Image in My Head

So, if you’ve followed my blog posts recently, you’ll know what’s been foremost on my mind over the past couple of months. Can you guess it? Can you?? There’s a special prize to the first reader to get it right. Come on, you can do it!! (Uhm… just give me some time to figure out what the prize is going to be.)

So, the answer is ‘change’, and in the spirit of change, I wrote a poem a while ago. The poem is about who I want to be, in-shaa-Allah (Allah-willing), since I am constantly a work in progress. It is an incomplete poem, I am still working on the second half (There is actually an unintended pun in that 😛 When you eventually see the second half of the poem you’ll probably get the pun :D). Please read it and share your thoughts with me.

Image in My Head

I have an image in my head

Of the type of woman I want it to be said

I was.

The type of woman who,

To good deeds and righteousness,

Had sped.

The type of woman who,

For fear and love of her Lord,

Tears she had shed.

I have an image in my head

Of a woman who is so well-bred

That she doesn’t allow herself to be misled

By the evil one whom we all dread.

She is a woman who wouldn’t dare tread

The sins of the poisonous arrowhead.

She wouldn’t allow

The goodness of her soul to be shred,

Nor the love in her heart to be bled.

She is a woman well-read

In the verses that her Lord had said.

A woman whose arms are outspread

To the orphans and the poor,

The ones her Prophet

SallAllahi ‘alayhi wa Sallam*

Had told her to hold near.

I have an image in my head

Of a woman—

Chaste

And with grace.

One who has never, before marriage, been embraced.

A woman who does not, her own value, misplace.

-Ruqaiyah Davids

* SallAllahi ‘alayhi wa Sallam – May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him

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What image do you have in your head about the person you want to be? Or are you already that person? Tell me a bit about this person.

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…Wa ballighnaa Ramadhaan

And let us reach Ramadhaan

The above line is part of a longer du’a (prayer) recited from the month of Rajab, which is two months before the month of Ramadhaan, the beautiful and blessed month of fasting for Muslims, up until this month of Ramadhaan. The complete du’a is as follows:

اَللّهُمَّ بَارِكْ لَنَا فِى رَجَبَ وَ شَعْبَانَ وَ بَلِّغْنَا رَمَضَان

Transliteration: Allahumma baarik lanaa fee Rajab wa Sha’ban wa ballighnaa Ramadhaan

Translation: O Allah! Make the months of Rajab and Sha’ban blessed for us, and let us reach the month of Ramadhaan (i.e. prolong our life up to Ramadhaan, so that we may benefit from its merits and blessings).

[Narrated by at-Tabarani and Ahmad]

Earlier this week, one of my close friends’ grandmother passed away. While going through that day, greatly affected by the loss and reflecting on matters and days passed, as is a habit of mine at times like these, I recalled a sombre observation made by one of my teachers a couple of years ago around this time. He said something to the effect of:

Now, in these months before Ramadhaan, you’ll see how all the elderly people are going to die. That is why the pious people of the past made this du’a: Oh Allah, let us reach the month of Ramadhaan. They would make the du’a up until the month of Ramadhaan.

My memory is a bit sketchy, and the words above are most probably not his exact words, but it was along those lines. This was said at the time that an older man in our class had passed away, which was shortly before the month of Ramadhaan, and this caused all of us in the class to reflect.

I don’t know why my teacher’s theory highlights old people, because, as I remember also pondering at that time two years ago, I felt that it could have even been me that had died that day. Death knows no age. I remember being consumed with this thought, that ‘it could have been me’. Sure, the man who had died was much older, and probably afflicted with the usual illnesses that old age brings, while I had the health and vigour of youth–but has no young, healthy person ever died? Has no twenty-something’s life ever been taken ‘too soon’? There is no ‘too soon’, there is no designated time, except the time that Allah decrees. So, two years ago, it could have been me. Earlier this week, it could have been me. Today, it could have been me. But, alhamdulillah (all praise is to Allah), it wasn’t. Alhamdulillah, Allah gave me another day.

Nonetheless, while I do not understand the ‘why’ of it, I do see the truth in it. The elderly people in our community are dying, just a few weeks before Ramadhaan. My friend’s grandmother passed away earlier this week. My brother-in-law’s grandfather passed away last week. My colleague’s friend’s mother passed away the other day, and a respected elderly member of our community passed away yesterday. These are more deaths in the space of two weeks than I’ve ever heard of before, and there are possibly more to come. I do not understand this phenomenon, but the words of my wise and esteemed teacher ring true.

