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A Letter to Canada

Dear Canada,

Thank you. No, really, thank you.

Before I go onto the details of why I’m thanking you guys, I’d like to point out that I’m just a regular person, sitting thousands of kilometers away from you, with an internet connection that allowed me to witness profound things over the past couple of weeks. I’ve never visited you guys and I don’t know when I’ll ever get the chance to, but I just wanted to write this letter, telling you that after a very long time, I have almost been positively brought to tears by your existence.

You guys have reassured people like me that there is still hope in the world and that not everyone is out to get us. So, thank you.

We’re not alone. In fact, you’ve gone ahead and done something that many of us, although should be our ultimate responsibility, have not been able to do. Maybe we’re scared, maybe we need direction or maybe we’re just ignoring it until it becomes too big to ignore. So, thank you.

You guys took on a step, a beautiful step to help those in need. You’ve extended your arms of comfort to people who had nowhere to go. Yes, so have other people. But you guys have proven that you’re different. So, thank you.

You’ve always been generally nice and happy people, never deeming it necessary to involve yourself in weird drama. And the one time you guys do involve yourself, you inspire the whole world! So again, thank you.

The fact that your leader takes out the time to welcome refugees personally at the airport, assuring them of their safety and comfort in your country, or that your students memorize a historical Nasheed and sing it, showing your solidarity in the cause, is all so amazing. So, thank you.

Maybe we’re currently in a world where these things have become a rarity, hence our expression of shock, happiness and just confusion as to how all this is happening. We weren’t expecting it. So, thank you.

You have told us that you don’t need to just open doors for people to make them feel like they are being helped, you sometimes need to take the extra effort in being human. We’ve definitely lost our ways in the past, becoming accustomed to negativity. But, you guys changed that. So, thank you.

You guys have given us something we’ll forever be grateful to in a time when we thought no one would be willing to help us out. So, thank you.

I hope and I pray that you guys stay steadfast on your awesomeness. You are an inspiration to us all. We hope we can do for others, what you’ve done for us. So again, thank you.

Regards,

A Fellow Muslim

Change Begins At Home

A few months ago I wrote a poem for a Toastmasters speech competition. Though I ended up having to read off the paper, I still hope it made an impact. 

I sit in class awaiting the instructor’s entrance,

Clock’s ticking, peers are chatting, I start thinking about today’s lunch.

Suddenly the doors slam open, in comes a stranger,

Urgency on her face, eyes fixed on me, she approaches my table.

I put my head up, eyebrows raised, wondering what her problem is,

‘Aabiya? You’re Aabiya right?’  she asks with a scrunched up face.

‘Uhh yes…’ I answer reluctant to hear about what’ll come next,

‘I’ve heard about you. You’re the one involved in all these fests!’

‘Fests?’ I ask confused as to what she’s referring to.

‘You know: all these conferences, clubs you’ve joined to discuss world issues.’

‘Yeah? Keep me busy and focused.’ I say,

‘I’m sure, maybe even no time for fun!’ she relays.

‘Yes!’ I agree. ‘Little fun, more work, I don’t mind this notion.’

‘Yes because you’ve found your purpose and motion.

Sarcasm in her speech, I ask in annoyance and curiosity

‘Why do you care what I do, it’s not an atrocity?!’

She stares at me with sympathy obviously apparent

I divert my eyes, finding this conversation increasingly unpleasant

‘I’ll explain.’ she says. Trying to catch my attention

‘Go ahead!’ I challenge her, still feeling like I’m in some sort of detention

‘You go to this university, attend these classes, participate in these activities,

You think you’re reaching your potential, closing in on your opportunities.’

‘You listen to international affairs, burning with desire,

Desire to change the world, waiting to be admired.\

‘You’re on this road to solve the world’s problems,

This holistic mission you’ve put upon your shoulders.’

‘You want to go out there, change people’s mindsets,

Help them out, show and promote kindness.’

‘You want to converse with ambition and intelligence,

Because it feeds your soul and your persistence.’

‘It’s what most of today’s youth want to achieve,

You want to prove you’re worth; a happy world you want to leave’

I nod in agreement, fearing some sort of revelation,

She pauses, taking a deep breath before she continues her narration.

I gesture for her to go ahead,

She takes the cue and tilts her head.

‘Do you think that stepping outside of your home is the only way?’

‘Do you think that goals need to be big for them to have a say?’

