Flee to Allah (Reflections on the current state of affairs in Pakistan)

Yesterday was the kind of day in which you kiss your children many times more. In which you snuggle close to them and sniff their fragrance and feel the joy of holding them wash over you.

Yesterday was the kind of day when you love your spouse a little more. You forgive him a little more… You love the arguments you’ve had. And you cherish the loving/annoying/unbelievably weird bond you have with your spouse.

It’s a day when dread washed over you when you hear that there was a blast 5 minutes from home. Back home.

As a dear friend put it : “Muscle memory of safe places being altered tragically.”

And for a few moments you subconsciously imagine the worst scenarios possible – your mind sort of preparing for any curve ball that may hit you lest it hit you while you are totally unaware. This is followed by gratefulness, mixed with empathy for the ones who were affected. Your mind feels for what they are going through. You have a good idea, because you went through it yourself when you lost your mother 8 years ago. 8? Really? It seems ages ago. Time passes so slowly.

For some moments or perhaps days after such events, life seems so short. And to some of us, that seems like a relief. That we only have a little more to go. A little more of patience. A little more of the heartbreak that is life… But it makes you pray that that little that is left is easy. Free of trials and difficulties. It makes you hope to make the best of it.

Yesterday was a day in which one stops themselves from searching more on the ghazwa e Hind they read about in Kitab ul fitan (the Book of calamities) of Tirmidhi. You stop yourself because you know you will enter a stage of musing, thinking… I know where that leads me… So i stop myself. Because I have to take care of three others who depend on me. Because, no matter how much I research, we still do not really know. What we do know is, that the other signs have come. The spiritual signs, the manifest signs. The small signs, the big signs. The signs that the Day is near. But how near, we still do not know. And there is khayr in that. It necessarily makes us pause the fear. It necessarily makes us hope that it’s still not near. It simultaneously makes us prepare that it may be near.

But it’s ok to be afraid too. Each state teaches us something about life and ourselves. How fragile life is. How fragile we are.

Yesterday was a day we were afraid. And we were angry. And we were upset. At the games they play.

Yesterday was a day when the fear was mixed with sorrow. Sorrow for my lovely land. For the country who is struggling and flourishing. For my people who are so full of life, now full of fear. For that land, that is beauty – the mountains, the gushing rivers and springs, the ocean, the meadows, the desserts, the old old trees. For that land that even I have not entirely visited and experienced… For that land that is now bleeding… For that land to which I long to return. For that land, when people tell me they have no intention of returning too, I feel strange. I feel sorry. I cannot relate.

Yesterday was a day that washes all the grudges away.

It washes the confusions away.

Because you know what really matters.

Me and Allah.

My relationship with HIM – and that every single moment every relationship I have in this world and every task I perform in this world have to be done in a state of ubudiyya – as a servant, a creation of the Lord Most High – in love and fear of Him. A love that overcomes the fear. For there is no escape except towards Him.

The fear is valid. The feelings are valid. But the fact, that we are in the Hands of Allah is also true. And sometimes makes the fear even more valid…

fa firru ilAllah

So flee to Allah.

There is no escape except towards Him.

And live fully, love fully, give fully and take fully (the cup of love and life and hope that Allah Gives you).

May it be a beautiful fleeing towards Allah…

Amidst the chaos that is life, may our hearts be filled with the drink of love for Him and everything that is good and fair in the world. Ameen

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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” (Addendum)

[Disclaimer: I am not a professional counselor and my experience here is being shared only as awareness and to dispel the stigma that surrounds mental illness in religious circles as well as some secular ones. It should not be taken as a cure, especially for more complicated cases; and professional help should be sought. I hope and pray that we as religious Muslims start to view the significant role of psychology in healing our hearts and minds, so that we can be healthier emotionally and spiritually and physically, and strive to earn the pleasure of Allah swt.]

I mentioned in the previous post that mine was a story that is too long to be penned down easily. And as I was writing that post, I knew there would be a follow-up; a part 2 to the story I was sharing. I imagined it to be as long and as expressive. Somehow, however, it was meant to be concise. I mentioned 6 points that helped me navigate the wire mesh of thoughts. Here are 6 more that I feel need to be mentioned that may help anyone who is going through anxiety, depression, a midlife crisis, or a difficult time after parenthood. I end with a 13th point, which, I feel was an underlying point throughout the time frame. It is the point I ended with in my last post, but here I emphasize it separately, and that is: falling in love with Allah swt all over again.

These points helped me and I hope they will continue to do so whenever I am faced with challenging times. And here I mention them as an addendum to the first 6 points:

7. You are not alone. For whatever reason, our generation, which is also known as the millennials, is faced with a myriad of scenarios that are starkingly different from previous generations. Globalization, massive sharing of ideologies, internet, technology resulting in impatience in our temperaments – whatever the reason, we are, as foretold by the Prophet (s) in a time where spiritually we are much weaker than ever. As a religious woman, you may feel that you alone are facing these war of thoughts and emotions. But when in the depths of an abyss, we need to remind ourselves that we are not alone. There are so many others being tested with this trial. But rejoice and do not despair.

8. Dua – I wrote about connecting to the Qur’an as the greatest source of comfort, and while reciting and memorizing and engaging intellectually with the Qur’an is like Allah swt Conversing with us, making dua to Him (calling out, supplicating) is us conversing to Him. And hence, it is of utmost importance in any struggle we face in this life. Dua is the remembrance of Allah, filled with our expression of need for Him. Just call out and ask Him. Seek out beautiful Sunnah duas and Qur’anic duas that the Prophets made that speak to your heart. The dua of Taif is the best supplication in times of hurt and pain. But if you can’t even do that, just call from the depths of your heart and ask Him to Help you. Just call out and pour your heart out to Him in sajdah.

