Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

She was extremely worried, almost akin to being crippled with the thoughts of all the ‘what ifs’ that could possibly happen for it all to go wrong, for all her efforts to go in vein. The people she was arranging the function with were not the most cooperative, and as happens with all families, the complains, comparisons and the dubious judgements were draining her spirit away with apprehension. The function had to go right, she prayed so much for this occasion, and now it would kill her if it did not go smooth.

Its not easy being in her shoes. Doing so much, so selflessly, for people so close to her yet being unappreciated and rather envied upon, is very demotivating. She was constantly praying for it go well, but still the anxiety was not leaving her. So she took a step back and reassessed everything.

She was doing it all for the wrong reason. She was working so hard, doing it all by herself so everyone around would be pleased, happy and confortable. She was doing it for a noble reason, but the situation demanded that she be nobler. So she geared her intention away and decided to do it all an act of worship, an act of charity to gain pleasure of Allah. She threw away her constant need of people’s approval and started organising the function as if Allah was coming to attend it, as if it was Allah who she needed to impress- be it her dress, her looks, her decorations or the food. Thats it. Allah is the Guest of Honor so thats what she focussed on.

No sooner than she did so, not only did it calm her down and for the first time since the wedding preparations started she started to enjoy herself, but also everything that was causing her to worry started disappearing. Her scarf arrived right when she was about to head out, she was praised remarkably for her looks and the way she carried herself,and the function? Well it couldn’t have gone any better! Literally that’s how simple it was! Suddenly everything around was effortless, it all just fell into place like the missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It was a complete wedding. Alhamdulillah, MashaAllah, TabarakAllah.

As she stood there and looked at the bride and the groom, she realised she was watching her prayer being answered. Allah knows how much she wanted and prayed for these two to be married to each other, and that’s probably why she put her heart and soul into organizing this wedding so much, because it was her prayer being answered. And Allah couldn’t have answered it any better, making her the highlight of the entire event. Because only He witnessed every sincere effort and intention she put behind making this wedding happen.

 

Even someone else was telling me the other day, that when she needs her friends and they aren’t there for her, she turns herself away from everything and everyone and starts praying. Literally within 5 mins her phone starts bombarding with calls. Someone wise has said, “if you want to fix your relationships with others, fix your relationship with Allah. He will in turn fix it with people for you.”

These are stories of average people, the everyday heroes or the John/ Jane Doe’s of our daily lives. None are particularly good or worthy, and all are full of mistakes. They are just like you and me- they sometimes forget to pray, say things they shoulnt say, utter white lies in the heat of the moment, get worried, stressed, struggle to hold faith, and fail to “feel grateful”. And yet these stories, their stories,  remind me, time and time again, that :


I hope it reminds you too. 

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The Painted Veil: Story Of A Prayer Answered

Dear Readers,

I recently had a conversation with a very dear friend of mine, who had been battling tremendous amount of hardship for a long time.  She got married very early for her age, and mashaAllah have very beautiful children. But her marriage had been a turmoil since as long as she can remember. She has been married for 8 years and the journey has been anything but a turmoil, akin to riding in Noah’s ark. There were times when she was tested to the limits with her marriage such that I would never want anyone to be tested with. She tried a lot of duas, with sincerity and honesty, but the results came out zilch.
Recently, finding no other way, she asked others to pray for her, to get a clarity of things, to get a direction of what she should do, because it was becoming unbearable for her. And soon after that, within just a few months, her matters started resolving on their own, flowing smoothly mashaAllah, may Allah always protect her happiness. So I reached out to her and wanted to know what is it she did because of which her years of trials and tests came to an end. I am posting our conversations here, with the hope and intention that it might reach out to a soul yearning for direction and clarity in life. Even though the context is marriage, I am sure the advice can be used generally for other situations as well. As I always say, take the good that you get, and leave the rest to collect dust.

Q: Can I ask you something? Apart from asking others to make dua for you, did you do any specific act of worship because of which your matters sorted out so smoothly and quickly, mashaAllah may Allah always protect you ?

A:I prayed 2 rakah nafl after praying fard n sunnah during Isha. My niyah for the 2 rakah nafl was Allah to take away my confusion, set things straight for me, ease my difficulties, give my heart some peace. (I didnt specifically ask to be or not to be with my husband. I left that on Allah. )

Q:So you prayed 2 nawafil after Isha sunnah before witr right?

A: Yes


Q:Ooh also did you make any specific dua in that extra 2 rakah or your intention was clear so you didnt make any specific dua for those 2 rakah?

