Shoe-Shopping to Seal the Envelope

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اللهم إن شكرك نعمة، تستحق الشكر، فعلّمني كيف أشكرك ، الحمد لله كما ينبغى لجلال وجهك وعظيم سلطانك

“Oh Allah thanking you is a blessing, You deserve all thankfulness, so teach me how to thank You. All praise is due to Allah…”

Self Portrait

To the ladies who also mysteriously find the perfect pair of shoes right after having survived an emotional hurricane:

 

I don’t believe in shopping as therapy. Except for some reason, shopping for shoes cures all. I repeat, I am not saying that shopping is medicine… but new shoes make me feel so much more complete.

Okay, read me out.

It’s more than the satisfaction of being a consumer of pretty things. It’s about putting yourself in a new pair of shoes, metaphorically in a new person’s shoes – in this case, a newer, wiser you. Somehow it feels official this way: that when you feel on top of your game, you want to see the world from a slightly higher platform, atop a pair of comfy stylish heels to make your determined decisions root down.

You are indeed in a new person’s shoes because you are not the old you. The new you sees things a refreshingly brighter way, walks now a new path cleared of weeds called doubt. It is this new you that wants a fresh new pair of heel boots to boldly claim this trail with.

Can the mere physical act of shopping actually boost your mood? If it does, it is temporary, superficial, and an upcoming burden of guilt for trying to buy a happiness that does not actually come on a price tag. I do not advocate the consumerist’s mentality that a materialistic purchase can fix issues of uncertainty and insecurity. (In fact, I am one of those weird female specimens that dislikes wandering around in shopping malls altogether.)

Yet it just so happens for me, for the third time in the last year, that I only stumble upon my dream shoes only after I have been through an emotional turmoil that has calmed down and led me into a cave of insightful life discoveries. Despite me having spent (miserable) weeks searching for a pair of boots to replace my current falling-apart ones, it is only at the stage where I not only come to terms with reality, but wholeheartedly embrace it, that the perfect heel boots present themselves to me.

It is the same official satisfaction as having a written a long letter to a dear friend, pouring out the contents of your heart, and sealing the envelope closed to send. Putting those boots on for the first time was the equivalent to the sealing of that envelope.

And man, does it feel great to take footsteps in this more confident, stronger person’s shoes – this person that is I.

اللَّهُمَّ لَكَ الْحَمْدُ كَمَا كَسَوْتَنِيهِ أَسْأَلُكَ خَيْرَهُ وَخَيْرَ مَا صُنِعَ لَهُ وَأَعُوذُ مِنْ شَرِّهِ وَشَرِّ مَا صُنِعَ لَهُ
“O Allah, all praise is to You, just as You have dressed me, I seek Your blessings of it and the blessings of what it is made of and I seek protection and Your refuge from all evil and the evil of that which it is made of.”

~

The core message of this letter, ladies, is this: even shopping for heel boots can have its spiritual dimension.

And God knows best.

A.S.

 

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البركة في القلة – Blessings Are In The Few

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البركة في القلة

Blessings are in the few…

Few (purposeful) words,

Few (strong) minds,

Few (pious) souls,

Few (sincere) hearts,

Few (gratefully used) minutes,

Few (worldly) attachments…

Less can be more.

More clarity expressed in a succinct message,

More worthy actions sprung from cultivated minds,

More moments of soft enchantment seen from the lens of true piety,

More meaningful deeds blossomed from a sincere core,

More productivity accomplished in a shorter spam of blessed time,

More attachment to the eternal One when detached from all temporary else…

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Indeed, blessings are in the few;

Less can be more;

البركة في القلة.

Our Sweet Responsiblity

~

If you find yourself constantly running on adrenaline, these are the typical thoughts that go on through your mind:

 running on time

Monday. The dreaded day.

Tuesday. The never-ending day.

Wednesday. This week will never end.

Thursday. Are we there yet?

Friday. Can’t wait to sleep in tomorrow!