However, this doesn’t exempt the younger ones amongst us from making this du’a, because certainly our Prophet (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) had great wisdom in making this du’a, and we should follow his example. So, let’s make du’a, for ourselves and for each other, that we reach the month of Ramadhaan, that we receive the beautiful gift that holds within it multiple chances for forgiveness, for reward, for introspection. Oh, Allah, let us reach the month of Ramadhaan, ameen.

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Love, As We Know It

I’ve never before fully understood how love really works. Growing up, I loved my mom, my dad, my sisters and my brother. I loved them because they were my family. I loved them because I had to–as cold as that sounds, it is the truth. I didn’t know what ‘love’ meant, I just fell into it (excuse the unintended pun). Being the last born, I just had all these people in my life, and I had no choice in the matter. Love was compulsory. Even while hating them and fighting with them, I loved them. Later in my life, though, I met some people, some amazing women. And I love them–I love them with a love so strong that, almost from as soon as we met, we stopped being strangers and became sisters. A sister–a woman who I had just met! Can you imagine that? And what’s more is that, this love that I have for them, it’s not the kind of love that I just ‘fell’ into like I did with the sisters and brother I was born loving; this is a love for the sake of Allah. Now, for a long time, this was mind-boggling to me. Love for the sake of Allah. Love for the sake of anything other than ‘I-love-you-just-because’ seemed unfair to me. Why should I be loved for someone else’s sake, and not just because I am great and amazing and loveable all on my own? I was jealous. I’ve always been a selfish person when it comes to love. But do you know what makes this jealousy even more ridiculous? I was jealous of Allah! That is downright laughable! SubhaanAllah (Glory be to Allah). What kind of silly do you have to be to be jealous of your own Creator, the Creator of Love itself? But the only reason that I was jealous was because I didn’t understand what it meant to love and to be loved for the sake of my Lord.

After much pondering on the matter, I eventually understood. To love for the sake of Allah is to love someone because you love Him, it is to love those who love Him and because they love Him. Love for the sake of Allah is not selfish and it is not about the individual, it is not about loving someone because of what that person brings into your life, superficially, or because of how great and amazing and loveable that person might be. Ultimately, it is about loving Allah. If we love Allah, we love those who love Him and those whom He loves, without expectation and without discrimination. A love borne out of a love for Him only strengthens the relationship between two people, and that relationship, in turn, serves to strengthen your love and your relationship with Allah. It is a beautiful cycle, indeed. A love like this ends up being a form of worship, subhaanAllah. Can you imagine that just loving someone for the sake of Allah is a form of worshipping Allah?

So, last night, my love for these women, whom I love as sisters, sent my blood pumping through my body. We met for supper, (almost) the whole gang of us (after each of us being absorbed by our own separate lives for far too long) and it was amazing to be reminded of why I love these women so much, and to be reminded of how indescribably blessed I am to have them all in my life. Our sisterhood was founded on a Divine Love, and it is only because of this love that it works. We’re all different–different personalities, different ages, different stories–but we’re bound by one, single Love.

Abu Hurayra (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

 “Allah Almighty will say on the Day of Rising, ‘Where  are those who loved one another for the sake of My Majesty? Today, on the Day  when there is no shade but My Shade, I will shade them.'” [Muslim]

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What is your understanding of love?

Glad Tidings to the Strangers

The Messenger of Allah (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

Islam initiated as something strange, and it will revert to its (old position) of being strange. So, glad tidings to the stranger!” [Muslim]

Glad tidings to us, indeed–all of us who will be attending the long-awaited, much-anticipated, internationally celebrated Strangers Tour!

This event (befitting adjectives for which I cannot even think of) will feature three amazing people (and when I say ‘amazing’, you must know that I mean AMAZING. Maa-shaa-Allah.). They’ve hosted this event in twenty other cities worldwide (source: all the advertising I’ve seen), and it’s been awesome, inspiring and sold out in all of them. Now, I won’t go on to explain in much more detail what this event entails, you can check out the trailer (the video above) for that. I am way too wired right now to explain it coherently–I mean, in just over an hour, I am going to be experiencing some of this awesomeness right in front of my face while I have previously only experienced it through my laptop screen via YouTube. Can you imagine the excitement? This whole city is buzzing with it! Alhamdulillah.

