Teen: to fit in

Allow me to share my theory of teen years in simple language…

  • 0-12 years: Exploring with pure innocence. Egocentric. Living for the day. Smooth.
  • Early teen years: Choosing peer group, the game of “fitting in” begins, it all seems possible.
  • Mid teen years: Trying to fit in. Acting phase, having two personalities; one in school to satisfy peer pressure, other at home to satisfy parental pressure. Believing life can easily be double faced.
  • Mid to late teen years: Realising it’s not easy to fit in. Playing it safe, a little here a little there. Internal conflict manifested in disinterest, boredom, depression and/or rebellious behaviour. Rough times!
  • Late teen years: Realising “fitting in” will not thrive. Finding faults in peer group. Attempting to build own identity.  Tough times, but quite a ride.  

Later on: Enjoying newly developed identity. Responsible. Standing up for values, life becomes much easier! Well, with annoying minor incidents of each of the above!

 

Agree/Disagree?

(Captured @ the Great Wall of China)

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27 on the 27th

On the 27th of this month I turned 27..

27 years of happiness

27 years of love

27 years of blessings

27 years of joy

I am very thankful, I’m very grateful. Alhamdulilah..

Happy 27th Birthday to me.

………..and Happy birthday to my reservoir of thoughts! YES, my blog is ONE year old today 🙂

Hajj (Part 3)

Hajj (Part 1)

Hajj (Part 2)

::: Still on Day 3: (8th Dhul-hijja, 25/11/09)

Preparing for Arafa:

You know those huge strawberry farms in Europe, where you’re given a basket and have limited hours to collect as much strawberries as you can? That’s Arafa for you, a Du’aa farm. You have 5 hours to spend solely on Du’a in a blessed day, for Arafa is the greatest day the sun has risen on! It’s the day Allah shows off His servants in front of His Angels!

Is that it? A day spent on Du’a? Eeezy Peezy… ? Believe you me, it’s not even close to easy for Arafa is only enjoyed if your spiritual buds are fully awakened!

The day before was spent preparing for the blessed day of Arafa. Remember we need to fill our baskets with Dua’s – the more Dua’s, the better!  I have to stop for a minute to sincerely thank Sheikh Khalfan Al-Esry, for the fine guidance he provided. The channels in which he gave his lectures were simple, easy to follow and creative in every sense. Not once did any of us listeners feel that we were on a different wavelength!

 “Al-Salamu Alaikum Hajjies, we’ve got to prepare our shopping list for Arafa, are you ready? Pens and papers out?” We all sat listening, taking notes and listing down our shopping list for the holy day ahead. Shopping list is what I’ll pray for during those sacred five hours, during which no Du’a is returned Inshallah. I’ll let you peek into my shopping list:

1)Du’a for spiritual connection, for Allah to guide me and qualify me for His acceptance. Also, to purify my intentions and commitments towards pleasing my ONLY savior.

2)Du’a for my bodily organs and all their actions; health, emotions, thoughts.

3)Du’a for family and friends (I did include you my dear blog readers, even you “silent readers”). Plus, everyone who entrusted me with their Du’a.  I had a huge list of names, people I know (and knew) from all walks of life, family from my great grandparents down to my 3rd cousin and beyond. I also had names of school friends, college friends, work friends. You get the picture? Everyone I had the pleasure of knowing! 

4)Du’a for mental growth and wisdom

5)Du’a for financial growth and independence, involving clean and pure earnings.

6)Du’a for the use of gifted skills and talents lawfully

7)Du’a for guidance in social contribution, to help this Ummah in any way!

8)Du’a for lawful leisure and pleasure

9)Others.. With the help of Du’a books and whatever I remembered or thought of.

10)Wrap whatever I pray for with immense thanking, affirming my wrongdoings, repentance of sins and prayers for acceptance! 

It was still raining, raining continually and heavily. We received warnings through SMS from the Saudi government, informing us of the forecast and asking Hajjis to be cautious as flooding may occur. For a minute I honestly feared for my safety and the safety of this whole journey. “What’s the worst that could happen?” Well, flooding could wash us 3.5 million away! The worst is that I may be facing death here. Then I realized, what more could I ask for? Dying in the holy land. In a holy journey. During Hajj. Sounds too perfect a death, don’t you think? Something I’m sure every Muslim would beg for! You know, my dear reader: Hajj frees you from the shackles of life. Your focus is shifted to the hereafter. This life becomes minute, you do not give it much attention!

