Grateful

Grateful

Thank You, God, for blocking all the roads that You know won’t lead me anywhere close to where You have great plans of me to be, and saving me the regret of finding it out later. You alone know best. I shall have no expectations from anyone and allow myself to be pleasantly surprised by You…. ~

–A.S

A Drop From An Ocean Of Ink

*This post is inspired by several verses of Surat Al-Kahf. Hence, I am dedicating this to all you enlightened souls who continue to authentically inspire me without realizing they are ever doing so. (Nafisah, you’re one of them.)*
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The amount of thoughts that go on in your mind, the amount of feelings that rollercoaster in you, the amount of STUFF going on inside– it can never be expressed well enough. Any form of expression like writing or speaking is only a drop from the ocean within you. And this is just you.
So how can anyone claim to ‘know’ God well enough?
I am specifically referring to those people who think they’re so pious and are guaranteed heaven so they can sit around, judge all and stop growing spiritually.
The majority of us, however, are aware we do not know God as much as we should. We know we could be better people, better siblings and sons and daughters and friends and helpers… we know we could be better in faith and there is always room for improvement. We know we’re not perfect and we know life is not perfect but that He alone is.
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It’s all nice and flowery, theoretically speaking– to say “this life is temporary and nothing to give yourself a stressful breakdown over, let’s smile because we have faith and who needs anything else?”– and yet, when those hard moments come, practically speaking, we often forget.
(Interesting fact: ‘human being = ‘insan’ = has same Arabic root as word that means ‘to forget’.) 
Often, we get frustrated, sad, upset or angry because our current circumstances do not make sense to us. Why did this happen to me when I put in so much effort? Why does so much ‘bad’ stuff happen to good people? And sometimes, unfortunately, when a dear one reminds you it is just a test, you might even cry out: A test in what? How am I supposed to pass a test that I don’t know what it’s testing me on?
The thing is, you do know. Every exam that has any form of hardship is most definitely, among other things, testing your patience. And this, my friends, is the hardest test of all.
The problematic thing is, it is difficult to be patient with what you don’t understand. You lack in understanding when you lack in knowledge.
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He said, “Indeed, with me you will never be able to have patience.
And how can you have patience for what you do not encompass in knowledge?” (18:67-68)
Even Moses, peace be upon him, who was lacking in the knowledge of the wise man whose words are in the Quran, wasn’t be patient enough in that moment because he did not understand. (But once he did, he readily accepted.)
This is why having unshakeable faith in Al-Hakeem, Al-’Aleem is essential. You may not know, but He does. You may be confused, but He is most definitely not; in fact, every little thing is just a tiny part of a big plan for you, perfectly scripted in a chapter of the book of your life.
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~
I’ve had moments in my life where something happened that I couldn’t fathom, couldn’t understand why it had to be me. It was maybe a year or two later that the reason was made clear to me.
But sometimes you’ll never know why something happened. And does it matter that you absolutely need to know? Is the test of the afterlife the same as the standard typical tests in school– knowing the answers?
Of course not. You’re not sure why something was but you knew it had to be. You might have done it one way but Allah did it the other. What’s your passing grade? The moment you feel at peace with it, knowing He knows best and so you be patient.Patience is priceless. May Allah bless us all with it, because it’s not only hard moments that require it– so do the good.

If you’re a doer of good in the community and you’re always bombarded with criticisms and both positive and negative reactions (life has both types of people in it), it takes patience to not do how instinct tells you to react. Rather, self-control, character strength and especially humility are needed in such cases. It isn’t easy having to patiently listen to someone’s words that you already know isn’t going to be to your liking. Likewise, it takes self-restraint not to let that compliment get to your head and swell it up.

Speaking of doing good, how much good are you really doing?

