Dear readers: if you are a woman, proceed to read as is. If you are a man, feel free to replace every term “woman” with “man” (and vice versa), “sisters” with “brothers”, and “she” with “he”… this post will still remain completely relevant and applicable.
I do not know very much, but I do know this… A man may change for two reasons: for the woman, or because of her. There is a difference, if you’ll pause to think about it.
When he changes for her, it implies that had he not met her, the idea of personal change would not have occurred in the first place. It means that he thinks of reform to please her, because he knows that her acceptance of him is conditional on that missing character element. But this does not necessitate that he truly believes he should be this way in any case; it is with the intention of just to appease another. And sooner or later, he can – and often does – easily unravel to return home to his former self; his real self that never actually changed on the inside, which the outside had misled her to falsely assume.
Now when a man changes because of a woman… this is a man who has been electrically inspired, or positively influenced, by a woman as she is… and being who she is, her existence encourages him to strive for what he also believes he should be. His change is deep, real, and courageous, because he does it from an inner conviction and successfully conquers his inner demons that had prevented him from changing earlier. Yet with or without her, he would have sought it out anyways – this inner good that was hidden from the world – and meeting her simply acted as a catalyst for that change, and likely many more. As they grow together in age, so will they grow together in their emotional and spiritual growth, for they have a shared divine vision; a vision that she believes in, that he believes in. His change is more than trying to sweep a lady off her feet. It is firmly rooted in something genuine.
Story after novel after movie, we are shown how the “good” woman falls for the “bad” guy and yet luckily for her, he willingly changes to become the dashing man of her dreams. Rarely do we see the male character as delving back to his darker mood swings, his inconsiderate behaviors in the case of a dispute or typical argument; oh no! He is changed for good. (Thanks to the damsel’s graciously beautiful self, of course.)
Due to these constant messages we are bombarded with, young women, real women seeking real relationships, can be found trying to implement this “romantic” idea in their partners. Hence, a “good” girl will be attracted to a “bad” boy not because he is everything she’s not, but because she is everything he can be; because she hopes that he will change, for her. To her, this proves he is really in love with her, and once superficially changed on the outside to win her over, she is convinced he will ever remain the new and improved changed, good fellow.
Don’t let the media and music industry lull you into false security where there are clear red danger signs. Many a man full of unpleasant and terrible traits is still charmingly able to put on an act – the act of a better man, a gentleman – and charm you by saying that you changed him. This will make your heart melt a little, as he knows it will. But what you need to shed light on – did he change for you, or because of you?
For me, because of me… what’s the difference?
It’s great that you realize there is a difference to begin with. In summary:
If he changes because of you, then thank your merciful God that He has chosen you to be an illuminating light and source of beautiful ease for someone’s difficult dark path. If your heart was already in it, then don’t be afraid to go ahead and give this sincere gentleman with the right intentions the love and support only you can uniquely give.
But if he has merely changed for you, and not for himself… not for God… then be very, very cautious. He may revert to his old ways at any time, and extinguish your light as he shatters the lamp that was your heart in the confusing process. And then you’ll realize… I should’ve known. He only changed for me, not because of me.
So most of my posts emphasize the wisdom of the heart’s instinct, but where your heart’s security itself is at risk, you’ll need to trust that overly rational, analytical, slightly dry voice that lives in your mind more and more. If it makes it any easier, just remember:
The mind can know precisely what is the case, but the heart is usually a little behind. Be patient with yourself; eventually it’ll catch up.
And Allah knows Best.
Dedicated to Noor, who is simply wonderful to have long talks of love with.
“If someone loves us but we are trapped by self-hatred, their love will never reach us.” (bell hooks)
he wants to know her,
but he doesn’t know himself.
he wants to be like her,
but he doesn’t want to be unlike himself.
he wants to be one with her,
but he doesn’t know how to be one with his thoughts.
he wants to trust her,
but he doesn’t trust the One who created her.
he wants to please her,
but he doesn’t want to please the One who created her.
he fantasizes of living in her spiritual world,
but he doesn’t want to leave the material one he’s in.
he wants to commit to her,
but he can’t commit to his own promises.
he wants to love her,
but he doesn’t know how to love himself.