Death was the least of my concerns (I wish I could bring back that spirit now!). Although and logically of course, some of us had an emergency evacuation plan, just in case!

::: Day 4: (9th Dhul-hijja, 26/11/09)

Solitude in Arafa:

At 4.00 am early morning, buses drove to Arafa. Carrying in them, people from all walks of life, targeting Du’a and only Du’a, people with pure hearts and compromised physical statuses. Remember we had not washed with scented products or washed nor combed our hairs for 3 days! Men, are still barely covered with Ihram wear.

Destination reached at 5.30 a.m. We are now in ARAFA! Prayed Fajr, had some snacks, then recharged our exhausted bodies with a nap until 9.00 a.m. The blessed time starts from Mid-day until dusk! We waited impatiently for the call of Dhuhr prayer. We all made sure we were on Wudhu the whole time.

As the beautiful sound of Athan filled the entire region, echoing back and forth in our ears, we knew time has finally come. Sheikh called for Jama’a prayers. We all prayed in unity, men in front, ladies at the back. Then, Sheikh deafened our ears to anything but his voice in an emotional Du’a, it was magical in every sense. This prayer may have been the best prayer I had ever had, for one, I swear to God there were no dry eyes around. Hearts were massaged, blood was cleansed with that specific prayer. In fact, by the time we finished, we had not realized that we had been standing on our feet for little over an hour without feeling tired. This prayer has left unforgettable memories of Arafa. His voice and the words he chose still dance in my ears during Du’a at times of despair.

There onwards, it was complete solitude. No one engaged with no one but himself. Everyone connected to the Divine Power in his very own way. It was as if we wore a sign that said “No interruptions please, I am with my Master, I am with The Lord of The Land”! Spectacular scene… but not easy! Remember, I’m still with my sister and friends for 5 hours, each one of us minding her own business. It’s practically impossible (being among a group of women particularly ;)) but WE DID IT. All talks or chit chats if any, were to share Du’a books or to ask technical/religious questions!

….. and we prayed, prayed and prayed. Our hearts spoke before our tongues..

— 

(Part 4: Muzdalifa, and Eid without the make-up – what was it like?)

Human rights!

My dear blog followers: Arafa was full of Human rights, this post is not Hajj(part 3) 😉 .. certainly not as pleasing but just as important, read on.. 

He (my Mr., my Shahrayar) comes back late every single day complaining, sometimes it escalates to cursing. Not on me (he dare not!), but on what he relays in this little story of his.

Check what the Mr. has to say :- 

Human rights!!

Once upon a time I met this slave, a skinny man with popped eyes, you could clearly see he is overworked. This man has to get up at dawn – and with no time to have any food in his guts – starts working till mid day where he is given a short break to catch his breath and eat so that he can continue working till dusk. By night-time he is completely worn-out as he has his evening meal and heads to sleep to recharge for the coming day. His master – a fat man with a big belly – who uses slave drivers to get the slaves working hard, gives the slave days off to avoid criticism over the controversy of his slavery acts.

The slave drivers – big guys with big trucks which they drive around to check on the slaves – are slaves too. But they are favored by the master because they ensure that the work is done. All the slaves get food and shelter but the slave drivers get to drive the big trucks and punish their fellow slaves. The slave drivers would threaten their fellow slaves to cut down their food quota if they did not perform.

The idea of running away has always lingered in the mind of the slave every night as he goes to bed, but he would think about the savage world out there with no food or shelter, he would undoubtedly not survive a single day … next morning he would wake up from dawn and continue working.

The master – being in the 21st century – has learnt cleverly how to avoid human rights’ laws and pay no heed to human rights activists’ demands to free the slaves. He grasped that knowledge cunningly by reading the law and using the loopholes and weaknesses in the system to keep onto his slaves. Although he does not practically own those slaves – for legal reasons – he surly has leverage on their livelihood in a way that enslaves them with no chains around their ankles.