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Say, [O Muhammad], “Shall we [believers] inform you of the greatest losers as to [their] deeds? [They are] those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work.” (18:103-104)
These verses are an interesting example of the incredible emotions the Quran affects on us. The first verse puts you in that moment of suspense, the climax, as you wait to hear the answer; the second verse sinks you below the earth in fear, for you just wonder if everything you’re doing is a lie and will not be accepted… And then God sends your heart soaring as you read the next verse:
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Those are the ones who disbelieve in the verses of their Lord and in [their] meeting Him, so their deeds have become worthless; and We will not assign to them on the Day of Resurrection any importance. (18:106)
(PHEW!)
And yet, we must never get too comfortable with the fact that we are believers. Not everything we do is always for the sake of God. The word “Muslim” means one who has submitted to God; if what you do is not being done for His sake, then the effort has been lost in the worldly life.
The balance a Muslim must strive to keep is that of a dove; one wing of hope for God’s mercy, and one wing of fear (that the deeds weren’t sincere and may not be accepted.)
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Finally, there is one more verse I would like to share with you. This verse is so beautiful I don’t know where to start. I can’t really pinpoint what it is that really gets to my heart– it’s more the way it makes me feel.
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Say, “If the sea were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, the sea would be exhausted before the words of my Lord were exhausted, even if We brought the like of it as a supplement.”(18:109)
“The words of the Lord.” How beautiful is that?
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A tiny part of us (which is the only part that really matters) is that of our soul, and it yearns to be connected with Him. His words are a means to connect with Him, to communicate with, to develop a deep relationship like no other.
Subhanallah, every time you open the Quran, the same verse could add a whole new dimension of significance than the last time you read it. If you read surat Al-Kahf every week, ask yourself this: do you find new meanings, new awe, every time you read it, or has it become a routine in which you pay no thought or heed to?
Unfortunately, many of us have lost touch with His words. Perhaps not always, but at moments– and this is still a great loss. That one second that passed in which He was telling you something and you weren’t listening is now gone and was worth more than all the gold in this world. Those twenty minutes you spent reading a chapter of the Quran but didn’t really tune in to every letter because you assumed you knew it in and out, is a wasted twenty minutes.
God’s words are infinite, endless, diverse and meaningfully timeless.
Picture this: You’re standing by an inky black ocean, with a feather, and dip it in the ink. Write a book with that ink; will the ocean’s ink decrease?
Now think of the Quran, and the ink it took to write that. If this ink were written from an ocean of it, never could that ocean’s ink decrease; likewise, if you spent eternity getting to know God, never could His word’s meanings and depth decrease.
And know this: If you spent your entire life studying the Quran, all the knowledge you can accumulate about Allah would probably be a drop from His ocean of knowledge.
(I am about to get off topic. I should conclude before I write a novel by accident.)
Okay, so who exactly am I writing this blog post for? There’s no sense in pretending to be a macho scholar; I am reminding myself before anyone else. It’s dedicated to people like me, who might find themselves zoning out during al-Fatiha in prayer. It’s dedicated to people like me, who find themselves very elated at some verses and sort of neutral in others. (The problem is, there’s no such thing as a “neutral” verse.)
Every word, every letter, every message, written or felt, of His has its purpose. And our purpose is to reflect and act upon them.
~
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Have a blessed day!
A.S.

Mr.Physics & I: It’s Complicated

I’m a simple girl in a complicated relationship.
 
(Did I just hear a gasp?) Oh, I’m not talking about a guy here. I’m talking about a subject. Specifically, Electricity & Magnetism for Majors: PHYS340.
 
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Ah, Mr.Physics and I. We have an intense hate-love relationship going on… and I’m not the only one who finds it hard to deal with him.

You see, a relationship’s essential foundation is communication.
 
Mr.Physics’s words and meanings sometimes get lost in translation when he goes from the language of derivative and integrative mathematics to simple English. And so, me unable to understand at first, get impatient, assume he is not trying hard enough to express himself, and walk away in disgust, wondering why I ever decided to do a physics minor in the first place.
 
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[That’s usually my sensation during class time.] 
 
When I get home, try the weekly assignment, spam my prof’s inbox with questions, see the prof for a half hour in his office the next day, spend another 4 hours on the assignment– when the light of dawn begins to creep in, I wonderingly decide that Mr.Physics is truly and sincerely my love. We understand each other so well! Furthermore, he has so much to say, so much to contribute, I can learn so much from him. This is the moment I feel I am in love.
 
This picture sort of captures my moments of euphoria:
 
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And then? I’m in hate mode once more. The assignment is handed in, a new one is passed out, and a new concept has begun. And as is often the case, right then and there as a physics concept is being introduced, I could be clueless. But I didn’t used to ask questions because, well, every time the prof asks “any questions?” absolutely no one has any. 
 
NOBODY. And why would I want to seem like the only slowpoke? Should I ask anyways?
 
No, I decide, I’ll go to the library, pour over the notes, textbook and google for hours, want to rip my hijab into shreds in the process, but eventually I’ll get it.
 
No surrey, I’ll suffer in silence and then regret it come midterm time. 
 
It appears Mr.Physics really enjoys confusing me; I don’t know, does he think it’s “cute” when my brain cells are fried and exhausted? Then he’s just plain darn insensitive! I tried a different approach this year, and decided to beat Mr.Physics at his own game. 
 
I decided to ask questions, regardless of how “dumb” I would look. If he wasn’t going to give me answers, I was going to fetch them myself.
 
