It has long been observed in history, and also practically proved true through recent studies, that tea-houses and cafés helped nurture and polish the writing of many a writer and poet in the history of mankind. In the modern-day, coffee houses definitely help telecommuters and freelancers boost their creativity.
One of the advantages of being not-so-young anymore, more independent, and having children who are beyond the diaper-clad, tantrum-throwing stage, — is that, thankfully, I now get to sometimes make escapades to a nearby cafe, or any other secluded & quiet public place, to find a space to think with more focus, jot down ideas, make lists of my past articles (and juggle the items on these lists around until they resemble a semblance of a non-fiction book), and work on some long-neglected drafts, to name a few.
I did not expect the change i.e. working in a space besides my usual home environment, to have such a sudden and profound effect, but yes, it did the trick. The first time I did this little writer’s café jaunt/exercise, I was amazed at the result!
Pining for some peace and quiet (which can sometimes get rare at home, due to our children always being around, masha’Allah) I had taken a journal along with me at a favorite tea-place (more on that below) while my children hung out with my hubby somewhere else. Within just an hour, I had created better lists and brainstormed more ideas on paper, than in the many weeks/months that I’d spent at home in my little “bedroom-office” (which is another name for just my small desk with a Mac on it; don’t let your imagination run wild thinking of some hi-fi, elaborate home-office space).
So what nearby cafés in DHA, Karachi have helped me attain a rare change of routine and space, giving a sudden boost to my writing work? Here is a list, below:
I was really a big fan of Papparoti after it first opened in Dolmen Mall, Clifton. I loved it’s elaichi chai and bun (without topping).
Why is that thought in the past tense now, you might wonder? No specific reason, except that one naturally moves on and grows out of some likes. I do not go there much now, but did so regularly, some years ago.
Once, I went there with my journal, and sat for some time on one of their corner, two-seating tables to have some chai and me-time. It really helped me clear my head, and I jotted down some great ideas, which now physically exist in real life as my first few self-published books.
I was quite amazed at how much of a difference a simple change of environment can make upon one’s capacity to think, plan, and brainstorm!
But you need a relatively quiet and undisturbed space in order to be able to achieve that.
Gloria Jeans Coffees
This café, also located in Dolmen Mall Clifton, is not exactly the ideal place for working, at first glance. It is usually very crowded and blares off-putting loud music (more on that below) during its busy hours.
But physically, when it is emptier, the GJC outlet at Dolmen Mall, Clifton, is actually quite a cozy little café that has several quaint corners affording more privacy than others, including a wide balcony with a view of the sea.
When it is not crowded, the music is not on, and the televisions are turned off or muted (i.e. during business “slump” times), it transforms into a quiet little writer’s haven, complete with wooden bookshelves lined with books, and sockets on the ground next to some couches that allow diners to charge their laptops and smartphones.
Plus, it is perhaps the only café in Karachi where I have actually seen some people (including seniors) do some official work, read a book alone, or conduct professional-type meetings, with several folders and documents sprawled out on the coffee table in front of them.
The food is nothing out of the ordinary though. However, this outlet of GJC at Dolmen Mall has helped me relax and work on my writing more than a few times, along with help from some coffee and cake, of course.
As my three children jet off to nearby Sindbad together, I can enjoy a half hour or so of uninterrupted work, with a nice view of the sea, as I jot down some ideas and plan my forthcoming writing projects.
And also have a small cappuccino while I’m at it.
Pane & Amore Café (the balcony)
This cupcake café happens to be at a short walking distance from our apartment!
When it relaunched and relocated to Zamzama a few years ago, it came with a lovely terraced seating area in its new design. This balcony affords diners more privacy and seclusion from the rest of the café. At night, this terrace is illuminated with lovely string lights.
It also has a four-seating table in one corner that is more secluded and surrounded by potted plants.
Once or twice, I have escaped to this table on their balcony for some quiet work time (including having a cupcake, with a cup of tea). Although the din from the noisy, bustling commercial area below would hardly make this place qualify as a “quiet” place to work, it is still a charming getaway for ‘aunties’ like myself. And I am already used to the surrounding din as I live just a stone’s throw away, anyway.
As for their cupcakes: they are hands down the best you can have in Pakistan!
Although, truth be told, I do enjoy savory finger food more.
Silk Lounge in Madinah
So. Unbelievably. Peaceful.
Ah, Madinah! The city of our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. A place that I could call my second home, judging from the connection that I feel to it, and the impact that it always has on my heart and soul. It’s cool breeze, it’s aura of Allah’s mercy, it’s lovely people, it’s simple food. I could go on and on about my beloved Madinah.
I have had the supreme honor of working on my writing at this peaceful silk lounge, with a lovely view of Masjid Al-Nabawi in the distance, which is visible from some of its windows. The lounge is quiet, even though it is at walking distance from the Prophet’s masjid, and hardly occupied by people at all, throughout the day.
It is quite exquisitely decorated, and very quiet and peaceful. The two wall-mounted television sets display only the images from the cameras in the nearby Masjid Al-Nabawi, with the volume muted. It has dining tables and chairs, as well as couches and sofas. The savory and sweet items served for high-tea comprise mostly of hors d’oeuvres -type finger food prepared by professional chefs. I tried Carpaccio for the first time at this lounge!
Nearby, in a private corner, there is one of the cleanest and most state-of-the-art ladies’ washrooms you could ask for (individual hand towels!?). The minimalist waiting staff does not bother you at all while you write or work (Arab men in Madinah respect women’s privacy so much, it is almost other-worldly).
Working in this lounge was truly a beautiful experience, and I thank Allah for having let me work on my writing in the blessed city of His beloved Prophet ﷺ, and so near his masjid!
