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Monthly Archives: April 2010

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Packing things, Burning myself!

Alhamdulillah, we’ve found a house, and within the next three or four days, will have moved to Dubai. 🙂

I’m excited, I feel like a country mouse moving to the big city 😛  Also, I burned my right wrist, which makes typing quite a challenge.  So this is my update.  And I will be offline, since my computer will be packed and the internet and phone lines disconnected and all that fun stuff, but I will blog again from the new house once we have internets. 🙂

Ma’Assalam!

Muslimas’Oasis: Autism Awareness interview with Abez

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Click the image to go to the full interview, or read it here.

Take two and call me in the morning

Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Him, once said:

“Faith wears out in the heart of anyone of you just as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your heart.”  [Tabarani]

I think in my case, my faith is a bit more like a pendulum.  It’s always there, Alhamdulillah, but I swing between striving for concentration in my prayers and struggling to not make grocery lists in sajda.  It’s a constant effort to keep my faith on the upswing as well as minimize the back swing.  I find that when I start letting things slip out of laziness- like praying late, praying 1 witr instead of three at night, ignoring Fajr sunnah- then the pendulum starts moving backwards faster, and laziness is replaced with sluggishness, and Astaghfirullah, even a bit of apathy.

I’m being honest, and may Allah forgive me, I’m doing so for the sake of reminding myself.  I know that Allah has said in the Qur’an that sin puts a stain, or a spot of rust upon your heart, but again, in my case, it feels a bit like thin outer coating.    The farther back I let myself swing before intervening, the thicker and thicker the coating becomes, until the prayers on my own lips barely reach my own ears, let alone penetrate my heart.  The gentle reminders bounce off like they’re hitting a forcefield, I become short-tempered with the kids, lose patience with HF, and start slipping into self-destructive habits. I stay up late reading junk on the internet, sleep through Fajr without even having brushed my teeth, wake up late and stagger around groggily while Cindy and Joy- the housekeeper and Khalid’s full-time ABA therapist-  are kind enough to feed the kids breakfast because Momma is too stupid-faced to even pour the cereal.

Then, because I’ve started my day late and tired, I’m cranky and unproductive for the rest of the day.  I’m even less attentive in my salah than usual, and mustering the energy to battle for Ihsan is contingent upon me having the desire to try.  Alhamdulillah, I’ve never been so low that I’ve abandoned prayer, but I have gone for months at a time without waking up for more than one fajr in the whole week.  May Allah forgive me and protect me from ever slipping that far back again, because shaitaan takes advantage of the inevitable self-loathing that follows and volunteers such brilliant suggestions as “You’re a lost cause anyway, why bother trying.”

Yeah, I can get pretty low.  And then, amazingly, something drastic always happens.  December of last year I was so low I even stopped setting the alarm for Fajr, and what happened?  I had a miscarriage.  Then I crashed the car.  Then I gave myself, Khalid, HF, and HF’s family food poisoning, and we were all in and out of the hospital for a very, very miserable two days.

I had reached a point in my life where the spray-on apathy covering my heart had gotten so thick it had solidified, crystallized, and began blocking the light out and the darkness in.  So Allah took my heart and smashed it against the floor.  And then again.  And then again.  I lost a baby, I lost my mobility- both the car and the cartilage under my right knee cap,  I was violently sick with my own salmonella poisoning while also waking up with Khalid to be vomitted on five and six times a night by a crying, terrified, exhausted little boy who had no idea what was going on, and what did I get out of the whole experience?  Something absolutely beautiful.

The covering shattered.

Allah used just enough force, and not an ounce more than I could bear, to break apart the encasement on my heart and leave a battered, tenderized, bleeding, but liberated heart laying there for me to pick up and start over with.  So I did.  And the shards were sharp and I have hurt more this year than I have in my entire life, but I have learned more about maintaining my faith  and keeping my heart soft so that Allah doesn’t have to do it for me.

Is it superstitious of me to believe that if Allah will scourge me if I let my faith slip?  Yes, it would be, except that isn’t what I believe.  I believe that Allah is kind, and He gives us chances to rebuild ourselves by knocking us down.   Every hardship is both a challenge and an opportunity, and when I think of all the times that Qadr has backhanded me, it’s been when I needed a good, swift kick in the apathy.  I believe it’s tough love.  And I’m grateful for it.

