Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Sharpening the Mind...

A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”  George R.R. Martin.

Our mind is a wonderful thing. It is one of the greatest creations by God Al Mighty. Some minds are able to work independently from emotions but some are too intertwine with feelings.

We often hear the phrase “think with your mind and not with your heart”. The reason being, is that, a mind that is controlled by emotions often makes rash decision that would cause regret later. We are, but a creation of emotion, hence it is not easy to separate the emotions from the mind. To be able to think rationally is something that would require a lot a practice.

For myself, I have been trained by my mentor to think without emotions when it came to work. I could not afford to get emotionally involved with my work otherwise I would end up murdering every lawyer or judge whom I think is unfair or bias! I can’t afford to lose sleep over cases that I was handling because I would end up not sleeping at all. My mentor taught me well. He always tells me to give it my best and after that leave it to the Hands of God. I clung to that piece of advice all through my career and it has helped sleep like a baby at night as my conscience was clear. Even if I lost the case, I knew it was not in power to change it but at least I gave it my best shot.

However, when it comes to religion, I couldn’t adopt the same stance. I am a very passionate (that’s another word for ‘fiery’!) person. Even during my ignorance period, I would not stand it if I feel Islam is under attack, whether from a non Muslim or even a Muslim. I would fight tooth and nail with whatever ammunition that I have to try to defend it. It is a feeble attempt then, as my knowledge on Islam was so very limited but I stuck to the principle of trying my best. Still, my ignorance is no excuse.

When I first met the Wise Old man and the Wise Owl, they piqued my interest about Islam. I think it was the way they spoke about the religion to me. It was with passion and love. The way they explained things to me, was like they were narrating the greatest love story and secret ever foretold. It was enchanting and captivating. That spurred me to me to look for books on Islam,; and to read up and learn more. My thirst for knowledge became insatiable.

            "And say: My Lord increase me in knowledge."
(Qur'an, Ta-Ha 20:114)

There is however, the flip side of seeking for knowledge. There is a danger that lurks behind that we tend to be unaware of and fall for satan’s trap. There is some knowledge that we should not seek for such as sorcery, black magic and others that can be in danger of us committing shirk. Shirk is to establish partners with Allah SWT. We must also be careful of the books that we read because some books may contain inaccurate or misleading information. Always check with a scholar or someone who is knowledgeable before choosing your reading materials.

The Prophet also said: "Knowledge from which no benefit is derived is like a  treasure out of which nothing is spent in the cause of God." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 108 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “One who treads a path in search of knowledge has his path to Paradise made easy by God…” - Riyadh us-Saleheen, 245 

Having said that, it does not mean we can’t ask any questions about Islam. The reason we are highly encouraged to seek for knowledge is, for us to understand our religion better. A good teacher will always be able to answer patiently, any questions from his/her students, no matter how silly or provocative the questions are.  Sometimes, it is the silly questions that provides us with the best answers. I am very lucky and not a single day goes by that I don’t thank God Al Mighty for sending me teachers, to answer all of my silly questions patiently.

For example, how you ever wondered why our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW is the most beloved Prophet of God? I mean, Prophet Adam a.s. was the first man to be created but why isn’t he the most beloved? I know he committed a grave mistake that caused him Jannah but God is ever merciful and Prophet Adam a.s. was forgiven. As silly as it may sound, I thought God’s first man created would His favorite, that is Prophet Adam a.s. Satan was whispering in my ears saying God is being unfair and biased. I decided to put my mind at ease so I posed the question to the Wise Owl. He then directed me to a book written by the most knowledgeable and most wise scholar, Shaikh Abd Al-Qadir Al-Jilani. SubhanAllah!!! That book really opened my eyes. Did you know that Prophet Muhammad SAW was the first light (nur) or soul that was created by God Al Mighty. It was only after that Prophet Adam a.s. was created. Now, I understand that Prophet Adam a.s. was not the first creation but he was the first man created. Prophet Muhammad SAW is known as ‘Nur’, the divine Light.

