Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Great (And Small) Expectations



Tears slide down your cheeks as you ponder over events that are currently the hot topics of your life. You try hard not to feel sorry for your own self. You try your best to be thankful for everything Allah has given you. Because face it – He has given you like a real, real lot. You have it better than most people in this world. So the point is – should you be even feeling the feelings you are feeling? Should you be even discussing this stuff with your family and friends? Should tears even be shining within your eyes?

So then what exactly are you supposed to do? Just shut out those feelings? Or are you supposed to cope with them and channelize them towards a better end? Keep reminding yourself that you have a whole lot of things to be thankful for. That isn’t so hard to do, is it? Well, not if your mind is at peace. But what if there’s this grueling debate going on in your mind every time you seem even a teeny bit ungrateful? You get this nagging voice in your head that when every time you complain or rant out in front of family and friends, says ‘how dare you?’ (And I’m pretty sure it’s with that spooky hissing sound!) Well, you should just try and shut it out too. It’s because it takes you to another extreme. It might just push you over the edge and make you really mad. At whom, you ask? Well, at yourself! For being logical all the time! 

So you should be allowed to feel sorry for your own self some time in your life, right? Umm, not exactly. Because once you open that gate, it can lead you to this really dark and depressing valley. It can steer you to recount all the bad incidents that have ever occurred in your life – even the ones that don’t relate to this current bad event in your life! It can get you to a point that you begin to start feeling like a loser – as if you have not achieved anything in your life – which, by the way, is not true. If you’ve ever caused happiness in the life of even just one person around you, your life is most definitely worth living, my friend. So the question that arises is – why? Why does it have to be so simple to sink into this hole of self-pity? It’s because it’s effortless to feel negative. It’s like second nature. Unless, you condition yourself to be positive all the time. So how do you do that?

We’re all regular human beings, we have this natural instinct of being hopeful – even when we’re not exactly in the mood to be optimistic. Your heart would be down in the dumps, you would be ‘basking’ in misery, agonizing yourself over how there’s not even a glimmer of hope in your life. But even then, your heart knows that there’s still hope. It’s hope against hope but it’s there! Because no matter how despondent and dejected you feel, you know your Lord is there. He’s Watching over you, He Knows you’re hurt and He Knows how much. He’s got some good things Planned for you. He doesn’t want you to have them now because it’s not the time. It’s not your time – yet.

So this tiny gleam of confidence, of faith, of positivity – where does this come from? It comes from the very Source your (perceived) misery (a disguised Blessing or trial) has come from – the Almighty. He basically Guides you towards Himself. He Illuminates your path and drives away the darkness that you insist upon embracing, provided that you enact upon that slight sparkle of brightness, on the condition that you convince yourself to hold on to that light and that hope.

So what can you learn from that? It is to direct your expectations. It teaches you to subject all your hopes and pine all your expectations against that One Supreme Being. Your disappointments, failures, tears as well as victories, achievements and happiness are all from Him. Your expectations can either make or break you. They can make you if they’re from Allah but if you keep awaiting fulfillment of your dreams based on your anticipations from any lesser being, be sure that they would end up failing you in one way or another. Even when things slip out of your hands and it seems as if another person is to blame for it – be certain that it is the part of your Lord’s Magnificent Plan for you. You just need to keep faith and keep expecting but down the correct route and in the right direction.



Friday, May 1, 2015

What makes Me a Muslim by Dr. Bilal Philips - A Detailed Summary

Understanding the Qur’an

Recently, a renowned speaker Dr. Bilal Philips had visited Pakistan. I attended one of his event in Karachi. The topic for the day was ‘What makes Me a Muslim?’ After an introductory session, Dr. Bilal was up on the podium. He began his speech by laying emphasis on how important it is to truly understand the Qur’an instead of just reciting and memorizing it. He gave the analogy of donkeys carrying books on their heads for people who only memorize the Qur’an without acquiring knowledge of what Allah says in the Qur’an.

Why are We Created?

He then moved on to the topic and posed a question: “Why are we created?” He then answered his own question saying we are created so we can attain Paradise through worship. Our main purpose in life should be the pleasure of Allah. He referred to this Ayah from the Qur’an:

I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me. [Surah Ad-Dhariyaat, Ayah 56]


High Moral Standards in Islam

He moved on to explain that we, as Muslims, should have a high sense of morality – the consciousness of good and bad. He said the Prophet (SAW) was sent to sum up the highest of morality. He then quoted a Hadith of the Prophet (SAW) that in meaning indicated that there would be a lot of people who would externally appear to be people of Paradise but would actually be the people of Hell (fire).

