On being a ‘Grown Up’

Featured

Tags

, , , , ,


On most days, my three year old son doesn’t share his toys with his younger sister, he resists nap times, he still hasn’t given up his dummy and dislikes putting his toys away. Many of our days consists of battling with him to get him to do what he doesn’t want to do. Most days I triumph and some days, I’m too tired to fight and I let him be.

However, he doesn’t weaken my resolve and every day is a new day to help, guide, nurture and educate him.

I heard a scholar once say, that when children are young, their nafs (self/ego), is at it’s strongest. So, negative characteristics such as anger, pride, greed, envy and being egotistical is at it’s peak. This is why, one of the main role of parents is to guide their children. To encourage good behaviour, lead by example, use positive reinforcement and when appropriate, use gentle force to get them to be the best possible versions of themselves.

I seem to spend a lot of my time upsetting my child by not giving him what he wants. Making him do what he doesn’t want to do. And ignoring the tantrums that usually follow. All because, he’s still a child and I’m his mother and as a mother. I know what is best for him.

However, the same rules don’t seem to apply to me. I also have issues with my Nafs. I feel greed when I frequent certain places, I feel pride when my children can do something others can’t do and I feel jealousy when I see those who are of similar age as myself but more accomplished than me. There are many vices that I battle with, however I do not have my mother chasing after me correcting my faults.  If anything, by being a ‘grown up’, living and managing my own home, raising two small children, living as an expat for 7plus years has given me a stronger ego.

I think I know it all. But I don’t. I think I’m in control of my nafs (ego/self). But I’m not.

Part of being a ‘grown up’ is to manage your own vices. Controlling your own negative thoughts and behaviour. Being the bigger person. Overlooking and forgiving. Being good to those who have wronged you. Visiting those in need who didn’t visit you when you were in need. Picking up the phone and calling those who don’t call you. Celebrating the blessings of those who have what you don’t have. Responding with good words to those who put you down. And above all, doing all of the above without any sense of moral or religious superiority over others.

Being a ‘grown up’ also means that we should have honest dialogues with ourselves where we recognise our shortcomings. Admit to ourselves that it’s wrong to feel the way we do and then work hard to correct it. This does not mean that we do not need a religious mentor. But because most of us have trouble accessing one, we should at least recognise that we have flaws within us and work hard at correcting them ourselves.

Rumi said, your worst enemy is hiding within you and that enemy is your Nafs.

We can only fight the enemy that we know and recognise.

This self correction may be in the form of timeouts for reflection, ignoring the internal tantrums when things don’t go our way and refusing to self indulge in every whim in order to appreciate what we already have. Sometimes we may upset ourselves when we don’t get what we want. Sometimes we may have to make ourselves do what we don’t want to do. And sometimes we may have to ignore the internal tantrums that will follow.

If we did this, we would at least be on the path to self improvement, as this is what being a ‘grown up’ truly means.

Advertisements

My Selfish Gratefulness 

Featured

Tags

, , , ,


When I went to perform Umrah last week, my adventurous baby girl, who enjoys exploring and meeting new people, would often run away from us. The husband and I would break our salah in Jamaat to run after her. Once during Isha Salaah, she ran away from my husband, ran out of the Mosque and ended up in the courtyard outside. After a few moments of sheer panic, she was found in the arms of the security.

Once she was with me and we were walking to Dhuhr Salaah, I noticed that she had dozed off. I didn’t think too much of it, because she was a light sleeper. I was convinced that she would wake up when the adhaan started. But she didn’t. She slept soundly through both adhaans, the jamaat and the salatul janaza. For the first time, I was able to do my sunnats, nafls and make dua in peace. I mainly did Shukr. I was so grateful that my daughter had conveniently slept through salaah, so I could do my ibadah in peace.
Following that incident, something surprising happened. In every salaah in the haram, my daughter would either fall asleep during salaah or I would conveniently find a spot in the haram near other young children, who would enjoy playing with her. A few times I was sat next to teenagers or adults, who wouldn’t be praying themselves. But would run after my daughter and bring her back to me, each time she ran away too far.

I knew that my peaceful ibadah with my adventurous 1 year old, were purely as a result of my giving thanks to Allah. So I did it often. I did it each time, I had a productive time in the Mosque with her.