My personal preferences for writing, or working on planning my future writings, which almost always involves thinking long and hard, coming up with ideas, and jotting down lists, in addition to actually writing, at any public place besides home, almost always involve the following must-have’s:
No music! This is a no-brainer, of course. I believe that music is forbidden in Islam, so I cannot work anywhere if there is constant loud music, unless it is faint, intermittent, or at a distance. However, since we live in an imperfect world, I do not allow forbidden things to make me a hermit and never step out of my home at all (and believe me, I love staying at home, as I have exhorted many a time in the past, and I usually need a valid reason to leave it). After all, some passing young Muslim girl just might spot me working in a cafe, and be inspired, just the way I was when I was seventeen.
Dimly-lit, cozy corners, indoor potted plants, and large, comfortable, dark-colored couches. I love dim lighting with lamps around to illuminate the surface that I am writing on (such as a journal or notebook). As for technology, it is self-illuminating, so all the more workable in dimly lit spaces. Plus, dim lighting and tall potted plants help me preserve my privacy.
Air conditioning. Yeah, yeah, I am a bit of a high-maintenance person. I can not work anywhere in the summers unless the temperature is below 30 degrees Celsius. And nor can any other professional who takes their work seriously. So yes, if it is any month of the year that falls outside the date range of 20th November – 15th March in Karachi, an air conditioner that works well is a must.
No rowdy adolescents. Umm, sorry, but like I mentioned, I am old now :P, i.e. 39 years old in September this year, insha’Allah. I deserve to have some “aunty-nakhra’s” by now, don’t I? Such as being extremely picky about the milk in my tea, and the size & shape of my handbag (which has to accommodate the amount of things I need to carry around).So, yes, groups of skinny-jeans-clad teens who come to cafés to just hang out/”chill” with friends, show off their designer wear, talk loudly in fake accents, take selfie upon selfie to post on Instagram (judging them…..who, me?), and do not have any serious work to do, make me turn around and leave — with a discernible eye-roll. You won’t find me with my journal in a café bustling with boisterous youngsters.
No impatient, hovering waiters. I do appreciate these young lads who serve me my food. They work so hard and round-the-clock. Anyone who contributes in any way towards feeding me has my sincere dua’s for blessings & rewards, not to mention cash tips. But if that skinny lad keeps pestering me every 15 minutes, while I am absorbed in working, to ask me (again and again) if he can get me my bill….well, he probably won’t see this particular “Ma’am” (or her tip) again!I like to be left alone once my beverage and food has been served. And when I want someone to bring me the bill, well — I have a voice and a hand that I can raise, don’t I?
Free and fast wifi. Enough said.
Ottomans. If they let me put my feet up every now and then to relax while I lean back on the couch, the café staff just might get a higher tip from me. Don’t worry, I’ll wear clean socks!
A good menu. Duh. I am a foodie. In case you still haven’t checked out my Instagram food feed yet, you might be wondering why the menu would matter to me as a writer. Get me a great cuppa, and watch me pound on those keys!The cafe should have good-quality but affordable food, especially finger-food (that I can sample without needing to pick up a fork or spoon) as well as comfort food (pasta tops the list). Chocolate desserts are a must. I have noticed that I crave different foods at different times, and this also affects the kind of work I can get done. I go for quality over quantity, so yeah, the food matters!
No wall-mounted, loud television. I can NOT stand local news channels. They repeat the same things over. And over.
And over (x infinity).As for cricket matches with loud commentary? Where’s the exit?
By writing this post, I am not trying to encourage ladies to leave their homes and go gallivanting around working in cafés and public lounges.
My intention is only to appreciate the nearby cafés that offer some safe and secure spaces, which are available to work-from-home professionals like me, who sometimes need a breather and break from their usual routines. We all know that most such quaint cafés in Karachi are thronging with “aunties” (and their children) during the weekdays.
Nevertheless, it is important to bear in mind that not every café (in Karachi, or elsewhere in the world) offers a safe, secure, and dignified environment that is permissible for a Muslim woman to hang out in, either alone or with company. Also note that my husband is almost always nearby (or soon-to-arrive) to pick me up, along with our children, whenever I do go out somewhere.
At the end of the day, I love working from my home, and would have it no other way.
So here’s to more writing, blogging, and self-publishing in the future, insha’Allah!
“It’s not safe here anymore.”
“Our lives and those of our children are in danger.”
“There is no security. Security is a basic human need.“
These were (and still are) the reasons cited by born Muslims who wish to emigrate to Western countries from the war-torn, underdeveloped, unsafe, and politically turbulent Muslim-majority areas of the world.
Anyhow, as fate would have it, the tests and tribulations of faith that were initially reserved exclusively for those struggling to live normally in Muslim-majority areas, are slowly creeping into Western countries as well, though they still remain, by and large, safe and secure places to dwell in.
Those Muslims who choose to ‘water down’ their religious practice and appearance in public, can still remain undetected and temporarily undisturbed by the rising tide of “Islamophobia”.
But what about the openly practicing Muslims? Are all the developed countries of the world still safe for the mosque-going, ‘brown’-skinned, hijab-wearing, bearded, Arabic-speaking and ‘outwardly apparent’ Muslims?
Not so much, anymore. They need to really watch their back, and tread on eggshells when out and about.
Anyhow, this post is not about the West-East debate. In this post, I would like to share a few dua’s that are found in the Qur’an, but which, for some reason, are lesser known/memorized by most Muslims, and even less commonly used in practice.
The reason I am highlighting them, is because these dua’s are really needed today. They can help Muslims tremendously in remaining steadfast upon the practice of Islam, and safe from the harm of verbal/physical assaults by hateful unbelievers amidst the rising anti-Islamic sentiment around the world.
So before much further ado, let us study the first dua.
1- This dua was made by Prophet Noah (عَلَيهِ السَّلَام):
فَدَعَا رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَغْلُوبٌ فَانتَصِرْ
“Thereupon he (Noah) called out to his Sustainer, “Verily, I am defeated! Come You, then, to my help!” [54:10]
This is a truly beautiful and concise call made by a desperate, sincere believer to Allah, for immediate help against antagonistic disbelievers.
