Water Is Patient

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~ “Water does not resist. Water flows.

When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress.

Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it.

Water is patient.

Dripping water can wear away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water.”

(Margaret Atwood)

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(Not) Like A Fuse

You know that feeling of having survived an entire semester comfortably, and you’ve gone through 3/4 of your final exams when THAT sudden moment occurs in which you wearily wonder how on earth you’ll have the energy to do just that one more final exam? Believe it or not, teachers experience it, too… within the last two weeks of teaching. The following was written in THAT moment.

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After a laboratory activity in which my students observed the changes to a fuse filament under increasing current, I, too, couldn’t help feeling like a fuse myself.

Like the current intensity – the demands, duties, obligations, increased tasks, last minute requests, and rising levels of anxiety from my surroundings, have surmounted to something like a power surge – and I am about to be burnt out. Like a fuse.

Oh, but let me remind you what the function of a fuse is. It serves the role of protection: a fuse is placed in a circuit to protect in the case of a power surge. To prevent the light bulbs from breaking or other such damage, the fuse sacrifices its own frail filament by heating up until it breaks, cutting off the current flow.

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In a sense, a teacher is like a fuse. Except that unlike a fuse, a teacher is not replaceable.

It was that last thought that saved me; just as I was thinking “How much longer must I keep this up… I’m gonna burn out, like a fuse” – that it occurred to me I am so much more than that. I couldn’t be replaced, which meant I didn’t have the option to go out.

Which meant submitting to the idea that every teacher must eventually “burn out” is only true as long as one believes and, indeed, expects it.

Pressures likened to high voltages in the form of papers, deadlines, and even human beings – is that what it takes to burn me out? (Really, me?) If I am considering these as power surges, then that is only because I have my DC-current source all wrong.

Who better to keep you going, 

keep you working,

keep you glowing brighter without dimming the circuit components around you,

except the All-Mighty?

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This may appear to be a huge random leap in thinking, but this really happened. There I was thinking that a teacher is like a fuse, who burns herself out for the ‘protection’ of a younger generation – than God does not hesitate to make me laugh at myself.

All it takes is for I to take a step outside in the sunny humid weather outside, and become enthralled at the few sprinkles of cool water droplets falling from the sky… as though I am being told, “Chillax, kiddo. You’re no fuse on fire. If you were, this rain would’ve immediately put you out.”

And yet I still had that spark glowing brighter than ever in me, and all that the rain did was fill me with an indescribable sense of grateful joy.

Nope; God knew that I knew what I was getting myself into. And if He led me to it, He’ll lead me through it.

If I am to be compared to a protective device in a circuit, I would prefer being a breaker. At least those are reusable, resilient, as many times as it wills to be.

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“I’ll take a dandelion any day over a rose. Now that’s a flower. It’s humble, hearty, keeps coming back no matter what you do to it. And it always blooms a brilliant yellow smile.” (Mornings in Jenin, p.209)

That’s the kind of teacher I want to be: humble, hearty, and keeps coming back.

I am like a dandelion. Not like a fuse.

And Allah knows Best.

A.S.

 

 

Thread Of Hope

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As all I’d ever termed wondrous bliss unexpectedly died –

As my fantasy of a reality with destruction did collide –

My hopes shattered around me like glass in countless pieces,

Fragments suspended in mocking beauty as time freezes…

The clock hand ticks forward and it all crashes to the floor

My knees hit rock-bottom when I could take no more

All I now see is blackness where once there was color

Gone appears the light from the sun and its fervor…

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I begin to walk away from the pond of shattered dreams

But the glass is in my clothes and cutting through my heart, it seems

Perhaps I am too close, the smoke is clouding my full view-

Glance up at the tower, instinctively know what to do…

Run up the steps; one, two,three hundred endless stairs

And I barely catch my breath, or have time to fill lungs with air –

Before the ground beneath my feet crumbles into sand

Loud thunder above me rumbles as I fall back down on land…

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And I hit rock-bottom again

Thinking this must be the end

For surely no human can go through this pain

And still see rainbows through the rain…

The whole world seems gray and black tonight

With not a speck of pure, identifiable white in sight

Nothing is untouched, gone is everything –

Then how do I glimpse in that crack a thin white string?

Among the dirt, surely this uncorrupted clean string is not real

But just to verify the hopeless doubts, I reach out a hand to feel

And to my electric surprise, it’s most tangible indeed

I yank it out attached to a note, uncrumple it and read:

“Verily, with every hardship comes ease” [94:6]

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That white thread…

Of hope.

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–A.S.

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Hope in Allah Precludes Failure

Hope in Allah Precludes Failure

“Verily, hope encourages and steers one towards patience; hope arises from having a good opinion of Allah; hope in Allah precludes the possibility of failure. But why should we be so confident that hope in Allah precludes the possibility of failure? If we were to study the characteristics of generous people, we would find that they take special care of those who think well enough of them to turn to for help. They will also tend to eschew those who think ill of them. What is important here is that they refrain from hurting the hopes of those who single them out for help. Then what will be the case regarding the Most Generous One, Whose kingdom is not decreased in the least when He gives even more than what the hopeful ones expected from Him in the first place?”

-[Excerpt from the book: ‘Don’t Be Sad’ , p.330]

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.