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Category Archives: Islam

Emotional Brickmail #seewhatIdidthere

If I threw a brick through your window could I tell you it was an amanah?

Could I tape a little note to it that says “This brick is a sacred trust and by accepting this brick into your window you are now accountable, in the sight of Allah, for delivering this brick through the window of all your friends?”

brokenwindowRemember, an amanah is serious business, and the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said that Allah has said:

“There are three people whom I shall be their opponent on the Day of Judgment: A man who was given something in My Name and then betrays; A man who sells-off a free man (as a slave) and consumes the price; and A man who hires a labourer, makes use of his service then does not give him his wages.” -Saheeh Al Bukhari

So if I lobbed a brick through your window in the name of Allah, and you betrayed the trust of putting it through all your friends’ windows, would you be making yourself an enemy of Allah?

It seems kind of silly and yet, how often have you seen this message:

A message from our sister; *name varies* from *location*. As Salaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatu Lahie Wa Barakaatoe . I make an oath with you people in front of Allah and I leave this as amanah with you until the day of judgement. If you opened this message and read it that you have to send it to all your contacts. I want you to make dua for me that Allah(SWT) gives me shafa (quick healing). I have stage 4 form of breast cancer and it’s spread to my bone and body now. I ask you in the name of Allah(SWT) don’t close this message before you have sent it to all your contacts because one day you will need dua and an oath (amanah) makes the mountains shake….Forward as Received..

This emotional brick gets tossed through a window on your computer and because it invokes the name of Allah himself, we say Ameen, and maybe even forward it just to be on the safe side.

Here’s the thing though- you can’t throw amanaat at people and run the other way. A person must actually MAKE a promise before they are held accountable for it in the sight of Allah.

Fear of Allah is a good thing. It keeps us honest and in case we are neglected our promises, the thought of standing exposed on Qiyama with nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and the Inescapable Justice of Allah himself filling the horizon is a good thing.

It would be even better if the people who wrote these emails feared Allah too, because the implied threat in the message is that “If you ignore my prayers, Allah will ignore yours too.”

Speaking on Allah’s behalf without His permission is a grave offense.

Making threats on his behalf?

Much, much worse.

Next time someone throws this brick through your window – out of fear of Allah – kindly and gently hand it back to them.  Kindly inform them that they are not held to promises they never made and oaths invoked by people they never met. Mention as well that the mercy of Allah is limitless, and no one has the right to threaten or even imply that if you don’t do what they want you to, Allah won’t do what He promised to.

“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.”

Surah Al Baqarah ayah 186

Tafseriously? Pharoah was a jerk.

Haramalaikum: Bacon -vs- Bullying

Kids Ask: What’s the point of Jummah?

A few minutes before Jummah today, my son came and sat down next to me in a grumpy huff. “Momma, I just don’t understand…”

He furrowed his lil brow angrily and said, “What’s the point of Jummah!”

I told him I had the answer. But first, we needed candy…

Mister Flamey-Cheeks, Abu Lahab

You might know the *what* of Surah Lahab/Masad, but do you know the *why*?

Who was Abu Lahab, and why did he of all people get a Surah? And what’s up with his wife?

Learn this in the most non-scholarly of all explanations, the first of what shall henceforth be known as… Tafseriously? Yeah, tafseriously!

Surah Masad

I Love: False Dilemmas!

If they asked you what you wanted for Christmas and you said “OMG A LOGICAL FALLACY!” then this video is for you!  In which I explain why I love the False Dilemma and how people – and shaitaan too- attempt to trick you with it.

 

Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: “Beware of sins which are treated as being minor, just like a people who encamp in the centre of a valley, so someone brings a stick of firewood and someone else brings a stick until they are, therefore, able to bake their bread. Likewise, sins which are treated as being minor, and for which the person is taken to account, will destroy him.”

[Ahmad]

الوالي Al- Wali, The Protecting Friend

Ya Wali, as we move to a new country with new people, where we will find both new friends new enemies, please be the Protecting Friend of my children.

If my children face bullies, please protect their little hearts and bodies.

If my children face loneliness on the straight path,  let them know that the Lord Himself is with them even if no one else seems to be.

If my children cannot speak for themselves Allah, please do what the best of friends does, and speak on their behalf to protect their rights, dignities, and wellbeing.

Ya Wali, protect them from every form of abuse – physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, and psychological – and turn destructive influences away from them and them away from destructive influences.

When I no longer walk this world with them, and they find themselves without their biggest fan and first friend, Ya Wali- comfort them and replace me in their lives with the companionship of those you love.

Protect my children, my little friends and Yours, with the company of the righteous and those with yaqeen in their hearts. Let your loving friendship protect their innocence, Ya Wali, as you guide them on the smoothest, straightest, most peaceful path back to you.

Ameen, Ameen, Ameen.

 

Al-Wali, from The Virtual Mosque

Al WaliAnd so what does it mean for Allah (swt) to be al-Wali – the Protective Friend? It means that He has your back. He could have just been a ‘friend,’ but some friends are flaky.

He is the true Wali, demonstrating His closeness to you and His protectiveness of you. This beautiful verse encapsulates how Allah (swt) manifests this attribute in our lives:

“Allah is the wali of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light…” (Qur’an, 2:257)

When Nineveh Met Taif: Gems from Ilmfest

NinevehBoxIt was a sad day in Ninevah. The Prophet Yunus, peace be upon him, was leaving.

Angry, frustrated, and unable to continue what felt like a hopeless endeavor, he boarded the first ship out of town, leaving his homeland behind. He had tried and tried and tried– but no matter how hard he argued or how sincerely he reasoned, they were unwilling to see that reason. And he couldn’t see himself staying there anymore, so he left.

The ship left the shore, and as it sailed towards the open sea his homeland grew smaller in the distance. He looked towards its shore and he could see the land, the trees, the sky above the place where he had been born and brought up. He could also see clouds- dark, angry rolling clouds gathering above. A storm was brewing.

He thought the storm would be unleashed on his people, but it turns out that the people of Nineveh did something unusual when they saw the wrath of God coming- they actually repented. And Allah forgave them.

Wow. I know, right? All those other times people saw the wrath of God coming and thought, “Wow, those are some ominous-looking clouds. I bet it’s going to be a lovely drizzle! It’s not like God’s angry at us or anything…” but the people of Nineveh got it right. So that storm never hit them. It hit Prophet Yunus alaihis-salam instead.

Back on the boat, there was chaos. The ocean waves had grown into rolling hills, and the ship scaled their heights before racing down their depths and into the danger of capsizing. People began throwing their belongings over- their life’s possessions, their wares, their financial investments in the future- to save the reality of their present. It wasn’t enough. That’s when they threw Yunus AS over instead.

Man, first his own people rejected him. Now the people on the boat chucked him into the monstrous waves of a Wrath-level storm. It couldn’t get any worse. Or maybe it did, because that’s when an enormous whale swallowed Yunus AS and swam straight to the bottom of the ocean.

Beneath the darkness of the storm lay the darkness of the water. Within the darkness of the water swam the darkness within the whale. And in the darkness of the whale, Yunus AS thought he was dead.

He lay unmoving, unseeing, unsure of what-if anything- was to come. Then, in silence of the darkness he heard a tiny sound. He listened closer and realized he was hearing the pebbles on the ocean floor. They were making tasbih.

That is when Yunus (AS) understood he was still alive. Grateful, ashamed, humbled – he began to turn his body. He squeezed and pushed against the crushing insides of the whale until he was lying on his stomach. Then he strained, he pulled, he fought until his knees were bent beneath him, and pulled his hands around to his face. There, in the belly of the whale, in the darkness within the darkness within the darkness- Yunus AS made sujood.

He prayed.

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

He made this dua over and over again, and he kept repeated it until the whale began to swim upwards, rising from the ocean’s darkness to the shore’s light, where he spat Yunus onto the shore.

Sunlight seared Yunus’s raw, acid-burned skin. He screamed, and then turned that scream into prayer- GAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaathere is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned. There is no God but you Allah, and truly I am from among those who have sinned.

He kept praying until the pain subsided and the skin healed, and to make a long story short- it turns out the people that Yunus AS ran away from were looking for him. They wanted him to teach them the faith that they had earlier rejected. And here is where Nineveh meets Taif.

When the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad ﷺ was ten years into his mission, he was hit with terrible loss. His wife Khadija RA- who had been best friend, his wife, his first believer and his first supporter- died. In the same year, his Uncle Abu Talib- who had been his protector and friend- also died. And not only did he die- he died without accepting Islam or becoming a Muslim.

In this state of grief, Muhammadﷺ had a big problem.

The chiefs of the Quraysh controlled who could live or stay in Makkah, and getting the chief’s stamp was kind of like getting a visa or a greencard. No visa? No residence. Abu Talib had been stamping Muhammad’s SAW proverbial visa to this point, but when he died, his brother stood next in line to head the tribe of Bani Hashim.

You know Abu Talib’s younger brother don’t you? Abdul Uzza- aka- your jolly old uncle Abu Lahab?

Abu Lahab was one of the Prophet’s ﷺ most hateful opponents. Despite being related by blood, he was viciously opposed to his nephew’s mission. His wife put thorns outside the Prophet’sﷺ  door, and Abu Lahab himself dumped camel guts there. Because when cursing, rejecting, and disowning your own family members isn’t enough, the next logical step is guts.

Having lost his wife, his uncle, and his ability to stay in his hometown, the Prophet ﷺ went to Taif to see if the people there would be receptive to the message of Islam.

Contrary to pop-seerah, he didn’t just walk in and then get pelted out with stones on the same day. He was there for two weeks- talking, reasoning, calling people to the beauty of Islam and instead facing the ugliness of rejection.

“What, you? A messenger?” people spat in his direction.

He faced spite, arrogance, and verbal abuse. Finally, he was forced to leave the city, and on his way out, the children of Taif pelted him with stones until he bled all the way into his sandals.

In physical pain and emotional anguish, the Messenger of Allah slumped down against a palm tree outside a home at the outskirts of Taif, and covered in blood- he began to cry.