Prophet Noah (عَلَيهِ السَّلَام) called out to Allah when the antagonism of his nation got too much for him to bear. Do recall that he preached to his nation for a staggering 950 years! Nevertheless, his beautiful plea to Allah has been recorded in the Qur’an for a reason:
So that mankind uses the same entreating words that he did, to call out to Allah, when they too, need Allah’s help in the face of unrelenting opposition from unbelievers, because of their faith.
2. The next dua that Muslims can memorize and use to supplicate to Allah during the current tribulation-laden times that we all find ourselves in, in which confusion and misrepresentation of Islam in the media continue to rage around us more and more with each passing year, is also one that was made by a Prophet of Allah.
This time, it was Prophet Lut (عَلَيهِ السَّلَام):
رَبِّ نَجِّنِي وَأَهْلِي مِمَّا يَعْمَلُونَ
“My Lord! Save me and my household from what they do.” [26:169]
As you might already know, Prophet Lut lived in a nation where male homosexuality was common and openly practiced. When he stopped them from committing the evil sin of sodomy, they told him to get out of their land because he considered himself “too pure” compared to them (as an aside, don’t you think that in today’s Western world, Prophet Lut might have been labelled as a “homophobe”? And considered to be extremely “intolerant” of his nation’s “life choices”? Food for thought, eh?)
Anyhow, take a close look at the words that he chooses to use when making a desperate dua to Allah. He asks Allah to rid him, as well as his family, of what they (his nation’s people) were doing.
This is a beautiful dua that persecuted Muslims today can make to Allah as well, whenever they encounter racist non-Muslims who hate them because of their Islamic faith, and especially those homosexual non-Muslims who call them “homophobes” and proceed to tell them to “go home”, or yell “get out of my country!” at them.
This dua is an appeal to Allah by a Muslim, to save him and his family members from the evil and vice that is rampant around them. This dua should be made by any Muslim for whom it is becoming difficult to live in that dwelling place/town/country because of increasing persecution and opposition.
Already, anyone who condemns homosexuality as a lifestyle i.e. cohabiting openly with a same-sex “partner” and thus letting the world know that you are engaging in physical relations with them — is labelled as “homophobia” and is frowned upon as being an “intolerant” and “judgmental” attitude towards homosexuals. Kind of like the attitude of the people of Lut.
And remember, even though he prayed to Allah to save him and his family from the vice of his people, his wife did not get saved. This was because she was a homosexual sympathizer. That is, even though she was not a homosexual person herself, she didnot hate nor condemn the homosexual practices of her nation. Hence, she was not saved from Allah’s punishment.
This is some major food for thought for any Muslim who does not feel كَرَاهَة (utter distaste and revulsion) in their heart for the act of two people of the same gender acting out their homosexual thoughts together. A heart that is pure from spiritual disease and enlightened with the light of pure faith can never, ever approve of — or not feel repulsed by — the mere thought of physical acts of homosexuality. Remember that.
Anyhow, this lovely dua from the Qur’an made by Prophet Lut is one that you, too, should bookmark, note down, and bring into your regular use. Take this as sincere advice from me: you will need this dua in the coming decades.
I live here in Pakistan, and I also use this dua. It does not have to be made by a Muslim when they are faced with enmity from homosexuals only. It can be used in situations involving all kinds of enemies. In Urdu, there is an expression that aptly describes when a Muslim should use this dua: “jub zameen tung ho jaye” i.e. when the earth becomes too constricted for a believer. This is surely what is happening nowadays, especially to American Muslims who practice their faith.
3. The third dua from the Qur’an that is lesser-known, and that I would like to recommend, is the one below. It was, like the two previous ones I mentioned, also used by a Prophet of Allah.
And once again, it was Prophet Noah (عَلَيهِ السَّلَام) who made this dua:
Therefore, judge You between us, a (conclusive) judgment, and save me and those believers who are with me.” [26:117, 118]
As you can see, Prophet Noah had reached a pretty desperate place. He lamented to Allah that his own people were rejecting him and his message. So he beseeched Allah to judge between him and them, and to save him and the believers who were with him.
This dua represents the last straw. It is to be made when the life of a believer is actually in danger. And I think that time is not far, when a Muslim could even get killed because of his or her faith. Practicing Muslims are already being physically assaulted by antagonistic non-Muslims in random incidents here and there around the world, but which are, sadly, on the rise.
For a Muslim to be mistreated and oppressed by another who claims to be (and is) a Muslim, is a great trial. But to be persecuted with the intention of murder by a non-Muslim who hates Islam and Muslims, is an even greater trial. If a Muslim dies in the latter situation, they will be martyrs, insha’Allah. However, they should try their best to save themselves, their families, their righteous brethren, and their faith — from harm, first.
I hope that you will note down the above three dua’s and try to ponder upon their meanings in the context in which they were revealed in the Qur’an. Read the tafsir of the ayaat in which they are found in the Qur’an. Ponder upon their meanings and then reflect upon how powerful they can be for protecting and saving a true believer’s faith, self, and family from harm in today’s chaotic, politically unpredictable, Islamophobic world.
May Allah grant safety and security (the real, permanent kind) to all people around the world, including my brothers and sisters in faith.
May Allah guide us all to the pure faith, belief, and path of action that attains for us all, His eternal pleasure. Amen.
So, yeah, here I am. Finally. 😇 You must have noticed that I have been a little missing-in-action on this blog, since many months. Except for the “totally-frustrated-and-fed-up-with-society-as- a-misunderstood-unschooling-mother” rant that was my last post. *Chuckle*.
Anyhow, I was actually working hard on my next book project, among other ongoing things, of course. The family front keeps me increasingly busier, as I have already stated in the past. My last book, “How to Benefit from the Qur’an” came out at the end of Ramadan last year, after months of work. That was over 6 months ago. After that, I took a bit of a hiatus to catch my breath. Then, it was back to work.