Allah has promised the believers, that if we’re grateful. He will give us more.

There’s a number of things that I’m currently grateful for and I regularly give thanks to Allah for them all.

Giving thanks increases the blessings that you have. It also protects and preserves them. Giving thanks is not just for the big blessings in life, it’s also for the small things. Such as having your children being cough/flu free, enjoying good weather, your family being stress free, enjoying a night of uninterrupted sleep (a big deal in parent world!)

Iman Abu Hanifa was asked the secret behind his vast knowledge, he said it was because he gave thanks to Allah every time his understood/learnt or grasped something. And as a result Allah would increase his knowledge.

And this is why I selfishly give thanks. My gratefulness to Allah is purely self motived. I want more. I want an increase in my Iman, my health, my wealth, my knowledge, the health of my children. I want to be happier in my life, with my family, friends and in my marriage. I want my children to soar in success in every walk of their life.

And I want to soar too.

I hope that Allah continues to give me the tawfeeq to selfishly give thanks to Him.

Post Umrah blues

Featured

Tags

, , ,

Just a week ago, I walked the streets of Makkah with extreme happiness and joy in my heart; knowing I was walking in the streets His (saw) blessed feet touched. In Medina, I sat in the courtyard of the beautiful mosque of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw), overlooking His resting place, whilst my children ran around, with extreme peace and serenity in my heart.

I would go to sleep every night in excitement, knowing that tomorrow was yet another day. Another day to have my duas accepted. Another day to earn thousands of rewards by doing small acts. Another day, to worry about nothing other than making sure we were getting to the mosque on time.

My stay in Saudi was facilitated in such a way, that Allah made it so that I had no other worries or concerns. My 1 and almost 3 year old were happy, well rested and content. Despite visiting these blessed lands with young children, we weren’t held back in any way; we managed to do just as much as we had done in previous visits before we had children.

When I was there the days were slipping by too quickly for my liking, I was very conscious of the fact that, when I went back home. I would no longer feel as relaxed, peaceful or on this spiritual high.

I knew it would be harder to get out of our beds and perform fajr at home whilst our children slept, compared to the ease we felt at leaving our warm beds, walking to Mosque of the Prophet (saw) in the cold whilst carrying our sleeping children.

I knew this because Alhumdulillah, by the grace of Allah, I have been here before many times. And each time on my return, I’ve felt that there’s something missing. Something I’ve left behind. It’s hard to explain. It’s not something tangible. But it’s a loss that is felt acutely.

And that’s how I feel now.

I have the Post Umrah Blues. It’s main symptoms are restlessness, unease and detachment. I don’t feel like socialising, going shopping, or eating out. I like staying at home. At home, I have my books and lectures, that for a brief moment almost make me feel that I’m there again. Everything else is a distraction. And I know I feel like this because for a week I’ve been in intense training, where my day, my food, sleep etc has revolved around the daily salaah.

My Deen has revolved around Dunya. Which is how it should be. And the fact that I’m back in an environment where we struggle to make time to pray is the reason behind my sense of unease and detachment.

However, as much as this feeling of loss hurts my heart. I like that I feel this way. This is because it shows me that, my heart has become attached to what is most important in life. Him. And our relationship with Him. And when I’m away from Him. It hurts.

However, I speak from experience. I know this state is not permanent. Sooner or later, my heart and self will once again be engrossed in Dunya. And it will no longer hurt to be away from Him. But for now, I want to relish in my Post Umrah Blues, where the heart is soft and the eyes are quick to shed a tear. I want to enjoy the sweetness I feel when I wake up at night to talk to Him. I want to enjoy reading the Quran rather than feeling it’s a chore. I want to wait for Salaah rather than rush it when it happens. And I want to feel detached when I frequent the glitzy malls of the UAE.

I pray that He keeps me away from the antidote to my blues. I like my post Umrah Blues.

I’m scared of Myself 

Featured

Tags

, , , , ,

I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of a weekly dhikr class. In this class we prepare a topic and at the end of the week we have an informal dhikr class based around this topic. Our class usually ends with dhikr and dua.

I absolutely love this class. I love the feeling of peace I get when I sit in this class. I love how excited I get when I know it’s Thursday because it’s the day I have my class. It takes me four days to prepare for this class. I work around my young children’s needs to ensure that any spare time I get during the day is spent in preparation of this class.

