Between Dusk and Dawn…

Some *scribble* *scribble* by Ameera

Tag Archives: Quran

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.)

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.

Remembering to Thank Him

It hit me without any danger signs. Suddenly, the world was beginning to spin before my eyes and all I could do was grab my head in my hands and lean forwards over my desk. What was happening? I wondered in worry. True, I hadn’t had breakfast yet, it was only 7:30 am but I really wasn’t that hungry either. However, I remembered the time I’d once gone off to college with very little breakfast and had fainted at midday. No need to take chances with that, especially when I know I’ve been cutting back on calories these days.

I headed off to the kitchen and quickly made myself a fruit salad of bananas and melons (with some spice and instant orange juice powder for flavoring). Within ten minutes, I was done with my delicious breakfast and my sugar levels were well on the way up towards normal again, Alhumdolillah. I glanced at my empty bowl and it made me realize how blessed I was to be able to satisfy my hunger like that. Around the world, there are millions who do not have such access to food. They do not know where their next meal is going to come from, or if they’ll have to go hungry that time. And here I was, done within ten minutes, with one simple trip to the kitchen!

“And He gave you of all that you asked for, and if you count the Blessings of Allâh, never will you be able to count them. Verily! Man is indeed an extreme wrong-doer, a disbeliever.”

(Qur’an 14:34)

No wonder then that we need to feel and express gratitude for all these blessings of Allah(swt) upon us. Isn’t it understandable that on the Day of Judgement, when each human being that was ever created will be present on one flat plain, the one who didn’t have food would be in stark contrast to the one who had it in plenty? Wouldn’t that justify the question, “Well, you had the finest of meals to eat – did you thank Allah for it? Did you help feed this other person, who didn’t have what you had?” Of course we’ll be questioned about it!

Every single, tiny blessing will be called to account. Did you thank Allah(swt)? Did you use it in the right manner? Did you use it to come closer to Allah(swt)? I wrote this is a reminder, foremost for myself and also for anyone who might benefit from it Insha’Allah. My hunger has been satiated and I feel energized again… it’s so easy to forget to be grateful when you’ve got what you wanted. So before I forget, Alhumdolillah al-ladhee at’amana wa saqaanaa wa ja’alanaa min al-Muslimeen!

Translation: All praise is due to Allah who gave us food and drink and who made us Muslims.

Ready to Walk the Talk?

“And surely, We shall try you till We test those who strive hard (for the Cause of Allâh) and the patient ones, and We shall test your facts (i.e. the one who is a liar, and the one who is truthful).” (Qur’an 47: 31)

For those of my readers who’ve got some link with the scientific world and its workings, it will be easy to understand the importance of providing evidence to back up whatever claim you make. For instance, if I were to say today, “the world is actually flat!”, I’d immediately be asked, “Well, what is your proof for it?”.

Although this might not be directly related to science, the concept of providing proofs is not something that is unrelated to your relationship with Allah(swt). It is easy to overlook the importance of evidence-backed and tangible results when we examine our link with our Rabb. Without much guilt, we go on disobeying Allah(swt) while declaring with our tongues how He is Supreme and that He is the number one priority in our lives. It can go as far as this that we make tall claims about our love for Allah(swt) and how pious we are, when in reality, it is just not so.

Take, for example, our use of the words, “I have chosen to bear this with patience.” Hardly a little while later, we go against our own words and behave in the most impatient matter so that, if it were scientific rules were used to judge us by, there would be a world of a difference between what we say and what we actually do.

Allah(swt) also tests us, at various points in our lives, in small and big ways, both, to make things crystal clear. The person who does act upon what he or she says, is going to follow through in deeds and pass the test whereas the one who disregarded his actual actions, is clearly noticeable. All our tall claims are, therefore, of no standing before Allah(swt) unless backed up with real deeds.

What I’ve just written about is something I realized yesterday. I was wondering what odd kind of tests I am currently going through… couldn’t make a lot of sense out them. Of course, Allah(swt) Knows best but what struck me suddenly was how I‘d recently made a claim, directly or otherwise, that I’d learned my lesson about trusting in Allah(swt) and relying solely on Him to get whatever I wanted. It’s hardly been a couple of weeks since I said that and here’s the opportunity to provide evidence – act upon what you said and rely on Allah(swt) for what you now want.

Wow.

It was liberating, in a way, to realize I might be undergoing a test of my resolve. It injected me with a new passion to stick my feet in and refuse to budge in my reliance on Allah(swt). It’s time to show Allah(swt) that I did learn a lesson from what I’ve seen so far and will not revert to my old ways of showing impatience and despair in aiming to get what I want. Whether I get it or not, that’s another question but really, if I can believe, trust and rely in Allah(swt), how can I not expect only but the best from His Mercy?

Remember me in your dua’s, please!

“Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allâh will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allâh knows all that before putting them to test).” (Qur’an 29: 2-3)


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