This may sound by far very uncommon to you. But that slave is YOU, me and everyone who works for big corporations. If you replace the words; slave by employee, slave driver by manager and master by board of directors you will find the story fits you just as well. Oh and don’t forget to replace food and shelter by salary and housing allowance.

Today, big corporations make millions of dollars from the work done by the low-level employee. The ratio of generation of wealth to salary is incomparable, where the most worked is the least earned and vice versa. Today, job security is the chain that is wrapped around our ankles. The 21st century has given human beings freedom within the laws but in reality slavery has just changed name and form.

Open your eyes to how entangled we are in a system that reduces our freedom of time, where we stay and what we eat. A world order that has been created systematically with boundaries that are very hard to break free from. The sad fact is that we are all slaves of the 21st century.

Dying..

This blog is dying, and I’m in the process of resuscitating it with all my might! However, I’ve come to realise it’s not a one-man’s job (“woman” for this matter).

I know for some people this place is still ALIVE, because I see silent readers every single day (in the statistics), to you I say: I need your help, I need you to chip in!

If this place touched you in any way, if it managed to lift your spirits one day, or made you smile, or maybe just proved a point, or made you say: Yes, I do agree. Then please, comment here, let me know. You can be as specific as you wish, or just a nod would do, wait I can’t see you nod, so comment, say something. In whatever way, tell me that this place matters (if it genuinely does of course, I’m not inviting anyone to lie, I’m just back from Hajj remember :p)!

Hajj (Part 2)

Click for Hajj: Part (1)

::: Day 2: (7th Dhul-hijja, 24/11/09) 

 -> To Mina

We spent the previous night in Jeddah. In the afternoon, as we left the 5* star hotel in Jeddah, we bid this transient life farewell, kissed luxury goodbye and welcomed the eternal life as we headed to the camp in Mina. In the bus, the Talbiyah chanting continues. It’s just mesmerizing to the eyes and pleasing to the ears to see and hear everyone chant in unity praising the Lord. Everyone was busy preparing in his own way for the journey ahead.

Remember: Hajj is like a miniature performance of a bigger event yet to come, it’s a replica of Judgment day. As we head to our camp in Mina with our Ihram (dressed in the simplest of wear) we remind ourselves of the day we say good-bye to our luxurious life, carried to our graves, in very simple wear, heading to a camp of deceased others. Each to his own grave! It was alarmingly scary to live your death while you’re wide awake!

We arrived Mina at night. We were allocated tents, grabbed our bags, knew where our beds were, had dinner and slept!  

The camp was beautiful, spacious, well-organized, clean and neat (the Manager of our Hajj group is a FEMALE! – hence the outstanding service ;)). Everyone in our group was outstanding, they were all very cooperative, supportive and understanding!

Mina is a reminder of our graves, remember we’re still in our Ihram (simple wear), sleeping in groups, mattreses distributed like graves in a graveyard. We are allocated limited space, with all our belongings far far away (at home)! Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said: “your grave could be a meadow of heaven or a hole of hell fire”. I kept reminding myself: “Today, my money got me to this meadow (in comparison to other Mina camps), tomorrow only my deeds will decide where I end up”!

 

::: Day 3: (8th Dhul-hijja, 25/11/09)

A day in Mina

If you ask anyone about sleep-time patterns in Hajj, they’ll say “we barely slept”. It is exactly that. When we’re there, we only sleep when it is necessary! You think there isn’t time? Wrong. In fact there is so much time, you’re actually tempted to sleep because you spend a portion of the night in prayers. We don’t sleep because time there is a huge investment, it is our only investment and how we spend it counts. We want to maximize our time in Dua’a, Quran, prayers and also listening to lectures and advices by our Sheikh. At times I would sit in isolation, sometimes savoring every moment. Sometimes contemplating. Sometimes thinking of life, and how indulged are we in life!

Clouds started forming, a cold breeze brushed our bodies, it was obvious rain was on its way! We were listening to a lecture when we heard loud noises of what seemed like rain, we started cheering and saying “Subhan Allah”, some were ready to get up and stand before Allah, for Du’a during rain is thought to be mustajab (accepted), well… until the luscious smell of popcorn filled the place, YES it wasn’t rain, it was a popcorn machine! We rolled on the floor laughing 😀

It wasn’t long after this incident that it actually started raining hard with flooding in some parts of the country. Our tents started leaking; it was chaotic in a very nice way! Now we all stood up, in isolation, our faces facing our palms and immersed in our prayers! Our thoughts and prayers went to those with no camps sleeping on the streets with their children. It was such a sad scene, but thought-provoking, you start appreciating every tiny blessing you have over those poor people. What are we without the blessings of Allah? What are we?