‘They’re noble, your intentions, but…’

‘But what?’ I finally interject.’

‘It’s more than that believe me,

It’s about the time you give to your family.’

‘It’s about the times you listen to your parents,

It’s about the little things you take the time to do with adherence.’

‘To spend with your loved ones, your friends, your neighbors,

The people in your community you’ve treated as strangers.’

‘It’s about the beggars on the streets you choose to ignore,

It’s about the little responsibilities you have now that you consider a chore.’

‘It’s about the times you get angry when things don’t go your way,

When impatience dwells over and leads you astray.’

‘It’s about the times your peers ask for aid,

And when laziness takes over you’re mission you betray.’

‘Help can be given at any moment,

You don’t need a tomorrow to stay focused.’

‘Think about how your actions affect your environment,

And whether these actions are in alignment.’

‘To what you aim to achieve at a later date,

Even though you can right now, this second, why wait?’

‘It’s about the example and actions you set today,

That will eventually shape your mission in the coming days.’

‘It’s easier to preach that the world needs our assistance,

But it’s more about your surroundings and near distance.’

‘If you make a difference a now, you can make a difference then,

You want to inspire, inspire all of them!’

‘They say charity begins at home,

I say change begins at home!’

‘It’s not about everything larger than life,

It’s more about the little things for which you strive.’

‘So hear me out, Aabiya, digest my words,

You want to bring positivity, define your world!’

She stops, I look down,

She’s right, I frown.

I look at her, guilt apparent on my face,

She gets up with a soft sympathetic haze.

‘Think about it’, with that she goes,

I stop her, ‘but who are you’ I ask, I need to know.

‘Why, I’m only your conscience, my friend’,

Whenever you need me, a hand I will lend!’

I Have Failed Today

I have failed today.

I have failed me.

I have failed myself.

I have failed all expectations.

I have failed all greatness.

I have failed good intentions.

I have failed toughness.

I’ve lost with myself.

I’ve lost with what surrounds me.

I’ve lost with myself.

I’ve lost with reality.

I don’t know anymore.

I don’t take anymore.

I can’t give anymore.

I can’t complain anymore.

It’s all on me.

It’s all on myself.

I have wronged me.

I have wronged myself.

I am at fault.

I was the deluded lot.

Deluded by being me.

That’s not what I should be.

I am someone else.

Someone made by someone else.

I am no longer me.

I am no longer she.

I am yours hers and his.

I am that and this.

All I ask.

All I bloody ask.

is to decide on one.

decide on one me.

The one me you need me to be.

Above all other mes.

Above all other shes.

Please.

I have failed today.

I have failed me.

I have failed myself.

Stepping Outside My Bubble

‘I have to ask! How’s life in Saudi Arabia? Is it as crazy and weird as most people think?’

To all those reading who still don’t know, ‘Life is great here, and no it’s not crazy. We live a normal simple life here except that we’ve got oil. And you know how that works.’ 🙂

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, I never had much interaction with people from different religions. It’s always been a Muslim majority country and the few people I met who happened to practice a different faith still knew more about the practices of Islam than one would expect.

However, all that changed recently. I finally, in my 20 years of existence, met individuals from a faith I never knew I’d even contemplate meeting 6 months ago. I was granted an opportunity to attend an interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Jews. And what an experience it was!

When I look back at that week, it seems like such a blur because of how fast it all went by. Each day, in a span of about 12 hours (or more), I had a hundred different conversations with people from extremely versatile backgrounds. Though it seemed that we are all different at the time, we all had one huge similarity that didn’t go unnoticed. We were all there to ‘talk it out’. We wanted to break all sorts of barriers between the two beliefs and move forward. We wanted to resolve the hovering hatred we had harbored due to what we ‘heard’ growing up.

Suddenly, I was getting all these new perspectives I had never been exposed to before. I was being asked questions I never thought I’d have to answer because everything had always been understood around me. Even Muslims from different backgrounds held similar concerns. It was all very fascinating to me. The questions were not one-sided though. I got to ask some people some really difficult questions too which made me realize how limited my knowledge is about the world. We’re taught to believe that what we grow up in is ‘life’ when life can mean different things to different people.

This conference definitely challenged my definition of reality and motivated me to further tap into issues that need to be addressed and maybe hopefully attain as Gracie Hart rightfully states in Ms. Congeniality, ‘world peace!’