And now that I’m done typing the world’s longest introduction, here is my actual post:

I can feel it starting to form- the smoky, glassy, film on the outside of my heart that makes my words harsh and my worship empty.  At one point in my life, I would have kept this to myself, but I recognize now that acknowledging it and fighting it is the only way to keep it from solidifying again.  So I actively seek out ways of softening my heart, and I think, for the first time ever, I understand why there is an entire field of Islamic thought and literature devoted to this- Al-Riqaq- usually translated as heart-melting.  I have been slowly building my own collection of heart softeners, which I turn on, open up, or bring out when I realize I need them.  I want to share two of my favorites, but believe it or not, Youtube hasn’t been working for the last three days, which is why this update has been delayed.

I’m hoping this link works for those of you outside of the UAE, and this one too.

Of course, the best heart softener is the Qur’an, but sometimes you need something short, powerful, and visual to get a good whack at that coating.  And do please share any of your own in the comments.  Allah knows I need them.  JazakAllahuKheiran

Mission X-20: Coming soon to a blog near you

Out of the chub that covers me

Though soft I sit from pole to pole

I thank forever the Lord that Be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the sweet clutch of circumstance

I have not pinched nor snacked around

Under the bludgeoning of chocolate chance,

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of fat and fears

Looms but the horror of the shade

And yet the menace of these years

Finds, and shall find me, unweighed.

It matters not how great the plate

How charged with condiments the roll

I am the Master of my fate

I am the captain of my…stomach.

I first mangled William Henley’s Invictus six years ago, and I was then, as now, trying to lose weight. I wasn’t dieting, but I was exercising and trying to eat according to the Sunnah, which, on a side note, is possibly the only weight loss plan endorsed by God Himself. SubhanAllah. 🙂 Fast forward six years, and I’m not trying to lose weight so much as I am trying to try to lose weight.

To say that I’m trying to lose weight implies that I am actively doing something about my weight. I’m only trying to try, which means I forget I’m supposed to be trying, have a second helping of Thai green curry and then later remember that I wasn’t supposed to be filling my stomach. And then I feel sad, so I have a cookie. I’m not joking. I’m struggling here, and like many other young mothers, the only proof I have of a previous life and waist-size are some pre-marriage abayas lovingly kept and impossible to wear except as righteous-looking wetsuits. With matching sheilas.

And I’m typing this as a much, much needed reminder to myself, because I will be turning 30 in five months, and while there’s no magic to the number, there is the fact that my health as a human being isn’t going to automatically improve or maintain itself. I’m not old, but I’m not getting any younger, and the older I get, the harder it will be to get into shape. Besides, the excuse that you’re only carrying a little post-baby weight only works when you actually have a baby. Iman is no longer a baby, she’s an all-singing, all-dancing, hair-pulling, toe-biting, cookie-stealing two-year old. With whipped cream and a cherry on top.

So it’s time for me to dust off the old resolve, and bolster it with some imperative and structure it with some best practices. Here I go.

I resolve to lose weight, InshaAllah. I have done it before, and with Allah’s Grace I will do it again. I once lost 50 pounds with the same- God’s help, eating according to the Sunnah, and exercise. The exercise wasn’t very intense, and it was secondary to controlling my stomach. So how does one eat according to the Sunnah?

“No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” –The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, recorded by Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa’I, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih.

It took me almost two years to master eating according to the Sunnah, and it was one of the hardest battles I had ever fought against myself. Once I finally did it though, I can testify- it feels amazing. Eating according to the Sunnah does not mean that you go hungry, it means that you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you are satiated, not full. Being satiated means that the need to eat has passed, though the desire may still exist. The need is a function of how empty your stomach is, but the want being a function of how good the food tastes.

The funny thing about eating this way is that in a few hours, you’ll get hungry. Surprise! If you’re eating to satiation, and not fullness, this is natural. So eat again just until you’re satiated, and life goes on. And gradually, your stomach shrinks, you start to feel light and energized, and you can enjoy a meal without having a belly-ache afterwards. The weight begins to fall off by itself- no dieting, no counting calories, no carbs this or protein that. You are consuming enough calories to fuel your body’s basic needs without putting excessive amounts into storage (fat). And you have mastered one of the most overpowering urges that humans can experience- the desire to overeat.

Of course, you do need to exercise common sense- don’t fill a third of your stomach with bon-bons. Don’t drink a third’s worth of grape soda. Eat normal food, drink water, and remember that you are in control of your body. You’re in charge, not the stomach!

When you start losing weight, and passing by mirrors and thinking things like- hey, that doesn’t look half bad! Then you’ll probably want to accelerate the melting process. That’s where moderate exercise comes in. Do something, anything aerobic for fifteen minutes a day. Take a walk around the block. Run up and down your stairs, get on a bike- just do something, anything, to get your blood pumping and your muscles moving.

