Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Worth the Read

The following is an article written by Yasmin Mogahed (via Allaa Sayf)
Leaving is hard. Losing is harder. So a few weeks ago I asked the question, ‘why do people have to leave each other?’ The answer took me into some of my life’s deepest realizations and struggles. But it has also led me to wonder: After people leave, do they ever return? After something we love is taken from us, does it ever come back? Is loss permanent—or just a means for a higher purpose? Is loss the End itself, or a temporary cure for our heart’s ailments?

There’s something amazing about this life. The very same worldly attribute that causes us pain is also what gives us relief: Nothing here lasts. What does that mean? It means that the breathtakingly beautiful rose in my vase will wither tomorrow. It means that my youth will neglect me. But it also means that the sadness I feel today will change tomorrow. My pain will die. My laughter won’t last forever—but neither will my tears. We say this life isn’t perfect. And it isn’t. It isn’t perfectly good. But, it also isn’t perfectly bad, either.

Allah (glorified is He) tells us in a very profound ayah (verse): “Verily with hardship comes ease.” (Qur’an, 94:5). Growing up I think I understood this ayah wrongly. I used to think it meant: after hardship comes ease. In other words, I thought life was made up of good times and bad times. After the bad times, come the good times. I thought this as if life was either all good or all bad. But that is not what the ayah is saying. The ayah is saying WITH hardship comes ease. The ease is at the same time as the hardship. This means that nothing in this life is ever all bad (or all good). In every bad situation we’re in, there is always something to be grateful for. With hardship, Allah also gives us the strength and patience to bear it.

If we study the difficult times in our lives, we will see that they were also filled with much good. The question is – which do we chose to focus on? I think the trap we fall into is rooted in this false belief that this life can be perfect—perfectly good orperfectly bad. But that’s not the nature of dunya (this life). That’s the nature of the hereafter. The hereafter is saved for the perfection of things. Jannah (paradise) is perfectly and completely good. There is no bad in it. And Jahannam (hell – may Allah protect us) is perfectly and completely bad. There is no good in it.

By not truly understanding this reality, I myself would become consumed by the momentary circumstances of my life (whether good or bad). I experienced each situation in its’ full intensity—as if it was ultimate or would never end. The way I was feeling at the moment transformed the whole world and everything in it. If I was happy in that moment, past and present, near and far, the entire universe was good for that moment. As if perfection could exist here. And the same happened with bad things. A negative state consumed everything. It became the whole world, past and present, the entire universe was bad for that moment. Because it became my entire universe, I could see nothing outside of it. Nothing else existed for that moment. If you wronged me today, it was because you no longer cared about me—not because this was one moment of a string of infinite moments which happened to be tinted that way, or because you and I and this life just aren’t perfect. What I was experiencing or feelings at that instant replaced context, because it replaced my entire vision of the world.

I think in our experiential nature, some of us may be especially susceptible to this. Perhaps that is the reason we can fall prey to the “I’ve never seen good from you” phenomenon which the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) referred to in his hadith. Perhaps some of us say or feel this way because at that moment, experientially we really haven’t seen good, because our feeling at that instant replaces, defines and becomes everything. Past and present becomes rolled up into one experiential moment.

But, the true realization that nothing is complete in this life transforms our experience of it. We suddenly stop being consumed by moments. In the understanding that nothing is limitless here, that nothing here is kamil (perfect, complete), Allah enables us to step outside of moments and see them for what they are: not universes, not Reality, past and present, just that—a single moment in a string of infinite moments…and that they too shall pass.

When I cry or lose or bruise, so long as I am still alive, nothing is ultimate. So long as there is still a tomorrow, a next moment, there is hope, there is change, there is redemption. What is lost, is not lost forever.