Narrated by Sahl bin Saad Al-Saidi that Allah's Messenger (saw) and Al-Mushrikun met each other in a battle and started fighting. When Allah's Apostle (SAW) returned to his camp and when Al-Mushrikun returned to their camp, somebody talked about a man amongst the companions of Allah's Apostle (SAW) who would follow and kill with his sword any Mushrik going alone. He said, "Nobody did his job (i.e. fighting) so properly today as that man." Allah's Apostle (SAW) said, "Indeed, he is amongst the people of the (Hell) Fire." A man amongst the people said, "I shall accompany him (to watch what he does)" Thus he accompanied him, and wherever he stood, he would stand with him, and wherever he ran, he would run with him. Then the (brave) man got wounded seriously and he hurried to die quickly. So He planted the blade of the sword in the ground directing its sharp end towards his chest between his two breasts. Then he leaned on the sword and killed himself. The other man came to Allah's Apostle (SAW) and said, "I testify that you are Allah's Apostle (SAW)." The Prophet asked, "What has happened?" He replied, "(It is about) the man whom you had described as one of the people of the (Hell) Fire. The people were greatly surprised at what you said, and I said, 'I will find out his reality for you.' So, I came out seeking him. He got severely wounded, and hastened to die by slanting the blade of his sword in the ground directing its sharp end towards his chest between his two breasts. Then he eased on his sword and killed himself." when Allah's Apostle (SAW) said, "A man may seem to the people as if he were practicing the deeds of the people of Paradise while in fact he is from the people of the Hell) Fire, another may seem to the people as if he were practicing the deeds of the people of Hell (Fire), while in fact he is from the people of Paradise." [Sahih Bukhari, Chapter 54, Book of Jihad, Fighting for the Cause of Allah, Hadith No. 2898]

These are people who would visibly be following Islam but internally they would be void of all moral values. This strikes you as an alarming truth once you reflect upon its meaning. He said the most common names among Muslims are Muhammad and Fatimah. In reference to the Hadith quoted above, he said there would be a lot of Muhammads and Fatimahs in Hell. By saying this, he was trying to highlight the importance of acting upon the high standards of morality set by Islam and not just perform the Salah, fasting, Zakah etc as rituals.

Tawheed


Shahadah

He described Shahadah as one of the elements of Tawheed. Shahadah, he said, is an open declaration of your faith. When we say ‘La Ilahaill Allah Muhammadur Rasoolullah,’ we solidify our belief with this assertion that there is no Lord but Allah and Muhammad (SAW) is His Messenger. When we pronounce our faith, our declaration and our practice cannot be contradictory. When we claim the Oneness of Allah and affirm Muhammad (SAW) as His Messenger, we are announcing our obedience to Allah and His Messenger (SAW). Then we cannot be two-faced – we have to practice what we state in the form of Shahadah by being obedient to Allah and the Prophet (SAW).

Salah

Salah, is also a part of the Tawheed. He said the process of prayer should begin with the Wudhu.

The Importance of Wudhu

Dr. Bilal gave a tip for those who cannot concentrate during Namaz. He said when we make Wudhu, we’re fundamentally washing away our sins. This, he said, with reference to the following Hadith of the Prophet (SAW):

Abu Hurairah narrated that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: When a bondsman-a Muslim or a believer-washes his face (in course of ablution), every sin he contemplated with his eyes, will be washed away from his face along with water, or with the last drop of water; when he washes his hands, every sin they wrought will be effaced from his hands with the water, or with the last drop of water; and when he washes his feet, every sin towards which his feet have walked will be washed away with the water or with the last drop of water with the result that he comes out pure from all sins. [Sahih Muslim, Chapter No. 2, Purification (Kitab Al-Taharah), Hadith No. 475]

Instead of making the Wudhu something we hurriedly perform, we should reflect upon the Hadith of the Prophet (SAW); we should recount all our sins while we cleanse ourselves for prayers and take this reflection onto our prayer mats. There would be no way we wouldn’t be able to concentrate on Salah after that, he said. He also said that there’s a misconception that we have to keep reciting some Ayah or Duas while we perform the Wudhu. There is only one dua that the Prophet (SAW) made after the Wudhu and it is as follows:

Umar bin Al-Khattab narrated that Allah's Messenger (SAW) said, "anyone performs ablution and makes it a perfect ablution and says (I bear witness that there is no God besides Allah who is the One, Who has no partner and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. 0 Allah! Cause me to be among those who repent and cause me to be among those who purify themselves), then all eight doors of Paradise are opened for him that he may enter whichever door he chooses." [Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 55, A 17316, 17398, Muslim 234, Abu Dawud 169, 609, Nisai 151, Ibn e Majah 470]

Continuing his discussion on Salah, he said Wudhu is just a preparation for Salah. Just like the Sunnah Salah is preparation for the Fardh Salah – so that we may concentrate better during Fardh Salah.

Repenting to Allah

He further emphasized on the importance of being repentant by comparing the situation of the Satan and Hadhrat Adam (AS). He asked the audience, was it that what the Satan did more severe or graver than what Hadhrat Adam (AS) did. No, he replied to his own question. It was the same – disobedience to Allah. So then what was the difference between Satan and Prophet Adam (AS)? It was that he (AS) repented. And the Satan was arrogant with his sin.
He also mentioned that Allah has elevated the Prophets’ (AS) status over other human beings and thus, His punishments for the Prophets (AS) are greater as well. Allah forgives us more easily than He did the Prophets (AS).

Zakah

Zakah is another pillar of Tawheed. It instills the moral characteristic of generosity within a human being. Zakah is the obligatory act of charity that encourages kindness and generosity so much that people begin performing voluntary acts of charity like giving Sadaqah, etc.

Fasting

Fasting, also a part of Tawheed, is restraint from the displeasure of Allah. It is to avoid the things that are Halal so as to increase the willpower within an individual. It helps increase the resolve of a person so much that it becomes easy to curb themselves from the things that are Haram.

