Fifth Night

Few days ago I did my annual character review. This is when I ask the people, who know me well and are not afraid to tell the truth, what they think I should improve when it comes to character/mannerisms. It helps because I can only really see myself from my eyes so the opinion of another, who’s opinion I respect, will do well to opening my eyes on how to better myself.

These are the things that came up:

1. When someone says something to me about myself I take it to heart and their words about me bother me too much. I need to decipher if their opinion is any good before blurting it out to my close friends. I get too caught up in other people’s words. If it is really quite serious and is bugging me for a long time then I should say something.

2. I blame myself too much.

3. Be righteous.

(That last one is pretty vague but is the one that hit home the most.)

Characteristics and to hone them is something that is emphasised in a lot of religions. It is very important to me because I believe I should be the best version I can be of myself all the time whilst keeping in mind that I can always be better. I don’t lose out on anything by trying to emulate the great mannerisms and characteristics of the Prophet; a man who was known for his trustworthy nature even before Islam was revealed to him.

Doing this character review is a great way to keep improving. It has proved effective over the past two years I’ve done it. Whether I follow a religion or not, I would always want to make sure my character is in check and that I treat people the way I would like to be treated.

Fifth Night

First Night.

This is a new thing I’m doing right now; writing without planning ahead. I thought I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do a Ramadan blog this year, but seeing as though I’m sitting on a prayer mat in the dark I feel almost compelled to explain myself to myself.

Upon arrival of Ramadan I tend to prepare myself by making goals I want to achieve by the end of Ramadan. I get a scrap piece of paper and blurt out exactly what I’m feeling and how I want to go about fixing the bits I don’t like about myself. I flip over to the other side and write a prayer list too. This includes things like praying for my mum’s harvesting season to go well, for my niece to grow up to be a well mannered beautiful cultured girl and for me to be strong in whatever situation. I start highlighting my Quran in a different colour from the year before so I can venture into the verses during the fasting period. I did all these things because I wanted to. I was genuinely excited for the arrival of it.

I didn’t feel that this year. I still don’t. I carry a heavy satchel of numbness with me, fashioning the idea that maybe one day during this month that same feeling will arrive. I stand in prayer reciting passages of the Quran that I can now understand because of my Arabic teacher, Savi. You’d think that by understanding what I’m reading I would connect to the verses more. But as I whisper the sounds, my eyes are shut tight; the creases screaming that I do believe in a God. I must do.

Something has changed and this month I want to find out what that something is.


The Final Post

It’s been a while since I last posted a Ramadan blogpost. I tend to write my posts after midnight but the distinguished last ten nights of Ramadan had me busy at such a time. Plus any thoughts I did have during these nights were more like conversations with my Creator and spewing private conversations has never been a talent of mine. Anyhow, I’m going to treat this post as the last Ramadan blog because I’m not sure if after the sun sets the community will celebrate Eid tomorrow or the day after. Plus last night, I treated my teraweeh prayer (the optional but still very important prayer Muslims pray during Ramadan) as it was my last. Since last morning I’ve been in a solemn mood because I know Ramadan is coming to an end. I was talking to a friend of mine last night about this sadness and because he isn’t Muslim, I don’t think he fully understood it. So I explained it to him in a way most people could empathise.

Now I know that there a plenty of girls out there who are pretty, lovely and decent. If a guy was to be with them he wouldn’t be sad or overthrown with joy. He’d be okay because he doesn’t know any better. But just imagine, one month, a guy comes across this woman. She’s strikingly beautiful, full of wisdom and knows her worth. Now this guy doesn’t feel like he’s in her league. Loads of guys that have seen this woman think the same. But they all want to be in her company. This one guy has a conversation with her. He spills his past and doesn’t want to make the same mistakes again. He wants to better himself. This woman comforts him, makes him feel good, makes all his hard work and great efforts feel worthwhile. She spurs him on and he loves it. He feels like he can achieve anything. Within a month’s time, he’s fallen in love with this woman. But this woman only stays for this one month. She’s gone and he has to try keeping up what she’s helped him do. He spends half the year sad that she’s away and slowly start slipping into his old habits because that strength within him, the encouragement she gave him, is slowly starting to fade away. He spends the next half of the year not wanting her to come back because she’ll be disappointed with him. He becomes used to seeing ordinary girls because they don’t question him like this woman did. He doesn’t have to try so hard with these other girls. But deep inside, he still longs to see her. While this is all happening, there’s another guy who also loves this woman. I mean, truly loves her. He spent half the year sad that she was gone and clutched onto anything she left behind and the next half preparing for her return.

