Between Dusk and Dawn…

Some *scribble* *scribble* by Ameera

Learning to live…

The ways in which Allah(swt) tests me are strange indeed.

I’m now expected to go off on a tragic account of how terrible those tests are… but no, I shall not. That’s because, if there’s anything that these tests have really taught me, it’s that they’re not, by any means, without purpose.

Every bump in the road, every mountain of hope that’s turned to dust within seconds, has molded me into a stronger, wiser human being. They say it’s like purifying gold – only when the nuggets melt in the tough conditions of fire, do they let go of their impurities and become truly priceless in their worth. It was difficult but it was necessary to bring out the best from within, grow and achieve strengths you couldn’t imagine having before.

But how can I be talking of strength when the only feelings that overwhelm a person, on being severely tested, are of pain and intense weakness? To be hurt, crushed, rejected, repulsed, refused, denied… how does that have anything to do with strength? But it does, and that’s what time shows you… shows me… has showed me. Every time I faced a situation where I felt I was breaking apart deep within, I was in fact learning to face pain and fight it. In the moments and days that followed the initial blow, courage replaced fear and reason, born of faith, fortified the broken spirit. Standing up again needed learning how to stand, all over again, and all that revision did pay off. I learned how to stand up again faster, with more confidence.

It may sound odd that I blog about test and trials a lot but that is because my life is going through all sorts of changes these days. At my age, so much is changing on the personal level, on the academic level and in so many other less-well-defined ways that deep thought and reflection is almost a must. And I write about it, whatever I can, to have some thoughts clearly laid out… and also so that perhaps someone reading this blog may derive benefit for their own selves too, Insha’Allah.

I wish it were easy… that life was clear and defined. That there were no tests at all and we lived a life of total ease and bliss. But indeed, our tests also remind us that this life is only a mirage and the next life is the one really worth striving for. It takes a clever, yet simple person to see that these very tests we see as wrecking our lives, if understood right and responded to positively, may ultimately bring us closer the real life of eternal joy… and isn’t that what we have always wanted anyway?

And I’ll wrap this short post with an amazing Hadith I read today – it’s a Qudsi Hadith I’d never heard of before. Here it is…

Allah(swt) said: ‘Verily, from amongst My slaves is he whose faith cannot be rectified except by being inflicted with poverty, and were I to enrich him, it would surely corrupt him.

Verily, from amongst My slaves is he whose faith cannot be rectified except by wealth and affluence, and were I to deprive him, it would surely corrupt him.

Verily, from amongst My slaves is he whose faith cannot be rectified except by good health, and were I to make him sick, it would surely corrupt him.

Verily, from amongst My slaves is he whose faith cannot be rectified except by disease and illness, and were I to make him healthy, it would surely corrupt him.

Verily, from amongst My slaves is he who seeks worship by a certain act but I prevent that from him so that self-amazement does not enter his heart.

Certainly, I run the affairs of My slaves by My Knowledge of what is in their hearts. Certainly, I am the All-Knower, All-Aware.‘”  [Tabarani]


Now Open: Cafe Winter!

In my hand, one of the many cups of coffee from last winter. Picture courtesy: Me =)

Nothing defines winter for me like coffee does. A mug of caffeine heaven is a perfect blend of milk and coffee grains whipped up with sugar and a few drops of hot water. To take it a notch higher, a few grains of coffee, just slightly crushed between the finger tips, sprinkled on top… perfect. Alhumdulillah! 🙂

Giving the mug a slight twirl makes the sprinkled coffee grains swim about in the froth, leaving a chocolate-brown trail that engages the sense of sight as much as the sense of smell. Coffee… how does this hot beverage manage to drive me nuts every winter? Why does the thought of whipping up a quick cup not sound like a chore at all? Why does tea suddenly get bumped from the priority list?

Where I come from, expressing such love and admiration for a ‘foreign’ beverage could make me seem like someone who’s either not a local, has lived abroad for years or at least wishes to give others that impression! Being an elite, a snob. Cafes and restaurants in the upscale side of town offer most types of coffee that are well-known in first-world countries. These have foreign names and cost anywhere from six to eight times the price of regular cup of tea or at the less-expensive, more desi restaurants.

At such places, you’ll find groups of teenagers or college-going youth busy chattering away about the latest fad, fashion or news affairs over coffee and desserts. Also, office-goers and businessmen, women having informal meets or simply enjoying a pleasant evening with good company. We’re a third-world, developing country but visiting every weekend or more frequently for a hot cup with a freshly-baked croissant or a slice of cheesecake is something that’s a very normal part of these people’s lives. No wonder then, with the kind of clients these cafes usually cater to, that to profess such love for coffee singles you out as one of them… which could be taken as meaning anything from being a ‘snobby elite’ to a ‘wasteful over-spender’ or even a ‘wannabe’!

