Sunday, 20 December 2015

Respecting the Hijab

“What you do, the way you think, makes you beautiful.” ― Scott Westerfeld,

The topic of hijab is controversial to some, sensitive to others and a completely ‘no-go‘ zone to a few. There also, of course, sisters who are willing to discuss the topic with an open mind.

First and foremost, I'm not judging. I'm just giving a friendly advice based on observation and experience. I, myself, am far from perfect so let us try together.

Some sisters may argue that they should not be judged merely on their appearances and that donning the hijab is a personal choice. They should not be forced to do it. If they choose not to cover their head, the matter should be between them and God.

Personally, to me, yes, they are right. It's their personal right to obey God or to disobey and only God should judge them but, that does not mean that covering of the awra is not compulsory.

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.

Surah An-Nur 24:31

Now for those who are already in hijab. Alhamdulillah. It may not be an easy feat but trust me, the rewards are to die for!

But, however, may I just humbly request that you re- examine the reason or purpose or intention of you wearing the hijab. If the intention and purpose is to cover the awra and obey God, then please look at the definition and boundaries of our awra.

Abu Dawud (32:4092) - The Apostle of Allah... said: "O Asma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands"  This was narrated by Aisha.

This hadith shows that for a woman, the only parts of her body that are allowed to be uncovered are her face and hands. Even our feet must be covered. To expose our feet or our necks or our arms means to expose our awra eventhough our head may be covered.

The commandment to cover our awra came directly from God Almighty. To show respect to what had been commanded to us, we should follow the description of awra as told to us by our beloved Prophet pbuh. We must obey His rules on His terms not ours.

To defile, taint or tarnish the commandment by changing it to suit our whim and fancy is actually, to me, is akin to insulting the commandment. Let me give you an example, an employer gave specific instructions to the employee to perform a certain task. By not following the instructions or changing it without valid reasons would  amount to insubordination. Similarly between us and God. Any form of disobedience to Him is insubordination in the highest order.

If the intention is good, then we must be careful not to end up with an empty shell i.e.not reaping any rewards for deeds done  or worse still, incurring His wrath for failing to respect His Decree.

Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There are two types of the people of Hell that I have not seen yet: men with whips like the tails of cattle, with which they strike the people, and women who are clothed yet naked, walking with an enticing gait, with something on their heads that looks like the humps of camels, leaning to one side. They will never enter Paradise or even smell its fragrance, although its fragrance can be detected from such and such a distance.” (Narrated by Ahmad and by Muslim in al-Saheeh).

Respect the hijab. Take the trouble to learn about it. Ignorance is no excuse in this technology era where information is a the touch of a button.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Good days, bad days...

“Every single day is a good day no matter how bright or dark it is, because it always brings an opportunity to start a positive beginning in your life.” ― Edmond Mbiaka

I read a Facebook status of an acquaintance recently, lamenting about the bad day she was having. Hmmmm...I remember doing the exact same thing not too long ago. Moaning about bad days, that is.

I used to blame God for everything that went wrong in my life. I also thought that every time I suffered a mishap, it was because God was punishing me for my sins. I felt that He didn't like me let alone love me because good things only happened to others but not me. I suppose I thought the worst of Him at that time...SubhanAllah...may He forgive me..

One day, the Wise Owl told me, "sister, there are no bad days only good ones. The only thing that is bad is our attitude and perception towards life." As much as I wanted to argue with him, I knew that what he said had some truth.

Everything that has been given to us is actually a blessing. How you perceived everything makes a whole lot of difference. Let me give you an example. You woke up late one morning and was late for work. On your way out, you stubbed your toe. Rather than being complaining about your day starting on a bad note, think of the positive side. One, you got a couple more minutes of precious sleep and two, you will be rewarded for patiently suffering in silence for the injured toe.

“Whatever befalls a Muslim of exhaustion, illness, worry, grief, nuisance or trouble, even though it may be no more than a prick of a thorn, earns him forgiveness by Allah of some of his sins.”
Hadith Bukhari.

I realised that I had a choice. I could continue lamenting about my woes and remain miserable or look on the brighter side of life and stand a chance of being happy. I chose the latter. 

Just like the Wise Owl said..there's no such thing as a bad day....

If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyr-witnesses (to Truth). And Allah loveth not those that do wrong.

Surah Al Imran 3:140

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

He says, She says...

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” ― Voltaire

I remember that there was a point of time during my course of re-learning Islam that I got thoroughly confused. Different people were telling me different versions of what they understand Islam to be. With each version that was relayed, I'd get more and more confused. It was quite frustrating. I felt that the more I learnt, the more dim witted I became.

In the end, I ran to the Wise Owl, to seek clarification and to untangle the knots in my head. The Wise Owl advised me to  go back to basics; go back to Quran and hadith.

