Appreciating Life’s “Invisible Walls”

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Have you ever come across a situation in life, when you encountered a seemingly insurmountable problem or obstacle to your goals, which eventually got miraculously solved?

And at that moment, you knew, in your heart of hearts, that it was only Allah Who did it. o your faith in Him got reinforced, and you believed with full submission that, “Yes, He is there. He hears and answers.”

Then life went on, and you gradually forgot that epiphany-imparting moment of submission.

Then further trials, problems, and difficulties came your way, and you began to wonder again, if Allah really is out there, and He even hears when you call out to Him?

None of us likes or wants to be tested with sorrow, pain, loss, or other difficulties in life. We all want a smooth, happy, prosperous life devoid of problems.

Have you ever wondered though, if it is at all possible for someone to feel grateful to Allah, even for the pain and difficulties that they encounter in life?

You might think that sounds absurd, but for those who harbor deeper insights into the realities of life, it is actually true: when they encounter any circumstances or situations in life that are adverse and undesirable, they feel grateful to Allah for sending them their way.

Because they know that surely some great good will come out of it for them.

Why Dislike Adversity?

Ever since the month of Ramadan started occurring during the scorching summer heat and in the post-motherhood phase of my life, have I truly begun to appreciate the “positive side of pain”, as I choose to refer to it.

We have been told to not ask for trials or tests from Allah, which makes us believe that all tests, difficulties, and trials are a bad thing, per se. Well, while the former is true viz. we should never ask Allah to test us, the latter is not always true: that is, difficulties are not always bad for us, even though they appear to be so.

I mean, every year, when Ramadan comes, we force ourselves to tolerate hunger, thirst and a lack of night sleep for the sake of Allah, don’t we? We disregard how we would normally never want to fast 30 days in a row voluntarily, and instead, we force ourselves to do it during Ramadan, just because Allah has commanded us to.

Well, the difficulties and apparently ‘bad’ things that happen to us in life are also – always – good for us. The truth about life is that where ever there is pain, there is gain. So whenever you encounter any kind of pain in life, rest assured that some as-yet-unseen gain is also hidden around the corner, about to come your way insha’Allah.

It is up to us to acquire the discerning eye of wisdom that helps us figure out what the silver lining in every cloud is, once that cloud has disappeared and ease, normalcy, and well-being have returned to our lives.

Invisible Walls: Obstacles to Goals that We Do Not See

Now, what do I mean by the ‘invisible wall’?

There comes a time in your adult life when you begin to link/relate the apparently unrelated happenings, circumstances, and events in your life, and in the lives of people whom you know, to things that happened in the past.

You begin to see a direct correlation. You detect a clear cause-and-effect between the two.

Yet, sometimes, not everyone sees this as clearly as you.

You also begin to see how the ‘invisible wall’, which embodies the decree of Allah, manifests itself in a person’s life in order to give them a wake-up call, and a chance to turn back to Him in submission and renewed faith.

The invisible wall is what happens whenever a person follows every means to achieve an end, but nothing works out as they wanted.


Even though they have tried seemingly every possible means to get to that end.

We All Come Face-to-Face With this Wall

At any stage in life, each of us wants something really bad. Like, really, really bad. So let us look at a fictional example of how an invisible wall seems to appear suddenly out of nowhere, and prevents a person’s goals from being achieved:

Khadijah finally wants to conceive. She married her long-term boyfriend after a decade-long romantic relationship, during which she knew she had done many things with him that displeased Allah. She was actually secretly astonished that she was able to marry the love of her life so easily, without encountering any problems. She had expected Allah’s anger to prevent her from being able to bag him as her husband.

Then, in the beginning, they didn’t want to have children, so she spent some years just enjoying married life with him, which again turned out to be quite glorious. Basking in the happiness of worldly blessings, she drifted away from Allah. Until they finally started getting broody. Since everything she had wanted so far had come her way so easily, she thought a baby would, too.

But then, the “invisible wall” appeared out of nowhere in her life.

Years passed. No baby.

All medical tests showed that nothing was wrong, with either Khadijah or her husband.

She felt completely broken and crushed.

Until she started turning back to Allah in humility and repentance.

The above is just one example of how ‘the invisible wall’ appears in our lives to remind us that it is not us who are in control.

We are not in control of our destiny, our provision, or of what directions our lives take. But many a time, when we get whatever we want in life for a long time, especially material blessings, we begin to get deluded into thinking that we are, in fact, in control of everything.

We also assume that Allah is pleased with us; that He is not angry at us at all, for our sins, which is why He is granting us everything that we want in the first place.

We then start sporting an air of arrogant entitlement. Our opinions and egos start getting more inflated, louder and more in-others’-faces. We begin to remember our death and our return to Allah less and less, as we enjoy our worldly blessings and good fortunes. We also start getting lazy about following the commands of Islam, as we get busier and busier in living our ‘dream life’.

Until the blessing-in-disguise, which I am calling “the invisible wall”, hits us hard – like a slap in the face.

It sneaks up on us in our life when we least expect it. And it always takes the form of a sudden roadblock that we never anticipated, simply because we had not encountered any major roadblocks up till now.

Whether it is a lucrative job that eludes us, despite our pile of prestigious university degrees and our past successful career history.

Or the spouse who cannot be found, despite years and years of supplicating, searching and waiting for love, in vain.

Or the house in the suburbs with the SUV parked out front that still remains an elusive dream.

Or health issues and diseases that just won’t go away, after years of searching for a cure and trying different avenues of treatment.

Or that blue line on the pregnancy test that refuses to appear, as we try, yearn, hope and pray year after year for that first/second/third baby of that specific gender that we so desire

Whatever the case might be; when we feel as if we have tried everything possible in our human power to get what we want, and don’t.

When we get absolutely crumbled, crushed and broken from inside, realizing that we can’t get it.

That is when we should know, at that moment, that we have hit the “invisible wall”: the absolute power and will of Allah that we got deluded into undermining all this time, just because He showered us with all the material blessings that we wanted.

At this moment, when one feels crushed and powerless inside, in front of His Majesty, that one should realize: it is time to repent, turn back, and submit one’s will in front of Him again.

Posted in Inspiration, Pleasing Allah, Reflections and Reminders, Retrospection | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Keys of Provision

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Who doesn’t want an easy, happy, smooth life devoid of tragedies, calamities, grief and trials?

Which one of us would refuse to receive more blessings and provision? I doubt if anyone would.

However, there are few among us who truly understand the subtleties and nuances of the realities of the life of this world, through which Allah grants provision to His slaves.

Many human beings, as they age and garner wisdom through life experience, are able to get a small glimpse into the causes that lead to advancement in provision.

Truly, they are the wise ones, and the wisdom they possess is, in and of itself, one of the best forms of wealth:

وَمَن يُؤْتَ الْحِكْمَةَ فَقَدْ أُوتِيَ خَيْرًا كَثِيرًا

“…and he unto whom wisdom is given, he has truly received abundant good” [2:269]

Below, I will list some of the “keys” to unlocking the provision which has already been decreed for you by Allah. This not at all an exclusive list. Its just those things that have been most pertinent/present in my own personal experiences.

But before I begin, I just want to clarify that, by mentioning “provision”, I mean all kinds of blessings, both tangible as well intangible in nature, namely: health, well-being, good looks & beauty, happiness, family, friends, money, clothing, knowledge & education, accommodation and property (housing), food & drink, popularity, love, respect, fame, fortune, peace and contentment.

Patient Hard Work & Enduring Hardship

We have all heard the adage, “No pain, no gain”. Well, it is true.

Nature has many examples of this phenomenon for us: one needs to work hard, remain patient, knock on several doors, and try many different avenues without giving up hope, before one gets one’s decreed provision.

The butterfly doesn’t emerge until the larva breaks through it’s cocoon first, which is a slow and painstaking process for it, through which it has to persevere. The good news is, that total freedom and independence lies ahead in wait, once it’s over.

Similarly, pregnancy and childbirth is a 9-month long process. No one can shorten this process in order to produce a child, no matter how hard they try or want to. However, the end result is (usually) a beautiful new life that brings new joys and wonderful discoveries for the mother.

Law of farm in place

The universal “law of the farm” is also a similar story.

According to this law, in order to produce a garden full of lush greenery and trees, first the farmer(s) need to put in hours of work upon the land to till it, without seeing any results at all, at first.

Hours upon hours worth of hard work goes into bare, un-tilled land/earth, long before any flicker of produce (seedling sprouts) is even seen.

However, once the plants come out and become trees, and the trees become sturdy, it (usually) translates to receiving an incessant gain of fruits (or grains) year after year, with a comparatively minimal effort put into the yearly maintenance of the garden/land after that initial “investment” phase (of hard tilling work) has been traversed.

Well, the same principle – of the law of the farm – applies to the world of human beings too.

You will get your decreed provision, yes, but not by just sitting on the sofa without working hard to find it first. You will have to endure months, if not some years, of hardship and hard work (and perhaps even poverty) before you see results in the form of ease and plenty.

But once you do, insha’Allah, then from that point onwards, it will get much, much easier for you, by Allah’s grace.

Age/Time in Decades (at least 3)

In the Qur’an, Allah uses the same Arabic words (more or less), in more than one place, when He talks about giving provisions to His slaves.

Allah’s choice of these Arabic words make me ponder upon the fact that, in life, no matter how hard you work, your decreed provision only comes to you once the time for it to reach you has come: which is, usually, once you’ve reach your full physical strength.

The Arabic words used by Allah in the Qur’an when He mentions the time at which He gave provision to some of His slaves, are:

بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ

(when) he attained his (full) manhood…” [12:22] [18:82] [28:14]

Allah is so merciful upon us, that He gives us what we want (and more) but only at the right time in our lives: when we have reached mental and physical maturity.

Yes, that means that He sometimes makes us wait to become old (and wise) enough first, before giving us the goodies.

And usually, our receiving the intangible blessings of maturity, independence, knowledge, wisdom and respect, happens synonymously with attaining our physical and bodily strength, which cannot be acquired by taking any shortcuts in life.

No one can go from age 12 to age 32 in a single day or a year. You have to let the mills grind.

Usually, this process involves patiently traversing three or four decades of our life, all the while working hard and weathering the storms that come our way, with Allah’s help and guidance.

Sincere Repentance

The advice of Prophet Nuh (عَلَيهِ السَّلَام) to his nation is enough evidence of the fact that once a believer repents sincerely for their sins, intending to never commit them again, Allah showers him or her with worldly blessings:

فَقُلْتُ اسْتَغْفِرُوا رَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ غَفَّارًا • يُرْسِلِ السَّمَاء عَلَيْكُم مِّدْرَارًا • وَيُمْدِدْكُمْ بِأَمْوَالٍ وَبَنِينَ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ جَنَّاتٍ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ أَنْهَارًا

And I have said: Seek pardon of your Lord Lo! He is ever Forgiving. He will let loose the sky for you in plenteous rain. And will help you with wealth and sons, and will assign unto you gardens and will assign unto you rivers.” [71:10-71:12]

Spending What You Already Have According to Allah’s Pleasure

Although it sounds contradictory to say that by spending the wealth that one possesses, one will receive more, it is actually true.

Now wait, I am not saying that you go out on a huge shopping spree, buy whatever you want to, and deplete all your savings!

No, what I am saying is, that miserliness restricts provision, whereas spending the wealth that one already possesses: on one’s needs, necessities and other areas, wisely and within moderation (especially by spending it on one’s family, on whom Allah has obligated us to spend), in addition to paying obligatory zakah and giving regular charity (sadaqah) in the way of Allah — leads to immense expansion in one’s provision.

You have to give what you have, to receive more. It sort of works like a pipeline:

 وَمَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّن شَيْءٍ فَهُوَ يُخْلِفُهُ

“…and nothing do you spend in the least, but He replaces it..” [34:39]

Similarly, Muslims who make excuses and do not pay their zakah (especially those Muslim women who own gold but do not pay zakah on it, just because they do not earn money), as well as those who are generally very miserly about spending on their own selves as well as on their family, usually experience a constriction in their provision over the years: lack of blessings, unhappiness, loneliness, ill health, lethargy, and pain caused by rebellion/bad attitude of obstinate adult offspring.

