Friday, 21 October 2016

Blessing of guidance



I wanted to share a reflection from some recent happenings around me - it’s a reminder to myself and to all my sisters in deen (and brothers too maybe). If you are practicing your deen, working for it, seeking its knowledge, raising you kids according to it, just trying even … then know that you have been chosen by Allah SWT for this guidance. We say in al fatiha every single salah ihdina sirat al mustaqeem – (oh Allah) guide us on the straight path, then if you are struggling for your deen - that is Him guiding you. Do not belittle it, do not take it for granted, do not ever stop trying and asking. If we become complacent of His blessings, He can take them away. Here is the thing about guidance, in whatever shape we have it – no matter how commonplace it seems; it is not. Just because so many people pray salah regularly as you do, does not take away from its significance. Just because so many women around you cover up the way they should, does not make it ordinary. Just because we have been practicing deen for many years doesn’t make it our property to treat however we like. We do these things day in and day out so it’s easy to forget the intention behind it, but we should spend a small part of everyday thanking Allah for it and also renewing our intentions.

A beautiful dua comes in the Qur’an رَبَّنَا لا تُزِغْ قُلُوبَنَا بَعْدَ إِذْ هَدَيْتَنَا وَهَبْ لَنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً إِنَّكَ اَنْتَ الْوَهَّابُ (Aal Imran :8) Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate after you have guided us and grant us from yourself mercy. Indeed, you are the Bestower. It teaches us that guidance is a gift and that it can be taken away. Allah wants us to ask this for ourselves. He is our creator and knows how our hearts will deviate. This dua humbles us, because we acknowledge that we do not control/decide anything rather our affairs are in the hands of the Almighty. Allah did not create us to be ordinary and neither should we think our actions to be. Allah commands us to hold on to the “urwatul wuthqa” (most trusted handhold) or to hold tightly to His rope. This entails that when we practice the deen, we do so with passion and vigor – not with nonchalance because if you are hanging off a tall building, you will not be causal about how you hold that rope!

There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing. (2:256)

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Hearts

The plight of our planet
Breaks our hearts
We are hurt and tired and broken
We are hungry and we are angry
Our tears have all but dried
But its the accusation
That breaks our hearts.
We are kind and genius and beautiful
We are just and we are proud
It takes one explosion to blow it all;
That breaks our hearts.
We are strong and forgiving and resilient
And we will keep standing up for justice
No matter how much
They break our hearts
Al Jabbar, Heal us and make us whole
For its the state of our hearts
That breaks our hearts.

The Call

Large spaces feel tight
My chest is constricted
Its getting harder to breath
Is it time yet to run to the mountains?
Questions and answers and more questions
No one is listening, everyone is talking
There is too much noise here!
Amidst the chaos of my thoughts
I strain to hear, Hayya ‘ala al Falah
Finally, the only sound that makes sense.

The homeschooling me



There are a million and one blogs on all types of big and small ways homeschooling has been beneficial to families! That’s the thing about homeschooling, it’s so personal and customized that each family will have its own method (or lack thereof) and each will find it beneficial in their own way. I have abstained from writing about it thus far because I felt I was way underqualified. I know, I know that goes against the core of the homeschooling principle but it’s early in the game and I’m still getting my feet wet. I have had a chance to settle in a little though and I’ve realized that whether or not we continue to homeschool, I have realized the benefits that it has for my family. 

The opportunity to spend time together at length without the rush of deadlines has allowed my kids and me to make mistakes. That sounds funny as a benefit but just let that sink in – how many of us allow ourselves mistakes? Often we don’t, we expect to pull parenting off without a hitch and ‘when’ we slip up; we are devastated and sometimes over compensate. Sounds familiar? That’s all of us. The difference in the last year and a half has been that I have had the time to really think through things. I don’t have to tell off the kids right away just because soon it will be dinner time and bed time and this and that. I don’t feel the need to remedy it instantly. I can put off the “telling off” till tomorrow; allowing them and myself to really review the mistake. For myself, if I have reacted in an unwarranted manner or something I wish I had done better; the fact that I have them for every hour of the day and the next will surely give me an opportunity to rethink my reaction the next time round. 

Even if the situation doesn’t repeat itself, I will have the time to make up for my monster-mom moment eg an extra smile, 5 minutes more on the computer – yeah im stingy that way! The luxury of time spent together allows for these moments.