——

Part (3) is next: experiencing Arafa. Prophet Mohammed says “Hajj is Arafa”

Hajj (Part 1)

I seem to have lost my pen in Makkah because blogwise, I was stuck. My words flew to no destination; they were just floating around my head. Nadia being the supportive friend that she always is, tried hard (VERY hard!) to help me find my pen again. I really appreciate it and think she has extraordinary levels of patience and determination, believe you me, this lady is unbreakable! It did pay off however, her constant nag and support inspired me, I’m very grateful 🙂

Back to the long-awaited Hajj post. During the past couple of months, I was trying to take you on a pen sketch journey, to drift back to the days in Mina, Arafa and Mekkah and obviously I couldn’t. I wrote a bit, but was jammed in the very first few paragraphs; only to conclude that you literally cannot go back to Hajj in words when the spirit is missing!

The experience is MAGICAL, in fact, many of those who went with me to Hajj this year, including my sister, came back with depression like symptoms. One of them said “It was just like I went to have a taste of heaven and then suddenly dropped back to reality”. It is exactly that. You’re transferred in time, in place, in lifestyle; you’re practically living in a different era.

The dynamics of life in Hajj differed very much than how it has ever been before anywhere in the world. Spirituality is amplified in manner and form: Simplicity, Oneness, Trueness!
Hajj, the rituals and the journey are all miniatures of a bigger scene yet to come, it is a replica of Judgment Day! I have been writing little thoughts and notes as we went along. I know I cannot make you live the moment, I can only try to reach your imagination to re-live some of the experiences that touched me.

I among around 3.5 million others have answered the call this year! From the east and the west, the north and the south, from the richest to the poorest, from the king to the slave, we all have been blessed and honored to be the selected guests of Al-Rahman! We are due to meet in the specified land of Allah, to cover with the same clothes, to perform the same rituals, to eat from the same source and to avoid the same things. During these coming days, only righteousness counts and only faith matters. No wealth or power can get you special discounts or exemptions!

There were so many anticipations, fears, expectations about this sacred journey by each one of us 3.5 million. For all we know, we are embarking on the journey of a lifetime, aiming to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam. In this journey, we are all ONE in faith, pleasing the ONE creator!
Of course each person goes with certain objectives; I personally had an open mind when I first planned to perform hajj. However, my mission started to get clearer as the day of travel approached. I knew I was there to thank Allah for His endless bounties, to seek guidance and forgiveness, to make Du’a on certain matters for myself and my loved ones. I also wanted to seize the opportunity to reflect on my life holistically, and truly connect with Allah.

 

Day 1: Take-off (6th Dhul-hijja, 23/11/09)
::: 6.00 am, Airport. The journey of a lifetime is starting…

Packing for this trip has been very different. You do not pack clothes as much as you pack emotions, spirituality and family/friends’ acceptance and forgiveness. Most importantly, you pack honest repentance from all wrong doings, those you know, and those you don’t. The clothes you take are the simplest you have. All accessories are left home, for this trip; they’re of absolute no use.

The spirits of Hajj are born when we wash for Ihram and thereafter, you are now physically clean and ready for the journey ahead. Your mouth should not utter but clean pure words, your eyes should only indulge in lawful sights! During Ihram, you should not shed any hair or skin purposely and the use of scented products is not allowed. Men are to wear a big white cloth (towel like) that barely covers the body, women are to wear anything that attracts no attention (like accessories and such). Wait..does this remind you of anything? Resurrection, Rebirth. When we’re all awaken from our prolonged sleep, to face judgment, when all materialistic possessions become of no value. You’re just there, on whatever you were buried with; barely covered.

Remember: at this point of time, from almost 80 people, I know no one apart from my husband, my sister and her husband, and a handful of relatives. The rest are strangers that I will live with in a confined space for the coming week.