A:I didn’t make specific dua. TBH I prayed for peace of mind and peace of heart and love. I often make nafl prayer when I’m lil uneasy, if committed minor sins or something. And through it I ask Allah to forgive me.Like if I’ve sinned ( talked behind someone’s back, or didn’t treat my kids right). When I stand in prayer for those 2 rakahs I humble my self and put all of my focus in it. And hope for Allah’s forgiveness.I pray properly, with my mind and body, and I also pray slower than usual.

Q: Hmmm so you tied forgiveness to your intention as well thats very smart mashaAllah cuz forgiveness of Allah opens doors.

A:Yeah, basically it’s very rare that I pray nafl just for the heck of it. I usually have an intent, a reason, behind it.Allah may or may not look at he quantity of our prayers but He will for sure look at the quality. I need to practice this more my self…. but yeah.

Q:If you dont mind, do you think there was any reason for things to remain unchanged for so many years for you and suddenly to change? Like was it only destiny (qadr) or may be some changes in your worship was the reason things were slugging?

A:I don’t have an answer really. The only thing that I did until few months ago was that I blamed everyone for my life, and I had reasons to. But I don’t do that anymore, because I can’t really picture my life with anyone else 😐.And I only saw negative in my husband, and I see more positive than negative now and it’s not like he changed drastically or anything but yeah my mind focuses on the positive.😊 

The only thing that’s different in life right now is that I have clarity. It’s not a perfect life nor is it a perfect marriage and in fact I think none of those “perfect” marriages/ lives, exist. It’s how you perceive your situation that matters. Sometimes your have to see it through someone else’s point of view to appreciate what you’ve got and I believe that’s what I’ve done and that’s where I benefited.

She recently celebrated her 8th marriage anniversary, and I must say she is a totally different person now. Alhamdulillah, mashaAllah, tabarakAllah. May Allah always protect her and keep her like this. She has outgrown herself from the helpless, despairing damsel in distress, and I sincerely request that you join me to say “ Ameen” (Amen) as I pray that Allah blesses her (and everyone reading this post seeking to gain some help) with a lifetime’s worth of joy, love, peace, health, ease and prosperity with all the loved ones, from this life to the next. Ameen.

We dont need to be particularly good or worthy to be deserving of relief from Allah. Most of us are ordinary people- some of us do or dont do our hijabs, some of us do nor dont spend time shopping online all day, some of us do or dont expose ourselves do unpleasant things to TV ( Of course we should try to be better than how we are now, there is always room for improvement.) But the fact lies that at the end of the day, we all have hopes to have our duas answered. In fact, hope is weak, we need to have full faith. Someone very wise once said to me, “when you want something, tell youself- I want it and Allah will give it to me. It doesnt matter how things look like, you just need to know this and have full faith that Allah will give you. Any other thoughts, just block them”. As difficult as it is to do, its not anymore complicated than that.

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It Just Is: Patience

Patience does not mean you have to act like a robot. Patience gives you full permission to act out on your frustration. Patience does not mean getting back up on your feet tirelessly, rather it means to get back up on your feet despite being tired. Patience does not demand that you stifle your sobs all the time, because you are asked to follow someone who went blind from grieving the loss of his child. In fact, if it helps to release the pressure from inside your chest, you can roll on the floor crying your eyes out, almost vomitting out all your internal organs, passing out from an all time low blood pressure, having no idea what to do, how to do, how to be in the state you just found yourself in, and still do whatever much, however much, you are able to do. I mean it, whatever much. Sometimes, taking the next set of breathe is included in that “much” as well. Yes, patience also means refraining from stopping your heart so as to escape that pounding, but having the thought does not make you impatient. Because it did not make Maryam impatient.

Patience is different for everyone. But the theme is the same. Whatever you are doing, however much you are doing, are all part of patience. Because you are doing the bext that YOU KNOW how to, based on who YOU ARE. Allow yourself to believe that you are patient. Just because your cheeks are stained with mascara doesnt mean you are not. Patience has no rules, you dont take a “Patience 101” in freshmen year to learn how to master it. It just is. 

Sweet Nothings, Just Because! 

My co-worker is an elderly Jewish Rabbi. He is very friendly and nice, though I hardly run into him. Today out of nowhere he apprared in my room in the morning, offering me resources from his years of hard work, so it would ease up my workload. I could just use his files instead of making my own. Then later in the day, he got lunch for himself, but because it was too much for him to eat alone he brought them to my room again to share with me. I didnt have my lunch with me, because I already ate it at breakfast, so I could use his food. 