(and this holds true for all my sisters, too)
you cannot fully fall in love with her,
and expect her to love you in return
until you know what it means to love
and not just love the idea of love.
the One who created your beloved
has told you how to self-love
but incredibly in your confusion
you choose to self-hate.
love starts from the inside
and blossoms out
it does not pierce from the outside
and make its way in.
just as you cannot serve from an empty vessel,
so you cannot give what you do not have
if you have no love for your starving soul,
you will not know how to care for the soul of another.
(and my sisters, too)
you must learn to self-love,
but this is not to be confused with greed and egotistical desire.
real self-love is the remedy to healing
and the formula to know how to heal another.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, we find mutual love only when we know how to love. And the best place to start practicing the art of loving is with the self – that body, mind, heart, and soul that we can most know and change.” (bell hooks)
And Allah knows Best.
Until when will I be able to wake up and just take a deep breath not tainted with sadness and distress?
Until when will the bloodthirsty savages who have their own horrifying agendas stop causing terror in the name of the faith I so visibly represent?
Until when can I stop feeling the pressure to constantly clarify to the world wide web, by the way guys, all Muslims aren’t like this, we’re actually normal people… like you! Normal and safe, don’tcha worry about a thing?
Until when can we, Muslims, stop apologizing for the damage caused by others, simply because they choose to use the banner of Islam as their false source of motivation? (Note that condemning is one thing, apologizing is another.)
Until when can the very same Muslims who apologize and condemn acts of terror, not also be recipients of attacks themselves from their own neighbors and citizens moments later?
These murderous imbeciles, if you take the time to read up on their backgrounds, are never actually religious Muslims. So you know those Muslims you stumble on in the restroom washing their arms because they’re making ablution to pray during their work day? They’re not the enemies. Those Muslims fasting sweltering hot long days in the summer without drinking water? They’re not the enemies. Those Muslims reading out of their little Arabic Quran book on public transport? They’re not the enemies. Those hijab-donning, long-sleeved, even face-veiled women you see at the malls? Not the enemies. Those brown-skinned men with the long beards who carry prayer beads as they stroll out of a masjid? They’re not the enemies.
But, but, most people protest exactly as the sensationalized media trained them well to, what else is motivating ISIS (Da’esh) to blow up people in the West if it’s not Islam?
My dear, dear readers,
what motivates Da’esh (ISIS) to kill people who don’t believe in Islam
is the same thing that motivates them to kill hundreds of fasting, praying, faithful Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, and
it is the same reason that they see no issue with bombing inside the holy city of Medina, Saudi Arabia, close to where the Prophet of Islam, Prophet Muhammed ﷺ, rests.
How can you even think for a moment these cowards have any true intrinsic motivation remotely inspired by Islam? Even the most backwards and ignorant fools who completely misinterpret the Quranic text couldn’t draw the same conclusions – to bomb the tomb of the Messenger of that faith! So in whose name do they dare claim to be while they drown the streets with blood?
حسبن الله ونعمل وكيل
Now as a human being (and I can’t believe I have to remind people this is first and foremost what I am, and clearly I do because Muslims are being attacked left and right because they’re lumped in the same category as the terrorists) –
as a human being who happens to be Muslim, every time I hear the grave news, I feel the silent pressure from all sides to denounce something. Like a box that squeezes to you closer and closer, trying to suffocate you. When headlines have to specify that the attacker(s) claimed faith is Islam, I feel like it is ridiculously obvious to all that this “fact” has no logical correlation with the actual motives of the cruel actions taken. I rather prefer not giving the criminals any further spotlight, fame, and space on my social media platforms in my condemnation of them.