Saturday. Darn, I overslept. Now I’m too sluggish to do anything worthy.

Sunday. So stressed, so much stuff to get done for the week!

 

Such is a teacher’s life: a ceaseless chorus of waiting for Fridays, so we can be productive in a relaxed manner on weekends, yet somehow still finding ourselves wiped out on Monday mornings and not refreshed at all. We dream of the day that we can spend in luxury, doing what we want without the hanging weight of responsibility on our shoulders.

And then it dawned on me.

Teacher or not, every moment of our waking lives should be submerged in responsibility… if we have the right mindset, submerged in sweet blissful unburdensome burdens.

What?

Well: here’s my motto:

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

wowness

Rather than dread Mondays, we are responsible for turning them into exciting promising moments of new potential.

Rather than sigh through Tuesdays, we are responsible for holding on tight and testing Monday’s broken roller coasters to see if they have been fixed.

Rather than moaning and groaning on Wednesdays, we are responsible to be determined to turn the middle of our week into the climax of achievement.

Rather than rushing through Thursdays such as to be unable to remember what happened, we are responsible to savour its every flavour and reflect on what worked and didn’t work… and be optimistic about it.

Rather than spend Friday daydreaming and anticipating the weekend that we may not even live to live through, we are responsible to start rewarding ourselves for the hard work we’ve been doing and intend to keep up.

Rather than waste half of it in sleep, we are responsible to use Saturdays to revive our inner creativity and pause the button of life’s rushing-ness… and just breathe, and wonder, and surrender.

Rather than panic and stress this Sunday, we are responsible to take self-care in order that we may fully care about our surroundings enough to make a positive difference.

 

Be responsible to be grateful.


And God knows Best.

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A.S.

(Mar.31, 2014; written 9:20-9:50 PM on the metro)

Mystery Solved!

*Dedicated to that so-sweet-soul that left me a friendship letter when I took a brief nap in SSMU the other day (see previous blog post). She finally told me who she is.. and subhanAllah, she was actually the first person I’d initially guessed! Out of respect of her wishes, I will not say her name. She is a blessing from above and my angel of a friend– and I think that description alone suffices.
The mystery was solved only today, Mar.14 (at last!) when she let me read her journal entry of the incident. I thought it was filled with so much deep wisdom and cuteness that I sought her permission to share it.
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Something awesomely strange happened 3 weeks ago.
I was searching for a quite place to enjoy the sister’s Samosas before I rush back to studies. I thought to myself  “Club’s lounge will be calm, and I won’t know anyone there. Surely I can eat quickly and quietly.”
Something about all sleeping people is angelic (it is known as the small death- as the soul temporarily leaves the body while one is sleeping).
Sleeping people are vulnerable, and I can’t help but feel merciful and thoughtful of them.
My eyes quickly spotted Aya as I entered. Whatever she had to go through to sleep here, away from people, at noon, at Juma’a time, I thought.
I felt like consoling her, encouraging her, and letting her know I love her for Allah. I impulsively took out my notepad, and started writing. I don’t know where all the words came from, but I just wrote. I didn’t hesitate to use ink. I didn’t think twice before writing. Heck, I didn’t even read over what I wrote, not even once. As I wrote the second paragraph, I felt that that is what I wanted to hear from someone. As I was going through a hard time myself, those were the words that I came across in the last few days collectively that made me cheer a little.
I figured, I sincerely wanted to advise and help her. I didn’t care if she knew who it was from, as long as it helped her. I also thought it would be fun for her to receive a letter this way. She was sleeping after all, and the opportunity kept screaming.
I wanted to read over what I wrote, but a sudden sense of acceptance came: that what I wrote is perfect the way it is. I also felt a sudden sense of urgency: I needed to leave the paper Now. Who knows when she would wake up? I damned my bulky shoes with every step I took, fearing she would wake up as I approached. I was easily able to leave the letter folded under the elastic, as her bag was in a perfect position for me. I couldn’t help but wish ‘please don’t wake up don’t wake up’, and I tried imagining what an awkward situation it would be had she woken up finding me stalking her and her bag.
After I was a couple of meters away, I sighed out of relief. I walked away quickly, and I went outside not even hungry any more.
I was surprised how quickly the word spread. Aya seemed very confused, and her updates sounded worried and anxious about the anonymity. I soon started feeling more and more guilt. I wrote 2 drafts at different time points apologizing to her about pretending I had no idea about the letter, and about putting her in this emotional vortex. Something/someone always kept me restrained. I felt a voice inside me saying, “Wait. Just a little more. You wanted to help her right? Why do you need to tell her now? She is going through a phase, and it will be over soon. Just be patient”.
Soon enough, she wrote a post about it, and I discovered Allah’s wisdom. Like I can never imagine. How I was inspired the words. How I was inspired not to tell her in the suspenseful week. And why me? She wrote how it helped her realize the blessings of friends, and loving for Allah. She seemed to be content with not knowing who the author was after all. I hope the anonymity ultimately helped her think deeper about the meaning and the story, rather than who wrote it. It helped the people she discussed the letter with. It helped and hopefully inspired the people who read her post. Would it have left 1/10th the effect had she known immediately that it was me? Because she had to be the detective, because all the focus was on the content, unattached from the human imperfections, it made her spend more time thinking about it. It made me think about it more as well. Of course, I am not writing this claiming credit for this brilliant wit. I didn’t know what I was doing, it was Allah’s plan for everyone from the beginning.
It made me realize, the out-of-human scope wisdom Allah has. I feel extremely eager to share with her the other side of the story, and how it is equally mysterious to me. I want to discuss with her the beauty of Allah’s wisdom in this shared experience.. (and let her believe it didn’t just fall from the sky 🙂 ). One day.
Subhan Allah.
And as she always ends her words: Allah knows best.”
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Oh man. These kinds of moments are what Paradise on earth is made of.  May Allah bless all of us with them!
This brings to mind one of my all-time favorite quotes:
~ “An act of goodness is of itself an act of happiness. No reward coming after the event can be compared with the sweet reward that went with it.”
And to conclude… yes you guessed it!…
Allah knows best. 🙂
A.S.

