finding sakina in supplication

When du’as (supplications) are answered, life halts and feels almost fragile. The solace it brings is a gentle [Divine] nudge: that your endured pains have never existed.

What an incomparable gift.

* * *

Dear God,

In times of distress, I’ve learned that stability is a blessing. That soundness of mind provides you with a complete consciousness necessary to breathe easily. That contentment of the heart is what is needed to move forward.

After every accepted whisper, the only words that dare escape my lips spell of Your praise. I am consistently reminded of Your loving mercy.

You give in abundance; while my being drunkenly wanders in between states of ephemeral highs and lows.

At my lowest, exhaustion weighs heavy on my shoulders and makes room for its closest friend: hopelessness. Together, they wring my soul dry until I am unable to move.

I am always messing up.

In these moments, Your incandescent presence surrounds me with warmth. Words I often fail to remember faintly ring in assurance:

فاتقوا الله ما استطعتم

“So be mindful of God as best as you can…” (64:16).

This desire I have to seek perfection is due to my own soul being once in the very company of Perfection. However, perfection isn’t what You seek from me. It is an attribute only You encompass. What You value most is sincere and utmost striving and effort.

Despite my momentary departures, I now recognize that this cycle of fluctuation in heart sings of a love greater than anything else.

The Most Loving. Most Kind.

My Protecting Friend.

You teach me to never give up on myself or Your endless mercy.

light is a gift & a mercy

At a point in my life where I was feeling extremely low, I would sometimes go to the nearby masjid just to feel some sort of peace. I would go alone and attempt to avoid any interactions. I would try my best to slow down the negative thoughts that ran through my head. Doing this every so often would be the bit of comfort that I needed to urge me to continue on.

On one of the days I was there, a sister who I met for the first time greeted me with the warmest of smiles. She mentioned that I didn’t look at ease, and without further questioning me, she began chatting with me as though we were long-time friends.

Every word she spoke, and every story she shared with me instantly tugged at my heart. I couldn’t stop myself and ended up uncontrollably tearing up like a baby. It was as though my heart found her familiar, and finally opened up after so long.

This embarrassing moment of crying into a stranger’s arms and “randomly” bumping into her on various occasions after that (it was always whenever my heart needed it), was a constant reaffirmation to myself: that people truly cross your path for a reason, and you are sometimes given reminders at moments when you may either be looking for them or not – but in hindsight, when you need them most. And this is one of the biggest mercies.

When my sight becomes a bit foggy and someone with a light like her’s helps me to see His Light a little clearer, this is without a doubt a gift that I am a million times grateful for.

May we all become reflections of His Light for those around us, even for strangers we may speak to only briefly.

God shows His love and presence through His signs.

21 truths I learned in 21 years

I turned 21 in August, and after some time of reflection (and mourning of my childhood) I wrote down a list of things I learned:

