27 04 2012

I guess this is the sequel/extension to “I’m back.”

Inhabited by a desert.

Parched.

Starved.

Lost.

Consumed.

I wonder where the desert winds will land me tomorrow.

And the day after.

Will I find my way back to the green? To the inhabited?

How can I when I must battle this desert inside, yet I have no strength? Drained, I must stand alone and fight my mind, my self. Knowing that no one can help with this battle is all the more exasperating. How can I win?

If only this were something one could cry out of one’s system or wash away with a shower and go back to the so-difficult-to-attain state of well-being. If only one could skip the days where one had to feel like this. Despair.

But I guess one must be patient and hold on to the thought that this too will pass. Like all else, the good, and the bad. It’s all temporary.

It’s all temporary. Including this life.

 

 





A Load of Heaviness

26 04 2012

I had resolved not to come back to this blog.

It was a conscious decision.

It was the end of an era. 

I would start a new blog . . . with a different outlook, a different tone. 

I would focus on the positive, on healing.

I am back. 

I hope my “backness” is temporary. I associate this blog with very dark thoughts and days in my life. Here is where I gave voice to the blackest of black thoughts and the lowest of low points in my existence, except of course when I was too low to even type. I gathered my strength, my tools, my support system and I said goodbye to this page. 

To be honest, it went well for a while. But then, then “things” came at me again, just as I was beginning to get comfortable and confident. And suddenly, I realized, “This is life, dear. Life does not come in neat chronologically stacked boxes and categories. Life is random and crowded. Things will come at you in crowds and then, nothing. This is life. You just need to wake up and look at how other people live. Get out of your immaculately and perfectly empty box, my friend.”

Not that I am complaining. Thankful, I have learned to find — or at least make an effort to find —  something to be thankful about in every situation. Suffice it to remember the line, “It can always be worse,” or “Others have it much worse.” 

What I am concerned about is that, still, I may slip back into the depression that places the unbearable load of heaviness on my shoulders and in my chest and my eyes. A load of heaviness that renders a pen in my pocket as heavy beyond my carrying capacity. A load of heaviness that creates a problem out of every little task. A load of heaviness that tints my glasses with shade so dark, I would rather not look, at anything. A load of heaviness that leaves barely enough in me to breathe. A load of heaviness I know too well and loathe too heavily.  A load of heaviness that brings me down, and persistently keeps me there. 

 




Another Obsession

9 08 2011

I can’t stop listening to this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg0b8H5v3ec

I love You, my Lord, I love You.

I love You, my Lord, I love You.

I love You, my Lord, I love You.

I love You, my Lord, I love You.

You know my secret and my public.

You know my secret and my public.

With my heart and mind,

I love You, my Lord.

 

I love You, My Lord, I love You.

I love You, my Lord, I love You.

 

I love You, hoping and yearning.

I love You in my sayings and doings.

I love You, hoping and yearning.

I love You in my sayings and doings.

I will acknowledge my mistakes

until You pardon and be satisfied.

I will acknowledge my mistakes

until You pardon and be satisfied,

and my heart finds rest

in remembering You, my Lord.

 

I love You, my Lord, I love You.

I love You, my Lord, I love You.





Holding Fast

6 08 2011

Obstinate physical unwellness.

Doctors: explanation-less.

Medications: useless.

Surgery.

I find it very ironic that I suffer from digestive problems. I mean, amongst my family and close friends, my nicknames are “vegetable soup” and “zucchini” because that’s what I eat 90% of the time, either because they’re fat-free or because I am sick in my stomach.

How much power/control do I really have over my own body?

