Have You Ever Found Soul, Heart & Mind Scattered?

Under the Lemon Tree

Have you ever found your soul’s song scattered about?

There you are

Seeking…

Searching…

Finding it…

Between bulky boulders and rocks

In quaint dessert cafés that barely sleep, no matter the clock

Among thorny plants and at the sight of a cactus

Under thick soft blankets that melt your coldness into bliss

During a simple olive-picking activity

Or when standing beneath the shade of a lemon tree —

Have you ever found your soul’s song scattered about?

Have you ever found your heart beats scattered about?

There you are

Seeking…

Searching…

Finding it…

In a yellow taxi cab playing classical Fayrouz

During a road trip car playing Oumayma Khalil tunes

In a stab of nostalgia, hearing Rihanna in a Hebron shopping mall

At the sight of a man proudly galloping in traffic, on a horse so tall

Against the backdrop of scents, spices and music in the open marketplace

With the rhythm of footsteps walking distances in the lit-up night space —

Have you ever found your heart’s beats scattered about?

Have you ever found your mind’s thoughts scattered about?

There you are

Seeking…

Searching…

Finding it…

In the eyes of kind, compassionate, down-to-earth people

As you acknowledge this land was walked on by prophets without equal

In the bubbling words of an enlightened, engaging conversation

Upon entering any shop that is casually playing Quranic recitation

In the sanctity of being in the Ibrahimi Mosque, or Cave of Patriarchs

In the old stone buildings, colourful fall vines, and structural archs — 

Have you ever found your mind’s thoughts scattered about?

Have you ever found your soul’s song, heart and mind

All

Debating, wondering, arguing,

persuading, agreeing, disagreeing,

musing, guessing, being certain,

being uncertain, pondering, reflecting —-

On what home means?

                          On where home is?

                                                    Who home is?

                                                                           Why home is?

Alas.

Have you ever found your soul’s song, heart and mind scattered about?

Pinecones Galore

And Allah knows Best.

-A.S.

-Written November 11, 2017

 

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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.

Dear Diary: My Writing Has Died

I have no desire to write anymore.

Actually, that is a little extreme, so allow me to rephrase that: I have lots of desire to write, but I simply seem to have nothing worthy to write about. There are tons of things I’m learning everyday but I am lacking the elegant ways of expressing them. Besides creating fragmented poetry pieces here & there, I think this is the longest writer’s block I have experienced in quite a while.

“there are days

where i feel infertile

like no more poems will come

like all the words there were

to be weaved by me

have been weaved

and i am unable

to create anything.”

(Rupi Kaur)

Isn’t it interesting that the younger & less knowledgeable me had an ocean of things to say, and keen enough to make the time to share it with the whole virtual world? Yet now, when I actually have the time to write, it’s no longer an option; I toss the pen aside, thinking Who am I, anyways, to write on these things, and what do I REALLY have to say that is both of value & which I’m actively applying to myself simultaneously?

You see, my criteria for what I can, would and should share with hearts external to my own has changed over time, becoming more constricted. In person, I might speak spontaneously sometimes, so I try to measure & weigh my words prior as much as possible when I can (such as in writing).The fact is, as human beings, we do more talking than walking… more preaching than acting… more judging than understanding… and I am no different. I am trying to rise above that.

I suppose the older I get and with the “more wisdom” I acquire, the more I realize that life is a strict teacher with the ultimate lesson to not have too many assumptions about the way the world works, and especially on the way people are. When a shareable idea flickers across my mind, I hesitate; I’m probably wrong, I think; the inclination to write decreases; and eventually I decide my words are of very little necessity or use to anyone.

Sketching pad

But I’ve come to realize something lately. There is a void in me. I take on new hobbies & interests and still I feel incomplete. This feeling is only absent when I… wait for it… express myself through writing.

Writing academic essays & educational blog posts for professional development purposes is not the same as sorting through jumbled thoughts & trying to understand myself. They are both useful and beneficial, yes, but in different ways and for different purposes.

When I say my writing has flattened, I am talking about the kind that involves heart-felt sentences I put out there, allowing myself to be vulnerable to the scrutiny of strangers (and most frighteningly, people I know) while experiencing a sheer bliss feeling of realizing how many others are experiencing the same thing through the feedback. Sharing one’s writing is a bold act, an act of community, and I have allowed myself to stumble away from it.

When my writing habit died, so did a little part of myself.

It’s like suddenly losing a bunch of teeth and much of what passes through your lips becomes pronounced wrong – likewise, without the exercise of writing, my thoughts remain constricted in my mind & create tension in my heart, muddling my concentration, because I’m not quite sure what is going on inside of me.