Most of all, I love how this class gives me a focus. Something to think about. I think about it all week.

When my son is at nursery, it’s what I think about. When my daughter is napping, it’s what I think about. When I’m doing mundane tasks such as laundry and cleaning, it’s what I think about.

And because of this class, despite being a stay at home mum with two young kids. I don’t feel lonely.

However, as is the case with modern life and external expectations. It is sometimes difficult to accommodate the commitments of all the attendees of the class and as a result, sometimes the class is cancelled.

On the week that I don’t have a class, by the end of the week; I’m suffering from anxiety. I’m thinking about how people have wronged me. I’m thinking about who has let me down. I’m obsessing over things that have happened years ago and getting upset over them as if they’ve happened yesterday.

I’m consciously aware of the fact that, it’s because my mind is idle. When I’m alone with a day ahead of me that consists of marinating chicken for dinner and ensuring my children are clean, fed and rested. Those are the days that I find it hard to control my thoughts. This is because my mind is not being challenged. I don’t have anything to study, learn, look up, memorise etc so instead, I’m thinking of all the people who have wronged me.

A wise man once said ‘if you do not keep your soul occupied, it will keep you occupied’

By nature I do not have control issues. However, I want to learn how to control my mind. So that it does not end up controlling me. This is because when I’m not in control. I become scared of Myself. And when I’m scared of Myself. I dislike my own company. I do not like staying at home. I seek out friends and end up shopping at malls as a distraction. And I know it doesn’t help. It only numbs the pain. If anything, it exacerbates the problem, because when I’m alone again, it hurts more than before.

The Prophet (saw) has said, the world and everything within it is cursed, except for the remembrance of Allah (Dhikr), what facilitates it, the scholar and the seeker of knowledge’.

Without doubt the company of Him, is the best company of them all. May He always keep our thoughts busy with His remembrance.

Why my mum is the best. 

Featured

Tags

, , , , , ,

  
By Alveena Salim 

My mum is the best.

She doesn’t put her children first. She doesn’t drop everything for her children. And she’s not always there when I call. 

Often when I’m trying to get through to her, the phone is continuously engaged. And when I do get through to her, our conversations are rushed, because she has to be somewhere or she has to see someone.

A few weeks ago, my mum agreed to babysit my two year old son. She was also keeping an eye on my four month old baby. At the same time she was helping out with her other three month old granddaughter. At the last minute, my sister called to say that she had to go into work, and could mum also look after her very boisterous two year old son. My mum agreed to babysit them all. 

That’s four children under the age of two. 

I was on my way out to see a friend and I noticed that as soon as it hit 11am my mother went to the living room and started her Friday darood/salutation to the Prophet (saw) class with her friends.

It didn’t matter that there were two babies crying in the other room. Nor did it matter that the toddlers have a tendency to want to kill each other when they’re left alone.

Mum would never cancel her darood class.

Did chaos erupt? Not really. One baby fell asleep. The other played happily in the bouncer. One toddler found his blanket and put himself to sleep whilst the other one decided to join the darood class.

This incident reminded me of a story of a Shepard, who was a wali (friend) of Allah. This wali was praying and whilst he was praying, a wolf was guarding his sheep. When people asked him how he managed to train a wolf to guard his sheep. He replied that, there was no special method. He was busy in the service of Allah, so Allah appointed one of his creatures to take care of his affairs. 

My mum’s advice to all problems is, do your bit and leave the rest to Allah. Put Him first and He’ll put you first. 

Whenever I call home and mum is not there. I know it’s because she’s attending an Islamic class, leading an Islamic class or visiting the sick or paying her respects to someone who has passed away. When we speak on the phone, it’s usually about something she’s learnt in a recent Islamic class that she’s attended or something she’s heard in an Islamic lecture that she has just listened to. 

When I visit mum (which is sometimes after months as I live abroad), I love how happy she is to see me. However, I also love it when she reminds me that, she won’t be around on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday because she is leading or attending some Islamic class.

And that’s how it should be.

This does not mean that we have had a neglected childhood or that our mother has never been there for us. If anything, I’m extremely grateful that my mother has put Him first. This is because, if there’s any goodness in my life. It’s because of my mother’s relationship with Him. 