The owners of the home looked out their window and took pity on him, sending out a servant with a plate of grapes. The Prophet ﷺ accepted the grapes and before eating said, “Bismillah hir-Rahman nir-Raheem.”

Curious, the slave asked Muhammad ﷺ what his name was. Muhammad ﷺ introduced himself and asked the slave what his name was.   The slave’s name was Addas.

The Prophet ﷺ asked where he was from, as Addas was not a local name. Addas said he was from Nineveh.

“Nineveh?” The Prophet remarked, “You are of the people of Yunus.”

“What would you know about Yunus?” Addas challenged, surprised that a bleeding Arab would have anything to say about his Christian homeland.

The Prophet ﷺ said, “Yunus was a prophet, and I am a prophet, and the prophets are brothers.”

And there the story of Yunus intertwined with the story of Muhammad ﷺ, and Addas- a Christian slave- became the only person to embrace both the Prophet ﷺ and Islam in Taif that day.

And Allah is the Best of Planners.

3_54

The Economics of Sex

Forget the naked lollipop schtick and the oversimplification of covered = protected and protected = virtuous.

Hijab is about setting the market value for yourself in an economy driven by sex and how much it’s currently going for.

)

JazakAllahuKheiran :)

I invited myself over to a friend’s house yesterday.  Normally I invite people over to my house instead, but since we’ve been without a housekeeper for the past three weeks, I don’t think any of my friends would appreciate an afternoon in the sty with tea and- well, that’s it.  Tea.  Because I don’t have cookies and there’s nothing made for lunch.

So MayG let me invite myself over.  And she very patiently waited for me to arrive two hours late after I was delayed by urgent work.  She sent me very detailed directions to her house.

(I buckled Musfira into her seat and started driving towards her part of town.  Five minutes into the drive, I noticed some alerts on my phone.)

I needed to go north on this road, take this exit, and then look for that building with the thing on it.  I had a google map point as well, which is fantastically useful.

(I’m in a Whatsapp group called- of course- Brain Surgery News.   It’s a small family group where my sister- who is in Singapore for neurosurgery right now- shares updates about what’s going on.  There were 29 notifications.)

So I started driving and skimmed through the messages when I stopped at a traffic light.

(My sister is allergic to the materials they could have used to fix the aneurysm in her brain.)

 And then I realized I had starting driving towards the wrong city.

(The aneurysm is too wide for the second option, coiling)

So I turned around and headed the other way, but I got stuck in Deira traffic because I hadn’t accounted for the time of day.  But when does Deira NOT have traffic, really.

(The third option is to open up her brain and manually put a titanium clip on the swollen vessel.  Which is behind her left eye.  Which she may lose sight in.)

I worked my way through Deira and got myself going in the right direction.  When I was finally five minutes away from her house, I drove right past the exit.

(But losing sight in one eye is a small price to pay to keep your brain from exploding. So Alhamdulillah.)

I made a U-turn using the next exit, except it wasn’t a U-turn.  It pointed me back in the direction of home again.

(The surgery has been delayed until the doctors are sure they’ve picked the right course of action.  Owl is being tested to see whether her form of EDS- a connective tissue disorder that we both have- is the kind that makes your veins fragile.  That’ll take another week to come in.)

I made another U-turn, and got myself pointed in the right direction to make a second pass at the correct exit.

(They also need to see if she’s allergic to titanium, because again- you can’t install things in someone’s brain that their body is going to have a problem with.)

I nearly missed it again.  I swung my car into the exit ramp at the last possible moment, grateful that traffic was light and there were very little cars on the road.

(They would have to break her skull.)

I finally found the building.  Musfira and I located the entrance, pushed the button for the ‘alligator,’ went upstairs and then rang the bell for MayG’s flat.

Breakfast was lovely.  It was served the moment I arrived- at nearly noon- as all breakfasts should be.  We had eggs and toast and chicken and nutella and juice and tea and cake.  Musfira and her four year old played beautifully together, we chatted about random interesting things, and just as I finished my last piece of toast (this was the one propping all that nutella up) MayG suddenly said, “Hey, you want to paint with me?

(…)

Yeah!

MayG  printed out some Arabic calligraphy using a machine that cut the art into adhesive vinyl.  Then she painstakingly removed the excess vinyl around all… err.. most of the little fathas, dammas, kasras, and other little wiggly bits that go around Arabic script.  Then she transferred them to watercolor paper and handed me a brush.

 (She had asked me if there was anything I wanted to paint in particular.)

To say that I enjoyed the painting wouldn’t even begin to do justice to how I felt.  I felt renewed by the painting.  I felt freed by the painting- even if it was for a little while- from the non-stop worry, fear, pain, and anxiety that had pounding on my brain the entire drive down.  I dipped the brush in water, I touched it gently to a deep, uncomplicated blue.  I dabbed the thick, textured paper and watched the paper soak up varying shades depending on wet the brush was, how long the brush had already been on the paper, and how quickly I moved the brush from one place to another.

It was soothing- not only in the action of painting itself- but in reading and re-reading the words I was painting around.

(On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear. Stroke, stroke, dip.  On no soul. Stroke, stroke.  No burden greater.  Dip, dip- stroke. On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear.)

I painted for Owlie-bird, who is floating in fluorescent white medical limbo somewhere in Singapore.  The course of treatment is unclear, the risks are scary, and the waiting is hard and scary, but InshaAllah, she’ll be fine.  Allah said so.

(If she dies as a Muslim, Alhamdulillah.)

I wish I could get it to her now because I want to frame it and prop it up next to her hospital bed, not because my untrained, unstructured, and uncomplicated blue watercolor is beautiful, but because Allah’s promise is beautiful.

(If she survives and lives as a Muslim, Alhamdulillah.)

I’m pretty sure I thanked MayG three or four times before leaving.  I was hoping to convey just the right sort of thanks- one where you’re insanely grateful but not hoping to show your insanity.  I don’t know if I succeeded.  But I thanked her.

And now, I’m going to thank her again.

MayG, thank you.  Really, very very much.  For tea and cookies and company and calligraphy and paint and green masala chicken and qeema and gajar halwa and poking out all those little sticky vinyl bits with a pin.  And for listening and hearing and giving me emotional sanctuary in your beautiful home for the better part of the afternoon.

On No Soul

Thank you for making me a larger, prettier version of the same calligraphy that I painted for my sister.

Your decorations are awesome, and you are one of the most creative people that I know, MashaAllah.  I left your house feeling calmer, clearer, and less likely to miss my exits because I was crying- which is what I had been doing on the way to your house.  I was also crying while you were printing things out with your magical cutting machine, and I would also like to thank you for either not noticing or not letting on that you had noticed.

“Whosoever relieves from a believer some grief pertaining to this world, Allah will relieve from him some grief pertaining to the Hereafter.”  Hadith Source Here

May Allah bless you and forgive your sins, and return the kindness you showed me thousands of times over with His mercy towards you and your family.

May Allah relieve the distress of Muslims all over the world, wherever they are, whatever their source of distress.

Ya Allah, please bring my sister home safely.

Ameen.

An Najm

AnNajm Poem

 

 Surah An-Najm, The Holy Qur’an 

The only kind of counterstrike I play

One of the ways that Shaitaan tries to bring me down is to get me to use the internet for wandering into distraction versus addressing any cause of my stress, or Shaitaan-Forbid- actually making dua or something.

So I use his own trick against him and use the internet to bring me closer to Allah.  See, I let him think  I’m getting online to waste time, and I even get so far as opening youtube, but right when he’s looking the other way, PEW PEW PEW! I fire a round of this at him!

Life after death before death

LifeAfterpoem

8_24

“O you who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life.

And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered.”

The Qur’an, Surah Al Anfal, line 24

Dua or a Dollar for the Philippines

I have a special relationship with the Philippines- even though I doubt the islands know.  When my son was diagnosed with autism and my husband and I were struggling to meet his monthly therapy needs and begging Allah for help, He gave us a special needs teacher and ABA therapist from there whose passion, energy, and relentless dedication firmly paved the way for the amazing future he’s living now.

When I took a leap of faith and founded an early intervention service for children on the autism spectrum- she was a founding member, and together we hired a team of amazing special needs educators- all of whom were from the Philippines.

We’ve travelled there together many times during the past few years, and there she’s been my tour guide as well as an ambassador for the country and the people she loves.  She’s taken me to the beautiful, historically significant Fort Santiago, as well as the homely, close streets of the poor Muslim neighbourhood of Quiapo, where she stood guard as I prayed in one of Manila’s few large masjids.

She took me through merchant-filled underpasses in Baclaran, an underwater shark tunnel in Ocean City, and the slums in Manila where one man’s trash is literally, another’s treasure- entire families live in dark, jumbled lean-tos made of discarded billboard, banners, cardboard, and desperation.

She carefully- and protectively- showed me the edge of one cabaret and red-light district, where the “Lovely Ms. Lemon” was slated for performance-  her thin, disturbingly young looking body barely dressed and cheaply displayed on a poster outside of the bar.

She’s steered this amazed, insulated, first-world Muslim past the casinos and La Lechon buffets to safety and pleasant surprises at a Mom & Pop halal kitchen in a house in Quiapo.  She’s told me when I should lock the car doors and when I can roll down the window and gawk in amazement.  She’s showed me a side of the Philippines- however limited- that no five-star tourist would be able to see, and what I’ve learned amazes me.

I’ve learned that the pleasant Filipina receptionist with the policy-mandated smile may actually hold a Master’s degree in Business Administration, but will have taken the job to escape the poor economy, poverty, and endless cycle of debt some families live in back home.  She may be living in a shared bedspace, paying half of her salary to rent a single bunk in a room of ten or more, with access to a shared kitchen and a single bathroom where each resident keeps a neatly labeled basket with their own soap, tissues, and toothpaste.

I’ve learned the people leave their children with aunts and grandmothers for years at a time so they can try to cover school fees and housing costs with their meager incomes, working low-level service jobs here in Dubai.