I have noticed that any content that I write (or edit, compile, and proofread) about the Qur’an, always takes longer to complete, polish, fine-tune, and prepare for final publishing. This is because, truly, the Qur’an is a “weighty word”, as Allah says Himself:
إِنَّا سَنُلْقِي عَلَيْكَ قَوْلًا ثَقِيلًا
“Behold, We shall bestow upon you a weighty message.” [73:5]
Allah also empathetically says about the Qur’an:
إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلٌ فَصْلٌ
وَمَا هُوَ بِالْهَزْلِ
“Behold, this [divine writ] is indeed a conclusive word; And it is no pleasantry.” [86:13,14]
So, that is why, those of my projects that involve analyses and commentary upon the Qur’an, take not just longer, but also employ more of my brain energy.
But before I go on about the details of my latest book, please read this excerpt from it below:
Never Retiring From Work
Perceptions about good leadership cannot change unless we first alter our thoughts about getting older. Old age is sometimes perceived as a negative concept and stage of life, thought to be boring, dull, and burdensome for oneself and for others. Many young people, therefore, wrongfully tend to assume that youth is a necessary requirement for achieving something worthwhile in life; for seeking knowledge and education; for establishing oneself as a strong leader in their field of work; and for the acquisition of wealth and success. One might assume that all these milestones cannot be achieved by someone who is past the age of 60 or 70.
I therefore think that it is very important for the youth to have a positive and broader ‘vision’ regarding old age. Bearing in mind that there is no guarantee that one will live long enough to see it, one should still endeavor to remind themselves of a factual reality: no one stays young forever. One’s health, circle of friends, social activities, primary occupation, and leisure interests do change with time. And more often than not, old age does bring with it physical weakness and ailments.
That being said, there is no reason to morbidly assume that one will become lonely, weak, ill and useless once they traverse the age of 60 or 70. Allah decrees for a believer what he or she expects Allah to decree for them, and if one prays and hopes for a productive, active, fulfilled, and happy life till their last breath, including during old age, then that is what Allah might just decree for them.
What is Your “Retirement Plan”?
Until the past century, many if not most people presumed that after they retired from professional life, they’d spend their last years living idly, “enjoying their grandchildren”, and being served and looked after by their adult children.
That is fast changing, as increasing globalization and immigration brings about a fusion of cultural values and traditions and, not to mention, facilitates frequent relocation and turnover of occupations for professional people.
Nowadays it is not uncommon for a family to spend different decades (or fewer number of years) of their lives in different countries of the world, often splitting up due to issues related to visa, work permits, citizenship, offshore contracts, and their children’s educational/schooling needs.
Before someone thinks I am supposedly encouraging the younger generation to “abandon” their elderly, let me explain from which angle I am approaching this subject.
One of the positive results of the above-mentioned social trends, is that as some people grow older in this era of instant communication, online work opportunities, telecommunication, and globalization, they become more self-sufficient and independent, and do not always perceive their old age as a phase to be spent just with their children and grandchildren as the sole post-retirement occupation.
For a few but increasing number of elderly people nowadays, professional retirement only signals the onset of a new phase of life, in which they expect a different kind of occupation to keep them busy – be it traveling for leisure, upholding familial ties, seeking to learn a new skill, doing volunteer charity work, or partaking in multiple social welfare projects.
Prophet Ibrahim: An Energetic and Productive “Old Man”
As I wonder about what I will be doing once (and if) I reach old age, I turn to the Qur’an in my quest for real-life examples of productively occupied elderly people.
The first example that immediately comes forth is that of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him). He and his wife Sarah were childless until he became what is known in Arabic as “shaikhaa” (i.e. an old man). [11:42] Yet, even though Allah then blessed him with not one, but two Prophetic sons (Ishmael and Isaac) at such an advanced age, he did not sigh with exhaustion and declare himself to be too old to raise the two little boys.
Rather, Prophet Ibrahim kept on the move even after that, and went on to do rather physically taxing things, such as traveling to Makkah to leave Hajar and Ishmael alone in the desert, in obedience to Allah’s command, as Allah had decreed for the barren land to eventually transform into a hustling and bustling trade town. Many years later (when he was even older in age), he visited them in the desert again, and saw that Ishmael had taken a wife [i].
Later on, at an even older age, Prophet Ibrahim visited Ishmael again to inform him that he had been commanded by Allah to build the Ka’bah with his help. Ishmael readily agreed and worked by his side with the heavy stones, helping him lay the foundation of the holy structure (once again, in obedience to Allah’s command). [2:127]
Is it not obvious that Allah placed command after command upon the supposedly “weak” shoulders of an elderly and aging Prophet Ibrahim, as tests of his faith and submission, and each time, he rose to the occasion and submitted his will to that of his Lord, working very hard during his old age to obey Allah? [2:124]
Why did he not put his feet up once he got so old, and stop doing physical work? Why didn’t he expect Ishmael and Isaac (and their wives) to serve him night and day?
Just Us Two:Not Enough?
Prophet Ibrahim and Sarah were living as a childless old couple when angels came to give them glad tidings of a son who’d be born to them. The whole incident, in which they served freshly roasted calf meat to their guests, which has been described in the Qur’an, proves that they were happily married and close even at that age. [11:69]
In some of my other books, I have often highlighted how spouses who engage in exclusive, ‘escapist’ activities early on and throughout their marriage, in order to ignore or undermine their lack of mutual love, compassion and emotional closeness, end up facing a gnawing emptiness at home at the onset of old age, after all of their children get married, leave home and settle down with their own families.
Watching television and cooking constantly in the kitchen are two such activities used, respectively, by young husbands and wives, to avoid candidly communicating with each other while both are present at home, in order to solve their problems, e.g. on weeknights and on weekends.
As the distance between them grows over the years, and the bridges of communication disappear, they hope and expect their adult children and grandchildren to be there to keep them occupied once they grow old, to escape the void in their own relationship.
Fact? That doesn’t, and cannot, always happen in today’s fast-paced world! Nowadays, many an old couple is left alone all day, with no one besides each other for company, even if they have 4 or 5 grown up children, one or two of whom might even be living with them, or nearby.