A Message In Motion: ﷺ

*I believe one of the biggest sources of ease referred to in the following verse is none other than the Prophet Muhammed himself. “Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you” (2:185 Quran).

ImageOnce upon a time, in the far desert of Arabia,

there lived a people that very much couldn’t be labelled as ‘enlightened’. Like every nation of people that had strayed from the truth, they lived by their own superstitions and rules, to the point that girls were considered shameful enough to be buried alive. It was a nation of  ignorance and dangerous arrogance; no one could find the meaning of life, all were lost in their own oppression. That is, until the Prophet Mohammad embraced his calling and surfaced with the timeless message of Islam… that there was only one God, and he, Mohammad, was Allah’s final Prophet. Islam was a whole new way of  life, a religion that refused any harmful teachings, that brightened up any path and that welcomed any person into it, regardless of the deeds of  the past.

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Suddenly there was a meaning of life; there was hope for the future;

“Verily man is in loss, except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and join together in the mutual enjoining of truth, and of patience and constancy” (103:2-3 Quran).

       We must ask ourselves, who is this Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him), that managed to spread the message of Islam from the desert of Arabia to every other continent? What was his personality like in order to attract all of his followers? (No blog post, or two, not one book, nor 10, nor an entire library can do justice to him!) He was the brightest of lights, the noblest of men, a perfectly wonderful walking Quran, the highest standard of being anyone can ever hope to acquire. And yet, despite the fact we can never attain his level of superiority, the least we can do is try. We can get close to certain characteristics and feel the blessings of living in simplicity & humility. And God willing, inshaAllah, with His mercy and compassion,

we will one day meet the Prophet and he will smile at us, a smile so serene and genuine because he knows you tried your best to manifest your love for him into actions, even if you failed multiple infinity times.