I learned that the Filipino driver who is on call 24 hours a day and hasn’t been home in five years is counting down the days until his daughter gradates from medical school back home.  That the housekeeper with a nursing degree is grateful to have a job that wasn’t a scam for a brothel- and that the ladies who share rooms in Karama live in fear of rape, because the petite, polite, and well-polished Filipinas are common targets for intimidation and sexual exploitation.

I learned that to address a Filipina with respect I use Atay, which is the tagalog equivalent of Baji (big sister) and that Atay’s counterpart is Kooya.  Our friends are maray and paray.  And they make this amazing thing called adobo and it’s beautiful on buttered garlic rice.

Here in the UAE, people from the Philippines fill a majority of jobs in the service industry.  All but two of the employees in my local beauty salon are from the Philippines, and yesterday when I entered for a well-needed foot-scrub, the mood seemed markedly less cheerful than usual.  Instead of being greeted with the usual “Hello Madame,” I was quietly shown to a comfortable chair where Jane- who has been working there for the past five years, was quietly filling a basin with soap and fragrant bath salts.

She wordlessly took my feet and began washing them, and as she worked her hands over my bubble, lavender-scented feet, I couldn’t help but stare.  Her face was… pained.

After a few moments I carefully ventured, “There’s a terrible typhoon in the Philippines right now.”

“Yes ma’am, a superstorm.” She replied flatly, now taking one of my feet in her lap and preparing to pumice it.

“I was getting ready to travel there again, I do hope everything there is alright.”

She scrubbed for a few more moments and then surprised me.

“My parents are very old- 74 and 75.  They stay with my niece, who’s 9.  They’re ok, but the water- it was up to here.”  She lifted up the hand with the pumice stone to her eyes.  “My family is from a western province.  The typhoon is in the south.”

“I’m glad they’re ok.”

Another employee- who went home to deliver a baby just a few months ago, walked through quietly on her way to another part of the salon.   Jane gestured to her subtly.

“Atay is not ok.  Her family is from Samar. She can’t reach them.”

Atay headed back through the pedicure room, her face flat.  I wondered where her baby was.  I bet she was wondering too.

I’ve never had a pedicure that made me cry before.    I think Jane could probably say the same.  She scrubbed away, her eyes welling with tears that she wiped away with the back of her hand before they could spill over.

“It’s hard,” she said quietly. “You save and save small small amounts. And then your house is gone- it’s destroyed.”

PhilippinesTyphoon Haiyan was three times stronger than Hurricane Katrina, and in some areas of the Philippines, people were still living in tents- refugees from last month’s major earthquake.  10,000 people are estimated to have died in one region alone- and as aid agencies are struggling to respond, debris clogs the streets and bodies float in the waterways.

Allah sent Islam as a mercy to mankind, and Muslims are instructed to have mercy- not only for other Muslims, but for all of mankind.

There are an armload of places and worthy causes that need help right now, and trying to put the Philippines in some sort of tragedy competition is not the point.  Shaitaan would like you to believe that you can only help one people (Muslim vs. Non), or one place (Syria vs. Palestine) at a time.  The truth is though, there’s no limit to how many people, how many times, or in how many places you can help.  However much you help, Allah will reward you.  However much Allah rewards you, your sins will be erased and your rank will be raised in the Aakhira.

Whether you help with a dollar or a dua, please help.

Dear Not a Loser…

“Asalaamualaikum please don’t think dat i am belittling your problems but i want to kill myself but i cant as it is prohibited i feel i am accumulating sins day by day isn’t it better for me to die i am not satisfied with my life i don’t want to do engineering but for my parents sake i have to and i am not able to observe completely rules of hijab in the college i wanno cry and shriek dat i cant carry on anymore with this life which i am almost sure will lead me to hell. -Loser”

AssalamuAlaikum Sister, please note that I refuse to call you a Loser. 🙂  Now bear with me as I go off on a bit of a tangent.

Shaitaan is possibly millions of years old and pretty damn sneaky.  His goal, at the end of the day, is to get as many of us into hell with him as possible, and one of the ways that he does this is using the myth of what I call “Muslim Perfection.”

The idea is pretty simple.  Shaitaan says:

Do it all perfectly or just stop, because you’re embarrassing yourself.

A person as horrible as you are has no chance of getting into Jannah.  

In fact, just kill yourself now.  At least it will be over sooner.

Al-imām Sufyaan ath-Thawri (161 H) is known as one of the Eight Ascetics of his age.  He was, rahimahullah, 'aabid – a worshipper. Twenty years of Jihad by night.  No sweetness was experienced by ath-Thawri (rahimahullah) for twenty years? Nevertheless he kept the course with unwavering inspirational sabr.  He struggled in fear, campaigned in love, and toiled in hope of Allāh. http://muslimmatters.org/2010/04/12/jihad-by-night-yahya-ibrahim/

Al-imām Sufyaan ath-Thawri (161 H) struggled for twenty years to enjoy night salah- but he kept it up until he did.  For twenty years.

His message is  straightforward and actually very insidious.  People all over the world actually give up trying to be better Muslims because they fall short of their own expectations for how effortless, euphoric, and impeccable their Islam should be.  Shaitaan wants you to believe that there are naturally religious people, and then there’s everybody else.  And the reason why you are having a hard time is because you aren’t one of the beautiful people.

Some people he tricks, others- like Imam Sufyaan ath-Thawri- saw through this cheap trick and insisted on praying at night for twenty years even though he wasn’t “feeling it.”  

Imagine if, one day- he had just thrown his hands up and said “You know what? I’m not cut out for this, I’ve been praying for twenty years and I’ve yet to find this whole peace and contentment with my salah.  What’s the point.  I’m never going to get it right…”

Shaitaan is trying to convince you that because your Islam is less than perfect, you’re a failure who should give up already. In reality, everyone is a sinner and everyone struggles.  The best people aren’t those who sin, but those whose sins cause them to try even harder and draw even closer to Allah next time.  For some people, major sins can be major set-backs.  For others, they are life-changing events that mark the end of heedlessness and the beginning of seeking Allah’s pleasure.

Every Muslim is a combination of successes and failures when it comes to their religious practice.  So as a sinner, you’re in great company!  Everyone, everywhere, accumulates sin on a daily basis, and if everyone like you just killed themselves, we’d all be dead.  🙂  Join the club sister.  We’re over 6 billion strong!

O My servants, you sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you.  

-Excerpt from Hadith Qudsi, full hadith here.

 Shaitaan wants you to think that the passing grade for this test is 100% and failure is everything else.  But if you believe him, then you’re buying into an insult to Allah.   How? Allah is The Most Merciful, Most Forgiving- Most Loving, Most Gracious, Most Kind- He alone has attained perfection and as The All-Knowing, He knows how and what we’re made of- so by what crazy logic would He mercilessly penalize us for not reaching a standard that He would best know that we could never attain?

Shaitaan might add at this point: well, ok, Allah is the Best.  But you can’t think that your sorry butt will get into Jannah with *that* old sack of a soul.  Have you seen the state of your nafs?  Brother, it is bad.

If you think you’re too bad for Allah to forgive, then you’re grossly underestimating Allah’s capacity for forgiveness.  You’re implying that your capacity to sin is even greater than Allah’s capacity to forgive.  Please, don’t insult God.  They don’t call Him Al-Rahman for nothing.

On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), who said:I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say: Allah the Almighty said:
 
O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind.
O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you.
O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great at it.

Related by at-Tirmidhi (also by Ahmad ibn Hanbal). Its chain of authorities is sound.

Whenever I read that Hadith, it puts a certain picture in my head, and in my primitive photoshop imagination, it looks like this:
Mountain of SinsRepentance for a mountain of sins is equal to a mountain of blessings.  So, the greater the sin you’ve committed, the greater the reward for seeking forgiveness.  Knowing that this is how Allah works helps us appreciate how truly generous Allah is in His forgiveness- instead of seeking forgiveness on a level -10 sin and only being returned to a clean slate with 0, we seek forgiveness on a level -10 and in response are given a +10 in its place.  AllahuAkbar.

So yes, Shaitaan wants you to forget that Allah is the Greatest- even in His capacity to forgive those who sincerely ask it.  He wants you to think that you only have two choices; perfection or failure, and since perfection ain’t gonna happen, what option does Shaitaan leave you? Killing yourself and getting it over with already.  But, there’s a third option that Shaitaan doesn’t want you to forget about it:

Between perfection and failure lies your only real choice:  Fight.

Fight shaitaan’s insistence upon your failure, fight your own soul’s inclination to sin, fight your own weaknesses and no matter how hard you’ve been hit or how long you’ve been laying on the ground- get up and keep fighting.  Fight shaitaan as hard as he’s fighting you, as long as he’s fighting you, and don’t stop fighting him until the Angel of Death draws your soul gently away from your body and into the safety of your grave, spacious and fragrant with the winds of Jannah, where you can finally relax a little, reassured and kept company by your good deeds until Allah raises you on Qiyama.

Just because your heart is aching right now, and you’re locked in the seemingly endless cycle of sin, regret, and self-reproach doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause.  It’s actually good news, and here’s why.  The human heart (or soul, or nafs) has three settings according to the Qur’an.

The Default Setting: Nafs al-Amarra bis Su’

The lowest level is the Nafs al-Amarra bis Su’ or the soul that is inclined to evil, and a majority of humankind lives in this guiltless, no-regrets, live for the moment mode. This seems to be the default setting for the modern nafs as well as most pop music.

And I do not free myself from blame. Indeed the human self is inclined to evil, except when my Lord bestows His Mercy (upon whom He wills). Indeed my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Surah Yusuf: 53)

Knowing that it’s possible to have varying levels of soundness to your heart/nafs- Muslims don’t rely on the soundness of their heart to provide a compass to morality.  It is not your heart’s job to point you towards what’s right, it only points you towards what it wants.  So in a sense, you don’t follow your heart as much as your heart follows you.