Hajj

Hajj, another pillar of Tawheed, teaches one to be patient. If you perform all the rituals but do no practice patience, it is of no use. Dr. Bilal then went on to discuss the dilemma of a woman, who has no Mehram to go with her for Hajj. He said Allah rewards this woman for her intention as intent in these situations (when unable to perform the act) earns a greater reward from Allah than performing the actual deed itself.

Belief in Angels

Belief in angels is also a part of Tawheed. Allah is aware of everything that we do whether it is recorded or not but our deeds are documented so that we may practice God consciousness.

Belief in the Book

Continuing on, he pronounced the Belief in the Book as part of Tawheed. Defining this, he said the practical application of the Book for us Muslims was given to us in the form of the Messenger (SAW) in order to show us that all the commands of Allah were possible to be carried out.

Belief on the Judgement Day

The belief on the Judgement Day is also part of Tawheed. The trust in the day of reckoning and accountability is very much a part of our faith. That is why, we are to practice God consciousness in our lives and are urged to ‘choose our friends well.’ It is because our company defines us: it makes us who we are and we become adaptive of the habits of our friends.

Belief in Destiny

The belief in destiny makes up a part of our Tawheed. This belief persuades you to stay steadfast, never give up and have complete faith that there’s good in whatever calamity or troubles you are facing currently. Even if you cannot comprehend the good presently, you must keep complete assurance in the goodness of the outcome of your suffering. As the Prophet (SAW) has said:

Suhaib reported that Allah's Messenger (SAW) said Strange are the ways of a believer for there is good in every affair of his and this is not the case with anyone else except in the case of a believer for if he has an occasion to feel delight, he thanks (God), thus there is a good for him in it, and if he gets into trouble and shows resignation (and endures it patiently), there is a good for him in it. [Sahih Muslim 2999; In-book reference: Book 55, Hadith 82; USC-MSA web (English) reference: Book 42, Hadith 7138 (deprecated numbering scheme)]

Dr. Bilal explained this Hadith as a win-win situation for the believer saying there’s good for the believer in either case.
He also said that the believers receive reward only when they are patient and do not broadcast their endurance to the world. He quoted the following Hadith:

Narrated by Anas that the Prophet (SAW) said, "The real patience is at the first stroke of a calamity." [Sahih Bukhari Chapter No: 23, Funerals (Al-Janaaiz), Hadith 389]

Another variant of the above Hadith is as follows:

Narrated by Anas bin Malik that the Prophet (SAW) passed by a woman who was weeping beside a grave. He told her to fear Allah and be patient. She said to him, "Go away, for you have not been afflicted with a calamity like mine." And she did not recognize him. Then she was informed that he was the Prophet (SAW). So she went to the house of the Prophet (SAW) and there she did not find any guard. Then she said to him, "I did not recognize you." He said, "Verily, the patience is at the first stroke of a calamity." [Sahih Bukhari Chapter No: 23, Funerals (Al-Janaaiz), Hadith 372]


Make Islam Real!

Instead of just practicing plain rituals, we need to bring about the moral goodness as well that our religion teaches us. When we recite the Kalimah, it’s not just mere words, it is a belief that we must exercise through our minds and hearts. We need to build up on our God consciousness and start exhibiting honesty in our behavior. We need to be able to do the right thing because of the fear of Allah, because He’s there and He’s watching us. We need to make ourselves aware of His Presence, His Control and Power over our lives and everything that we do. The state of being wary of Allah all the time is called Taqwa.
Taqwa is the essence of Tawheed and it is the essence of Islam. To accomplish Taqwa, we need to bring this reflection into our prayers – we should worship Allah as if we see Him. Once we bring this struggle into our prayers, we will be able to take this consciousness forward into our daily lives. We will then succeed in carrying out His Commands, being distinctly aware that He is Watching over all our affairs. When we observe Taqwa, we aren’t just limiting ourselves to beliefs or the idea of Tawheed, we’re actually living Islam.

Selective Practice

Selective practice means to choose the parts of religion that appeal to you and the ones you find easier and to disregard the aspects you feel are difficult. According to Dr. Bilal, selective practice of Islam at your own convenience is equivalent to not practicing. It’s like saying that “Our desire is our God,” he said. He said we need to live Tawheed in fullness by struggling to understand and practice the Commands of Allah as much as we can.

The Attitude of Gratitude

Dr. Bilal explained the importance of gratitude in Islam. Gratitude is the essence of belief – it is the practical application of Tawheed. It’s so important that it was made to be the first words Alhamdulillah that we recite during prayer – Alhamdulillahir Rabbil Aalameen in Surah Fatiha. The ‘attitude of gratitude’ prevents depression. He clarified the misconception of praying two Raka’ah of Nafil Salah for gratitude saying the Prophet used to pray Sajda As Shukar instead:

Narrated by Abu Bakrah that when the Prophet (saw) heard news that made him happy, or for which one should be happy, he would fall down prostrate in gratitude to Allah, the Blessed and Exalted.
[Sunan Ibn Majah Chapter No: 7, The Chapters of Establishing the Prayer and the Sunnah Regarding Them, Hadith no: 1394, Grade: Hasan]

Dr. Bilal said Sujood ush Shukar is Sunnah Muaqaddah and it does not require ablution or purification of any kind, neither does it require the proper Qibla direction. Females can perform the Sujood even during menstruation. He moved on to explain the procedure of making this Sujood. You are only required to prostrate – but the prostration should desirably be of a long length, during which you should reflect upon all the good that is there in your life. You are supposed to recount the as much of your Blessings in life as you can, starting your search from just the day before. You are meant to reflect on your Blessings during the Sujood until you accept His Mercy.
Dr. Bilal also recommends the Sujood ush Shukar for those facing depression. He advises to prostrate daily for about a month to see remarkable relief from depression.