  1. sometimes things may take longer for you than they do for others. there’s a reason for that. trust the process, and find peace in whatever pace life is going at for you.
  2. doing acts of service for others, whether it’s acknowledged or not, rewards you with a unique kind of joy. do it often.
  3. showing emotion and vulnerability doesn’t make you a weak person. it makes you authentically real. embrace it, because this is a kind of strength.
  4. you’ll meet people in your life whose warmth and love feels unreal. you’ll miss their presence every second you’re separated, and rejoice every time you meet. understand that it may not be written for them to be around you longterm. learn from them while you can, and strive to become that light in someone else’s life.
  5. it’s inevitable that there will be moments in which your faith hits low points. our hearts go through seasons, and that doesn’t mean it’s the end for you. although the physical acts of worship may feel routine at times, keep going. it will get better, and it’ll be sweeter than ever when it does.
  6. the Creator doesn’t seek perfection from you. He seeks your utmost sincerity and striving. know that perfection is an attribute only He emcompasses.
  7. people can be going through things you could never imagine and still put on the brightest of smiles. constantly ask them how their heart is doing. be a safe, open space. gently let them know that you’re there for them, and actually be there when they need it.
  8. being uncomfortable isn’t always a bad thing. getting out of your comfort zone leads to an abundance of growth – and in aspects of yourself you may not have even thought of. what you are afraid to do is a clear indication of what you need to do next.
  9. the things you go through, God may be preparing you for what you’ve asked for.
  10. we often forget that our parents are dealing with struggles of their own, and we see them as infalliable and strong beings at all times. when in reality, if you don’t look close enough, you may end up ignoring their fragility, unspoken fears, and broken parts that they may never outright reveal to you. they are so very often worrying about us, that they neglect themselves. do good things for them regularly, and try to be a factor that helps their Hereafter.
  11. if you haven’t figured out your purpose, you have no other purpose than to find your purpose.
  12. when God loves you, He overwhelms you. you are put through hardship to become stronger, more resilient and changed. being in darkness for a time is a prerequisite in order to bask in light. proof are the stars above us – they’re invisible without darkness.
  13. you can be the poorest person in the world and still be the happiest. money doesn’t amount to anything in the end.
  14. not knowing “what’s next” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. the unknown can be beautiful if you change your perspective. trusting in the journey and thriving (not only surviving) through the experience is what is necessary in order to grow. look forward to this moment: when you will be able to look back at everything that has led you to where you wanted to be, and every part of you is wholeheartedly thankful.
  15. some may go great lengths to destroy what is good. protection, prayer and gratitude are your friends.
  16. although everyone seems different, if you look a little deeper you will see that we are more similar than we think. we’re all reaching out for sunlight, reaching out for warmth – we’re branches of the same tree. look past the superficial facades that divide us, and we all just want the same things.
  17. finding comfort in solitude doesn’t amount to loneliness. these are the moments that oftentimes allow you to figure out who you are. you don’t always have to be surrounded by noise. find peace within yourself.
  18. everything is temporary – both the good and the bad. it’s a bittersweet, but also reassuring reality.
  19. sharing a genuine smile is the simplest way to lift a person’s mood. humanity is truly in a depression – revive the prophetic smile, and give it out in abundance.
  20. things happen at the right time and the way they are supposed to. adopt patience, breathe and increase your tawakkul.
  21. you will only receive what you put forth.

 

living in egypt

As soon as I stepped out of the airport, I remember gulping in the ancient air and instantaneously looking around. I absorbed everything in awe: the ground plastered with sand, the exhaust from the traffic of cars swirling up into the bright blue sky, the worn buildings, and copper-colored people rushing back and forth – their gestures imitating the feeling of every word tumbling out of their mouths. My initial reaction was simply, “Wow.” I was standing in a place that was strikingly beautiful. A treasure of a country with so much history and culture.

After gazing around, we were ushered into a van which took us to our new home, and that was when our new lives began. It took a while for me to officially refer to Egypt as home, quite honestly. I was shocked at how different it was from the states. The poverty in particular haunted me. Seeing mostly women and children on the streets selling tissue packets and trinkets, begging with tears in their eyes, really struck  a cord inside me. I had no idea how to digest the normalcy of it. I didn’t want to experience it another time, however, stumbling upon a scene like this became unavoidable. As time passed, it caused me to become thankful for everything I had been gifted with. A part of me feeling as though I didn’t deserve all I had. My eyes opened up to the world and its realities.

At first, I found the school I was enrolled in, the peculiar habits people had, and the fast-paced dialect people spoke all to be strange. The kids in my class were rowdy and were always laughing – they never seemed to have a bad day. They would play jokes on the teachers, and the teachers would respond with an even funnier joke, or signaled the student to the front of the class to embarrass them with a lighthearted whoopin’. The positive atmosphere of Egypt was refreshing, and I slowly but surely found my place. I came to realize that it wasn’t all that difficult to skip a few unimportant classes and cause a bit of trouble. My days went quickly from sporadic crying sessions alone in the bathroom stall, to filling up plastic bags with brownish water and tossing them onto random schoolmates on the ground floor from the highest floors of the building with my new friends. We were only caught once, because we quickly became experts at finding places to hide in the six-floored labyrinth that was my school.

I became known as “the girl from America”, and my classmates would crowd around me to hear my “American accent.” When the teacher left the classroom during the English final exam (no supervision needed I suppose!), I was bombarded with questions asking what was the difference between desert and dessert. The kids I spoke to taught me Egyptian Arabic words, and in my head I tried to make sense between the new words that easily danced on tongue, and the classical Arabic I was learning at home with our very hilarious but serious teacher.

