To Listen with Kindness

~

“The healing heart is one that tries to connect more than perfect and make everything in our lives wonderful. It helps us sometimes to “just be” rather than always trying to “be happy.” (The Heart’s Code, Paul Pearsall)

View of Bethlehem

Some people listen to others in order to find connection. Some people, though, are in too much of a hurry for the other to have the right answer or solution up their sleeves already – and as a result, listen badly and ruin the experience.

When you’re getting to know another human being, you will not get far if you listen just to judge if she has the “right” or “wrong” answer. Nodding in acknowledgement is validating for the other to continue being honest, but tsk-tsking or shaking your head disappointingly creates unpleasant confusion.

Can you just listen? Listen not to judge, but to understand. This person has chosen you to confide in, not because you deserve the honour but because it’s a sacred privilege that someone has offered to trust their heart in your hands. Someone has offered to trust in you because they feel safe with you. Don’t ruin it all by making them feel inadequate and useless while you make your distasteful facial expressions at them.

Don’t immediately cringe when the other person’s answer is very different than your own. Your cringe, your withdrawal, shuts off the desire of the other person to be real and genuine with you. They may feel slightly unworthy of your time, your attention, and not reveal their wonderful hearts that everyone else is so fond of being connected with. And then you wonder why you’re not finding meaningful connection… Why you meet so many people you like but they shy away from you…

So ask yourself. When you actually are blessed to be in the company of another soul’s energy, do you try to be patient enough to understand it before comparing it with your own? Or do you make instant visible judgements which shut down the other person, making them appear uncertain and no longer confident you want to be spending time with them?

What is your intention when you listen? Are you a hasty listener, or do you listen with patient kindness? You see, when the other person sees how you respect their thoughts, they will undoubtedly want to seek your own opinion. And this is where, gently, you can explain where you see the flaws in the thinking and the issues in the superficial solutions they’ve come up for themselves. Your words will be embraced this way… because you listened first. Talked, after.

In a world of people hurriedly listening while preparing full speeches as responses, be that one person who listens truly to connect to another heart. And then your wisdom will pour worth.

Brother & Sister

And Allah knows Best.

– A.S.

Standing the Test of Time

Old Original Masjid Al-Aqsa - Ancient Pillars

I’ve travelled across certain parts

Of the East and West

And witnessed that which

Boldly stands and passes time’s test.

Whether I saw the confident

Waterfalls of Niagara Falls

Or the humbling mountains

In Palestine, proud and tall

Or the talented clouds that softly dance

Across the skies

And beautifully play with the sun,

Lingering behind them in disguise…

Immediately,

What comes to mind

Is how these creations

Stood, and passed, the test of time.

Whether I saw the ancient powerful

Pillars of the Masjid al-Aqsa

Or the Aya-Sofya and Blue Mosque

In Turkey, full of awe

Or the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem…

I notice one thing all these

Man-made structures have in common…

They stood their ground

Through rain and sunshine

I can only marvel at how

They passed the test of time.

Beyond Beauty

The architects of sacred buildings

Thought not of modernly dull designs

They contemplated a timeless beauty

That revealed their reverence for the Divine.

And beauty…

When it is pure beauty sublime…

Stands… demands…

And passes the test of time.

Rocky mountains and vast oceans

Cheerful birds and ringed wise trees

Fruits of all colours and degrees of flavors

Loyal horses and honeybees…

They exist to glorify their Creator

By doing what they were always meant to do

What it means to finally catch the truth

Is to learn how to be true, to you.

His creation alone puts

In our chests

Instant feelings of humility, sincerity

And tranquil rest.

And sincerity…

When it is true sincerity… shines.

And it can stand

And pass, the test of time.

As for myself, I wonder

Will I pass the test of time?

Will who I am assemble to become a lasting poem

Or am I to be as insignificant as a silly rhyme?

Will my actions

And my words

Both the spoken

And unheard…

Will my thoughts

And my beliefs

Moments of joy,

Moments of grief…

Through and with them,

Will it end in cause of praise or condemn?

Will my minuscule deeds of goodness

Live on even when I am lifeless?

All these miracles and signs around us

Showing us what it means to pass

The test of a lifetime

If only I can always be aware

That I have yet to pass

Life’s test of mine.

Speeding Along

 

And Allah (God) knows Best.

-A.S.

Masjid al-Aqsa: the Old & the New

~
The title of this album should actually be “masajid” (plural of ‘masjid’) al-Aqsa… because this looks at the interiors of not only the Masjid al-Aqsa building that everyone visits, but also the ORIGINAL, old building that was first masjid al-Aqsa. It is noticeably older and not as sparkly inside as the newer building… but it still feels upon entering as the sacred holy site. It’s not hidden or secret… but it’s not well-known, either! So here, we look at both. What a blessing!

Masjid Al-Aqsa – First Sight
Masjid al-Aqsa - First Sight

Deep Breath

Deep Breath

Light Upon Light
Light Upon Light

Heading to the Old, Original Masjid al-Aqsa

Heading to the Old, Original Masjid Al-Aqsa

Removing Shoes
Removing Shoes

A Place of Prayer

A Place of Prayer

Oh, Books
Oh, Books

The Library Inside the Old Masjid al-Aqsa

The Library Inside the Old Masjid Al-Aqsa

Calligraphy Everywhere
Calligraphy Everywhere

“Keep Following Me!”

Keep Following Me!

Walking in an Empty Masjid
Walking in an Empty Masjid

Our Kind & Spontaneous Tour Guide

Our Kind & Spontaneous Tour Guide

Workship in the Old Masjid al-Aqsa

Worshipping in the Old Masjid Al-Aqsa

Where the Heads Fall Upon in Prostration

Where the Heads Falls Upon in Prostration

To see the rest of the photos in this album, click here.