I took so much from that one week that maybe I hadn’t in my whole life. I gained new experiences, made new friends, and took my first small step outside my bubble and I’d absolutely advise other people to take that small step too. It’ll definitely open up new interesting doors.

P.S. I forgot to mention that the conference was held in Bosnia and that was a whole other level of awesomeoness that I’ll get to at some later point.

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Different people, different backgrounds, 1 goal. (I sound like I’m hosting the next world cup)

Daily Life

So what is it that we’re doing exactly in our day to day lives? I ask myself that today and tomorrow I will carry on with whatever it is that I was doing. 

I’m sure we all have that limit or high point where we realize how obsessed we are with something and that maybe we need to take it down a notch. I know what I’m stating might be confusing and not at all related to the first sentence but we’ll get there Insha’Allah. So anyway, maybe it’s just me or the people around me or the environment I’m exposed to that I have become obsessed with my work meaning my assignments and projects (and no I don’t have a job. I wish I could get paid for this, but that’s not how university rolls, maybe I can change that *idea sparks in head*). ANYWAY *ignoring my digression* I never sought to be a workaholic in my high school years. I guess none of us ever do. I just did the work, submitted it, forgot about it and moved on. Same with exams and tests. 

Now it’s different. It’s become very different and I hate it. Firstly, I’m a design student. It is a very different atmosphere to that of school obviously. Nothing I learned at school could prepare me for this, maybe just time management. The people around me seem to be these design geniuses that come up with brilliant work overnight. I blame myself saying that I’ve always been logical and it will take some time and training to completely let out my creative side. I don’t even know if it’s getting there. But, this constant self-ridicule and lack of self-confidence has driven me mad. I am always on the edge of screaming because of how much I re-do things until they are perfect and even then I’m never satisfied. Sometimes I don’t even know whether I’m doing this for myself anymore or just trying to prove to the world that I made the right decision. Remember in ‘What is Ambition?’ I had asked society to let people be and choose what they wanted. I did that. I chose something people don’t understand and don’t think can do anything for me in life. (A notion I still disagree with) but I wonder if I had chosen the easy path, the one I had been exposed to my entire life, the one that would keep everyone happy, whether I’d be in a happier place in my head? 

And then I realize that NO. I wouldn’t have been happy. Because I would blame others for it rather than myself which is worse. 

The problem is not whether I’m in the right path or what direction I’m going to in this world. The problem is my priorities. My problem is not giving enough time to real knowledge that can balance the worldly knowledge. My problem is obsessing over phenomenons that are not in my hands. I am a human being and I will make mistakes. I have a duty to try to learn from these mistakes and MOVE ON. My duty is to somehow change everything I’m obsessed with to a platform through which I can become closer to Allah. My duty is to realize that all this will not help me anywhere in life, not even what society suggests will help me in life. What’ll help me is continuously striving for Islamic knowledge. What will make me happy is to do something in my daily life that will make me a better Muslim day by day. And then automatically my worldly knowledge will increase and my projects will automatically be successful, if Allah wills. 

So you see, the issue is not how much time you put into your daily routine, it’s how much time you take out to get away from all that and regain your sanity and faith through the books and knowledge of our beautiful religion. It’ll revitalize you both in your worldly assignments and affairs, and your affairs with Him. And trust me I’ve tried other ways to get myself to become more successful at what I do, nothing works like this does. 

To sum it all up, just let go sometimes and read watch an Islamic lecture, or read an Islamic book, read a couple of hadiths or ayahs. It all helps in the end. 

And maybe this’ll begin the journey to everyone’s pure soulful happiness. 

P.S. This is more of a personal post. Hope my experiences can help you. Not that I’m a 50 year old man with ample experience of life yet. 😛 But, let’s pretend I am. 🙂

Ego

It’s a simple 3 letter word, ‘ego’, but it contains so much. The reason I’m addressing this word ‘ego’ is because of it’s effects on us personally and the world around us.

I sincerely believe that a person’s biggest obstacle in life is his/her ego. It’s the one thing that gets in the way of us letting go of a situation or accepting our loss in an argument etc. How many times have you had an argument with someone till a point where it got pointless and turned into an unhealthy competition about who has better debating skills. When this happens, it means you lost a long time ago. Because this temporary satisfaction in proving the other person wrong at the cost of basic courteousness is not going to help you now or any time in the future. In fact, it develops into a bad habit of constant greed of wanting to win at every conversation.