This hadith best describes how an adult Muslim should spend their earned income, especially those who are business owners, or entrepreneurs:

  1. A third in the way of Allah,
  2. A third upon oneself and one’s family, and
  3. A third should be reinvested into their source of income (or saved for the future → for those who do jobs/work for others as employees).

The above hadith describes how Allah commanded angels to send clouds with rain upon the piece of land of an honest and hard-working farmer who spent his wealth in the above manner.

Gratitude & Gratefulness

لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ

If you are grateful, I will grant more (favors) unto you;” [14:7]

Being grateful for blessings brings more provision, but this entails more than just harboring a feeling of gratitude in the heart, or saying the words “alhamdulillah” repeatedly with the tongue.

Being grateful to Allah encompasses having a specific mindset, and having a way of life that reflects that mindset.

In a nutshell, being grateful means:

  1. Acknowledging Allah’s favors upon you by actually using (and benefiting from) His blessings, not keeping them stashed away. If they are not in your use, give them to someone who will be able to use them, appreciate them and benefit from them more.
  2. Using His blessings only in a way that pleases Allah. Not mistreating, misusing, wasting, or undermining any of them.
  3. Thanking those slaves of Allah i.e. other people, who are the means of bringing those blessings to you in this world e.g. thanking your parents by being good in behavior towards them; thanking the doctor whose guidance/help cured you, and thanking your domestic helpers for making your life easier.
  4. Giving to others; sharing your blessings with others. This is a way of acknowledging Allah’s favors upon you, by letting others have them too.
  5. Always, always, always, always looking at the bright side of everything. Be so positive, that your naysayers, haters, and critics, all start to think you are crazy, especially when you stubbornly remain positive even in the bleakest of situations.

When I was a student of the Qur’an, I was taught that the root meaning of the Arabic word ش ك ر (shukr) is, “That she-camel which gives more milk after eating less grass.” This definition has remained stuck in my head over the years, alhamdulillah!

If you are not a grateful person, you might not get vast provision in life.

To check if you are a grateful person or not, ask yourself:

  1. Do people often hear me criticize and belittle others?
  2. Do I talk more about negative events and news, than positive ones?
  3. Do I whine often to others about my personal problems?
  4. Do I waste my time, food, energy, and other blessings?
  5. Am I often impolite with my family and friends?
  6. Do I verbally thank those who are economically lower than me, for their services?
  7. Do I give back to the local or international community in any way? E.g. by teaching, mentoring, counseling, writing, helping, volunteering, participating in community/social welfare projects?
  8. Do I pick up after myself? A grateful person doesn’t possess an air of entitlement, leaving their litter for others to clean. They focus on giving back.

Joining Relations

Last but not least, keeping in touch with those blood relatives who classify as your ارحام “arhaam” (blood relations), who try to avoid you, do not want to talk to you, or are not nice to you, also causes an increase in one’s provision (Here is the sahih reference).

[Please note: in-laws are not included in the “ارحام” (arhaam) mentioned in the above ahadith. Rather, they are called “اصهار” in Islamic Shari’ah.]

By sending these relatives the occasional gift, email, smartphone message, or greeting card; by calling them up on special occasions, or visiting them when they are sick (only if they grant permission, because some people do not like anyone visiting them during an illness), by attending a funeral in their family, or responding to their invitations – these are all means of joining relations.

One important Islamic etiquette of joining relations that I’d like to point out, however, is that one should seek someone’s permission first, before calling upon them at their residence.

This is in accordance with the social etiquette of visiting others in Islam, which has been clearly pointed out by Allah in an ayah of Surah Al-Nur.

Similarly, if your calls and messages to someone go unanswered, then take that person’s silence as a refusal to allow you to visit them, or enter upon them in their dwelling, at that particular time, just like Prophet Muhammad ‎ﷺ remained silent when `Umar bin Al-Khattab wanted to visit him right after he left his wives for a month in anger.

The Prophet ‎ﷺ declined `Umar’s request for permission to enter upon him twice, by not responding to his greeting, nor granting him permission to enter upon him. Only after the third time, did he allow him to enter. [Sahih Al-Bukhari]


There are other keys to provision as well, which I have not been able to discuss here. However, as each of us meanders through life, we encounter our distinct challenges and lesson-imparting experiences regarding what provision came our way, at what time, and how.

What are yours? :)

Posted in Home and Family, Islamic Knowledge, Pleasing Allah, Quran, Reflections and Reminders, Retrospection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Going “Home”

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

The home is where the heart is. So you miss home. And you might feel very homesick when you are away from home.

What is it that makes a house a “home” for a person?

The aura in it? The people? The number, personalities, habits, faith, natures and lifestyle of it’s occupants? The activities that are carried out in it?

Or, how they feel when they are there?

I think the last one clinches it.

The House of Allah – My Second Home

I find it very endearing that Allah refers to Masjid Al Haram as “His house” in the Qur’an – “baitullah“:

    وَإِذْ جَعَلْنَا الْبَيْتَ مَثَابَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَمْناً وَاتَّخِذُواْ مِن مَّقَامِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ مُصَلًّى وَعَهِدْنَا إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ

Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take you the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).” [2:125]

The holy sanctuary of Masjid Al Haram in Makkah, Arabia is peppered with beautiful remnants of the inspiring historic events related to Divinely-revealed monotheism (belief in one god) that have happened there over time. Such as the three jamraat, the hateem, the well of Zamzam, and the majestic structure of the Ka’bah itself.

Incidentally, the Arabic language uses same word to denote both a ‘house’ and a ‘home’ – bait, which is obvious from the above verse of the Qur’an, in which Allah mentions the word bait both with and without the prefix ال (al-).

In and around Makkah, there are historic places and structures that date back to the first Divinely revealed (Abrahamic) religion; that are related to events that took place thousands of years ago when Allah’s Prophets Ibrahim and Isma’il (عليهما السلام) and their close family members made tremendous sacrifices to uphold and establish tauheed (oneness of Allah).

In fact, Makkah didn’t even exist as a thriving city full of people, until Prophet Ibrahim عليه السلام left his wife and infant son there, in the middle of nowhere. Read the full story here.

Allah has scattered throughout His house, and around it, the historic reminders of the efforts made by His close friend, Prophet Ibrahim, and his family: such as the house of Allah (Ka’bah) itself, which was built brick-by-brick by him and his son Isma’il.

Prophet Ibrahim’s footprints engraved in stone and metal near the ka’bah, which serve as the mark for a place of prayer (Maqam Ibrahim).

The hills of Safaa and Marwah between which his wife Hajrah ran 7 times in search of a source of water for her infant son Isma’il, when she was left alone with him in the barren desert at the command of Allah, and he started crying with thirst.

The inexhaustible Zamzam water-well that has been feeding millions of Muslims since thousands of years, which Allah sprouted miraculously from the ground for Isma’il and his mother.

And who can forget the special stone that descended from Jannah, Hajr Aswad (the “Black Stone”) that is nestled in one of the corners of Allah’s house?

Miracles happen in the house of Allah. Ask anyone who has been there and they’ll probably agree, especially if they practice Islam at superlative level.

Hearts, once there, are turned forever. Lives undergo radical change. Souls chained by devils for years are released from hell within moments.

Right there, nestled in the arid, barren hills of Hijaaz under the unrelenting heat of the tropical sun, is located the one and only special place on earth that Allah chose thousands of years ago to become the place for “His House”, and ordered his friend Ibrahim to build the house with his son.

Where the best man who ever walked the earth was eventually born and raised.

Where the symbols of tauheed have been standing firm since his demise.

And guess what? Going to Allah’s house is so easy. All you need is some money to buy a ticket, book an accommodation (an amount that can be saved easily over the course of a few years), then acquire a visa, and get a vaccination. That’s it.

So what are you waiting for? If you are an adult, independent Muslim who is reasonably well off and able-bodied, and especially if you customarily travel abroad once or twice a year (for either business or leisure), how come “going home to Allah” has not once come up in your travel plans, thus far in your life?

What’s stopping you?

Going Back Home

Time seemed to stand still when I visited ‘home’ earlier this month, this being my third visit to Allah’s house during my life (alhamdulillah).


And yet, the 9 long years that had elapsed since my last visit made my heart ache and my eyes flow with gushing tears as soon as I landed in Madinah, and at the moment I set my eyes for the first time (after such a long interlude) on the twin holy sanctuaries that Allah and His messenger  have each called their home, respectively.

I cannot express adequately in words what one feels when one is there. The unity in diversity of the Muslim ummah for one. So many ethnic colors, languages, cuisines, and cultures all converging in one place for the sake of one God, upholding and performing the prescribed rituals of worship of their shared, one religion.

You feel at home. You never feel like an outsider there, or even a guest (even though you are a guest of Allah). In Allah’s house, you feel perfectly ‘at home’, at ease, at peace.

No one treats you like an alien or an outsider because of the way you dress, speak, look, act, or because of the country of your origin/birth.

You are one with everyone else, and the single uniting factor that joins every pilgrim who visits Makkah and Madinah, transcending their diversity and mutual differences of race and culture, is their belief in Allah, His Messenger, and in Islam.

During every salah that you pray there, you stand next to a different person. Sometimes it is an Egyptian, sometimes a Malaysian, sometimes a Turk. Indians, Bengalis and Pakistanis can’t help but smile when they pass by someone else in the streets or public areas and hear them speaking their language.

Is it possible to be home away from home? Truly.

Because this time, after I returned, I sobbed and cried. I didn’t feel at home in Karachi at all for a day or two, which is very, very strange for me, as I am a born native of this city.It was as if my body was back here, but my heart and soul were left behind in Makkah and Madinah.

The echos of the call to prayer of the haramain reverberated in my mind for days after my return. I would close my eyes and imagine the black, awe-striking structure of the Ka’bah looming up in front of me, as it did when I would be performing tawaaf around it.

The Arabic that I had heard people speaking throughout my stay there, kept floating into my ears. Even the memories of the fresh pancakes and labneh (strained yogurt) that I would have for breakfast wouldn’t leave me alone! :)


My soul refused to let go of ‘home’ this time. And I realized that this time, my trip for umrah was different than my last two, and not just because all my three children were with me. It was mainly because I had changed significantly, spiritually, in the interlude.

Not only had I crossed the age of 33 (which I believe is the ripe age of maturity at which a young adult says goodbye to the naivete of youth forever), but I had also endured hardships in the years between: hardships that had taught me invaluable lessons that no book, course, or institution could ever impart.

I felt as if, when I went for my first umrah during Ramadan in December 2002, and then for hajj in January 2006, I went the way a moderately thirsty person walks over to a water fountain to get a drink of water. But this time, as I left for umrah, I felt as if I was running towards Allah the way a person who is at the brink of death due to thirst runs towards a source of water in a desert.

Yes, I was that desperate to seek Him!

Which is what brings me to my key point:

What you will bring back with you from your trip to perform umrah or hajj, will largely depend upon you: what your intentions were before embarking upon it, and how sincere your desire was to seek Allah’s forgiveness for all your sins, and to ask Him for the guidance to tread steadfastly upon the straight path of His Deen for life, after returning from your journey.

Many Muslims who go for haj and umrah come back spiritually unchanged, untouched, un-revitalized. Upon their return (which they really look forward to), they recall and list to others only the physical adversities of their travels and the hardships they faced whilst performing the rituals of umrah and hajj, instead of mentioning the beautiful spiritual and emotional experiences that their soul went through while embroiled in worship there.

Many mention the problems they faced due to the immense crowding and the illnesses/ailments/fatigue that they came back with. The journey is little more than a physical tryst for them, instead of a spiritual/emotional one that moves, humbles and changes the heart. And the reason for that is their intentions before going.

Since I hail from the region, I know that many Pakistanis perform umrah just to ask for a specific worldly gain, mostly related to health, marriage, wealth/career, or children.

So be it, there is nothing wrong with asking Allah for His bounties, is there? Perhaps Allah withholds some worldly blessings from people in order to make them visit His house, because He knows that they wouldn’t perform umrah or hajj if He gave those blessings to them without their asking. :) Such is His mercy and wisdom.