Image courtesy:

I’m neither of those! I didn’t even know coffee well until two years ago when I happened, one winter, to have more of it than usual. That set the mood for winters and, ever since, I’ve eagerly waited for the weather to turn frosty just to be able to have a warm mug of heaven between my two palms. The idea of going out to have coffee in a comfortable, trendy cafe is quite enticing, yes… where, amidst the aromas of warm cookies and cakes, the waiter places a cup of capuccino before me, leaving me enjoy it at leisure! Of course, who wouldn’t like pampering themselves occasionally like that? But not too often (for my wallet’s sake!) or for any other silly purpose like showing off or being in the popular crowd! That would be an insult to coffee, wouldn’t it?

I love having coffee at home, whipping it up, trying to get as much froth as I can. The thicker the froth after a quarter of an hour spent whipping, the bigger my smile! And of course, very rarely, with a doughnut on the side… there’s nothing left to desire. Forget the need to have a meal, this is more than enough to satisfy hunger and appease all my senses. Turn on the TV to an interesting program or, as is usually the case, if I don’t find anything worth watching, an entertaining animated movie or the day’s newspaper (if there’s anything leftover to read after the breakfast session) will do. Some days, I’ll whip up an extra cup or two for my sisters and we’ll have that rare cordial and girly (and sappy!) chat in the lounge, with the sounds of happy sips alongside all the funny stories being shared.

Sounds too idealistic? Let’s burst the bubble here to come back to reality. My mother does not understand my love for coffee and will try to prevent me from having it too often. I assure her it’s just for the winters and I’m not having lots of tea alongside (my mother and her family loves tea!) so that brought the opposition down to the level where my coffee-ing is ‘tolerated’. On the rare occasion, she’ll even accept a specially made half-cup of coffee (not too much caffeine, she says), particularly when my father requests a cup (he enjoys it occasionally too).

Today, however, I took one sip of my coffee and loved it so immensely that I thrust the mug at my mother, insisting she try it. She took a look at the beautiful foam, seemed to admire it for a second… and took a sip. I knew she loved it because she went for another sip without a word!

‘Mmmm…’ was the response, while I grinned in satisfaction.

‘You can have it all!’ I insisted, glad to see the ‘conversion’, hehe. She did but several sips later, it was handed back to me.

‘Too much caffeine for me, I’ll have trouble sleeping.’

Oh well, she loved it anyway! 🙂 And I’m thinking, the next time I want to make muffins or doughnuts and I’m concerned she’ll be angry (too many calories, must not gain weight), I’ll dress up a special plate for her with a small cup of coffee alongside... perfect to make anyone’s day and sure to make a mother happy too, Insha’Allah.

Just because I smile…

… does not mean I have nothing to frown about.

It is often assumed that a person who is smiling and generally appearing cheerful to people, has no worries or concerns. It is assumed life is always rosy for such an individual and thus, why would he or she ever need to frown or cry?

Oh, how wrong that assumption is!

I generally go about the internet with a lot of ‘hehe’, ‘Lol’ and smiley faces. Whether it is a status update on Facebook or a tweet on Twitter, if I say something, I keep it either neutral or something with cheery undertones. That’s because, I don’t like sharing my troubles and worries on the internet where there are many strangers around. I also don’t like the idea of crying my heart out in public, getting sympathetic replies and exchanges… basically, letting everyone on my social network know about my personal issues.

There have been rare exceptions to this, though. I once tweeted several tweets from a night-shift during my Obstetrics posting at the hospital. It was during the small hours of the morning; I was exhausted after running around for various jobs with the ever present cries of pain from expecting mothers ringing in my ears. Having access to Twitter, I posted several tweets full of sadness, asking no-one in particular why I felt so ‘depressed’. Later, I didn’t like that at all and vowed not to tweet or say much at all when in a bad or depressed mood.

I know people say venting frustrations helps and that someone might be able to cheer you up. True, but to say it on a public forum and want sympathy from complete strangers, is just not right. Ask a friend,  sms them or call them up… that’s okay, but to do it without any particular reason and to just put it out there, is not a good idea, in my humble opinion.

There are drawbacks to this, though! People start assuming I have no concerns of my own while it is they have all the problems in the world. If I say ‘Alhumdulillah’ when asked, ‘how are you?’, it doesn’t mean I have no issues or that I wasn’t crying five minutes ago. It just means I’m looking beyond that and I don’t wish to make you upset by sharing it with you. I feel sad just like you do, I worry, I cry, I get upset but I don’t show it to you. I don’t post status updates on Facebook about how ‘horrible’ my day is going or tweet about about a sudden sink in my mood – but trust me, I do feel that way many times, just like any other human being.