And she’s taught us, whatever the problem, whatever the circumstance you might find yourself in, however overwhelmed or busy you may be with life or your responsibilities. 

Put Allah first. He’ll take care of all your affairs. And that’s why my mum is the best. She always puts Him first. 
 

I Miss You 

Featured

Tags

, , , , , ,


By Alveena Salim

Despite the excitement and preparation that I busied myself with on the night before Eid. The mild depression set in on Eid day. Of course I was happy it was Eid. I took great joy in wrapping up presents for friends and getting my children ready. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was different.

Something was missing. And it was You.

There is this constant spirituality and nearness that is felt in the month of Ramadan. And the beauty of this month is that you didn’t necessarily have to be directly worshipping You. Yet, one could still feel Your nearness and presence at all times.

I miss how close I felt to You. And I miss how You made me feel.

The days were beautiful and full of Barakah. And the sweetness of worship that was felt at night was on another level. I never felt anxious or sad this month. My only concern was that I wasn’t doing enough. And I wasn’t. I didn’t take advantage of every blessed moment and the days just slipped through my fingers. Such is the state of insan (man), that even when we’re blessed with gifts, we’re unable to give thanks for them as they deserve.

Since Ramadan, I’ve tried looking for You in Dhikr classes. In the last third of the night. In good company. And the honest truth is, it’s good. But it’s not the same.

What’s giving me some solace is the duas I made during this blessed nights. At the times, that You’ve promised to respond. And You never break Your promises.

The dua to find You again. Be it in Dhikr classes, amongst those that love You, in Your blessed lands, in the sincerity/secrecy of worship, in spending in Your way and in serving those that You love.

I ask that You keep me there so that I can find You again.

The upper hand is better than the lower hand

Featured

Tags

, , , ,

  
By Alveena Salim

My mother told me that during her nursing days, she used to be overworked and stressed out changing bed pans  for old people. She’d change bed sheets of patients whilst they’d still be lying in bed. She’d regularly change diapers for adults who were unable to control their bodily waste. She would bathe those whose muscles had became so stiff that they were unable to raise their arms to even comb their hair. She’d clean up vomit on a daily basis of those who were unable to digest the simplest of foods. 

Mum tells me that these patients all had a range of physical and mental health issues. However, they all had one thing in common. They’d all tell her same thing, which was, ‘I’d give anything to be in your shoes, rather than be the one lying in bed’. 

Amongst the many things I pray for, independence comes far high up in my list.

I learnt from observing my elders that it is far better to be the one who gives/spends on others than to be the one who raises his/her hand in expectation. 

It is far better to be on your feet tending to the needs of the young/old than be the one lying in bed unable to take care of yourself. 

Let’s all regularly make dua to Allah, that He blesses us with independence. This may be spiritual, financial, physical, spiritual etc so that we may become the upper hand, rather than the lower hand. Ameen. 

How do I thank Thee….Let me count the ways

Featured

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

20130521-184012.jpg

By Alveena Salim

So, I’m not really a fan of Elizabeth Browning. But I absolutely love the title of her poem.

‘How do I love thee, let me count the ways’

I decided to slightly re-change the title of her poem for my new blog post.

I was recently thinking about the many, many nights I have spent during my life, imploring Allah. Begging Him to give me something. Asking for His help. Complaining to Him. Crying for something or another.

Now if I compare that to the nights I have spent in the past, just thanking Him for the blessings that He has bestowed upon me. There’s no comparison.

I remember the months that I spent praying to Allah to bless me with Hajj. The nights I begged Allah to help me pass my driving test and get a degree. The years I spent asking for a decent partner. And the nights of Ramadan I spent asking for a good job.

And then when I got all of the above. What did I do? I started asking for the next thing I wanted in life.

Allah knows us so well that this state is even described in the Qur’an.

“And when affliction touches a man, he calls on Us, whether lying on his side or sitting or standing; but when We remove his affliction from him, he passes on as though he had never called on Us on account of an affliction that touched him (Surah Yunus).

And in another Sur’ah in the Qur’an.

“And when We show favor to man, he turns aside and withdraws himself; and when evil touches him, he makes lengthy supplications.” (Surah fussilat).