Nevertheless, we all should also perform umrah to seek forgiveness for all our past sins, and to ask for the steadfast guidance to act upon Islam for the remaining part of our existence/life. This is actually more important than asking for worldly blessings, though the latter count too.

Reflections on the Trip

There was selfies galore throughout both haramain, much to my surprise. Hailing from a city where cell phone theft is as rampant as the power breakdowns, where we avoid using smartphones in public, I was refreshingly surprised to see that most pilgrims had their own gadgets/devices that they actively used to take photos and videos in/of the haram, and that nobody in Arabia is generally interested in stealing another’s phone or tablet.

I had always intended/wanted that whenever my children step out of Pakistan for the first time, it should be to visit Allah’s house, and I am ever so grateful to Allah that He made performing umrah with three children under the age of 10 so much easier than my expectations.

It was our (my) best “vacation” yet! :)

Alhamdulillah, I had asked Allah for special ease and comfort before embarking on this journey, and Allah answered my dua’s to the extent that I would often say to my husband, “Umm, is it me, or was our umrah and travel on this trip much easier than we expected?”

Luxury and ease for pilgrims have made their way into the twin holy lands. Traveling to the haramain, staying at luxurious hotels, shopping for our needs, and eating scrumptious varieties of healthy, fresh foods every day, couldn’t be any easier for a pilgrim than it is today.

I seriously do wonder just how much more harshly us Muslims of this particular era, who were born within the last 100 years (i.e. after the industrial/internet/technological revolutions), will be questioned by Allah about performing hajj and umrah, than the Muslims who lived during the 1300 or so years before us,– simply because we have been blessed with so much more ease of traveling to Allah’s House than they?

We Muslims today can easily book and pay for airline flights/tickets, visas, and hotel accommodations online, even months in advance. We embark on humungous, air-conditioned Boeing airplanes, from and to air-conditioned airports, being served food by others during our flights, and are able to easily reach Makkah or Madinah in less than a day.

Sure beats riding a camel or a horse in the heat of the day, and setting up camp at night, for months on end, in order to perform one hajj or umrah,– doesn’t it?

We stay at carpeted, luxurious accommodations within half a mile of the twin holy sanctuaries, with cool marble tiling and thick carpets under our feet, and shade-giving, cool-air spewing, beautifully embellished roofs over our heads, as we pray/sit/recite Qur’an inside either Masjid al Haram or Masjid Nabawi.

Our taxi-cars, GMC’s and buses whiz us off at high speeds across smooth highways and wide roads, with (once again) carpeted and air-conditioned interiors that help us doze off comfortably during our journeys.

As soon as we come out from either of the two holy masjid’s, we can step into luxurious malls and restaurants that serves us a variety of cheap food in, once again, a cool and air-conditioned environment that dries up whatever perspiration came over our bodies in our short, 100 meter walk from the doors of the haram to the mall entrance.

Allah really did answer our father Prophet Ibrahim’s dua for us (below), that he made thousands of years ago in the barren desert, didn’t He?

رَبِّ اجْعَلْ هَـَذَا بَلَدًا آمِنًا وَارْزُقْ أَهْلَهُ مِنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ مَنْ آمَنَ مِنْهُم بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ

My Lord, make this a secure city and feed its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” [2:126]

Of course, pilgrims don’t always eat at restaurants. That’s when the sprawling Bin Dawood conveniently steps in!

Pun not intended. Because Bin Dawood is literally steps away from the entrances of both the haramain. :)

Ah! Don’t get me started on just how awesome Bin Dawood supermarket is! :) And Kingdom Dates too….and the variety of chocolates that have made their way into the holy twin cities, including as the delectable, gooey insides of traditional ma’amouls and other date confectioneries.

A chocolate and date-lover’s paradise, indeed! :)

Pilgrims emerge from their hotels after devouring lavish early-morning breakfast buffets, into fragrant, oud-infused outdoor souks (markets) that are constantly in a cool shade thanks to the many tall hotel buildings and malls around both the haramain, where everything the guests of Allah could possibly need and want during their travels is sold on the streets at dirt-cheap prices, by vendors who are eager to bring down their prices even more for the sake of meeting their demands.

So what are you waiting for?

If you are a Muslim who hasn’t yet gone for umrah or hajj, you really don’t know what you’re missing!

Posted in Home and Family, Inspiration, Parenting, Pleasing Allah, Reflections and Reminders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Parents, Can We Stop Judging Each Other?

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Misunderstood. Put on the spot. Challenged. Quizzed in public.

That is how I find myself feeling more and more often as an homeschooling unschooling parent, now that my children are older and meeting more people in social settings.

People are usually all praise for their demeanor and behavior, until the bomb drops.

What? They don’t go to school?!

By now, I have the sequence of questions that follows this opening one, along with the accompanying aghast and scandalized facial expressions, practiced and etched in my memory down to a tee.

It is always the same sequence of questions and exclamations, give or take a few exceptions. 

It seems that by choosing to unschool my children, I am not just consciously challenging other parents’ choice to send their children to school, but also choosing to be judged and labelled as a certified “crazy” parent in our ‘tolerant’ and ‘broadminded’ Pakistani society (sarcasm intended).

So be it. Every rose has it’s thorns.

question-marksBy the end of these unwanted, unwelcome “interviews” of sorts (which feel more like an interrogation or inquiry by police officers, for a crime that I am supposedly committing, according to their perception), I am left quietened by the questioners’ passive-aggressive remarks and half-accusatory stares of disbelief at what they have judged and passed off to be a totally ‘crazy’ decision as a parent.

What are you doing with your children!?

The older the female interrogator (I do not usually talk long enough to men for them to quiz me about my children, thankfully), the more quickly the accusations come my way, and the more quickly I become quiet.

I think I have mentioned before that I dislike engaging in arguments, defensive discussions, and debates with anyone – but especially so with opinionated, older Pakistani “aunties” (i.e. any lady whose oldest child is above 20 years old).

Truth be told, I consciously try to make myself ignore what they think of my parenting choices at this stage, in order to go on trying to raise my children with a healthy dose of positive enthusiasm that remains unmarred by the skepticism of critics.

However, my mental battle with their imposed negativity sometimes goes on for more than a few hours, before which I can declare complete victory, bi’idhnillah, and continue unschooling without any freshly-brewed “What if’s?” clouding my better judgment.

They will curse you after growing up for what you did to them!

It’s not like I was ever like the mainstream majority anyway. Ever.

Not when I was a child in school. Not when I was an unmarried girl (e.g. I chose not to go to a beauty salon for my bridal makeup – can any girl be weirder than that?). 

Not when I was a young married woman with small babies, and certainly not now, when I am the mother of growing children, two of whom will be at the threshold of teenage in a few short years, insha’Allah.

They can turn back their attention to saucy, superficial dramas, curry recipes, and morning cooking shows.

To each their own.

Being Different – The Road Less Traveled

This feeling – that I am different from others, to the point of being outright ‘weird’ – is nothing new for me.

From as far back in life as I can recall, I was always different from the mainstream, both in thought as well as action.

I still remember walking up to my Science teacher in 8th grade (Science was my favorite subject, which I usually excelled in grade-wise), to hand her back my marked/checked midterm examination that carried the score of 48/50 – the highest marks in class – and tell her, my lip quivering, that I had answered one question, carrying 7 marks, entirely wrong.

Flabbergasted more at the fact that I had actually pointed out my undeserved extra marks, than at how she had corrected what was an obviously wrong answer (it entailed describing a test tube experiment), I watched as she regretfully crossed out the 48 to make it 41, which ended up lowering my marks not just in Science, but also my overall position/rank in the class results that term.

I remember going back to my seat and crying my eyes out, as the other girls in class attempted to comfort me. The whole classroom was one giant face of pity.

So why did I do it?

No one had coerced me. It was completely my decision. And not an easy one.

I had done it due to the same reason because of which I have always felt very different from others: the moment I realized, with a sick feeling in my stomach, that I had answered that question completely wrong, but that the Science teacher, who was used to me getting good grades in her subject, had inadvertently marked it right, I just knew that I had to tell her.

I wouldn’t have been able to live with the guilt of dishonesty; of knowing that I got a rank that I did not deserve; of knowing that I kept quiet and did not do the right thing.

My ‘morals’ have actually always made me take many difficult steps in life, such as in the incident above, which happened when I was only 12.

My penchant for taking the higher road has also brought me considerable pain, truth be told, and mostly from other people; especially those who don’t appreciate or uphold 100% honesty in their own lives.

As I said, I am outright ‘weird’.

It is Never Easy to Consistently Homeschool Unschool

We decided to homeschool our children based on a sincere desire to provide them with the best Islamic upbringing, combined with the home-based application of those modern-day learning methodologies that encourage and facilitate natural knowledge-seeking based on fueling the God-given, innate flame of natural curiosity, unrestricted creativity, and the incessant drive to know more and to seek answers, which burns with ferocity inside all small children, before the early schooling system pats it down and fizzles it out forever.

I openly admit that this homeschooling decision was initiated by me, and is, by and large being sustained up till now as my choice (more than my husband’s).

When I mentioned above that my morals have always coerced me to take the high road, do the right thing, give the best due of any responsibility, and to tell the truth even if it causes me loss, etc., well, it was the same sense of morality that made me opt for homeschooling, rather reluctantly at first.

When my oldest was in school from the age of 2.5 to age 5, I came face-to-face with the grave realities and shortcomings of the contemporary schooling system firsthand, and there was an increasing number of things that I started to have major issues with, as a parent.

However, even though the thought of homeschooling made it’s way into my mind again and again, I kept repelling it, thinking that I didn’t have the guts to take the plunge.

However, a point came when I could just not take it any more. That is, my inner struggle with what I thought was best for my (Muslim) child(ren), as opposed to what was done as the norm by parents all over the world, would just not let my mind rest.

Correlating the present-day incidents that my oldest child went through during her short time at school, with my vivid memory-flashbacks of incidents that occurred at school during my own childhood, I just knew, as I did istikharah after istikharah — turning to Allah in an absolutely torn state of mind about what to do to raise my children ideally during the short time that I had with them before they became adults –, that homeschooling was something that I absolutely owed to my children.

This realization tied in well especially with my beliefs and thoughts about how a Muslim mother should parent her little children, which had formed in the light of the comprehensive study of the Qur’an that I underwent at Al-Huda (as a Diploma course), at the age of 21-22.

Would you believe, today, that I tried my best to resist the idea of homeschooling my children, before I actually took the plunge? 

For months, I ignored the recurring thoughts that Allah placed in my mind about how this was in their best interest as Muslims. I repelled those thoughts with, “But I cant do it! It is just too difficult! I am not patient enough. It won’t succeed. Everyone sends their children to school, how can I not?” etc.

But my penchant for taking the high road ruled. The nagging feeling of doing the right thing kept returning. The pinching guilt, that I was settling for second-best for them; that I was delegating my primary responsibility as a Muslim parent, of teaching/training/nurturing/facilitating the early education of my blood offspring (who are priceless gifts and trusts from Allah) during their early years of life to absolute strangers, just wouldn’t go away, even though I tried to repel/ignore it.

So anyway, I took the plunge by Allah’s will, knowing that there was no looking back, backtracking, or retracting after such a huge decision. Sort of like when I started hijab. Heh.

And I already knew that it would definitely not be easy. Nothing that is based on morality, truth and sincerity ever is. I anticipated many hurdles in my unschooling journey, but they were mostly related to my children’s “socialization with peers”.

How naive of me. :) Little did I know what lay stealthily in wait.

Being Questioned About My Parenting Choices

Almost 5 years down the road from that point in time, I definitely did not expect to find myself the target of awkward interrogative sessions and indirect, passive-aggressive accusations from other mothers.

My older children seem to be doing quite alright in the social arena; in fact, I think that my 9-year-old daughter is actually more confident in social gatherings than I was at her age (and I was a school-goer), especially when she is interacting with adults.

My older two children, aged 9 and 7 right now, actually prefer the company and conversations of adults, over that of children their age. And I am happy with that. That is actually what I want, because children their age are playing games and watching entertainment programs on screens that my children know nothing whatsoever about!