On a less hyped up note, allow me to more appropriately explain the narration quoted above, so that it is understood in its proper context, and not the context in which I have used it (which wouldn’t be entirely wrong, I think, since it is definitely a blessing from Allah that we are able to attend this event, and it will, Allah willing, be a means of us attaining nearness to Him and His Pleasure). When Islam began centuries ago, it was a strange religion to the people of the land. This religion preached the Oneness of an All Mighty, All Powerful God to a people who worshipped stone idols which they had made themselves. The created were worshipping the created. But Islam proposed that, rather, we should worship the Creator, the One who made us, the One who never sleeps, never eats, and never dies. And this was strange. The people who followed this way were strangers in their own land, to their own people, their own family. Eventually, as time passed, the message of Islam spread. People’s hearts began to recognise their Lord. They feared, worshipped and loved only One God. Muslims reigned, because they knew the One who reigned over all the worlds. However, as even more time passed, the words of our Prophet (may Peace be upon him) were proved true: Islam began its return to being strange to people, even its own people. The world fears a religion about which they know little. They fear a people who are different to them, who have different values. Unfamiliarity can be a dangerous thing. And now, even Muslims find their own religion strange; they find their own family and friends strange when they try to be the best Muslims they can be. That is why, to the one who practices and strives for her deen in this world, even when she is looked upon as a stranger by everyone she knows, she will be presented with glad tidings. So, glad tidings to the stranger.

Ultimately, that is what this event is all about. It’s fun and it’s awesome and there’s a lot of hype around it, but, ultimately, it’s just about reminding us that it’s okay to be a stranger in a world full of strange things. We just have to know what it’s worth being a stranger for, and Allah is more than worth it. Paradise is more than worth it.

So I’ll be off now to have a strangely wonderful time with my stranger friends and many other strangers, listening to some other inspiring strangers doing their thing. Before I leave, however, let me leave you with this, so that you can get a taste of what I’ll be sitting through a bit later on. You have to watch it, okay? You just, absolutely have to! It is pure brilliance, maa-shaa-Allah.

Watch it!

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UPDATE [07-05-2012]: Most-amazing-show-ever! Maa-shaa-Allah. All three of them were beyond awesome. What word can I use that is awesomer than awesome? In my next blog post (13-05-2012), I will highlight some of the lessons, words and laughs that stood out to me–or, rather, jumped out at me and slapped me in the face. An awakening it was, indeed.

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Share your thoughts with me below. I love reading them.

You’re Not Doing It Right

Today, rather than sharing with you my own thoughts at length, I have decided to share with you the thoughts of another blogger, and just add in some of my own commentary. Her name is Rian; quite an awesome blogger she is. The title of her blog post is You’re Not Doing It Right (follow the link to read more). The reasons for sharing her post with you are two-fold:

1. I am honestly too lazy and uninspired to type my own post right now, but I feel compelled to stick to my self-assigned deadline for my blog posts. Also, a weekend of awesomeness tends to drain one of any residual energy one might have had to indulge in the luxury of typing meaningful and readable words. So, forgive me if any of what is to come is unreadable.

2. I like what she’s saying, and how she says it. I can relate to a lot of it. Many of us have a preconceived notion  of what  life is supposed to be like, and when our lives don’t quite match that fickle idea we have in our heads, we feel saddened, as though something has gone wrong, something in our lives must be awry. Further than that, some of us apply this thinking to our religion as well: We have to be the best Muslim we can be, we have to do things absolutely perfectly, and if we don’t, we’re just not doing it rightThis ultimately causes us to feel despondent in our worship. But, the thing is, firstly, Islam is not difficult, it is only us, Muslims, who sometimes make it difficult upon ourselves. And, secondly, there is no single right way of being a Muslim. Sure, we have the Qur’an and Sunnah (Prophetic way) as our guides, and the madhaahib (Islamic schools of law) we follow, and we have certain faraa’id (things which are compulsory upon Muslims) that we need to abide by, but if we don’t do these things according to our idea of ‘right’, it doesn’t mean we’re not being Muslim right. It only means that we’re getting more reward when we keep trying (the key here is to not be complacent), and we need to remember that, rather than stressing about it and grinding our teeth about it, we should turn to Allah and ask for His Help. No matter how many times we fall short of who we want to be, as Rian says so aptly in her blog: “It doesn’t matter. You’re alive.” And as long as we are alive, the little mistakes we make do not matter in the bigger picture, because we can keep trying. And if we believe in Allah, and are trying to live our lives in His Pleasure, we are doing it right.

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What is it that you sometimes feel you’re not doing right? How do you deal with these feelings and thoughts? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.