This is a depressing state of affairs. In addition to the above, it’s mentioned many, many times in the Qur’an that man is forever ungrateful and that those who are grateful are few.

I’ve recently started following someone on twitter who calls himself #middleclassproblems. This comedian has basically created a Twitter account to poke fun at the ‘problems’ associated with middle class life. The ‘perils’ and ‘tribulations’ of having domestic staff, such as cleaners and gardeners is a common topic. As well as the ‘troubles’ associated with running out of gourmet food at the top end supermarkets.

It’s funny, but almost in a strangely depressing way. Living in Dubai, I often hear people I know complaining about their maids or moaning about the heater in their pool being broken for a few days. Sometimes, you just have to stand back and think, do we really know what real problems and complaints are anymore?

Are we so consumed with getting and expecting more, that shukr is completely out of the picture?

If we had true shukr (thankfulness) of Allah, then instead of brooding over non existent problems, we’d be too busy focusing on what we do have.

We often think about the best way to ask Allah (swt) for something. But how often do we think about what’s the best way to thank Him for what He HAS given us?

I have read stories of great awliyas (friends of Allah), who took shukr (thankfulness) to Allah to another level. There was one great wali who was so grateful to be given the opportunity to go to Hajj, that after every two steps he took, he stopped and offered two nafl shukr in prostration to Allah. As a result, it took him 14 years to reach to Makkah.

This is an example of someone who has found the hidden sweetness in giving thanks to Allah.

The great poet Rumi said “Thanksgiving for the benefit is sweeter than the benefit (itself)! How should one who is addicted to thanksgiving go toward the benefit?

The scary thing about not stopping and counting your blessings is that, one day it can all be taken away from us.

The Holy Prophet (saw) said “Gratitude (shukr) for the blessing you have received is the best insurance that the abundance will continue”.

So how can we do shukr?

It’s not complicated.

We can start by just counting our blessings on a daily basis. Thanking Allah every night before we sleep for our health, wealth, family, religion, peace of mind, job etc etc

Thanking people. The Prophet (saw) said, ‘He who does not thank people, does not thank Allah’.

Sharing your blessings with others. For example, your time, your wealth, your knowledge etc

Recognising that everything you have is from Allah and not because of your own achievements.

Reading two Nafl shukr for specific things on a regular basis.

Obeying Allah. This is because obedience to Allah is a true acknowledgement of the favours that He has bestowed upon you.

Recognising that even if you tried to count all the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon you. You would be unable to do so.

Knowing that even the ability to give thanks is a blessing from Allah, that very few are able to do.

And lastly, bear in mind at all times that Allah loves those who are grateful, even though they are in the minority. So, let all try to get into that minority….

Allah’s Plans Are Better Than Your Dreams

Featured

Tags

, , , , ,

images

by Alveena Salim

I’ve spent a significant part of my life planning. When I was 18 I had made a list of things that I needed to do i.e. do Hajj by 19, get my driving license by 20, graduate by 21, married by 22, start work at 22 etc

Even on a day to day basis, I prefer make ‘to do’ lists, that help me to organise what I need to do during the day or week. I also feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I tick things off my list. And alhumdullilah, for the most part, my life has always been according to my ‘lists’.

Recently, I’ve come to a place in my life where things are not going according to my plans. And I’ve come to realise that not everything can be planned for. Not everything turns out as planned and that we can plan all we want, but Allah also plans.

What’s interesting is that, we plan to be successful, we plan to be loved, we plan to be healthy and we plan to be rich or knowledgeable.

We don’t plan to be sad, we don’t plan to be hurt, we don’t plan to be scared and we don’t plan for our plans to be shattered.

Sometimes what we want and what we get are two different things. This is because, we’re only human. We like to think that we’re in control and that we’re in charge. But we’re not. Allah is in charge.

Sometimes we get trials and tribulations sent our way and we break, because we didn’t plan for them. We find it difficult to adjust to Allah’s plans because they were not in accordance to our plans.

Someone once told me that sometimes Allah sends difficulties our way, to shield away larger calamities. Sometimes He allows pain so that we can become stronger. Sometimes He allows illness so that we appreciate our health. And sometimes he takes something away from us so that we can appreciate the blessings that He has bestowed upon us.