You may have guessed already but the woman is Ramadan. The main guy in the story is what most people do – fall back into their old habits. And the last guy who was truly in love with Ramadan are those who really take everything good from Ramadan and apply until the next time.

I want to be part of the second group of people. But there’s a niggling doubt in the back of my mind that I’m going to become sucked into the lull of everyday boring life. Maybe I should have more hope in myself that I can do this. Maybe I should repeat my goals and ambitions daily. Maybe I should treat my mind like I would in Ramadan. But that’s really difficult, once she’s gone.. she’s gone. People expect heightened spirituality during this month so it’s easy to motivate yourself to get up and do what you need to do. When Ramadan is over, it’s not going to be so easy. When she’s gone, if I truly love her, I’m going to clutch onto everything she taught me. This will be my test I guess.

All I know is I’m going to really miss her this year. And I really hope and pray that I get to see her next year.

The Final Post

Day 18: Book Firm

When having an idea in mind, the process and execution of that idea becomes a lot easier. You have focus and ambition.

Let’s take a business idea as an example. Let’s say I want to create a publishing firm that only publishes the works of change makers or books that will stir up and make people question the norms. The reason I’m creating this business is so that I can have the public read these books and question the society they grow up in and hopefully inspire change. This seems like a in-depth aim behind a normal business venture, but when you have a bigger aim like this it spurs you on. Doesn’t make you feel like you’re wasting your time.

In this sort of business you will come across problems. There will be so many rubbish/mediocre books coming my way. If I was in it to make money, I would have backed out by now. But I’m not doing it for that so I keep on looking. Looking for that one book that will help me achieve my goal.

I’ve found my book but now I have no money to market it. I don’t have the backing from the rest of my company because they don’t think it’ll be a best seller. The author of the book is getting inpatient and is saying he will sell his book to another publisher. Problems upon problems. No worries, I will work through the night for days on end to get this right. Every single thing that happens in my life now is connected to my company. I wake up at six so I can prepare the slideshow to sell this book. I rip out newspaper articles I read on the train so I can keep inspired. I don’t take the trains home at peak time so I pay less, which means I’ll have more money to publicise this book. Everything I do, I do it so I can be one step closer to reaching my goal.

Things start looking up. Even the little things make me happy. My £35 cheque clears and this means I can pay for the internet in the office. I get a call from a friend that studied English with me at university and said he works for a publishing firm now and he’ll see what he can do to help. I get elated really quickly because however little these things are, it’s going to help me in the bigger picture.

I publish the book and wait for that one online review saying how revolutionary this book can be.

Even though this is a story, I wanted to link it to my bigger picture. This is to be one of those people who congregate in Heaven and get to see the face and light of God. That’s MY bigger picture. MY aim. If I want this really bad and remember what I’m doing my actions for, everything becomes easier. The bad times are over quicker. The good times are a lot more appreciated. I’ll go through the trials that will come my way with a roaring spirit. Completing baby steps, like reading 1 page of Quran a day or every other day, becomes to mean a lot because I know I’m one step closer to my aim. Slowly but surely.

With a clear aim, a clear mind on what/who you’re doing your deeds for, you can achieve greatness – the sort of greatness you long for. If your aim is murky, the road to it will also be murky. When I think of it like this, I really need to strengthen and remind myself of my aim more often.

I publish my life’s work to God hoping that He’ll review it and like what He has seen.

Day 18: Book Firm

Day 17: Gossip

A story of Aishah (ra, a beloved wife of the Prophet Muhammad) was so important that it Allah revealed revelations about it. This story has plentiful of lessons to learn from it. But I want to focus on gossip. I’m going to retell this story in a watered down version so it’s not too long for you guys to read.

The Prophet (pbuh) had taken his wife Aishah on an expedition with him. He didn’t like spending nights alone and enjoyed the company of his wife. This expedition also included a number of his companions. When his wife would go on an expidition with him, to honour the modesty of his wife, he would arrange a hawdaj (a small tent) to be placed on a camel, so she can sit in there and be protected and covered from the eyes of other men. This happened just after the verses on the hijab (covering) was revealed so they applied the hijab to their lives instantly.

They stopped at night and made camp. Aishah thought that as they were now stopping, she will go far out to relieve herself. When she returned she realised that her necklace around her neck is missing. So she went around looking for it. She was delayed searching for it and by the time she went back to camp the hawdaj was put on the camel and they all left. At this point in the story, Aishah says: “During those days women were very thin and they had not put on a lot of weight. They used to only eat a few morsels of food, so the men did not question the lightness of the hawdaj when they picked it up and put it on the camel. And on top of that, I was a young girl. So they sent the camel forward and I found my necklace after they had gone. By the time I returned to the caravan camping ground, there was not a soul in sight.”

