Finding Sakina (Tranquility) 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 Things 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, and that’s okay. 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 human.
  4. You’ll meet people in your life whose warmth and love feels almost 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 presence in someone else’s life later on.
  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 encompasses.
  7. People can be going through things you could never imagine and still put on the brightest of smiles. Constantly ask the people around you how they are doing. Be a safe and open space for others. Gently let them know that you’re there for them, and actually be there when they need you.
  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 infallible 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 brokenness 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 that 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 – they are invisible only until they are in darkness.
  13. You can be the poorest person in the world and still be the happiest. Money is a good side effect of success, but it doesn’t amount to anything in the end. Know what will last, and make those priorities.
  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 grateful.
  15. Some people 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. If you look past the superficial facades that divide us, 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, by 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 that they are supposed to. Adopt patience, breathe, and increase your trust in God.
  21. You will only receive what you put forth. If you want something, do the work. If you do the work, know that you will be rewarded some way or another.

Living in Egypt for a Year

2010.

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 everything I knew. 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 signal 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 cause a bit of trouble. My days quickly went from feeling extremely lonely and homesick, to filling up plastic bags with water that was a questionable color, and tossing them onto the ground floor from the highest floor of the building with my new accomplices. We were only caught once because we quickly became experts at finding places to hide in the six-floored labyrinth that was my school.

Before you wonder — yes, my friends and I would also occasionally engage in civilized activities. We would sit on the school’s staircase and blast our favorite songs from our iPods, and write letters and decorate them before giving them to one other during break time.

(*When it came time to move back to the U.S. because of the eruption of the Arab Spring in 2011, I had to leave the people I grew to love. I’m glad that I thought to bring the letters that we exchanged, and I still have them to this day.)

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, 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 and caring teacher.

I felt free. We would indulge in freshly baked bread from the marketin 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 adhan (call to the morning prayer) 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 that Egypt wasn’t just all pyramids and pharaohs. It was the Egyptian people who made it the treasure that it was. I remember my classmate once telling me that locals often refer to their country as, “The Mother of the World.” The incomparable warmth and adventure that I had experienced in that one year of living there showed me exactly why that was. 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…”

Steadfastness Is Our Superpower

I often used to wonder why people lost faith until I realized how easy it was to do so.  It’s so easy to fall off the right path. It’s easy to stop doing the right things, indulge and follow our desires.

Having the freedom to choose between right or wrong is difficult. I honestly sometimes wish we didn’t have that privilege. At times, I think of it as a burden.

A little part of me envies the Angels because they earn God’s pleasure with ease. They were created to worship Him, and they never once disobey Him.

Having the freedom to choose between right or wrong is difficult. I honestly sometimes wish we didn’t have that privilege.

Thinking this way though, I often forget that the Angels root for us. Despite our differences in creation, they are in awe every time we go against our nafs (self) and rush to worship.

There was once a moment when the Angels showed hesitance about our very existence. They asked God—out of pure curiosity, if He was really going to make a Creation that causes destruction and sheds blood on Earth. God responded by saying, He knows what they do not when it comes to the disposition of mankind.

I often forget that the Angels root for us.

Us humans are infamous for our constant forgetfulness. Interestingly enough, the word for human in Arabic is ‘insan.’ And the word that it is derived from is ‘nasiya’, which literally means ‘to forget.’

Now, remember the response that God gave to His Angels?

He knows what they do not.

This is a testament that God believes in us, day in and day out—every moment we mess up, every moment we forget. He clearly sees our potential, even when we may not. His presence never wavers, and He always waits for us to come back to Him when we turn away.

The good that we can do despite the distractions around us, is proof to the Angels every time. I always have to remind myself that the one whose love for God is greater than the desires that tug at their heart will be given gifts beyond measure.

The good that we can do despite the distractions around us is proof to the Angels every time.

When I see those struggling, or even leave faith—or at my weakest moments when my mind wanders to things that displease Him, those are the times that I tell myself I desperately need to keep striving. Because in a world that causes us to forget, faith is irreplaceable.

Your Comfort Zone Is a Mindset

For the last couple of years, I’ve been feeling as though I’ve been oddly stuck in a sheltered bubble. Everything that bubble encompassed has undeniably shaped my mind and character. Surrounding myself around things that were comfortable, has set limits on myself and what I can be. It has done more harm than good. Realizing this reality, I’ve come to learn a few things:

1. There is so much out there.

There are many people in this world waiting to meet you. There are numerous places waiting to be explored by you. Every conversation will affect you. Every experience will make you question and grow.

Change will allow you to have a new perspective on things that you might’ve been stubborn about for a really long time.

