If everyone in the world was HONY…

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In the wake of recent HONY posts about other countries, and the amount of love, support, and aid they have received, I could not help but wonder what if everyone in the world was HONY, or if not that, then at least viewed and “liked” everyone else like we view, like, and feel for all of HONY’s posts? Continue reading

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KEEPING CHILDREN CURIOUS (Post as featured on Muslimah Bloggers)

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“I am sitting here thinking what to write about when suddenly my 20 month old starts playing with my lipstick collection with utmost curiosity. He picks each one up, opens it, and then shuts it, repeating the action multiple times. Its enough to keep him occupied for a good 5-10 minutes, the average toddler time span to remain engaged in an activity I presume. While I observe him I notice one huge difference between us adults and toddlers. Toddlers love to repeat actions, and don’t get bored. They also have so much curiosity that they repeat these actions every day without any realization that they have already done it yesterday and the day before, or even sometimes twice or thrice a day.

This intense curiosity is the main thing I believe wears off with time as we grow up. Once we enter elementary, middle, and high schools our thoughts are forced to be standardized and limited. Schools emphasize more on critical thinking than on creative thinking. It kind of suffocates the child in us, forces it to stop being curious and question everything around it. This may be a great way to raise machines that have only one kind of goal in life i.e. mechanically perform whatever function they were manufactured to do, but when applied to people not so much.

You can read the rest of the post here: http://muslimahbloggers.com/guest-posts/keeping-children-curious/

My Education was My Dowry

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As long as I can remember my father told me this time and time again that the investment him and my mother made in me was through my education and that in turn was my dowry. Maybe that is why I have always appreciated educated and learned rich people more than materialistically rich people. It may also be why I always loved books as presents and not a suit or jewelry. And it may also be because of this that whenever I write something that gives me immense peace of mind, a little prayer inadvertently skips my heart for my parents and unconsciously I pray for nothing but the best of both worlds for both of them for being so far sighted and different in their perception of long term investment.

My mother especially had this aspiration for all her children that since her childhood lacked a sound education, she wanted us to have the best education we could. So we did, and we excelled by Allah’s Grace. And mind you, I am not just talking about college degrees, because at the point in life I am at, those are nothing more than a piece of paper declaring my academic accomplishments. I am talking strictly in regard to my ability to write and reach out to people. This included everyone I know personally, and distantly through this blog. Reading and writing since as long as I can remember has made me a deeper person in connection with my soul, and gotten me gratefully distant from the exterior facets of individuals that most people relate to.

About 5 years ago for the first time in my life I started dreading these words of my father when I realized when it came to marriage in our society the Utopian philosophy of my father was totally out of sync from the rest of the people we generally knew. However, thanks to my now husband, he was the only other person outside of my family who at the time of our marriage stood by this philosophy and reaffirmed my original belief of education being a sufficient guide in itself. The moral of the story is that as much as I despised commercial education, the wealth of real education that I received was indeed the best thing my parents gave me, it is an ongoing investment, a Sadqah e Jaariya on their part, and May Allah Taala always Reward them with the best of rewards for their efforts, Ameen.

SURVIVING THE FLU WITH A SICK SELF AND SICK TODDLER (Post as Featured on Muslimah Bloggers)

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As much as the cold Chiberia winter gets to me, as soon as we are relieved of it, along comes “spring” or should I say “flu” season, with all its glory and shameless pollen flying about everywhere, getting into people’s noses and messing with their sinuses. Yes, we have all been there and we all hate it. The dreaded allergy season when everyone we know is either sneezing or coughing the remains of winter away, and all the while trying not to disrupt any daily routine and activities.

Although I have always been sick during this change of seasons, somehow having a little one has made it ten times harder. One would think it would be easier to handle the LOs because they don’t go out much or are too tiny anyway. Wrong. Its them who get the worst end of the season. And moms like me who only believe in traditional medicine (read honey, lemon, and ginger ONLY) probably suffer harder than the rest.

My LO was sick with flu after a period of molar eruption two weeks ago and let’s just say these two wees got the best of me especially since I caught on to his flu in the second week. Let me share that the first few days when my sinuses were blocked to the core and all my nose could feel was the crap it held inside, it made me cry and writhe in agony both for my LO and myself especially since I hated even moving around or getting up from bed. Fever and cough made it worse. Did I tell you the first two, three days were the hardest? Its the worst feeling in the world when you get sick and are unable to care for your LO. Worst, worst, worst feeling ever.