“i write because

i don’t know

how i feel

until i read it.” 

(Rupi Kaur)

Out of the many Ramadan goals I have set for myself this blessed month, one of them is to write again… regularly. I will reflect on certain Quranic passages as sources of inspiration to get started. (InshaAllah… stay tuned!)

For all future posts, I intend to weigh my words beforehand, but nonetheless that does not guarantee that every post will provide unique insights to every reader; and that’s perfectly okay. I will not pretend to believe that I am your golden chest of treasured words.

But they are my words, which tell my story… and they are coming back to life. Fasting is reviving my soul, and writing shall revive my spirit.

revival

And Allah (God) knows best.
-A.S.

Rainy Days & Sunshine

Photography by Aya Salah.

Photograph by Aya Salah.

 

I live in Montreal, and like most days, I woke up to rain today.

I woke up healthy but grumpy today.

And because of my grumpiness:

I missed my bus stop today.

I arrived to work late today.

I had a bad day at school today.

My silky hijab got soaked today.

My new expensive awesome sneakers got soaked today.

Today… was… dreadful. Of course I’d never been hopeful

Because when it rains, I know my luck

When it rains, I know my day is gonna suck,

And MAN… such a tough life I live

To live in pure eternal sunshine, what I’d give…

 

First world problems.

How we love to hate on things just simply to complain

Yet when it comes to bringing the sunshine in someone’s actual rainy life

Way too many of us abstain.

 

Won’t give a buck or two to someone on the street

Cuz it’s probably not gonna be the thing that gets them on their feet

So use up this money and buy a cheap coffee instead

Take a sip… yeugh… declare all quality is dead.

 

MAN… such a tough life!

Pretty soon I’ll think I’m from the thug life.

 

But all jokes and exaggeration aside,

Speaking first to my greedy self inside:

 

We think we have it bad,

Until we see who has it worse

It’s then we realize just how much

We have our priorities in reverse.

 

You should make a difference

Because that’s exactly what you’re here for

Yet most of us are great slacktivists –

Beyond Facebook and Twitter, we do nothing more.

 

Now, social media is important

Raising awareness just the same

But if hashtags is the most us privileged folks can do,

Then we are drowning ourselves in shame.

 

Whether it’s here in our local communities,

Or whether it’s far away somewhere there

Words need to be followed by concrete actions

And our emotions can’t be reserved only for certain people to spare.

 

Many of us can’t spare the change

And we can’t spare the time

Because we don’t think our small deed

Will impact the world in a manner sublime.

 

But if one’s motive is solely to sway the world,

Then it’s no longer about the cause, why –

It’s about you.

 

The problem with those who stubbornly stall

Waiting to act ONLY in guaranteeing big change

Is that often, sadly, they end up making none at all.

 

Makes you wonder

Where they got the notion

That they’re destined to be leaders of change

Without first going through the petty motions.

 

Don’t let it be about your ego

In an attempt to tell the world you could be a hero

Don’t let it be about you acting out of pity

But let it be about integrity, love and mercy.

 

If it’s for God, know that every deed you do

Be it the seed of an atom, is being accounted for you

And don’t think it too little, unless you can do more

And don’t think it too much, until you can give it no more.

 

Know that with every dime you spare,

With every smile that shows you care

With every hour spent protesting in the streets for others

With every good thoughts for your sisters and brothers

With every secret prayer that you make

And with every intention done for God’ sake…

 

You are making a difference.

 

And yes it’s hard to bear, and it nearly never feel enough

Few people have it easy, the majority have it rough

Yet did you really think for a moment that you and you alone

Could overthrow oppression and put justice on the throne?

 

Yes, it needs your commitment

And yes, it needs your wealth

But never forget God in the equation

For all our physical and mental health.

 

Is not the same God Who watches you here

The same God Who watches them there?

Is it not the same God Who has given you security,

The same God Who shall provide it over there, with certainty?

 

Let’s go back for a moment to the old you who complained of rain

And pretend your wish was granted such that the sun shone all day

Some of the land has become a desert, other areas not

It is so humid and hot, but despair not –

Verily with hardship comes ease

Maybe you’ll be chosen by God to provide some of the cool breeze.

 

The Messenger of God, peace be upon him, once said,

That the best actions are continuous ones even if small

We’re here together today, with good intentions, I daresay

Yet may we continue for the rest of the year to give it our all.

 

Verily God does not change the condition of a people

Until they change what is in themselves.