9. Trusting that there is a hidden benefit in our trial. The thousand tiny bubbles of thought I mentioned in the last post, this is one of them. It is practical husn e zann about Allah swt… We need to practise it to experience the benefit.I mentioned doubts in the previous post, that made me hold on for dear life to the Qur’an- the words of our Lord – and it is Trust in Him that dispels doubts. It is the conscious ignoring and belittling of our own doubts that dispels our fears and anxieties, most of which are baseless, even according to psychological research.

10. Knowing that it will not last. Good times change to bad and bad times change to good. In the moment, we forget this. But this is the nature of the world. And in the depths of confusion, it helps to remember that this too shall pass.

11. Working on knowing the self. (This could also mean professional counseling or therapy from a trusted, capable individual, depending on the level of our anxiety and depression- as I mentioned in my previous post, this helps in thinking about where we are going wrong in our thinking process) I have also spoken about this in some of my Facebook posts recently. After marriage and motherhood, we sometimes have to rediscover ourselves. Who we are as a wife and a mother are significantly different than who we were when we were alone. So many times we hear people saying that if you are happy alone, you will never be lonely. But the truth is, most women who are like me will admit that they loved spending time alone when they were alone 🙂 And now it is a luxury. Now when they have no alone time they miss it. And they feel lonely because they feel they have lost themselves. And hence, I say, it is in this time that we need to rediscover ourselves. Rediscover the beauty of bonds. Rediscover the beauty of sharing our hearts out with people – with our dear and close ones. Sharing ourselves with others and being vulnerable. We may get hurt in the process, but we will learn a lot. Rediscovering ourselves in this phase also means realizing our lost passions. It means knowing our strengths and weaknesses. Once you have identified your strengths, work on putting those in use for the sake of Deen, for Allah swt. As for the weaknesses, strive in making them your strength. For me, this is an ongoing process. To passionately work for the Deen with the talents and gifts Allah swt has Blessed you with. And each of us is gifted. That is for us to discover.

12. Evaluate the state of your heart and strive to reach Equilibrium:
Forgive yourself and love yourself.
We wish that Allah swt Forgives and Loves us – sometimes when we lose self respect due to whatever reason, we cannot forgive ourselves and being mortals and highly prone to error, our nafs or shaytan whispers to us that Allah swt will not Forgive us. It is deceit. A lie. If during our self discovery we realize we are prey to pride, then we have to let go of our ego. We have to tell ourselves that we are lowly. You are lowly, and yet Allah swt Loves you. So submit to that Magnificent Lord. If, on the other hand, we realize that we have lost self respect, then tell remind yourself that you are worthy of being loved. Allah swt Created you to love and be loved.

InshaAllah, the last point needs to be elaborated and I hope to do so in the future. Similar is the equilibrium we should strive to have between love and fear of Allah swt.

Allah swt Says:

Say, “Who provides for you from the heaven and the earth? Or who controls hearing and sight and who brings the living out of the dead and brings the dead out of the living and who arranges [every] matter?” They will say, “Allah,” so say, “Then will you not fear Him?” (31) For that is Allah, your Lord, the Truth. And what can be beyond truth except error? So how then, are you averted? (32) (Surah Yunus)

But I believe, when we are going through anxiety attacks and depression, we may already be fearful of Him, but in a skewed way. I believe that at that point in time we are essentially distant from loving Allah swt. We may be remembering Him, but we are not remembering Him with love.

أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ 

“Only and only in the remembrance of Allah swt do hearts find rest.” (13:28)

There are so many ways of remembering Allah swt. But it is particularly remembrance with muhabba that brings peace. It is with love and mindfulness or being in the present moment, without the past and the future to distract us, that we can truly taste the sukoon (tranquility) of Allah swt’s Remembrance. It is falling in love with Allah swt again, just like we need to fall in love with our spouses again and again over the course of our lives, that takes us out of the abyss of hopelessness.

And hence, I make this my last underlying practise of anyone who is in depression

13. Fall in love with Allah swt again. Love Him, and tell yourself that He loves you.

Shaytan wishes us to think negatively about Allah swt. He wishes we overthink. Remind yourself that he, ar-rajeem, is the liar. Au’zu billahi min ash-shaytan irrajeem.

And Allah swt Spoke truly in His Qur’an. We are recipients of His Mercy and Love. Ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem.

May Allah SWT Guide each and everyone who reads this out of every dark time that they face into Light: pure and peaceful Truth. Ameen.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – Charles Dickens

If you are looking for something related to philosophy or epistemology, psychology or spirituality, something related to rediscovering ourselves in motherhood and marriage,  a story about unaddressed perfectionism, an existential crisis, depression, the tug of war between being intellectual and emotional, between being too feminine and not feminine at all, then welcome. You are in the right place.

Where do I start?

[Before I do, I need to put a DISCLAIMER here: This post is not a diagnosis, a cure or professional advice. I write foremost for myself- to make sense of things which have recently gone haywire in my life, secondly to put my writing out in the world for hopes that some soul somewhere may benefit and thereby make my experience one with more meaning than it seems to be right now. Thirdly, to produce a piece of ‘writing’ that people may enjoy 🙂 I acknowledge that this may only be *my* experience, and only my circumstances, so I encourage others to seek proper Islamic knowledge as well as professional psychological diagnosis for their own circumstances. The least of what one can gauge from this piece, hopefully, is the importance of each science or art Allah SWT Has Placed on this earth. Bismillah (beginning in the name of Allah- God)]

The featured Image of me and son number one is one which depicts the truth of my times in Okinawa being the best of times and the worst of times. My personal times I mean. Till now, at least. It was the best of times as we were in the most beautiful island on Earth. Golden beaches, crystal clear water, sometimes deep blue, sometimes turquoise, the most breathtaking sunsets. And here, in the photo, we were at a park. It’s called Neo park, but it was more like a haven of simple nature. It was not so pretty and not made up as other places we had visited and neither was it as beautiful as the botanical gardens Japan is famous for, but as we walked through the track they had made, I stopped as soon as we reached this particular tree. It seemed to be the tree I had always only read about in books. Even now it seems like a dream and only the picture testifies that I was actually there, right beside it, a wanderer but also a mother. I spent only a few moments beside it, not hours as I would have liked and imagined, sitting beneath it, indulging in a book. In Jannah, in shaa Allah. Does it really show that it was the worst of times? No, not really. But as I remember the park itself, it reminds me of how it wasn’t really something so special. It wasn’t really something to boast about – the picture hides that fact. Just like the apparent goodness of my time in Okinawa hides the difficult aspect of my time here.