Have you seen the one who takes as god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him? Surah Al Furqan: 43

The Medium Setting: Nafs al-Lawwama

“I do call to witness the Resurrection Day. And I do call to witness the self-reproaching Soul.” Surah Al-Qiyamah: 1-2

This is a soul that battles with its desires, that commits sin and then reproaches itself and tries harder next time.  It has awareness of its shortcomings, but despite its imperfections, it hasn’t given up. Your guilt and self-reproach about the shortcomings in your Islamic practice are evidence of having made progress on your spiritual journey.  The bad news is though, is that Shaitaan is trying to knock you down a notch so that instead of trying harder, you just stop trying altogether- whether because you’ve killed yourself, or because you’ve decided that you’re a hypocrite and you’ve written off as  Muslim.

Alhamdulillah though, Allah has good news for the Reproaching Soul.

“And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous- Who spend [in the cause of Allah ] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good; And those who, when they commit an immorality or wrong themselves [by transgression], remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah ? – and [who] do not persist in what they have done while they know.” Qur’an 3:133-135

The very fact that you are aware of your shortcomings, even pained by them- is reassuring proof that you have a Nafs al-Lawwama.  If you didn’t care, didn’t want to care, and didn’t even want to hear about why you should try to give a care- well, that would be worse.  Sure, you’d probably be happier and more “at peace with your self,” as many modern proponents of self-worship would say, but you’d actually be wallowing in heedlessness.

The Highest setting: Nafs al-Mutma’inna

“O you satisfied soul. Return to your Lord pleased with yourself and pleasing to Him. Enter among My servants. And enter My paradise.” (Surah Al-Fajr: 27-30)

You might not be here yet, but that’s ok.  You can still strive to accomplish this.  The Contented Soul, or the Satisfied Soul, is the highest setting for your heart.  It is a place of happiness, peace, acceptance, and sweetness of faith.  It takes hard work to get there, and Allah has good tidings for the Contented Soul but get this- not even the Contented Soul is a perfect soul.  It’s just a very happy one, and very close to Allah.

So, in a nutshell:

  1. No one is perfect except Allah
  2. You’re not the only one accumulating sin every day that you’re alive
  3. The difference between a good Muslim and a bad Muslim is not that one sins and one doesn’t- it’s that one seeks forgiveness & tries harder, and one doesn’t.
  4. Shaitaan’s the one trying to trick you into thinking you’re a failure
  5. Believing him is the only way to lose
  6. Fighting him is the only way to win

There’s one more thing that we need to remind you of:

On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear.  

No SoulThat means that this situation- where you’re stuck in a major you don’t like, being prevented from doing hijab, and being teased by Shaitaan that nothing you do will ever be good enough to get you into Jannah- you can overcome this.  You can succeed.  You can find a way- either out or through- that is pleasing to Allah and perhaps even terribly frustrating to Shaitaan.

There is nothing coming that you can’t handle, not because you’re great, but because Allah is the Greatest.  He knows what you’re capable of, and He promised your challenges would never exceed your strengths.  Allah sets us up for growth, not failure. And Allah never, ever breaks His promises.

Shaitaan, on the other hand, has been lying to you.  He’s saying that anyone who’s struggling with deen shouldn’t even bother to try, whereas Allah gives double the normal reward to those who have difficulty reading Qu’ran.  The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said “The magnitude of the reward goes along with the magnitude of the affliction.” (Tirmidhi)

The more you’re afflicted now- whether it be with stress, illness, financial difficulties, emotional turmoil- the more you will be rewarded, and the fact that you’re struggling right now isn’t a sign that you should just give up and kill yourself, it’s an invitation from Allah to come closer to Him.

May Allah make it easy for you to recognise and spiritually drop-kick the suggestions of Shaitaan, even when they come disguised in the form of avoiding hell.  May Allah make His religion easy for you, and increase you in faith, and surround you with people who lift you up and help you draw nearer to Allah is this world and the next.  Ameen.

By the steeds, choo choo!

Autism has its pros and cons- and boy does it ever have its cons- but SubhanAllah, it really has its pros. Khalid doesn’t just like dinosaurs, he likes reading about them, and he doesn’t just read stories, he reads encyclopedias.  And he’s not just reading encyclopedias, he is memorizing them- word for word, page by page, and he’s on his fourth dinosaur encyclopedia now.

camarasaurus

Roar.

If you ask him about the Camarasaurus, he won’t just tell you it had four legs and went roar.  It was a four legged herbivore with a bony crest on its head, and it was between 15 and 23 meters long.  It had hollow vertebrae and was one of the larger sauropods.

And it went roar.

And here’s a picture.

And it was also known as the morosaurus.

So when Khalid starts getting interested in something, he doesn’t just dip his feet into the water, he dives in-head first, and forgets that there are any other things in the world that could ever be as interesting.  When he was into maps, he would wake up in the morning and read the Dubai Street Atlas.  He would carry it to and from school, and often kept mini-maps in his backpack.  To this day, he can still give me road directions off the top of his head, and will often point out when I’m taking a wrong exit. MashaAllah, he doesn’t need a GPS.  He is a GPS.

He is also a walking dinosaur encyclopedia, and now, InshaAllah, I hope he’ll become a walking Qur’an. Khalid immersed himself in the waters of Qur’an on the iPhone shortly after trains, and slightly before dinosaurs. He memorized a good half of Juz ‘Amma on his own and without us really knowing.  We didn’t realize how many surahs he knew until we heard him driving trains up and down the hallway and reciting to himself, “Wal ‘adiyati dhub-haa! Fal moori’yaati qad-haa, Fal mughiraati sub-haa!”

Even now he surprises us- the other day I was in the kitchen cooking and randomly reciting Qur’an, and when I paused to make a distinction between the black pepper and the coriander powder in my hands- he called out the next verse for me while passing up the hall.  It was in Surah An-Nabaa, which he already knew, MashaAllah, MashaAllah, MashaAllah.

And now, Alhamdulillah- with me sitting halfway across the world in Chicago and HF managing all three kids with the help of his parents, Khalid and Iman have started Qur’an class, and I am tremendously excited about what will be coming next.  Of course, Alhamdulillah, I’m excited for Iman too- she’s a bright little star and she can carry a tune and stay on pitch like nobody’s business.  But it’s Khalid- my little memorization machine, that I’m especially excited about.  I could actually, really, InshaAllah, possibly even maybe become the mother of a haafiz.   

It was narrated from Ali ibn Abu Talib (May Allah Be Pleased With Him) that the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) said : “If anyone recites the Qur’an, learns it by heart, declares what is lawful in it to be lawful and what is unlawful in it to be unlawful, Allah will bring him into Paradise and make him the intercessor for ten of his family all of whom have deserved Hell.” [Al-Tirmidhi 653]

I know we’re still a long way off from memorizing the entire Qur’an, but I’m excited. For Khalid, this could be an amazing use of his autism pros (laser-like focus, amazing memorization) and for me, this could be the next cool goal in my legacy project. Did I forget to capitalize that? My Legacy. There. If Khalid memorizes the Qur’an and keeps the halal halal and the haram haram, he can give his lil ole momma a leg up into Jannah, InshaAllah.

So duas would be nice, but don’t limit them to Khalid only. Include Iman in them too, because the only thing better than one righteous hafiz is two. 😉

Hifz Class

Wings

WingsAbezPoem

More Sweetness- Tweet Tweet!

Sajid Umar

Shaykh Sajid Umar

I just finished six hours of class- possibly the best class I’ve ever taken- called The Unfolding Dream with Shaykh Sajid Umar.  It would not be correct to say it is the Tafseer of Surah Yusuf- because Tafseer only scratches the surface. Six hours… and we’ve covered thirteen ayas. I came to class with five hours of sleep and wasn’t in danger of falling asleep at any point. I have had such an amazing, spiritually refreshing, and emotionally satisfying day that I cannot remember for the life of me why I only attend classes like this once a year.

I tell myself it’s because I work and have three children, but the truth is that my heart gets complacent and makes excuses to not be challenged, polished, or re-stoked when the spiritual hearth grows cold. It’s not life’s fault I stay away from classes, it’s mine.

Shaykh Sajid Umar is a very funny, very interesting, and very smiley Imam from Zimbabwe who’s managing to keep people awake, engaged, and enthused about things they never knew they could be enthused about.  I learned the difference between Makki and Madani surahs today, and I realized most of my favorites are Makki, and I figured out why.  Alhamdulillah.

I’ve been live-tweeting the class all day, so if you’re interested in some of the gems, follow me on twitter @zebasez.  If you’re in Dubai and have even half a chance of making it to Day 2 at the Islah Center at 9 am tomorrow- try.  It’s well worth the effort.

May Allah reward the people at the Kalemah Center and Shaykh Sajid Umar for making this happen, and of course- all praise if for Allah who blesses us with the sweetness of Iman and knowledge when we seek it. 🙂

Countdown to Catastrophe!

If you hate Barney (you know you do) and you wish there were intelligent, adorable, totally halal, and well-written cartoons for children that also happened to be ISLAMIC!!! (talk about unrealistic expectations, hunh?) then I have bad news for you:

There are only five days left for the Misri Bunch kickstarter campaign to find Season 2 of their Names of Allah series.

Misri BunchThe Misri bunch is:

  • a sweet balance of cute & entertaining
  • not an insult to your child’s intelligence
  • the simple presentation of complex concepts that children learn and remember easily

If your kids haven’t seen this, they’re missing out.

And if season 2 doesn’t happen, we’re all missing out.

All of season1 is on You Tube, and well worth the watch. Season 2 needs funding for development, so please, please, PLEASE donate to their kickstarter and give a gift to all Muslim kids with internet access.  Maybe even yours.

JazakAllahuKheiran 🙂


Insha’Allah

InshaAllahpoem

Irony

So HF was in a fender-bender today.  He was stopped at a signal and someone ran into the back of his car hard enough to crash his into the next stopped car.  Alhamdulillah, he’s alright and as he cheerfully mentioned: the car needed new bumpers anyway.  It’s still a little unsettling to me though, that even though I’m the one all dramatically falling to bits and spending lots of my time contemplating death, that there’s no real warning for any of us.  I could live with myopathy until I’m 93.  Or HF could die healthy on his way to work tomorrow.  It’s all in Allah’s hands.  SubhanAllah.