I felt free. We would indulge in freshly baked bread from the market in our neighborhood, explore various cities with my mom on vans that were always filled to the brink with very sweaty and very insistent people, and binge-watch Nicholas Cage movies with Arabic subtitles – as per our Arabic teacher’s request as he insisted that it would help us learn the language. During Ramadan, Egypt became a place that never slept. My siblings and I happily stuffed our faces with McArabia (the Arab version of a Big Mac) in the latest hours of the night, and woke up to the Fajr athan ringing in our ears. Fridays became an adventure, as we would discover new mosques with our friends – each one adorning even more beautiful architectural designs than the first.

I gradually became accustomed to my new home. Living here, I realized Egypt wasn’t just all pyramids and pharaohs. It was the Egyptian people who made it the treasure that it was – the Mother of All Countries. To this day, I miss it.

Sometimes, when I’m feeling nostalgic, I reminisce those early mornings when our teachers would shout for us to quiet down, straighten out our lines, and all at once our voices would lace together to carry the tune of the country’s anthem:

“Bilady, bilady, bilady laki ḥubbī wa-fu’ādī…”
“My homeland, my homeland, my homeland you have my love and my heart…” 

 

the oceans would run dry

Things I’m grateful for:

  • The ability to breathe
  • My home
  • Access to food and water
  • My parents
  • My grandmothers being alive & loving
  • My siblings
  • Being able to get an education
  • My job
  • Islam
  • Having a direct connection to God
  • Understanding Somali
  • Having a masjid close to home
  • Having had the opportunity to teach and inspire young children
  • Having people believe in my abilities even when I don’t myself
  • My little sister’s hugs and reassuring words (“don’t be sad”, “I love you”)
  • My mom taking care of me when I’m sick
  • Having memorized the little Qur’an that I know by heart
  • The rewards Allah gives when I stumble over the letters
  • Having no control over my smiles
  • The daily reminder of strength, beauty and Allah’s love that my hijab gives me
  • The power of people against injustices
  • Books
  • Kind-hearted individuals

***

Some of my notes from the meaning of Surah (Chapter) Luqman in the Qur’an:

  • Alhamdulillah: all praise & gratitude is to Allah
    • This is a fact, whether you want to acknowledge it is up to you
  • Allah gives us an example of how His praise works and that all of existence that praises and is grateful to Him isn’t doing Him justice

“If we have turned the entire trees on earth into pencils, and then the oceans (ink) would be extended into another seven oceans, the words of Allah wouldn’t run out, certainly Allah is the ultimate authority full of wisdom” (31:27).

  • What this verse means is that the praise of Allah, the wisdom of Allah, His commands, the way He unleashes His favors – if you were to document the things Allah does and the reasons in which He is to be praised, the oceans would run dry and every single pencil on earth made from ALL the trees would also “run dry”

When I feel ungrateful, I hope I come back to this.

Alhamdulillah.
الحمدلله

fire with no end

Broken.

There’s no other word to describe it. You were hesitant to claim that this was the truth at first, but it’s exactly how it looks. The words that kept tumbling out of her mouth were made of fire. It burned even before it touched you.

You know you’ve made mistakes. Plenty. But was there no room for softness?

To a point, you almost don’t exist. You found an asylum sitting in a mesh of green and only with the presence of your thoughts. You’re alone, and free to create a river that stretches as far as you can see.

Is this real? Her eyes; behind them is there a sort of sorrow? Maybe if you squinted hard enough you could see it. It must be there.

Did the horrors make her numb? She had been burnt too.

You realize the fire has become a cycle. And you know that it is possible for you to end it. But already too filled to the brim with the heaviness of words that you’ve been forced to carry; it is more so a hope.

You are a hypocrite in your own eyes. A smile so bright plastered on your face when the sun rises. But it always sets too soon.

warda (rose) / ch.1

Warda entered the dimly lit room and smiled, her teeth gleamed, and crinkles formed at the corners of her eyes. She wandered the perimeter of the small home. It wasn’t much, but it was all she’d ever known. She skipped towards the center and jumped, softly landing on the middle of the intricately detailed carpet that covered the cracked cement floor. Grabbing the scarf that wrapped around one shoulder, she tied a knot on her backside and hopped to the imaginary beat in her head. Opening her mouth, a soft delicate tune filled the dusty air.