Before coming to class yesterday, I read the chapter sections that we would cover (even though the prof [he’s really good, by the way] takes a different approach, I would still get a general idea). And surprisingly, amazingly, I was keeping up to date with everything the prof said! I was so excited, so thrilled to be in that classroom. Then there was one step, ONE TINY THING, on the board that confused me.. It wasn’t even a physical question, it was an arithmetic one.
 
The usual “Any questions?” question surfaced.
 
SILENCE.
 
Of course. Physicists are all super smart people who should never have questions. << (I really don’t know where this idea stems from, but physics students cling very tightly to it for some reason. They may ask what-if questions to display their genius but rarely I-don’t-get-it ones.)
 
I could’ve waited to get home and figure it out myself. But I was on such a high to be understanding everything today and I didn’t want one little blunder to ruin it all for me. Appear stupid or not, I was going to ask a potentially foolish question.
 
I broke the silence as I asked, “Excuse me sir, can you please explain how you got from step 3 to 4? How did the 0 become an R?”
 
The professor readily gave a 5-second explanation which completely clarified everything. I gladly thanked him.
 
All of a sudden, 3 geniuses in the class had different questions regarding the same problem. 
 
“Oh, how did you get this…” “Well, why did you do this…”
 
I had broken the ice. And it felt SO good to do that!
 
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Earlier on this week, I was comparing my solutions for the assignment with one of the guys in the class. He introduced himself to me by peevishly saying, “My name is so-and-so […] I’m feeling ashamed I can’t get all the problems on the assignment because I’m supposed to be doing a major in physics.”
 
Ashamed? My teacher persona kicked in and I said, “Why are you ashamed? You may be a physics student but that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, imply you were born with all the physics in your head. You’re a student, you’re still learning, and there’s nothing wrong with not always having the answer… as long as you’re always working to get it.”
 
I’m not sure if it was the first time someone reassured him that Mr.Physics wasn’t the easiest person to communicate with… but he looked immensely relieved. I think he thought I’d give him a pitiful look and say, “Oh man. You should be SO ashamed. You mean you didn’t know all about electric flux coming from a hole in a uniformly charged cube back in your mother’s womb? So sad, dude.”
 
All in all, Mr. Physics and I have an intense hate-love relationship. There may be more meaningful songs out there to describe my feelings for it, but Katy Perry’s lyrics do it just as well:
 

‘Cause you’re hot then you’re cold

You’re yes then you’re no

You’re in then you’re out

You’re up then you’re down

You’re wrong when it’s right

It’s black and it’s white

We fight, we break up

We kiss, we make up.

 
(In this context, kissing = understanding the physics concept and wanting to study the subject for the rest of time because it’s suddenly so much fun!)
 
OK, so I’m gonna get started on this week’s assignment. I’ll likely be in hate-mode initially, until Mr.Physics will sweep me off my feet as rays of understanding slowly make their way to me. 
 
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Happy studying!

 —A.S.

Fiery Red Rose

(A super ancient 2007 poem I stumbled across in my Yahoo email inbox. Old, but still relevant.)

 

 

Fiery Red Rose

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Behold! The fiery red rose;

A beauty, an ayah, a sign

A true miracle if we ponder

Its wondrous nature through time.

It starts as a simple seed

So fragile, innocent and yet it knows

That Allah is its sole Creator

And this knowledge nourishes it as it grows…

A thin stick with thorns it becomes

Among an assortment of green leaves

A small round bud that calmly sways,

Enjoying the wind’s playful breeze.

The white clouds fondly look down

At the bud that they must feed

For Allah ordered the sky’s rain

To pour down on the young seed.

Flaming orange, beautiful sky

As the sun warms the wet leaves

And a red petal feels a welcome hug

From the gentle, friendly breeze.

A petal is born, a second blossoms

Until all are here, fiery red

Welcoming the blanket of warmth

From the sun now that they are fed.

A marvel, a beauty, a dazzling sight

Yet the rose becomes arrogant not

It recognizes its Lord’s mercy upon it,

Which came before it was sought.

It continues to grow and blossom,

Determined in colors fiery red

But the rosiness of the red soon drops;

Disappointed, for foe had once been friend…

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For the wind that Allah controls once used

To smile and caress the rose

Now howled and quieted the music

Of the singing birds as they froze.

The birds take off and fly to comfort

And a petal falls from the rose in dismay

But it didn’t leave hope; it didn’t leave faith

For it knew its Lord would resurrect it someday…

And off the petals fell, like tears, one by one

Until fiery red the rose was no more

The sky darkened, the leaves coldly shuddered

As something happened like never before…

Soft, white crystal shapes rained down at Allah’s command;

So bright, sparkling, yet agonizing cold from the sky

It was too much for the rosebush to cope with

So it silenced its thoughts, and appeared to die…

But it died with faith, it died with belief

And with this it did not die in vain

Winter soon got tired and spring smiled at last

As Allah commanded the clouds to pour the rain.