However, what I find increasingly disconcerting is how and why sisters (that is, other adult women) think it is perfectly alright to subject me to a barrage of questions about my choice to not put my children in school, whenever they meet me?

I know that our choice is a very different one, one that they know absolutely nothing about; perhaps even a weird one (wasn’t I always weird?! Heh!) and that is why they ask me these questions.

But why do they consider it alright to do that?

Why would any parent, myself included, think it okay to put another parent on the spot about the choices they are making regarding their children? 

And that, too, in random social situations where talking in detail about deep concepts such as children’s education is not possible or easy, such as during chance run-in’s at the mall, or at a noisy wedding.

All parents make individual, personalized choices regarding their children, whether by allowing them to do something, or by disallowing them from doing something. Each parent makes that choice.

Are we parents open to judge others’ choices? Are we? I ask this question because I see it happening all the time.

And sometimes I am tempted to return the favor. ;)

The only apparent exception is perhaps that of younger parents (of today) judging the parenting decisions, styles and choices of the older generation (the parents of yesteryear – who had children 30/40 years ago). Judging their choices doesn’t occur, for some reason, perhaps due to a commendable respect of elders.

Anyhow, while we are riding the “judging other parents’ choices” bandwagon, there is one particular issue that I have been confused about since the past 14 years. Perhaps I should talk about it now, since other mothers consider it perfectly alright to talk about my parenting style. Eh?

This is actually something that I have seen in quite a few religiously inclined families, which I simply do not understand to this day.

It is about the practicing Muslim mother wearing hijab and abaya (out of choice), carrying a toddler daughter to and from her Qur’an class and full-time job at the local Islamic institute/da’wah center on a weekly or even daily basis.

12 years later, the same mother, donned in the same attire (perhaps with an additional niqab), is still seen going to and fro from her Qur’an classes and/or da’wah center, accompanied by that same daughter, but this time, this daughter is wearing short shirts with skinny jeans and/or tights that outline in vivid detail every curve in her lower body.

I mean, who is buying this daughter these clothes?

And does the daughter know how to brush her teeth?

Does she know how to do her school homework on time?

Does she know how to clip her nails?

I am asking all these seemingly unrelated questions for a reason.

You see, even though I have seen so many such examples, believe me, I am at a total loss at being able to understand or fathom just how a mother, who observes strict hijab herself since before her daughter’s birth (and obviously because she believes that it is obligatory), can force her daughter – since before she hit the age of 7, – to get up before dawn to go to school, do her daily homework, and to brush her teeth every morning, but – for some reason totally unbeknownst to me – she did not “force” that same daughter (i.e. train her, as she is obliged to) to wear the obligatory hijab at the right age i.e. between ages 7 – 10.

Yes, you heard that right. If Muslim parents can and do begin to train their children to perform the 5 obligatory prayers, observe obligatory fasts in Ramadan, and to do all other socially obligatory things during the age of 7-10, as a character-building training for their child, then the training of girls in how to observe modesty in their clothing should also be begun during the same age range.

I mean, it is as clear as the sky – at least to me.

That if hijab is obligatory, it is not like our daughters have the option to not do it once they hit puberty, just like they do not have the option of skipping any of the five daily prayers or other obligations (such as final exams at school –>  which are purely academic ‘obligations’ forced on to children by society, not by Allah, yet all parents force their children to stick to them, as if their lives depended on it).

And just like we train our children to do ALL the other ‘obligations’ – social, cultural, or academic (viz. “Go and say salam to uncle”/”Go brush your teeth before you have breakfast”/”Go take a bath, you’re very dirty/”Put away your books/toys, NOW!”/”Go cut those long nails!”) – should we NOT train our daughters about the Islamic rulings of their clothing long before they hit puberty, too?

Just like we take great pains and worry about making them learn how to read and write as soon as they are able to (age 3-5 onwards)?


Or am I wrong here?

Don’t ALL mothers train their daughters in the art of removing their extra body hair by the time they are 16 (that’s quite late nowadays, I think. I’d go with a 12)?

Do they not train them in what to do when they experience menarche?

Then why not the obligatory hijab (Islamic standard of modesty in clothing)?

Just what excuses does a practicing Muslim mother make to herself when she allows her daughter, who is 10+ in age, to go out of the house wearing skinny jeans and a short shirt?

Surely these mothers are giving themselves some comforting excuses that allow them to get deluded into believing that training a young daughter in wearing the correct Islamic hijab from age 7+ – using love, wisdom, and gradual, step-by-step practical instruction – is NOT an obligation upon them, as a parent.

Even though their daughters’ daily brushing of teeth and sitting for/passing school exams IS an obligation, apparently, since long before that age.

Anyhow, rant over about my confusion. :) Now let’s get back to the point: why I am mentioning all of this.

Whenever I encounter such a mother-daughter duo, and obviously “judgmental” questions about their parenting style/choices do pop up in my head, I never corner these mothers and rudely ask them upfront questions about why they are not making their teenage daughters observe Islamic requirements of hijab, something which they obviously consider to be an obligation for themselves (since they are doing hijab and abaya since many years, and involved in Islamic da’wah work too). Heck, they are not even making their daughters wear modest clothing, let alone a head cover and an outer garment!

And even though I ‘judge’ them like this inwardly (ouch, how mean of me…what a typical, ‘judgmental’ Pakistani aunty I am becoming, eh? When in Rome….), I refrain from being rude and crossing the boundaries of social decency and maturity to ask them this question outright:

How/why can you do this to your daughter?”

I call my lip-biting, non-intrusive stance of not asking such questions, “respect” for their parenting choices, even though I am totally bewildered by them.

And by that I do mean, really, really confused and bewildered.

Since I did the diploma course at Al-Huda, I have known and seen many such mothers raise their children, since by Allah’s grace, I started to move about more in the social circles of practicing Muslims. Many sisters who studied the entire Qur’an and started practicing hijab themselves, happened to give birth to daughters a little before, after, or during their Qur’an studies/reversion towards Islam.

However, then I started to observe this ‘hijab contradiction’ parenting phenomenon, and to this day I am confused about it.

If you know the answer to this question, i.e. why a mother who herself observes hijab and considers it to be an obligation, since before her daughter hit the age of 5-7, does not train her daughter to observe hijab at the right age i.e. between age 7 to 10, the way she trains her how to perform the 5 daily prayers, brush her teeth, and take a bath, please comment below and enlighten me.

And do let me know, while you’re at it, why she buys her those skinny jeans and short shirts too. I mean, we know that most 13 year old girls don’t yet have the money to shop for their own clothes (and branded, expensive, designer clothes at that), nor do they go out alone to do the said shopping, do they?

Please Don’t Make Me Turn this into a Two-Way Street

Now, back to the said interrogations that I am subjected to, especially by older ladies.

“How can you not send your children to school, when you went to school/college yourself?”

Well, below are examples of a few questions that I want to ask them in reply myself, but I don’t (remember the deliberate lip-biting to stop myself?):

“Why do your children talk in English only, when you have conversed in Urdu throughout your life, yourself?”

“Why don’t any of your daughters observe hijab like you do, even though you have been observing it meticulously since long before they hit puberty?”

“Why do you hastily move your child away from cigarette smoke in public places, when you smoke(d) cigarettes for years yourself?”

“Why do you let your children drive a car, when you have never driven one yourself?”

“Why doesn’t your 30+ daughter make fresh chapati‘s twice a day for her family, the way you have done for decades yourself?

“Why do you let your unmarried children travel abroad for leisure, alone, on international vacations, when you never traveled alone yourself?”

“Why do none of your sons know how to fix the plumbing in your house, when you can easily fix it dextrously and easily yourself?”

“Why do you let your teenager pose for pictures arm-in-arm with their non-mahrum cousins and school-friends, even though you avoid all physical contact with non-mahrums yourself?”

“Why aren’t your children aged 30+ getting married, even though you both got married in your early twenties yourself?”

“Why have you kept a full-time maid for your only child, even though so many mothers today are raising numerous children without one? Why can’t you take care of just one child yourself?”

“Why are you working full-time even though you have small children, when you were raised by a stay-at-home mother yourself?”

“Why are you allowing your child to have his/her own tablet (iPad) and to play games on it for hours, when you grew up even without a television set, yourself?”

“Why are you raising your children in a conservative Muslim-majority country, even though you were raised in the secular West yourself?”

“Why did you send your children to University for a 4-year Bachelor’s degree, when you (and your spouse) didn’t get one yourself?”

“Why do you allow your small children to use Facebook and other social media, even though you don’t use it yourself?”

The answer to all the above questions is more or less the same, and let me give it to you all myself, sisters and brothers. The answer is:

Because, as my child’s parent in this era, and according to my personal circumstances (which are unbeknownst to others), I know what is best for my children, and I want nothing but the best for them. Whatever I have decided, is for their own best interests.

Please, my dear perplexed sisters and concerned mothers who wish to interrogate me about my decision to unschool, we are all in the same boat. We have all been tested by having children, and we all have to answer to Allah for how we raised them (especially when they little, and needed us more).

Please don’t make me turn your interrogations about my decision to not send my children to school, which are admittedly inspired just by your honest shock and wonder at this novel, unheard-of phenomenon i.e. homeschooling, into a two-way, “judge-fest”.

I don’t want to judge you, and I try hard not to.

So please do not judge me.

Can we please live and let live, as parents?

Conclusion: Degrees Don’t Guarantee Success, Divinely Inspired, Beneficial Knowledge Does

Yes, my husband and I have Bachelors and Masters degrees from accredited universities, and yet, it is possible that we might not send our children to either school or to college/university – ever.

Shocked? Please don’t be. Please take some time off from watching Pakistani dramas, sharing updates on social media, shopping, cooking, watching cheesy/idiotic movies and Geo News, to educate yourself about modern-day findings about education and schooling.

Also, do you really – honestly, and truly – idealize and epitomize the Prophets of Allah (عَلَيهِم السَّلام) and their Companions (sahabah), more than you do contemporary scholars, scientists, entrepreneurs, philosophers, thinkers, experts, millionaires, and other achievers of today?

Do you? Honestly?

When you leave your Qur’an class and come home to sit with your children, talking to them about their future over dinner, who is it that you want them to look up to? Who do you tell them to emulate? The successful, rich people today, who have professional degrees and live in huge mansions, right?

Or do you tell your children to always, always emulate Allah’s Prophets and their companions? To always idealize their way of life; their morals and values; their level of knowledge and it’s practical application?

Well, GUESS WHAT? They had NO DEGREES. None, whatsoever.

But they did have Divine, beneficial knowledge (العلم) that they sought primarily via the company of righteous scholars and through self-driven hard work.

Even if you disagree and insist that degrees are the only way to become educated, you have to admit that there is a big difference between the two kinds of knowledge: that which is structured and institutionalized, and that which is Divinely inspired.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with pursuing institutionalized education and degrees (especially for those want to become doctors and professors), acquiring these does not guarantee future success or the acquisition of beneficial knowledge.

Just look at the unemployed people in your own extended family, who have more than one ‘solid’ degree from accredited institutions under their belts, and yet, despite all efforts, they are unable to find gainful employment.

I assure you, you will not have to look far, or too long, to spot even one such individual!

No one knows yet what the future holds for our children (i.e. whether they will choose to pursue degrees or not), so we try to refrain from making any tall claims about this beforehand.

We do keenly observe our children, though. We monitor them all the time – did I mention that we have them at home, or with us, all the time, i.e. they have been raised with no maids, schools, or babysitters for the past (almost) 5 years? And yet, we sincerely seek Allah’s help in our parenting journey, today and in the future. We know that, as parents, we are merely the means, and not the source of the good that comes towards our children from Allah.

We try to keep abreast of latest beneficial trends and discoveries in the field of education, and about the changing dynamics of learning methodologies today. The Internet is an awesome source of information, you know. Perhaps you should do some similar research on education too, since you are obviously so keen and concerned about all children – including ours – going to ‘good’ schools/colleges.

So let me end by saying this:

Don’t judge and interrogate me about what I am doing with my children, and I won’t judge you for what you are doing (or have done) with yours.