It was then that I realised my mistake. I was not learning about Islam but rather, listening to people's opinion about how Islam should be. There is a difference between learning and listening. Different people have different views hence you will get different versions. Each will insist that their version is the correct one.

What I needed to do was to open up the Quran and try to understand it rather than relying on other people's hearsay version of the content there in. Similarly with hadith. I needed to read and study hadith on my own rather than believing the version related by others.

In the last sermon of our beloved Prophet s.a.w. on the day of Arafat, he told us,

"I leave behind me two things, the Quran and the Sunnah (Hadith), and if you follow these you will never go astray. All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listened to me directly. Be my witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people."

Sahih Muslim

When Prophet s.a.w. said 'you' in his sermon, he also meant me. He had specifically said that if we do not want to go astray, we are to follow Quran and Sunnah and not follow people.

So, truthfully, if we truly take the trouble to re-learn the Quran and hadith and try to understanding its meaning, we should be on a clear path. It's not about what 'he says or she says' but rather it's about what God says and the only way to find out is by understanding the Quran....

Saturday, 21 November 2015

A History, a Garden and Friendship....

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.” ― Muhammad Ali

 This is a story about childhood friends. 

When I was small, making friends was not one of my strongest traits. I was a difficult child, nasty at times and completely emotional. I was ready to think the worst of a person. Needless to say, I didn't have many close friends.

During my brief stint in a boarding school, I met G, M, F, I, A and other girls. Some became my dorm-mates and others were class-mates. Suffice to say that since I was in school for only a few months, a  long lasting friendship wasn't forged between me and them and after school ended, we each went our separate ways. 

About a year ago, by the Will of God, 26 years after we left school, I saw the girls again. Shortly after that, Garden of Hope was born. Ironically, it is only now that I am finally getting to know these friends whom I had met during my childhood. It was during our weekly garden meet that our friendship developed and grew strong. 

I believe God has His reasons in arranging things as He does. Like the Wise Owl always say, 'nothing is coincidence. It will happen when He wants it and how He wants it.'

Many years ago, I did not know how to value friendship as I do now. Now, I learned to appreciate the strength, weaknesses and eccentricities in each of my friends. Even though we come from different backgrounds, it is the common goal that unite us together.

Ever since we started our 'gardening club', I am a better baker and cook. Sister M is a master baker and she is always giving us recipes and tips. Sister M is also one of the causes of my expanding waistline as she brings delectable cakes and savories every time we meet. 

Sister F is a master chef and can whip up a dish that can put, even the best chef to shame.  Her experiences and wisdom never fails to amaze me. 

Sister G is the positive vibes of the group. Hearing her scream whenever she digs out a worm, is the highlight of the day and it always leaves us giggling like school kids. 

Sometimes, the others would join us for our gardening meet and when that happens, you can hear shrieks of laughter from miles away. We exchange notes, share knowledge, wipe tears and even flick each other's ears when situation warrants it. Our garden? It has expanded and is in bloom....

It's funny how things turned out from just a 'Garden'. If you have childhood friends whom you have not met or heard from in years, perhaps now is a good time to try to get in touch with them again. It's always nice to have friends around. If you don't know how to go about, then start a 'gardening club'!

 Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily,     you do not enrich the people with your wealth, but rather you enrich them with your cheerful faces and good character.”
At-Tabarani 18

Friday, 13 November 2015

Thank you, aunty....

“People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.” ― Paulo Coelho

Yesterday, an old school friend had invited a few of us to join him in a 'Feed the Needy' program. This is a program where a group of volunteers, pull their resources together and feed the needy as well as homeless, in the city. It's something like soup kitchen.

Not wanting to lose out on a real live experience, we agreed. We agreed to meet at a designated place at 8 pm. My husband and I decided to bring 4 of our kids along, with the hope that they learn something from their experience.

A scholar once said that if you are healthy, you have a family and a roof over your head, then you are considered rich! Now, I understand what he meant...

Last night I realized that, like us, the homeless and the needy too, dream of a better life for them and their family but circumstances have it, their predicament are as such. The scary part is, it can happen to anyone. Today, you might be living in your million dollars castle but tomorrow, it could be that you find yourself living in the streets due to an unexpected turn of events.

After last night, the words humbleness, humility and gratefulness, have a whole new meaning to me.  Looking at the children especially the babies, struck a chord in my heart. They experience hardship even at a tender age but they were still very polite and thanked us for the food.

I believe each one of us have the ability to help another. It doesn't always  have to be monetary. Sometimes, a kind word and a helping hand is all they need.

If you can, please do volunteer and join the program, at least once in your lifetime. I assure you, it will really open your eyes to the plight of others. It will soften your heart and make you be more appreciative of the blessings that have been bestowed upon you, however little.

Our kids helped to distribute the food and was excited with the fact that they had assisted, even in a small way.Riding home last night, instead of the usual whining from them, we received a chorus of 'thank you'.....

