Between Dusk and Dawn…

Some *scribble* *scribble* by Ameera


This blog has moved to a new address now:

All posts and comments have been transferred so this move is mostly just about the url changing. 🙂 From the writing point-of-view though, it’s a bigger move and you’ll find out why here.



Every time I wonder how Allah(swt) has been so gracious on me that I cannot even imagine being able to thank Him for a fraction of what He has given me… I find myself blessed with much more than before.

Very recently, Allah(swt) set my heart at ease in all the ways that only He could. He responded to my dua’s so beautifully that I still cannot comprehend something so amazing and so nice could ever be mine to experience and cherish. It gave me one more reason to submit before His Will, even if I do not understand the wisdom behind a certain happening, because He’ll always guide me only to what is the best outcome.

What I am talking about here, right now, is marriage. I’m not married yet but I finally know who it’s going to be, Insha’Allah… and, even if it was humanly possible to say all the right words to thank Allah(swt) for this tremendous blessing, I’d still be unable to do so. Truly, Alhumdulillah is the most I can say… nothing more could ever do justice to how I feel about this.

It isn’t possible to say much, even on my personal blog, but I will share some of my thoughts, that I’ve been wanting to…

In this whole journey towards finding the ‘right one’, with all the up’s and down’s that only life’s most valuable and tender aspects are accompanied by, there was nothing more powerful than dua… praying earnestly to Allah(swt) for what I wanted. It seemed difficult… very difficult… and at times, I found myself doubting more than believing… but He responded, and when He did… everything made perfect sense.

Honestly, all the apprehension, the worrying for who it will be, where he’ll come from, what the family would be like, whether or not we’ll get along, how things will proceed… that became meaningless when Allah(swt) lifted the veil, ending all the mystery in one stroke. F (as he shall be known on this blog) and his family are all and more than I’d ever imagined… Alhumdulillah. =) Now, it seems as if every moment I had spent worrying about a future I had no control over, was indeed spent in futility. But perhaps… this realization that Allah(swt) will only do what is best for me, was only possible once I had known a time when I worried all I could and it didn’t change anything. That’s a realization that allows me to accept the ‘wasted moments’ too as part of the bigger learning process.

Then, there’s also the whole question of what’s really right for me. For years, I had a certain kind of image in mind of whom I’d like to marry. With that image, I felt I was looking for all the right things and that would ensure a happy union. Instead, I learned that just because I had build up that image with all the ‘good’ qualities I knew, that didn’t necessarily mean they had to come together in that way for me to find real joy. Even I didn’t know what would really bring me satisfaction and happiness in all the different aspects of married life. So, when the ‘right one’ came along and he was really nice but quite different from what I had initially imagined him to be, I prayed to Allah(swt) for guidance… and put my trust in Him. If He had brought me to this point, without any glaring reason to say ‘no’ (and of course, many reasons to say ‘yes’), this must be the best for me, without a doubt. Preconceived notions thus become meaningless and it’s taught me to always pray for the best, and not stick, inflexibly, to what I think is right for me.

Lastly… but most importantly… I have only just begun to understand why there is so much emphasis on marriage in Islam. According to one Hadith, getting married is ‘completing half your Deen’. I now begin to see why the Prophet(pbuh) said that about marriage. Even though I’m only engaged right now, I have suddenly started to notice things about my personality, my weakness, all the areas I need to improve on in my worship, that I was’t focusing on earlier. I don’t mean to imply that it’s only being engaged or married that makes you think along these lines, but it is such a big turning point in life that it makes you pause, reflect and try to fix things before the bigger challenges ahead. I try to read up all I can, to learn, to improve myself and to know how to avoid pitfalls many people find themselves in when starting out in a new relationship. Here too, I’m blessed with sisters in Islam who inspire me through their experiences and advice on how two imperfect human beings can still learn to lead a happily married life. =) Alhumdulillah.

I can go on about this… but later, Insha’Allah. The difficult part was figuring out how to write all this… and since that’s done, I can look forward to sharing much more… soon, Insha’Allah. =) I end this post with the sincere dua that may Allah(swt) grant the singles amongst us, spouses that will please them and be the best for them, for this world and the next. Ameen. My dua is also for Allah(swt) to make you happy the way He has made me happy… ameen… and all this is according to what He Knows is the best for us, at the best time and in the best way. Your dua’s would be very kind and valuable… JazaakAllahu khayran katheera. =)

Ethereal Melodies

For several years now, I’ve been listening to certain nasheeds that really inspire me. Right now, I’m listening to a particular favorite, ‘Naseem Al Shawq’ by Ahmed Bukhatir. The words are so deep and show the beauty and richness of the Arabic language. If you really focus on the simple advice, given in a poetic style, it’s hard to walk away without feeling inspired to change.