Goodness to Parents

Goodness to parents is an example of practical application of Tawheed. It serves as the link between faith and application. He moved on to grieve over the culture of the world that now acts as if parents are a burden on their children. Children leave their parents in old homes in the West. Dr. Bilal categorizes this as moral collapse – total decline in morality. He said in the West, people talk about child abuse but they do not mention parent abuse. He stated that every 3 parents out of 5 are being abused by their children when they are helpless and old. Despite the fact that the Ten Commandments deliver the same message about setting high standards of morality in our behavior towards our parents.
Goodness of parents is one of the most important commands of Allah. Every trial, every shortcoming is not be blamed on parents. They are to be respected and treated with kindness always.

The Importance of Surah Al-Baqara

According to Dr. Bilal, Surah Al-Baqara defines Tawheed in detail and Surah Al-Ikhlas summarizes the concept of Tawheed. Surah Al-Baqara is to be recited to rid one’s house of demonic presence. Following is the Hadith:

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (SAW) as saying “Do not make your houses as graveyards. Satan runs away from the house in which Surah Baqara is recited.” Reference: Sahih Muslim 780, In-book reference: Book 6, Hadith 252, USC-MSA web (English) reference: Book 4, Hadith 1707 (deprecated numbering scheme)
                         
Dr. Bilal said that whoever memorized Surah Al-Baqara was considered a Hafiz in Prophet’s time. This Surah is so highly ranked because of the completeness of Allah’s teachings in it. This Surah is superior to the whole of the Qur’an. The following Hadith highlights the significance of having learnt Surah Al-Baqara:

Narrated Abu Hurairah: "The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) sent an expedition force [comprised] of many, and he asked each what he could recite, so each one of them mentioned what he could recite - meaning what he had memorized of the Qur'an. He came to one of the youngest men among them and said: 'What have you memorized O so-and-so?' He said: 'I memorized this and that and Surat Al-Baqarah.' He said: 'You memorized Surat Al-Baqarah?' He said: "Yes.' He said: "Then go, for you are their commander.' A man among their chief said: 'By Allah [O Messenger of Allah]! Nothing prevented me from learning Surat Al-Baqarah except fearing that I would not be able to stand with (in voluntary night prayer).' The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: 'Learn the Qur'an to recite it, for indeed the parable of the Qur'an for the one who recites it and stands with it (in prayer) is that of a bag full of musk whose scent fills the air all around. And the parable of the one who learns it then sleeps while it is in his memory is that of a bag containing musk that is tied shut.'"
Reference: Jami at-Tirmidhi, Chapters on the Virtues of the Qur’an, English Reference: Vol. 5, Book 42, Hadith 2876, Arabic Reference: Book 45, Hadith 3116, Grade: Hasan (Darussalam)

Dr. Bilal also emphasized on the learning methods of the companions of the Prophet (SAW). They memorized 10 Ayahs of the Qur’an at a time and would not move on until they had started living by those Ayahs. The following Hadith shows how long it took for a companion of the Prophet (SAW) to learn Surah Al-Baqara:

Yahya related to me from Malik that he had heard that it took Abdullah ibn Umar eight years to learn Surat al-Baqara. (Surah 2)
Reference: Imam Malik’ Muwatta, Chapter: The Qur’an, USC-MSA web (English) reference: Book 15, Hadith 11, Arabic reference: Book 15, Hadith 483

Blind Rituals

Dr. Bilal said certain acts have been ritualized such as just reading the Qur’an without executing it in real life, kissing the Qur’an when it falls etc. These acts were never performed during the time of the Prophet (SAW). The Qu’ran isn’t being taught or followed in the way it was taught during the Prophet’s (SAW) time.

Trials

Dr. Bilal said people often wonder what a trial actually represents – a test or a punishment from Allah. It all really depends on how you perceive the trial. If you treat it as a punishment, it becomes one but if you identify it as a test from Allah and try to be patient and persevere, being steadfast and righteous, you can earn reward from Allah. According to Dr. Bilal, trial is an Imaan purifier. Refer to the following Hadith:

Ibn 'Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported that the Prophet (SAW) visited a bedouin who was sick. Whenever he visited an ailing person, he would say, "La ba'sa, tahurun in sha' Allah [No harm, (it will be a) purification (from sins), if Allah wills]."
Reference: Al-Bukhari, Riyad as-Salihin, Chapter: The Book of Visiting the Sick, Sunnah.com reference: Book 7, Hadith 14, Arabic/English book reference: Book 7, Hadith 907

Dr. Bilal elaborated that every pain removes sin if only you are patient with it. He encouraged us to say Subhan Allah and Astaghfirullah whenever we get afflicted with calamity or problems. He even joked saying, “I’m not asking you to say Alhamdulillah.”