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Assembly Point

“Each meeting occurs at the precise moment for which it was meant. Usually, when it will have the greatest impact on our lives.” ― Nadia Scrieva

In one of our trips up north, hubby decided to make a pitt-stop at one of the RNR. As he slowly drove the car into parking at a vacant spot, I was rummaging my handbag looking for something. When I looked up, I saw a signboard right in front of me. The sign was a notification of the assembly point in case of an emergency.

At that time, I couldn't help but wonder how the atmosphere will be on Judgment day i.e. mashyar. One thing that I know is that it will be totally chaotic. Everyone will be in a state of panic. There would not be a sign like the one I'm staring at, that's for sure! No one will know where to go or when.

“And the Trumpet will be blown, and all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth will swoon away, except him whom God wills.” (Quran 39:68)

“And the Trumpet will be blown (i.e.  the second blowing) and behold!  From the graves they will come out quickly to their Lord.” (Quran 36:51)

“On the Day you see it every nursing mother will be distracted from that [child] she was nursing, and every pregnant woman will abort her pregnancy, and you will see the people [appearing] intoxicated while they are not intoxicated; but the punishment of Allah is severe.” (Quran 22:2)

But, is it possible to be in state of total calmness and be treated like VIP whilst waiting for our fate to be determined?

Narrated Abu Hurairah (RTA) The prophet said “Seven people will be shaded by Allah under His Shade on the Day (Day of  Resurrection) when there will be no shade except His. They are:

a)   A just ruler.
b)   A young man who has been brought up in the worship of Allah (i.e. worships Allah alone sincerely from his childhood)
c)   A man whose heart is attached to the mosque (who offers the five compulsory congregational prayers in the mosques)
d)   Two persons who love each other for the sake of Allah’s sake, and they meet and part in Allah’s cause only.
e)   A man who refuses the call of a charming woman of noble birth for illegal sexual intercourse with her and says, I fear Allah.
f)    A person who practices charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given.
g)   A person who remembers Allah in seclusion and his eyes becomes flooded with tears.

(Sahih Al Bukhari Vol.2, Hadith 504)

Don't you long to be one of them? I do.

How are we resurrected?

Jaabir who said: “I heard the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say, ‘Every person will be resurrected in the manner that he died.’” (Narrated by Muslim, 2878) 

IbnUmar (may Allah be pleased with him): “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘When Allah sends down punishment upon a people, the punishment also befalls those who were among them, then they will be resurrected according to their deeds.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 7108). 

Let us hope that our soul are taken in the best manner and when we are committing good deeds...ameen...

Monday, 26 October 2015

Dealing with Post-Natal Depression..

In Malaysia, I noticed, that this topic is not much talked about or discussed but the danger is all too real. I'm talking about 'post-natal' depression. Despite some people thinking that it's 'all in the head' of the new-mother, I can you that it's not true. It's a real medical condition that requires help.

I was diagnosed with post-natal depression after giving birth to my 5th child. Who would thought, that a woman my age, who had delivered 4 babies before, would suffer from depression. Well, let me tell you can happen to any mother regardless if you are a new mom or you had just given birth to your 12th child!

In my case, the depression hit me right after 5 weeks of giving birth. At first, I thought it was just my hormones that went haywire since I'm already in my 40s but it was not like any normal depression. In the past, whenever I felt blue, I would just shake it off and it seemed to work but not this time. It followed me like a plague. No matter what I did, I couldn't seem to get out of it. I felt that the Angel of Death was stalking me, waiting for the right time to yank my soul from my body. I had this unexplainable and unreasonable fear of the unknown and about everything. I felt that I was falling into a 100 feet black pit and was powerless to stop it. To make it worse, I couldn't produce enough milk for my baby and she was not getting enough. I felt like a failure.....

Getting up every morning was a task in itself. I had to literally dragged myself out of bed. I dreaded waking up because the only time I was not depress was when I was asleep! I couldn't motivate myself to look forward for a new day. Everything seemed doomed and gloom. It was like living in Gotham city, only 100 times worse! 

I didn't want to see anyone other than my own family and if it was possible, I would have holed up in a cave somewhere, away from the whole world. I worried over the slightest thing, like will my two fat cats be kidnapped if they slept in the front porch.  I get panic attacks on a daily basis. My anxiety was in overdrive. I lost all control...

When I began to start resenting my newborn daughter, that was when I knew something was not quite right and that I had to seek help. You see, I didn't want to talk to anyone because I didn't want to seem as a failure. I can't fail! I would be ashamed to fail. Failing is ridiculous because I already have children. This whole giving birth thing was supposed to be a walk in the park for me, at least, that's what everyone kept telling me...but they were wrong and I was wrong...