O mankind! Worship your Lord (Allah), Who created you and those who were before you so that you may become the pious. Who has made the earth a resting place for you, and the sky as a canopy, and sent down water (rain) from the sky and brought forth therewith fruits as a provision for you. Then do not set up rivals unto Allah (in worship) while you know (that He alone has the right to be worshipped). [Al Baqarah (The Cow): 21-22]

O mankind! Verily, there has come to you the Messenger with the truth from your Lord. So believe in Him, it is better for you. But if you disbelieve, then certainly to Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. And Allah is Ever All-Knowing All-Wise.  [An-Nisaa’ (The Women): 170]

O mankind! Verily, there has come to you a convincing proof (Prophet Muhammad) from your Lord; and We sent down to you a manifest light (this Quran). So, as for those who believed in Allah and held fast to (depend on) Him, He will admit them to His Mercy and Grace (i.e. Paradise), and guide them to Himself by the Straight Path. [An-Nisaa’ (The Women): 174-175]

“Worship Allah.”

“Believe in Allah.”

“Hold fast to Allah.”

Okay. I pray 5 times a day. I fast.

I used to think “holding fast” to Allah meant to pray day and night and to renounce daily life. I used to think it meant quitting people and things. Above all, I used to think it meant turning off your mind. (More on how wrong I was on this in another post insha’Allah.)

I didn’t understand.

I realize how pitifully wrong I was. Holding fast to and worshipping Allah doesn’t mean living your life praying in the mosque. It means doing, doing so much. It means living one’s (everyday) life with the belief that Allah is the only God, the only Divine. It means believing with conviction that He is the only one with Ultimate Limitless Power. It means understanding that He is the only One who can save or harm. It means knowing He is the only one who can grant or take away. It means seeing Him in everything all the time. When one becomes truly convinced of this, one “redirects” all of his/her emotions and actions. One puts his/her true hopes in Him. One resorts to Him for help. One truly relies on Him. One fears His Anger. One observes Him in one’s life, actions and words. And, above all, one loves Him and through this love, loves everything and everyone else. This belief in Him and His permanent presence with us becomes the foundation for one’s life.

And this is the cornerstone of Islam; it is what one says on converting to Islam.

“I testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger.”

Meaning?

“I acknowledge that He is the only deity, He is the only one worthy of worship. I acknowledge that Muhammad is his messenger sent to show me how to worship Allah.”

I have always wondered at how simple it is. Why is this the only requirement for converting to Islam? Why doesn’t one have to pray, for example? It’s as simple as that: one sentence. Why? Because it reflects a belief that rests deep in the heart and mind. It is not about actions that people can see.

Of course, one will fear other people and events; we are human. Of course, one will love people and things and one will resort to others for help. It’s a part of life, but then everything is different. How much would I fear someone who is really, at the end of the day, helpless? I mean my former boss (who used to make my knees tremble) can do absolutely nothing to harm me that Allah has not already ordained. And if Allah has ordained that I will be harmed in a certain way, neither my powerful boss nor anyone else on this earth can stop this harm from coming my way. So, with this belief in and reliance on One, these negative feelings become only traces because one finds an unexplainable calm in being with the King of Kings, He to whom “belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth.”

Someone once put this in very simple terms for me: “Imagine that you are working in a company where you have ten bosses. You want to please them all. You worry about pleasing every single one of them, varying and contradictory as their demands on you may be. You are torn. Your time and energy are distributed amongst them. You feel lost and probably conflicted because they probably don’t all agree; each wants different things. Now imagine that you have only one boss to please.”

Allah puts forth a parable: a man belonging to many partners disputing with one another, and a man belonging entirely to one master. Are those two equal in comparison? All the praises and thanks be to Allah! But most of them know not. [Az-Zumar: 29]

A couple of days back, I was praying in congregation with soooooo many people. As the imam was supplicating, we all stood listening to the supplications and saying, “Ameen.” As the imam prayed for relief, mercy, guidance, forgiveness and endless other things that touched our hearts, people began to cry and tears began to flow. It struck me then: We are all standing here, making du’aa, hands raised, each with his/her own individual life, conditions, problems, needs, requests and tears. Standing amongst the women, I was aware that each of them was standing there with her own story, source of desperation and sore spot. We were standing next to each other, yet ignorant of one another’s lives. Yet, He knows and can hear each and every single one of us, aware of the needs of each, aware of the best way to relieve each. I felt safe.