Question and Answer Session


Intention for Good Deeds

The questions asked if it was necessary to make an intention consciously every time we try to accomplish a good deed. Dr. Bilal’s answer to that was that if the general intention when performing a certain act is good or even non-specific and does not involve evil, then Allah will reward the individual for it if He wills.

Goodness to Parents

The question was whether we should be good to our parents even if they are unjust to us. The answer was that goodness to parents is a must in general. There may be a problem with our perception in discerning them as unfair. Regardless of the evil that we perceive of them, the goodness they have shown us is bigger than anything unreasonable on their part. This applies to all cases except extreme cases in which parents abuse their children physically or sexually. In those cases, it is better to seek help. There are other cases in which the parents ask you to disobey Allah or the commands of the Prophet (SAW), in which the rights of Allah are greater and more important than the rights of the people.

Dhikr of Allah

There may be deeds which we may perform in abundance but we can never do too much Dhikr of Allah. We should make it a point to do Dhikr to please Allah at all the times that we can.

Mahram

Having a Mahram is necessary only for travel. If a father goes with his daughter and helps her settle in another country or city for study purposes, verifies that her whereabouts and residential area are secure and leaves her there to study on her own, it is valid. This is because a Mahram is not required when living somewhere but only while travelling.

Beard

The question was if it was necessary for men to keep beards. Dr. Bilal answered saying it is very vague to pronounce having a beard as only Sunnah because a Sunnah has various levels: Fard, Wajib, etc. Keeping a beard is a Fard Sunnah. Keeping a stubble or a French beard is not sufficient, it has to be a proper beard that can be termed as one. Saying this, he emphasized again that there should be a balance in the inner and outer Islam. They should both be implemented together. He gave the analogy of a kernel and a shell. The kernel and the shell both have to be strong together. The shell would crumble if the kernel is weak and the kernel would be unprotected if the shell is weak.

Lowering the Gaze

The question was about how to lower the gaze when studying in a co-educational university. The answer was to avoid staring not to “keep the gaze so much to the ground that you bump into a pole.” The objective is to find the middle way – to become a balanced nation.

Music

The question was whether music is Haram or Halal. Dr. Bilal mentioned that in all matters pertaining to Ibaadah, everything the Prophet (SAW) taught us is Halal and the rest is Haram and in all other affairs, everything is Halal unless declared Haram by the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW). He answered the question saying that music is fundamentally Halal but there are aspects of it that are forbidden. Wind and string instruments are forbidden. Daff and singing of girls below the age of puberty is allowed. Adult females may sing for women only. If the content of the song is Haram, then it is Haram. Singing by males is allowed to be listened to by everyone, including females. The drum for the beat is also allowed.

Cheating

Dr. Bilal cited a few examples of universities and colleges he had visited in Pakistan, a couple of which were of complete Islamic background. He had inquired the students over there regarding cheating. He had asked students who had never cheated in their exam to raise their hands. He had witnessed only a couple of hands raised. He alluded to this as a form of declining morality. He lay emphasis on the fact that the graduating class should exhibit higher moral values. This is only achievable if strong ethical values and honesty is instilled within kids starting from the grass root level.


Alhamdulillah, this concludes my humble attempt at recreating what I learned from Dr. Bilal’s lecture. Please note that none of the points quoted in the article comprise of any personal viewpoint of my own. I have just ventured to put down whatever Dr. Bilal spoke about during the lecture. It may not be a complete account but I have aimed to recollect as much detail as possible. 

I have also tried my best to search for authentic Ahadith with references that were quoted by Dr. Bilal Philips and to verify each and every bit of detail that I have written. Still, if you find any mistakes whatsoever, please do feel free to point them out.

Special thanks to my friend Maryam Kaiser and her family for their generous input and for helping me out with determining the authenticity of some Ahadith and clarifying confusions that arose during composition of this article.

To learn more about the Tawheed, please refer to the book The Fundamentals of Tawheed by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips. All the attendants received a copy of this book for free after the lecture.

Ahadith References:
The Hadith Library
Sunnah.com




Monday, February 28, 2011

The Mithoo Series – The Unfortunate Incident



A week before Eid-ul-Azha last year, Inaaya went to the birthday party of her friend’s sister. Oh yes. Talk about social life of a three-year-old! She went with her mother of course, and her little sister just had to tag along because she’s so little.

While my sister-in-law attended to Tahani, she left Inaaya in a playing room filled with lots of toys and instructed her to stay there. Inaaya, like any fun-loving, excited kid couldn’t hold on and went outside to the amusement-park-like setup created for the birthday party. The setup along with a lot of other rides, also consisted of a life-sized kids’ car, that would come sliding down with enormous speed along with several other miniature slides and playground rides fit for children around Inaaya’s age.

As Inaaya stood at the edge of the slide, awaiting her turn, she was unfortunately target to the fast-approaching car and became victim to the pain and anguish caused to a little kid and not to mention their family, as a result of a fracture. It was heart-wrenching to see a kid like her, who is so cautious even when descending the stairs or jumping to be subject to such plight. The poor kid had buckle-fractured her leg, which meant a slight bend had occurred to one of her bones, which are still very flexible for children her age.