“Indeed, there has come to you from Allah a light (Prophet Muhammad SAW ) and a plain Book (this Qur'an). 
Surah Al-Maidah 5:15

Wonderful isn’t it, things that we can discover about our beautiful religion when we seek for it. Now my mind is at ease. Satan has stopped whispering in my ears. Every time Satan tries to whisper, I would always try to find the right answer so that I would not be mislead. The power of knowledge is so great and forceful, if only we knew.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "A servant of God will remain standing on the Day of Judgment until he is questioned about his (time on earth) and how he used it; about his knowledge and how he utilized it; about his wealth and from where he acquired it and in what (activities) he spent it; and about his body and how he used it." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 148 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If anyone travels on a  in search of knowledge, God will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge. The inhabitants of the heavens and the Earth and (even) the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned man. The superiority of the learned over the devout is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave (no monetary inheritance), they leave only knowledge, and he who takes it takes an abundant portion. - Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 1631

Bottom line is, we must have a teacher to teach us about Islam. To me, Islam can’t be self-taught, for the sheer reason that there is a danger of getting the wrong info. Even Prophet Muhammad SAW had a teacher. His teacher was God Al Mighty, and he was taught through Angel Jibrail a.s.

Once we have the knowledge, we must share it with others.

If Muslims truly realise the importance Islam places on knowledge and its virtues, they will definitely be keen to learn and teach others. They would start with themselves and their families; then their neighbours and the community at large. Once Mu'awiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan (may Allah be pleased with her) gave a sermon in which he said, "I heard Allah's Messenger saying, "If Allah wants to do good to a person, he makes him very knowledgeable in the Deen." (Related by Bukhari and Muslim) If Muslims truly realise the importance Islam places on knowledge and its virtues, they will definitely be keen to learn and teach others. They would start with themselves and their families; then their neighbours and the community at large. Once Mu'awiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan (may Allah be pleased with her) gave a sermon in which he said, "I heard Allah's Messenger saying, "If Allah wants to do good to a person, he makes him very knowledgeable in the Deen." (Related by Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "God, His angels and all those in Heavens and on Earth, even ants in their hills and fish in the water, call down blessings on those who instruct others in beneficial knowledge." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 422 

So, the tool to sharpen our mind is knowledge. With knowledge, we would be fooled by others and satan. With knowledge, we are able to appreciate and love our religion better. With knowledge, We are able to defend our sacred deen from attack. In Shaa Allah.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Happiest Woman in the World......

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” ― Oscar Wilde

I had been a victim of fashion when I was younger. I was influenced by TV, teen magazines and also friends. I wanted to look like the girls in the magazines because I believed that if I look like them, then I will be popular amongst my peers. I was naive then.

As I grew older, I kinda lost the feeling of wanting to keep up with fashion. It was very exhausting not to mention costly. I had a very small allowance given by my dad and it was not enough to buy clothes. I came to realise that I was dressing up to please others and not myself. There were instances when my dad would march me back inside the house and make me change my attire because he deemed it was ‘too modern’! He would then tell me to change into ‘baju kurung’!. My dad is old school. He holds strongly to traditions. He prefers his daughters to be demure and modestly dress. I was modestly dress but definitely not demure, in fact, I was actually a daughter from Hell! I was rebellious and was always doing the exact opposite of what he wants.  I suppose I have to thank my dad for being very strict then, or otherwise, I would probably be walking around half naked now! Astagfirullah! May God forgive me for my past ignorance.

You know, it was not just the clothes that we fall prey to but it was also the hair, the face, nails, the whole look. When I was my twenties, I was quite vain, who wasn’t?. I wanted to look good all the time, no, let me correct that, I wanted to look ‘great’ all the time. I would go to great lengths to achieve it. I remember spending hours in front of the mirror trying to decide what clothes to wear, how to style my hair and how to match my earrings. That was a lot of time wasted that I can never retrieve. I even allowed myself to be the human sacrifice to my sister to performing this D-I-Y facial treatment that went completely wrong. She practically burnt my front fringe and my entire eyelash!! I’m not joking! She really did burn my lashes. Instead of looking like a beauty queen, I ended up looking like some Japanese mutant! I was not married then, and my dad had joked that he probably would have to pay someone to marry me instead of me receiving the dowry from the groom! Luckily, my lashes grew back! Alhamdulillah!

That incident and a few others (like a bad hair perm) really got me thinking about whether it was worth going through all that hassle for the sake of beauty. I felt like a mannequin instead of like a person. People judge me from my exterior looks instead of what’s in my heart or mind, and, no matter how hard I tried, I found that I could never please everyone.