Normally, our instinct to yell at the kids comes from (hormones?!) too little time and too much to do. There is homework to finish, some or the other extracurricular to do, perhaps a tuition or two, test to study for and all before bedtime and the next day its starts again – and that’s just their schedule! This lifestyle doesn’t give us much of a chance to let them and ourselves make a mistake because the next day is already charging its way in!

Make no mistake, it’s not a zen-like household – I have miles to go before I achieve my zen but then so do they. The luxury of time I get to spend with them has allowed me to learn that they too want to avoid doing things that upset me; they just need time and space to work it out – sometimes by repeating that mistake!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Happily ever after..



Marriage. It’s a topic close to my heart. I suppose because I’m married (!) and also because Ive always believed in the sanctity of this relationship. However, it was not until I understood it from the Quran that I realized its true purpose and sanctity. 

The idea of marriage that I grew up with was largely a fairy tale – more like an exaggerated wedding. Ofcourse, that fantasy can be found in the relics of my memory files titled “Every lie about adulthood”. I rolled with the punches and finally settled with the ‘actual’ idea, but then I was struck with some more blows. These were more along the lines of ‘what my life was… ‘, ‘ how my life could have been different…’ and some serious ones like ‘wasn’t I better off…’, ‘why do I need this…’ Each time, I pulled myself back from these to remind myself of the good things and sometimes I was snapped out from these reveries by the cries of hungry kids (mine!). Some more years went by. I started to question whether my approach to my rebel thoughts was the right one, mostly because it gave me only temporary relief and was making me discontented. Now I am one not used to being discontented – I need to find peace. So, I turned to the source of all peace – Allah, As Salam. Its not like I hadn’t been praying all along, I just started doing so more intently and being more specific about my issues. That’s when the penny dropped.

Just like my adolescent idea of marriage was unreal, so was my idea of its purpose. Generally in the South Asian culture (and I will go as far as saying the Arab... correct me if I’m wrong), girls are reared to think marriage is the culmination of life! It is with a man that a girl will have security – both financial and societal and all good girls get married, all fun and independence is to be had post-marriage. Let’s assess those, especially in today’s day and age. South Asian girls are more educated than ever before and having worked through or right after uni, they are financially independent; social circles are larger than ever not leaving much room for feeling lonely (quite the contrary I believe!), singlehood is not as big a taboo and having intimate friendships with the opposite sex is a norm. Good girl definitions (domesticated/polite/obedient/cooks like a pro) are outdated. Given even half that, the entire premise for getting married is blown out the water! Ok, so the girl cant have kids without getting married first, but really would she be willing to give all this up to fulfill her maternal instinct. So its no surprise that more and more girls are discontent with their marriages because they feel they have quite literally signed their life off. So exactly why should I get married?!

Marriage is an act highly recommended by Allah SWT and a Sunnah of the Prophet , so there has to be a deeper meaning than what we’ve imagined of it.  I have discovered the purpose of marriage is quite closely linked to the purpose of life itself – it is an act of worship; a continuous worship that holds a great reward at every step. It’s a means to enjoying offspring and the companionship of the spouse. It is also a means to protect us from zina and whether we like to admit it or not, it also is protective of our honour. It is a means to please Allah SWT from the moment you wake and it is a means for you to send forth good deeds for the akhirah via pious children. 

Anyone who is married can attest to how much they need to call upon Him for strength and sabr. How many times they have been thankful for the blessings they enjoy, how many times they have cried and made istighfar for their shortcomings in the relationship. I have realized through these trials how being married has made me constant in my dhikr of Allah. Alhamdulillah! So marriage is much bigger than financial dependency and all that – it is a means to get closer to Allah SWT. 

This is what I would like to tell my younger self: being married is hard work and having children is tough, and loving your partner is a constant struggle but Allah is watching and He does not miss anything. He has placed a reward for you in your smile for your husband, and your dressing up for him; your cooking and cleaning; your rearing children and everything that you do to keep the relationship afloat – just keep the focus on pleasing Allah SWT through this relationship.

Being married is not the end all be all of life, however. If Allah has chosen for someone to remain single – then that will become the person’s means to His closeness because for sure He would not place us in a position where we cannot attain salvation. But for those who are married, this bond is greater than the  two of you – it is quite literally the building blocks to your Jannah – so build it eagerly and protect is ferociously.
May Allah put barakah in our unions and make it a source of His pleasure. Ameen.