So in answering the question of whether what is lost comes back, I study the most beautiful examples.  Did Yusuf return to his father? Did Musa return to his mother? Did Hajar return to Ibrahim? Did health, wealth and children return to Ayoub? From these stories we learn a powerful and beautiful lesson: what is taken by Allah is never lost. In fact, it is only what is with Allah that remains. Everything else vanishes. Allah (swt) says, “What is with you must vanish: what is with Allah will endure. And We will certainly bestow, on those who patiently persevere, their reward according to the best of their actions.” (Quran 16:96)

So, all that is with Allah, is never lost. In fact the Prophet ﷺ has said: “You will never give up a thing for the sake of Allah (swt), but that Allah will replace it for you with something that is better for you than it.” (Ahmad) Did not Allah take the husband of Umm Salimah, only to replace him with the Prophet ﷺ?

Sometimes Allah takes in order to give. But, it’s crucial to understand that His giving is not always in the form we think we want. He knows best what is best. Allah says: “… But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knows, and you know not.” (Quran 2:216)

But if something is going to be returned in one form or another, why is it taken at all? Subhan’Allah. It is in the process of ‘losing’ that we are given.

Allah gives us gifts. But then we often become dependent on those gifts, instead of Him. When He gives us money, we depend on the money—not Him. When He gives us people, we depend on people—not Him. When He gives us status or power, we depend on, and become distracted by these things. When Allah gives us health, we become deceived. We think we will never die.

Allah gives us gifts, but then we come to love them as we should only love Him. We take those gifts and inject them into our hearts, until they take over. Soon we cannot live without them. Every waking moment is spent in contemplation of them, in submission and worship to them. The mind and the heart that was created by Allah, for Allah, becomes the property of someone or something else. And then the fear comes. The fear of loss begins to cripple us. The gift—that should have remained in our hands—takes over our heart, so the fear of losing it consumes us. Soon, what was once a gift becomes a weapon of torture and a prison of our own making. How can we be freed of this? At times, in His infinite mercy, Allah frees us…by taking it away.

As a result of it being taken, we turn to Allah wholeheartedly. In that desperation and need, we ask, we beg, we pray. Through the loss, we reach a level of sincerity and humility and dependence on Him which we would otherwise not reach—had it not been taken from us. Through the loss, our hearts turn entirely to face Him. What happens when you first give a child a toy or the new video game he’s always wanted? He becomes consumed by it. Soon he wants to do nothing else. He sees nothing else. He doesn’t want to do his work or even eat. He’s hypnotized to his own detriment. So what do you do, as a loving parent? Do you leave him to drown in his addiction and complete loss of focus and balance? No.

You take it away.

Then, once the child has regained focus of his priorities, regained sanity and balance, once things are put in their proper place in his heart and mind and life, what happens? You give the gift back. Or perhaps something better. But this time, the gift is no longer in his heart. It is in its proper place. It is in his hand.

Yet in that process of taking, the most important thing happened. The losing and regaining of the gift is inconsequential. The taking of your heedlessness, your dependence and focus on other than Him, and the replacing it with remembrance, dependence and focus only on Him was the real gift. Allah withholds to give.

And so sometimes, the ‘something better’ is the greatest gift: nearnesss to Him. Allah took the daughter of Malik Ibn Dinar in order to save him. He took his daughter, but replaced her with protection from the hell-fire and salvation from a painful life of sin and distance from Him. Through the loss of his daughter, Malik ibn Dinar was blessed with a life spent in nearness to Allah. And even that which was taken (his daughter) would remain with Malik ibn Dinar forever in Jannah.

Ibn ul Qayyim (may Allah be pleased with him) speaks about this phenomenon in his book, Madarij Al Salikin. He says: “The divine decree related to the believer is always a bounty, even if it is in the form of withholding (something that is desired); and it is a blessing, even if it appears to be a trial and an affliction that has befallen him; it is in reality a cure, even though it appears to be a disease!”