I finally spoke to my gynae and she diagnosed me with 'post-natal' depression. I was, honestly, taken aback. Not willing to accept it, I spoke to another friend who is also a gynea and she confirmed the diagnosis. I had all the symptoms and more. In a funny way, I was relieved because it went to prove that I was not going cuckoo nor was I punished for the sins that I committed. What I had was a real medical condition. 

The next question was, how do I deal with it? I asked my doctor if she could prescribed me 'happy pills' to which she said 'no' and advised me to see a shrink. Oh well, it was worth a try. I wasn't receptive to seeing a shrink because, call me twisted, but I just didn't want the shrink to confirm that I was actually mental!But that's just me. For other mothers, seeing a pyschiatrist might be a tremendous help. 

Support from your spouse is utmost important. In my case, my hubby became my shrink. He patiently sat down and listened to every worries and fears that I had and tried to reason it out. He didn't dismiss my condition as petty and didn't treat me like a nut-case.  That to me, was the biggest help. I also enlisted the aid of the 'Wise Owl' who convinced me that I wasn't possessed by demon nor was I losing my faith.

I came to realize that post-natal depression is not a disease that can be cured overnight or by a magic pill. Prozac or any other anti-depressant is only a temporary relief. What I did was, I managed the symptoms as it emerged. To me, having post-natal depression was like having a cold. There's no cure for common cold. You just have to let it run its course and manage its symptoms. That worked for me but for others, you need to find out what works for you, but it is important that you MUST seek help. Do not suffer in silence.

I started getting myself into my usual routine slowly. When things got a little bit overwhelming especially with the baby, I wasn't ashamed to ask for help. Don't feel guilty if for some reasons you can't breastfeed your baby or if you needed to supplement his or her feed with baby formula. Don't feel guilty or bad if you think you need some 'me' time because trust me, you do. Get someone else to take care of the baby while you take a breather. Let me repeat this; you have not failed as a mother. It is just the way things are. Accept it and move on.

Talking about it also helps. Talk to your spouse or mom or friends or anyone who is willing to listen. Never sweep it under the carpet because it will not go away on its own. In fact, it could get worse if you choose to ignore it. 

My advise to all mothers out there. Don't be ashamed if you if you are experiencing post-natal depression. You are not a leper that everyone has to stay away from. You are not crazy either. You are very normal. You just need a little bit more support and love from the people around you. Stay away from negative people. In time, the bogeyman will go away, InSha Allah.

As for me, I'm not quite whole yet. I still have traces of it but I am in a far better place than I was a few months ago. When I think about it, having post-natal depression is actually a blessing. It opened my eyes to many things that I chose to ignore in the past. It made me be more appreciative of my surroundings and most important of all, I received extra love and attention from my loved ones....

"Verily after hardship comes ease."
Quran 94:5

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Don't Afraid to be Alone..

"It is better to sit alone than in company with the bad; and it is better still to sit with the good than alone. It is better to speak to a seeker of knowledge than to remain silent; but silence is better than idle words."
Don't afraid to be alone because you will be on your own when the Angel of death claims your soul,
Don't be afraid to be alone because you will be alone in the grave,
Don't afraid to be alone because you will be on your own when you are resurrected on the day of Judgment,
Don't afraid to be alone because you will be alone when you answer for your deeds and actions,
Don't afraid to be alone because you will be on your own when you face your Creator,
Don't afraid to be alone because you will be alone when you plead for His mercy,
Don't afraid to be alone because we are never alone.....God is always with us......

Friday, 18 September 2015

Because it's Friday.....

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” ― Mark Twain

"Hello" he greeted us.

My friend M and I were pulling 2 empty baskets behind us when this angelic face young guy, greeted us at the entrance of a supermarket. We wanted to get some groceries for a family in need.

"Biar saya tolong aunty" he said. (Let me help you, aunty).

My friend M jokingly replied, "Hey, jangan panggil kami aunty, masih muda wooo! " (Don't call us aunty, we are still young).

 He grinned at us cheekily and said, "Ok kakak. You panggil saya abang!".

"Ayoo!" Both M and I retorted while squealing with laughter. 

"Kenapa nak tolong kami?" (Why do you want to help us?) Asked M.

We knew that this young man is a ‘special' young man. He has some physical disabilities but his character, to me, is completely flawless. I have seen him around a couple of times at this particular supermarket. Even the staff greets him affectionately but it was what he said next stunned me and my friend M.

"Hari nie hari Jumaat. Kalau tolong orang, dapat banyak pahala ooo". (Today is Friday. If you help people, you will get many rewards).

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:
"The best day on which the sun has risen is Friday; on it Adam was created; on it he was made to enter Paradise; on it he was expelled from it; and the [last] hour (i.e. the Day of Resurrection) will take place on no day other than Friday." (Muslim)

M and I couldn't contained our smiles. It's true that when God wants to remind us of something or even teach us a thing or two, He would send His special teachers to us. The best thing is, our 'teacher' is not even Muslim, yet. Teachers can be anyone, anywhere. It can also be a two or a four legged creature. Remember the story of a raven which taught Qabil (Cain) to dig a hole?