This was something I always wanted to write about but never got around to it. Lately, though, I began to wonder if I should indeed let more people know that I consciously avoid sharing my ‘down’ times. It might help people see I don’t just say ‘Alhumdulillah’ because Allah(swt) put no tests on the paths of my life or that appearing cheerful means I am too ‘pious’ to be stung by life’s petty issues. I have a heart too and when it hurts, it hurts just as bad as any other human being’s heart does. The whole point is to know that patience means trying to smile through the pain and not throw a tantrum at the slightest challenge that Allah(swt) tests me with.

It’s difficult, yes – phenomenally difficult – to put on a smiling face for the world while it hurts inside… but then, I try and that, I hope, will help me pass the tests Allah(swt) has destined for me.

“And seek assistance through patience and prayer, and most surely it is a hard thing except for the humble ones.” (Qur’an 2:45)

(There are times I fail badly at showing any patience but there’s much to learn from those occassions too! More on this another day, Insha’Allah.)

I miss Ramadan

I miss Ramadan.

I miss everything about it.

I miss waking up early when it’s still dark and quiet outside.

I miss the simple joy of making Suhoor… keeping the meal light yet bringing in some variation from one day to another.

I miss listening to the Fajr adhaan at the awwal time and praying there and then!

I miss the carefree nap after Fajr while morning light began to filter in through the curtains.

I miss the sound of Qur’an being recited by several people at home.

I miss not having to care about food or water during the day, doing other activities instead.

I miss the special foods I’d look forward to making for Iftaar – and especially to focus on keeping it light and healthy.

I miss the fun of sending special Iftaar foods to our neighbors and then receiving their own traditional dishes in return!

I miss the last few moments before Iftaar when I enjoyed making my most precious dua’s!

I miss the joy of biting into a succulent date at the call of the Maghrib adhaan.

I miss how awesome water tasted at Iftaar, more than at any other time of the day.

I miss watching the live Taraweeh transmission from Madinah and Makkah.

I miss the satisfaction of having prayed all twenty Rak’ah with the Imam in Taraweeh, during the nights that I was able to go for it.

I miss listening to the awesome dua’s made my Imams at the end of Taraweeh!

I miss crying during my dua’s.

I miss staying up all night during the odd-nights of the last ten days.

I miss the pleasure of giving Sadaqah while fasting.

I miss the wholesome joy of Eid.

I miss how Ramadan made me feel.

Now that it’s gone, I can only hope and pray that I am able to witness it again. Insha’Allah.

I miss Ramadan.

Failing Plans and Allah(swt)’s Mercy

Today, my mother and I watched an aircrash investigation program on TV. The accident under investigation was a highly fatal one – an Air France Concorde had caught fire during takeoff on 25th July, 2000 and crashed within two minutes. There were no survivors. What caused it? A tiny scrap of metal that had broken off another airplane, ripped into one of the engines, cutting electrical cables and thus creating a spark sufficient to ignite the fuel tanks. The plane could not gain height and crashed just beyond the airport’s boundary.

What really struck me as I was watching the documentary, was the story of one couple aboard that plane. Teachers by profession, they had been saving up for twenty long years for a dream vacation that included flying on the Concorde. I wondered how they must have painstakingly set aside money for the trip, imagining all the fun they’d have. They must have had high hopes and made many plans. Could they have ever imagined they were heading not towards the culmination of a dream but the very final moments of their lives?

It made me wonder how we make plans for the future, dreaming up the perfect scenario how we want things to turn out. And then, if we come across a “glitch” in our grand scheme – a delay, an unexpected problem or a “failure” altogether – despair rules the day. Suddenly, it’s fate that is blamed for ruining those beautiful dreams. How pathetic it seems then! And yet… do we pause to wonder if maybe, just maybe, that failure was actually a great blessing in disguise? What if something much more terrible was around the corner and it was nothing but Allah(swt)’s Mercy that had averted it?

Of course, this does not mean we stop making plans for the future altogether! That’s missing the point entirely. Rather, we must definitely make plans while praying and having solid faith in Allah(swt) that the outcome will be according to His Will, and that would be the best result possible! I do not know how people can find flaw with such a positive and forward-looking approach? Don’t they see how liberating it is to put your hopes in the best outcome and then patiently persevere with gratitude, even if the outcome is not exactly as initially planned? It’s a win-win situation, if you really understand what it’s all about. 🙂

The Prophet (peace be upon him) stated:

“Wondrous are the believer’s affairs. For him there is good in all his affairs, and this is so only for the believer. When something pleasing happens to him, he is grateful, and that is good for him; and when something displeasing happens to him, he is patient, and that is good for him.”

(Narrated in Sahih Muslim)

This is why it’s so important to be thankful to Allah(swt) in whichever state you are… and whatever the outcome is. Only Allah(swt) has Full Knowledge of what goes on in the heavens and the earth and what will happen in the future. How, then, can we even think of turning away, instead of towards, such an All-Powerful and Merciful Creator for all our hopes and dreams?

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