If this seems like an insensitive thing on my part, then please consider this: I am a human being who also happens to be a Palestinian Canadian. My people in Palestine have been getting killed and abused for over half a century, just about daily. My heart is in turmoil always, bearing also in mind that human beings have been dying everyday in Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, Syria, for as long as I can remember, and in so many other places around the world that it’s hard to breathe just thinking about it. But if I have to condemn every single death around the world as it happens, I will spend the rest of my days condemning verbally but not actually helping anyone. You’ll just have to take my word that whether I post a condemnation status for an attack or not, my heart bleeds with the pain of it all, for the pitiful state our humanity has sunk to.
Despite my preference to not shine the spotlight on the terrorists – because for sure it was one of the results they wanted – I am finding myself doing more condemning than ever these days anyways. Like it has been for a lot of Muslims – a long painful journey – I have learned the difference between being a Muslim who condemns acts of terrorism, and between being an apologetic Muslim who shrinks whenever some madman claims his faith (which is also her faith) inspired him to blow himself up around civilians. The former is good, the latter is not.
Perhaps it shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but I find it agonizing even when people say things like, “as a Muslim, I condemn terrorism!” But why do we need to clarify that it is because we are Muslim?
Can’t we just embrace our humanity and say “as a human being, I condemn inhumane acts?” There’s that lingering notion that Muslims somehow secretly support these acts, and we have to be very specific in pointing out that this Muslim does not!
There is a fine, fine line between being a Muslim who condemns, and being an apologetic Muslim; and I am tired of trying to balance myself on it so as not to fall into the apologetic Muslim pit.
I will never apologize for the actions of people like Da’esh (ISIS) because I do not associate myself with them in any way, shape or form. (Be assured that no truly believing and mentally sound Muslim actually buys ISIS’s shitload of ideas.) But I condemn their actions with every fibre I have.
Nor will I constantly be watching the news, scanning the newspaper or anxiously searching my Twitter newsfeed to learn immediately whatever horrific acts terrorists take “in the name of Islam” so I can publicly announce to the world, “you guys! I’m NOT like them!”
So as a non-apologetic practicing Muslim woman, know this about me:
I will proudly continue wearing the hijab,
Proudly continue praying and prostrating in public spaces,
Proudly continue reading from my tiny-sized Arabic Quran on the subways,
Proudly continue wearing my Palestinian kuffiyah scarf as a symbol of justice and resilience,
While I continue to
curse the likes of Da’esh (ISIS) and other death cults, and
implore Allah (God) to send His wrath on them, destroy their plans of mass destruction, sow the seeds of doubt and painful uncertainty in their hearts in this life and may they suffer for their actions in the eternal hereafter.
I simply do not have the patience to pray for their guidance, when they have so clearly chosen the path of woeful misguidance. There are others around the world who need my thoughts more than they.
So to the world, I ask once more:
Until when will we be able to wake up and just take a deep breath not tainted with sadness and distress?
Only Allah knows, for He knows Best.
The Palestinian spirit not only lives in every Palestinian, but also in every human being’s heart that believes in the power of justice, respect, dignity, peace, and resistance against oppression. The true noble spirit is found in s/he who can uphold those values with beauty and grace.
Resistance can take form in protests, petitions, speech, visual arts, music, poetry, political levels.. and, in my particular case, through photography as well.
انني العاشق والارض الحبيبة
Burst of Color
لنبني سماءٌ لنا
Kuffiyah & Roses
Black & White Patterns
Dabka in the Woods
“Flowers grew where you stood,
sprung from the soles of you,
strong despite the shade
from the shadow you left.
You leave gardens
you walk away.” (Tyler K. Gregson)
All praise is due to God.
My latest art.
“I want to darken in the skies… Open the floodgates up… I want to change my mind… I want to be enough…
I want to let the rain come down, make a brand new ground
Let the rain come down. Let the rain come down, make a brand new ground
Let the rain come down.” (Sara Bareilles)
Do you know what I think is astonishing?