"Then Allah sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. "Woe is me!" said he; "Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?" then he became full of regrets"
Surah Al-Maidah 5:31

Eagerly, he followed us around the shop and helped us put the goods on the cashier's counter. Our angel even loaded our purchases into the trolley and pushed it to our car. It seemed that not only God had send us a teacher, He had also send us a 'helper' to help us carry out our intended deed.

As he was pushing the trolley, I asked him if I could take of photo of him. He asked me why. I told him that it was because it's Friday and that he had just gotten his 'banyak pahala' (many rewards)......

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Blessed sleep...

"Verily, Allah does not look to your faces, to your lineage nor to your wealth, but He looks to your hearts and your deeds.” (Muslim, 2564)

Before you close your eyes and go to sleep...

Clear your heart of any grudges...
Forget all the pain...
Bury your sorrow...
Forgive everyone...
Count your blessings...
Beg for forgiveness...
Let go of the past....
Pray for a better tomorrow....

Monday, 24 August 2015

Garden of Hope...

“Working in garden is like digging knowledge from the earth.”
Karthikeyan V

This is the story about 3 friends. One has a green thumb, the other is afraid of worms and the third one is terrified of bugs. Still, they had a vision.  They hope to plant vegetables and fruits, for charity.

So, together they started their garden from scratch.

They started by planting seeds in small pots for it to grow. Next, they worked on getting the plot of land ready for re-planting. Every time friend no.2 loosens the soil and finds a worm, she would scream. Every time friend no.3 sees a bug, she would run. Being a seasoned gardener, only friend no.1 would calmly dig and loosened the soils without any drama.

In the end, they managed to prepare the plot and planted the new shoots. Phase 1 completed! They are also recruiting more friends.

It is their ardent hope that one day soon, their garden will be turned into a garden of bliss.....Ameen.

Anas reported that the Prophet said, "If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him." (Bukhari)

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Before I close my eyes...

“Everybody will die, but very few people want to be reminded of that fact.” ― Lemony Snicket

The Wise Old Man once told me that people with terminal illness, are the lucky ones. They are chosen by God, to be informed of roughly their date of demise. God has given them that privilege so that they can get their affairs in order before the angel of death claims their souls.

The Wise Old Man also said that not many will regard the advance notice as a blessing, rather many would take it as a curse.

In a way, I can see the point that the Wise Old Man was making. I mean, we know that we will all die some day. It's inevitable. The only difference between us is the time of death and how we die.

Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.
Surah Al Imran 3:185

The other day, I ran into an acquaintance at the supermarket whilst rushing to get something for my husband. A year ago, a friend told me that this acquaintance, sister Z has been diagnosed with cancer and that she was undergoing treatment. At that time, I wanted to visit sister Z but I didn't want to intrude on her private time. Furthermore, we were not really friends hence I didn't know if my visit would be welcomed.

Anyway, I ran into sister Z as I was entering the main entrance of the supermarket. We exchanged greetings and I asked her how she was doing. She was very cheerful and she told me something that impressed me. Sister Z said that she has accepted the gift that God has given her and she is grateful. She is thankful for each additional day that she gets as it is a blessing from Him.

Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Remember frequently the thing that cuts off pleasures,” i.e. death.” [at-Tirmidhi] this is a person who has truly accepted her fate and is completely happy with it. Not only that, she regards her sickness as a gift. Not once did she express regret or anger. In fact, I've never seen anyone more at peace than her.

You know, I can't help wondering that if I am in sister Z's shoes, how will I react. Would I be able to trust God's plan? Can I accept it in good faith? Or would I rather die a sudden death? One thing for sure, is that I know I have a long list of unfinished business and I hope that I am given the time to put my affairs in order before I permanently close my eyes.

Before parting ways, I hugged sister Z and wished her well. I pray that God grants her the best of this world and hereafter. Like the Wise Old Man said, sister Z is indeed one of the chosen few...ameen....

Friday, 10 July 2015

Sisterhood of the Masjid....

“A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves” ― Jen Hatmaker

            Every Ramadhan, I learn something new. Last year, I learnt about sisterhood and simple blessings. I survived yet another ‘buka puasa’ at the mosque behind my house and enjoyed every minute of it. It warmed my heart to learn that even though I am just an occasional visitor to the mosque, the ‘regulars’ still greeted me like I was one of them.