Warda, the name meant ‘rose’ in Arabic. She was known to be more beautiful than the flower itself; at least the very one who had loved her dearly swore to that statement. The door swiftly opened, and the sound of it banging against the wall broke the enchanting spell Warda was momentarily in.

“Warda!” the harsh voice caused her to lose balance. She stumbled, but gracefully regained her composure, standing tall to face the owner of the voice.

Haa habaryar.” she answered without hesitation, her voice not sounding as brave as she desired, and instead came out as a squeak. Her aunt’s presence never failed to shake her.

“Stop playing around like a child and help me put away the food.”

Haye.” Warda mumbled, following her aunt. She walked toward the basket that contained only a few items her habaryar bought from the market. She picked it up and set it on a small table. As she put each item in its proper place, Warda glanced up and observed the woman in front of her. Her habaryar took off her garbasaar and tightened the masar on her head. A masar is usually worn by newly-wedded women, as a symbol of their marriage. It had been long since her aunt had been married, and she certainly wasn’t a new bride.

“Her husband ran off with another woman.” was the story that circulated around the neighborhood. Despite the irony of the masar, her aunt could pass as a new bride. She had beautiful dark, copper skin and lines that carved softly into her face – almost unnoticeable. She would have been absolutely gorgeous, if it wasn’t for her cold, dark eyes. Thick eyebrows framed them, almost menacingly, and her lips were set in a permanent line. At least when she would be facing Warda, she never once smiled.

Her mother’s sister was Warda’s guardian since she was six years old. She shared the small home with her cousins and was treated like a slave. Warda had never felt loved by her so-called family, and she only dreamed of it. All she had ever known was doing what she was told without question, and as quickly as she possibly could before a punishment came her way.

Kac! Who do you think you are, sitting down? I told you to put the food away and now you’re being lazy?” a shriek broke her thoughts. Warda didn’t notice that she was leaning against the table. She could make the argument that she wasn’t exactly sitting and correct her aunt, but she didn’t.

“I-I-I’m sorry! I was just-”

Naa naga aamus! Before I beat you until you cry blood!”

Warda pushed herself far from the table, her back facing her aunt. She swiftly completed the task at hand. She knew she couldn’t get beat again, her arms and legs still had deep cuts which hadn’t completely healed yet. As soon as she put the items in their place, she heard a series of footsteps outside, approaching the wooden door. She glanced in that direction and her ears were filled with sounds of laughter and shrills. She could make out young children yelling, “Hooyo! Hooyo!” at the top of their lungs.

Her cousins pushed the door open and ran into the house, dropping their book bags aimlessly onto the ground. The four of them jumped onto the chair their mother was seated in, and pulled at her dirac.

Hooyo! School was so much fun!” they took turns filling their mother in on the details of their first day of school and how they looked forward to the rest of the school year. Warda’s eyes followed her aunt’s arms as they encircled the young children one by one. A wide smile plastered her habaryar’s  face, and with a beaming face, she laughed at her precious children’s excitement. Warda gazed longingly at the scene, and her mouth opened slightly. It felt as though the thick atmosphere of happiness rushed into her body and she suddenly let out a small choke. The emotion was too foreign, it didn’t belong there. She coughed and tears formed at her eyes, daring to fall.

“What are you coughing for? Are you trying to make us sick?” her aunt turned her head towards Warda and snarled. Warda squeezed her eyes shut to prevent the tears from leaving their place. She wasn’t allowed to cry; wasn’t allowed to feel any emotion.

“Do I have to remind you of what you’re supposed to do? Do I pay you to stand there like a statue? Clean the children up and make them food!” she spit out disgustingly.

You don’t pay me. Warda thought, wishing she was brave enough to talk back to her aunt. But she wasn’t, so she did as she was told and as quickly as she could.


 Haa: yes
Habaryar: aunt (mother’s side)
Haye: okay/alright
Garbasaar: a big colorful shawl mainly worn by married women
Masar: a small scarf/headpiece made from a rectangle or triangle material mainly worn by married women
Kac: get up
Naa naga aamus: oh shut up
Hooyo: mother
Dirac: a long, light dress made of cotton or thin fabric