This is because the contemporary world is so busy for children and adults alike, that staying at home is fast becoming a rarity, even for the active elderly, as it is just too boring. People are always on the move, with little time to give to anyone else.
In such a scenario, it is best to have had a close, loving relationship with your (now elderly) spouse since early on in marriage, because as the flame of lust jades with time, companionship and interesting conversation is what keeps the marriage spark alive, especially in old age.
The example of Prophet Ibrahim should inspire us all to hope, pray and intend in our hearts from now on, that we will remain active, productive, and constructively occupied until our death, even when and if we reach old age.
We will not crib and complain that our children don’t visit us often enough, or that we see our grandchildren only once or twice a year. We will not keep track of how little our relatives and our old friends keep in touch with us. We will not lament that no one calls us any more; that we have become useless burdens on society with nothing to do.
Instead, we should pray from now on, that Allah keeps us busy doing good work that pleases Him, and that lets us “give back” to mankind in any way, little or small, until the day we die.
Conclusion: Find Real Examples Around You
I know that many readers might think that Prophet Ibrahim is too exceptional and one-of-a-kind of an example for us to even come close to in terms of righteousness, sincerity of faith, strength of patience, and submission to Allah. They might desire to see a less ‘out-of-reach’ example to emulate .
Well, there are several such examples around the world, of leaders, activists, professionals, and change-makers who are still going strong in their fields of work despite being above the age of 60 or 70. They are still leading an active life and making waves in positive and beneficial work, both those who are Muslim as well as non-Muslims. We only need to seek them out with a discerning eye in order to notice how they are quietly breaking the “elderly and idle” stereotype.
The example of the deceased Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the former Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt also comes to my mind. What I find particularly interesting about him, is how Allah caused him to die. He was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to attend an Islamic event, reportedly in very good health at the age of 81. As he was boarding the airplane for taking his flight back home to Egypt, he collapsed on the plane’s stairwell. He died of a heart attack there and then. After his funeral prayers were held at Prophet Muhammad’s mosque in Madinah, he was buried in Jannat Al-Baqi, the graveyard where many pious predecessors of Islam have been buried.
He died in a state of good health, while on a journey in the path of Allah, physically active and constructively occupied till his very last breath. Allah sent the angel of death to take his soul merely minutes before he was to leave Arabia to fly back home, because Allah had decreed for him to be buried right next to his righteous Muslim predecessors.
We should all similarly dare to dream. We should, literally, never say “die!” It should be our hope and intention to keep working for whatever cause or mission we feel passionate about and to stay productive for as long as we are alive, come what may.
May Allah grant us a life that keeps us active, healthy and productive till our very last breath. Amen.
[i] Sahih Al-Bukhari 3365
My Latest Business Book:
Ta-da! So here it is:
“True Heroes: The Prophetic Guide to Leadership”.☞
This business book is a leadership guide for professionals, or for anyone who aspires to be an effective leader.
I am calling it a “business book” because it talks about leadership (the Prophetic kind) and how to deal with people. It grants insights about how to positively influence others, and how to not allow yourself to get negatively affected or thwarted by haters and antagonists.
However, anyone in a leadership position, where they have subordinates and need to deal with the challenges put forth by the latter (such as a mother with growing children, *cough*), can also benefit from this book, insha’Allah (God willing).
The only difference between this business book and the others that you will find in the international literati circles and bookselling marketplaces, is that this book contains leadership lessons derived from the Qur’an (as well as from a few ahadith) by putting into the spotlight those men who were chosen by Allah Himself, to become leaders, motivators, managers, coaches, influencers, and change-makers for mankind throughout history: His Prophets.
Each chapter in this book highlights one aspect of leadership, management, or motivational strategy. I have written a lot before on how all the Prophets of Allah encountered enormous challenges and difficulties in life, both before and after they turned 40 (i.e. when they were granted the role of Prophethood).
Each challenge and problem in life became a stepping-stone for them, making them learn valuable lessons, and also imparting these lessons to their followers and companions. Not to mention, each rock they surmounted added to their strength, resilience, and credibility, and motivated their followers to go on striving to achieve their vision even after their deaths.
How it Came About…
I read a lot of self-help articles online, in particular, those shared by “influencers” on LinkedIn. However, none of them, and I say this without any bias, possess even a fraction of the wisdom and leadership guidance that is contained in the Qur’an (duh!), although a few have been blessed with some.
In a world that is fast becoming disillusioned with, and disappointed in, the credibility of their leaders at every level, in every country, I think it is about time that we all begin to turn back to Allah and study the Qur’an as our primary source of wisdom.
In the past, as a naive youngster with limited knowledge of both Islam and the world, I used to ‘blindly’ believe that the Prophets of Allah were the best leaders who ever lived. That was because I was born as a believing Muslim after all. I had to stick to my roots.
But now, as a fully-grown adult at the threshold of age 40 (I’m still 38 years old, though), I believe with all my heart — both, on the basis of my research upon the Qur’an, as well as my cursory studies of the short biographies and profiles of many of the world’s past and present leaders online, — that the best leadership lessons can only be derived from seriously studying the details of the events that occurred in the lives of the Prophets of Allah, in the Qur’an.
What I find amazing is how Allah has highlighted the different aspects of leadership by mentioning the different events that took place in the lives of different Prophets. Think: David and the two disputing men demanding his fair judgment. Jesus and the demand for a table-spread. Moses and the calf. Joseph and his ensnarement. Abraham and the idol breakage. Noah and the boat construction project. Solomon and the hoopoe. Salih and the she-camel. (عَلَيْهِمُ السَّلَامُ)
Although my book does not cover all of the above-mentioned incidents (in fact, it does not even cover all of the Prophets’ stories mentioned in the Qur’an), I am just mentioning them here as examples, to highlight the fact that not a single letter of the Qur’an is irrelevant or unworthy of deep, focused study.