         There was one incident, where a tiny ‘tiff’ broke out in the women’s section. That night, my girls and I were sitting quietly in the second saf (row), waiting for isya prayers. The women section was filling up fast as it was almost time for prayers. A lady (not a regular either) came from behind and told my 8 year old daughter to leave her spot and pray at the back of the room. My daughter called out to me and repeated what this lady said to her. I looked up and asked the lady calmly, “what is the problem?” This lady insisted that my daughter is too young to be praying in the same row as the adults and the word she used was “tak sah” (it’s not valid). You can imagine my irritation but I kept reminding myself that I was in a holy place hence I need to control my temper. I silently repeated my mantra ‘anger is a tool of satan’ then, I simply looked at this lady and told her flatly, “NO”. 

        I can see that she was taken aback by my answer. She kept telling me that it was wrong and not allowed so I asked her, “not allowed by whom?” She then made the mistake of saying “our religion said so”. Now, I am NOT an expert on Islam but if you want to use the religion against me or my family, you better be well prepared to be interrogated. Lesson #1, never quote religion unless you are absolutely sure of the verses or hadith to support your argument. Lesson #2, never mess with a heavily pregnant mother bear with her cubs. 

      So, I asked her to quote me the verses of the Quran or hadith which say that children are not allowed to pray in the same row as the adults. She couldn’t. By now, the regular ladies were already behind me. 

      I told this lady that as far as I know, children are allowed to pray in the same row as the adults. Furthermore, it is good training for my children and I can keep an eye on them. So, until she can come up with a more concrete excuse, I suggested that she leave us be and concentrate on her prayers. I heard a chorus of agreement behind me. As much as I wanted to smile out of happiness for the support that I received, I kept a stern face. Seeing she was out-numbered, the lady grudgingly retreated to the back of the room.

       “The Similitude Of The Believers In Their Compassion, Mercy, And Affection Toward Each      Other Is Like A Single Body. When One Organ Ails, The Whole Body Suffers And Reacts.”

     “The Faithful Are Like A Single Body: If His Eye Suffers, Then His Constitution Will Suffer; And If  He Has A Headache, Then His Whole System Will Suffer.”

            Somehow, a bond of sisterhood of the masjid was forged that night. The sisterhood consisted of the veterans as well as the young. The ladies didn't know me that well but that didn't stop them from coming to my aid. Their unconditional acceptance of me, touched me to the core. I felt humbled.

         This year, however, my schedule is being dictated by a very bossy 7 months old toddler. Bringing her to the mosque is not an option as her cries can be heard from two blocks away. I think that even the strong bond of the mosque sisterhood can’t save me from the wrath of the other ladies if I were to bring my baby. Hence, this year, I sat quietly at home . 

            Feeling rather blue, I decided to speak to the Wise Owl about not being able to the join the terawih prayers at the mosque and my inability to do other ‘extra’ things during the holy month of Ramadhan. The Wise Owl told me, “Sister, don’t worry too much because God wants you to concentrate on other things this Ramadhan. He is the best Disposer of affairs”. The Wise Owl said that instead of getting all stressed out about not being able to do the ‘additional’ things, it is better for me to try to perfect the things that I have been doing all these while. The Wise Owl also added that taking care of my bears cubs is also a form of worship since I’m doing it for the sake of God and it is even more meaningful in the month of Ramadhan. 

    Narrated `Aisha رضى الله عنها: Allah’s Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم  said, “Do good deeds     properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah’s is the most regular and constant even though it were little.” …
Sahih Bukhari

    Hurrmmm....the Wise Owl does have a point. This year, even though I miss the company of the sisterhood of the masjid, my heart is at peace. I learnt that it's not the quantity of the worship that counts but rather the quality. As mothers, we do what we can with the time that we have. Like the Wise Owl said, God is the best Disposer of affairs.  I no longer feel like a lesser Muslim. I still have the opportunity search for the night of power……InshaAllah..

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Things We Take for Granted.

"The more often we see the things around us - even the beautiful and wonderful things - the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds - even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less."Joseph B. Wirthlin

The things we take for granted daily...

To breathe without support the moment we wake up...
To be able to wake up with agility every morning...
The ability to see God's creations and our loved ones...
The ability to hear...
The ability to drink and eat with ease...
The ability to perform ‘toilet' duties everyday unassisted and with ease...
The ability to speak and communicate with others....
Our parents.....
Our spouse...
Our kids...
Our true friends...

Clean water..
Clean air....

Friday, 5 June 2015

Keeping the Hijab

“Modesty is invisibility...Never forget it. To be seen—to be seen—is to be...penetrated. What you must be girls, is impenetrable.” ― Margaret Atwood,

Even during my ignorant days, I knew that donning the hijab is compulsory for a Muslim woman. Actually, covering of the awra is not just about covering one's head but it's also about preserving one's modesty.

One of the things that kept me back from wearing the hijab was that I was afraid of becoming unpopular amongst friends and guys. You must understand that in the year 1990, things were very much different from now. Young women with hijab were either from an Islamic school or very strict family background. I was neither. Also, during that time, hijab was not as fashionable as it is now.