After getting her leg plastered and suddenly realizing her inability to perform routine tasks of walking and wearing sandals, she burst into tears saying, “Main sandals kaise pehnoon gi?! Iss ko hatao! (How am I going to wear my sandals? Remove this!)” She cried all the way home and then when she was laid on the bed, fresh tears sprang into her eyes as she was able to closely view and apprehend her leg disappearing beneath the plaster. “Mera paer kahan gia (Where’d my leg go)?!” Funny as this innocently uttered sentence was, it still reflected the fear and anxiety that would strike anyone, young or old with a plastered leg.

A little cheering up worked and gradually she got used to having to stay on bed the whole day through, creating interesting activities for her own self like painting, coloring, going through educational books and habitually playing with her toys with the exception that she couldn’t move around much, which in itself was heartbreaking because she is a very active kid. The fact that she was getting a lot of attention eased any frustration that she would have experienced.

The plaster on her leg bound her to bed for two weeks. Within those two weeks, we tried our best to keep her entertained. One day, her parents had taken her to school so that she could visit her friends and teacher. When I came back from office, her troubled expressions every time her school was mentioned made me realize that something had gone wrong. Her teacher, in a bid to protect her from getting more injured, had kept her at a distance from all the kids. She had kept her seated in her chair, while all the other kids performed their routine activities, forming their regular human circle on the floor. This had affected her very deeply and she had felt extremely left out instead of feeling normal and part of the regular crowd as we had anticipated. So much so that a little teasing about leaving her in to the hospital alone if she gave us trouble with taking her medicine made bouts of tears roll down her cheeks as she hurtfully replied, “Mujhe durr ni rakho, main sab ka friend hoon (Don’t keep me away, I’m everybody’s friend)!”

The arrival of Eid-ul-Azha would have caused us more pain had she been the age and the kind of kid who loved to play with animals as the festival really marks as celebratory for the younger lot, who spend night and day, caring for, feeding and running around with their sacrificial animals. The only disappointment was that she couldn’t go to visit the tent set up for sacrificial animals for the building though she required a lot of coaxing before she gave in for a visit the previous year.

Visiting the doctor gave a little relief by the end of the second week, when she was allowed to walk even with the plaster on her leg. Being an intelligent and observant child, she quickly devised a method of walking around with the heavy plaster clinging to her leg. She held on to furniture and walls and easily made her way around the house – a sight that jointly aroused compassion with pleasure.

At the end of three dreadful weeks, Inaaya finally said bye-bye to her plaster for good and started to walk again – with a limp in the beginning as getting used to not having the plaster took some time.

If anything, those three weeks brought forth a realization about the trial endured by people, who unfortunately have children, who are either special or are unable to carry themselves around the house to accomplish daily routine tasks. Having to carry around a three and half year old Inaaya, who although was not a heavy kid but still had considerable weight and catering to her every need while she was totally dependent on us made us feel ever grateful to the Almighty for Blessing us with children who are not only healthy and able but bright and skillful too.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Polly put the Kettle On, Let’s all have Tea!



A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a competition organized by a famous tea company from a social networking site, in which they wanted the participants to give ideas for advertisements. Here’s the elaborated version of what I thought up:


A son studying in a hostel finds his eyes closing every now and then as he tries to study for his exam. He gets up, frustrated and goes to the kitchen to make tea for his own self in order to stay awake. As the tea brews, memories of his mother bringing tea for him while he studied come to his mind that make him really wish that she were there for him or that he were at home.

From the hostel kitchen, we are led to the welcoming kitchen of a loving household, where in front of the stove, stands a granddaughter making special kind of tea with just the right mix of ‘masala’ her grandfather preferred. She carries the tea to her grandfather’s room and places the tray on the table next to her grandfather’s antique rocking chair, seated on which was not her grandfather but the sleeping form of his wife. The light thump awakens her grandmother, who picks up the cup of tea as the two stare at the picture of the deceased. Tears trickle down the cheeks of the woman, who has taken up the role of her husband in order to keep his memories alive.

In a family of over-enthusiasts, a newly-wed girl who has never tasted tea ever, amidst the numerous flashes and clicks of cameras, takes a sip for the first time from the hands of her ‘sasu-ma’ in her 'sasural' just to please her in-laws as the whole family of tea-buffs, old and young, gathers around to magnify this interesting little activity to the height of an event worthy of celebration.

From the hustle and bustle of that family living room, we are led to a room that literally holds pin-drop silence and reminiscent within the room, is a businessman, on a trip away from his family, taking some time out from his busy schedule in order to relax himself with a cup of tea and stare at his happy family photo. His thoughts travel to the life he lives, where every evening, his wife would carry a tray with enough cups and mugs of different shapes and sizes according to the preference of the variety of people forming the joint-family household setup. Soon to follow would be another tray carrying assorted tea-time snacks and biscuits for everybody. He smiles for a while before the silence of the room brings him back to the striking loneliness of the present.

The concept is that tea is a part of the routine lives of these people and when you are away from your loved ones, the only thing that you really remember is the everyday happenings and the customary things in your life, which is pretty much what you can relate your routine cup of tea with.