 

And Allah knows best.

-A.S.

A Beautiful Quote on Fasting

lantern

From a female Islamic scholar named Fariha Fatima:

“There are as many forms of fasting as there are organs of perception and sensation, and each of these has many different levels. So we ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, and to feast on what the Beloved loves for us.

Let us certainly fast from the limited mind, and all that it conjures up.

Let us fast from fear, apart from fear and awe of Allah’s majesty.

Let us fast from thinking that we know, when Allah alone is the Knower.

Let us fast from thinking negatively of anyone.

Let us fast from our manipulations and strategies.

Let us fast from all complaint about the life experiences that Allah gives us.

Let us fast from our bad habits and our reactions.

Let us fast from desiring what we do not have.

Let us fast from obsession.

Let us fast from despair.

Let us fast from not loving our self, and from denying our heart.

Let us fast from selfishness and self-centered behavior.

Let us fast from thinking that only what serves us is important.

Let us fast from seeing reality only from our own point of view.

Let us fast from seeing any reality other than Allah, and from relying on anything other than Allah.

Let us fast from desiring anything other than Allah and Allah’s Prophets and friends, and our own true self.

Essentially, let us fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah.”

!أمين

 

Purify Within To Succeed Without

 “Verily, the believers have succeeded.”

Image

Beyond merely “living” (as in, existing), man ultimately wants to succeed in life – however the term ‘success’ is defined. The tricky part is, although we all have a good sense of what success looks like on the outside, we often find ourselves spending our entire lives reaching out for it; and sometimes, sadly, we do not feel we ever reach it.

I am not  referring to worldly success such as fame and riches. I’m talking contentment, joy, satisfaction, and meaning… success that lasts in the long term.

But there is a way to reach it all. God does not only tell us we can in the Quran, he says we already have – emphasizing the certainty that, if particular measures are taken with sincerity, He will not deny us this sweetest victory over ourselves.

The truth is, there is no way to achieve real outwardly success- the permanent, lasting one – without gaining inner success. 

You’ll have to purify within to succeed without. There’s no shortcut around it, no matter what all those false-promising ‘10 quick things you can do to be a happy and successful person‘ articles claim. Genuine success is not about quick fixes – it’s about real, honest work.

Let’s explore.

~

  • Once upon a time in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammed (صلى الله عليه و سلم) informed his people,

“Ten ayat have just been revealed upon me; whoever establishes them will enter Paradise.” Then he recited the first ten verses of Surat Al-Mu’minoon.

  • A small while later, people came to the Prophet’s wife, Aisha, رضي الله عنها , and inquired as to the character of the Prophet.

She responded that his manners were those of the Quran. Then she recited the first ten verses of Surat Al-Mu’minoon.

Time and time again, when I ask a knowledgeable person for which verses of the Quran to immediately focus on, memorize, or “start off” firmly establishing in my life, I am referred to the first ten verses of surat al-Mu’minoon. I figure writing a blog post about it will instill it in my heart, so here I am writing this and there you are reading it!

This chapter begins and ends with the promise of success:

Image

Some things to quickly note:

-When the word “قد ” appears before a verb, it implies something that has occurred and is continuing to occur. (For example, قد قامت الصلاة) So, think of it like this… you, a believer, will succeed because God has seen you already do so. Hooray!

But it’s not quite as simple as that. It’s not just saying the shahada… it’s more along the lines of living it. 

Another interesting Arabic linguistic observation: the word  for ‘succeeded’ that is used is ” أفلح ” – which derives from the root word ”  فلاح ” (farmer). Allow me to go into some more depth in this for a moment, and although it’ll appear to be tangent to this topic, it actually is extremely relevant:

Unlike our regular 9-hour daily paid jobs, in which we get paid every month or so, farmers don’t see the fruits of their efforts for almost an entire year. Day after day after day they work hard, whatever their moods may be; and they know if they slack off for just one week, there may be consequences for the entire year’s resulting crop.

Painting by Rae Chichilnitsky

Painting by Rae Chichilnitsky

To bring it back to the topic of success, which can be likened to the farmer’s crop – success is not a quick to-do action off a checklist. In this world where everything has become fast-paced and relentless, we’ve become impatient and want to speed even meaningfulness up. You cannot do that. Further, you cannot slack off and expect success to come your way anyways… (you must refuse to be what I call a Type C person!)

The following verses give us sort of a checklist of qualities, all connected to one another, of a mature believer – where do you stand? Judge yourself honestly, you will not get anywhere if you continue deceiving yourself.