Anyway, I was 20 years old when I decided to wear hijab. To tell you honestly, making the decision and the act of wearing hijab was not difficult at all but keeping the hijab on proved to be somewhat of a challenge. I did get the urge to take it off but I persisted. Back then, most of my friends were not wearing hijab so I kinda felt alone but I knew that I had to be strong in sticking to my decision.

Once, a member of our extended family commented that I looked ugly in hijab. As much as I wanted to slap her silly, I refrained because she was very much older than me  so instead I told her to mind her own business and not to be bothered with the way I looked. Still, I must admit that her comment did create a grain of doubt in my heart. What if no men wants to marry me because they find me unattractive in hijab? Will I end up an old maid with only my cat mourning my death?

Allah keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word, in worldly life and in the Hereafter. And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers. And Allah does what He wills.”
Surah Ibrahim 14:27

In the end, I told my heart to stop doing flip flop and trust God's commandments. My intention to wear the hijab was to please Him not people. If I take care of my relationship with Him then He will take care of me. My hijab is a constant reminder of who I am.

"So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief:"

Surah Al Sharh 94:5

My advice to my sisters, if you have just started wearing hijab, just ignore any negative comments that you get. If a man dislike you because of your hijab then he is not fit to be your imam. As queen, you deserve to have the best possible king, one who will love you for your inner beauty rather than your appearance.

If any of your friends or family members say that you look ugly or unattractive, just remember that it is not them that you need to please plus it could be they are feeling envious. If your friends leave you then they are not true friends after all and rest assure that God will send you new and better friends.

If you haven't don the hijab but have been thinking about it, close your eyes, take a deep breath and just do it. There isn't any need to ponder or over think matters. Ignore the doubts and the satanic whisperings. Trust me, you won't regret it. It could very well be that you have made one of the best decisions in your life.....

Saturday, 30 May 2015

On Learning and Teaching Islam: Keep it Simple!

“Like all magnificent things, it’s very simple.” ― Natalie Babbitt,
I am a firm believer that Islam is simple. Islam is the easiest religion to understand and to follow, at least, in my opinion that is. We have to worship only one God that is Allah SWT; we have to follow only one book of reference, that is Quran and we have to obey only one prophet, that is Prophet Muhammad pbuh. Quite simple isn’t it?
Our scripture i.e. the Quran, contains everything we need to know about life, death and after-life. It is also very clear on the do’s and don’t’s. The holy Quran is a complete guide to mankind. The only problem for people like me, is that, I am not an Arab hence I don’t speak or write or read Arabic. To understand the holy Quran in its original language is a no-no for me so I have to rely heavily on translations. Trust me, I would give up my jewels to be able to read, speak and write Arabic but alas, I can’t. I know a few words here and there but that is hardly sufficient. I did try to learn the language but being a mother to five boisterous kids does not give me much free time to pursue my desire to learn.
Still, not understanding the language is not an excuse for me to study the Quran. The funny thing is, whilst I can recite the Quran in Arabic, I have no clue as to what I am reciting and you know what, somehow, deep in my heart, I know that I am not alone . There are others like me.
I have always been a simple person. I see things in black and white and rarely in grey. I am very direct (too direct sometimes) and I don’t beat around the bush. When it comes to learning, I prefer a teacher who simplifies things for me so that I can appreciate what is being taught and commit it directly to memory.  Similarly with religion, I want a teacher who teaches in a manner which I can understand and relate to. I would prefer the teacher to come down to my level of understanding and work her or his way up together with me rather than the teacher expecting me to meet their high standards. That, to me, is the true spirit of teaching and learning.
I used to get very irritated (I still do sometimes!) when a person speaks to me about Islam and uses Arabic jargon and words that I have absolutely no clue what it means. If the intention of that person was to impress me, well I can tell you that I was not and will not be the least bit impress. Like I said, I am NOT an Arab so I don’t know Arabic. My Arabic vocabulary is limited to ‘yes’ and ‘no’. I know hell is ‘jahanam’ and heaven is ‘jannah’. I have been taught a few curse words in Arabic by a friend but I don’t think so it’s polite to write it down here. I always ended up asking that person if they can repeat whatever that was said, either in English or Malay so I can actually understand what they were going on about.
I have never been one to follow things blindly so in the past, I never put up my hands for ‘dua’ that was recited in Arabic unless there was a translation. I have been given the ‘look’ by some ‘ustaz’ when I requested that they repeat their ‘dua’ in Malay or English so that I can understand. To me then, it made perfect sense. I must know what it is that I am asking from God and why I am saying ‘ameen’ for. Unfortunately to them, I was just being difficult.
You see, the way I see it, if we want people to learn about Islam and fall in love with the religion, we need to teach, share or whatever term you want to call it, in the language that they can connect and understand. Similarly with writing. Write in simple language so that simple people like me, can understand. I am not dumb, I just like things to be simple and I am sure there are many like me out there.
My advice to those who wish to speak or write about Islam (myself included) with the intention of sharing Islamic knowledge with others, whether Muslims or non Muslims, please make it simple. Use normal vocabulary that the common people from the street can understand. You are not writing a thesis for the university or an essay for the Islamic scholars  but instead you are writing with the intention of calling people to this beautiful religion, Islam. All your efforts will be futile if no one understood you, let alone remember, what you said. You might as well be talking to the wall, at least, you will hear your echo bouncing off from the bricks rather than a deafening silence.
Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said, “Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repulse (them ).”  Sahih Bukhari.
Never assume and never judge. I know that it is highly encouraged for us, especially the Muslims, to learn Arabic, since it being the language of the holy Quran but not everyone have the means in terms of time or even money, to learn another language. So, be kind and considerate.
What I am trying to say is do not make it difficult for people to understand Islam. Do not complicate things. To me, there is no point in having such a vast knowledge if you can’t benefit others with it.
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
When people understand, they are able to appreciate the teachings and hence follow willingly. Don’t turn people off  or turn them away from the religion by making it difficult. Keep it simple and you will be awarded handsomely, InshaAllah.
*this article originally was published in