Another situation where our ridiculous ego sets in is when we know we’re at fault but we find it extremely difficult to apologize for out mistake because saying the word ‘sorry’ is liking taking a trip from Japan to Turkey on foot isn’t it? Because it requires so much effort that it’s nearly impossible for humans to utter a simple word.

We need to realize the reality of this obstacle and how it grows as we grow. We think we’re becoming these intelligent species by developing better ways to make the other person feel horrible about themselves but we’re not. It’s turning us into savages so just stop. Stop and think before you utter words. Our words have power beyond our comprehension. We can never know the impact our words have on people and how long it lasts for. When having an argument, try imaging yourself in the other person’s shoes, maybe that’ll make it easier for you to let go and settle amiably. And ALWAYS ALWAYS remember that if you start arguing back and start fighting all these verbal battles yourself, then Allah will stop protecting you from these situations. If you leave it in His hands, victory is guaranteed every time. Even if not there and then and not in this life but maybe in the next and what more could a believer ask for?

I know how it feels, the contentment of it all, winning an argument and making the other person shut up. It feels good and you feel all pumped up but if you think about it, that satisfaction is not really the ultimate in your life. It’s about something so much bigger than this. If you can remind yourself every time that this life is temporary, and then if you can be patient in these situations, the reward is so much greater and beyond our imagination.

So, please, do not let ego get in the way of your ultimate goal of attaining the highest level of Jannah in the hereafter. Your ego is never worth it. We’re all stronger than that. It’s just a matter of letting go of this habit slowly, reflecting and repenting and trust me, life will become more blissful and argument-free. And that sort of satisfaction is indescribable. 🙂

Take care.

The Ramadan Spirit

Last week, after a long time (in fact the last time this occurred I didn’t have memory management as part of my brain functioning) I got to have Iftar at Masjid-al-Haram, Makkah. I had always heard that it’s a great experience and the feeling is indescribable but I guess none of that really sinks in until you get to experience things first hand. 

So, we had planned an Umrah trip…well it can’t even be called a trip from Jeddah, it’s literally like meeting a friend who lives an hour away. We left around 4 p.m and were at the Tawaf area at 5:40. It was pretty crowded and considering we were all fasting, it was kind of a challenge. But, the people in the Tawaf circle were the most generous people I had ever encountered. There countless men and women holding out little spray bottles filled with water to spray at the people who were doing their Tawaf in order to help them cool down in the heat. And then there were people holding out tissues to wipe the water off the face. It was really surprising for me and it made feel all giddy and motivated to be in the full worship spirit. When it was nearing the time for Iftar, there was literally a herd of people roaming around the grounds of Haram giving out dates, nuts and Kahwa (Arab hot drink). We got so many of those packets that we had to start passing them around ourselves. Soon we found a place to do our Iftar and the spirit was unbelievable. No one seemed to be annoyed, or hungry or anything. They were all just sitting there peacefully waiting for the Adhan, some praying, some making Dua, some still giving out dates and other edibles, and some making room for the people who were still finding a place to sit. We had our Iftar and we got up for the Maghrib prayer and went on to perform our Sa’i. After the Iftar, I had this new found energy and the 7 long rounds hardly felt like anything. It’s so miraculous Subhan’Allah that from far when you see Haram on T.V it seems like we’re never gonna be able to complete it in time but when you get to Makkah, you realize how blessed this place is and that every pilgrim is a guest of Allah and therefore is given this unexplained strength to perform all rituals without an ounce of complaint. 

It’s short moments like these when I realize that the true spirit of Islam can never be lost especially within the boundaries of Makkah and Madinah. The people automatically become helpful, caring, generous and everything that is attributed to being a true Muslim. It’s an amazing feeling to know you’ve been blessed by Allah to be a part of such an amazing religion that can’t be replaced by anything in the world. I just hope that this spirit remains throughout the year at every part of the world, whether a Muslim country or not. I think we can pull it off, God-willing, if we don’t get distracted by the world. 

On a last note, may Allah bless the entire Muslim Ummah and give us the strength to obey and pass on His beautiful message. I hope we can all unite one day and really show the world what Islam is all about and get rid of the misconceptions that have ruined our image and May Allah help us along our journeys. 

Hope everyone’s having a good Ramadan.

Ramadan Kareem! 🙂

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                                                     Laying out sheets for Iftar.