When I made the decision to wear hijab, I felt liberated! I was free from of all expectations. I wasn’t dressing to please human but I was doing it for the sake of God. My hijab also had warded off some unsuitable suitors away from me. I knew then, that, if I were to marry, it would be to a man who appreciates beauty from within.

Women impure are for men impure, and men impure for women impure and women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity: these are not affected by what people say: for them there is forgiveness, and a provision honourable.”
Surah An-Nur 24:26

When I came across this verse, I knew in my heart that I want to try to be one of the  ‘women of purity’ and after donning the hijab, I prayed that God will grant me a ‘man of purity’ who will be the ‘Imam’ for me and my future children. Alhamdulillah, God granted my prayers and my dad was relieved that he didn’t have to pay for anyone, to marry me!

After hijab, I started examining my entire dress code. The Wise Owl had once told me “sister, women in Islam is like a rare diamond. We need to keep it under wraps because if we expose her then the wrong person might steal her away. Her beauty is only to be admired by those who are the ‘chosen’ ones and privileged ones only. Her beauty will remain rare if she can only been seen by selected people. If an item can be seen by everyone and touched by everyone then it will become common. Women are also like rare flowers, if we expose it to the sun, it will wilt and shrivel but if we keep it covered and safe, it will bloom for a very long time. You need to decide for your self whether you want to be a rare jewel or a common flower” Ouch!... the Wise Owl was brutal but brilliant!.

From my reading, it is true that women are highly revered in Islam. We are held in high esteem and given a very high status. Even in his last sermon, Prophet Muhammad saw had specifically mentioned about us. Prophet Muhammad SAW did not tell the women folk to take care of their husbands but he mentioned about us. That is how important we are.

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”
Excerpt of the Last Sermon of Prophet Muhammad SAW

I also learnt that ‘hijab’ is not just covering of the head. It has a deeper meaning than that. It also means that we are supposed to be attractive to only our husband and not other men. We are to cover our other beauty, such as clothing, jewelleries, loving attitude, sweet voice, dazzling smile and irresistible charms from others and reveal it to only the chosen ones.

Before we go out, we need to examine our intention of dressing. Are we dressing for God or are dressing to please or attract other men or to show off our beauty?

If we dress to attract other men, then we might invite trouble into our marriage. Keeping a marriage work is already hard enough without outside interferences. For those sisters who are not married, then dressing for men would probably invite unsuitable suitors as the men are judging you from your external appearance only. If they find that they dislike then person inside, they might move on to someone prettier. If we dress to show off our beauty to others, then, we might find ourselves to be disappointed as we might appear to be ugly in other people’s eyes. Remember the saying. ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. So instead of getting the praises we expected, we might end up with harsh criticism.

When I decided to wear black abaya, my life became so much simpler. I don’t have to worry about matching colored jubah with headscarves anymore. Black has always been one of my favourite colors as it is elegant and it hides all imperfections! Trust me, after 4 kids, you would want to hide as much as possible!  I admit that I do look different from others but to me if I’m different for the sake of Allah SWT, then it is fine by me.

Of course, I had people coming up to me asking me why should I copy the Arabs? Well, jeans or suits or mini-skirts have never been part of the Malay culture. These clothing are in fact influence of the western culture. The traditional Malay costume would be ‘baju kurung’, so unless that person wears 'baju kurung' all the time, do not accuse me of copying. Furthermore, if I am  going to be accused of copying another culture’s clothing, I might as well copy the most Islamic one. Actually, abaya to me, is the outer garment that is specifically mention in the Quran.

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Surah Al-Ahzab 33:59

This verse, to my understanding, refers to women putting on an extra ‘outer garment’ when we go out from the house to hide our beautiful inner clothing and sexy curves. So that’s why I choose to wear an abaya, plus it is prayer friendly. I can perform my prayers anywhere, anytime; no excuse. Others, may have different reasons to dress the way they do. I can’t speak for them. To me, we just need to re-check our own intention and get it right. We don’t have to check others’ intention. Their intention is strictly between them and God Al Mighty.

We have to have faith and trust that God Al Mighty wants the best for us. Even though some people have commented that I am more heavily wrapped than an Egyptian mummy, I don’t really care because I feel safe and comfortable. My outer garment is like a protective cloak around me, to ward off evil spirits. Sometimes, it makes me invisible. *wink*.