Hey, good news for a change!

Alhamdulillah!!!  I’m going to be publishing my first book!

Given the last ten or so years of my blogging history, you’ll be surprised to hear it isn’t actually full of mortal wounds, kids stories, and personal reflections.  It’s actually a children’s book, and I’m very excited.

The reason why I’m so excited is that the story is part of My Legacy. Yes, I’ve made it a proper noun for emphasis.  For more information, see the new My Legacy tab on the top of the page.  The way I see it, if I am not around to have important conversations with my children later, that doesn’t mean that I can’t script them now.  So I’ve started writing stories for children, specifically, mine. And yours might enjoy them too.

I want to have at least one published story for Khalid, Iman, and Musfira.  Iman’s has been accepted.  Khalid’s was rejected, but the very kind publishers said they’d give it another look-over to see if reviewing it one more time will make it seaworthy.  Musfira’s has been imagined but not yet completed, but hey, well begun is half done!

I’ve asked the publisher if they can actually illustrate the books to look like my kids, because if I’m not there, I want the kids to be able to see themselves still talking to me.  I know, it’s kind of sappy- maybe even melodramatic, but when I think about passing away, the thing that tears at my heart most is not being away from my husband (sorry HF), it’s actually the thought of my children looking for their mother and not being able to find her.  Of Iman seeking a cuddle and finding my empty room.  Of Musfira crying for me and being hurt and confused why I’m not coming for her.  Of Khalid panicking because I’ve disappeared and he can’t understand where I’ve gone.

If you think that’s bad (gee, look who’s crying again) the absolutely, positively worst thing I can think of is my children finding out that I’ve “gone back to Allah,” and then resenting Allah for having stolen their mother.  My worst case scenario is my death pushing my children away from Islam, because as sad as I am to face leaving them in this life, that’s still nothing compared to the thought of any of my children turning away from Allah.  So the stories serve a dual purpose, InshaAllah- of creating memories for my children in case I’m not there to make them, and of teaching my children about Allah in a way that reminds them of me positively (happy stories) versus negative (Allah took momma away).

But, back to being cheerful- Alhamdulillah!  My first story has been accepted and I’m very excited.  I’m fairly sure that if I hadn’t been Not-Dying-Yet, I wouldn’t have had the urgency to overcome my fear of submitting anything to a publisher.  I would be too scared of being rejected to even try.  But I did it, and they said yes.  And now I’m going to do a little happy dance.

I’ll let you know when it’s published, InshaAllah.  In the mean time, check out Greenbird Books, they have lots of really adorable Islamic stories for kids.  And soon, InshaAllah, they’ll have mine too. 🙂

Hello my name is: Not Dying-Yet.

So the funny thing about having unspecified myopathy is that no one says I’m dying, but no one says I’m not either.  Yes, the muscles in my body are atrophying, and yes you need muscles to do things like pump blood and breathe, but because I haven’t developed any serious heart or lung complications yet, we’ll stay on the safe side and just say I’m getting weak-er, but not necessarily dead-er.  Let us call it: not-dying-yet

It can be awkward sometimes, this whole not-dying-yet thing, especially when meeting new people.  I feel like I need to somehow warn them before they emotionally invest enough for this to sadden them. Otherwise this is what happens:

Me: Hello new friend, my name is Abez, and I love you!

New Friend: I love you too! Let’s hang out tomorrow, and next year too!

Me: Sorry, but I’m sort of dying but not really dying because my muscles are dying but my heart and my lungs aren’t yet dying but there’s no guarantee that they won’t at any time so I guess you could say that I’m not dying yet, though I could be but really aren’t we all?

(awkward silence) (pity) (shock) 

Versus:

Me: Hello new friend, my name is Abez and the muscles in my body are dying!

New Friend: Sorry to hear that but pleased to meet you, Abez!

*firm handshakes for all*

I have a good friend (I’m not sure if she has the time to read my blog anymore) who I’ve known for around six years now. When I casually told her I had been diagnosed with myopathy and that there wasn’t much that could be done, she was upset. And later she called me and apologized.  I asked her what she was apologizing for. She said she felt stupid- I was the one who was sick, but she was the one needing to be reassured that everything was going to be ok.

I didn’t think that she needed to apologize at all, because I’ve known for over a year that I’ve had myopathy, and even longer that something wasn’t right with the way my body was working.  I’ve had almost ten years to get my head around being sick, but she got ambushed with incurable, progressive, muscle atrophy one lazy afternoon after tea and cookies.  I should have prepared her better, but I’m not sure how.  A catchy song perhaps?

Hey, I just met you,

And this is crazy!

My arms are dying,

So hold my baby!

Sometimes I’m tempted to tell random strangers I have myopathy.  When I use my disabled parking permit, sometimes people glare at me.  I look fine- slow, but fine.  One lady in the hospital parking lot tried to stare me down last week.  I was in a hurry and didn’t want to confront her in front of Iman, so I avoided eye contact and just moved forward.  But I really do want to tell people who stare that the reason my housekeeper is carrying my toddler is not because I don’t care or don’t love her, it’s because carrying her can make my arms hurt for hours, or I could lose my balance and fall, hurting us both.

The reason why I don’t pop up like a piece of socialite toast and help the hostess in the kitchen at dinners (like I conscientiously used to) is because my body hurts, my legs are weak, and all your guest-size platters of food are too heavy.  The reason why my husband changes diapers and takes kids to the bathroom even at a guest’s house is not because he’s whipped, it’s because he’s an amazing, hands-on, loving father who’s doing his best to keep my pain level to a minimum.

Someone who loves me sent a muscle biopsy to the Mayo Clinic and got me this myopathy shirt!

Well, I guess they do now.  Someone get this on Amazon, Momma needs a new mobility scooter! With racing stripes!

And it is a pain.  It’s a deep down ache, starting from your bones and spreading uniformly throughout your flabby, shaky muscle.  It doesn’t come in waves, it floods and peaks and stagnates for hours, and sometimes all you can do is sleep it off or sit it out.  It makes it hard to be patient, hard to speak gently, and hard to suffer the inconsiderate acts of very considerate people who don’t actually know how much you’re hurting because you haven’t told them your limbs are dying.  Because how are you suppose do even do that when you’ve only just met them? It’s not like they make a t-shirt for that.

So yeah.  It’s weird, dying. But not yet.  Technically we’re all dying, the only difference is that some of us get pop-up reminders about our appointment with God.  I kinda like this new system- my legs hurt, so I make dua.  My arms hurt while making dua, and it makes me make more dua.  I’m praying more, stressing less, budgeting my energy and prioritizing my life.

I once had too many things on my plate, but I’m passing some of those things off to other people and I hope, InshaAllah, that I can leave nothing on it but my family, my children, my faith, and my health.  Also, my crazy attempts to cram as much legacy-building for the shameless pursuit of sadqa-jaariya before I meet Allah.

That’s another funny thing about having unspecified myopathy- I don’t know if I have the time to be subtle about what I’m looking for, so I will put it bluntly:  Read this poem I wrote way back in 2004 after being told (mistakenly) that my pain was Trigeminal Neuralgia. If this blog or this poem makes you grateful to Allah, or strengthens your resolve in current difficulties, or even makes you say a single MashaAllah (for the sake of saying it) I’ve earned a few more blessings.  And I need me some blessings.  So start reading, cuz momma needs a new castle in Jannah.

With racing stripes.

By Abez, The End.

There
There is a nagging gnawing on the inside of my self 
It’s the feeling of my body giving up before its time. 
In the quiet twilight hours between one prayer and another 
Once I prayed for health 
Now I pray for peace. 

There is a writhing moaning in the deepness of my heart 
It’s the devil down within me that wants me to complain. 
But I have built a fortress with the patience of my faith 
And I will shelter there 
However harsh the pain. 

There is a desperate longing in the reach of my embrace 
For life and love and happiness and gentle many years 
But I shall fold my arms around the comfort of my prayer 
And I may often cry 
But never bitter tears. 

(2004)

 

Planning a Fail-Proof Iftar with ABA!

In case I haven’t mentioned this before, I love ABA.  Seriously.  I’m not referring to  table-top flashcard activities, I’m referring to the analysis of behaviour hence- Applied Behavior Analysis.

ramadan-kareemAs part of behaviour analysis, behaviours are broken down into chains of A,B,C- Antecedent, Behaviour, and Consequence.  Basically, the antecedent is what precedes a behaviour, the behaviour is the err… behavior, and the consequence is what follows.  What does this have to do with Ramadan? Well, here’s a Ramadan case study for your analysis.

Subject X has been fasting all day.  As Maghrib approaches, he/she sits down in front of a heavily laden iftar table with a beautiful, aromatic variety of foods and proceeds to drool at them until the azhan is called.  Once the first “Allahu Akbar” wafts melodiously through the window, Subject X proceeds to over-eat.  Unsurprisingly, Subject X is you.

The scenario varies from one fast to another, but the outcome remains the same: you reach over-fullness in record time, going from light and spiritually connected to engorged and close to reflux if you go into sajda too fast. The consequences of your behaviour are weight gain, self-loathing, disappointment, and regret.

You’re dismayed about the weight gain, so you google things like “Losing Weight in Ramadan.”  You find information about clear soups, fruit smoothies, insulin spikes, and lots of information finding fault with your food.  Turn’s out though, it’s not your food’s fault.  It’s your behaviour about food’s fault.

Every day you tell yourself that tomorrow will be different, but every tomorrow you make the same mistakes because guess what- you haven’t had a chance to analyse your behaviour and try to figure out how you can make changes to the repeating cycle of behaviour.  To the ABA!

First, we’re going to define the behaviour.  The behaviour (B) in this scenario is overeating; ie- consuming too many calories- whether through food quantity or caloric density, than your body requires.

Next, we need to identify the  antecedent, or even antecedents, plural. A single behaviour can have multiple antecedents. Different things can lead you to the same outcome- in this case, eating too much.  There’s more than one antecedent to the behaviour of overeating at Iftar, and sometimes at an Iftar party, a half dozen of them can be applicable at the same time.