At the airport, you could see everyone’s excitement, eyes filled with fear, people bidding farewell, others crying. I have never seen this amount of excitement and havoc at the airport during any of my travels. For one thing, we go to this journey, ready to leave everyone behind, we leave and we don’t know if we will ever come back.

The plane takes off, and we start chanting…

::: Talbiyah (Labayka Allahuma Labayk)
“Here I am. O Allah. Here I am. Here I am. You have no partner, here I am. Surely all praise, favour and authority belong to you. You have no partner”.

 

To be continued…

Going for Hajj

I long to glitter my eyes with your sight, I long to stand on your pure soil. I long for the shiver, I long for the tears. Mecca, to you INSHALLAH I am on my way!

Dear readers,

I will Inshallah soon be travelling to Makkah to complete an important part of my religion. I would like to humbly ask you all for forgiveness if I have wronged you in any way and also ask for your kind prayers that my Hajj will be accepted by our Gracious God. I would also like to tell you that I hold no anger nor contempt in my heart for any of you and will be praying for your health and happiness in this life and thereafter.

P.S: I know I have promised a Hajj dedicated post, I know you were expecting something more exclusive, I promise I’ll do it when I’m back. I have been extremely busy preparing for this amazing journey of a lifetime!

Ice breaking with cousins!

You might’ve noticed that I avoid treating this blog as a diary of my daily encounters, but last night was an exception. A memoir I’d like to include. Something I’d like to go back to and enjoy re-living the memory.

Wednesday early morning, I fought the H1N1 controversies currently surrounding the world and got the H1N1 JAB, not because I’m freakin out and plan to avoid it like the plague, but because it is compulsory for those who go to Hajj, and my urge to perform Hajj (specifically this year) is stronger than my urge to avoid the vaccine! YES.. I have decided to perform HAJJ this year Inshallah (Coming soon -> Hajj-dedicated post)!

The afternoon was uneventful, just runnin’ around to prepare for THE evening ahead.

The evening was a gathering of cousins in my house. Sounds normal, casual and sorta what’s the big deal, right? Wait..wait.. let me explain. We are a huge family (Mashalla), not only that but intertwined to a great degree. My father-side cousin is married to my mom’s aunt who also happens to be the sister of my grand-mother, oh so so complicated you don’t even want to go there. The point is, it’s difficult to mingle with everyone in a family gathering (we have loads of them gatherings by the way!). What happens in all gatherings across the years is that cousins of similar ages hang out together and I’m talking about hundreds here, and we slowly miss out on the other ones, the younger specifically. We do ask about studies/work and the formal stuff every now and again, but we do not talk much about the juicy stuff if you like!

They were always there, always around us but not until one of those younger cousins got engaged, did we stop to realise that time took us by surprise! Now they’re grown-ups, they are ladies and are  getting married one by one. We’ve missed so much of their childhood, we do not want to miss out on their young adult phase. We urgently needed to break the ice, I repeat: urgently! 

Last night, we (myself and my sisters) invited 13 of those cousins. The once young and annoying (Sorry! if you’re reading this, that was when you were way younger, runnin’ around, screaming, crying and laughing out loud!), now mature ladies, aged 13 to 25, of elegance and rigid viewpoints!

In fact, they themselves had a not-so-cool image of us, they were flabbergasted when they first entered the house, seeing us fully groomed in young trendy fashion and ready to rock n roll, oh not that rock n roll, but ready to kick some fun! Lady Buth (one of the cousins) said she expected a formal dinner, everyone with their abayas on, on a dining table with plate mats and home-made dinner, obviously that was not the case!  We kicked off the gathering with some sight-seeing around my house, then random chit chats dipping nachos in rich cheese dips, jalapeno and the must-have salsa dip, gulping down popcorn in bulks and munching away chocolate bars! Then came the PIZZA! 3 large pizzas served with cheese sticks dipped in a sauce of choice (tomato or garlic – see, healthy ingredients!). Had the pizzas with chilled fizzy drinks to fizz us out even more!

Then, then, then… the serious bit starts, the GAMES! Hide and seek? No. Find the hidden object? Nope. Hang the donkey tail with your eyes shut. Nah! The games were confessional games to further break the ice and add some vibe to the gathering. The first game involved each one of us writing a personal question down, putting all questions in a bowl, each picks up a question and is forced to truthfully answer it. The game went super super good. For the second game, we had our names written on a piece of paper, folded and placed in one bowl and the same names again in another bowl. Two names are picked up at a time, those names exchange comments or things they “like” about the other. That was an eye-opener, we never knew what they thought of us, they never knew what we thought of them, so again this game went beautifully perfecto!

