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…” 

 

#ourthreebrothers

إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعون
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’un
Indeed we belong to God, and to Him we shall return.

It’s difficult to not let the anger that we inevitably feel when we hear about horror stories such as this to consume our heart. When my eyes and ears have to witness sweet souls sentenced to their death without warning, it’s disheartening. Mothers are mourning for their children, crying until their eyes swell shut, and their bodies numb. This happens far too often. They don’t give us time, no time at all to mourn, to heal – we are constantly bombarded with tragedy after tragedy.

Adam Kamel Mekki (20), Muhannad Adam Tairab (17), and Mohamedtaha Omar (23), all of Sudanese-American backgrounds. 2 Muslims, 1 Christian. Our Three Brothers. Found in a home, murdered execution-style. No media coverage for days after their deaths. I heard about this after THREE LONG days of silence. This was a silence that was deafening. A silence that was heartbreaking. And a silence that will be remembered.

Beloved, beautiful, black young men and women are stripped of their future every day. They don’t only face erasure, but are also subject to many forms of violence. Selective mourning exists, there is no denying that fact. And it needs to end. There is no tragedy that holds greater importance over another. A life is a life. The Prophet, peace be upon him, told us that we are like one body. When a part of us is in pain, all of us should feel it.

What is heartbreaking, is that families are alone in mourning for their children while we are fragmented as a people. A brother of mine said…“For those of you who heard about this incident and assumed gang violence or drugs, you are part of the problem. For those of you who needed a justification to mourn, shame on you. And for those of you who remain silent, were they not souls?” As a community, we should care, REGARDLESS of reason. Adam, Muhannad and Mohamedtaha lost their lives. That alone should be the sole reason for us to stand up in solidarity.

It was reported that a funeral passed by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and he stood up in respect. When he was told that it was the coffin of a Jewish man, the Prophet beautifully replied, “Was he not a soul?” He taught us that all lives have worth, and that every person has value in the eyes of God.

We may never forget the ache that has lived inside us for so long. And we shouldn’t. It has flowed in the veins of the strong men and women who fought for us to feel a sense of peace and belonging in this world. Our mothers and fathers who have been tested to the point death nestled itself in their throats, attempting to silence them from voicing against hate and injustice. Do not let their struggle be in vain. We will wait for justice. Justice that will soon come. We all share this commonality. Let this sense of hope consume our hearts instead of the anger. May the many Adams, Muhannads, and Mohamedtahas always be remembered.

oh lost soul, don’t 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, 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 asylum

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.

it’s an odd relationship

“And He gave you from all you asked of Him. And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is (generally) most unjust and ungrateful.” —Surah Ibrahim [14:34]

My mind cannot wrap around the fact that the Most Merciful allows me to speak to Him, cry out to Him, and to ask of Him. I am not worthy.

Surely a sinner doesn’t deserve mercy? But Allah – whom none can compare to, is our Lord. Even though you feel most undeserving, He still gives. He smiles upon you, wishes the absolute best for you, and His sustenance for you never once falters — even for a bit. He accepts. He understands. He knows. He is the Most Merciful, even when you have foolishly turned away from Him.

Do not turn away from Him. Do not wrong your soul and instead, take a step towards the Ultimate Source of Love — unconditional and pure. Walk towards His mercy, care, understanding, and acceptance. And He promises to run towards you.