So how do I begin? What is this about? It is about an existential crisis to put it bluntly. But let’s start with motherhood.

Motherhood is a topic written about by thousands. It is a reality of life still confusing to me. It is an experience of life I am still going through. Perhaps, my difficulty in this regard arose because of three things: 1) my need to Philosophize everything in life, 2) my need to follow guidelines and instructions in whatever I do and particularly guidelines that would lead to a successful Hereafter, not just a successful dunya, 3) my need to be exceptional, if not outright perfect or super at whatever I do. Notice the word I used- yes, I was used to being gifted- whether it was art, writing, reading, I always found myself above average in most things, except … household skills – no wait, I could even be exceptionally organized once upon a time, but that miraculously changed, thanks to – hormones? taqdeer? Bear with me please.

Reading on a multitude of topics, I realized this about myself in retrospect- I had always been studious- and I had come to define myself by my worth to study, disseminate knowledge and make sense of life. Household skills took a back seat. I mean, sure, I could bake well since high school. I learnt the basics of cooking when I was a teen. I never became an expert at roti making though (ah yes, my deep woe of never being a good gol-roti bahu)… Five years down the road in marriage, my husband surprised me (no, shocked would be a better word) by making a perfect gol roti. Failure. That is what I felt. As I write this, it seems unreal the sense of failure I felt at that time. Surely, it could have been a time to rejoice and celebrate my husband’s unexpected expertise at something so ‘womanly’ as roti making? But all I could feel was failure and guilt. Guilt at not being a superwoman. Guilt at not being a super housewife. Guilt at not having everything in my house under order. (It did not help that I saw my husband’s mother as well as my own mother be the most expert, super housewives) Guilt at feeling incomplete in my life, as I found myself on a tiny island, where my husband had started his new research as a Mathematician, and where I had to face isolation -social and intellectual. It was in this scenario, that I began to question who exactly I was.

The questioning came with anxiety attacks. It came with bouts of depression. Sure, I was a Muslim. That was my first identity and one I had always identified with. But I had always been a cool, idealist, sensitive but not whiny type of intellectual being. I use the word being because I never really even identified with being a ‘woman’ for fear of being associated with sensitivity and crying and emotionality. I never identified myself with mothering and housewifery.

But here I was, a woman to the core. I think all of us have femininity and masculinity in us. This is a topic for another time. But here I was, unable to face the femininity in myself.

There seems to be nothing exceptional about my story, but at the same time there was. I read articles on articles about staying at home moms and their struggles. But there was something rare about what I experienced in this island called Okinawa – the Hawaii of Japan.

I had a crushing experience. I felt despair, darkness in my soul, hopelessness, loss of interest in life. In short, it was nothing short of a mid-life crisis. It touched an existential crisis of sorts. But the punch line was, I always thought I had passed all that. I couldn’t believe I was going through it. I thought I had the answers to everything. I thought that my four years worth of deep study of my beautiful Deen was all there was to learn about life and the hereafter.

And I was wrong. And I was right.

I was punched hard in the stomach, and I fell down, the wind knocked out of me, on all fours.

What did I do? How am I here, writing this?

It is not a journey that can be penned down so easily. I cannot write about the heart-wrenching moments and sometimes hours of pain I felt, searing through my broken heart and soul. I cannot explain what exactly ‘pained’ me. Was it the fact that I was at a point in life where nothing seemed to make sense- not the marriage I had said yes to, for the sake of my Deen, not the children I had who were a fitnah, not the 10 years of Deen I had studied, which were not helping me in my crisis when I wanted. I did tawba again and again, because surely, that would bring ease again. But I kept falling down, bruised and hurt. In such a time and place, I turned towards psychology. What was wrong with me?

Over a course of months, I began to realize that it may just be other, very simple, practical things that I was not paying attention to; perhaps simple skills that I was lacking.

So I turned to psychology to understand myself better. But I was afraid of it. I was at a place where I had never been before. Was it marriage? Was it motherhood? Was it my idealism that was destroying my inability to live like others? Things seemed simple and profound at the same time. Everybody looks for love and happiness. We look for it in the ‘wrong places’ they say. It is only truly with Allah SWT. But I couldn’t find Him. I tried so hard. And some days I did. As I poured my heart out to Him I knew He would make it ok. But on other days, I could not make sense of my life and my akhirah. It was my fear of akhirah that made me hopeless. Surely, the fear is supposed to be there

وَلِمَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ جَنَّتَانِ ﴿٤٦ فَبِأَيِّ آلَاءِ رَبِّكُمَا تُكَذِّبَانِ 

But for such as fear the time when they will stand before (the Judgment Seat of) their Lord, there will be two Gardens- (46) Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?- (47)

But why was it leading to despair? Why couldn’t I find a balance? Why, even after reminders from my husband about the Mercy of Allah and about hope did I fall into the crippling fear again?

I knew the only way out was to have hope. But I was afraid of false hopes. But I had to hope. I was afraid of failing but I had to try. I was afraid of losing but I had to strive to gain something.

A psychotherapist told me that my ‘being’ was facing fears because it had been exposed to sudden loss. It made sudden sense. I couldn’t heed my husband’s words, or everything that was stored in my brain because I was questioning it all. Because I had lost trust in something. There was the loss of my mother in 2009, then there were two other incidents  which were deep losses to myself. They involve other people/organizations and so I have left them unnamed here and hence the exact nature of those losses also remains unmentioned- but they were deep. And profound.

I thought about the losses the Prophet (s) had faced. I thought about losses other people faced. But what was troubling was the isolation I felt within my own story. They had not felt depression. But I was feeling it in my soul.