In a nutshell, these are the main qualities a believer should strive to have – take out your checklists! 🙂

Khushoo‘ (خشوع) in prayer.

Are you humble in prayer and feel an awe and fear of God so deep it almost feels like it’s physically in your bones? Are you submissive with concentration & devotion without distracting yourself with petty thoughts? That’s khushoo’. It’s a lot tougher to work on internal issues than the external appearance of praying correctly. You must purify within to succeed without.

It’s comforting for so many of us (myself never excluded) to know we pray 5 times a day. We’re making time for our Lord and standing before Him. But are we really whole-heartedly, mind and soulfully, there? I do believe that’s a question that needs a lifetime of devotion to properly answer.

We spoke a little about farmers and the intense amount of work they must have. They cannot get all this work done efficiently if they don’t have a strict schedule to abide by. Why,

“Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm – to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest? The farm is a natural system. The price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is not shortcut.” [1]

Farmers have strict schedules to follow – and our ‘strict’ schedule (though it is a pleasant sort of strictness) is the five daily prayers, minimum.

There is much more than can be said about prayer, but I’m not the one that should keep talking about it. I need to be doing it with more soul & heart before preaching to the choir… so let’s move on and look at the next characteristics of the successful believer:

hunh

Turn away from ill speech (لغو).

” لغو ” has many possible interpretations, but many scholars agree it is idleness; whether this is in the form of actually lying, backbiting, cursing and insulting, falsehoods, vanity… basically, useless conversation that consumes one’s time.

God doesn’t just tell us to avoid “laghw”, but He instructs us to walk past it in a dignified fashion should we encounter it. Don’t allow the peer pressure of others to make you feel like you have to suck it up with them and waste your time listening to useless talk. Your time is worth more than that.

Which brings us back to the importance of respecting time… respecting schedules… ultimately respecting prayer.

Those who do zakaat.

This is a Meccan surah. When this verse was revealed, it was before financial zakat became an obligation. Further, if the verse was referring explicitly to monetary charity, it might have instructed us to give zakat, as opposed to do it. So what is zakat?

First, let’s give a metaphor. Imagine your dishes at home. You wash them every day. Try eating the usual amount of food for one day, just one day – and ignore the dishes. What horribleness will you awaken to! And how much harder is it to get rid of the filth! Well, your heart needs a polish not just now and then; the Ramadan once a year is not sufficient. Boy, girl, you’ve got a LOT of stains on that heart, and until you realize your own flaws, no one else can get rid of them!

Zakaah means purification. To be a successful believer, you must constantly, and consistently, purify yourself. Check your ego, ask forgiveness of sins you know and don’t know of, beg God to let you see through your own delusions… for we ARE delusional in terms of who we think ourselves to be, particularly in front of Allah.

For example, I think there’s something seriously wrong with feeling satisfied after a prayer – rather than feeling anxious if it had been accepted. We delude ourselves that we’re already all righteous and of course God is going to accept it. But where is our feeling of khushoo’?

Purify yourself. It sounds so simple and it requires no outside sources… except, of course, your willingness to admit you badly need it.

Guarding one’s chastity.

Shamelessness between men and women is an already very obvious problem within many societies. I am not going to go to great depths on this issue, but needless to say, I quite agree with Nouman Ali Khan when he said (and I paraphrase):

It goes to show just how much harder we have to work to make our marriages beautiful, and romantic…

that’s part of our duty as believers! Make your marriages beautiful!

Guarding trusts and promises.

Do you make promises you intend to fulfill? Me, too. Do you make promises you guard with all your might to see fulfilled?

Hmm. What’s up with the typical “yes inshaAllah, I’ll try be there” that somehow is now sadly assumed between Muslims as “oh, she’s not coming”?

I believe promises should be guarded in the most excellent manner possible… which goes to say that even a promise on something so trivial, such as attending an event on Facebook, should be guarded! If one is not sure whether he/she will make it or not, it’s OK; put yourself as maybe attending; but by putting an “Attending”, you are making a false promise to the organizers of the event.

Am I making a big fuss of this? Maybe. But I honestly believe that if the smallest details of our lives are taken care of, the humongous boulders will take care of themselves.

Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (RA) says that Rasulullah (SAW) said: “Four traits whoever possesses them is a hypocrite and whoever possesses some of them has an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: the one who when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise, when he disputes he transgresses and when he makes an agreement he violates it.” (Muslim and Bukhari)

Based on those criteria… while I won’t say our Ummah is full of hypocrites, but I boldly say that there is a lot of hypocrisy that goes on.