Deal? :)

*Handshake* (with sisters only)

Posted in Education, Home and Family, Home Education, homeschooling, Motherhood, Reflections and Reminders, Retrospection, Social Psychology, Youth | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

My Interview at

Sadaf Farooqi:

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

I was recently interviewed at, a blog that showcases female authors, word artists, and book industry professionals.

Originally posted on WordMothers:

Interview by Nicole Melanson ~

Interview with writer Sadaf Farooqi by Nicole Melanson

Sadaf Farooqi is a freelance writer of Islamic non-fiction and a homeschooling mother of 3, based in Karachi, Pakistan. She has a postgraduate Masters degree in Computer Science and a diploma in Islamic education.

Sadaf runs a personal blog called Sadaf’s Space, and currently writes professionally for In the past, she has written for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine, Saudi Gazette and Some of Sadaf’s articles on marriage have been published as a book titled Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage.

Sadaf Farooqi’s blog


In 2006, I found myself staying at home with my first baby. Often, I’d Google solutions to first-time-mommy-related challenges and problems, only to land on and read personal blogs penned by experienced mothers. So I ended up reading many articles and blogs in my spare…

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Posted in Motherhood, Muslim Women, Professional Work, Quran | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Timeless Pearls of Wisdom from the Qur’an

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Reciting the Qur’an is an act of worship.

Thinking deeply about the ayaat of the Qur’an whilst reciting them in Arabic (especially when/if Allah has blessed the reciter with enough knowledge to understand the Arabic of the Qur’an directly) can have many beautiful effects on the reciter, not the least of which is the acquisition of deep insight (تَفَكُّر), which enables him/her to closely relate the ayaat they are reciting to the currently-happening events and incidents in their own lives, as well as the lives of other people dwelling in the same era as they.

Here are a few such pearls of wisdom in the Qur’an that I’ve extracted (by Allah’s will) over time. Please keep in mind, that I cannot explain in full details how I gleaned these lessons through the course of many events in my own life, but rest assured, it was the Qur’an that was the source of the wisdom imparted through them, to me.

And all good is solely from Allah.

☞ Victory and Success Comes Only Through Pain and Hardship

There is no shortcut to success, either worldly or that of the Hereafter.

To attain any goal, blessing, status, honor, achievement, award, or a high level of intangible or intangible success, one must be prepared to toil hard, tolerate and overcome problems with strength and patience, and face the opposition of people with staunch, unswerving firmness.

Only successful people have haters and antagonists. It is the people who aren’t achieving anything special or extraordinary in their lives, who have no enemies, antagonists, naysayers and critics.

It took Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) twenty three years to achieve his noble mission of conveying Allah’s message of guidance to mankind.

Yet, the first incident in his life that signaled the descent of this special gift from Allah was anything but a pleasant experience for him.

After receiving the first revelation of the Qur’an through an unexpected meeting with archangel Jibreel, he was actually so overwhelmed and scared, that he started trembling with terror and sought solace with his wife. Yet, rather ironically, the cause of his fear was the beginning of the greatest blessing anyone could ever ask for – that of being chosen to do Allah’s work on earth as His Prophet.

The lesson here is the same that I have extracted from almost all of the stories of the other Prophets in the Qur’an: success, pleasure of Allah, and higher ranks come only through hardships and unpleasant circumstances:

Prophet Musa عليه السلام had to run away from a city/nation to escape the persecution of rulers because he had unintentionally caused the death of a man.

Prophet Yunus عليه السلام had to endure suffering because of his people, which led him to almost drown, and then get ingested by a huge whale, suffering physical injuries and isolation as a result.

(I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet someone who was swallowed by a whale yet came out of it alive! Talk about positivity! √)

Prophet Essa/Jesus عليه السلام was also persecuted by his people. We all know what happened to him. Despite being a chosen slave of Allah with whom his Lord was pleased, his miraculous birth, eventual (apparent) crucifixion by the Bani Israel, and the circumstances surrounding his apparent death depict a life picture full of pain, persecution and trials.

Prophet Yusuf عليه السلام was thrown in a well by his own blood-related kin when he hadn’t even reached adulthood. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to meet someone who was thrown deliberately, after devising a premeditated plot, into a well by his own siblings!

But it is not just the Prophets – who appear to be probably ‘out of reach’ for most of us, because we cannot even hope to reach a level of taqwa that is close to theirs – who endured extreme hardships and trials patiently for the sake of Allah, and were granted success in this world and the next, because of their endurance of the same.

It is also ordinary, fallible human beings like ourselves who have reached success in both worlds, who might grant us inspiration more easily, because more of us can hope to be like them.

Well, the Qur’an mentions a few of them as well.

There is Zaid, and the trial he endured when he divorced his wife Zainab and she was married by the Prophet ﷺ: this was an action that was considered very scandalous at that time, and carried great social stigma. Yet, Zaid endured the ensuing backlash for the sake of Allah, because through his endurance of this painful experience, Allah abolished a man-made social taboo/custom forever. Not to mention, he came out of it holding the exclusive honor of being the only companion of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ whose name is mentioned in the Qur’an!

Then there is A’ishah bint Abi Bakr and the incident of ifk. She and the Prophet ﷺ (and their loving relationship), were tested greatly through this trial. She spent most of the days that this trial lasted, weeping. Allah halted Divine revelation for a month, which further exacerbated the difficulty of the situation, and gave the mischief-makers and gossip-mongers in Madinah a further chance to show their true colors through the careless wagging of their tongues.

However, she and the Prophet ﷺ (and their marriage) successfully emerged from this test of their faith stronger than ever, and even though people who slander and curse her exist in the world to this day (thankfully, they are an exclusive minority), through this trial, Allah raised her ranks, and proved her innocence through a specific, acquittal-imparting – albeit indirect – mention of her in the Qur’an.

What could be a greater honor than that?

I can give other examples as well, of ordinary people who were sincere Muslims during their time, who endured trials and were raised in ranks because of their lofty level of faith for the sake of Allah, but I cannot go into details here because that will make this post too long.

There are the 3 believers whom Allah ordered to be socially marginalized because they didn’t go out in time for jihad with the Prophet ﷺ.

There is the man who was martyred when he tried to help the three Prophets who were being persecuted by his nation, and got killed by them because of it (the whole story is in Surah Yaseen, ayaat 13-27).

There is the man who publicly supported Prophets Musa and Harun in front of Pharaoh by making an impressive speech in their defense, after hiding his faith from Pharaoh (who was his relative) until that point i.e. he had secretly become a believing Muslim despite Pharaoh’s antagonism towards Prophet Musa, as narrated in Surah Ghafir.

There are the companions of the cave; the group of young lads who took a stand for the sake of monotheism; who received, as a result, Allah’s special miracles. One was in the form of ‘time travel': awaking to having traversed a 100 years without advancing in age. Another special miracle that Allah gave them was the bypassing of the sunlight from the mouth of their cave in such a way that they remained undisturbed; of His turning them over and over; and His casting special terror (of them) upon anyone who entered the cave.

And there is Khaulah, who has a whole surah of the Qur’an named in her honor because she stood up to the oppression of her husband when he first did dhihaar (a custom in Arab jahiliyyah) on her, then tried to be intimate with her later the same day, by stopping the Prophet in his tracks and complaining to him about her husband in an argumentative manner (جدل).

All of these believers have been granted raised ranks by being mentioned by Allah, either directly or indirectly, in the Qur’an.

But the point I am trying to make is: that if you want to be one of Allah’s ‘special’ slaves; someone whom He loves; whom He honors by making His close, special friend (ولى) – be prepared to be tested severely; to cry hot tears of grief; to feel isolated and ‘let down’ by people; to lose loved ones for His sake (and I do not mean by death); to be socially marginalized and persecuted (even killed) by ‘your’ people.

Be prepared for a life full of outer difficulties, but inner peace. Be prepared to feel like you are weird; that you don’t belong; that people hate you. Because they will.

And because victory (of both worlds) comes through pain, loss, grief, and hardship.

There are no shortcuts.

Never Say Die!”

The Qur’an has taught me that Allah’s help definitely comes for believers who are 100% sincere to Him.

However, sometimes, that help apparently ‘gets late’ in coming, because man is naturally predisposed to being impatient and full of haste.

People generally want to hasten outcomes in their lives according to their desires; whereas, with Allah, every decree and decision has an optimally-appointed time that is perfect and best for the believer’s own benefit in life.

stones in waterYet, whenever we encounter an apparent dead-end, or a seemingly immovable road-block in life (think: our dua’s for a particular blessing not being answered for many years), Shaitan tries to make us despondent, and entices us to think and say bad things about Allah, e.g. “Why isn’t Allah helping me?”

However, the sincere believer doesn’t fall into the trap of Shaitan, and forces himself to think positively about his Lord, even in the most seemingly bleak, hopeless, and rock-bottom circumstances and dead-end situations. He says with conviction:

كَلَّا إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ

By no means! My Lord is with me! Soon will He guide me!” [26:62]

I know that, as believers, we cannot hope to receive miracles from Allah the way His Prophets did during their lives and missions, but nevertheless, it is not totally untrue and unheard of for the friends of Allah (أولياء الله) to have inexplicable, apparently ‘miraculous’ incidents happen in their lives that personify the descent of Divine help from their Lord.

The Qur’an has taught me, and by the grace of Allah I have practically experienced this in my own life, to never, ever ‘say die’.

That is, to never give up, throw my hands up in the air, and quit doing something good,- thinking, “This is it. No way out from here”.

There is always, always a way out. And no matter how bleak a situation might seem, no matter how difficult and bad, there is always good in it for us.

Day always follows night. The light is always there at the end of the tunnel, and the tunnel always has an end.

And Allah is always there for you.

☞ Our Enemies Are Very Near

One of the most amazing things that I’ve come across in more than one place in the Qur’an, is the warning Allah gives us about being careful of enemies in our midst, near us, especially in our families.

I mean, who would ever suspect a family member of being their enemy, right?

Yet, Allah specifically warns us about them in the Qur’an:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّ مِنْ أَزْوَاجِكُمْ وَأَوْلَادِكُمْ عَدُوًّا لَّكُمْ فَاحْذَرُوهُمْ وَإِن تَعْفُوا وَتَصْفَحُوا وَتَغْفِرُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

O you who believe! Truly, among your wives and your children are (some that are) enemies to yourselves: so beware of them! But if you forgive and overlook, and cover up (their faults), verily Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [64:14]

Nothing can be truer than Allah’s words. No advice could be more sincere or beneficial for us than the advice and exhortation of the Lord of the Universe.

And He is telling us clearly in the above ayah, that we have some enemies among our own families. He uses the same Arabic word in the Qur’an, to call them our enemy (عَدُوّ), which He uses to refer to Iblees (Shaitan).

We spend most of our time with our families as we live life, and expect them to be pillars of support and a source of unconditional and unrelenting love for us.

Yet, some of them are our own enemies. And this is precisely because this love of ours for them, and their love for us, can often become an obstacle in our path towards success in the Akhirah, and a major roadblock in acquiring the pleasure of Allah in this world.

That happens when our family members cause us pain and suffering because of the level of our faith in Allah (religiosity), or when they act in a manner that it becomes difficult for us to act upon some commands of Islam.

Ask anyone who has come towards Deen, about who made it the most difficult for them to act upon Islam, and they will most probably name a close family member.

Also, here I’d like to add that, the pain caused by family members varies over the course of our lives. For example, during our youth, we might suffer pain because of one particular relative, whereas a few years or decades down the road, that same relative might have become our very close friend/supporter, and the source of our problems could now be another family member, who was hitherto cordial and nice to us. This happens throughout our lives. Certain relatives cause us varying degrees of problems at different stages in our lives.

As I mentioned above, it was the brothers of Yusuf who not only plotted to ‘get him out of the way’ in their endeavors to acquire their father’s exclusive attention, but actually went ahead, put their heads together, and practically achieved their vile mission.

It was Qabil who killed his own blood-brother, Habil.

It was Yusuf’s master Aziz’s wife who tried to cheat on her righteous husband, Aziz, behind his back, in his very house, by seducing his own slave, Yusuf. And even though he caught her red-handed in the act, she remained unrepentant afterwards, trying to garner her socialite girlfriends’ support in continuing to sexually harass the young Yusuf.