Weight loss is, simply speaking, a matter of math.
Input vs Output

One pound of human fat contains approximately 3,500 calories. In order to lose one pound a week, you need to decrease your calorie intake by 500 calories a day. And yeah, you could starve yourself briefly, creating miserably sudden weight loss, but there’s a good chance you would cut into muscle mass, mess with your metabolism, and then fall face-first into a gallon of ice cream once you had reached your goal, thus, undoing all your hard work.

Dieting NEVER works, because dieting is a reduction of calorie input that is generally a) drastic, and b) unsustainable, and therefore temporary. Temporary changes in eating habits only yield temporary results, because the underlying problem (consumption of excess calories) has not been addressed. Once you go back to your old habits, you inevitably go back to your old weight.

Eating according to the Sunnah is different, because a) you are never hungry, only satiated and b) it is a permanent shift. It is a change in how you perceive food, eating, and the purpose of your stomach. It’s a fuel tank, not a bean bag.

So here I go. And to keep myself honest, I’m going to blog updates. If X is my starting weight (and no, don’t ask me what X is) then the goal is X-20. I’ll weigh myself tomorrow morning, and I have five months to lose 20 pounds. I was going to say 30, but with my grinding, groaning right knee and a move to Dubai coming up soon, I need to keep my goals reasonable. Make dua for me, ladies. (Brothers are exempt for praying for my weight loss, thank you) I’m going to need it!

The Self-Styling of a Two-Year Old Fashionista

Overalls by OshKosh
Hat by Shan, who let her borrow it
Shoes by Kaycee, who wasn’t wearing them anyway
Bag by Momma, who bought it to keep snacks and diapers in
Fridge by Whirpool

No Mountain too Great, No Milestone too Small :)

For the first time in his life, just this evening, Khalid asked to be taken to the toilet. Alhamdulillah. 🙂

Today’s request of ‘a-wahn toy-lut’ is a huge step in getting Khalid completely out of diapers, InshaAllah. At the moment, he wears one to bed, or when we step out of the house as damage control in case of an accident. Generally he’s really good about holding it and waiting until he’s taken to the bathroom (which we do regularly when we’re out) but he’s never before asked to go on his own. Previously, if he had to go, but no one had offered to take him, we would just have an accident. And because people tend to take offense to their sofas being peed on, we would leave him in the diaper but treat him like he was potty trained.

But hey, my little man asked for the toy-lut! They grow up so fast, MashaAllah. 🙂

Islamic Gems: Manners have limits- Ibn Al Qayyim

Ibn al-Qayyim said:

“…Manners have limits. When these limits are crossed, this is transgression. When they are fallen short of, this is deficiency and disgrace.

Anger has a limit: and it is to be bold while being above having negative and deficient traits, and this is the perfect form of anger. If this limit is exceeded, you become a transgressor. If you fall short of it, you will be a coward and will not be able to raise yourself above negative traits.

Covetousness has a limit: it is to take all you need from this world and what it has to offer you. When you fall short of this limit, it becomes disgrace and wastefulness. When you exceed this limit, you end up wanting what you shouldn’t want.

Envy has a limit: and it is to compete in becoming perfect and to excel such that your rival is unable to excel over you. When this limit is exceeded, you transgress and oppress in which you wish that the good things are taken away from the one you envy and are keen to harm him. When you fall short of this limit, you become low, weak in aspiration, and you belittle yourself. The Prophet (Õáì Çááå Úáíå æ Óáã) said: “There should be no envy except in regards to two things: a man who was granted wealth by Allah and he was able to spend it for the sake of the truth, and a man who was granted wisdom by Allah and he takes it and teaches it to the people.”So, this is an envy of competition, where the envious one pushes himself to be like the one he envies without wishing that he is deprived of the good things that are with him.

Sexual desire has a limit: and it is to relax the heart and mind from the exhaustion of worship, to maintain moral excellence, and to use the fulfillment of these desires to help you in this. When you exceed this limit, you fall into being overly lustful, and you come to resemble animals. When you fall short of this limit and don’t use this time to obtain excellence and virtue, this becomes weakness, inability, and disgrace.

Relaxation has a limit: and it is to collect yourself and your strength to prepare for worship and perfection of the self, and to save this so that you don’t become weak or tired. When you exceed this limit, this becomes laziness and waste, and you end up missing out on so many things that could benefit you. When you fall short of this limit, you end up hurting and weakening your energy, and it might even be cut off from you like a farmer who is unable to land to plow or crops to pick.

Generosity has a limit between two extremes: and whenever this limit is exceeded, this becomes wastefulness and extravagance. When you fall short of this limit, you become cheap and miserly.