The concept I presented was quite clichéd and I agree that there was nothing new about it. Maybe because I inherently believe that there’s nothing new about drinking tea either. Ever since I can remember, I have seen my mother keep a pot of tea to brew on the stove regularly in the mornings and evenings. I also remember having tea-biscuit for breakfast with the help of my mother before I left for kindergarten class. The nursery rhyme in the title also brings back a lot memories of the most common and basic toys that most young girls grow up playing with - tea-cup and kitchen sets.

For someone accustomed to drinking tea more than thrice a day, up until a few years ago it was quite surprising for me to hear that some people really don’t drink tea! Since, it’s like an overall family tradition to have tea with breakfast and in the evenings at least, we’ve long since wanted to teach our older Mithoo to drink tea. On the other hand, the little-est and not to mention the cutest member of our family, despite being less than four months of age, really shows family instincts as she excitedly stares at our cups of tea. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Mithoo Series – Life is simple!

And it sure is, when you look at it through the eyes of a three-year-old!

The homes that are blessed with children can always find a source of relaxation as a few moments spent with these tiny little beings can cheer you up and leave you in a lighter mood despite the circumstances you’re in. They’re like flowers that require a nourishing atmosphere, care and protection from all troubles and in order to inculcate such an environment, we tend to forget our own problems just by being with them. 


My Mithoo and I
By the Grace of the Almighty, our home is Blessed with two wonderful little princesses, who happen to be my nieces, three-and-a-half-year-old Inaaya and three-month-old Tahani. This is a series dedicated to my Mithoo, Inaaya, whose little actions and constant chatter and cute interpretation and usage of words brings lots of cheer into our household. I thought it would be interesting to share her antics with everybody as I’ve always found my friends enjoying when I shared with them my experiences with her.

Inaaya had been called to school this weekend on Saturday because of the numerous holidays they had been granted owing to the difficult situations our city has been facing. Not having a habit of sleeping in the afternoon, she uses all of her time to play, play and play – the one thing that signifies her right as a child. She sometimes does feel the need to have somebody else around whom she could share her enthusiasm of playing with. It’s not impossible to say that she might find that companion in her younger sister once she reaches that age. But for now, she either has to do alone or convince the elder people in the house to frolic with her.

After her constant activity, she went with my parents and sister-in-law to see my father’s uncle, who has come to settle in Pakistan after staying a long, long time abroad. It was way past her early bedtime when she returned home. All her exertion the whole day long had rendered her so exhausted and void of all energy that she could only muster up a little more just enough to slump on my parents’ bed. Her condition had led the elders to decide that she would not be going to school the next day so just to tease her a little, I told her that she has to go to school the next morning. Knowing very well from the conversation that had transpired a while ago that she would not be going, she said, “Aap, hai na, aap, hai na (You should, you should)…” My heart melt at the difficulty she was experiencing in thinking straight because of her weariness as it took her a long time to form a proper sentence. “Aap school phone kar ke bol do ke kal school nai rakhey, main kal nai aaoonga (You should phone the school to call an off tomorrow because I won’t be coming)!” She managed finally, putting her hand to her ear as an illustration.

I laughed at her innocence. Kids make everything sound and look so simple. They don’t just want but expect the whole world to go according to their will. May Allah always Bless the innocence of these wonderful sources of joy in our lives and Guide them to become great people.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Impending Goodbyes…

This one’s going to be a really, really sad post and has been written with just such a state of mind.

Saying goodbye - always the toughest of things to do, isn’t it? Saying goodbye to a job or a place you’ve called home for years or saying it to friends you’ve worked with, studied with or to best friends who’ve left you behind – actually, scratch that, in these cases you never get to say it, it’s just a silent one, from within your own heart. But the thing is that it’s always tough.

It turns out my best friend of years is going to go away. Well, she was always going to go away, once she got married that is. She was always going to settle down abroad. But what’s more striking about this new discovery is that this is something that can be helped, unlike marriage. She’s going to go off to study. And it really doesn’t help that she’s the only best friend I’ve known in a couple of years now. The other one is just so engrossed in her own life that she’s forgotten she ever had a family before her current one, let alone remembering me. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m really happy that she’s happy just not happy that she’s never there for me anymore.

There’re very few friends who create a lasting impact on your life. And there are fewer best friends who manage to motivate you, who would say things like they are to your face, they would thwart you when required, set you straight when you go wrong, encourage you when you need it, and most of all, lend a listening ear to all your rants that would always cheer you up. Going out with friends is the only vent you get from your monotonous life. The way they feel bad about not being there when you got sick but didn’t get a chance to tell them, the sudden plans for going out shopping and for dinners, the long late night conversations over the phone are all the things I’ll really, really miss. I’ll also miss advising her, scolding her when she’s wrong, cheering her up and also the feeling of being important to somebody and making a significant difference in somebody’s life.

Best friends are people you can share everything with. Even the things you would never share with your family because you don’t want to upset them. I’ll miss that the most because only best friends can make up for this. No one else and no other friend can.