The wives of both Prophets Lut and Nuh (عليهما السلام) also proved treacherous to their husbands despite dwelling in their homes, because they harbored sympathies and love for their sinful, transgressive, doomed townspeople instead.

These are the few examples I could think of from the stories mentioned in the Qur’an, about how it is a righteous person’ own family members who become a trial of their faith and steadfastness upon the path of Allah, by dishing out actions and words towards them that makes it difficult for them to obey Allah and His Messenger ﷺ consistently.

And if we allow them to succeed in their opposition, they will truly prove to be our enemy.

So what do we do, when someone from our own family thus becomes our enemy?

Please proceed to read the point below ☟for the answer to that question.

Kill Them’ With Kindness

When someone – anyone – wrongs us, treats us badly, or oppresses us, the natural, innate, reactive urge within us entices us to strike back at them, and give them an eye for an eye, (perhaps even more)!

When the one who mistreats us is someone from our own family, and they unapologetically continue to mistreat us over time (knowing that we do not like what they are doing to us), it hurts even more, because they are close to us, and/or we love them.

For cases such as these, Allah has recommended a long-term strategy that will ‘kill’ the enmity for us harbored in the hearts of our enemies, especially those within our families:

وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ

Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and you was hatred, become as it were your close friend.” [41:34]

Returning bad behavior with good is definitely not easy, especially when tremendous damage has been done.

However, it is possible, for those who are determined enough to continue forgiving their enemies, albeit without falling into the same hole twice.

The key to striking the balance between being a weak pushover who allows people to walk all over him by not taking a stand (mistaking this to mean “being patient”), and becoming a hostile grudge-holder and vengeance-seeker bent on taking revenge,– is to maintain a safe distance from those family members who have repeatedly wronged one, and from whose harm one still does not feel safe.

Those relatives who continue to pose a danger to our Akhirah, via word or deed i.e. they refuse to change their vile ways/habits over the course of many years,– we should continue interacting with them from a safe distance on our own terms – i.e. without compromising on our limits/boundaries.

It is very important for us to impose these strict boundaries; for us to remain careful and wary with such relatives, because this is what Allah has advised us (فَاحْذَرُوهُمْ) in the Qur’an, and it ensures our dignity, self-respect, privacy and emotional/psychological safety from their evil.

Returning bad with good can be achieved with such relatives as follows:

  1. Greeting them with a quick salam and a smile whenever you meet them in person (this doesn’t apply to non-mahrums), but quickly moving on.
  2. Visiting them briefly when/if they are ill. A phone call or text message can also accomplish this at a lesser level.
  3. Helping them financially if/when they need it.
  4. Accepting their banquet invitations, but keeping interactions therein business-like, limited and to-the-point e.g. by leaving soon and not allowing yourself to be drawn into long conversations with them.
  5. Giving or sending them occasional gifts.

Returning the bad deeds of one’s enemies with good deeds is possible without allowing them to go on harming you. All it needs is a little prudence, firmness and discretion. People treat us a certain way only if we allow them to.

The best example from the Qur’an of repelling evil with good that I can think of, is the way Prophet Yusuf handled his half-brothers on meeting them again, in Egypt, when he was in a position that allowed him to have the upper hand over them.

He used the wisdom, discretion, and shrewdness that he had acquired as a result of enduring years of hardship, to reveal his true identity to them only after he had made them agree to a business deal/contract, according to the terms and conditions of which, they had to leave his younger brother with him before returning home with the purchased grain.

Yusuf knew only too well how they had plotted against him when he was young, benign and naive. Once they came to Egypt after he had become (unbeknownst to them) the government-appointed treasurer, he didn’t do or say anything that would enable them to put him (or his younger brother) in a weak, compromising position again.

Rather, he used his knowledge of their mindset, nature and specific personal situation (viz. need of grains due to famine) to make them bring not only his younger brother to him, but also his aging parents.

As I said above, I have had life experiences that corroborate what I am saying here: using the strategy outlined by Allah in the Qur’an with our enemies in the long term, of returning their ad deeds with good (without compromising on our personal safety/distance/boundaries from their harmful actions), brings about surefire results: it is the single most wonderful way of ‘killing’ our antagonists’ enmity towards us, and making them our friends instead.

But it takes years; it doesn’t happen overnight. Very few people have the patience to go the distance with this strategy.

Maybe that is why most of our enemies remain our enemies throughout life, because we harbor grudges and indulge in doing their gheebah to let off steam, instead of following the recommendations of the Qur’an to get rid of the enmity between us and them for good.

The Mills Grind Slowly, But Surely

This is definitely not the last life lesson that I have gleaned from the Qur’an, but it is the last one I intend to discuss here, due to word-count and post-length constraints (this post has again become quite long by now, hasn’t it? So what else is new?).

To put it briefly, it takes a certain amount of time pre-appointed by Allah for decrees to happen; for things to reach fruition; for visions to be accomplished, and for missions to be completed.

As I said above, man is a creature of haste. Man wants to get what he desires quickly and immediately. Yet, the all-wise plan of Allah is based upon His limitless Divine knowledge of the Unseen (الغيب).

Many a thing that we desperately want can take years in coming, because Allah knows at what exact time that thing will be beneficial for us to have.

The Qur’an itself took 23 years to be revealed in totality. This process (i.e. the total revelation of Allah’s final message of guidance to all of mankind) also involved many ground-breaking and difficult events, incidents and situations in the lives of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his companions.

Many, many a time, man wants to achieve his goal or attain a particular blessing as quickly as a snap of his fingers. However, the Qur’an teaches us that there is a law of Allah that cannot be changed, no matter how much we want or try to hasten outcomes: reaching a certain place, or acquiring a certain blessing takes time.

إِنَّا كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَاهُ بِقَدَرٍ

Verily, all things have We created in proportion and measure.” [54:49]

Combined with apparent Divine ‘delays’ in the culmination of our desired goals, missions, and outcomes, man’s haste and impatience causes his own frustration and distress.

For example, a human baby can never be born in just a month or two. Creation of each human life that comes into this world, has been decreed according to a pre-ordained amount of time (9 months, give or take a little).

The same law applies to aging. A person can never grow up overnight and reach a certain age, without passing each and every year (365 days) in between. No amount of haste can allow a 10 year old child to become 25 years old overnight.

The above examples are just of the exact, known preordained amounts of time that is needed for obtaining tangible things/goals. But what about the uncertain time intervals that are needed to be passed before attaining certain other, more surreal blessings, which only Allah knows about?

E.g The time that is required to achieve or acquire intangible types of provision, such as knowledge, wisdom, and insight. Or the exact amount of time that has to be passed before a person’s marriage is decreed, or the birth of their child, or the acquisition of provisions such as a high-paying job, a house, and the car of their dreams?

Man can never ever be sure of the the exact length/amount of these preordained time intervals; only Allah knows.

وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ عِندَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ وَمَا نُنَزِّلُهُ إِلاَّ بِقَدَرٍ مَّعْلُومٍ

And there is not a thing but its (sources and) treasures (inexhaustible) are with Us; but We only send down thereof in due and ascertainable measure.” [15:21]

So when things appear to be taking ‘too long’ in coming to him, man begins to get hopeless and despondent.

The truth is, that no matter how hard he pursues the means to achieve his desired ends, man can never be sure that at the end of his toils, he will surely acquire those ends. For this, he is totally dependent upon the will of Allah; waiting needily for Allah to say “Be!” regarding his decreed provision, so that he can get it.

The Qur’an has taught me that delays (or what I perceive to be delays) in the acquisition of goals and blessings are always for my own good. There are many things that I now realize, as I look back at the approximately three and a half decades of my life, that they came at a preordained time that was just right, even though I was getting impatient to get them sooner back then.

Even right now, when there are apparent delays in some of my dua’s being answered, alhamdulillah, I seem to know better. I know that my Lord will never decree something for me before the time for it is just right – for my own benefit and good.


So there they are: five valuable pearls of timeless wisdom that I have gleaned from reciting and pondering upon the Qur’an, bi idhnillah. لَا قُوَّةَ اِلَّا بِالله

What have you learned? Please share. :)

Posted in Islamic Knowledge, Pleasing Allah, Quran, Reflections and Reminders | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

10 Years Later: Yes, We Came Back From Canada, and No, We Still Don’t Regret It

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

This is a very long blog post again, more like an eBook. I am a non-fiction book author now, so what else can you expect? Grab a cup of coffee before you sit down.

This past month has been rather sentimental for me. Because it was October. October 2014.

You see, ten years ago, in early October 2004 (3rd to be exact), I returned permanently from my apartment in North York, Toronto, Canada to Karachi, Pakistan after my husband and I mutually decided that we wouldn’t raise our children there.


The apartment building where we lived in North York, Toronto. Image courtesy: Google Maps

Seasoned Toronto dwellers might be interested to know that we were situated on Forest Manor Road, near Don Mills Subway Station, Fairview Mall, and next to Forest Manor Public School. We used to go for walks in Parkway Forest Park. Iqbal Halal Foods was our halal meat stop, and Masjid Darussalam at Thorncliffe Park was our Jumuah stop.

I was two months pregnant at that time. And very sick due to excessive nausea and vomiting, which was not a famous condition back then.

Unlike it is now. Thanks to Kate Middleton’s pregnancies.

In fact, I owe Kate a big thank you, suffering as she is once again nowadays, poor thing. You see, because of Kate, the condition of Hyperemesis Gravidarum is actually something that people are now aware of, talking about, discussing, and most importantly, accepting as a reality for a very small percentage of pregnant women going through their first trimester.

Back then, assuming that I was experiencing the ‘normal’ variety of nausea and vomiting associated with early pregnancy, I got the, “But this happens to every woman during the first trimester. Why’d you come back? You needed to be pampered, didn’t you? ” too often to recount. Too condescendingly, presumptuously to recount.

So, earlier this month, as the date of 3rd October 2004 came, I reminisced much about the same date ten years ago, when I hopped off a plane in Karachi, which I’d boarded from Toronto — on a one-way ticket.

Little did that naive, 26-year-old, newly pregnant me know what she was in for.

For the rest of her life.

The Question that Still Lingers

“So, why’d you come back? It must have been just because of your pregnancy, right?”

Sigh. The number of times I have been asked this question. Bleh.

Apparently, anyone who gives up the many “benefits” that can be availed by being a Canadian citizen, in order to remain ‘just’ a Pakistani passport holder, is either crazy, hasty, or just plain stupid.

First of all, I do not owe anyone an explanation or justification for our decision to return. To each their own.

So why write this post then? Well, because I know one thing for sure: that many people still wonder whether we regret coming back, even just a little bit. This post should serve to enlighten them well about that, insha’Allah.

After all, it has been ten years. A whole decade.

And although my husband is a Canadian citizen (yawn), since he has spent 3 years living in Canada (where he landed as an immigrant to do his second MBA), me and my children are not.

I did become a permanent resident when I landed in Canada, i.e. I went to Canada as a landed immigrant (permanent resident) and not on a visit visa, only because my husband wanted me to take that option after our nikah, so that I could live there with him while he was there.

At the time after my nikah, when we both started putting together my application as my husband’s soon-to-be-sponsored “spouse or conjugal partner” (*chortle*), I was rather ignorant of the whole immigration process and what it entails. I just did what the elders and husband asked me to do.

I also assumed that, since so many Pakistani’s are constantly migrating to, and apparently seem to be happily settling down in Canada, I would too.

At this point in the story, I’d like to point out how no one, not a single person I knew, who had relatives/friends settled in Canada, told me anything about what life in Canada is generally like for married Pakistani women, except for two people.

One, a sister at Al-Huda said, “It is good that you will be going there for the first time in the summer. Else you’d have suffered a weather shock.” Which was news to me. She told me that the extremely cold weather came as a “shock” for newcomers, who got depressed because of it. Another aunty told me that I’d need to get a job, else I’d suffer from depression due to staying at home. My husband had also once told me that it was extremely cold during winters. But that was about it.

