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. 

Advertisements

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?

Where’s The Party Tonight? 

When I started my gratitude journey about six months back, for me it primarily meant to journal the good things that happened that day, and to observe the increases as I kept being grateful. The months that followed brought about a lot of goodness in my life, both in terms of state of mind as well as in physical manifestation of blessings. All of these are nothing but promise of Allah. Alhamdulillah.


The last few months also have had some excruciatingly challenging times, times when I got knock punched at the pit of my stomach,times when doubted, stood at the verge of breaking down and giving up, and so on. But if there is one thing I have learnt was yes, I had to cling onto my journals like a lifeline, yes I had to thank Allah in my prayers for the good things He showered, but what I also realised was that I had to celebrate with Allah.

Yes celebrate! Allah gives us joy so we can be grateful. However, genuine, true gratitude goes above and beyond ritualistic confinements of worship prayer, fasting, charities etc. Of course you do them, but the underlying attitude TO ALLAH is what sometimes we miss out. How many times have you taken one extra slice of that mud cake, poured one extra scoop of icecreme, or binge ate till your stomach bloated, just because you wanted to show Allah how happy you are? Sure we all do these perhaps to show some self love, I am no exception either. But when doing them out of love for Allah, to spoil yourself to show Allah how happy you are, to know that Allah is watching you being so glee with joy, crashing at your couch and not open your eyes till its noon the next day because you feel so good, how happy is Allah feeling to see His favorite slave so happy YET remembering to include Him in the party? He loves you more than your mother, so if mother would have tears in her eyes just to see you so drunk with happiness, imagine how Allah must feel, when He knows EXACTLY the type of feeling you are getting? He created those feelings of glee inside of you, He is the only One who knows how amazing those happy feelings are, other might understand but only Allah knows the degree. SubhanAllah.

So next time you do a self love party, include Allah as your friend. Ask Him which flavor of icecreme, if the mocha would be fat or non fat, or if you should finally get that Chanel you have been thinking of for a long time, and if what you are wearing is making you look 10lbs more or less. Ask Him, Celebrate with Him, Include Him, Remember Him. Because He said:

Beauty And The Beast: Reflections On Ar Rahman

When I wanted to buy those gifts for our neighbors, I was very hesitant. Firstly I have never done anything like this plus when bought the items, including the gift wraps, I just didnt like them. The whole time that I was running around with my cart to find the matching sticker with the marching gift wrap while keeping a tab on my budget, I kept telling Allah that “You know I am not a crafty person. I have never done these in my life please accept whatever I can do. You created me so you know I am not good with crafts.” 

I got home with the supplies, half heartedly, knowing that I did not buy them upto my taste. But I just didnt know where else to go because I was running out of time. I had to have them ready before the next morning and it was already evening. Anyway so I started to wrap the gifts with the “crappy” stickers and other supplies that I bought. When I finished making those packages, I was stunned. I have no idea how they looked so pretty. The sticker and the wraps were just so not pretty, nor were the items. They didnt look good per se. They didnt look happy or bubbly, they didnt look pink or smiley. But subhanAllah the final package looked much better than I ever imagined. The whole time that I had been busy asking Allah to accept, I didnt realise that when Allah wants, He can make even the most lamest of our offerings into something much prettier. How He does it, thats the Divine Department. I dont know if He actually changed my view, or guided my hands to decorate them such that I would be satisfied with my performance, I do not know.


About a month later my neighbor came by to wish me (it was a national occasion), telling me she still has the card I sent with the gift. She liked it so much she kept it with her. She was tired from being in church all day, bur she still wanted to come by and leave her wishes.  It was the first time in the last 2 years that we have been living here that this ever happened.

None of this happened because I or my neighbor are particularly good or worthy. It happened because it was a very personal thing for me, and because I thought I failed, Allah intervened to make it nice such that I would satisfied. Isnt that what mothers do when their children leave a blob of colors on a paper and gift their moms, who in turn make it prettier by outlining the edges so the child becomes happier at his/her accomplishments?

Efforts Are Basically Placebos


When we pray for something, we are required to take actions as well towards achieving it. There is no free lunch in reality.

But what is important is that we realise that our actions really do NOT generate/ guarantee results. Results come from The All Able, from God. He uses our efforts to manifest results. Remember that time when you had a really horrible exam but your passed with flying colors, and you absolutely have no idea how it happened? Well there is your proof. He excused your poor performace and gave you a better result from Him, as a a token of His love.

So why then, do we need to work? Why can’t God just give us everything like that? Well it is because of our own accountability and ownership. It is for the same reason your parents let you work to earn your tuition for college, albeit they are very much able to afford it. It is to teach us accountability and take ownership of our achievements.

When Maryam (peace be upon her) was in the pain of delivery, she was asked to shake the tree above her so it would shed fruits for her to eat. Imagine how vigoriously could actually shake it? My guess she probably was barely able to touch the huge tree trunk, let alone shake it. But she did whatever she could, and the tree bowed down to reach her. 

So your efforts are subjective at times. Just because you can’t exert as much effort like others does NOT mean your doors to achievements are closed. Sincerity is all that counts. God does not need your efforts to give you. Your efforts are the best you can do in your particular situation, so when you achieve your success, you feel the confidence in seeing the fruits if your labor. It is all for you. 


So stop fretting about not being as good as others. Maryam wasn’t. So the tree came to her. It can come to you too, Because just like her, you too are no prophet.

Everyday believers like you and me are not excluded from the Divine Miracles.