She made excuses for these men. She was not angry that she was left alone and blamed them for a misunderstanding. She did not accuse or assume. This portrays her upright manners and character. I think many of us today would not stop to think about the situation and go guns blazing at the first person we can find to blame. If you don’t know the situation from both sides of a story, accusing someone or jumping to conclusions doesn’t make sense. It’s hard to step back and be calm at pressing situations but I think it shows real strength and grace when you can. That’s something I can write in my list of things I need to improve.

Back to the story.. Aishah stayed where she was thinking someone will realise and go back for her. She ended up falling asleep while waiting for them. A companion among those taking part in the expedition, Safwan, was lagging behind the rest of the army. For some reason he was late to join the rest of them and he had seen Aishah sleeping. He thought that the best thing to do would be to have Aishah sit on his camel and he would walk infront. Aishah swears by God that he did not utter a word to her throughout the whole journey. They finally caught up with the camp and this is when the rumours started. A guy called ‘Abdullaah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul who was known to be the leader of the hypocrites, started spreading rumours that something happened between Aishah and Safwan, demolishing her modesty and honour as a result.

The rumours spread far and wide. Aishah was oblivious to the rumours at first because when she went home she became ill and did not leaver her house. The Prophet did not talk to her about it because she was ill, but he was not treating her with the same gentleness that he normally would when she’s ill. However, when she heard about it from someone who visited her she became more ill. She asked the Prophet is she can go to her parents house to verify this information. This is super important lesson from this story. We can never take one person’s account.. whether they’re truthful people or not. You need more people to back up the claim.

Her parents verified the information and she said: “I cried that night. I cried and cried until the morning came. My tears could not stop nor could I taste the sweetness of sleep.”

The Prophet asked his closest companions what they thought of the situation and whether he should believe the rumours or not. This shows the importance of taking advice when you’re in a sticky situation. The thoughts in your own head can cloud your judgement and can lead to making the wrong decisions.

The Prophet visited Aishah in her parents home after one month of not sitting with her. He said that if these rumours are false then God will clear her of these accusations and if they’re true then admit and repent because Allah is all merciful and and forgiving. The Prophet was gentle in the way he spoke to her. There were no accusations flying about. No voices raised. He doesn’t know what to say or do, yet he is gentle throughout and gives her hope no matter what the situation might be.

Her response was this:

“I was still a young girl at that time and had not memorized much of the Qur’an, so I could not remember the name of the father of Yusuf.” So she said, “I know by Allah that you have heard these rumors, and that these rumors have settled in your heart and soul and you have believed it already. So if I were to tell you that I’m not guilty, you wouldn’t believe me. And if I were to admit to a crime that I did not commit, then you will believe me and think that I did it. So all I can say to you is what the father of Yusuf said. ‘Patience is beautiful.’ And Allah subhaanahu wa ta’aala’s help is sought concerning what you describe. “I turned around on my bed. Allah knew I was innocent of this charge and I knew that Allah would reveal my innocence. However, wallahi I never thought that Allah would reveal Qur’an concerning me. I thought myself far too low in the sight of Allah, that Allah would speak about me. Rather, I was hoping that the Prophet sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam might see in his dream something that would declare my innocence.”

Th Prophet started laughing out of happiness when he got the revelation. (These verses are verses 11 to 31 of Surah An-Noor.) – (sidenote: This story also proves that the Prophet was a prophet of God. Had he been a false prophet, why would he wait for a whole month? The fact that he is a Prophet of God meant that God sent down revelations whenever He willed, and not whenever the Prophet wished. So for a whole month, the Prophet was in confusion. This incident also depicts the great wisdom of God in delaying the inspiration. Had God willed He could have inspired the Prophet from day one, immediately after the rumors had started. However, due to His Wisdom, He delayed this inspiration. Had the inspiration come down immediately, it would not have affected us in the manner that this story affects us. Remember.. everything happens for a reason)

Aishah knew she was innocent. She knew that these accusations are false and that God knew this too. It got to her because she’s human, however she did not act out and seek revenge. She was patient and content in her heart that the truth will come out one day. If someone is gossiping about you and it’s not true don’t let it get you down because you know what you’ve done.