The Qur’an has abrogated all previous Divinely revealed scriptures, setting the records straight about the previous Prophets (with the help of Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ narrations, or ahadith). It remains unparalleled as the single most authentic book/text/source of guidance on the face of this planet, till the end of time.
Among other valuable things, it is the best leadership guide that you can ever study to seek inspiration and to learn practical life skills from.
This — my latest non-fiction, self-help, business book — attempts to highlight just that.
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon all of His noble Prophets.
What does being a niqabi, an unschooling parent, living in culturally-rigid Pakistan, not being able to people-please and sweet-talk my way into and out of superficial, culturally-enforced social conversations, and being a work-from-home, freelancing housewife make a woman?
Answer: a Majorly Misunderstood Misfit.
But, in order to answer this question in further detail, let me first describe how I bid adieu to some of the most time-wasting activities and pastimes that most local women my age usually embrace as lifestyle habits in order to while away their time and pass it a little less boringly than usual, in order to become more focused, more productive, more committed, and less ignorant than I could have become, had I followed the “normal” route in life.
However, for starters, you might want to try to imagine — for even a few seconds — what it must feel like to be in my shoes.
I am a misfit even among the local (and growing) homeschooling community in Karachi, because I unschool my 3 children, which is a rarer and more radical form of homeschooling.
Choosing this homeschooling model means that I am raising my children extremely unconventionally, and that we — as a family — have broken perhaps every norm in the book regarding the common methods that people around us use to raise and parent children.
But first, let me describe just why and how I feel like a total misfit among the local ladies’ social circles.
You can first start by trying to imagine me sitting among local “aunties” at a social gathering. Ladies who are stay-at-home housewives (and I still consider myself one) do not really understand me anymore, because I do not spend my time, raise my children, or manage my home the way they do.
I mean, our residence is more akin to a massive studio-cum-office workspace and ‘youth center’ of sorts, with the children’s ongoing and work-in-progress activities and projects scattered around everywhere. We do not have a “drawing room” (family room, or ‘parlor’ as it was known in the past) setup anymore, because I do not entertain guests (as I’ve already blogged). My own room is half a home-office, as my desk with my Mac is there, in addition to my journals and other writer’s paraphernalia.
Furthermore, we are quite an unorthodox Pakistani family in other ways, e.g. we do not bond by watching TV dramas or cricket matches together, the way local families almost ‘religiously’ do. We do not feel “connected” in joint-family setups; in fact, mixed gatherings where lame jokes, cricket matches (again!), the latest terrorist attacks, and Pakistani-politician-bashing are the major topics of conversation, make us feel downright awkward and uncomfortable.
Then, we have an unorthodox money mindset. E.g. we do not shop in bulk for groceries (with cooking oil and packets of flour topping the list, and tipping the shopping cart). We buy pret (I do not have a tailor). We use air conditioners at home during the sweltering summer months, the way offices do for their employed professionals, and malls do for their customers, as we believe that the use of these machines increases our productivity at home, maintains our mental and physical health, improves our quality of life, and makes us less irritable and easier to get along with. I cook only when I want to, as we love eating out as a family (and that is no secret, is it? In fact, my Instagram feed is actually my exclusive online ‘foodie’ photo diary); we regard picking a new eatery as part of a fun family excursion that we usually combine with our almost daily errand run. And we do some of our shopping online as well, through apps and other websites.
In addition, living as a nuclear family means we have many errands to run, so our children come along with us, as we do not rely on relatives or full-time domestic help for babysitting. It is a win-win for us and them, as they get to have an interesting outing, and learn practical life skills at the same time, while we get our chores done, and enjoy new types of food. Almost uncannily, the more we eat out, the more clean and upscale eateries (run by educated people) are cropping up everywhere nearby, and the more varieties of affordable, hygienically-prepared and delicious food is now available, almost like a Divine sign from above. Who knows?! 🙂
Such as Khowsuey, one of my faves! Ah!
So, just imagine how well I must gel in with other housewives, whether those who are my age, or older aunties. Unlike them, I do not rant about my latest conflict with my maid (I have a part-time maid, though, who comes just to clean, a few times a week. She’s in and out in a jiffy), the latest recipe I tried (and believe me, I do try a lot), or my children’s school-related issues (thankfully, for us, — no school means, no worries).
I do not go on about which fabric I just bought and from where, and which outfit I just got tailored (even though, like I said, I buy local pret a lot, because I need clothes to wear(!), but getting my clothes tailored by interacting with a non-mahrum man drenched in sweat and clad in a smelly vest, just makes me downright uncomfortable).
Plus, I do not watch the over-the-top Pakistani dramas that many housewives are glued to, although I have tried to watch a couple of the famous ones online, just to see what the hype was about, and got really turned off by their bizarre and pathetically misogynistic story-lines and plots.
Add to that my penchant for upfront honesty, my utter lack of two-facedness and hypocrisy, and my inability to lie, sport a fake smile, or put on a poker face, and you can well imagine how ‘comfortable’ I must be when sitting among young and old local ‘aunties’ as they go on about recipes, maids, TV dramas, weddings, and their children’s schools.
The only thing I have done well, in the eyes of older housewives, is to get married and pop out three children. They have given me full marks in that exam, especially since one of these children is the obligatory aulad-e-nareena (male child): my supposed burhapay ka sahara (support in old age), i.e. in their eyes.
But the problem starts as soon as they meet my children, and then ask me, “So, which school do they go to?”, expecting to hear ‘Reflections’, ‘Intellect’, or ‘Generations’ in reply.
The conversation takes a major downhill nosedive from that point onward. I am so used to getting stares of accusatory disbelief once I answer their question, that it’s not even funny any more.
At that point, I just become quiet, or get up and leave their company, because I know from past experience (ever since I started homeschooling, 6 years ago) that, trying to make local ‘aunties’ grasp any alternative concept related to parenting and schooling, or to actually read something even remotely related to scholarly analyses and research, is like asking them to not make new clothes every month, or to not suspect their maid of stealing as soon as something goes amiss in their house:
Yup, that’s right. Downright impossible.