So to the question, ‘once something is lost, does it return?’ the answer is yes. It returns. Sometimes here, sometime there, sometimes in a different, better form. But the greatest gift lies beneath the taking and the returning. Allah tells us: “Say, ‘In the bounty of Allah and in His mercy – in that let them rejoice; it is better than what they hoard.’” (Quran, 10:58)

Friday, May 27, 2011

nonviolence

If we have learned anything from the Arab protestors across the Middle East, it is that change has to begin from within, and the best way to fight for the change that you believe in –  even if that fight be against powerful regimes – is through nonviolent means.
-Yasir Qadhi

at a protest for peace in Washington, DC. in Jan 2009
wearing a hijab from my Jewish friend after her trip to Israel,
with a Palestinian scarf draped around my shoulders

Thursday, May 26, 2011

noms

Made these yummy pancakes with Kyle for breakfast during Spring Break in Florida

a reunion between old high school friends :) new tradition - cook together.

dollar burger night at Capital Ale House with Lynsey and Erin :)

Marjan made these for the awesome grad party she put together :)

Piccola's. The place I eat at on a daily basis when I'm at school. Mmm nothing beats NY style pizza

I cut these with a butter knife for our last RA staff meeting of the year. a tough job but they were delicious!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I love everything

there is nothing wrong with loving the crap out of everything. negative people find their walls. so never apologize for your enthusiasm. never. ever. never.
-Ryan Adams
completely unrelated | celebrating graduations
advice taken :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Most Magical Place on Earth

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
- Winston Churchill
We volunteered at Give Kids the World for our time in Florida. Here's what we took from it:
"10 young adults came from Richmond, VA to participate in an ASB trip. None of us knew what to expect, but once we got here, we knew we never wanted to leave. This whole experience gave us a greater appreciation for life itself, and has given us more motivation to give back unconditionally to causes like this. It is only right.
God bless all of the families here and everyone involved in this park/village. This gives us a reason to live and be active, so that we can better ourselves so that we can better other people.

Truly a vision from above.
We all were changed because of this, for the better. We wish more blessings on this place as we leave it today.
 -- VCU ASB"

(-the note Nisan left in GKTW Chapel's black book)

For Spring Break this year I went on an Alternative Spring Break trip, which is basically a week-long volunteer opportunity. It was one of the best weeks of my life. Ever since I've been home, I've been thinking about my next trip to Florida and how I want to volunteer at Give Kids the World again. Every day we would wake up and go to this magical village where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families had a week off from all the stress and tire of their every day life and just relaxed, went to the most magical places on earth (Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.) all for free. The houses they stay seem to be from a fairytale. When you walk down the road, it feels like you're in a cartoon and you're surrounded by little castles that are neatly lined up around this town with a beach, carousel, ice cream parlor (where kids can have ice cream for breakfast!), mini golf course, a cute train, a spa that doubles as a airbrush tattoo parlor, game room for the older kids, and more! Christmas is every Thursday and they actually make it snow! And again, everything is free for the families- From the flight there, to the food, to the theme parks- EVERYTHING). Which is why the place relies almost entirely on volunteers and donations.

we were all really excited about the park, too. SO MUCH FUN! :)
While I was there, I realized how privileged I am, we are. I have a loving family, and all of us are healthy Alhumdullilah. The families I met at GKTW were burdened by frequent trips to the hospital and many other medical strains. There was one man we met who was actually from our home area and his son was in a wheelchair. I'm not sure exactly what medical condition he faced, but when his dad spoke to him, he was unresponsive. It was incredibly sad to think that the dad could not communicate with his son, and probably never would be able to. For another girl who was 9 or 10 years old, her only wish was that her little cousin could have made the wish to come to GKTW before he passed away. I was painting her nails and she was telling me about how much she loved it here and how upset she was that if her cousin had only held on a few months more, he could've visited this magical place. The last family I remember belonged to a little girl in a wheelchair. At GKTW, they have the only wheelchair accessible carousel in all of the states. We strapped her wheelchair in tight and started the ride. The look on her face was something I'll never forget. She was the happiest little girl in the world and for this moment, she wasn't sick and she wasn't different. She was a care-free kid laughing and playing like all the healthy children in the world. And her mother's face. To see how stressed these parents are and then to have it all forgotten in an instant by their child's smile and laughter is such a beautiful thing.