No one asked me to read up about Pakistani immigrants’ life in Canada, or to talk to immigrants already living in Canada as wives or mothers, to know what it’s like, or to prepare myself for what was in store for us in the future.

All the people whom I met between my nikah and rukhsati used to just ask me this question, “So, have you learned how to cook?”

Yawn. Cooking. The ultimate life-saving skill a wife needs to survive marriage. Right?

Actually, the truth is, that immigrants don’t talk openly about all aspects of their life abroad (especially the negative ones) with Pakistanis who are still living here (more on that below in the post).

I found out what immigrant life is like only after landing there, when immigrant families who were living there since many years candidly opened up and started talking to me about what challenges I’d face there from then onwards. But they did that i.e. became honest and open about the hard work, sacrifice and other problems we’d need to endure there, only when they thought we had come to live there for good.

That is, they talk openly about the negative aspects of their immigrant lives with a fellow Pakistani, only once the latter has permanently crossed over to their side, and has (apparently) burned all bridges of ever returning to Pakistan. That is when they become candid.

Anyhow, 3 months in Toronto, and I decided that living in Canada for 3 years, birthing my first child there (yeah, we both were very eager to have a baby as soon as we got married) and then taking an oath at the end of that term, to swear allegiance to a Queen I didn’t know, in which I would be required to promise the Canadian government that I would henceforth obey every law of their country, was just not worth it.

In my book, that is.

Taking an Oath: A Very Serious Matter

I believe that Allah will question me very, very strictly about any oaths that I take, including any oath of citizenship; any allegiances that I form (especially as an adult, sane Muslim, to a non-Muslim government that is openly hostile towards non-resident Muslims, has killed hundreds of thousands of Muslims in other countries, or has openly supported their massacre, and has invaded Muslim lands by force, more than once); or any promises that I make about which laws to abide by during my life, and which society to work for the betterment of. According to Wikipedia, the oath of Canadian citizenship goes like this:

“I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

Now, I did not choose the place in which I was born, so that is something my parents (or their parents) will be questioned about. That is, I will not be questioned by Allah about what my birth nationality is.

However, I will be questioned about which nationality I proactively chose for myself as a Muslim adult, and which one I also chose for my Muslim children, by e.g. deliberately birthing them in a certain country, or by taking them there as immigrants, and consciously choosing to raise them there.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

وَأَوْفُواْ بِالْعَهْدِ إِنَّ الْعَهْدَ كَانَ مَسْؤُولاً

“And be true to every promise – for, verily, you will be called to account for every promise which you have made.” [17:34]

Allah will also question me very strictly about how I raised my kids, and where, and why. He will also question Muslim parents about why they relocated from one place to another, and how the move(s) affected the upbringing of their children.

Raising a child is a job that takes less than two decades, but which has an enormous impact on the parents’ future generations. That is, the way you raise your child (and where, because each place has it’s own unique impact on the child) will affect your lineage decades, even centuries, down the road.

So parenting is definitely not a job that one can be laid-back about, or which a Muslim can allow to be affected by short-term, career-related decisions like where to live, especially since many studies indicate how a child’s personality is fully developed as early as age 5.

So I bailed out, because I had no intention of swearing allegiance to a non-Muslim government (especially one that legally allows homosexual marriages). No matter how “Islamic” their systems were. No matter how clean their environment/water was. No matter how “free” their public education and healthcare was. And no matter how safe and secure it was for us (and our future kids) to live there as compared to the polluted, politically unstable and wrought-with-injustice city of Karachi, Pakistan.

Secondly, though we came back primarily because we decided to raise our children in Karachi, and hence spare them any confusions, challenges and conflicts related to self-esteem, identity, race, and ethnicity as they grew up, there were several other factors too.

And no, it wasn’t because I felt marginalized in Toronto because of my hijab. Actually, I always went out in Toronto wearing niqab, hijab and abaya (even my signature black one!), but never experienced anything out of the ordinary, except perhaps a little coldness in attitude from some women whom I interacted with in public, e.g. the cashier at a store, or the government office employees where I went for formalities related to my social security card, and health card.

One of the main reasons that we came back, was probably because I do not possess the immigrant mindset. And because of this, I admit that I felt extremely out-of-place among the Pakistani immigrants that I knew there, just because of my different way of thinking. So what is “the immigrant mindset”?

The Immigrant Mindset

I have written about 3 broad mindsets related to money before. But in this post, I want to address the ‘immigrant mindset’ in particular, which was one of the main reasons why my husband and I decided not to permanently settle in Canada.

And before any Pakistani-Canadian readers here decide to take this personally, I want to point out that the ‘immigrant’ mindset applies to all immigrants, regardless of ethnicity and religious belief.

For example, this mindset could even be possessed by someone hailing from a rural village in Pakistan, who emigrates to one of the Muslim countries in the GCC to seek a better livelihood.

It would also be possessed by e.g. a Spanish/Brazilian/Mexican/Italian immigrant who decides to relocate to USA for pursuing the chances of a better life for his or her future generations.

So please do not take any undue offense if you or your parents emigrated from one country to another for the sake of a better life (or, in particular, if you or your parents have emigrated to Canada from Pakistan), because none is intended.

Characteristics of an immigrant mindset that I couldn’t see myself adopting in the future, even if I tried to, are:

→ Immense love for, awe, amazement at, and admiration of, their adopted country’s culture, level of development, infrastructure, systems (healthcare, law enforcement, education, civic), values, and society. And by that I mean, golf-ball-eyed, star-struck, gaze-affixed, speechless, how-amazing-is-this-country-and-it’s-people type of awe. Uncheck this box. I felt no such thing.

→ Love of foreign currency, especially the “daaler” (dollar). Uncheck this box again. You can show me bills totaling a million dollars in your possession and I wouldn’t feel like snatching them from you, one bit. Bless you.

→ A barely disguised contempt and disdain for the culture and people that they left behind. This is actually one of the prime reasons that immigrants run off to more developed countries in the first place: to escape the rampant ignorance, filth, chaos, injustice, disease, danger to life, political instability, and corruption that they encounter in their home countries.

→ Not being able to mentally “let go” of the culture that they left behind, despite disliking the country and people from which it originated. So Pakistani immigrants might continue to identify themselves as “Pakistani” even whilst hating their past life in Pakistan inwardly, and even after choosing to live in another country for decades, and always inwardly fearing the prospect of being forcibly sent back to Pakistan by the government of their adopted country.

Never is this dichotomy more apparent than on 14th August every year, when this day is often celebrated more zealously by Pakistani’s living in other countries, than by those living in the country itself.

They become teary-eyed with emotion as they express their love for “their country” whilst attending 14th August independence day dinners, but they don’t want to come back and live in it.

Contradiction much?

Another way that this refusal to “let go” of Pakistani habits and culture, is apparent in the way immigrants keep protecting them and holding on to them within the confines of their homes, even after decades e.g. you’ll never hear of Pakistani Muslims eating chocolate waffles or blueberry pancakes for breakfast on Eid morning, it will always have to be sheer khurma.

Or in how they conveniently keep visiting their homeland whenever they need to save their moneydaalers” (or any other foreign currency that they love to earn, but not spend) i.e. whenever cheaper products or services can be more easily availed from back home.


Cheaper wedding banquets. Cheaper (and more servile/easier to control) daughters-in-law. Cheaper but much more exquisite and beautiful gold jewelry. Cheaper and beautiful traditional couture i.e. Pakistani wedding clothes, or office attire (even official pant-suits are so much cheaper and much better stitched by the good ol’ paan-chewing tailors in Pakland). Ah, the Pakistani textile industry – be it pretwear or unstitched cloth – there is none like it in the world, is there? (I’m not kidding or being sarcastic here).

Then there’s cheaper and organic leather products made from halal animals e.g. bags, belts, wallets, and luggage. Cheaper and much more delicious Pakistani mangoes (during summers).

Cheaper sons-in-law (for aging daughters) who can be readily imported from back home. Cheaper undergraduate/college education, especially for Pakistani immigrants who live in the GCC, where their children are allowed admission only into a few “Pakistani” colleges, if at all (thanks to emiratisation), or those American kids who want to become doctors but cannot afford medical school fees in the US.

Examples of cheaper services: massages/treatments at spas, haircuts at saloons, or henna done by professional mehndi wali’s; customized, personal tailoring for clothes; getting invitation cards for weddings printed in bulk.

Cheaper medicines. Cheaper textbooks (Urdu Bazar zindabad!). Cheaper but more compassionate and expert specialist doctors. Cheaper nannies and maids. Cheaper cooks and drivers.

You get the idea? “Cheaper, cheaper, cheaper” being the key word that keeps immigrants tied to, and returning often on visits to, Pakistan. On economy-class, no-stop, “no frills” PIA flights (more on the flights below).

Or understand it better this way: they want to earn more money, in the coveted golden foreign currency (such as the daaler), but they want to spend money only in Pakistani rupees.

They want to live physically in a cleaner, more developed country, but have left their hearts back home, here in Pakistan.

→ Thinking before every decision, big or small, personal, professional, or familial: “But if we have to live here, we must _______ | we cannot _________ | we will have to _________.”

That is, their desire and goal to assimilate, settle down in, and succeed in their adopted country/culture supersedes and surpasses all other decisions. ALL other decisions.

Below, are some of the characteristics of the way of life of an immigrant, according to my personalized experiences and interactions with them, which I could not see myself adopting as a lifestyle, not even just for 3 years:

The Immigrant Lifestyle

Please don’t be incensed now, if you are. I am openly admitting that the problem lies with me. I am perhaps too inflexible as a person, too stuck to my rigid morals and ethical principles for living life, to adapt myself to a foreign culture, or to let my head hang just a wee bit lower in apologetic servility as an outsider, in order to assimilate into another country to reap personal benefits doled out to me, or to my kids, by it’s government.

Anyhow, if you still want to read more about the way of life of an immigrant, please go ahead:

→ Penny pinching.

Saving every single dirham/dinar/dollar/euro during their initial struggling years after emigration. Which means: spending as little of it as possible, but striving to earn as much of it as they can.

Waiting for annual sales to purchase clothing and other items (or going back to Pakistan to purchase them. Did I mention that they are cheaper in Pakistan?).

The cycle goes something like this: the immigrant spends the first one or two decades post-emigration pinching pennies, cutting out coupons, and buying from discount/clearance store outlets only.

By the time they reach financial stability (after 2 decades, usually) they are buying from the better known stores and chains, but the likes of Porsche, Gucci, Prada and Yves Saint Laurent still evade them until perhaps their children are in their thirties.

Despite reaching a state of being quite financially well off, however (e.g. being the wife of a gainfully employed, practicing neurosurgeon), I have yet to come across a Pakistani immigrant housewife in the West who employs a part-time housekeeper/maid for housecleaning.

I’ve heard of backyards being mowed, floors being polished on all fours, walls/roofs being painted with bare hands. I’ve heard of them gifting $100 to a relative once in a while; but what I have never heard of, is a Pakistani housewife in the West spending $50-$120 to hire a maid to even partially spring-clean her home, not even once in a while.

Not even if she is very ill, or hospitalized, or in need of extra care.

Immigrants will ask relatives in another city, or family friends nearby, to come over (by driving 4-8 hours, never on an airplane) and provide them with urgently needed favors and services (such as cooking or babysitting), but will not pay for professional services in the same category, even if they have the money to pay for them.

→ Social drinking and eating of non-zabihah meat (this applies to Muslims who used to abstain from these, and considered them haram, back in their “homeland”). Enough said.

→ Being eligible for mostly lower-social-class and blue collar jobs (at first, at least). At some point, every immigrant faces discrimination at the workplace. Consequently, an immigrant almost always needs to “settle” for “lesser” jobs because of belonging to a minority in their adopted country.

Again, I’d like to give a local example of this. The jobs of domestic help, attendants/nurses, sweepers, cooks/chefs, and waiters in Pakistan are mostly taken up by local Christians and Hindus.

Very few from these ethnic/religious minorities make it up the corporate ladder in Pakistani companies, and that also happens only if they change their name to a more “Muslim sounding” one and/or do not openly practice their religious beliefs in public. E.g. the female nursing attendants employed for my (now deceased) invalid grandmother were mostly Christians. And they’d change their name to fit in e.g. Mary would go by Maryam, Berna went by Parveen, etc.