So here are some things I tried to shoo away the flu monster while waking up every day and hoping it would magically disappear before completing its timeline of two weeks:

You can read the rest of the article here: http://muslimahbloggers.com/guest-posts/surviving-the-flu-with-a-sick-self-and-sick-toddler-2/

Grabbing onto Hot Coals

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Lately I have been having a lot of flashbacks and reminders of the person I used to be say, some 3 to 5 years ago. The person I used to be could learn so much from who I am now but if I wasn’t that person I wouldn’t be the one I am today.

I am eternally grateful to Allah for a husband who has changed far more than I am, than when our paths first crossed each other. It is true that all the adulthood personality changes I underwent are largely attributed to my husband’s presence. In the past these changes were immature and immaculate but today they are more serene and firmer as ever.

My husband and I have gone through a lot in our lives, both individually and as a couple, before and after marriage. Our personalities are eons apart but I believe it is the similar ordeals that we had to face in life that brought us together. You might say well who doesn’t face strife in life? That is true and to each his own, I’m not saying everyone doesn’t face magnanimous troubles. I’m just saying we have had our fair share to deal with and over time they have made us into people that even our oldest friends, friends from childhood, and our parents and siblings cannot relate to at all wavelengths. Its a good thing, at least for me, because it makes me feel secure and understood by the one person who is my “garment” ( reference to Quran 2:187). Yet the thought I want to share today goes out to everyone who refuses to see beyond our manifest changes.

The Prophet PBUH said that there will be a time when practising Islam will be like holding on to hot coals. Meaning, it will be so hard to adhere to basic Islamic teachings and followings that one might resonate with holding hot coals while doing it. What happens when you hold something hot, let alone hot coals? The reflex is to let it go immediately so you don’t get more burnt. Yet the charred skin on your hands will still have a burn mark and still require days to recover from it. Why the simile between hot coals and practising beliefs then? Because surprisingly enough today when my husband and I delve deeper into our beliefs and want to practise more, it becomes exactly like that i.e. so hard to hold onto our beliefs or practise them.

We still try to practise as much as we can, at least as much as we have knowledge about, yet somehow someone is always putting us down for doing it. And the amusing part is that some of the choices that we make for solely practical purposes that have nothing to do with religion are also assessed under an Islamic lens. Whatever happened to logical reasoning is beyond my comprehension. All we try to do is go about our business, preventing ourselves from things we believe will harm us in the long run, and suddenly we have moral, social, cultural, and even “religious ” police to answer to.

For a long time I kept my thoughts to myself about this and other things that matter to me but now when I am a mother I feel the need to pen them down simply because I want my children to know who their mother was, in the event I am not there when they reach the age of pondering. I don’t want them to end up clueless at twenty years of age regarding a moral and spiritual direction like I did, despite belonging to extremely religious background. Religious rituals were always a routine in my father’s house but somehow treating family with respect was not. My father belonged to a different religious sect and my mother to a different one. I was always given a choice to follow whichever when I thought was better but I had no resources to decide. All I had was examples of my family and unfortunately they were not enough. I grew up realizing that those who staunchly practised religion lacked basic morals, and those who had morals lacked religion. You see the obvious disconnect there?

At twenty something when I went through the worst traumas in life all I wanted was solace and I had to dig for it myself. I found it in Islam, in Salah, in Dua, and the Quran. Or more like all of it found me. And then it also found my husband. And then we found each other in a totally new way, with profound appreciation for faith, life, each other, and the little things in life. We changed our goals, perspectives, goals, and all the rest of the small stuff.

Now when I look back to my lost self and my found, all I want to do is relive my found self over and over again. Yes being a wife and mother changed me but the real change had begun far earlier, the day I lost my father to Alzheimer’s yet did not lose hope; the day Allah Tested me with burdens of financial responsibility when I had nothing in my hand; the day I took my father to the hospital and watched him forget my name; the day I got married without him remembering it, without any of my best friends, and just my immediate family to attend; the days I watched my brother struggle with speech, walking, and simple every day things simply because Allah Taala Decided him to have an extra chromosome. You see I was already changing from within. I just didn’t realize the hot coals were coming closer to me steo by step by step, and they will keep doing so to test me at every next step to see if I really am ready to embrace them or if I will revert to being a weakling.

Islam started from being strange and it will go back to being strange. I am witnessing this every day all around me. This is not a thing for a day or two. It is a life lesson, for me, for my children, and their children. If I remain quiet today and throw my coals thinking that I don’t want my children to burn in the same flame as me, and wish them an easy life, without beliefs and practice, then I will have failed in my own eyes. This is my personal struggle, one I will be accountable for. It is not a race or a temporary phase that I can easily shrug off, nor is it a ticket for judgemental demeanor to others I know. I have to take care of my burns and everyone else has to make choices about theirs.