I believe it in my heart that, if you follow His Commandments wholeheartedly and you dress to please Him only, you will find that you can be the happiest woman in the world…..

Friday, 15 February 2013

Mechanics of the Heart...

“A heart has problems which mind cannot understand.”  Santosh Kalwar,

Our heart is the most vital organ in our body. We can still live without our arms, legs, eyes, ears, liver or even kidney but we can never survive without a heart. Such, is the importance of the heart.

A heart is not just an organ that pumps blood through-out our bodies but our hearts also is where our emotions and feelings are created and where love lies. To put it simply, our heart has two functions i.e. physical and spiritual. Our wonderful heart can feel fear, affection, love, hatred, sadness and happiness. It is also from the heart that we developed our instincts and send signals to our brain. Our hearts are also where our soul lies..

Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured."
Surah Ar-Ra’d 13:28

The Wise Owl once told me that our hearts are like polished mirrors. We need to wipe it clean regularly of the dust that gathers on it. If our hearts are covered with dust and dirt then our heart will not shine but will seem dull and unreflective. A clean heart will reflect everything that is good to others but a dirty heart will only bring misery. No one wants to look at a dirty mirror because they will only see an ugly reflection of themselves.

The prophet (S.A.W.) says: "Truly in the body there is a lump of flesh which, if it be good, the whole body is good, and which, if it be corrupted, the whole body is corrupted. Truly it is the heart."{Reported by Imam Bukhari}

The question is, how do we clean our hearts and soul? When I was very much younger, I remember reading books entitled “Chicken Soup for the Soul”. These books are basically motivational stories relating to the soul. Most of the stories are real life account of people. At first, I found the books to be enlightening but then after I felt it was missing a certain something. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it though.

When I started attending Quran Tafseer classes, I then realized the missing something was actually Quran. My first English translation of the Quran that was given to me by the Wise Old Man was by Yusuf Ali. When I started reading it, I was transfixed! MasyaAllah!!! I do not need chicken soup books to soothe my heart and soul but instead I need Quran. Quran teaches us things that we can never imagine. Quran does soothe and cleanse our heart and soul. If you don’t believe me, try listening to the recitation of the Quran Sheikh Misyari Rashid. Tell me if your heart does not flutter when you hear God’s words being read. Tell me it does not somersault or skip a beat. I f it doesn’t then, your heart could very well be dead and you need to do something to revive it before it’s too late.

“And We send down from the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe
Surah Al-Isra’ 17:82

"Surely Allāh loves those who turn to Him again and again, and He loves those who purify themselves"
Surah Al-Baqarah 2:222

Other than Quran, one of the ways to clean our soul is through charity. It does not matter if you don’t have much money to give away because you can also donate your energy to helping others. The satisfaction of being able to make a difference in someone’s life, however small, is indescribable. Try it and you will not regret it.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Every Muslim has to give in charity." The people then asked: "(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?" The Prophet replied: "He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns)." The people further asked: "If he cannot find even that?" He replied: "He should help the needy who appeal for help." Then the people asked: "If he cannot do (even) that?" The Prophet said finally: "Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds."- Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524 

“A man once said to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): "I have plenty of property, a large family, a great deal of money, and I am a gracious host to my guests. Tell me how to conduct my life and how to spend (my money)." The Prophet replied: "Give (regular charity) out of your property, for truly it is a purifier, and be kind to your relatives and acknowledge the rights of the poor, neighbors and (those in need who seek your help)." - Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 3 

We must also stay away from matters and things that can tarnish our hearts.

“The prophet (S.A.W.) said: "Trials are presented to the hearts like a mat, one stick at a time. If any heart accepts it, a dark spot is left in it. If any heart rejects it, a bright spot is left in it. Consequently, the hearts become two types: Bright heart like the Safa that gets no harm from any sin as long as the skies and the earth exist, and a dark heart that does not know any good deed and does not reject any evil unless it is from its whims and desires." {Reported by Imam Muslim}

“reported by Imam At-Trmizi that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said: "When a person commits a sin a dark dot is dotted on his heart. Then if that person leaves that evil deed, begs Allah to forgive him, and repents, then his heart is cleaned, but if he repeats the evil deed, then that covering is increased till his heart is completely covered with it,

Do not let our hearts be dead. Our heart is completely useless if it’s dead. Revive it with dhikr and recite the Quran. Perform as much sunnah prayers as possible. Increase your knowledge. Purification of the heart and soul is an on going process. We must continue doing it until we exhale our last breath. There were times when I wish that God Al Mighty would perform ‘open-heart’ surgery on my heart and wash it thoroughly with Zam Zam water like He did with our beloved Prophet’s SAW heart twice but alas, I am no one special hence I have to do my own cleaning.