So, as I sit here and wonder that I find myself unable to do all the great things I had intended to do during this blessed month, as I wonder why my physical ailments are timed in such a sensitive time of the year, I find myself thinking “to Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth” (including my body and my health) and “Allah is Ever All-Knowing All-Wise.” So, for the first time in a very very long time, in spite of my pain and inconvenience, I am convinced that this is for the better; I just don’t see it, yet (like so many other things that I thought were bad for me but turned out to be good). I am not angry. I am not resentful. Most importantly, I am not frantically and helplessly seeking help.

Alhamdulillah.





Stamp of Acceptance Granted

3 08 2011

The theme here is to really “see” how much God loves us and wants the best for us then, to do our best to show our love to Him.

Presenter: “Did you know that the first story in the Quran, which is about one-third stories, is one of mistake and sin? It is a story about someone who sinned in a place where there is no room for sin. Did you know this? It’s the story of Adam and Eve and how they ate from the forbidden tree because they were duped by Satan, but then Allah forgave them.”

 “The first qualities Allah attributes to Himself in the Quran are “At-Tawwab Ar-Rahim,” meaning the Acceptor/Grantor of Repentance the Merciful.” (The Cow:37)

Repentance. Forgiveness.

God likes the moment of reconciliation, the moment when we “return” to him and want to be on good terms, foregoing that which puts distance between us and our Creator. There is a famous story that reveals how happy God is when we return to him. It goes something like this:

A man was travelling in the desert. He had all his sustenance for this journey on his camel. As he took a nap, he woke up to find that his camel (and all his sustenance and water) was gone. Sure of his death in the middle of the desert without food, water or transportation, the man just lay down to receive his hour calmly. When he woke up, he found that his camel had come back. He was so elated and thankful that he said, “Allah, You are my servant and I am your Lord . . .”

The man was so happy that he couldn’t put together a meaningful sentence. God is happier with our return than this man was with the return of his means of life. God is happier with our return than the man whose happiness made his sentence come out all wrong. Only there is one difference: The man needed his camel.

Not only that, but He converts our sins to good deeds. So, every sin I committed is turned to a good deed. There is a joke about someone who says, “I wish I had sinned more so I can have more good deeds now at my repentance.” God wants to be sure that once we truly return to him, He will surely accept us. There is no doubt there.

For me, this was such a relief. Many a dark hour have I wondered, “Has He not accepted me? Is He angry with me? Is He punishing me?” This had been a roadblock for me. I knew that I would not receive a “certificate of acceptance/forgiveness” from above. Nevertheless, I need that assurance. Someone had told me something to this effect before, but I wasn’t satisfied. I thought she may have just been trying to encourage me. But here was this man saying to the world, “As you turn to Him and say, ‘I want You to be satisfied with me,’ be certain, certain that you are accepted.”

“Certain. Accepted.”

I was so endlessly relieved.

I actually smiled.





From A Single Person

3 08 2011

O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him He created his wife (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women, and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of the womb (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you. [An-Nisaa’ (Women):1]

Presenter: “Why does God mention that He created us all from a single person? How is this relevant here?

This statement reminds us that at the end of the day, we (all humans) are kin: black, white, Asian, American, European, Australian, young, old, men, women, rich, poor. We are all equals. We need to remember this and we need to remember that God can ALWAYS see us. He is watching, completely and perfectly. So we fear Him in our treatment of one another by being compassionate and kind.“

I had to stop here. I connected this verse to the different forms of discrimination I had both witnessed and experienced both in my country and out. Once it’s the color of my skin. Then, it’s the way I dress. Then, it’s because I am Muslim. Then, I am not as rich as . . . . or as elegant as (what/who?). Then, it’s because I am a woman. Then, it’s because I have my own ideas and mind. Then, it’s . . . .

If we all come from one father and one mother, how can we be so cruel towards one another? How are we so easily able to hurt one another and actually feel and believe that we are superior to others? How can one group/person believe that they are innately better because of their color, beliefs, nationality, financial status, or the way they dress? Where do people get the (insert word here) to judge and violate one another?