Junk without the sweets? A sin. We had rich red velvet chocolate cake served with frigid vanilla ice-cream, also, marshmallow chocolate (again!) cake done and brought by the cousins, the cake was as sweet as they are! The 3 course meal all in all could not get any better, or actually could not get any junk-ier, but let’s be logical here, one time won’t hurt, right? It’s not my fault if they don’t make up for it now, I suggest go for green salads, vegetables and fruits for a week to wash away the junk. E7m, I myself had more of the nachos during lunch today. So…Do as I say, not as I do!

My guests left the house at 11.30 pm, all dazzled with the amount of ice-breaking we did, very unexpected, very casual, very random. In 3 hours we managed to reveal the most discreet of life matters to each other. We managed in those hours to strengthen our bonds, to crash down the formal boundaries, to dissolve false perceptions, to achieve a level of equality and mostly to dig into each others’ lives like friends of the same age.

Whatever the ingredients of this night, it was sure a night to remember.

Family by chance, friends by choice!

Salute to the Fathers!

Salute to the fathers, Salute to the Omani fathers from very deep within my heart!

During my course in London, a Danish speech therapist came over to me surprised, asking if I see fathers of young clients in my clinic where I come from. Hearing me proudly say “YES, in fact more fathers than mothers attend therapy sessions with their child” left her gobsmacked! I honestly do not know the source of her surprise or what exactly she meant by that. I can only assume and I will assume; maybe, because Arab men are usually perceived as Macho macho, hence the thought that they would show limited care towards their children? Maybe, she thought about the segregation of genders in my country, hence the surprise that I do actually meet men in my clinic? Other than these two reasons, I found the surprise rather shallow because what I see within the walls of my clinic is by far the most compassionate of relationships. A relationship that is devoid of lies, hypocrisy or personal interests. The all heart relationship between “father and child”!

I do not deny the role of the mother here, I only do not flaunt about it now because it’s the “default” setting if you like, a mother concerned about her child that is. You rarely see otherwise in almost all cultures. However, when the father takes the driving seat, when he runs for his child’s interest for whatever it costs, when the mother is at home and have never even met the therapy behind her child’s improvement, and the father brings the child in for a long-term fortnightly therapy session that could last for years (it happens). That’s the tender heart of a father I’m talking about.  

I’ll leave you with this true story that left me touched, disturbed and impressed in the same split of a second, while taking the case history of a child in clinic.

The Doctor calls me referring a patient with a complicated history of multiple abnormalities. A few minutes later, a gentleman, a lady and the little child are in my clinic. The lady sits on a chair, the child on another chair, sadly I do not have a special chair for children with hypotonia (very weak muscles), their sitting positions are difficult to maintain, someone needs to hold the child or else he’ll lean sideways and could fall down quite instantly. The father kneels on the ground holding his son with his arms, helping him maintain his posture while the child moves, jerks and twitches uncontrollably. 

I started taking the case history, asking the lady pre and post birth questions. I took it for granted (like I assume you all did) that she was the mother. She was apparently the paternal grandmother (She looked really young, it must be the pure heart she has that gave her the glow). After a few questions, I saw a few hesitations with back and forth looks from the lady and her son (the father), as if contemplating whether to trust me and expose the hidden bit or not, and they started… The child had been neglected the care of his mother since birth, or actually the mother has lost this precious son to suit her ego and her heartless family. The story is, after the child had been born, the mother astonished by the amount of physical abnormalities her son has, decided to run away from the hospital, abandoning her son under her family pressure that she will not enter their house with a disabled! The father and his mother were left or rather privileged with the responsibility of taking care of this young boy.

Not only do they care for this child, they show tender love and absolute affection beyond imagination. The grandmother showed repeatedly how blessed she is to have him. The child’s mother on the other hand filed a divorce, got her wish granted, re-married and has a family of her own now. She has never seen her first child after the abandonment in hospital.

I was left repeating “Subhan Allah” all day long!

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