Anas b. Malik (r.a) reported that Gabriel came to the Messenger of Allah (saw) while he was playing with his playmates. He took hold of him and lay him prostrate on the ground and tore open his breast and took out the heart from it and then extracted a blood-clot out of it and said: That was the part of Satan in thee. And then he washed it with the water of Zamzam in a golden basin and then it was joined together and restored to it place. The boys came running to his mother, i. e. his nurse, and said: "Verily Muhammad has been murdered." They all rushed toward him (and found him all right) His color was changed, Anas said. "I myself saw the marks of needle on his breast."(Sahih Muslim Book 001, Number 0311)

Abu Dharr (may Allaah be pleased with him), who reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “My roof was opened when I was in Makkah, and Jibreel (peace be upon him) came down and opened my chest, then he washed it with Zamzam water. Then he brought a gold basin full of wisdom and faith, poured it into my chest, and closed it up again. Then he took me by the hand and ascended with me into the first heaven.”

{Reported by al-Bukhaari, 3/429}.

Other ways to brighten your heart and make it shine is to always smile and be happy. Counts your blessings and be thankful for it. Wish for the best for others. Be good to your parents. Guard your tongue. Forgive everyone and always repent before going to sleep.

Take good care of your heart and you will have a wonderful soul….In Shaa Allah..

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Life begins at 40?

“Life begins at forty.” - W. B. Pitkin 

I just realized a few nights ago that I will be turning the big 40 in a couple of months. That thought got me thinking about my life as a whole. As I look back on my life’s journey, I must say that it has been quite a roller-coaster, full of ‘incidents’ and ‘accidents’. Over the years, I learnt about love and friendship. I met new friends and lost some also. I lost 2 babies and I learnt about grief and heartache. I was taught about being patient and taming my fiery temper. I was also taught about humility and humanity.

I must say that I am quite surprise to see where I am now and what I have become. About twenty years ago, I had imagined my life to be differently. It is very true that we only have the ability to plan but the Master who decides our fate is God Al Mighty. God Al Mighty had indeed decided my life’s journey to be different from what I had planned. Not that I’m complaining but quite the opposite. I am truly thankful that things did not go as I planned because now, I know, my ‘plan’ was not a good for me.

it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.
Surah Al Baqarah 2:216

God has sent 2 wonderful people to me who had taught me many things about Islam. I was very ignorant then but thanks to these two noble souls, I learn to appreciate the beauty of Islam.

            Has taught man that which he knew not.”
            Surah Al Alaq 96:5

I am a firm believer that if we are seeking for knowledge in Islam, then God will send us someone who will teach us. My two teachers have patiently put up with my antics and silly questions. They reprimanded me when I needed to be scolded but most importantly, they have guided me through my most difficult period when I was looking for God. I know I can never repay their kindness and not a day goes by that I am grateful to God for sending me His servants.

Now I wonder what is in store for me in the future. One thing for sure is, that I know I will still be doing is, ‘learning’. There is no full stop to gaining knowledge. One can never have enough knowledge. I  also noticed that the number ‘40’ is quite significant in Islam.   

Did you know that our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAW received his 1st revelation from Angel Gabriel when he was 40 years old. I suppose the saying that ‘life starts at 40’ is true for our beloved Prophet Saw because Prophet SAW started his life as a messenger of God at the age of 40. Why God chose Prophet SAW to become a His messenger at the age of 40, and not 30 or 20,  I honestly don’t know but if you have the answer, please share with me. To me, there must be something special about that age but God knows what we do not.

The number ‘40’ is even specifically mentioned in the Quran.