Right before I heading home, there were some treats left downstairs by the reception area, “just because”. I grabbed a doughnut as I punched out the clock.

As I walked towards the bus stop, I couldnt help but think how Allah has been doing so much extra for me through this hardship that recently came up on me last week. I have seen parents bring home favorite food when children are sick or upset. But The Lord Of The Skies And The Earth employed people from all walks of life, all different religions into doing these little things for me which He didnt need to, just because. The food or files didnt bring much difference in my day or my mood, I wasnt particularly elated. I kept getting worried and upset about the troubles and problems. But yes, for 2 seconds, just for 2 seconds, they helped shift my focus away and towards the grandeur with which Allah arranged these little somethings to care for me, to look after me. For two seconds it helped me appreciate and contemplate on Allah’s concern and touch. And then the two seconds increased to few more minutes as I decided to pen them down here. This is probably called increase from gratitude. Or may be not. But for whatever its worth, its few minutes worth of sweet nothings, just because! 

And that’s something.


Mixed Blessings: Surah Baqarah

I am one Surah Baqarah month old today, Alhamdulillah. I took up a “Finish Surah Baqarah Twice Every Month” challenge with my friend starting September 1, and I wanted to share some changes this has brought in my life.

To begin with, to my immense surprise instead of every 14 days (my Quran recitation is not the vert best, I am slow) it took my 2-3 days to complete Surah Baqarah. So every 2/3 days I would start over. In fact once I finished within one day only. Its unbelievable how my recitation speed picked up as soon as I made the intention. Alhamdulillah.

I saw a lot of changes in my daily life. All my day-to-day duas started to get answered, the ones like “Oh Allah please dont let their be any queue for coffee, I know I started late but I still want to reach on time, Please wake me up for Tahajjud”- all the daily duas were happening Alhamdulillah. What that did is to a great extent it smoothed out my day to day life, trimming the edges of daily challenges, and made things easily doable. Completing a  one hour assignment in 30mins, finding all the relevant information that is needed- soon became a routine. All praise and thanks to Allah.

Some other remarkable changes have happened on the personal forefront as well. Not to mention that the ease in day to day life has tremendously helped me keep up with gratitude- everyday manifesations of tiny little duas filled up my gratitude journal with entries and slowly (still in process) helping my faith muscle to build. The effects of gratitude have then been rippling on to the major duas and the carousel has since then been turning Alhamdulillah.

I am also someone with an extremely restless subconscious mind. Dreaming about everything that I do during the day has been something I have had since I can remember. Moreover, for about a year I have been suffering from nightmares. Even though I do the morning and everning recitations daily, for some reason I didnt really see much results in terms of peaceful sleep. But with recitation of Baqarah, alhamdulillah my subconscious has sobered up tremendously. In the entire month I probably had 3/4 nighmares which is nothing compared to multiple ones every night, and that too they came because I was overthinking from stress.

I read the Baqarah on my tablet. I read it while commuting, during TV commercials, at night as a bedtime read. So I am constantly hooked up to my tablet. After Fajr I try to read atleast 1 verse, because the benefits are more during that time. Allah said if you busy yourself with Quran recitation, He will suffice you in other areas.So sometimes if I am busy, I just read one verse after Fajr (because its already sunrise time by then) and then do my morning adhkars during breakfast. Because I have an extremely busy schedule, its hard for me to take out “quality time” for fancy recitations. I just do whatever, whenever, however I can. And from what I see (and I have always advocated for it), Allah sometimes likes the “crappy/ugly” acts of worship more than the “pretty and prettier” ones. Instead of couning how often I complete the surah or how much I read, I just make sure I read. Quantity is just a number.

For someone like me who has had troubles leading a normal day to day life, Surah Baqarah has helped me significantly in very subtle ways to push through in the past one month. If you want to add Baqarah in your daily life, let me tell you this- the devil will not like it at all. So it will tell you all the reasons it will not work out and how difficult it will be to keep up. Trust me, I know because it took me one month (the whole of August) to convince myself to add this in my life. But let me tell you, even if it seems “difficult”, there is something magical about the way it becomes “effortless”. It just becomes effortless doable to recite it everyday. 

Give it a shot!


(For details about the benefits of Surah Baqarah, please go over the sayings of our Prophet pertaining to them, may peace and blessings be upon him).