Financial Struggles and the Married Life

It is no secret that marriage comes with its fair share of baggage and finances are a huge part of everyday marital discussion, and harmony or discord depending on how a couple handles it. While it is easy to handle days where all is rosy and well, it is quite the opposite for them rocky-road days where nothing seems to be going well financially and the relationship is just on the verge of hitting rock bottom if it already hasn’t done so.

I just want to share some ways that couples get into financial disharmony and how they can work their way back up to peace, yes its possible.

First off, it really helps to be as transparent as possible with your significant other about your personal financial state as soon as possible you initiate your relationship. Sharing this information not only nurtures the trust and honesty component of the relationship, it paves way for future financial dealings and conflict management. It is imperative to know and understand how your SO views finances, where you disagree, so you can draw mutual decisions for the future. So many families suffer because the couple spends lavishly on a wedding yet completely disregards the fact that both of them have gigantic student loans, or car loans, or even a mortgage to take care of AS A TEAM as soon as marriage happens. You are in it for better or for worse.

It amazes me how integral finances are in marriage yet because of their nature they are also the least discussed among couples, and more argued about. There is a difference between discussion, understanding, and plain out imposing decisions on your family. I have seen enough middle aged men make enough financial mistakes in their lives to make their spouse or children suffer in the long run. Unfortunately, in eastern “culture” (not religion, mind you) since the man is the main breadwinner, he also enjoys the cap of making all financial decisions without discussing it with the only person who is responsible for budgeting, accounting, and investing his earnings, i.e. his spouse.

Usually women are the ones taking charge of how money should be spent in-house, yet where the money is coming from is the least of their concern. And men who toil day and night to earn take little or no interest in where the hard earned money is being used up. A family or a household is an organization in its own and at least the finance part of it needs to be run like it does in an organization, as a team effort amongst the spouses. This includes understanding every aspect of money, where is it coming from (halal means or not), and how is it going to be used on a daily/monthly/annual and even long term basis.

The great thing about our generation is that nowadays girls and boys are getting the same education, and aspiring to be financially stable. I know so many single people who are doing amazingly well for themselves yet as soon as they get married their financial intellect takes a hit. Finances are too big of an issue to keep at the back burner. If they won’t haunt you, they will haunt your children at some point in the future and that won’t be the best of places to be in since you both will be held accountable by them for any financial burdens you pass onto them.

So what can be done?

Well, for starters, like I said, understanding your spouse’s financial expectations, and needs is necessary. Then regular and open communication about expenses, and investments is necessary. Just like physical and emotional cheating hurts the relationship so does financial cheating. Hiding any finance aspect of your life from your spouse will hurt your relationship just like any other form of cheating will.

It helps to keep a documented analysis of expenses, discretionary income, long term financial goals, and expectations. You cannot keep dreaming of buying a mansion without actually making an effort to save up for it, or worse, buy it and then default on it a few years down the road.

It also helps to keep your children in the loop as early as possible to teach them about handling finances, and give them a perception of how much finances should be a part of family and marriage. Children learn major life lessons from parents no matter how much they deny it. We are unconsciously teaching our children everything about handling life when they grow up, and whether we like it or not, they are taking their own understanding of it all.

This brings me to my next point of reaching a financial roadblock in marriage. Couples are bound to struggle with finances at some point in life. It may be small or big, it may leave you penniless and homeless, or it may just make you reflect on making amends to your current expenditure and savings plan. Whatever it is, you cannot avoid it once its there so there are two things to remember. First, if you are a team, you will handle it just like a business where partners suffer profit and loss together. Blaming each other will do nothing but inflict more harm. Second, once the problem occurs it needs a solution, not a constant reminder that it has occurred. The sooner both parties accept the problem, the sooner a solution can be reached.

My favorite Ayah about marriage is 2:187, “they are your garments, and you are a garment to them”. The Ayah addresses husbands primarily, yet includes wives first. And I feel it covers each and every aspect of marriage completely, whether it be emotional needs, psychological or physical needs, or financial needs. There is no rule about finances just being a husband thing or a wife thing to be handled according to Islamic history. We have had Muslim queens who handled riches just as well as any king. Hazrat Khadijah RA was the financial solace Allah Provided to our beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Having a garment ensures protection and from all sorts of dangers to the body. In the case of finances in marriage, our spouse is supposed to protect, and be accountable for decisions impacting the family. It also means that we can only use the garment we have so we should not be having unrealistic financial goals at the expense of marital harmony or family life. A husband who just earns is nothing more than a machine, and a wife who just spends is nothing more than that either.