Friends are like this ray of hope when you feel you’ve reached the edge of the road. How I’ll manage to survive without this ray of hope in my life is something I haven’t gotten around to asking myself because I’ve been so busy crying my eyes out and fighting this suffocating feeling of loneliness. True, I’ve got other friends. But you don’t call your best friend the best for nothing.

Ok, so there’s still time. There’s still time to build up on some last few pleasant memories; there’s still time to share a few good laughs, some tears and a lot of talks. But it really doesn’t help that she’s gone for Umrah just when I’ll be having my last day in office. It gives me a feel of how it’s going to be when she actually leaves. Although I really hope she enjoys her first trip to Allah’s House to the divine and Blessed experience that it really is.

And yeah, my leaving office is another impending goodbye that seems less saddening compared to this one although it wouldn’t seem that way when that day actually arrives. I’ll be saying goodbye to my office of two years full of all kinds of memories and to the few but precious friends I’ve made here. I will miss you buddies hard and I know you guys know it.

If I’ve depressed you people enough, I’d sign off and leave you to mourn over all your long lost friends and best friends and jobs you’ve left behind. Sharing felt good, though. As a colleague of mine put it, writing can be a relieving activity. That really stands to be very true.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

And hence began my journey…

How ironic. What signals an end also indicates a new beginning. The day my resignation got finalized was the day I got appreciated for my writing skills that I had been too shy to present to even my friends, let alone to the general public. It may appear as a small achievement to others, but to me, being recognized as a writer – be it by my father, my friends, or colleagues – means a lot.

I wrote a reply to a colleague’s humorous and well-written article, which was meant to be a tribute to girls on Women’s Day. I agree that my article may not be completely comprehensible or as much fun to people not working in our office but what follows is my first ever public and humble attempt at writing humorous non-fiction:


Speci-Men in Our Company

Warning: This article is meant to hurt people’s feelings but the author and her creative team do not claim any responsibility whatsoever with regard to tears running down anybody’s cheeks.

Over a large span of time, various kinds of species have evolved within this company. Since Men’s Day is still a long way away, we, the girls have decided to ‘pay tribute’ in advance to these peculiar but interesting creatures in our company.

Our first category is the Cactuses. These species are the touch-me-not category. Even minor contact would drive you running out of the cluster to get some fresh air, the air of attitude they throw about is such. Be careful when you interact with them because the thorny tone of their voices is bound to make you bleed.

The Rubber-band kind prefers to stretch so far back in their seats from time to time that one can fear that they might snap or at least their chair would. Not to mention the fate of poor unfortunate girls sitting behind them who to avoid their outstretched arms, have to crouch into their cubicles.

Then there are some at whom the word style starts to begin but forgets to end—simply put the (J) Bravos. Apparently being trapped in the wrong profession, they seem to fantasize themselves as models and the corridors of the office as ramps. If by any chance, you’re ever stuck walking behind them, you’re bound to reach your destination a couple of hours later than you anticipate.

There are also a few Richie Riches, who have probably been brought up with servants at every beck and call. They seem to perceive every passerby as one and would not think twice before handing over their used mugs and glasses to them to be taken away while they sprawl lazily on the sofa.

There is another batch of species that lack simple courteousness of moving away to give space to others (read girls) or leave the seats of those they are sitting on. But mind you, having said all this, they would still not refrain from pretending to have manners, trying to make up for their lack by using extremely muddled up definitions of ‘Thank you’ and when to put a ‘No’ before it. Poor souls also really have a hard time deciphering that the word Sorry can also be used an alternate for “Could you repeat that, please?” and not just as an apology.

There also exist some Free Biscuit Lovers, who can just sense the fragrance of free biscuits like anything. They pounce on those biscuits and finish them off when the owner isn’t at her seat, making her wonder if she even bought a pack that day.

Then there is a type who use their pen (or should I say a word processor?) to criticize everybody under the sun (or at least under the company’s illuminated roof). This makes you wonder if there is anybody that they actually like.

In the end, I would just like to say that within the categories defined above, I’m sure there isn’t a complete dearth of etiquettes, consideration or good people for that matter. It’s just that as is the case with our management, the good points just tend to ‘slip’ out of the mind when you begin writing.


Strict instructions had been shared amongst the girls that no questions regarding the identities of the guys would be entertained so as to avoid bad feelings and embarrassments and so that the article could indeed be taken lightly. But there are always a few bad elements set out to try to ruin your wonderful day, aren’t there? Try as they might but they couldn't succeed though! It’s situations like these that make you wonder how you can go from having no opinion about a person to a very low opinion about a person.

But what moved me was the appreciation and support that I got from everybody. It was this that made my day. There was something else that made my day even better and that was the pride I saw on my dad’s face when I shared with him my experience at office. I truly can say that this was one of the happiest days of my life.

I always believe that the success and achievements of a person are measured by the contentment they can bring into other people’s lives. The happiness, ease and relief that a person brings into the lives of their loved ones – whether it’s family or friends - are the primary achievements in a person’s life. It is what makes life worth living for a person. All other successes are secondary.

I’m grateful that I have the greatest of parents, wonderful-lest of cousins and best-est of friends in life. May Allah Bless them all always.

I dedicate this first blog entry to them and to my colleagues. A lot of people have been very encouraging about this blog too. I hope everyone enjoys what they read here. Happy Reading! :o)