If someone is backbiting about, be happy knowing that they will learn the truth about you one day. Be happy that God knows that you haven’t done wrong. If they are backbiting about things you’ve done wrong it still shows their true character. Even if it entails relating the truth about someone it is still backbiting. A lot of people say “I’d say it to his face”.. if you did, that just shows bad character. Spreading gossip effects so many people and it’s really not worth it.

I guess the reason why I wrote about this is because I’ve been the subject of gossip and so have my close friends. It can destroy friendships, self esteem, confidence, faith and your honour. And all those things could have been avoided if I knew that God knows my real story and that’s all that matter. All those things could have been avoided if people knew how malicious gossip (harmless or not) can be. I try my hardest not to backbite and gossip. When I consciously tried to stop, I realised how little I have to say and how quickly people around me got bored. Replace gossip with real talk. I’m still working on it, I’m not little Ms Perfect. But this story is jam packed with lessons I had to blog it.

I know I said I’ll make it short, I really did try my best!

If you want to read the full version of the story, you can read it here:

Day 17: Gossip

Day 16: The Halfway Mark

I’m going to reel it back in today with a quick overview of Ramadan. I’ve reached the halfway mark so I wanted to just refresh what I’ve learnt/need to do/aim to do.

One of the main things that worried me before Ramadan is that I’ve become so used to slacking that if I start getting back on track spiritually I’ll have to carry that on. I don’t like wasting my time and Ramadan is a time that I do not want to waste so if I’m going to better myself, I want to be able to take what I’ve learnt or have aimed to do and carry it on for the rest of the year. I won’t say all my goals because a very husky sounding guy once said ‘if they don’t know your dreams, they can’t shoot them down.’ And I think in the back of my mind, my goals this year are quite big so even if I say it out loud I’m afraid that I won’t be able to reach those goals. But, if I do actually carry on my actions after Ramadan it can only be good for me. Not a single bad thing will come out of it. I’m not so sure why I’m worried. One of the things I really want to work on is linking the things I learn about my religion to myself.

I study my religion at university. During the year the things I have learnt really messed with my head and it shook my faith so much that I started questioning what I believe. I learnt about the compilation and revelation of the Quran and the countless number of views about it. These views were so well written and articulate that it was hard not to get drawn into it. So I started thinking with my head and totally forgot about my heart. The more I questioned the more I got myself in a frenzy and became apathetic to my surroundings. I then hit the all time low where I didn’t know if I was Muslim anymore. I freaked out about the thought and the only thing I could think of doing was pray. It’s innate. It’s built within me to go back to God. I went on super religious mode to get myself back again. I read the Quran and it answered all the questions I had. I don’t know why I didn’t think about doing that earlier. I guess the immensity of the literature around me got me looking for answers in there and not the holy book. Then, to make sure this doesn’t happen again, I think I started to subconsciously separate myself from the Muslims that I was being taught about. I started saying, ‘Muslims believe..’ instead of ‘I believe…’ I wasn’t linking anything that I was learning to myself. So then I got less and less mindful of God because I took a step back and looked at my religion from a very conservative and outsider’s point of view.

This Ramadan I told myself I want to become mindful of Allah. So, I’ve been reading a simplified translation of the Quran every day and the things I am learning I am connecting to myself. This is where the idea of this blog came from. I wanted look deep into the verses that I was reading so I can feel again, I guess. I want to grab my religion with both hands and call it mine. That’s one of my big aims. Refocus, recalibrate, and remember Allah. So now that I’m at the halfway mark, the reading of the Quran on a daily basis, reflecting on verses and looking into them is really working. I’m going to try carry this on for the next 15 days and after Ramadan too. The next 15 days I will also focus on my du’aa (suplication). I need to give it a lot more importance and find the sweetness in it. I tend to shy away from it because I feel like a hypocrite asking God for things when I haven’t been a great Muslim. I will look into supplication properly and apply that to my daily life.

I’m basically working at my foundation this year. I’ve been so busy trying to gulp any knowledge I can find that I’ve become way too heavy for my cracking foundation.

Setting goals really helps. Short term and long term. If you haven’t done so already, set your goal for the next 15 days. And then a six month one and then a year one.. which will lead to your ultimate goal. This goes to people of all faith. It really helps you figure out what needs to be done to achieve those goals. Don’t waste any time.