Never does a “bad” life event – defined as that which gives you unpleasant feelings in the pit of your stomach or emotional injury – occur, than it is rapidly or simultaneously followed by a flurry of goodness moments. The trick to letting the happy sprinkles of delight wash away the hurt needs a bit of practice to master – but once you learn it, it stays. That “trick” is to remain focused and aware on the certainty that right now is its own special gift; it is irrelevant to a month, day or even a minute ago; you are not alive to live it simply so you can relive the past, but to use it as an opportunity to seize whatever wild awesomeness is about to hit you.
Shams Tabrizi’s Rules of Love, Rule 28:
“The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.”
Time and time again, I let “negative” experiences of disappointment, failure or heartbreak shadow the following days so darkly that I couldn’t appreciate sweet luxuries like the warmth of the sun, the soft gentle breeze, or even the blessed rain, on my face… as if I had no choice in the matter. But now, (I think) I know better.
There is a pattern, you see – a pattern I have began noticing, a pattern of merciful opposites. No sooner does a heavy burden weigh me downwards than a positive force, in the form of a success, pleasant surprise, or interaction with a kindred spirit, suddenly materializes to lift me back up. Rarely is a deep, painful ache in my heart felt than it is quickly joined by a flock of colourful butterflies, overwhelming gratitude and a resulting serenity with their peaceful coexistence. It’s all about balance.
But none of that will make a difference, really, if you are determined to believe the world is out to get you. Those conflicting emotions in you will not strike an equilibrium if you won’t let them settle; instead, they will form a tornado or chaotic hurricane within. And even if the reality is such that the world really is out to get you, you can’t succumb to the dreaded fear that He is, too. The moment you think that God can’t love you, then simply, it doesn’t matter who else does. Do not believe in what destroys you.
a lie is simply a lie.
it draws its strength from belief.
stop believing in what hurts you.
-power (Nayyirah Waheed)
On the contrary; I believe God wants us to soar above our mediocre aspirations. He makes us grow through conflicting states, so that we may learn balance with our two wings.“We are far too easily pleased. God wants better things for us. He finds our desires not too strong, but too weak” (C. S. Lewis).
Increasingly, when a disappointment befalls me, I try to be more hopeful than ever. The harder the fall, the higher the rise will be, will it not? It’s a blessing to know that my heart is in none other than God’s hands.
He is the only One Who really understands how to best protect it, and so He is the Only One Who has the right to truly hold it. In better hands, my heart can never be.
Trust that God is protecting your heart.
Even when it feels like it’s shattering in pieces.
And Allah knows Best.
(un) Dear Zionists:
Isn’t it amazing that you hope
in fooling yourselves and others so easily
that you can
As though I am unaware, or long ago stopped to care.
Isn’t it amazing that you think
by stealing my land,
and declaring tabboula
as “Israeli salad”, it becomes your own?
As though I won’t recognize cultural appropriation when it is sown.
Isn’t it amazing that you insist
on calling the
occupied territories of Palestine
Like it will erase the reality that
a Palestinian people were ever real.
Isn’t it amazing that you believe
by omitting maps of land theft in textbooks
it is as though you were never murderous crooks,
and that, by omitting genocidal facts in the education system,
you can pretend Palestinians wiped each other out,
out of barbaric desperation.
Isn’t it amazing that you think
in denying what you support,
what you’ve done,
what you’re doing,
criminalizing, abusing, and marginalizing me,
that you can strip away my heritage and identity?
No, zionism-infected minds
and a thousand times no!
You can ignore the truth of who you are,
at the cost of your dignity, integrity
and humanity. But…
- a Palestinian
Dedicated to Rwan, who is one of the most amazing listeners in the world; who, in being so, allows me to speak my unspoken, complicated thoughts out loud into coherent words. The powerful tranquility of being still, and not at war with yourself… she helps me arrive there.