I felt like I was abandoned by everyone I knew. I tried desperately to hold on to the Rope Allah SWT mentions in the Quran, but the truth was, that I felt I was drowning. That every rope I thought I was reaching out for was slipping out of my hands and letting me sink deeper and deeper.

There were a billion small steps that one needs to take from rock bottom I think. A million tiny thoughts that provide the bubbles that let you breathe. A thousand positive reminders that you desperately hold on to.

Risking simplification, I propose that these steps helped me:

  1. I knew I was facing isolation, and a kind soul whom I had never met but contacted on whatsapp told me that I had to strive harder to reconnect to people. As I did that, over the period of a month or two, I connected on social media to people I felt I could relate to. I consequently also brushed off and disconnected the influence and advice of very close people in my life- whom I considered close because of the years of life we shared, because of experiences we shared, because our relationships had been made in Allah’s Name. And despite all that, I was standing at a crossroads in life where I simply *had* to disconnect – because they were no longer positive for me. I had to make sure it was not a condescending letting go- it was because it was a desperate need at that time. They were debilitating me. They could no longer lead me back to my Allah SWT, who was the Sole Relationship I knew I had to keep. It was the relationship that was taking the brunt too. Yes. It was a spiritual, deep struggle within my being. It was a war of thoughts. A war of emotions.
  2. I had to tell myself that my struggle had meaning. That there was a purpose. A higher and positive purpose. When we tell ourselves that this is a crucial lesson we are being taught, then the pain we are going through is easier. So I believed that there would be light coming in through the cracks. That yes, though I eventually had to figure this out, that I had to make sense of the things that were not making sense, I also had to trust the uncertainty that life is. Uncertainty is a part of being human. We do not know what is going to happen in the future. We do not know if our efforts will necessarily bear fruit in this life. Unexpected things happen. We are afraid of our akhirah too. But, this is part of being human. And that is when I saw how tawakkul (trust) in Allah swt helps believers in this uncertain world. Even my mental war within cleansed me of sins or granted me reward. This uncertainty wasn’t a curse- it was a rahmah. It was a win-win situation in shaa Allah no matter how hurt I got in the process. (I also had to white-wash certain things I had heard which I previously couldn’t forget – so I voluntarily, consciously let go of the thought that this was a punishment because I was failing in being patient. I chose to look at it as a Mercy for me.)
  3. I realized that ‘depression’ was not something that should be mentioned at all in places like Islamic talks. Depression is a clinical illness, and if it is mentioned at all, then it should be done with far greater awareness than it ordinarily is. It is not always ‘only’ spiritual and only because we are far from Allah swt. There may be other reasons such as isolation, because Allah swt has Made us social beings. Mentioning that a true believer would not or could not be depressed may make someone who lacks a deep knowledge about Deen become despondent. And the speaker would only be egging him onwards in his despair.
  4. I *had* to improvise. I had to find meaning and enjoyment in so called ‘fruitless’ activities, because I realized I had some time on this earth – and even though I desperately wanted to only do those things which made a positive difference to my akhirah, I knew that mundane things could be made ibadah… and that I was thinking too much and reading too much into it. So I picked that sketch book again and drew. I started with the sunrise. I sketched. And I took in the details of that sunrise like I hadn’t for a long time. I had forgotten what Nature could do to us. How Allah SWT Has Called His Creation signs that point to Him. Even today I need to remind myself of this. I do not know where and how I lost this lesson that I knew so well in my teens. But I decided to relearn it.
  5. I realized practise and experience makes one wise. There was so much knowledge of do’s and don’ts that I had accumulated, that I realized that a person like me needed to stop and pause. I needed to put it all into action now. I was inhibited because of all that information and I had to come out of it by action. Even if it meant starting a blog which would make me question myself every time. Am I doing this for fame? Is there any ikhlas in this? Is this just lahw? As I questioned myself, I began to learn that I must choose positive answers. Yes, yes and yes. It is not fame, rather it is a hope that people will benefit. Renew the intention. Allah SWT will Judge me. Not my teachers, not my friends, not my spouse. He is Nearer to me than my Jugular vein.
  6. I was filled with doubts about myself, my decisions, where I was in life, and even about the people in my life. So I connected to the ONE THING which I knew about for sure. Which carried no doubts. The Qur’an itself. Laa raiba feeh. Wherein there lies no doubt. (Qur’an 2:2)

This last point is important. Alhamdulillah for the sarf and nahw I studied in the last decade, that I could engage with the Qur’an at a deep personal level. We can study the tafseer, recite, memorize. We can connect with the Kalaam of our Lord to get some clarity in our thoughts when we are so confused. This connection itself alhamdulillah brought some stability in my inner self. I kept letting go of any sentences that were ingrained in my heart that I may have heard in talks/bayans that were crippling me or making me negative. My husband reminded me that anything negative in our mind was a misunderstanding of what we were comprehending- because Deen brought nothing but positivity. (as I mention my husband a few times, I also feel a need to clarify that while he tried his best to help me, he also hurt me at times, as that is what life is. It is not a perfect fairytale. None of us is perfect and we each make mistakes. But striving in this world is the purpose of existing therein, and creating that fairytale in the Hereafter is our purpose for striving here. Alhamdulillah)

So I kept filtering the negative thoughts. I faced anger. See post Anger. It also helped to realize that anxiety or mental health issues arise when we have unaddressed emotions within ourselves. And so I paid more attention to my emotions. Why did I feel angry? Was it really a misunderstanding my husband had that angered me? Can I clarify it? Why was i confused? What was I confused about?

As I did all this, I began to see the positive truths about things. I had always ‘known’ them. But I hadn’t ‘felt’ them during this time of depression. It was as Dickens says: I had everything in front of me, I had nothing in front of me.