The Swanky Career Ladies a.k.a Working Women
Again, let me start by saying that, I am a work-from-home woman, too, myself. And, at this point in my life, I do also have a rewarding career, alhamdulillah. I work from home round-the-clock, but my time is managed intricately in order to achieve an optimum balance between work and family, all by the grace and guidance of Allah.
However, any working women that I come even close to interacting with socially, take one look at 3 things that they first notice or find out about me, and run the other way before I can even say, “Assalam…..” to them.
And these 3 things are: my attire in public (viz. the niqab and burka), my 3 children, and the fact that I am homeschooling them i.e. I have three young ones at home with me all day.
They do not stay long enough to even greet me beyond their first observation of these 3 things, before taking a full 180 degree about-turn and whizzing off at the speed of light.
You see, most of them are either happily single (i.e. not married, out of choice), or they are married and working at full-time careers, meaning, they willingly and habitually leave their children (if any) in the care of in-laws and maids while they go to work (and this category includes the religiously practicing working women as well).
The households of married working ladies run like clockwork on the oil provided by domestic or familial help, without which they would not be able to pursue their careers i.e. the help of relatives or hired employees (or a combination of both), who take care of their domestic chores and maternal duties in their absence.
Be they married or single, these working ladies judge me perhaps even more quickly and harshly than I judge them. And yes, let’s admit that we all tend to judge others’ choices, at least inwardly.
They assume that I would not know the first thing about employment, office work, entrepreneurship, freelancing, meeting deadlines, running a business, managing projects, delegating tasks to subordinates, professional networking, corporate culture, online business literature such as Forbes/BusinessInsider/Entrepreneur, or anything else related to professional careers i.e. anything outside the realms of marriage, parenting, and homemaking.
The single working ladies have other tell-tale lifestyle habits that they pursue in their spare time, which they again assume I would not know the least bit about: they usually love to “gym” (used as a verb here) — whilst investing in the requisite branded attire and diet regimens that come along with the “gymming” lifestyle; they eat carefully calibrated gourmet food to maintain their “gymmed” figures (and therefore, have a network of professional trainers, bakers, and chefs in their social circle), and consequently, they eat out only at expensive gourmet cafes; they shop for high-end brands at international stores (well, they can afford them), and they travel abroad often with their colleagues or friends, at least a few times a year, in order to burn off the accumulated stress of their office lives.
One look at my attire, my 3 children, and the word “homeschooling”, and they assume that I would not know the least thing about any of their occupations or interests. So they avoid even making eye contact with me, much less a half-hearted attempt at any kind of tepid conversation.
So, scratch these ladies off my social circle as well. 🙂 They roll their eyes at how obsessed I am with focusing on raising my children, that I have chosen to take a route that no one even even understands, much less accepts.
“Get over it, Ma’am. Even cows rear their calves. It’s not a big deal!”, their eyes seem to say to me. If there is ever any accidental eye contact at all, that is.
As for the religious workaholics, they say that “Allah” is raising their children in their daily absence from home. And I have personally seen how “Allah” has (allegedly) raised the children of some of them over the past 14 years, as these children went from age 6 to age 20 right in front of my eyes.
And let’s just say: no further comment. It’s just that we all should try not to say things about Allah that we should not be saying.
But wait, no judgments — remember?
As for my extended family, well, let’s just say that currently, it is complicated.
For now, I have – rather, controversially and very ‘offensively’ – scratched off any cultural or social activity from my calendar that is not obligatory upon me in the light of Islam. I have had a couple of advice-seeking conversations with qualified mufti’s of the local Darul Uloom about this particular issue.
You can perhaps imagine how that one must have gone down! I live in Pakistan, after all.
You see, in Pakistani culture, any man occupying a socially honorable post, — such as a judge, senior government employee, or a busy doctor — can miss any and every social activity in the extended family (including dinners, weddings, or even funerals), because — well — he or she isa judge/governor/doctor, after all. Their professional work hours, commitments, and their exciting conferences, are absolutely obligatory for them to attend, right?
But, a homeschooling housewife who stays at home all day? Why can’t she attend a wedding or a boring dinner, just to make small talk, answer aunties’ invasive questions, and discuss mundane things (likes clothes and recipes)?
What’s the big deal?
Who does she think she is? A working woman?
Wait — does she work from home? If so, what job does she have? And more importantly, how much does it pay? 🙂 LOL.
A More Productive Lifestyle Due to Unschooling
I have so much to say that I do not know where to begin.
Just the following points:
☞ My children are growing up faster than I planned. Unschooling throws wonderful surprises at you that you did not even expect. I have been absolutely amazed at how things have turned out.
I feel somewhat like that fictional scientist in a lab, who tried out an experimental formula that he believed would work, only to see it succeed at a greater level, and to show more powerful and overwhelming results than he had expected. Consequently, that scientist is now scrambling and flurrying about in an attempt to manage and handle the overblown results of their successful experiment, all the while feeling a little dazed with shock and flabbergasted.
☞ My children do not like me discussing their progress, strengths, or weaknesses with others. Rightfully so. They do sometimes want me to show off their projects, however, but I do not do that yet. And here is why:
☞ Currently I want my children’s skills and talents to still remain hidden from public view. I do not want the fitnah (temptation) of fame to come near them in an age where narcissism through social media has tempted, affected, misled, and harmed even the most righteous and Allah-fearing ones among us.
I want them to grow older without being fully aware of just how talented and unique they are. I will protect them like this for as long as I can, insha’Allah, so do not try to challenge me.
Yes, that is a threat, coming from a protective mother’s sincere heart and tongue.
☞ Consequently, we are extremely selective of who gets to enjoy our children’s company. Extremely selective. See? I used the word “extreme” myself, so go ahead, call me an “extremist”. As if I care any more what label gets attached to me. Did I mention that I am already a majorly misunderstood misfit?