When I first began to ease off the regular kind of music, which I was very, very, very much into, I was surprised to discover there were many Muslims who were actually producing simple songs and poetry, while staying within what was permissible in Islam. I don’t intend to go into the fiqh details here on the position of music in Islam and what is, or isn’t allowed. What I learned, though, and tried to adopt for myself was that there shouldn’t be ‘string instruments’ used and of course, it should be good poetry. I remember there was this very popular Indian song from the movie ‘Taal’ that actually contained incredibly blasphemous lyrics that we all hummed or sang without giving a second thought to it. Sometimes, I’d just skip on that part but still, the song would go on…

At first, it wasn’t easy moving away from the titillating melodies I was so addicted to. I admit, one Ramadan, there were many nights I would fall asleep with the earphones plugged in and woke for Suhoor to the the same sounds. The reason I say it now is to show how deep I was into it, yet, today… Alhumdulillah, I am not. And that shows nothing is difficult or impossible to imagine, if you really want to do it for Allah(swt)… and He takes you through. Sure, it isn’t that easy to begin with… the first step was pretty hard. I loved some of the songs, their lyrics and how they made me forget everything else and disappear into another world… but, there was something wrong with that picture. And I learned that only after I discovered there was something much, much higher than that… more satisfying, peace-giving… over-and-beyond more precious than all I had ever experienced with Sting or Bryan Adams’ melodies.

There were several nasheeds that I discovered over time, in both Arabic and English. The ones I love the most are the Arabic ones, almost all of them by Sharjah-based Ahmed Bukhatir, the younger brother of the widely known Qari Salah Bukhatir. The reason I love his nasheeds, despite them being in a language that I just understand to get by, is because of the beauty of that language. His poetry is very full of meaning and thought-provoking, in fact, I like it even better than his own English nasheeds. And this is what shouldn’t be forgotten – that the reason behind a person listening to such poetry isn’t to ‘pass time’ or just entertain themselves… it’s the message that’s important. What was the point of leaving the other kind of music then if one is still looking for a ‘pass time’, although with a kind of ‘Halal’ label?

I know, in some ways, nasheeds still aren’t the best alternative and many people point out flaws in them too. However, they’re definitely worlds apart, even diametrically opposite, to much of what today’s generation calls ‘music’ and goes gaga over. I try to remind myself why I listen to nasheeds in the first place (this blog post is a reminder too) and also that I shouldn’t get so involved that they become like ‘background music’ that I cannot go without. And the most important thing is that, however nice the nasheed be in terms of the poetry it contains, it cannot, and never should be allowed to, take the place of the Qur’an in the heart. This is something I personally see as a struggle and an issue, which makes me refrain from listening to new singers or popular groups so that there’s less to be distracted by.

As far as the outcome goes… I can’t describe the difference between how I used to feel when I was deep into music, and how I’ve felt and still feel ever since I gave it up some years ago. I definitely wouldn’t blame music for all the personal issues I had back then, but it definitely wasn’t helping and the peace I feel today, the tranquility within, that I always sought to seek with music but never attained… it’s priceless and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Sometimes, people look at me as if pitying me for not being able to listen to music, but they don’t know how I willfully gave it up and, if I do get to hear a favorite from yesteryear playing somewhere, it barely registers as more than a distant memory. Yes, I might miss the odd lyric or so… and hum it to myself  for a few moments if it pops up in my mind… but to go back to it when I am so much better without it (even if we were to leave aside the ruling on music for a second) is just not what I want. And I thank Allah(swt) for allowing me to experience a higher standard of existence… a happier life, within and around myself too… where I derive joy from all the simple things that remind me of Him and the highest example. Alhumdulillah.

I’ll end by sharing what I have just been listening to…

A translation can never do justice to Arabic poetry but here it is… 🙂

“Longing runs through the veins
Love of giving is the best trait
Be generous and you will live gracefully
And will find happiness in the after world
Be generous and noble
These are among the finest attributes
And let not shadow sway you from light
Be patient if the end nears
Life is dear, however dearer
Is the blessing of Almighty Allah
Life is only a mirage
And this is one of the obvious situations
Do not hold it dear, and
Ensure it has no place in your heart
Soar gracefully like a full moon
And reflect light everywhere
And let wise advice adorn your sayings
For this is the best you can offer
Stay away from the impudent, and
Avoid gazing at women’s charms
Cheap is the unveiled beauty, and
Cheaper are the remaining covered parts
With faith comes the real truth, and
Save yourself the embarrassment
Adhere to true faith, and
Treasure it deep at heart
Be a man of defiance, and
Refrain from spreading secrets…”

(Ethereal Melodies, the title of this post, was also the name of my first blog, back in 2005.)