Bravery has a limit: and when you cross this limit, you become reckless. When you fall short of this limit, you become a coward. This limit is that you put yourself forth when the time is right to do so and that you hold yourself back when the time is right to do so, just like Mu’awiyah said to ‘Amr bin al-‘As: “I don’t know whether you’re brave or cowardly! You go forth to the point that I say you’re the bravest person, and then you stay back to the point that I say you’re the most cowardly person!” So, he replied:

I am brave if I am guaranteed the chance * If I don’t have the chance, I am a coward…

Protective jealousy has a limit: and if you exceed this limit, you fall into accusation and suspicion of the innocent. If you fall short of this limit, you fall into heedlessness and lack of manhood.

Humility has a limit: and if it is crossed, this becomes humiliation and disgrace. If you fall short of it, you deviate to arrogance and false pride.

Honor has a limit: and if you exceed it, you fall into arrogance and blameworthy traits. If you fall short of it, you deviate to humiliation and disgrace.

The basic principle in all this is to choose the path of moderation between excess and negligence. This is what all of the benefits of this world and the next are built upon. In fact, you can benefit your body in no other way, because when some of your activities are done with lack of moderation and either exceed or fall short of it, your body’s health and energy begins to decline accordingly. Likewise, natural activities such as sleeping, staying awake, eating, drinking, having intercourse, playing sports, spending time alone, spending time with others, etc. – if these are all done moderately between the two blameworthy extremes, this is justice. If you deviate to either extreme, this is a sign of deficiency and will lead to even more deficiency.

This knowledge of proper limits is from the best types of knowledge, especially the limits of what is commanded and prohibited. The most knowledgeable people are those who know the most about these limits, such that they don’t put in them what doesn’t belong and don’t remove from them what does belong. Allah Said: {“The bedouins are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy, and more likely to be ignorant of the limits that Allah has revealed to His Messenger…”} [at-Tawbah; 97]

So, the people who are most just are those who recognize by way of knowledge and action the legislated limits in their manners and deeds, and Allah is the source of success…”

To two and four and many more, InshaAllah. :)

So March has come and gone, which is annually insignificant, except that both of my children were born in March. I haven’t celebrated birthdays for years, but when it comes to my kids, the dates are significant to me in ways that have nothing to do with candles and everything to do with crying.

When I first learned that I was expecting, I have to admit- I had no idea what to expect. The magnitude of the situation was completely below sea-level until Khalid was born and the nurses put a tiny, dark-haired bundle on my chest and told me I had a son. He was bluish, and wrinkly, and the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. And then he was always there- it was my duty to keep him happy, warm, clean, alive, loved, fed, rocked, tickled and adorably dressed. He was a gigapet without an off button who refused to take either a bottle or a pacifier and no one else could watch him for me.

And he grew, and eventually he crawled, and thank God, he even learned how to walk at 13 months, but at night he cried. And he learned how to babble, but he never talked, and he sometimes played, but spent a great deal of time just staring at things. And when he was fourteen months old I learned that I was expecting again, and I cried. It is humbling, and personally very shaming to think of now, but they were not happy tears. They were the tears of mother who felt like an utter failure, an utterly overwhelmed failure with a little boy who lived like a shadow in my own shadow.

By the time Khalid was two, he had gone nearly silent. Hours would pass without him making a single squeak, laugh, babble, or request- verbal or nonverbal. He would spend his day staring out of the window or following me from room to room. It was March, and then Iman was born. We spent weeks in a nocturnal daze, handling the growing confusion of Khalid’s development problems and the confusing emergence of Iman’s colic. Like clockwork, Iman would start crying at one am and stop by six am. For five hours she screamed inconsolably, squirmed, kicked, and arched her back, her body tense and trembling, and paused only for breath no matter how much I rocked, walked, soothed, sang, or bounced her. By six am the screaming would stop, she would feed desperately, and then fall asleep. By that point Khalid would be asleep on the floor by my feet. He would have cried himself to sleep too, because he would have woken up when Iman started crying and sobbed himself to sleep at the foot of the rocking chair where he begged to be picked up (and demanded that the little screaming pink thing be put down) until he gave up and fell asleep on the floor.

(No, I didn’t blog about any of this, I try to maintain a ‘No Pointless Negativity’ policy about blogging, and my G-ma taught me that if I can’t say anything nice, then I shouldn’t say anything at all. I cannot think of ANY SINGLE THING even remotely nice about colic or the creeping fear that your child’s brain is abnormal, which is why you won’t find them in previous blog entries.)