Another example, if I may be allowed to quote it?

In USA, most nannies, butlers and maids employed by wealthy people belong to the immigrant working class i.e. they are non-white immigrants from other countries, who usually speak little and heavily accented English.

→ Not openly discussing the things that they dislike about their life in their adopted country after emigrating to it, with anyone “back home”, except during very secret, hush-hush conversations with confidantes.

I have already experienced this personally while I was in Canada, albeit for only 3 months.

I have no idea why it seems as if immigrants sign a “code of silence” or something! Is it so difficult to be blatantly truthful, upfront, factual and neutral about all aspects of their immigrant life, including the negative ones?

You want an example? Here goes.

You know I love living in Karachi, right, and that I was born and bred here? Well, now you do.

Anyway, here are the things I dislike about my life here:

Grave/saint worship at mazar’s (viz. open acceptance of the biggest sin in Islam: shirk), bomb blasts, cell-phone-theft, shootings/killings, widespread muggings and robberies, rampant misogyny, dirt and filth, power outages, crazy road traffic; overflowing roadside gutters, street beggars, huge garbage dumps, mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, and the geckos that eat them; the excessive heat and humidity during May-June every year, paan-chewing and spitting in public places; how the whole business community in the city rises late in the mornings, and everyone sleeps in late on weekends hereby losing out on the early morning blessings/barakah (including me, I can’t seem to stay awake for long after sunrise); extravagant, wasteful, late-night wedding parties; political and civic strife shutting the city down every few days or weeks.

The above list was not difficult for me to lay out before you at all. I feel no qualms about stating the facts about a city that I love to live in.

Now, please can you tell me, whether you are an immigrant to the UAE, Saudia, USA, Canada, UK, Australia, or Europe, why you do not talk about the things you dislike about your life in your country when you come and visit us in Pakistan?

What is it that stops you?

→ Changing their definition of “modesty” and morality according to the social situation and short-term objective to be achieved, primarily that which has got to do with promoting social assimilation and integration (more on that below), or a boost of their career.

Situations according to which standards of morality are conveniently switched/changed, like gears in a car: when shaking hands with a person of the opposite gender during an interaction that is career-related; wearing a forced amiable facial expression when beholding graphic and gratuitous PDA (public display of affection), nudity on public beaches, homosexual marriages, Gay Pride parades, or Mardi Gras, or indulgent alcohol consumption (“Spring breaaaaak!”) — despite being inwardly disgusted by these and other aspects of the culture of their adopted country that they wouldn’t dream of personally acquiring for themselves or for their children.

→ Not attending their parents’ funeral “back home” because they just visited the country 2 months prior to it, and they cannot buy another ticket just yet, viz. spend $1000 on yet another return trip.

Don’t fire me for saying this. I have seen quite a few real-life cases of adults who couldn’t didn’t attend their elderly parents’ funeral because of this reason.

Maybe missing this event (i.e. being by your elderly parent’s side as they depart this world) is not a big deal in your book, but it is a HUGE deal in mine. May Allah save me from ever being in such a situation. Ameen.

→ Taking an 8-18 hour flight once year, or a few times a year, for renewing their visas (i.e. effectively being asked to exit the country and re-enter it, by law), for visiting relatives, or attending weddings “back home”.

Having to take such “obligatory” flights with little children, an infant, or a toddler is definitely not an easy task, especially if your husband is not accompanying you. But flying like this is part of life for an immigrant. And yeah, sure, they get used to it. All the more power to them.

Most immigrants do not stop taking these flights even after becoming citizens of a foreign country. Or even if they have lived for 20+ years somewhere in the GCC or the West.

As long as they have relatives, property, or other roots in Pakistan, the need for them to ‘ride two boats at the same time’ will prevail.

And they will have to take these uncomfortable, economy-class flights (which also dig a small hole in their pocket each time) for an indefinite time period.

But I couldn’t see myself doing that just for the sake of becoming a Canadian citizen. Yup, I’m not much of a long-distance traveler, you see. Rigid old me. :P

→ Socially avoiding/cutting off a certain “other” category of immigrants hailing from the same homeland as them, when they socialize at events in their adopted country.

For example, an immigrant yuppy who drinks, parties and openly lives with his/her ‘gori‘ girlfriend/’gora‘ boyfriend will never attend a religious social event where desi uncles/aunties will be present sporting the latest formal shalwar kameez outfits and talking loudly in their ‘FOB‘ accents as they discuss the latest Geo News update/Pakistani morning show episode over spicy, oil-rich Chicken Biryani and ghee-laden gajar ka halwa.

Despite hailing from the same city and country, both immigrant categories will be totally scandalized by the lifestyle and choices of the other, so they’ll socially avoid each other like the plague.

You see, the first kind of immigrant has “assimilated” completely into their adopted country’s culture and people, but the latter has not.

→ Which brings me to the creme de la creme of an immigrant’s dilemma post emigration, which hangs like a dark cloud over their lives as soon as they ‘get off the boat’, so to speak: the pressure to integrate and assimilate.

Each and every immigrant who lives as part of a minority in their adopted country, feels the pressure to assimilate.

Remember, I am not taking just religion into account here as I describe this point. It has got more to do with living as a (visibly) ethnic minority member as part of a larger, foreign, cultural majority.

The pressure to assimilate applies to every immigrant, but especially so to religious minorities anywhere in the world. E.g. even to the Christians, Zoroastrians, Shia’s, Ahmedi’s, and Hindus living in Karachi.

Because of fear of persecution, marginalization or ostracization, they live in close-knit communities, near each other, and hold on tightly to their different cultural/religious practices in the privacy of their homes, because of the fact that they are a minority. E.g. they change their names and are forced to do other things (such as call their god “Allah”, and not Bhagwan/Jesus, in public) in order to blend in/assimilate into mainstream society.

Just as a FYI: if I had been born into one of the persecuted minorities in Karachi (alhamdulillah that I wasn’t), I’d probably have left this city a long time ago.

As I said above, changing their name, wardrobe and conversational accent/style in order to assimilate and ‘blend in’, is the expected norm for most immigrants. E.g. Salman eventually goes by “Sal”, Nauman eventually goes by “Nammy”, Khalid becomes “Kal”, Shahzad becomes “Shaz”, and Abdullah adopts a new name altogether.

I can only imagine what an “Osama” would call himself after emigrating to the West. “Ossie”, or “Sam”? :\

→ Always facing the risk of being passive-aggressively and derisively told by their host country’s nationals to “Go home” as they cross paths in public. Always. We are “brown”, accented, Urdu-speaking people after all; the outsiders struggling to fit in; the ‘others’ who have come to their country from elsewhere, in pursuit of a better life/home/education/career/livelihood for themselves and their children.

Now please, take a deep breath.


Now, read this: The above list is not my personal judgment about immigrants.

It is merely a list of things that I have observed in most of the immigrants whom I know.

These are all of the things that I could not envision myself doing on a permanent or a long-term basis, in my own life, by going on living in Canada.

I just didn’t think the sacrifice of my current lifestyle; and proactively changing my current goals for my children, and ‘adapting’ my personal moral values, habits, and principles to fit in to another culture/country, was worth it.

And yes, I didn’t have any desire to raise my children in Canada, as Canadians, despite knowing that public-school education is free; that one day their undergraduate, college tuition fee would be reduced to a third if they became citizens of Canada; despite knowing that I’d get “free” healthcare (there is a reason I put that “free” in quotes, by the way); despite knowing that the Canadian passport would lift visa restrictions/fees and open travel doors wide for us in many countries of the world; despite knowing that a Canadian citizen earns much more than a Pakistani passport-holder, almost everywhere in the GCC (due to discriminative salary scales, based on nationality).

I was the problem. I couldn’t change. I couldn’t see myself bending, adapting, and changing my goals, values, morals, lifestyle, and priorities for the sake of acquiring the citizenship of Canada, and for the sake of living there.

That, and did I mention that I didn’t particularly like the prospect of living in a deep freezer for 6 months a year? :)

No, I didn’t mention that, did I?

Nor did I mention that my husband, despite holding an MBA degree from the University of New Brunswick, couldn’t land a halal permanent job in Canada throughout his 3-year stay there.

Nor did I mention how the taste of the meat, vegetables, fruit, milk and all other food in North America is off-puttingly bland in comparison to that in Pakistan?

Nope. I didn’t mention any of those other points, did I?

Hmph. What does this ignorant niqabi Pakistani woman know anyway, about how wonderful other countries are compared to her loser Karachi? What has she seen of the developed world, boxed in as she is into her own self-imposed cage?”

Last, but not least, before I sign off, I’d like to list, just for your information, the places, cities and countries of the world that I have visited, prior to landing in Canada as an immigrant in 2004.

This is not an attempt to brag, please. It is actually a very humble and small list compared to the innumerable places most of you have probably visited around the world yourself.

So why am I displaying this list here? So that all the readers of this post can have an idea about how “enlightened” by international travel I was prior to landing in Canada as a FOB. :P

And I want to pinpoint that when I visited each of the places below, I wore my signature headscarf, abaya, and niqab pulled over my face (all guidance is from Allah), and I visited all of these places in 2001, at the age of 22-23, except for the last one.

  1. London, UK. Oxford Street. Marble Arch. British Museum. Rode a Double-Decker red bus (and loved it!). Paddington Station. Claire’s. Trafalgar Square. Big Ben. Selfridges.
  2. Wilmslow, Manchester, UK. Visited the largest outlet of Marks and Spencer that is located in Manchester (I didn’t like anything much at the multistory store, so I came out empty-handed). Royal Doulton.
  3. Troy, Michigan, USA. Mervyn’s (now defunct). Somerset Mall. Claire’s (again). Build A Bear. Tuesday Morning. JCPenney.
  4. Downtown Detroit (on a deserted Sunday). Monorail ride. Fed seagulls on the side of a lake that I cannot recall the name of. All I remember is that we could see the skyline of Windsor Border in the distance.
  5. Downtown Chicago. Lake shore Drive. Navy Pier. Tram ride for tourists. Sears Tower (now Wills Tower) Sky deck. Illinois Institute of Technology campus (sat down to read a bit in the library, visited their cafeteria). Payless Shoes. Chicago Union Station. Took an Amtrak train from Chicago, Illinois to Dearborn, Michigan and back.
  6. Bloomingdale, Chicago (a suburb). Dominick’s (now defunct). Marshal Fields mall (now defunct).
  7. Niagra Falls, Canada. Tim Horton’s. Walmart.
  8. Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah, Saudi Arabia (2002).

Conclusion – The World is Big Enough for All of Us

Yes, yes, I know, if a list could be compiled detailing all of the things wrong with Pakistan, Pakistani society, and Pakistani people, especially the port city Karachi, it would by far outnumber any other list of vices, evils and injustices related to all the other places on this planet lumped together.

It is probably true, that Karachi is one of the worst cities in the world, to live in! But what can I say?

Except that I am happy for you where ever you might be living, and the life choices you might be making.

It would be great if you can also be broad-minded and respectful enough to accept my rejection of Canadian immigration and of a life in the West, as a proof of humankind’s “unity in diversity”.

If my rejection of living in Canada or anywhere else in the world as an immigrant, brings any kind of awkwardness into our friendship/relationship as adults (I am 36 right now), then that means that one of us has still got some growing up and mental maturing to do.

Everyone is different, and my choice to not live in a country as a minority member or an immigrant, or to raise my children as minority members and second-generation immigrants, is not meant to be a judgment of your choice, or your parents’ choice, to do the same.

I hope that after reading this post, you will never feel the need to ask me the question, “So, why’d you come back from Canada?”

And even if you do, I’m hoping that you won’t. I think we all can live and let live.

And if you are a Pakistani who can’t wait to leave Pakistan to escape from the very real problems that we all are facing whilst living here, believe me, I wish you and your family nothing but the very best, from the bottom of my heart.

Bon Voyage! [*Waves hand vigorously*] :)

Posted in Current Affairs, Pleasing Allah, Reflections and Reminders, Retrospection, Social Psychology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments