Between Dusk and Dawn…

Some *scribble* *scribble* by Ameera

Tag Archives: Islam

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! 

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]

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.

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