Now, here I am going to attempt to write, in a few clumsy words, one reason why I love the last & final beloved Prophet– but some things are best expressed  in silence because words will not explain an ounce of it. Nonetheless, I will try… and I will fail, without a doubt… but if it brings a smile to his face at my feeble efforts, it will be well worth the failure.

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The biggest blessing that has made the world easier to live in, to prosper and bring real meaning, is Islam. But Islam is not a word that fell from the heavens with no guidance and clear instruction. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, did not simply convey a message, but he was the message in motion.

I am going to focus on one tiny statement that is surprisingly (and perhaps alarmingly) critical & necessary to our well-being, made up of just two words (in Arabic)

الحمدلله


We say ‘alhamdulileh’ a million times during the day, during prayer, as a response to ‘how are you’, maybe absent-mindedly said, etc. It means ‘all praise is due to God.’ But how much do we mean it? Has the meaning of it sunk in deeper than on the tips of our tongue? It is so thrillingly easy to say ‘alhamdulileh!’ when life is smooth, and everything is going exactly as you want it to. It becomes always “alhamdulileh! (Yes, with the exclamation mark at the end.)

Which is fantastic, of course, because indeed, all good things do come from Him!

But we know that gratitude to God should be at all times, the good and the “bad”, and we say it, too, all of us– but how often do we mean it? I mean, when you’re going through something rough, and someone asks you how’s life, you DO say ‘alhamdulileh.’ But deep down, are you really praising God with all your heart for the positive side of things– for blessing you with life, a beating heart, a sight-seeing pair of eyes, a nose that smells, ears that hear, just to name a few priceless treasures–

deep down, are you reminding yourself of His gifts even as you hurt?

(Don’t answer this to anyone, it’s no one’s business. Just think of it for yourself.)

ImageThe following passage from ‘Purification of The Heart’ by Hamza Yusuf really struck me… because although we hear of the Prophet’s trials and sufferings scattered here and there and everywhere,  to see a few of them condensed in one paragraph was mind-staggering, to say the least:

“It is important to look at the life of the Prophet PBUH and know that no one faced greater tribulation. The Prophet lived to see all of his children buried, except for Fatima. How many people experience that in their lifetime? Out of six children, he saw five of them perish. His father died before his birth. His mother died when he was just a boy. His guardian grandfather then died. When he received his calling, he saw his people turn against him with vehemence and brutality. People who had once honored him now slandered him, calling him a madman, liar, and sorcerer. They stalked him and threw stones at him until he bled. They boycotted him and composed stinging invectives against him. He lost his closest friends and relatives, like Hamza, who was killed on the battlefield. His beloved wife Khadija after 25 years of blissful marriage died during the Prophet’s most difficult moment. Abu Talib, his protecting uncle, also died. The Prophet PBUH was the target of 13 assassination attempts. How many people have faced all of that? Not once in a single hadith is there a complaint from him—except when beseeching his Lord.” 

And yet, while he went through all that (and his companions suffered similar trials)– while he went through that, and we self-absorb in our own lives making mountains out of moles– he still calls out “Ummati, ummati.”

On the Day when no one will consider save himself, he will be interceding for us.

Let me emphasize in case I am not being clear: before he, your father, and she, your mother, were born– before you or I or the idea of us ever existed–  hundreds & hundreds of years ago, there was a man who loved you for His sake already. He did not merely say it, but acted on it. He did not wait for you to love him, he took the first move and showed us what unconditional love looks like.

Come, let’s be sensible here:

Is there really any explanation needed for why a Muslim cannot be considered a true believer until he loves the Prophet more than himself?

The Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was not just any man who did a few good deeds and died. He isn’t as dead as you might think.

WELL… Let me clarify that.

He may be dead in body, but his spirit continues to live on in the heart of every practicing Muslim, the one who has submitted to God in mind, body & soul.

As long as Islam is being practiced through the ways he has taught us- as long as the real Islam lives…

So will the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him. ~

صلى الله عليه وسلم 

 

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-A.S.