As someone who has been involved in several things for quite some time, it is inevitable that as you live through more experiences, life builds you an ever higher mountain of responsibilities and self-expectations to climb. To climb it well and avoid stumbling every other step, you often have to lighten the load of your heavy backpack that is carrying too many attachments. It is some of these attachments that are weighing you down from reaching the top and seeing the full picture of where you are best meant to be.
This was something I’ve struggled with in the past year – this backpack of too many commitments to others, and not enough to myself. I have (or had – new person is I!) a hard time saying “no” to volunteering my energy and efforts to causes I care about – even at the expense of caring for my well-being. I have a difficult time declining opportunities to be a part of developing the “community” – even at the expense of developing stronger bonds, and increasing love of the Prophet ﷺ , within my own household. As a result, my priorities appear to be skewed.
I thought saying “no” to helping out was a bad, selfish, terrible thing to do. But now I know better.
Hold on, I am not advocating being totally useless in society and volunteering in nothing; I am advocating volunteering where you are needed most, but not to do so at the expense of higher priorities – like your own emotional and spiritual needs. There is a difference between backing out because you have no values except YOLO-ness & self-indulgence, and of having so many principles you fear you aren’t doing justice to. As the hourglass of time reveals, circumstances change, so what was the right initiative to be pouring your heart and soul into a year or even a month ago, may simply no longer be the right one now.
To say it as drastic as it feels, it might now be “irrelevant” to you.
I didn’t have words to describe what I was going through, so naturally I assumed my changes in mood and decreased comfort levels regarding how I was investing my energy in was because I was confused about what I care about in the first place. But now I realize something profound:
You can still care about something even though it’s become “irrelevant” to you. Simply, it can flourish but no longer depend on you to do so; and you are in a state where you must flourish in new ways, without depending on it to help you do so.
Now that doesn’t mean that you should doubt it was ever a worthwhile cause to have ever gotten involved in. On the contrary; it was critical you got involved at the time you did, or you would not be who you are today. The you that first got involved was in need of doing so, it was a necessary part of your journey… but the person you are now, with luck, is not the person you were then. The now you realizes that remaining in the same place that is not taking you further than where it has taken you, becomes irrelevant if it is preventing you from traveling to other places more crucial to your inner and outer growth.
“We must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.” (T.S. Elliot)
Not everyone will understand you when you walk away; but you do not do it for them, or even for your selfish desires; you do it for your relationship with God. You want to make sure you are using every precious second you have to not miss out on opportunities He is granting you, simply because you’re too timid to say “no” to people. To me, staying where you are not needed is not selfless – it is a selfishness of wanting to keep clinging to a title (“activist” / “role model” / “leader”) you do not even crave. It is weakness (and ain’t nobody got time to be weak at the cost of their ultimate happiness.)
“You can’t be successful with other people
if you haven’t paid the price
of success with yourself” (Stephen Covey).
To strengthen your community, you have to start with the individual: you. Once you are stable and rooted enough to extend the branches, begin with your family, the smallest unit of any community. In time, your selective (but well thought-out) unattaching will serve everyone.
A perfect former example to illustrate what I really mean by “irrelevant to me”: MSA (Muslim Students Association) of McGill. I love it; I loved being an active member on it for consecutive years, and, no exaggeration, I would not have half enjoyed five years of university completing a double bachelor degree had it not been for the warmth and magic of the MSA. Had the MSA not been there for me, and I for it, I cannot imagine who I would be now.
But despite these lovely and meaningful memories, I’ve moved on. I graduated. It doesn’t mean I think the whole purpose of MSAs are lame and useless – not at all! I still believe MSA McGill is as important now as it was half a decade ago, and I still think the MSA is an invaluable student club that serves the broader community as well in enriching ways. So yes, I still care about it. Yet, at this stage of my life, it is also “irrelevant”. If that makes sense… (it does in my head).