And it’ll always come back to prayer. If we can’t bring it in ourselves to fulfill promises to other folks, how can we honor our promise to their Creator? Salaat is a promise between you and God; guard such a promise and everything else will fall into place.

And now… we are almost at the end of these 10 verses…

8 to 10

Did I just say it all ends in prayer? The beginning and ending of the first 10 ayat of surat al-Mu’minoon concerns prayer.

May we all be of those who succeed in this world & the next… 

May we all be of those who purify ourselves & enlighten the way for others to do the same…

And may we all be of those who are the inheritors of Jannatul-Firdaous.

Ameen!

Ameen!

And Allah knows Best.

 

A.S.

—————————————————————————————————————————–

Sources:

Imam Zia’s tafseer of first 10 verses of surat Al-Mu’minoon

Nouman Ali Khan: Characteristics of the Believers Khutba

[1] 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p.22 (Stephen Covey)

You Pray

 Image

You smell the invisible scents

In the softly soothing wind

You feel more than you see

The outside from within.

Outside we see, we hear, we touch

But inside is where lies belief

Beware of taking what’s not yours

And become a sudden thief.

You’re blessed with love

You’re blessed with time

You’re blessed to be able to read

Or listen to this rhyme.

Don’t you think a little gratitude

Is in need here?

Why do I pray?

Let me break it down here.

Have you ever wished (oh, you wished!)

That some One out there

Could read the depths of your heart,

See through you with tender care?

Some One to share that small seed

Of sudden joy your chest needs

Some One to realize your strengths

Pull you to Love at great lengths.

Some One to turn to in tears

Who can smile at your fears

Because He is the One

That can make them all run…

Some One to really live for

Who can guide you to the Door

Who can help vanish your greed

By feeding your soul’s spiritual need…

And so… you found Him

When He’d never even lost you

If I knew this was my last moment,

Think: What would I do?

I’d pray.

Yes, you’d pray,

Five times a day

To remind yourself

You don’t know you

Closer than your jugular vein

He can see you through

You pray for strength, you pray for bliss

You pray for all your ego’s amiss

Your prayer does not benefit Him

Rather it benefits you

You’re not making Him richer

Rather you’re paying what is due.

Prayer: yes, we get it, it’s cool

But without the right intention, the one praying is a fool

It was first the journey of one man to the Divine

He was brought to His Lord on the seventh, highest sky…

Peace & blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad.

Israa el-Miraj is this journey’s name

Compared to all other commandments, it was not the same

Rather than the message passing first through Gibreel

God raised the Prophet to Him—for real.

Initial command was to pray fifty times a day

But it was clear this was possible in no way

God the Most Merciful cut it down to five

But it shows, from this, the purpose of our life.

Think: Why was the devil disgraced?

Cuz he refused to obediently prostrate

And what about us who ignore the pillar of prayer?

Do we really distinguish ourselves from the devil’s state?

Think: what do you pray for,

If not to free your trapped soul?

Think: Why do you live

If it is not, in thanks, to give?

After all, we take, we consume

We mercilessly oppress our souls

Pretending to be masters of our bodies and minds

Forgetting Allah, God, the All-Merciful.

Prayer, salah, should not

Revolve around our lives

We should revolve ourselves

Around what went from fifty to five.

Think about all He gives you

And think about what you do

Do you ever sincerely, genuinely say thanks

Or of your blessings you no longer keep track?

Think: You sleep for hours on end

Temporarily oblivious of existence, my friend

But your heart keeps beating, you keep up the breathing

You go to new places in your effortless dreams

Your mind transitions to new worlds with incredible ease.

Prayer is not big for no big deal

Prayer is an opportunity to stop and just feel

The world for what it is and get closer to Allah

And if you’re ever lucky, you’ll make your own Israa’ el-miraj…

For every purpose, for every event

For everything in your life relevant

A prayer is in call for

It is the key to the Door

Of His pleasure in this world and the next

Regardless of your current context

He can hear you, He can see you

He can read you like a book

See parts of you you never looked

How wonderful it is

That you found Him

At last you found Him

When He’d never even lost you

Your heart overflows with gratitude

And so what do you do?

You pray.

Yes, you pray,

Five times a day

To remind yourself

You don’t know you

Closer than your jugular vein

He can see you through

You pray for strength, you pray for bliss

You pray for all your ego’s amiss

Your prayer does not benefit Him

Rather it benefits you

You’re not making Him richer

Rather you’re paying what is due.

By: A.S.

March.30, 2012