I still struggle. There are days when I wonder why the world is so insensitive. Why are we so lost in our own happiness, unable to serve others? Even those who apparently are serving others have imperfections. They can be insensitive. I can be insensitive. That is when I remind myself that I need friends I can really relate to at my level of philosophizing. Friends who can relate to what I feel and say. There were many such women whom I connected to during this time, and I am grateful to each of them, and to Allah SWT for making me realize there are so many out there like me. And that even if sometimes as we pass through this tunnel  of life, I may not feel like I have anyone next to me, I am going to come out at the other end in shaa Allah.

These struggles are ongoing. They are a part of life. Some of us may be tested with wealth, some with the loss of lives, some with physical sickness, and some with mental illness.

Through all of these tests, the navigation needs to be made with the help of the Qur’an. The navigation has to be made with this deep belief that Allah SWT Loves us and Wills the Best for us.

Sometimes we lose the basic self esteem that we are supposed to have – the self respect that our connection with Allah SWT Grants us. This inherent belief that we are worthy of love. We are worthy of belonging. It is sometimes simply a lack of this self worth that make us distant from our Merciful Lord.

Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem
(The especially Merciful, the eternally Merciful)

Sometimes, I think, this was the best of times, because He Wished to Show me, that at times it is only in His Mercy we can find relief. The same Mercy that I used to think people take for granted… I learnt to cherish it.

وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ الْوَدُودُ 

And He is the Most Forgiving, the Loving (Affectionate)
(Quran; Surah Burooj 85:14)

Sometimes we seek Him. We learn about Him. At other times, He Teaches us Himself. And you realize, even when we were seeking Him, it was still Him, Seeking us.

Prophet Sulaiman’s dua is one that I wrote down and pinned on my kitchen cabinet:

Beautiful and comprehensive. Ameen

“My Lord! Grant me the power and ability that I may be grateful for Your favors which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do righteous good deeds that will please You, and admit me by Your mercy among Your righteous servants.”

Qur’an (27:19)

 

Love for Allah SWT

Do not let anyone’s words, or actions, be it an imam, a religious scholar, a psychologist, a lover, a friend; anyone who has any emotional power over you, sway you from your Trust in Allah, your Love for Him and your relationship with Him.
Because nobody and nothing in the world has any right to deceive you about your Lord.

يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنسَانُ مَا غَرَّكَ بِرَبِّكَ الْكَرِيمِ 

O mankind, what has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Most Generous/Loving (Quran 82:6)

It is love for Him that will take us all the way.

It is His Love which will last for eternity.

It is His Love that will save us from our own selves today and on that Day.

There is an Arab proverb: The lover is not but obedient to his Beloved.

Make this love true and lasting.

And He is waiting to make it last for eternity…

Anas bin Malik Al-Ansari (MayAllah be pleased with him) narrated:
Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,
“Verily, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His slave than a person who has his camel in a waterless desert carrying his provision of food and drink and it is lost. He, having lost all hopes (to get that back), lies down in shade and is disappointed about his camel; when all of a sudden he finds that camel standing before him. He takes hold of its reins and then out of boundless joy blurts out: ‘O Allah, You are my slave and I am Your Rubb’. He commits this mistake out of extreme joy”.

 

So ecstatic, that he says something that ‘apparently’ is like kufr…

But Allah swt is so pleased when we turn to Him. He is not a distant Lord. He is Self Sufficient, but He is the Best Sustainer. The Best Caretaker. The most Just and Loyal Lord, who is nearer to ourselves than our jugular vein. (50:16)

#LoveAllah #MakeHimYourBestFriend

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Where I Belong

More than a decade ago, I wrote this poem:
Standing on a purple hill,
enraptured eyes gazing
at the scarlet sun, descending,
splitting the sky into
soft alluring colours.
This is where I belong.
Far from the self-centered world,
far from petty issues over-coming the senses
far from observing, time and time again
a frown, an icy gaze,
a smirk, an irksome look,
scathing words veiled with smiles
oh those smiles!
That leave the senses numbed, the tongue locked,
The mind too flustered to contemplate what it sees.
Alas, I realize, it’s only me.
I do not belong
The rest of the world smiles along.
They laugh, they talk. They are full of mirth.
Do they not behold what is so conspicuous to me?
Or is it?
Confusion, anguish,
I wonder at the world,
I wonder at myself.
Baffled, bewildered, my mind cannot rest.
Until,
A smile, of pure innocence
A look, full of concern
A helping hand draws near
Hope returns
Eyes look around, at first, tentative,
then ravening to see more
and not in vain.For now, time and time again my heart rejoices
As it perceives that which it had been craving
Love, warmth, affection
It was all there
It had been there
I just had not paid heed.
Yes now, I laugh, I talk. I am full of mirth
I have learnt to look and overlook
At last, I belong.

copyright@2003

It took some courage to share the whole poem today, for I can see in these words the child within me that exists even today.

I did not belong then. I do not belong now.

I have come to an island where the sun splits the sky into radiant colours. Every single day.

Where the sunrises are as full of splendour as the sunsets.

Where my life had a lot of sunrises, after a lot of sunsets.

And yet I do not belong.

Because I am not ever going to belong to this Earth. I have been made for something far beyond the seas and sands of this planet. I have been made for a time and space far removed from the confined nature of time and space in this Earth.

I will never belong. The people across the globe help me, assist me, and I can connect to them, speak to them, share my joys and pains with them. But, we travel alone. Our connection is only meaningful connection so long as the Real Connection exists between us. When each of us is Connected to Him, our connection with each other means so much more.

And so we travel, not belonging. Strangers. We get along, but we do not belong.

We revel, we cherish, but our hopes lie elsewhere. We are forever grateful, but our hearts ache, saddened by the distance. Afraid of the path still untravelled.

We hold dear to our hearts, the saying of the Prophet (s):

“عَنْ ابْن عُمَرَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: أَخَذَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم بِمَنْكِبِي، وَقَالَ: “كُنْ فِي الدُّنْيَا كَأَنَّك غَرِيبٌ أَوْ عَابِرُ سَبِيلٍ

Ibn Umar (r) narrated: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) took me by the shoulder and said, “Be in this world as though you were a stranger or a wayfarer.”