  • At-Home Buffet: Someone’s been slaving over the pot all day, and the result is sixteen different things to taste, and curiosity dictates that you have some of every single dish.
  • You’re a Texan at Heart: Your portion sizes are more suitable for hard-working farmhand than a desk-jockey. And we all know you’re a desk jockey.
  • You Go to the Source:You eat directly from the serving dish, ie- pakoras or samosas eaten directly from a tray so there’s no portion awareness, let alone portion control.
  • You’ve given yourself Carte Blanche: You figure that since you’re fasting you can eat whatever you want, even if it’s deep fried, chocolate dipped, and encrusted with flaming hot cheetos.
  • Instant Gratification: Following how long you’ve been delaying the gratification of food all day, you make up for your good behaviour by making up for lost time and eating iftar plus a full meal once the azhan is called.

Overeating as a behaviour (B) are preceded by an antedent (A), and modifying the antecedent (A) is a good way of preventing the behaviour (B), and therefore avoiding the consequence (C) of bloating and regret.

If you’ve ever heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then you  understand the strength of antecedent modification when it comes to changing behaviours.   How does antecedent modifications differ from behavior modification? Behavior modification relies on simply stopping yourself from committing a behaviour, or having someone else stop you.  If you haven’t been able to stop yourself so far, and the people you eat with are just as bad as you are, then good luck relying on that.

So,  let’s go back to our listed antecedents and see how we can modify each scenario to reduce the chances of you overeating.

  • At-Home Buffet: If you have a tendency to overeat out of curiosity at home due to the buffet effect, then modify your antecedent by reducing the  number of foods that you put in front of yourself at Iftar.  Have one thing for iftar, and one thing for dinner.  If you’re hungry before bed, have fruit.
  • Texan:  If your eyes are bigger than your stomach and your plate is even bigger than your eyes, then change your plate.  Downsize your plate or bowl and allow yourself only one refill. That way your portion is controlled by your plate size even if you’re not able to control it through willpower.
  • Eating from the Source:  In the same way we can reach the bottom of a bag of chips without knowing how we even got there, it is possible to be eating samosas and suddenly notice there’s nothing left but a greasy paper towel.  Serve yourself a respectable amount of food and leave the rest in the kitchen. Better yet, put the food back into the refrigerator once you’ve filled your plate. When your plate is empty go pray.  Go directly to pray. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
  • Carte Blanche:  Correcting a carte blanche mentality is a simple matter of math.  A single pound of human fat has 3500 calories in it.   A single slice of cheesecake can have around 1,000.  Just because you haven’t eaten anything since Fajr doesn’t mean that the calories you eat don’t count after Maghrib.   Your body doesn’t care what time it is, food is food and too much makes fat.   Modifying the antecedent of a carte blanche mentality means correcting the misinformation that justifies bad eating habits. Learn more about the calories and nutritional content of your food options to help deter you from making the spectacularly bad food choices that one can really only make while fasting.
  • Instant Gratification:  In our rush to compensate for 15 hours of hunger, we eat way too fast, and unless we’ve served ourselves in the kitchen first- we eat faster than our stomachs can think.  It takes around 20 minutes to register that you’ve eaten enough, so slow down and pace yourself.  One way to do this is to break your fast with a glass of water and a handful of dates ONLY- and then go pray Maghrib.  It may only take you five to seven minutes, but it will be more than enough to tame the wild-eyed beast.

Now, if we were to combine all the antecedent modifications to Iftar, a nearly Fail-Proof Iftar could be constructed as such:

Five minutes before Iftar, you take two noticeably smaller plates and head to your kitchen.  On one plate, you put a few dates- maybe a fig and a cracker.  On the other plate, you put a regular size serving of dinner.  You take the dates to the table and leave the dinner in the microwave.

As you’re waiting for the azhan, you focus on dua (and not the food, since all the food is in another room anyway).  Once the azhan is called, you drink a glass of nice cold water, you savour your dates (and fig and cracker) and then you LEAVE THE TABLE.

You do wudu or rinse your mouth.  You pray maghrib.  You make dua.  Then, you come back to the kitchen and microwave your single, normal-sized portion of dinner.  You bring it back to the table and eat.  Then you leave the table again, ideally taking your dishes with you.  The end.

It’s seems almost insultingly simple, but the jist of the matter is that you can’t overeat if you’re not given the opportunity to, and preventing yourself from the opportunity can be the next best thing ig you haven’t been able to overcome the behavior.

Yes, there will be times when you eat out at other peoples’ houses and there will probably be way too much food- but every time you manage to control your stomach at home, you build more control and more discipline.  If you reach a point where you become unaccustomed to overeating at home, there’s a good chance it won’t be such an easy backslide when you’re out, InshaAllah.

So that’s it.  As long as you stick to the system or portion control, single serving, and healthy choices made AWAY from the serving dish, there’s really no way you can mess up as long as you don’t sneak into the refrigerator later.

May Allah give us all the strength- not to lose weight- but to gain discipline over ourselves in Ramadan that begins with the stomach and continues to the other parts of our bodies that need it too.  Ameen.

 

Sometimes.

Sometimes, when my arms feel especially weak and the bread for dinner seems especially chewy, I feel kind of deflated and end up googling for things like “myopathy experts,” and “where to find help for myopathy.”

Due to things like location and financial constraints, nothing seems useful.  And then I get sad.  Just once, I wish Google’s top result would show “Allah,” because then I would remember that I don’t have to feel sad.  Even though sometimes I want to.

Hasbun Allahu Wa Ni’mal Wakeel

This made me feel better today

The Prophet ﷺ was asked, “O Messenger of Allāh, which of the people are the most sorely tested?” He said:

“The Prophets, then those similar, then those similar. A man will be tested in accordance with his level of faith. If his faith is strong, he will be tested more severely, and if his faith is weak, he will be tested in accordance with his faith. Calamity will keep befalling a person until he walks on the earth with no sin on him.”

 

(Tirmidhi)

Take THAT racial inferiority complex, HA!

A few days ago, Iman was sitting at the dining table next to me coloring when she put down her crayons and pouted.

“Momma, which crayon is my skin? It’s not this one,” she said, holding up the Caucasian “skin-tone” crayon.

“And it’s not this one,” she said, holding up the brown crayon. “Which crayon is my skin?”

I leaned over and started poking around in the plastic tupperware that holds Iman’s treasure trove of crayons.

“Hmm, I don’t see any crayons in here that are the same color as you dear. Sorry sweetheart, we don’t have any caramel colored crayons.”

“Caramel?” Iman said, still pouting.

“Caramel is a beautiful warm golden color. Caramel is a kind of candy.”

Iman’s eyes practically popped. “I’m the color of… candy?”

“Yes dear, but we don’t have any crayons that color. Sorry. Looks like we need to buy you more crayons.”

Later that day, HF came home and Iman ran excitedly to him. “Baba baba!” she said, jumping up and down, “Did you know, I’m caramel colored??”

“Are you?” HF said, looking to me suspiciously.

(HF, I’ve decided, is dulche de leche.)

“Yes!” Iman squealed, “It’s a kind of a candy!”

Icecream“Well then,” HF said, picking her up and hugging her, “I guess that makes you my Caramel Princess.”

That was last week, and since then, we’ve changed the yardstick of skintone from lightness to ice cream.  Chacha is milk chocolate. I’m butter pecan.  Musfira is toasted coconut.

Because all skin colors are good skin colors, the same way that all ice cream is good ice cream.

So, what flavor are you? :p

 

The Gardener’s Submission

The Gardeners Submission

Because caterpillars turn into butterflies

Genghis-Khan---Mongul-war-007

Genghis Khan- conquered Asia and left his eyebrows behind.

My father very proudly says that we are direct descendent of Genghis Khan.  I believe him, and require no other proof than the eyebrows I inherited from my ferocious genealogy.  Regardless of whether I have Genghis Khan’s eyebrows, I definitely have my father’s eyebrows, and while they look perfect on a cuddly, hairy, white-bearded man, they’re a bit out of place on his daughter.

When I was 14, my mother sat me down- unprompted- and did perhaps what blonde ladies do tidy up their eyebrows- she shaved off the top half of them and told me to keep it up.  Being a non-blonde though, my Genghisesque eyebrows started growing back in right away, and I consider myself blessed to have very little photographic evidence of that awkward, stubbly phase.

Noor Jehan is a classic example of classic Pakistani eyebrows.

Noor Jehan is a classic example of classic “bow & arrow” eyebrows.

Later that same year, my sister and I went to spend the summer with our cousins in Pakistan, and being non-blonde descendants of Genghis Khan and his many savvy wives, they said: “What the heck have you done to your eyebrows!?” They staged a proper intervention, and a wise elder cousin immediately sat me down and threaded my eyebrows into the Pakistani equivalent of the bow that was meant to shoot the arrow of my glance straight into a young man’s heart.  That was my introduction to threading.

It was years before I learned that reshaping your eyebrows is not permissible in Islam, but by then, two things had already happened:

  1. I had forgotten what my real eyebrows actually looked like.
  2. I had grown to believe that my real eyebrows were hideous and that growing them out would cover the top half of my face.

It has taken me almost fifteen years to finally stop reshaping my eyebrows, and for the first time in my adult life, I now know what my real eyebrows look like, because I actually have them. I no longer have “eyebrows,” I have Mybrows.

It was hard at first to stop shaping them- they grew in seemingly random places and kept straying further and further from the invisible boundaries that I had assigned to them.  I would look at myself in the mirror and sigh- and during those months of transition, it was very difficult for me to stick with it.  My one source of encouragement- believe it or not- was my husband, and he had no idea what an emotional ordeal I was even undertaking.

He walked past me one day and casually said; “Hey, have you done something to your eyebrows?”

“What? Me?” I squeaked, my conscience guilty for wishing that it had, “I’m letting them grow in.”

“Oh,” he said approvingly.  “They look really nice.”

I was dumbstruck.  It was another few weeks before my husband noticed the next boundary grown over, and this time he said, “I like your eyebrows this way.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, “Don’t you remember what they looked like when we were married?”

“I do,” he said. “I thought they looked…fake.”