وَمِنْ ءَايَـتِهِۦٓ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَ‌حْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَلِكَ لَءَايَـتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُ‌ونَ  

And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought. [30:21]

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Take time to heal



Friends are a precious breed! They are the perfect sounding board and companion. They can be the encouragement or the word of caution. Friendships, like any relationship, need to be taken care of and fostered in a positive environment of  god-consciousness. We will afterall be raised on the deen of those whose company we keep!

Like any relationship though, this too can go sour. I had a friend and then we were not friends. It was the first time in my life that I had “lost” a friendship so it was a shock to me. I started questioning myself and my intentions and actions. I was also grateful for having lived such a great life that I had not had any such heartbreak before.  But this was a big one. It took a long time to heal; in fact I’m still a work in progress; which is exactly why I cannot re-friend this person. I have realized it is not that I’m hanging on to the past, or holding grudges rather that I have not reached that stage yet where I can be empathetic again.

I have been struggling with this for a long while. Should we abandon friends completely if something goes awry? Should I not take the higher road and move on from the place of hurt? I have been on soul-searching mission ever since. It weighed heavily on me that I may have become the ‘oppressor’ (in that i wasn't pursuing the friendship anymore), until I figured out that not everyone makes friends for life. So here is where I am now, I can be friend-"ly" but if I cannot stop myself at every juncture from bringing my guard up, or thinking ‘there she goes again..’ then I am not being sincere to the relationship. Hence, it is not time yet. I am still healing and it is my first time so I don’t know how long it will be or if I can ever muster that strength. I will take the time to heal. I will pray. For in prayer is my strength. I will pray for Allah to surround me with people who build me and not break me, I will pray that I am of those who build people. Allah loves those who love His creation, so I will pray that Allah enables my heart to love wholly.  

For now, I will pray for you from afar.

"O you who believe! Take care of your own selves. If you follow the right guidance and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong no hurt can come to you from those who are in error. The return of you all is to Allah, then He will inform you about (all) that which you used to do." [5:105] 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Unmasking



I recently read an article by a Canadian born niqabi (veiled woman) who was responding to a ridiculous claim that women who cover their face are not truly Canadian – as in they don’t live out the Canadian life. Right away I was like woah! Why didn’t I think of writing my Canadian-ness with the niqab.  So here I am – disproving myths about the dead-beat life niqabis supposedly live.

I am not an out-doorsy person – perhaps because I grew up in metropolitan cities with little contact with nature. I do love being in the outdoors, just not the “sleeping in tents” part of it :P. However, living in Canada and raising my children here – I realized I had an excellent opportunity to finally discover this side of Canada and live like a ‘Canadian’.  I am not sure if this is politically correct – considering the vast landscape and cultural diversity found in Canada but oh well for argument sake, lets.

I have been in Canada for over 8 years now and I can guarantee that I have seen and explored more of Ontario than a lot of people who’ve lived their entire lives here and they don’t even wear a niqab.. gasp! The piece of cloth on my face is a personal choice – it represents nothing to the outside world. It is quite personal – yes its my identity because I choose to identify myself as a servant of God. I believe my veil is  a means to be closer to God.  This piece of cloth doesn’t take away anything from my personality. Some may argue that I cannot enjoy the open waters because of my garb or I cant feel the sun on my skin. I understand their “concern”, however for us the garb comes from a deeper place which may look restrictive to the outside world.  It is not my veil that restricts me, rather the prejudice. The reason I will not wear a 2 piece and jump in the pool has to do with my faith and its tenets. I believe the tenets placed by God are in my best interest and hence I choose to abide by them. It may not make sense to the others – it wasn’t meant to. But living in an inclusive society means you give me the benefit of doubt to make my lifestyle choices.

I love the summers like the next Canadian and I love digging my toes in the sand and wearing flip flops. I look forward to BBQs in the backyard and in the outskirts of the Niagara Escarpment. I look forward to camping (not the tent part L ) and frying eggs on my camp stove. I used to like hiking, but I am way too unfit and would rather lounge in the sun. My favorite season is Fall and the looking at the colors of the trees and walks in the crisp air. I love Spring and check out flyers for the cheapest top-soil so I can do over my herb patches. I love watching the kids play in their front yards – my, my they look so grown up after the winters!

I'm a Canadian and a niqabi and instead of thinking how different I look, I would rather think how we are all different; and appreciate how despite our differences we coexist through tolerance and understanding.