2. Constantly look at the condition of your soul.

Is what you see beautiful enough to be worthy of God’s most beautiful gifts? Learn to ask yourself every day, “Have I used the ability to love—which God has given me, to love Him in the correct way?” This is extremely important.

Everything comes from Him. He is the source of all the good we seek in this world and the next. To want good, and to claim to deserve good, it is only right to love and show gratitude to the Most Great first and foremost. Let the love of God take up more room in your heart than any other temporary thing.

Let the love of God take up more room in your heart than any other temporary thing.

3. Your mind is always growing.

It takes time for a person to finally form their personality and everything about themselves (hopefully for the better!). The biggest theme of life is self-betterment. God has given us all a specific personality and certain traits to make a change and impact in this world. You have to dig deep and look for it.

The biggest theme in life is self-betterment.

4. Always work on becoming the best version of yourself.

Life is a journey – to win the battle against your self and to reach your highest potential. You are the creation of God, the One Who Loves you abundantly and with no limits. Do not set limits on yourself.

Honing Your Spiritual Wisdom In Times of Despair

When you beg for Allah to guide you in a matter, you may not always perceive His response to be clear. Your understanding may be distorted by your desires, or your eyes may be blind to the truth that He has unveiled in front of you.

But Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God), He is ever so merciful as to send you clarity. In a way that calms your greedy hands, and softens your confused heart. You must learn to look carefully at His signs, and understand that He always wants the best for you. You must assure your heart that His will is not one to lose faith in.

See nothing but beauty and wisdom. Your affairs are in the hands of the One who is Most Loving and Most Wise.

My First Home

Once I arrived at my long awaited destination, I attempted to open my eyes. I instantly regretted it, for I was welcomed by brightness that shot at me mercilessly. I closed my eyes and relied on my other senses to take everything in.

A layer of cold enveloped me and rudely left harsh goosebumps that raked every inch of my body. I then felt warmth, and soaked in the heat that cradled me from the cold but didn’t dare take a look. I heard voices, each tone laced with various emotions. I could tell the people around me were excited, and felt exposed with the unwanted attention.

My senses were vivid, and I listened as the people around me made comments such as how precious and plump I was. Suddenly everything became too much to bear, and the blood in my body rushed to my cheeks as I flushed a bright red and let out a cry.

I needed an asylum. A home. Abruptly, I felt strong hands lift me up and lightly drop me into a pair of noticeably tired, yet protective arms. I was hungry and quite impatient, but those feelings were momentarily dulled the minute I felt wet tears dropping on my face.

I was clearly aware of the impossibly large amount of love that was radiating from this particular person. I opened my eyes once again, fearing the light, but was instead shaded by a face that gazed adoringly at me. Feeling a curve that felt foreign to me grow slightly on my face, I took in my first real deep breath and knew I was with the happiest of them all: my mother.

Reconciling with Doing Something I Love & Feeling Unappreciated

There had been something in my life that I absolutely loved to do. I was excited to jump out of bed hours early just to plan out the day. I would go above and beyond the expectations because it made me beam with happiness inside. Sometimes, the things I would do would be unnecessary and over-the-top, I’ll admit, but I didn’t care. It was my love for this striving that blinded me from the idea of “doing just enough to get by.”

However, I wasn’t being noticed for what I was doing and that crushed my heart. It shouldn’t have, right?

I had to sit down and ask myself: did I expect something in return? Did I wish for a “thank you” or a pat on the back? Was this what I wanted? I shook my head so many times with distaste at my feelings.

The flutter in my chest every time I spoke about what I loved doing was not for others to appreciate me. It was because I needed this, it was what I wanted to do. The very thing that made me get up so early in the morning was passion—not the fascination of wanting to look good in front of others or wanting to be praised.

It took some time to digest this. When I did, this newfound thought helped me realize something else. Something that stopped the tears that traced down my scrunched-up and confused face in hurt.

Nothing we’ve ever given has gone unnoticed. Every sacrifice we’ve made, God has seen it. If no one acknowledges our hard work, the dedication and passion we put towards what we do, know that God acknowledges us. He knows all that we do and He will reward us with something so unimaginable that we’ll wonder why we craved others’ acknowledgements in the first place.

And maybe a part of that very reward in my case, and at that moment, was clarity. Learning to purify my intentions. This revelation helped me become grateful for this passion that was ignited within me. And also helped me realize that it can exist without needing to be fed by others’ recognition. It also gave be hope to continue to do what I love.

Rules of Life

I want to live by these four simple rules with hopes that they will enable me to be able to navigate certain situations and be more content with the unpredictable nature of life.

  1. There’s nothing wrong with going about things backwards sometimes.
  2. Happiness doesn’t always look the same for everyone.
  3. You can’t let others convince you that you are making a mistake every time your life takes a different route than theirs.
  4. Sometimes getting lost is the best way to get found again.