We have enjoined man to be kind to his parents. In pain did his mother bear him and in pain did she give birth to him. The carrying of the child to his weaning is a period of thirty months. And when he is grown to full maturity and reaches the age of forty, he prays: "My Lord, dispose me that I may give thanks for the bounty that You have bestowed upon me and my parents, and dispose me that I may do righteous deeds that would please You, and also make my descendants righteous. I repent to You, and I am one of those who surrender themselves to You." 
Surah Al-Ahqaf 46:15

This a special supplication that we are highly encourage to recite when we attain the age of 40. From my reading, I come to understand that the age ‘40’ is when we reach our maturity level from the Islamic perspective. We are considered as wiser when we attain the age of ‘40’.  I suppose being 40 is when we reached our peak.

Am I wiser? I do hope so! Am I looking forward to turning 40? You bet I am! I have so much to be thankful for. God had granted me an abundance of barakah and blessings. I may not have everything that I want but I certainly do have everything that I need. I am grateful for the obstacles God had thrown my way because it taught me valuable lessons especially about patience and acceptance. I am thankful for all the sickness that I was inflicted with as it gave me an opportunity to reduce my sins. I am thankful for the privilege for being  able to be a daughter, sister, wife and mother.

Umm Al-Ala reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, visited me when I was sick, and he said, “Be cheerful, O mother of Al-Ala, for when a Muslim becomes sick, Allah takes away his sins just as fire takes away impurities in gold and silver.”
[Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 20, Number 3092, Hasan]

Most of all, I am very thankful that God had implanted many very important people in my life, who had helped to guide me and ensure that I stay on the correct path. These are the people who would give me the slap of reality when I needed it. They would pick me up when I fall, become my pillar of strength when I falter, be my shoulder to cry on and love me unconditionally.

Now, I have a different check-list for life that I hope to achieve before I die. One of the items on my check list is to try to live my remaining lifetime in accordance with AlQuran and Hadith. My ardent hope and sincere prayer is that when I am called to meet my Maker, I have tried and succeeded and can finally declare myself a ‘Muslim’. Ameen….

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Waiting for the Call....

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart.” -Abraham Joshua Heschel

I was asked once by a person as to why I chose to perform my pilgrimage at an early age. Well, I was not exactly young but I was in my thirties and it has been the trend in Malaysia, that only the elderly people who goes for hajj.

Honestly, a couple years ago, the thought of going for pilgrimage did not enter my mind at all. There is no age requirement or restriction when it comes to hajj. The pre-conditions of hajj are;-
1)  Muslim
2) Sane
3) Have reached puberty
4) Financially & economically able

So lets see…condition No. 1, I’m a Muslim, well, technically, that’s what it states on my identification card but spiritually, I’m still trying and not quite there yet. No. 2, I am sane, well most of the time except the occasional ‘mental’ moments. No. 3, ooooh yeah.. I have and I have 4 children to prove it!  No. 4, now that’s the tricky part.

In Malaysia, there are basically 3 ways to go for hajj. One is through invitation from the Saudi Government, two, through a body called Tabung Haji and third, through private packages.  The first option is almost impossible to get unless you are an important person to the Saudi government which I am not so that left me with the second and third option.

Technically, I have fulfilled the fourth condition. Going with Tabung  Haji is  somewhat of a budget travelling. Tabung Haji is a governmental body that organises pilgrims from Malaysia every year. Their package is called “muasasa” where they provide you with the basic things that you need but anything extra, you are on your own. If I choose this package, I will be separated from my husband and will have to share the room with 5 other ladies who are strangers to me. Plus, there is a waiting period for this package.

The private package on the other hand, is run by private companies. Their hotels are (though not necessarily) nearer to the Masjidil Haram. You have the luxury to choose to share the room with your husband and 2 or 3 or 4 others ladies. The food is supposedly better than ‘muasasa’. So what’s the catch? The price of the package of course! The  cheapest private package is double the price of the ‘muasasa’ package.

Ok so far as the pre-conditions are concerned, lets just say I more than qualify. So what is my excuse for not going? I am a major procrastinator when it comes to anything to do with religion.  As wrong as it is, I do drag my feet when it comes performing my duties as a Muslims. I felt that I was not ready, spiritually to perform hajj. I mean I survived umra couple years ago and lightning did not strike me when I was standing in front of the Kaaba but years have passed and my sins have more than quadruple since!