The breeze affectionately whispered to the plant

That it was forever its friend

And the bud awakened once more,

Resurrected by his Creator again.

And thus does Allah reveal an ayah, a sign—

That after death, life shall exist indeed

Death is but a breeze, yet only when

In life, faith blossomed from a seed.

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–A.S.

Mother Knows Best

I find that, all too often, when I need some form of advice, my mother always gives the best ones.

Early this week, I made a very difficult decision– something she knew I’d do eventually, despite my determination to initially go in a different direction.

I then asked her: “Mother, you knew I would come to this conclusion. Yet you still let me do my own thing. Why?”

Mother: “Well,  I didn’t want to interfere with your life, I wanted you to see for yourself what was best for you.”

Me: “But you knew this would happen. How did you know, mom? How do you always know what I’m going to do, how I’m feeling about this and that, what so-and-so is going to do or react, before any of it happens? How do you accurately predict the outcomes in situations you yourself were never in? How do you know me better than I know myself?

At this point, she gives me one of her incomparably beautiful smiles and and says,

“Aya, I carried you in my womb for nine months. How can I not know you?”

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Truly, mother knows best, and I don’t think I will find another living person in this entire universe that I can love more than her. My mother, my mother, my mother.

–A.S.

Breast Cancer Blind Imitation

You know what ticks me off? It’s when someone notices a trend going around, and, without thinking rationally about whether or not there is actually a noble output to this action, blindly joins, and believes she is making the world a better place by raising ‘awareness’.

Are you confused? Let me walk you down the past 3 years’ weak forms of “breast cancer awareness” sparked all over Facebook.

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  • 2 YEARS AGO (2010) : Colors

There was this huge pandemonium that girls on Facebook created, supposedly only between themselves. Each girl had to put her bra color (the one she was currently wearing) as her Facebook status without saying what the color was related to. (i.e. red, blue, turquoise-with-polka dots, etc). Eventually it caught the guys’ attention– why was every girl’s status a color or a colorful description? What could it mean? Eventually, word leaked out it was bra color.

Excuse me, but can you explain to me how that was breast cancer awareness?

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Did the world become a better place as a result of exposing your bra color? Did anyone REALLY get anything out of that except having an excuse to exclude an entire gender?

Seriously, tell me, why can’t men and women raise awareness together? Breast cancer affects mostly women but men have women in their families as well, and this must impact them also.

  • ONE YEAR AGO – 2011 : Purses

Since the trend was so popular the year before, the facebook statuses got a bit bolder this year. Every girl began inboxing every other girl to “put your status where you like to put your purse.” For example: I like it on the floor, I like it on the counter, I like it on the bed… ETC. You get the point. A seemingly very innocent statement is turned sexual when the context is not well-defined, and this wasn’t accidental; it was deliberate.

Most, if not all these girls would protest it was a heroic act to raise breast cancer awareness. But I don’t think the male species quite got it that way, and neither, by the way, did I. To me, it looked like a lame way of having an excuse to put a dirty/sexual status without feeling ashamed of doing so.

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  • THIS YEAR – 2012: Shoe size & Hairdo

It seems to be getting worse every year. Miraculously, this trend is still popular, because there are individuals who would blindly go with the flow than think for themselves.

I just found out what this year’s theme is. My sister just finished politely replying to her friend that it was too inappropriate for her and she would not be participating. Here is the theme: “put your shoe size in inches, and how long it takes to do your hair in the mirror.”

… I won’t bother giving examples, I’m sure you get the picture.

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—-

Now you may or may not be one of those people who uphold the belief that these flimsy statuses will cure breast cancer. But regardless who you are, if you really care about making a difference, there are more effective ways to do so.

  • If you want to use Facebook, post up facts about breast cancer, the amount of people it affects, statistics, etc.
  • You can raise money through a bake sale.
  • You can attend or get others to attend a  documentary screening.
  • You can donate, etc.

Again, I voice the question: Why must raising awareness necessarily exclude the male gender on Facebook? Are we trying to raise awareness for men or for people in general?

Always ask yourself what your intention is in committing an action, even if it’s as insignificant as a Facebook status or a tweet. If the only answer you can come up with is “because everyone else is doing it”… well, that’s not so well actually.

God gave us all brains. For a reason. USE IT.

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Peace,

A.S.