Where do these “standards” that we find ourselves mistreated on failing to meet come from? The Creator Himself, you know, the one that manufactured all of us, didn’t set any of these standards that result in “us” and “them” and all the atrocities that follow.

I was translating for a pair of foreign young women a few months back. These were very beautiful and very strong young ladies. One night, they were travelling between cities here and called me from their taxi and asked me to speak to the taxi driver and explain that they did not want to stop for rest.

Me: (Faking my “I am so tough, you better watch out” voice.) Hello? Do you know where you are taking them? They want to get to their destination tonight.

Taxi-Driver: (Completely disinterested in what I am saying and interrupting me) Yes, Yes. I know. I know. Just tell them. There’s an apartment where they can rest. It’s available.

Me: I just told you! They don’t want to rest.

Taxi-Driver: I know. I know. Just tell them there’s an apartment where they can rest and sleep if they want.

Me: Did you hear me?

Taxi-Driver: Yes. Yes. I know . . . (And the cycle went on).

Me to the girls: (Shaken) Look, try to be very firm and serious with him. Shout if you have to.

One of the girls: Yes, Yes, I know. I understand. He and his friend want to sleep with us. They think they are entitled. I just wanted to make sure I got my message across to him.

The next time we met, they talked to me about how much insulting they endured as guests in my country, how many Muslim men thought they were entitled to “ravage” them since they weren’t Muslims, how others had point-blank told them, “You will burn in Hell because you are not Muslim.” Where on earth does this come from? Isn’t this another form of discrimination that we Muslims complain about when it’s practiced against us? Everywhere you go, it’s “us” and “them.” And somehow, “us” are always better than “them,” and “them” simply deserved what they got.

I guess this verse shows that not only is this NOT Islam, but God directs the call to all, Muslims and non, to remember that we are all kin and to treat one another accordingly.

The verse that comes next talks about protecting the rights of the weaker among us: the orphans:

And give unto orphans their property and do not exchange (your) bad things for (their) good ones; and devour not their substance (by adding it) to your substance. Surely, this is a great sin. [An-Nisaa’ (Women):2]

Again, compassion.





A Feast for the Soul

3 08 2011

It’s Ramadan in the Muslim world. It’s the epitome of spirituality. During this blessed month, the doors of Paradise are all open and the doors of Hell are all locked. Satan and his followers are chained. It’s a spirituality feast for anyone who wants to reconcile with their Creator. It’s a time where one transcends physical desires and feeds the spiritual self through fasting, praying (at night), reading the Quran, doing as many good deeds as possible, especially helping the poor and any good deed one can think of, no matter how small. It’s a time for doing good, for building and elevating one’s Palace in Paradise. It’s a feast, a celebration and a race all in one.

In this context, people are competing to do good. Some are out on the streets at sunset setting charity tables to feed the fasting poor. Others are doing volunteer work in charities, delivering foods to poor helpless families. Others are volunteering in orphanages to be with parentless orphans at this special time. Others yet are doing their utmost to teach others about God, to spread the message.

Me?

As you know, I had started on my own little journey of spiritual discovery/reconciliation a short while ago. My intention was/is to re-examine, relearn and disentangle the cultural from the religious. My aim was/is to re-understand my beliefs and reconcile with God.

One program I really like is called “A Call to Mankind.” It selects verses from the Quran that are directed towards all people, towards mankind. These verses all begin with the words, “O Mankind!

In my journey, I wanted to replace my sense of “must,” “fear,” and “doomed” with “love,” “compassion,” “companionship,” and “support,” with love being the most important one. I wanted to “feel the love” in my spirituality. I had had enough of following the rules out of fear. I wanted a love that goes both ways. Amazingly enough, this Ramadan one of the presenters whom I highly respect is presenting a program called “I Love You, My Lord.” A sign?

Hence, the idea of “Ramadan Bits” where I incorporate my Ramadan in this blog by writing about bits and pieces from here and there. Far be it for me to preach, for I know nothing. These are merely my observations, reflections, reactions, and hopes.

 








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