This is hajj we are talking about. The ultimate spiritual journey for all Muslims. This is the journey of a lifetime!. I had this overwhelming fear that my hajj will be rejected due to my sins. There were doubts swirling in my head. What if I was tested there, will I be able to go through it? What if God decides to punish me for my sins, am I strong enough?

When I confronted the Wise Owl, he said told me, “sister, those are whispering of Satan. Deep down inside, you have already decided that you want to go but Satan is now creating doubts in your mind, to discourage you from going. You must have faith that God will not forsake you. He will not punish you for answering his Call. Have no fear and go with a clear heart and mind ”

SubhanAllah! The Wise Owl was right .When I came across this verse, I was resolved.

   " ...pligrimage thereto is a duty men owe to God, -those who can afford the journey...."
                                                                                         (Surah Al-Imran-97)

Once I have fulfilled all the pre-conditions, then it become incumbent upon me to perform my hajj whether I was spiritually ready or not. The questions is, when will I ever be ready? 10 or 20 years time or it could be that I will never be spiritually ready. One thing for sure, I know that I do not want to die in a state procrastination.

            “Whosoever possesses provisions and conveyance for the journey to the House of God, but in spite of this, does not perform Hajj, then his dying is like the dying of a Jew or a Christian (Tirmidhi).

That Hadith haunted me day and night. I needed to get my act together. I want to die as a Muslim and that’s that!

My other issue was the tents. I am quite the 'diva'. I don’t do outdoors and I definitely do not do tents. When my kids wanted to go camping, I pitched the tent in their room and told them to pretend it’s the outdoor! Being in Arafah and Mina means,spending a couple of nights and days in tents. Oooooooo tough. Even when I was reading about it, my diva-ness was screaming in protest.

Then my hubby told me, that, part of the spirit of hajj is, sacrifice. We need to sacrifice our comfort for the sake Allah SWT. He also said that if our intention is clear and pure, then the discomfort will not bother us.

So I gathered up my courage and went on my way. Oh, my husband and I decided to choose the ‘muasasa’ way. We felt that forgoing comfort will be a small price to pay.

The whole journey was magical. Words cannot accurately describe the experience. I learnt that it is actually better to perform hajj when we are young because our bodies are stronger. If we get sick, which more often than not, we will, we can recover faster and perform our prayers in the Masjid. Some of the elderly people who fell sick, couldn’t recover fast enough and they spent most of their time in the room instead of the Masjid. I just felt it was such a shame to come all the way and spend time in the room instead of in the Masjid. I didn’t know if I will ever get the opportunity to visit Kabaah again so I was determined to make the most of it. Plus, you would want to be healthy when you are in Arafah and Mina. Being ill whilst trying to perform the rituals of hajj is no fun. If we are healthy then we are able to concentrate better on our rituals.

To cut the story short, I survived!  I came back in one piece and a much happier and calmer person. It is true that if we set our intentions clearly and pure, then Allah SWT will make everything easier for us.

Now, I do not feel guilty for going holidays abroad because I have fulfilled the last pillars of Islam. I have set my priorities right for once and spent my wealth that was given to me by God Al Mighty, to serve Him first. Just to recap, the pillars of Islam are:-

1)  the shahada (Islamic creed)
2)  daily prayers (salah)
3)  almsgiving (zakāt)
4)  fasting during the month of Ramadan (sawm)
5)  the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime

I still don’t know if my hajj was accepted Allah SWT but the Wise Owl told me, “sister, once you have perform your hajj to the best of your abilities and in sincerity, then you just leave the rest to God. Allah SWT is most merciful and insyaAllah, He will forgive all of your sins and accept your hajj.”

I have often heard people talking about the ‘Call’. To me, the ‘Call’ is when you realise truthfully that you have fulfilled all the pre-conditions of hajj and hasten to perform it without delay. Do not wait for any special sign as you may not get it. Do not wait for any ‘invitation’ as may not get any. Ask yourself, have I fulfilled the pre-conditons? (Don’t cheat cos God will know!) and if your answer is ‘yes’ then, you should be running towards Kabaa. If your answer is ‘no’ then perhaps you should try to set your priorities right and work towards changing the answer to ‘yes’. If this whiny diva can survive, I am sure it will be much easier for all of you…..