Thoughts on love…

It’s windy here in Karachi tonight and as I sit here in my room, sipping hot milk and taking a short break from the books, my thoughts gently drift from one idea to another. It’s quiet and peaceful in my room and, after a fun and busy afternoon with my sister’s friends coming over, it’s nice to have some alone time.

The rest of my family is in my parents’ room, watching some light comedy show on TV. It makes me smile thinking of them all together, enjoying themselves. That’s because I know there’s contentment and love there. It makes me feel relaxed too, knowing that I can retreat to my room and study with a heart that’s at peace. Life has its ups and downs, for each one of us, and I know cracks and fissures can appear in the strongest of relationships. That’s why, I cherish these moments of comfortable companionship even more… knowing how trying it can be when things go sour, when people are hurt or wouldn’t talk to each other.

There’s so much to learn from watching other people, especially close family, and how they interact with each other. I’m the eldest daughter so I’ve naturally been witness to many incidents, scenes and changes in people around me and not just my own parents. I’ve been through times where things seemed difficult and didn’t make sense either. Why did she do that? Why did he have to say it that way? Then, over time, things started to fall into place. Childish notions of what ‘relationships’ meant were replaced by a different understanding – that each human being has some weaknesses, and that’s fine. It’s impossible to expect people to be perfect. Rather, the reality is that there are amazing people, each with their own particular shortcomings, but that doesn’t mean they’re failures in any way.

As I grow older, I learn something new everyday. I learn how families really function and that sometimes, real love and compassion lies in doing something that’s much different from idealistic expressions. I learn how keeping your mouth shut for five minutes can not only save you from a lot of trouble and embarrassment later, but can earn you much respect in the eyes of others. I learn how the darkest of times upon a family, upon two people who’re committed to each other, can turn into happiness and a real solid relationship that no one could even have imagined possible. It’s about holding onto patience and sincerely wishing to make things better, and if Allah Wills, it does get better… better than better.

I also learn little things from the many mistakes I make daily. When I talk to my sisters,  make a sarcastic comment, or hurt their feelings in anyway… the remorse after that and the pinching of my conscience shows where I was wrong. Sometimes, someone might need me for a minute or two and if I’m too busy in something I feel is more important (but which really isn’t)… it’s my loss in the end because what that person needed, was my love and attention. If I couldn’t give her that, what more could I ever possibly give that could compensate for that? Showering people with gifts is nice but if they know deep inside, you’re not a sincere person, it hardly means anything to them. Instead, make someone a cake or a cup of coffee or tea when you’re really busy and they really need it… that’s love. And that’ll leave it’s mark for sure.

Sigh… it’s either the effect of this hot milk I just drank or the light breeze coming in through the window… or maybe a tender moment fleeting across my soul… that these and so many other such thoughts have come to mind. Maybe it’s the satisfaction that I’m surrounded by people who do love me, just because they’re related to me by blood, and who do put up with my weaknesses and still like spending time with me. Maybe it’s the joy I find in their company, that I just want to express before it’s too late, before I never get another chance. Just today, my father got late coming back from his morning walk and, for an hour or so, I was worried to the point that I really just wanted to see him again and let him know how much he means to me. Alhumdulillah, he got back safe and, after giving him a “scolding” for not taking his cellphone, I did give him a hug too to let him know how much I missed him. Awkward as it may seem sometimes, it’s even more important to seize the moment while it’s there and not have to look back with any regrets later, Insha’Allah.

It’s getting late and I must put in some studying before I sleep. But wait a second… I just checked Facebook and my sister’s status update made this whole post even more relevant. You see, it was her birthday today and here’s what she wrote…

I have the Best friends and the Best family! Alhamdolillah! I mean they sent me off to Sunday Bazaar, snuck into my room, decorated it, blew up balloons, made a huge card, got a cake, gifts, a flower bouquet, a basket of chocolates!!, made pizza, cookies, cheese balls, gulab jamun and more AND almost gave me heart attack when I got home!!! No one would ever do this except out of love! ♥ So Thank you so so much! You made this a truly memorable and wonderful Birthday! There is really nothing I want except a bunch of loving and caring people!

Need I say anything more? ♥ Alhumdulillah! ♥

Wake up, it’s the weekend!

It’s a Sunday tomorrow and while, for most families, weekends are about sleeping-in, in our house, we usually do the exact opposite: we’re up and about at sunrise. Now, what might a family do on a weekend morning that makes them readily give up the comfort of their beds? A morning walk, followed by a desi-style breakfast at an hour when the city is serene and peaceful.