All praise is due to Allah.

-A.S.

But Then You Laughed

~ Dedicated to those who smile in the faces of others – those they know, and those they do not. Smiling is charity for the soul.

proud-rose

All these people

Who care primarily for an air of seriousness

Lest their light-heartedness be deemed heedlessness

They assuming my quiet nature expects formality

So formal are they I forget the sounds of gentle hilarity.

And so when I met you,

Surprised I had to be,

When you burst out laughing

At a joke I said half-heartedly.

All these people

Who care primarily for faces of solemnity

Lest their openly wild spirits be deemed social abnormality

They assuming my conservative nature requires they tread cautiously

So cautious are they that I forget the sounds of charming

awkwardness.

And so when I met you,

Pleasantly unsettled I had to be

When your eyes poured a river of kind laughter

Upon seeing my friendly smile immediately.

People can crack smiles,

Or make you smile,

But you,

You are nothing but smiles.

People can force a laugh,

Or make you laugh,

But you,

You are nothing but pure laughter.

People can feel joy,

Or bring you joy,

But you,

You are made of nothing but joy.

All these people,

Mundanely living to get by, with things to regret after

But when I met you,

You spared no time before filling my heart with laughter.

 

And God knows best.

Written on city bus, Nov.15/16, 9:03 PM.

-A.S.

Dome of the Rock

The Dome of the Rock is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. May you be granted the chance to visit it, and pray in it, one day.

There was no way that the photos of both masajid al-Alqsa’s (the old and new buildings), and the golden Dome of the Rock, could fit into one album. This is simply Part 2 of 3 photography taken in Jerusalem a couple of months ago.

Staying Gold
Staying Gold

Dome of the Rock – First Sight Dome of the Rock - First Sight

Overwhelming
Overwhelming

Sacred Geometry Sacred Geometry

The Bodyguard Trees
The Bodyguard Trees

Ceiling; Because God Loves Beauty Ceiling; Because God Loves Beauty

Beyond Beauty
Beyond Beauty

Al-Sakhra Al-Sakhra

Dome of the Rock Chandeliers
Dome of the Rock Chandeliers

Gold Details Gold Details

Majestic
Majestic

Behold the Dome Behold the Dome

Wandering Through Jerusalem

Jerusalem (al-Quds) is breathtaking.

There was no way that the photos of both masajid al-Alqsa’s (the old and new buildings), and the golden Dome of the Rock, could fit into one album. This is simply Part 1 of 3 photography taken in Jerusalem a couple of months ago.

These in particular were taken simply while walking and wandering around.

Center of Gold

Center of Gold

Glint of a Sight

Glint of a Sight

On the Way to Jerusalem

On the Way to Jerusalem

Palm Tree

Palm Tree

The Dome, Afar

The Dome, Afar

A White Sky with Blue

A White Sky with Blue

Sky High

Sky High

Art of a Mother’s Love

Art of a Mother's Love

Beige Umbrellas

Beige Umbrellas

Shops in Jerusalem

Shops in Jerusalem

Beige, Blue & Green

Beige, Blue & Green

Symmetry in Architecture

Symmetry in Architecture

Exploring

Exploring

Spray-Paintings of Holy Sites

Spray-Paintings of Holy Sites

Naming After History

Naming After History

Star Light, Star Bright

Star Light, Star Bright

Outside Markets

Outside Markets

Where Archs Are the Norm

Where Archs Are the Norm

Colors, Sights & Sound

Colors, Sights & Sound

Delicious Ka’k Qudsi

Delicious Ka'k Qudsi

Bird in Hiding

Bird in Hiding

Art for Tea

Art for Tea

el Zaatar

el Zaatar

School Established 784 H

School Established 784 H

Fading Color

Fading Color

Hustle & Bustle

Hustle & Bustle

In Old Jerusalem

In Old Jerusalem

Kuffiyahs Everywhere

Kuffiyahs Everywhere

Nets to Catch All that Garbage… (thrown by settlers onto Palestinians)

Nets To Catch All That Garbage...

Rectangular Spaces

Rectangular Spaces

Garbage Thrown by Israeli Settlers onto the Palestinians

Garbage Thrown by Israeli Settlers onto the Palestinians

Freedom Graffiti (الحرية = freedom)

Freedom Graffiti

Sisters

Sisters

Light Despite Dark

Light Despite Dark

 

Dis-attaching

~

I will peel it from my heart
Like a sticker from paper;
A sticker that has stayed on for far too long
And now runs the risk of ripping the substance it’s on.

Yet still, like an A+ sticker                                                                                                         Mistakenly placed on a failing essay,                                                                                                  You, too, were never meant to be attached to,                                                                                 Much less in my life stay.

And so, I tell you thank you for all that you are
And inspired me to be
But I need to move on from you
To focus on realer things in my destiny.

So yes, I will peel you from my heart’s beat
Like a stubborn sticker from a delicate paper sheet
And though the ripping may hurt and sting
It will, at long last, give my heart new wings.

Flight

And God knows Best.

-A.S.

 

 

 

Changing For You, Or Because of You?

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.

As If Paint Splattered

Dear sisters:

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.

For

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.

Because

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.

But…

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.

Honey.

.

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.

Splash of Paint

And Allah knows Best.

-A.S.

Until You Can Self-Love

Dedicated to Noor, who is simply wonderful to have long talks of love with.

Joy

“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.

 

My brother…

(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.

 

My brother…

(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.

A.S.