We eventually changed our sleeping habits completely. We woke up at 6 pm and started our day, and Khalid’s bed time was at 7 am, when Iman was done with her screaming and I could bathe him and put him to bed somewhere other than the floor. We saw HF for a few hours, after he came home from work and just before he too went to bed, and he woke up countless times in the middle of the night to give me a break- to walk the beaten path in the living room around the coffee table, to the front door, and past the sofa and back again while rocking Iman in his arms. It was a tough time for everyone. And I did a lot of crying.

Then, we got help. We hired a full-time Nanny, who put Iman to sleep while I put Khalid to sleep, and when Iman woke up in the middle of the night, I would go out and take the night shift while Khalid continued to sleep with HF in our bed. Some semblance of normalcy returned. After six weeks, the crying started to taper off. We started to have two, sometimes even three good nights a week. Eventually the screaming stopped, and Iman only woke up for feedings in the middle of the night with a minimal amount of crying.

By the time Iman was six months old, and Khalid two and six months old, we started to put our finger on exactly what the issue with Khalid could be. We were on our second nanny, because the first one became quickly frazzled by our nocturnal screaming schedule and quit after four weeks. We did our homework, had an initial assessment done, and then a full psychological assessment done, and by October of 2008, we knew for sure that Khalid had autism. His mental age was 13 months.

Khalid began ABA therapy in January of 2009, and he would spend the entire three hours crying. After a few weeks, the screaming would be punctuated with bouts of peace, during which I would quickly rush to the window and peek inside to see Khalid putting coins into a piggy bank, or scribbling, or watching one of his therapists blow bubbles. Eventually, he only cried when it was time to go into his sessions, and it would peter out in about ten minutes, and he would emerge from his sessions happy and covered in finger paint.

And life got better. And Khalid learned one word, and then another. And then he asked for a hug, and while the floodgates have not quite opened, they are cracked enough to let a few dozen meaningful words and a hundred or so prompted words through.

And now, Khalid is four and Iman is two. Khalid is learning how to read, even though he has yet to use a full sentence, and Iman decided yesterday that she is a Nice Cat. She gets down on all fours, crawls over to my feet and calls out Nice! Momma! Nice Cat! And I kneel down and pet her and say Oh, what a Nice Cat! And I scratch her behind the ears, and she giggles, and I pet her head, and she crawls away to do something important, like hit Khalid on the head with a building block. But she’ll be back again in a few minutes, calling out Nice Cat! Cereal?

(And if I ignore her, she bites my foot. So I feed Nice Cat a few pieces of cereal, and Nice Cat says thank you and bye bye and meow.)

Khalid and Iman have moved past enmity to tolerance, and from tolerance to coexistence, and from coexistence to inseparability. SubhanAllah, if I have to run an errand that requires one child and not the other, the two will cry out to each other as if they’re being separated for life. Iman! Iman! Khalid will yell and kick the back of the passenger seat from of him. No No! Ka-leed! Momma! No! Ka-leed! Iman will cry back to him from the gate as we drive through it, and the drama will continue for a few more minutes until Khalid wipes his nose and gets back to pointing out numbers on road signs.

When we get home again Iman will greet him by bursting into the room screaming and giggling and yelling out KA-LEEEEEEEEEED! and the two will reunite and celebrate by doing important things like bouncing on my bed and hitting each other over the head with building blocks. Iman is the non-stop talker, Khalid is the silent partner. They tease each other constantly, fight viciously, and hug and play lovingly when and if they’re not busy competing for toys and attention. It might be hard to imagine how Khalid can do all of these things without talking, but when he wants to tease Iman, he will look at her and smile, and maybe pinch her toe. And Iman will consider that an act of war and take swing at him, and he’ll dodge and run and a mad chase will ensue.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I have it so easy. Thinking back to the downright turmoil that HF and I have been through with the kids, their progress seems unreal. The crying, the colic, the panic that Khalid’s autism put us through- sometimes it seems a million miles away, and those two little babies that the nurses gave me at the hospital, those can’t really be the funny little boy with enormous eyes or my Nice Cat with pigtails. I don’t have babies anymore, I have children, and by the Grace of Allah, this year, they are two and four.

And I don’t need to give them presents for it as if I don’t overstock the toy department all year round, or bake a cake as if cake isn’t happening on a regular basis, but I do have to say Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah. All praise is for Allah, who held me together when I was broken, who kept me on my feet when I was losing my head, and who took some of HF and some of me, and mixed it into the most quirky, energetic, devious, amazing, and inventive little humans I have ever known. And I thank Allah for the colic, and even for the autism, because the fact the He gave it to us means we have the strength to handle it. Without hardship or pain or stress, we would not be forced to become better versions of our previous selves, and we would never be pushed to push through. Allah has made me a better parent and a better person through my children, and I pray that the progress continues for all of us, throughout our lives.

Ameen.