me if I could go with her to collect money from the local Muslim businesses. I didn't hesitate a second. In my mind, I saw this as a unique opportunity for khayr and so I agreed to it. I left my house without telling my mother where I was going because I was afraid that she would object to me partaking in this. I met with the sister, she gave me the bucket and off we went. We were out that afternoon for hours, going from one store to another. My friend was doing all the talking and despite feeling rather awkward about the whole thing, I kept distracting myself by anticipating my rewards with the Lord. 

With maghrib approaching, we stopped and each one of us returned home. I got back to my house to my mother who wasn't happy. I hadn't answered any of her calls. She asked me where on earth I had been all day. I told her that I went fundraising with my friend. Mom was definitely not pleased. I still remember how upset she was with me to this day. She was upset because I sneaked out of the house, because I had been wandering around outside for hours (I was raised not to 'wander' in town, not to expose myself to men ect), because she was unwell that day and had to step in the kitchen to prepare iftar, because I hadn't answered my phone. Things just seemed to pile up and add up that evening, and not in my favour. I didn't try to justify myself. The feelings of guilt and regret overcame me rapidly. I felt terrible. Suddenly, it was as if everything I was doing that afternoon became so bad. With my newly gained insight, it really felt like putting glasses on for the first time and I could finally see how wrong it was for us to 'fund-raise' on the streets (and btw, we even had police officers come to us and tell us what we were doing was illegal because we didn't have a registered charity, we stopped after that *oh dear*). It was against the modesty and shyness I thought I had in me. What was more devastating to me what knowing that mom was so angry with me. That feeling makes me feel pretty useless. 

That night I requestioned everything. 'What's the point of going taraweeh now? What's the point when mom is angry with me? Oh, you're wearing jilbab? What's the point when you've been walking outside all day long, up and down? You don't even deserve this cloth of purity and modesty!'. Yeah, shaytan was giving his ultimate speech during this low moment. Finally, I decided to still go to taraweeh but I didn't wear my jilbab. I downgraded to abaya and khimar. I felt that it was what I 'deserved'. Alhamdulilah though, I quickly snapped out of it, repented to Allah and apologised to my mother. This was the only time that I allowed the whispers to overtake me. Whispers will come, especially after sinning 'you're such a hypocrite. How dare you show your good face to people ect' but you must keep going. How many times have I almost missed a dars (lesson) because I felt unworthy but, I still went. The hadeeth about people who attend circles of knowledge being forgiven motivated me. 

Being pious is not a condition to command the good and prevent the evil. Command the good even if it's not something you do and prohibit the evil even if it's something you do. This is not hypocrisy even though you should fear hypocrisy. Not long ago, I read something that changed everything. EVERYTHING. It was a comment that is reported from Ibn Qayyim, the king of spirituality (I like to think we would have been such buddies if we lived in the same era :p). I will try to paraphrase it and translate it as best as I can.

'.. and it is something that Ibn Qayyim realised after tasting some of the fruits of sins and he found them to be sweet-tasting, that they transformed the dark pain into glad tidings and said 'If Allah wills for His slave goodness, He present him with sins that will break him (in repentance) and He (Allah) will grant a forgiveness to the extent of his breaking. And to this Hassan al-Basri added: 'if the slave sins and then repents, he will only increase in goodness with Allah'.

Are you reading this properly? 'he will only increase in goodness'? Ya Salaam

Reading this has been uplifting, comforting and simply the best thing. I now feel so privileged knowing that all the terrible sins I had committed were actually a means that lead me to 'break' myself to Him (swt) and a means of sweetness, of goodness and closeness to my Lord. I no longer feel guilty having to repent so often. Repentance is a gift. 'Breaking' yourself (al-inkisaar) is an amazing gift. Ibn Qayyin and Hassan al-Basri are right, the feeling after repenting is sweet. 

How kind is Allah to give us such sweetness after the sourness of sins that we bring on ourselves by day and by night.

Thank You Rabbi..

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Le Bonheur

Magical moments I have experienced

- seeing my supplications being answered
- that time when I stepped for the first time in my homeland
- that special night with all the sparkling stars that decorated the sky and looked to close
- that time when I asked for a divine sign and got the answer immediately
- Makkah
- that night in Geneva, when the seeds of tawheed took root in my heart
- seeing the dead plants I had been watering grow beautifully (as a teen)
- the moment I understood that Islam is without doubt the right path
- the moment I chose to become practising and serious about worshipping Allah (swt)
- those moments spent in my mihrab (prayer area)

Most courageous people I know

- my mother
- my father
- my uncle
- The Prophet Muhammad 'alayhi salaam
- all the prophets and messengers
- Abu Bakr radhiyAllah 'anhu and the other sabaha
- Ibn Taymiyyah
- Imam Ahmad

Habits and attitudes of elder people I admire

- early birds
- early sleepers
- they don't overeat or eat as much junk food as us
- they do what makes them happy
- their wisdom
- their stories
- their understanding and compassion
- their generosity
- their love
- their resilience
- their love for life
- their youthful mind and playful nature
- they don't waste time

Things that connect me to the depths of my soul

- hearing that voice inside
- Zuhd
- repenting sincerely
- crying out to Allah
- removing myself from the shackles of this dunya
- quietness and silence
- slow, controlled breathing
- realising and counting my blessings
- the vastness of the ocean
- the vastness of the sky
- the vastness of the desert
- plane turbulence
- walking in nature
- touching the jugular vein by my neck
- staring at the Ka'bah
- making du'a
- sacrificing myself for the good of others
- contemplating on the Qur'an
- seeing a janaza

These things that feed my soul

- Tawbah
- Dikr
- Qur'an, especially memorising
- Sujud
- Meditating
- Thinking about my creation
- Thinking about life
- Thinking about Allah (awt)
- Fasting feeds my soul
- Meeting pious people
- Circles of knowledge
- Seeing somebody pray properly
- Hearing someone recite properly
- Watching the sunset
- My mother's touch
- My father's hug
- Sadaqah
- Crying over my shortcomings and past sins
- Nawafil and night prayers
- Meeting righteous friends
- Discussing matters of the akhirah
- Remembering death
- Especially remembering the grave and its condition
- Looking above at the sky, looking at the moon and the stars
- Travelling
- Quality time with my loved ones
- Waiting for the prayer
- Sitting until the sunrise
- Remaining sitting after the prayer until the next prayer
- Giving gifts to others, making them happy

The beautiful people I have had the chance to meet in my life

- my family
- Sh. Abdirazqd
- Joud
- the Halal Crew
- those sisters in the Haram