I glared at him, completely sure that he was somehow part of a conspiracy to pretend like my eyebrows didn’t actually look like caterpillars inching across my forehead.  So I went back and dug my wedding photos out of the important archive that is my sock drawer and guess what? My old, thin, highly manicured eyebrows struck me as looking… fake. And while I wasn’t yet in love with Mybrows, I was at least disillusioned with having their artificial looking alternative.

Sisters talk about eyebrows sometimes, and the conversation usually goes like this:

Helga: delicate. lady-like. pow.

Helga: delicate. lady-like. pow.

Sister 1: “Oh, my eyebrows are so unruly! I know we’re not supposed shape them but I feel like such a Neanderthal!”

Sister 2: “What are you talking about? Your eyebrows look fine! Now, MY eyebrows… they make Helga’s from Hey Arnold look delicate and lady-like.”

Sister 3: “You’re both crazy and your eyebrows frame your eyes perfectly! Now *my* eyebrows, they look like two handlebar moustaches without a sense of direction…”

The circular consensus seems to be everyone has a real problem with their eyebrows, but everyone ELSE looks fine and they’re just stressing for no reason.  In recent fashion, heavier (relatively) eyebrows have come back into the spotlight, I think this is a great time to piggy-back on the bandwagon and wave the flag for more natural looking eyebrows.

This tumblr account is, simply named- Thick eyebrows, and you can go here for an assortment of gorgeous ladies with luxuriously large eyebrows- models like Cara Delevinge, Brook Shields, even Audrey Hepburn- looking lovely with eyebrows significantly thicker than the media has previously shown us.

While Muslims, of course, don’t wait for fashion to agree with religion before deciding to become religious, it is nice when the media can do a part- even a teeny tiny one- to help boost our natural-looking self esteem when it comes to eyebrows.  Yes, the women are all still uncovered, photo-shopped, artfully painted and arranged by professionals- but the point is, they have big eyebrows and they are daring you to make caterpillar jokes about them.

*filed teeth, anyone?

I haven’t come as far as to say I’m in love with Mybrows, but who am I to even suggest that Allah made a mistake in how He made them?  Allah Himself designed what my face and eyebrows were going to look like, and it should go without saying that His designs for what humans should look like are Divine (with a capital D) and everything else that we do is just “fixing” what isn’t really broken.*

Please note- this doesn’t mean I’m saying that things like cleft palates are Divinely created and who are we therefore to alter them. No.  Defects in the original human design are permissible to correct, and that’s like replacing a lost eye or reconstructing a face after an accident or congenital birth defect.  There’s a difference between correcting a defect to meet the standard and redesigning the standard altogether.

Deciding that all of femalekind has been designed with the “wrong” kind of eyebrows is something else entirely.  But, seeing as how society in general still has a problem accepting women themselves in different shapes and sizes, maybe starting with a tiny part of women- like their eyebrows- is a tiny first step?

In any case, I’m not waiting for society to accept my eyebrows before I do, so here I go.  Alhamdulillah, my eyebrows are perfectly designed for whatever it is that Allah has destined for my face.  Whether my naturally drop-dead gorgeous arches are meant to be a life-long battle with ego whose victory could yield me Jannah, or whether my hirsute forehead is an exercise in accepting the Qadr of Allah that can be rewarded with a place among the Sabiroon in Jannah- either way it’s fine for me.

And since, in the back of your mind, you’ve been wondering what Mybrows actually look like, and you’re looking forward to having that circular conversation where you tell me that my eyebrows are fine and YOU’RE the one who should be in mourning, here you go.

Mybrows

  I’d love to see your natural brows (so I can tell you they look fine), so if you feel like sharing them, I’ll post them here too.  Let the conversation begin.

 

Read more →

Tony Benn tells BBC what’s what! -Gaza

Click here for three minutes of brutally important honesty.

Iman’s Dua

Oh Allah, thank you for aaaaaaallll the gifts.

Oh Allah, thank you for paradise.

Oh Allah, thank you for aaaaaaallll the children in this life.

Oh Allah, thank you for the nice clothes.

Oh Allah, thank you for aaaaaaallll the buildings

Oh Allah, thank you for aaaaaaallllthe grandmas and nanas.

Oh Allah, thank you for me.

Ameen.

One of the upsides to autism

KhalidLast week over breakfast, Khalid sneezed and then said: “Alhamdulillah.  Momma, now you say- Yarhamakullah, and then I say yahdeekumAllahu wa yuslihu balakum.”

You can stare blankly for a moment.  That’s what I did, and then I realized- he’s been reading through every page of the Dua Kids application on my iPhone, and as usual- he’s not just reading it- he’s memorizing it.  It’s not a fast process by any means, Khalid is like a slow, logical locomotive.  Or rather- an intellectual iceberg- most of Khalid goes on way below the surface, and we only occasionally get an idea of how deep he goes.

A few days ago, from the dining table over dinner- he gave me precise road directions to reach Ski Dubai from Abu Dhabi.  Then he ate a french fry.  He asks me the names of the roads we’re driving on, and when I’m wrong he corrects me.  He tells me the interchanges we’ll be driving past before we’ve passed them.  Of course, he still can’t answer simple questions like- Khalid, why aren’t you wearing pants yet?- but he is storing massive amounts of interesting information in his beautiful little head and it comes out in the most hilariously brilliant ways.

And that hilarious brilliance is why I am blogging right now- because I end up forgetting too many of Khalid’s pearls of wisdom, and ten minutes ago, he said one that I want to remember forever.

For a job well done, Khalid and Iman were both awarded two mini marshmallows. Iman, in typical teasing fashion, said: Khalid, I can squash your marshmallows!

Khalid, without even looking up from his trains said, and I quote:

“The Messenger of Allah, salAllahu Alaiha wa sallim said ‘Do not squash marshmallows.”

-end quote-

AllahuAkbar

 

 

Three Hadith you’ve [prolly] never heard

Suhaib Webb published an short list of authentic but little-heard hadith here, and three of them really caught my attention.

  • “The believer is friendly and likeable*1  and there is no good in the one who is not friendly nor likeable, and the best of them are the most beneficial to the people.” (Sahih al-Jami)
  • “Hellfire has been made forbidden for the eye which wept out of the Fear and Awe of Allah. Hellfire has been made forbidden for the eye which stayed awake and vigilant (through the night) in the Way of Allah. Hellfire has been made forbidden for the eye which looked away from that which has been forbidden by Allah.” (Hakim)
  • “Whoever dies and is free from three: arrogance, grudges and debt will enter Paradise.” (Tirmidhi)

The first one made me happy, because in my mortal conceit I consider myself a people person.  The second one made me hopeful, because I am an optimist.  The third made me sad, because I struggle with both debt and grudges.  So now I have something to work towards, InshaAllah. 🙂

Water and Oil. Autism and Iron.

So it’s been a little over two month’s since I’ve updated, which may be the longest I’ve ever gone in the history of this blog.  Ever.  I have an excuse. Well, I have a whole bunch of excuses, so let’s throw some at the wall and see if any of them stick.

The dog ate my blog?

-SPLAT-

Yep, that one looks credible.  Next!

I was scaling a mountain of work when I fell into the crevasse of mommy-related responsibilities and my backpack of bloggingness fell into the bottomless abyss of nonpriority?

Ooh, that was dramatic.  Next!

I haven’t had a housekeeper/nanny for the last month.

Hmmm, that one doesn’t actually sound very credible.  The thing is though- and I know that it’s hard to believe- this is the closest thing I have to a real reason.  It sounds like such a Diva-esque complaint- a great majority of womankind copes without housekeepers- but I have three kids- one with autism, one with a Napoleon complex, and one with only three teeth and cruising- related deathwish.  I have ten employees, a CSR proposal underway, page 31 in Iman’s math book to work her through, and an intake for new parents this Saturday.  But that sounds like whining, so let’s go back to my other excuse.

You should have seen the size of its teeth.  I was running, but then it caught up with me, and I was all like- “Oh no dog, don’t eat my blog!” but the dog was all like “Woof woof. Om nom nom.” And then HF jumped in with his cape and tie blowing dramatically in a gust of hero-related breeze, but then he remembered that he’s weirded out by dogs, so he leapt off-camera and cleaned the house and put the kids to sleep instead.  And that’s been amazing and surprising and lovely and the catalyst for falling in love with him all over again, but it hasn’t been enough to save the blog.

Sorry blog.

But enough with excuses.  I could go on making… err… recounting completely true and valid excuses until the cows came home, but then I would have to stop typing to go milk them because cows don’t milk themselves any more than Musfira changes her own diapers.

The funny thing about being stretched thin is that you become easier to tear- more fragile than usual.  I’m cheerful and productive and maybe only half-frazzled to the point of insanity (see, only half!) but this video made me cry.  And then this video made me laugh out loud with with joy. Wait until they show planets crashing in to each other- that was perfect, amazing- and just mind blowing.  SubhanAllah!

I think these two videos kind of form the bookends of my life right now: Islam and autism.  Being mom fits somewhere in the middle and is an extension of both sides.  You know, like a sort of… spectrum? *rimshot*  I feel rubbed raw on both ends- my own son is doing well by the Grace and Kindness and Greatness of God, but then every new parent I meet renews a sense of desperation, urgency, panic, and fear for the future of a child and I don’t think I ever get very far from the despair of a new diagnosis.  On the other side, I am so, so, so, so, overwhelmingly grateful to be Muslim, to have the small amount of faith I can hold in my heart, and to be able to put the burden of autism and fear down on the floor and whisper Subhana Rabbi Al-Aa’la- Glory to my Lord, Most High.  Allah created autism, He created despair so we could have hope, and darkness so that light could be apparent.  If there is imbalance in this life, it is only allowed to exist for us to learn, and then it will be re-balanced as soon as we die.  I’d happily live without a thumb if I knew I would get both of them back plus a cosmos of eternal gold stars for it in paradise.