Finally I would just like to say that like any long lasting partnership and investment, marriage too requires patience, mutual understanding, clear communication, and compromise-every day, for the rest of your life. Just like we would treat a business partner with respect and integrity, we should do the same with our spouse. Discussing finances shows you both respect each other’s acumen, caliber, and decision making skills. The ultimate goal is to help our children learn from us too, so in essence if we handle finances in our marriage wisely, all our generations to come will appreciate our input. There is no sleep better than that of a person’s who has little yet is content with whatever he has.

Fighting the Fear of Death

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My father was recently in the hospital, an occurrence that I believe my family has to start getting accustomed to as his Alzheimer’s nears the final stages of the disease. I have never been a fan of hospitals or any setting that involves showing or feeling vulnerability, at least on my part. Yet there are some things in life that we can simply not turn away from. No matter how hard we try to shun them they keep coming back standing in our faces more determined and adamant than before to force us to face them.

When my father had first gotten sick the doctors were having a hard time naming his diagnosis because his symptoms did not fall under a defined medical condition. Eventually they decided to name it early onset of Alzheimer’s as it was the closest thing they could get to. That period of about one month when uncertainty loomed over our heads and the doctors’, that period was the first time I ever thought about death and how drastically it can change life-any life.

Over time I have learnt that the best thing about terminal conditions and diseases is that they teach patience-lots and lots of it. The first stage is inevitable denial. I did not want to acknowledge my father had Alzheimer’s simply because I was too afraid of the changes that lay ahead if something happens to him. Not to mention we never prepared for anything like this happening so soon. So there was ample uncertainty of the future to not accept it. Yet it was to my own detriment. Had I come to terms with the fact sooner, I would have spared myself a lot of mental fatigue and unnecessary stress, as well as not wasted precious time while my father still remembered things more than he does now.

When a person dies suddenly their family is naturally allowed shock and years of coping mechanisms. In cases of terminal illness shock and awe is not an option. You know what is coming next, and you have to be prepared before hand. The mere idea of taking care of a terminally ill person is exhausting. For this I will forever be indebted to my mother for being an exceptionally remarkable caretaker of both my father and my brother who has Down’s Syndrome. She has both of them under her wings, protecting them as much as she can humanly possible.

To say the least, dealing with sudden death is, at least in my situation and experience, easier than dealing with the idea of death hanging on anyone’s head. Yes, we are all destined to die one day, and each breath we take is bringing us closer to it, yet having someone in your life for whom suffering till death has been destined gives you another perspective. While normally the idea of dying and changes that will follow thereafter do not even cross our minds, progressive diseases of loved ones keep reminding us of death and its effects everyday.

It also keeps reminding us that we do not have a lot of time to spend with loved ones so why waste even one moment. Not to mention why waste any moment not being closer to Allah, or our parents, siblings, spouses, children, and even our own selves. It gives us the courage to accept that death is a fact, and no matter when it visits we have to be strong enough to let it change our lives. It helps us cope with the uncertainty death otherwise leaves us with.

My father lost his best friend earlier in the same year his Alzheimer’s kicked in. It was an unexpected situation, one I am positive, he did not imagine would occur so soon in life. I believe it is one of the events that triggered his own disease-the inability to accept death and its resulting changes. Some of us might naturally be strong enough to not let death change us or our daily lives and goals.

The rest, like myself, think about it at least once every day, especially when I am having a hard day, or have a fight with someone close, or am facing any hurdle at all. I remind myself that expending time and energy on anything negative is taking away precious time as my life’s clock ticks me away to death. It reminds me to say a quick prayer before leaving the house, or in the car, or when I wake up or fall asleep, for anyone and everyone, and myself, because I do not fear death, and better still, want to prepare to gracefully and wholeheartedly embrace it. It may be a very big thing to say given that I understand death can strike anyone close to me at any time so while I am not too sure of how I will handle life after death of my father or anyone else close to me, I am sure that in the moment death enters my life I will at least try my best Insha’Allah to not falter and stand firm like the strong person Allah Intends me to be.

The Quran says in 3:185 that, “Every soul shall taste death”. While the deceased certainly tastes death, so do their mourners. Even then we are given hope that we can pray for them, and pray that someone prays for us after we die, so there is hope and faith that when we meet again there will be something more to talk about than grudges or bitterness. In my case, I know I will meet my father, or anyone else who death parts, in a much better place Insha’Allah, and with much better sentiments. So today I pray May Allah Taala Eases death for all of us, and May He Grant us enough patience to emerge as victors from it no matter which side of death we stand on, Ameen.