Imam Ali (ra) once said “I truly recognised the power of Allah, when despite my best efforts at making something happen, it didn’t happen”. This shows us that, there is some power, some force that is so much stronger that our power that can stop things from happening. It doesn’t matter how much you plan for it. It doesn’t matter how much you want it. It doesn’t matter what effort you put into making it happen. Our plans will always pale in comparison to Allah’s plans.

However, instead of becoming despondent about this fact, the amazing thing to bear in mind is that, the Qur’an tells us that “Indeed, Allah is the BEST of Planners”. So, even though we like to think that such and such thing is the best thing for us and it may even look like the best thing. Ask yourself, how do you really know?

There may be 101 things wrong with your plan. However, our limited understanding may not be able to see what it is. Remember, Allah says in Sur’ah Baqarah “And perhaps you may hate a thing that is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah knows and you know not”. Exactly. We don’t know.

Take a moment to reflect on your past. Think back to a time that you really wanted something. Maybe it was a great job, someone that you wanted to marry or something monetary.  And despite your best efforts at trying to acquire that thing, it didn’t happen for you. And now, when you look back, you know that not getting that thing was actually the best thing for you, because today you have something that is even better. I’m sure we can all think of such instances. This is just some of many examples of Allah knowing better than you. And the amazing thing is, for many of the things that didn’t happen for us because it was for the best, we won’t know until we’re in the hereafter. SubhanAllah! Allah protects us from bad things and most of the time, we don’t even know it.

Think about the example of Prophet Musa (as) and Khidr (as). When Prophet Musa (as) traveled with Khidr (as), he did things that were unconventional. Things that did not seem to have any goodness in them (such as murder and damaging property). Khidr’s (as) actions seemed so heinous  that Prophet Musa (as) lost his patience with him. Only later did he learn, that what Khidr (as) was doing, was actually for the best. 

Sometimes its difficult to look beyond the surface of things. All we can see is something not happening for us. A closed door. It takes great strength, will-power and wisdom to see the deeper truth, especially if we can not understand it at the time.

What we need to remember is that at every step of every way. Allah is with you. Protecting you. Looking after you and Loving you 70 times more than your own mother. He may be doing things, that seem so difficult to accept, however is actually the best thing for us. Sometimes, in order to save or protect us, something is taken away from us, or given to us in a way we don’t want. 

So what we need to do is, trust Him. Be satisfied with whatever He decrees for us. And be patient with whatever trial or tribulation that comes our way.

By all means plan. Dream. Hope. Wish for the Best. But put your trust in the One that knows you better than you know yourself. And of course, plan as much as you want, but just remember Allah is the best of all Planners.

Are we being punished?

Tags

, , , , ,

IMG_0028

 

By Alveena Salim

I’ve often thought about this whenever I’ve gone through hardships in my life.
Only recently I’ve learnt that when one is truly being punished for their sins, the last thing they want to believe is that is God is punishing you for your wrong doings.

In the past, whenever calamities would befall the early Muslims, they’d automatically believe that it was due to their sins. Our pious predecessors used to say: “By Allah! If I committed any sin, I would see its consequences on my family and my steed.”

Sheikh Abdul Qadir al-Jillani once said that ones behaviour during the trial gives you a strong clue as to why the trial was sent. And when one is being punished for their sins, a sign of which is the person’s lack of patience and much restlessness and complaining during the trial.

This is because the sinner enters a state of anger and bitterness. They feel wronged by God and feel they are undeserving of the punishment that is being afflicted on them. In many cases, they become convinced that the calamity is a test and not a punishment because in their head, they haven’t done anything that deserves the punishment of God.

When one feels like that, know that it is a punishment from God.

Many years ago, I suffered from ill health. At the time, my mother suggested that the trial that I was suffering from could be due to my sins. I immediately lashed out on her; I felt angry that she suggested such a thing. In my head, I didn’t do anything majorly wrong to be hospitalised for 10days. It was only many years later that I realised that my mother spoke the truth. I also knew exactly what sin I was punished for.

And yes, I fully deserved to be punished for it.

Is it wrong to assume to know Gods plan and feel convinced that we’re being punished or should we always assume that the calamity is a test? Or should we not give it any thought either way?

Have you ever felt ‘punished’ for your sins?