I haven’t been feeling very well lately, and being sick while being stressed, over-worked, and overwhelmed has been an additional challenge, but as strange as this is- I’m liking it.  I’m loving it.  I think I may be losing my mind, but there is a sweetness and a closeness in prayer that I have never been able to find or taste except when I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  Like how water tastes like life itself- only when you’re dying.

Take a mayonnaise jar. Add oil.  Add water.  Add autism, Islam, Iron, motherhood, diapers, school lunches, and human responsibilities and shake the living daylights out of it. You’ll get a jar of disoriented salad dressing- that label will say:  Abez.

Tadaa!

That’s my update and I’m sticking to it.

By Abez, The End.

 

 

 

I *heart* Islam

One of the most difficult things for me, in running AutismUAE, is trying to escape from being thanked or praised by the parents of children we help via our therapists.  I don’t mind being cried on, but once people start telling me how great/awesome/cosmic I am, I really start to squirm.  I feel guilty, because on one hand, everyone loves hearing how much they’re appreciated, but when you’re making your intention for the sake of Allah, and seeking your reward with Him and Him alone, then how do you reconcile when peoples’ praise makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside?

Islam has the answer!  Hence, the title of this post, and the link to this video, which I’ve actually linked before.  This link goes to the exact moment when Yasiq Qadhi talks about the same challenge that I face on a near daily basis- praise.  A man went to the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and shared his concern that sometimes, when he did something for the sake of Allah, people would later praise him.  The Prophet’s response must have felt as liberating to him as it does to me- the Prophet- salAahu alaihi wasallim- said that these praises are the heralds, the forerunners, the preliminary blessings for believers.  They are an advance of the good that is coming in the next life.

When I first heard this, I had to sigh with relief.  Alhamdulillah.  Up until hearing that hadith, I was beating myself up for being thanked, and while that doesn’t mean I can start my own We *heart* Abez club, that means that the happiness felt in my heart when a father tells me that his whole family makes dua for me every day is not a guilty pleasure anymore.  It’s good tidings of good things to come, InshaAllah.  Provided, of course, that I keep my intentions sincere and my actions halal.

InshaAllah.  🙂

Alhamdulillah 🙂

AllahuAkbar 🙂

From Darkness to Light

There are so many things about this talk that I like that I’m not even sure where to begin.  SubhanAllah.

Peace, until the rising of the dawn…

I thought I would post a quick dua request here.  It is an odd night, and the 27th too.  So more people making dua is good, right?  So what do I ask for?  What if I miss something?  How can I make a quick request that covers every possible situation, need, shortcoming, or deficiency that exists in the world and in every one of its people, living, dead, and yet to come?

اللّهُـمَّ أَنْـتَ السَّلامُ ، وَمِـنْكَ السَّلام ، تَبارَكْتَ يا ذا الجَـلالِ وَالإِكْـرام .

‘O Allah, You are As-Salam and from You is all peace, blessed are You, O Possessor of majesty and honour.’

Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god;- the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme: Glory to Allah! (High is He) above the partners they attribute to Him.

Nothing in the world is as important as peace- salam, from As-Salaam, The Source of Perfect Peace.  To be ok with everything, and to have everything be ok.

Ya Salaam, please give us salaam.

Ameen

LabbaykAllah, huma Labbayk!

HF left for Umrah this evening.  We loaded up the minivan with all three kids to drop him off at the airport, even though it was three hours past their bedtime by the time we got home again, because we wanted to give him a proper send-off and to help the kids understand where he was going.  Khalid and Iman were confused, but Iman was happy because she loves this nasheed and was excited to hear that baba was going to the Kabah to pray and drink zamzam.  (ZAMZAM!)

Khalid wasn’t pleased though, and actually started crying on the way home. When I asked him why, his confused answer involved ‘scareding,’ and baba being angry. The gist of it seems to be that baba has left because yesterday Khalid made baba angry when he bit him. Ouch. Tomorrow I’ll write a social story for Khalid and we’ll read it together. I want to reinforce that baba is, indeed, coming back, and didn’t leave because he was mad at Khalid. SubhanAllah.

(Truthfully though, I have no guarantee that HF is coming back.  Not to be dramatic, but people die at Hajj/Umrah every year.  It’s a statistical inevitability: when you put 4 million people together for the world’s largest gathering, there will be mortality rates.  The sick, the old, the people in wrong place at the wrong time when accidents happen- people die in Makkah and Medina, and while it’s sad to lose a loved one, I can’t think of a better place or situation to lose them in.  If I could think of somewhere to die, in sajda in the haram would be my top choice, and if Allah chose to take HF the same way, I would be jealous.  I’m not being morbid, just pragmatic.  We’re all going to die, we might as well try to die awesomely.)

I digress.  I’ll be putting together a big ole dua list for HF.  If you would like your prayers added to the list please let me know and I’ll pass them his way, InshaAllah. 🙂 May Allah accept his Umrah and make it easy for him.  May Allah forgive us all for our sins, and make us among those earn His pleasure in this life and the next. Ameen. 🙂

Ramadan Reconcilliation

Alhamdulillah, I’m fasting. I didn’t think I would be able to, and while Day 2 of Ramadan may be a little early to announce success, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to continue for the entire month, InshaAllah. The heat isn’t bothering me, Alhamdulillah, and neither is the hunger. Even the dehydration is mild despite feeding a seven week old baby.  The only challenge is the sleep. Musfira fussed from 6pm until 1am yesterday. By the time I was able to put her down, I had one-handedly:

  • Served iftar
  • Eaten Iftar
  • Prayed Maghrib
  • Had the kids put to bed
  • Eaten dinner
  • Attempted to clean off the table
  • Cooked for suhoor- daal and oatmeal
  • Watched three short documentaries and listened to Surah Mulk twice

Yes, all of this was done either one-handed or hastily in between being able to put Musifra down for five to ten minutes before she woke up again.  Sometimes we have weird nights, and sometimes they spill over into weird days as well- Musfira will fuss- tired but refusing to sleep- and I will rock/walk/bounce her to sleep only to have her wake up again five to ten minutes later, regardless of whether I stop rocking/walking/bouncing or even holding her.  Normally, Alhamdulillah, she sleeps easily for four hours at a stretch, and that’s more than enough time for me to get stuff done in between.  Occasionally, she has these weird days, and those are the ones where I never get of my pajamas and Musfira cries, fusses, sleeps, wakes, and cries- later, rinse, repeat- for hour after hour until the sun rises and sometimes even until the sun sets the next day.

So last night was a weird night.  By the time I was able to put Musfira down (1am!) I was too exhausted for any Tarawih or any Qur’an, and had barely any concentration in my prayers.  I crashed into bed and just two and a half hours later, had to get back out of it for Suhoor.  HF kindly got me out of bed, steered me to the kitchen and placed a bowl of oatmeal into my hands as I stood with my eyes closed and my head against the kitchen door.

Then we prayed Fajr and went back to bed, and two hours later, Musfira woke up in need of a diaper change and a feed.  I’m not hungry or thirsty as much as I am tired and, yes- disappointed.  I love Ramadan.  I need Ramadan desperately, in order to counteract the downward spiral I’ve been in for the rest of the year and to help realign myself mentally and spiritually.  Ramadan is the reset button, ideally because you’re conquering your laziness, kicking bad habits, and remembering the sweetness of Ibada- ideally.  In actuality, I’m so busy juggling Musfira, cooking, shopping, taxiing Khalid and Iman around town, and working that I feel like I’m losing out.  My immediate thought is that I need to prioritize extra worship and the energy required to do it, but I’m not doing anything that I can cut out of my schedule.  I need to take time for Ibada, but I don’t know where to take it from.  If I get any less sleep than I already do I’m going to crash.

(Two nights ago I jumped out of bed to pick Musfira up.  I took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and crashed face-first into a corner.  The next morning I had a headache and a swollen eye, and it took a few moments for me to remember why.)

So here’s the reconciliation.   Allah is responsible for any circumstances I am in, and they are all good, regardless of whether I am able to recognize that.  Last night, when I wanted to pray tarawih but instead spent the six hours between maghrib and qiyaam rocking Musfira, there was good in that too.   Ramadan is challenging enough, Ramadan plus young motherhood must be the next level for me.  I need to push through the busy-ness and the tiredness and somehow find the energy that I need to make the most of it.  I’ve always said Ramadan is spiritual boot camp.  Now I’m at bootcamp with a baby on my back, a spatula in my hand, and two children dragging me backwards by my apron strings.  It’s no longer enough for me to reach the end on my own, I have to make it there with a serene smile, clean and alive children, Surah Mulk memorized, and a tray of freshly baked samosas.

May Allah make the path to righteousness easy for all of us, and grant us the trust in Him to know that all of His decrees are good ones.

Ameen!

There’s hope for humanity after all…

The Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) said:

“There are seven whom Allah will shade in His Shade on the Day when there is no shade except His Shade:

  • a just ruler;
  • a youth who grew up in the worship of Allah- the Mighty and Majestic;
  • a man whose heart is attached to the mosques;
  • two men who love each other for Allah’s sake- meeting for that and parting upon that;
  • a man who is called by a woman of beauty and position (for illegal intercourse), but he says: ‘I fear Allah’,
  • a man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity;
  • and a man who remembered Allah in private and so his eyes shed tears.'”

(Abu Hurairah & collected in Saheeh al-Bukhari (English trans.) vol.1, p.356, no.629 & Saheeh Muslim (English trans.) vol.2, p.493, no.2248)

I saw two people standing in jamaa’ for prayer on a sidewalk in Garhoud the other night.

They were teenagers, and they were praying Isha.

No older man/father/authority figure was leading the jamaa’, and there was no apparent need for the urgency in their salah- they could have prayed Isha later that night by themselves, at home on a rug instead of outside on hard cement in front of Fuddruckers.

May they grow to be righteous men, and may I be able to give them big, squeezy hugs in Jannah, where it won’t be a sin anymore.  They made my day, and this old fogie of a thirty year old has a new respect for teenagers.  Just because they dress like greasy, gangly doofuses in pink polo shirts with popped collars doesn’t mean they don’t have stronger Taqwa than I do.

May Allah grant them Jannatul Firdaus. 🙂 Ameen!