It’s really part of those simple joys of life I treasure… and for that, I’m so grateful I’ve got a father who pushes his kids into such healthy activities. Every once in a while, usually before going to bed, we decide our morning plan and it goes like this: Abba wakes us for Fajr, announces we must be ready to roll by the time he’s back from the masjid (twenty to thirty minutes). Following that announcement, we offer our prayers and quickly changing into casual dress and joggers. Of course, there’s the occasional kid (usually Abeer, the “cookie-monster“) who puts up the “I don’t want to go, I want to sleep/I’ve had a long week/I have exams soon!”  excuse but she’s soon won over. Sometimes, my mother’s the one most reluctant to leave but we all know she’s the happiest one in the car (no need to worry about breakfast!). 🙂

So by the time Abba’s back and the sun is beginning to peek over the horizon, we’ve got our plastic plates, cups, trays, water-cooler etc. all ready and it’s into the car. I always wonder what the security guards at our apartment gates wonder – it’s not a usual thing in Karachi for family to just go off on a trip at sunrise! But really, when there’s a fresh walk to look forward too, then breakfast in the car, who thinks twice about looking odd? 🙂

The stylish gazebo in the center of the park

There’s a nice park in our area of the city and it’s usually well maintained. In the spring, they have an annual flower show too, plus a bonsai garden to admire, lots of landscaping and greenery… and of course, a walking track! It’s really interesting to see the different kinds of people who are regulars at the park: businessmen and other elite, in groups, discussing politics or the market trends; ladies, young and old, some with ipods plugged in, others simply carrying rosary beads and doing dhikr; sometimes families with little children, enjoying a refreshing walk or playing on the swings; young men exercising or jogging several laps around the park.

Everything looks and feels so fresh that it’s hard not to feel completely rejuvenated after the monotonous routine of the preceding week. Plus, there’s that precious time with my family that I know I’ll look back at and miss terribly. Walking together, all sorts of crazy topics come up and of course, there’s always the charm of annoying, and being annoyed by, your sisters! A nudge here, a shove there, laughter, playful banter, teasing… there’s no substitute for it. 🙂 And sometimes, during moments of silence, I do wonder how long I have this awesome chance to stay with them, us being all together like this? You forget time waits for no one and this will definitely come to a close one day, to move on a new place, a new life, changing scenery. Of course, Insha’Allah, that will have its own joys and wonders but what I have now, I must not forget to cherish it while it is still here. 🙂

Okay, enough with the emotion! So after two laps, we’re usually looking in the direction of the gates. But Abba likes to do a few stretches before we leave so I usually find a few quiet moments to myself on a park bench while my sisters go silly over the see-saws. Yeah, you’re wondering why I don’t go over to the see-saws myself! Well, I don’t think it would be quite acceptable for a twenty-four-year-old to be seen toppling over a see-saw… no, thank you. 🙂 Heheh.

Back in the car, there’s a commotion over where to go. The what to eat part is known to all – that’s the reason we all got out of our beds in the first place! A desi style breakfast of crispy parathas, spicy omelette, sooji ka halwa (a semolina dessert) and of course – doodh patti (traditional, strong tea). And the best place to find all of this is the typical road-side dhaaba – a very humble outdoor eatery that usually caters to people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The food is simple, low-cost (in keeping with the customers) and very delicious, especially if you know where to go! What they lack in fine dining-ware is more than made up by the crispy deliciousness of their parathas, especially when had with curry or the halwa… and definitely when dunked in the piping hot tea!

We have ours in the car, on our laps, with protective newspapers and trays underneath. Munching away happily while the birds twitter around outside, is such an awesome feeling, Alhumdulillah. It’s hardly eight in the morning and we’re having a mouth-watering breakfast to jump-start the day. Soon, the cups have been drained (six in all – my father always has two!), the leftover parathas wrapped up in newspaper, the bill paid (costs as much as a KFC burger deal – for one person!) and it’s back to home.

Honestly, I’ve seen these breakfast plans do wonders for my family. Instead of sleeping after Fajr and waking up to a boring Sunday, we get a chance to get out and have fun together, even before the sun has begun to climb up the sky. That time we spend together, catching up, swapping stories and then eating together in the car, is worth missing out on an hour or two of sleep any Sunday! And I wonder about families that grow apart over the years, people hardly talking to each other, or not knowing what to do together, they would benefit so much from such simple activities. You don’t need to throw away lots of money on a club membership. You don’t need to somehow grab scraps of time to do something altogether. Rather, if you’re really motivated, you can find joy in the simplest of moments… go grab them while you can!

Note: I’ve got final exams starting next week but I’ll try to keep writing whenever I can, Insha’Allah. It’s all part of wanting to not miss out on relaxing activities like writing and sharing thoughts, as they come to mind. Plus, my sister thinks my blog is too ‘boring’… heh, which doesn’t bother me but yeah, writing more frequently will make sure people get to hear about all sorts of things – deep thought as well as light-hearted musings. Life is too short and time too precious to be wasted so make a dua for me and see you later, Insha’Allah.

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