Take any good that you get, and leave the rest to collect dust.

A Late Summer Night’s Dream

I remember that Midsummer Night’s Dream. That devastating night, how I struggled to look for a meaning and purpose for it. How it took me so long to even begin to heal. The only good thing in that night was the moon. Other than that, I hated summer, I hated those trees, I hated the greenery. They trees shed their leaves and regained their greeery all within less than a year, while I stood there watching my life only shed everything, not gain. Hated them. The trees gained back leaves faster than mine. They had definite seasons planned, after 6 months they will get their leaves back. They had a calender to look forward to, I didnt. I didnt know when I would also get foliages in my life, and I detested the trees for knowing theirs. The greenery seemed to mock me, my stagnant, poignant story. It was Ramadan, sometime around the last ten nights, the best nights of the year.

I also remember the evening, right after sunset, of one of the best days of the year, towards the end of summer. There was the same moon and those same lush green leaves, about to turn yellow. There was even the same me. But that was it. Nothing else was the same. What I lost that midsummer night turned its way to come back on this late summer night. The tables were turning,  and as they did, I sat under those trees and made dua. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the trees started swaying in a breeze so beautiful, so serene, so peaceful, that I couldnt help but fall in love. The air was thick with freshness, dense with purity, an oxygen I never breathed before. A summer I knew before. I never knew the greenery could be good. I never knew Allah brought those greeneries back, nurtured and watered them all summer so when my time comes towards the end, they would join me to thank Allah before they hinernate for the season. So yes, I fell in love.

Fall in love with the subtlety yet the gravity Allah’s grandeur. I was sitting in front of the school playgroung which for some reason I stared at everytime I would cry. I never knew why but for years I had been drawn to the sight of that playground from my window. Now I knew why. Because Allah wanted that location to be the spot when it happens, so He made sure I had a connection with the place from before. My hatred for the summer and trees melted when those very trees joined me to glorify Allah that night. As they started to sway and dance the moment I started making dua, I just knew it wasnt random. It was much more. It was the trees joining me to glorify Allah, just how the birds joined Prophet David, just how Allah says in the Quran that everything in the skies and the earth does tasbih of Allah. Everything has their own way of worship, but it was a different experience when those very trees that bore the brunt of my replusion for years joined me to praise and thank Allah that night.

Allah keeps an account of everything, and incorporates even the minutest insignificant details into our story, because nothing is excess or random, should we pay attention.  SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, MashaAllah!

Did I mention that just as I was about to publish this post, I looked outside and saw the moon gazing right back at me? 

Alhamdulillah!

Marvel: The Series- Al Lateef, Al Qawee, Al Azeez

Stumbling upon this verse, something really struck a cord with me. I paused and reflected on the contrasting names of Allah; He is The Subtle One (Al Lateef), but He is also The Powerful One (Al Qawee), The All Mighty (Al Azeez). 

When life moves very very slowly, or seemingly slowly, almost akin to snail speed, we sometimes even have to pinch ourselves to believe that things are actually happening, albeit in the realm of the unseen reality. As “make believe” as that feels, because Allah is so Subtle, it is also equally true that He is the Dominant one. Allah has not left our affairs in autopilot.  We are not in a position where we have to sort of feel like He is not giving us enough attention (sounds horrible, may Allah forgive us, but we all go through those spiritual lows because we are humans and we were created with our sinister lower selves that is always full of trash talks). Even though the subtlety with which He orchestrates the nuances are sometimes so ordinary, that we almost feel like nothing is happening at all, His Might and Power is constantly doing things, planning in our favor, laying foundations for the good that is to follow. There is constant work in progress being done in the background, in the veil of the Unseen. 

When I was going through the worst phase of my life, circumstances dictated me to do certain things that time, make certain moves, take certain steps which at that time felt absolutely “unneeded” and didnt make sense at all. I wanted to run away from everything, even from life from a brief period of time. But today, I am living off of the fruits of those painful yet much needed decisions. Looking back I realise that the things that are happening right now,both good and bad,need the resources I gathered that time from those troublesome decisions. So basically Allah was planning it all since then. I just couldnt see and didnt know.

Just because things are subtle doesnt mean they arent powerful enough, impactful enough. When disaster strikes, the impact is a right knock out punch that makes you throw up blood from the guy, but for relief and joy, its slow and gentle. However, that does NOT by anyway mean the latter are not strong or powerful enough to change our lives with joy and bliss. Both have equal power to change the course of history, our lives, our stories.

Something to think about eh?