I felt that the week of my spring break was the most rewarding week of my life, without a doubt. And throughout the trip, I got to know these awesome 9 people I was traveling with, who ended up being some really great friends of mine. We had to work together from sunup to late after sundown. We did everything together, and they're all such great people. I'm thankful for having the opportunity to work with them, cook with them, laugh with them, change lives with them.
pulling weeds from the village lawns
The founder of GKTW is Henri Landwirth. He was a survivor of the Holocaust and lost both of his parents at concentration camps when he was just a teenager. When the war was over and he came to America, his luck started and didn't stop. He treated everyone equally, whether they were a street sweeper or a queen. He wrote a book called Gift of Life, and I recommend it to all of you. It's a really inspirational autobiography and it teaches important life lessons, many of which seem simple yet are still unfortunately overlooked by so many privileged people today. After reading it, I have become a lot more appreciative of all the things I'm blessed with. It ends with the creation of Give Kids the World, which is an entirely new beginning.
Gift of Life by Henri Landwirth
If you ever get the chance to visit Florida, please donate some your time here. It will change your life. Learn more about GKTW; how you can help create magic, celebrate life, and inspire hope like we did during our Spring Break 2011 here. You must register before volunteering. Like the GKTW Facebook page here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

faded

when it's all over it becomes hard to believe that there was ever anything there to begin with.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Kurbaan: Define "Terrorist"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Samirah

This is my sister! Isn't she beautiful!? She is! Masha'Allah!
When I went home for winter break I probably slept in my own room twice, maybe. I slept in my sister's room every night. We just laughed and laughed all night then would wake up in the afternoon and start laughing some more. We fight over which movie we want to rent from Redbox every night. When we were little we used to play restaurant and I would ALWAYS be the chef, and she would ALWAYS order a grilled cheese. There wasn't much else I could make back then, I don't think. Anyway I'm twenty and she's twenty-three, and we're still kids. She visited my University a couple of weeks ago and we had SUCH a good time. Our MSA rented out one of the pools for the girls so we spent as long as we could swimming and playing. It was seriously the best time, ever. This Saturday I finally get to go home :) I can't wait to spend every day with Samirah! She's seriously the best, you all have no idea. I still do the cooking, and she still does the eating. And we both do the laughing until just before the sun rises.
The reasons my sister's so cool? easy.
  1. She's more fashionable than most people I know.
  2. She is REALLY hardworking.
  3. She always shares and she's the most giving person I know.
  4. She's going to be an elementary school teacher. She's got a lot of love for her kids. And they've got a lot of love for her :)
  5. She's a lot like me.
Interested? Too bad. She's engaged to this awesome dude named Zyad. And they're really cute Masha'Allah.

Monday, May 9, 2011

2 peas in a pod

Rachel and Zachary came to visit me on Saturday and we had such a good time :) We got delicious pizza (egglant and basil, and olives..  Mmm) and cheese fries, then drove to one of the look-off points for a picnic. It was perfect weather and we just sat out on the grass looking at the cityscape, filling each other in on the past month. Then we drove to the river (got a little lost, but found it in the end), walked across a bridge (the wind was blowing it everywhere, so we were kind of scared), and sat on some giant rocks. Zachary was actually able to skip a rock! Rachel and I tried ten thousand times but it was hopeless. Maybe next time...
skipping rocks
about to go for a swim...
thinking about life...
rapids
the necklace Rachel got me :)

After a while at the river, we walked back to her car and drove to this little shop called For the Love of Chocolate. It has chocolate and different sweets from all over the world. It's so tempting not to buy out the entire store. Then we decided we were hungry for some Mexican food and ate a delicious dinner in Cary Town. Mexican food is so delicious. I really would rather eat local Mexican food rather than the fake-me-out Chipotle and Qdoba... I don't like either too much. It was already dark by the time we got back, so we played a couple rounds of Scattegories and called it a night. Rachel will be gone for the summer (at nursing school!) and so will another one of my best friends, Ben (internship in San Fransisco). Aileen and I decided that we'll have to just live it up together until they get back.

Sir, keep on believing

The Penalty

Lately, it's either Adele's Someone Like You, or anything Beirut. This is a cover by Scampi (or Chipswow), my favorite Youtuber :)  I want to play a ukelele and sing on the streets of Paris!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Istanbul

Yet another reason to visit Turkey.

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