And we remind ourselves, that travellers have it hard. They enjoy the adventure, but they get tired. And at the end of the day, they have to keep going. They cannot stop.

Their destination awaits them.

Reflections – End of 2016

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My Note 4, Samsung, a gift from my father, broke a few months ago, as my three year old ran excitedly to show me a new picture of the moon he had just captured. He fell hands down, with the phone in his palm, screen facing downward. I didn’t even have half the reaction I imagine I could/must have had, if it hadn’t been for the peculiar state i was in.

I had strangely made a very deep dua from a tired, broken heart; just before sunset. When we make such a dua, there is a tranquility that is tangible even before the onset of the prayer being answered itself. I was in that state. When I picked up the phone and saw that the screen was blank, I had a ‘too tired to care anymore’ response. The only thought and feeling that surged through me was perhaps there was some huge khayr in this- perhaps it was an answer to my dua.

That may sound crazy to someone else. But that is how exhausted I was. How tired and confused about where I was going and how to come out of this eccentric phase of adult life that I had never felt before.

It was a strange inexplicable feeling that I should not be connected too much to the outside world at this point in time. I felt as if being in this remote island at the corner of the world (literally!) meant that Allah SWT Had Wanted me to be disconnected. It had been His Plan all along. But for two years, I kept trying to look the other way. I tried hard to not accept this Plan. I tried hard to find other meaning, other hidden Plans of His. But it couldn’t be so simple and cliched as disconnecting myself from the world, right?

But, it was not that I wouldn’t have any connection to the outside world. It wasn’t that type of disconnect He had Planned for me. It was something very deep and something only experience itself can make sense of. It is something which needs another time and space to write about. (inshaAllah, someday)

A few hours later, my husband had taken out the old battered, but still faithful, Samsung that I had been using a year ago and had downloaded whatsapp for me in it, as I tended to the little ones.

Everything was back to normal… I was in touch with the outside world, but virtually, so to speak, except that my camera wasn’t so hi-fi anymore, and that it would take me longer to type on this touchpad. At least 4 times longer.

On the last day of an eventful 2016, we travelled North of Okinawa, to Cape Hedo.

This is a spot where people camp out, on a beach enclosed between two capes. We travelled two hours to get to it. I was not expecting much (and one cannot emphasize enough the beauty and benefit of not expecting much). It is exactly when you are, really not expecting much, but at the same time in a state of ‘hoping’ and ‘believing’ in a lot, that you witness some of life’s most perfect moments. Not expecting much is really hard to do – by nature, we are beings who expect things to happen. But not having a well-defined expected outcome of everything really helps in every step of life. Yet, at the same time, we need to be positive; expecting whatever happens to hold something good and beneficial for us to take home as seekers of God, traveling to meet Him.

My first reflection was about what constitutes a perfect moment. A ‘perfect’ moment, is one in which your heart and mind are viewing it as perfect. My heart and mind, being that of a striving believer, only view a moment as perfect when I am able to remember God therein. And this particular trip, not only made us witness Allah’s Majestic Art, but we were allowed to see it in the most beautiful hour of the day, when the sun shone above the bay as we stood atop cape Hedo. I was able to relish it alhamdulillah. I was able to reflect on the reality of things, alhamdulillah, which is something I love to do. It is something I thrive on, in fact. It is something without which I feel like a fish out of the ocean.

The sunlight shimmered on top of the ripples of water. The clouds enveloped the sun, allowing radiant rays of sunlight to illuminate the green hills in the background of the bay. My camera couldn’t capture the colours, and thus my attempt to describe it in words. Without a camera, I can only imagine the time people spent in taking in such beauty. It is moments spent in absorbing such a canvas that can result in any prose or poetry defining it.

ن ۚ وَالْقَلَمِ وَمَا يَسْطُرُونَ

Nuun. By the Pen and what they inscribe (68:1)

My second reflection was on how experience teaches us. I thought about how we have been ‘inflicted’ by the writings of humans in this world. This blessing of articulation could be a curse at times. Some writings are beautiful, and proclaim the beauties of our Lord. Some ugly and reprehensible, darkening our soul. I have been open to such negative influences on my heart unfortunately, in the past few years, but had I not been, I wouldn’t be here to mention it. Because, only through experience we become wise, and only when we make mistakes, do we become experienced. I would never have been so wary of it as I now am. But I know I may make mistakes again. I have to be ever vigilant.

As we watched the beautiful bay bathed in sunlight, we wished to go there – to see this beauty up close. As we drove towards that beach, I was amazed to find two things: up close it was not really so beautiful as the image we had seen from kilometers away. The golden sand was less golden, the sand less fine and full of pebbles. The children enjoyed the sand, no matter how imperfect it was. The baby was asleep in the car, and I found this a perfect opportunity to take in my surroundings.

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The waves crashed into the bay water at a distance, and then flowed calmly onto the shore of the beach. I walked forward and stood on one of the rocks. As I did so, I let the sounds be recorded in my heart. The water at a distance, that incessantly foamed into white waves was a constant gurgling, gushing roar. There wasn’t a beginning and end to the wave formation, because waves were being formed at three to four different directions as the water was swept inwards into the bay. The sound this produced was amazing. Incessant. Powerful. There was a second sound: calmer, peaceful. The water that flowed onto the beach did so in a calm and composed manner. There was no foam, no waves, just a constant soft ripple of crystal clear water, flowing over rounded rocks and pebbles onto the shore. The sound this produced was like a fountain: water being poured over something at an unceasing, composed pace. The third sound was that of the chilly breeze blowing into my face – into my niqab and onto my face, rather.

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Photo credits: The Husband. Cape Hedo in the background. (P.S. My husband is not a good picture-taker by my high standards, but I simply loved this picture he took!)