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Dear Heart....

“Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Many many many moons ago, I felt that my life was a complete mess. Everything that could go have gone wrong, went wrong and problems were cropping up like wild mushrooms on a damp soil after a heavy rain. I felt overwhelmed and defeated. There were times that I was tempted to walk away because I just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ironically, that was also the time when I was trying to learn more about Islam. 

As I sat in front of the Wise Owl, feeling dejected, I told him about the conflicted feeling that I was experiencing. You see, I was trying very hard to have faith in God’s plan and accept fate but at the same time I couldn’t help feeling that He wasn’t listening to my duas. I felt let down. I know that a Muslim should not have such feelings but I still felt disgruntled. It’s like a child being angry with her parents. She still loves and respects her parents but she is angry with them, nevertheless. 

I told the Wise Owl that by feeling like I did, I felt that I have failed as a Muslim and that my eaman was actually at rock bottom but the thing is, I couldn’t help feeling what I felt. Does that make me a bad Muslim? Have I strayed off path? Am I being ungrateful? Am I destined to eternal hell? 

Instead of scolding me or giving me a sermon on how a good Muslim should have absolute and unconditional faith in God Almighty, he simply told me, “sister, be happy. You are only human. You are not expected to be perfect. The most important thing is how you deal with the negative feelings that you have. Strengthening of the eaman takes time. It cannot happen overnight. In the mean time, you will have your ups and downs. God is merciful. He knows your weaknesses and limitations. He will never place a burden on you more than you can bear. So, trust me, whatever it is that you are going through, God knows that you can shoulder it and pass with flying colors. You must, not only have faith in God but also in yourself. After all, we human are His best creations.”
“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear…”  
Surah Al Baqara 2:286

Then, what the Wise Owl told me next completely blew me away. He said that even Prophets had whisperings of the heart. Our mind will tell us what is right but our heart is the one that is filled with emotions and feelings and sometimes, the heart doesn’t listen to the mind. At times, the heart needs persuasion and reassurance.

“And when Abraham said (unto his Lord): My Lord! Show me how Thou givest life to the dead, He said: Dost thou not believe? Abraham said: Yea, but (I ask) in order that my heart may be at ease. (His Lord) said: Take four of the birds and cause them to incline unto thee, then place a part of them on each hill, then call them, they will come to thee in haste, and know that Allah is Mighty, Wise.”
Surah Al Baqara 2:260                             

Honestly, I felt sooo much better after that. I didn’t feel like an ogre anymore for feeling despaired and having doubts. I might be wrong but to me, there is nothing wrong in finding answer to calm the heart. It is better to soothe an unsettled heart rather than to pretend to have unwavering faith when in reality everything is hanging by a thread. I also learnt that as human, we will definitely be tested by God Almighty. Why should we be spared when even our beloved Prophet Muhammad pbuh faced trials and tribulations and mind you, our tests are not even close to what Prophet pbuh went through.

Do men imagine that they will be left (at ease) because they say, We believe, and will not be tested with affliction?”
Surah Al Ankaboot 29:2

Now looking back, I believe that my despair and doubts at that time, indirectly strengthened my faith. When my heart questioned, I looked for answers and the answers I found made me understand more. Each time I found answers, I had renewed hope. Of course, I had to ask for forgiveness for the anger that I felt but I have to believe that God will forgive my inadequacies and imperfections. Don't feel bad if your heart questions as it could be a process of learning and understanding.

Even now, sometimes my heart still questions and become uneasy but the trick  is to look for that silver lining behind the clouds. Trust me, it’s there. We just have to look harder…..

"What has reached you was never meant to miss you and what has missed you was never meant to reach you." Prophet Muhammad pbuh