Day 16: The Halfway Mark

Day 15: Behind The Screen: Moses

I’ve decided to join a Behind The Screen for one of my poems with a post from my Ramadan blog. I think this one goes hand in hand so I’m hoping it works. For those who haven’t read my poem Moses, here’s the link to it (might help understand this post a little better):

I’ve based this poem on the Islamic story of Moses. Just before Moses was born, the ruling Pharaoh had a dream which he had interpreted. He understood from this dream that a male is going to try and overtake his throne. So, what he did is that he ordered all new born males to be killed. However, his court had brought up that there won’t be any manpower if he kills all the males. So they agreed that one year he will kill all males and the next year he will spare them all. In the year which Moses was born, this was the year that the Pharaoh was going to kill. In the Quran, it states that God had inspired the mother of Moses, whom till this date was secretly suckling him, to put the baby in a basket and let him drift along the river Nile. Moses’ sister was instructed to follow the basket. The basket drifted down the river Nile all the way into the hands of Asiya, the Pharaoh’s wife. She had persuaded him to adopt this child and the Pharaoh agreed. Moses was sitting in the Pharaoh’s lap and he had tugged at the Pharaoh’s beard. This action made the Pharaoh believe that Moses will be the one to overthrow his power. So he had ordered his servants to kill Moses. However, Asiya had interceded and begged the Pharaoh not to kill her baby and to just understand that he is just an infant.

I had wanted to write about childbirth for a while and it’s quite a big subject. So I decided on doing it on the anticipation a woman feels knowing that she is pregnant after wanting a child for such a long time. The first half of the poem takes us through the elated emotions of Asiya because after being told she can’t have any children, she is blessed with one. She wants everything to be perfect for the arrival of her baby, so she decorates the river Nile and gets the whole village to work on a huge celebratory feast. Mount Sinai, known to be the mountain which Moses led the Israelites to, was also waiting for his arrival. When a woman is expecting, her family are also expecting too. The ones nearest and dearest to her are waiting with her. The family home and a woman’s natural state is waiting changes for the baby. The milk bottles are bought, the bibs are washed and the cot is wrapped up in new sheets just waiting for this beautiful baby to make use of them.

But, the King, or in this case, nature or God has decided that this baby is not right for the expecting mother. It is not in this mother’s destiny to have a child. So this mother bleeds when she should not be. She loses her baby. She does not know what she has done wrong to expect this punishment. I can only imagine the draining emotion a mother feels when she finds out that she has had a miscarriage. Her faith in God shakes as she questions Him in the poem. She then comes to realise that we can never be certain of our future. Miscarriage is a topic which I get all teary eyed about because if I put myself in the shoes of a mother I can only begin to feel that feeling of missing something that was never actually mine.

I am a firm believer of ‘everything happens for a reason’. My religion teaches this all the time. Whatever happens, God has not done it in haste. It could sound like I’m downplaying the issue of miscarriage with that line. But if you think about it, ‘everything happens for a reason’ is one of those lines that comes and bites you in the bum when you don’t realise. When things have turned out okay after a rough patch, you realise how worse things could have been. Well, I know I do this anyway. “He knows what is before them and what is behind them and to Allah are all affairs turned back”. (Qur’an, Surah Al Hajj (22:76)) This verse just sums it all up. However, Allah knows that we have emotions. I’m not saying that we should not mourn or be sad over things which may happen to us. We are humans and we have emotions. But God is there to reinforce us that things WILL look up and not to give up on your faith in Him.

There are plenty of verses that explains that God is there in times of sadness.
“…Bear with patience whatever befalls you….” (Qur’an 31:17)
“Be not sad, surely Allah is with us.” (Qur’an 9:40)
“Verily, with hardship there is relief” (Qur’an 94:6). This verse in particular speaks out to me because I find that in my little world it has been 100% true. There has not been one time (yet) where I have been going through a rough patch and I have not come out of it with better things coming my way.

“..Be mindful of Allah, you will find Him before you. Get to know Allah in prosperity and He will know you in adversity… And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and ease with hardship.” < This verse is what I think people expect from a really good friend. If your mate is going through a really tough time, you know them a lot better because this is when their personality emphasises it's best and worse traits. With the help of a good friend you can come out of that situation a much stronger person. If you are patient, kind and mindful of your close friend (and they know of your effort) they will be there for you in times of need. There is no doubt in my mind about God being there for me. I tend to make the mistake of asking for God's help when I'm going through a tough time. If a friend always called whenever they needed something from me, that would be pretty annoying. If I really mean it when I say I love my God, then I got to remember that I can't just go to Him when things aren't going my way.

It’s a two way relationship. Be mindful of God, God will be mindful of you. He will not burden you with more than you can deal with. You realise this when you deal with the situation at hand. At first things may seem daunting and scary to deal with but a majority of the times.. we just get on with it. It’s not a burden when you’re capable to deal with it. We’re stronger than we think.

Everything happens for a reason.

Day 15: Behind The Screen: Moses