So my third reflection was this: It was an imperfect place, but so much beauty would not even be possible in something that was perfect. Isn’t our own beauty exactly in the fact that we are imperfect? Imperfect; striving relentlessly for perfection. It’s almost like ‘limits’ in calculus. It is ironic how much I hated that topic in my undergrad, and how tough that was for me given that I had always loved Mathematics in all forms before this. Yes, it was this concept in real life too, which I found the hardest to fully comprehend. It has to be an unceasing striving, because we will never reach perfection in this world. But if we stop trying, we will never produce anything. We will be stagnant, unchanging, unimproving pieces of matter, flying in space at the speed of the earth. Marvelous in itself, but nearly not marvelous enough if we consider our beings entire universes in themselves in movement, growing and evolving over time.

My fourth reflection was that I have to see the beauty in the moment myself. No one can ever do that for me. This I write in present tense because it is an ongoing learning experience. In every given moment, I have the option to make it or break it. In the haphazardness of real, authentic life happening, we have to accept the chaos and embrace the pieces that are not fitting – because only when we stop fretting do the pieces ever come into place.

Since my phone camera wasn’t something I was banking in, picture taking wasn’t what I was worrying about. I ‘did’ take pictures as you can see. I didn’t abandon this thing altogether. But I think, as a majority of my attention was directed away from capturing everything on camera, I was able to capture it within my being. So yes, that lesson helped me trust my hubby taking the pic- and then I loved it when I saw it back at home. (My phone screen didn’t really allow me to see what the pictures were turning out like then and there :))

And this was an end to an otherwise horrendous 2016. My fifth reflection was that on hope. We need to keep hoping, despite the despairs of this world. Do horrors and fears of this dunya really mean just that? Is injustice going to prevail? Are they just bad happenings and nothing good can come out of it?

My own time on this island has been of a lot of isolation and pain. I grew years older than the three years I have spent here. But as the saying goes, there is no gain with pain. It sounds very very cliched. But herein, a lot of truth lies. We do not grow older and wise without falling and tripping and hurting ourselves.

It is with this hope I end 2016: that with each difficulty comes the ease of gaining. With each difficulty, comes the ease of learning. With each difficulty, comes the ease of beauty. With each difficulty, comes the hope in our meeting with our Lord.

إِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا 

Indeed, with hardship, comes ease. (94:6)

And elsewhere, Allah says:

سَيَجْعَلُ اللَّـهُ بَعْدَ عُسْرٍ يُسْرًا

After a difficulty, Allah will soon grant relief. (65:7)

If only we could remind ourselves during each difficulty, that it is not there to last. That there is a purpose behind it. A reason for it. A way to make it a means of our strength, rather than weakness. If we remember that during the hardship, then we would continue to strive, no matter how hard it seemed to us.I’ve known these verses since a decade, but in my life, I only lived them when I went through hardship, and when I couldn’t see or feel any ease in it. And when I had to beg Allah to help me, I saw how we were fighting a battle within ourselves to reach a state of certainty. It only comes after struggle. ‘Knowing’ a verse is not enough. Living it, is the goal.

يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنسَانُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ كَدْحًا فَمُلَاقِيهِ

O mankind, indeed you are laboring toward your Lord with [great] exertion and will meet Him. (84:6)

And it is this hope of meeting Him, at the end of this long winded road of life, which keeps us going. It is this hope that overcomes the darkness. It is this hope, which dispels the fears. It is this hope that keeps us striving when we so earnestly want to give up.

And with that we begin the new year, with hopes of striving towards our Lord, and becoming better and growing in all the ways that are good. Ameen.

There is no ‘station’ in this world

There is a concept of stations or states of a believer in this world. I believe it stems from Sufism or tasawwuf. Having different states, such as being patient at certain times, feeling gratefulness at others, is a very acceptable concept.

However, when the word ‘station’ is used, it implies that you have reached a destination. So, for example, I’m not making this up, it is written in some books that: you reach a point of no return. Excuse me? A point of no return from wilayah? A point of no return to sin?

I am not negating the science of tasawwuf, rather pointing out some issues with some of the concepts that people who are in tasawwuf may face. Tasawwuf is part and parcel of Deen. The knowledge of the inner state of believers has been preserved over the generations and it is presented in a nutshell. However, the pitfalls of the system need to be pointed out if we are to reap maximum benefits from it.

Is there such a concept, really, in Deen? And if there is not, how can very educated people, in both Deen and dunya, be ok with reading something like that in a book?

For someone who wishes to believe that, he or she is most welcome, but it makes me very concerned for them. There are consequences of believing in this notion.

There are no ‘stations’ for believers in this world. Do you know how dangerous that concept is? It is the concept that leads to saints falling into sin. It is the concept that makes believers wait for that ‘station’ to arrive in this world. A person to have reached a maqam or station of sabr (patience) means he or she will have sabr always. This is humanly impossible.

We are meant to keep striving in this world. We do not reach any station at all at any point on this path. Point of no return is death… unless you’re following a different Qur’an than me.

We go through different states, yes. We may feel extremely charitable at a point in time, we may be immersed in the love of Allah at another time, we may striving to do dawah at another time, and sometimes we just may serve others as a means of reward. We may be going through a stage of extreme gratefulness, we may experience sabr on a calamity that befalls us. But how can one even suggest that so and so has reached a station of shukr such that they will never feel ungrateful ever again? Or that a person has reached a level of nafs e mutmainna that they have no ‘desires’ left in them?

You may be the greatest saint in the world, and shaytan will come to you and say everything is made permissible to you.

And Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jillani said to such a shaytan: Begone you dog!

We have never arrived anywhere in this world. There is no station. No rest. There is a constant battle. Against our nafs.

May God give everyone of us a beautiful death, such that our last breath is one with Iman and the kalima on our lips. Ameen

 

The Sunnah of Empathy

The Prophet (s) was empathetic, not sympathetic.

Here is the difference:

Empathy vs. Sympathy

Once we have provided that empathy to the person in need, trust them to have gratitude themselves.

That is the difference.

The gratitude will come from within. You can remind them of the verse of the Quran after you find they have climbed out of the abyss somewhat.