At the end of the day, you have a heart that will feel uneasy when it finds the rest of the body clinging to old routines that are stunting your potential in creating unique other change only the spiritually evolving you can make. The key is to evolve when your gut feelings are telling you to be still and honest with yourself. Your heart is talking to you – do the honorable thing, and listen to it!
By all means, go ahead and commit to a million causes, but only after committing to the seed that will make all the difference: you. Otherwise your heavy involvement in society might just be a cover of not being involved enough with yourself.
Never forget, change begins from within.
And Allah knows best.
By virtue of a thing being called alive, it is assumed that something with life, at some point, will die. It’s so obvious of a fact that I’m embarrassed to be even writing this intro.
But that’s why I’m writing this: sometimes it is the most glaringingly obvious that is the easiest to ignore – whether deliberate or unconsciously. Death is the one complete certainty in any life – regardless what faith you have, what experiences you’ve had, where you are or where you’re going, I’m sure it’s safe to say that we can all agree on one solid point: we are all going to die, at some unknown point in time.
Yet we still never see it coming.
And when we do, ironically we only think that it can be coming for us – because it’s more comforting to acknowledge the death of yourself, as you know how hard you’re trying to be better ;you pray God finds goodness in you you were never arrogant enough to spoil. Every second of being alive is another second to make things right; within your soul, between your fellow brothers and sisters in humanity, and ultimately (what it all ties into from start to end) your devotion and relationship with God. If we do not keep death in the back of our minds as this bleak but definite expected guest, making amends and making the most of every moment might be stalled more than we’d like.
So here’s a plot twist: we expect our own lives will end any moment, but living in a non-violent and relatively safe place, we rarely consider that a dear loved one’s life, or someone that they care about, might die.
Let me share a story with you: When I was a very young girl, my kind-hearted grandmother died (may Allah have mercy on her soul). I did not know her very well – only met her once, that summer before – so I was still unable to comprehend the enormity of the loss. It was only as I grew older and learned stories of her wisdom, strength, courage and bravery that I felt crushed I never truly got to have her a part of my childhood. Her death was not a very sudden occurrence: she was increasingly ill for days before she went back to her Lord. Despite the clarity of where her condition was heading, it was still as shocking of a fact, like a bucket of ice water thrown in your face, for everyone. I remember seeing the adults cry; and after some raw conversations with a family friend whose father passed away earlier this week, I realized something: humanity runs on hope.
No matter how bad things get, with or without knowing it, humans live, breathe, swim and exist in a protective sphere of hope. You never give up hope in those you care about. You never want to even fathom the idea that someone you love, or someone that your loved one loves, could possibly be living one day and buried the next. Somehow our own alive-ness makes things falsely appear as though everyone else’s alive-ness is equally stable. If I’m alive, so must everyone else be… right?
Alas, it is not such.
I’m writing this to drill it in myself that death is real, death is more real than my conviction that I will wake up tomorrow. Death is more likely to happen than all my wildest dreams and plans that I’m hoping will occur in the future.
I’m not throwing these words on the page to erase all positivity – on the contrary! One doesn’t curl up in despair at the thought of death, but one shouldn’t give it the cold shoulder in the false notion that it can be shrugged away at our mere whim.
Death is the fuel that reminds you
to never stop telling people that you love them,
to never hold grudges against the stupid but well-meaning,
to never hesitate to make the most of a human interaction,
and above all,
to never stop being the best version of yourself that you can be.
An elderly person told me yesterday: “I’ve been in Canada for over 25 years. Ooooh, how time flies! It all feels like a day has flown by.”
Death is so real, so undeniable, but easily the most denied thing. No one wants to talk about it (not exactly the most popular dinner party topic) until it hits. But every story has a plot twist, and our lives – one long complicated story – must have its plot twists as well.
The plot twist of life, is death. To God we belong, and to Him we return.
إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ
May God make us steadfast on His love & His pleasure, and surround us with His mercy. Ameen.
& Allah knows Best.