Telling them to have patience and gratitude will not cause them to feel it… they may just fake it… Remind them of the benefits, after you have been empathetic. Then see the difference bi iznillah.

Whoever is granted wisdom has indeed been granted something tremendously beneficial; but none reflect except people of insight. [Quran 2:269]

May Allah SWT make us people of wisdom and action. Ameen.

 

Back to the Basics

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When you are experiencing a burnout- go back to the basics.

Whether it’s the workplace, motherhood, or even your Deen, there will be times when you will you have gone overboard, emotionally. When you have been stretched to your limits.

Don’t let shaytan play with that moment of weakness.

If you are a student of knowledge, there is so much to help you heal. But there is so much shaytan can play with.

So the best thing for us to do is to go back to the very basics

Very very very basics.

What are the basics? In my experience, they are:

  1. The knowledge that: no one is perfect in this world. Neither are we. If we were putting up a mask of perfection and fooling ourselves, now is the time to take it off. Presenting ourselves to Allah with no masks on (there weren’t any masks ever, anyway) is beautiful because that is when we realize how Close He really is to us. We may be fooling ourselves or others, but with Him, we can be ourselves… We realize there is nothing to hide. Nothing we can hide. And that there is nowhere to go but to Him.
  2. The knowledge that: We are nearing the end of times. All the signs mentioned by our Prophet (s) have taken place. Things are going to get worse for the Muslims, and then we will await Imam Mahdi. So what should we do then? We need to pull our act together right? The force of evil is too strong i feel. The times of fitan (trials) is defined as such- when right and wrong will be mixed up… So we need to unite. We need to applaud all forms of good. We need to encourage goodness, righteousness. We need to keep striving. Allah Accept us…
  3. Remember His Love. Remember our iradah. Remember that intention we have to make it to Jannah. And then keep swimming.
  4. His Words. His Kalaam. Connect to the Qur’an. Because there is no doubt therein. See my post

May He Save us from the trials of this dunya, the trials of Dajjal, the trials of the grave, and the punishment of the akhirah. May He include us amongst His Righteous Servants. Ameen.

Pain, Crying and our need for Empathy

Sometimes, it is hard to relate to people who have not faced grief and sorrow in their lives. It is easy for them to think or believe that you can and should get over it.

A year or two ago, someone who had been through a couple of traumas in her life asked me if it was ok for her to cry. Yes, traumas. Not just one.

She asked me if it was ok for her to cry.

She said i know Allah SWT Loves me. I dont understand these things but I accept them. But there are times when i keep crying. I cry a lot… I look at another’s pain and i cry.

i told her what i could, but the reality was, i didnt have an answer. I didnt know if it was ok. The attitude i had always gotten was that its not REALLY ok To be doing that for so long… For you to have gotten over it meant you wouldnt cry over it right? But i found i couldnt say that to her. It didnt seem right. I couldnt even find anyhting in the Quran or Hadith that i had learnt, to tell me that it was wrong to cry.

The Prophet (s) actually calls tears a Rahmah.

“What is in the hearts and eyes comes from Allah.”

It is a mercy. Not a sign of weakness.

Then why did i have that feeling or that understanding?
And it was deep-rooted for sure. I couldnt understand it.
I’m not sure where or how I learnt that in my life… Probably when i was very young.

Fast foward to today and Allah SWT led me through some experiences… He let me have experiential knowledge of how withholding tears and not addressing feelings could harm us. He let me feel that so I could believe it with certainty. With Yaqeen.

I can say for certain now. Let them flow. Let the tears flow. It’s ok to keep crying. It’s ok to ask questions. It’s ok to not know and be afraid and to hope but still be afraid.

We have the story of Yaqub alaihissalam (peace be upon him) who cried years for Prophet Yusuf alaihissalam. Yet society forgets that when they tell someone ‘don’t cry’. They forget that the pain needs to come out. It needs to be addressed. It needs to manifest.

They forget tears are compassion.

It was narrated that Abu ‘Uthman said:
“Usamah bin Zaid told me: ‘The daughter of the Prophet sent word to him telling him: A son of mine is dying, come to us. He sent word to her, conveying his greeting of salam and saying: “To Allahbelongs that which He takes and that which He gives, and everything has an appointed time with Allah. Let her be patient and seek reward.” She sent word to him adjuring him to go to her. So he got up and went, accompanied by Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah, Muadh bin Jabal, Ubayy bin Kab Zaid bin Thabit and some other men. The boy was lifted up to the Messenger of Allah, with the death rattle sounding in him, and his eyes filled with tears. Sa’d said: “O Messenger of Allah, what is this?” he said: “This is compassion which Allah has created in the hearts of His slaves. Allah has mercy on His compassionate slaves.”

Some people say that those who recite durud abundantly feel no sadness. Perhaps, someone, who recited a lot of durud may have felt easy in their pain. I am not denying that truth. Indeed, there is a lot of barakah in reciting durud. But talk about the benefits of it to someone who is not hurting. Did the Prophet (s) ever say to someone who was hurting, ‘recite durud on me’? Is that really what we want to diminish the durud into? It is meant to be a prayer for the Prophet (s). It is meant to be said out of love of the Prophet (s). If only we could just show the compassion that the Prophet (s) used to show his companions when someone we know is hurting. They would automatically remember the beloved (s). Their yaqeen would increase. Their love would increase.

Why do we forget who we are supposed to be? Why do we forget the mercy that our Prophet brought? The compassion that He taught. The Rahmah that he was… sallAllahu alaihi wasallam.

I felt heartache, I felt confusion, I revisited everything I knew and believed about pain.

Sometimes i think, how much Allah SWT must Love her, for Him to clarify and let me witness whatever was in my mind… So i could love her even more confidently. So i could talk and write about it with more conviction. So this knowledge for me would not just be intellectual, but experiential. I feel so strongly for this now.

 

Sometimes i think, if only we loved more, truly loved more, what a true ummah we could be.