Our children are at an age now, in which company of others has a profound effect. As does the mentorship of an older person.
Hence, the requisite boundaries have been set in place.
☞ If you desire to gain any (or more) access to my children’s company, you will have to observe some basic rules. Here is a list:
– First, prove your truthfulness and your sincerity, to them and to me (their mother), since I am their primary guardian right now. If, in the past, you have said something negative about me to them (or to my husband, in my absence), then you are not regarded by me as sincere, unless proven otherwise.
– Do not try to pry private information about our home life out of them as soon as my back is turned. Please do not use them as information agents. #SoLame
– Do not try to gauge or test their academic skills. Primarily: reading, writing, and the over-rated math. Academics is not a priority for us at the moment, in case that was not already clear?
All the more power to you and your kids for being able to write essays, fiction stories, and poetry, though (and for solving complex mathematics problems on paper). Might as well enjoy it while it lasts, because in adult life, hardly anyone besides creative writers and teachers do that. And the former do it because they love to, not because their teacher or tutor has ordered them to, or because they want those elusive good grades.
Real life professions are all about drafting emails, articles and reports. Curating original content. Creating and building something of value. Providing unique services that fulfill the changing/new needs of people.
Besides, we all have calculators in our phones now. 🙂 Machines are taking over and doing more work for us than ever before, saving us time and energy to do what makes humans superior to them: innovate, generate new ideas, invent, troubleshoot, build, create, and solve problems.
But, go ahead, you can ignore what I just said, and let your child do complex mathematical problems for hours, sometimes maybe in tears of frustration.
What would I know about professional best practices and ethics, anyway?
Am I a professional?
– Do not force my children to eat or drink something they do not want to, or are not allowed to.
– Do not judge them for their attire, either in a good way (Oh wow! You are wearing ______ [brand label]!”), or in a bad way (“Why do you wear hijab when its not even obligatory upon you yet?” “Why don’t you wear this and not that?”)
My kids might return the favor and in return, question you why you allow your (or your child’s) unseemly behind to show its wiggly and jiggly shape in those tight trousers and short shirts, as you’re a Muslim and that’s not modest – according to their Islamic standards.
So, dish out what you can take.
– Do not compare them to other children their age.
– Do not invite them to watch television, or videos & photos on your phone/device, unless it is something you know I would approve of.
– Do not try to photograph or videotape them.
– When you give them gifts or money directly, we let them avail them in a way that we deem suitable. Nevertheless, we hold the authority vested from above, to remove any item from their possession. Please keep that in mind.
– My younger daughter’s name is “Amatullah”. You can practice pronouncing her name by listening to the audio of it here, and really, it is not that difficult to pronounce.
Her name is not “Amat”, or “Amtul”, and she does not have a nickname. If you still insist on calling her by some meaningless word other than her true name, it could be that — in time, when she is older, — she might not respond to you.
If people around the world can pronounce the name Anastasia (you probably know what load-of-trash novel I am referring to, the one that made her character famous), and if native English speakers around the world today can successfully pronounce the Arabic name “Shakira“, I think that maybe you can also pronounce this female name that is most pleasing to Allah.
But for that, you will have to convince your unrelenting mind first, that her name is indeed credibly worthy as a female name, as it is of being pronounced properly. Try forcing yourself to adjust to her name, instead of distorting its original form and meaning to adapt it to the Pakistani language/dialect.
The name “Amatullah” has the best meaning: “female slave of Allah”. It is better than being named after a flower (Yasmine/Warda/Dalia/Zahra), an animal (Shaheena/Reem/Ghazala), or a physical object (Sadaf/Mashal/Kaukab/Najma/Sundus/Marjaan/Tasneem).
Please show her some respect.
If you will give me a sincere guarantee that the above rules will be followed, you may be given more access to our children’s company.
If not, then a salaam greeting and a brief meeting is all you will get.
☞ Here is another reason for my growing protectiveness of my children:
In the last couple of years, we as a family, have noticed a growing phenomenon whenever we are out and about in public.
Whenever we go some place, and get seated or comfortable, after a while (around 15 to 20 minutes) the eyes and ears of those around us slowly begin to turn towards us. People point at our children discreetly, stare, and discuss them with each other in hushed voices. The gazes are fixated and admiring.
Our children definitely seem to cast a celebrity-type effect on random people (strangers). Henceforth, all people around them who observe them for more than a half hour or so, such as attendants, waiters, or salespeople, begin to shower extra respectful affection, attention and servitude towards them, sometimes even following them around.
This has happened so often and so much now, that it is getting difficult to ignore. It has happened in and around the two haramain (holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah), at malls, stores, supermarkets, airports, hospitals, and busy bazaars.
It has begun to really dawn upon me that there is something radically different about our children that people (strangers) notice immediately and admire.
I wish I knew what it is, exactly. I say this because, since our children are with me at home day in and day out (alhamdulillah), I do not know how or what it is that is so different about them that makes random people take so much notice of them in public.
All I know is, that they are different. In a good way.
And that is it.
Hence, the need (for me) to protect them even more.
☞ My time is flying. I literally do not know where my time goes. How and where the week just whizzes by.
In the past, I had heard of busy, on-call doctors taking catnaps here and there between their shifts. Like dozing off in a chair or sofa. Now, I am practically experiencing these naps myself. I try to be fast asleep by 11 p.m. at night, but even during the day, I need some extra, short snoozes.
My children’s unbridled creativity, energy, and intelligence comes with its demands, toll, and its price, not just its perks. My brain is taxed more as they grow older, ask me more in-depth questions, have longer conversations with me, and discuss issues in more detail.
It is fun. It is exhausting. It is rewarding. It is draining. It is uplifting. 🙂 And the cycle goes on.
My household now needs round-the-clock micromanagement, and this keeps me on my toes, because, like I said, we are unorthodox, and we do not delegate duties related to our home or children to any babysitters, relatives, or employees.
Besides everything else, entertainment and relaxation are also on our priority list. And these are also acquired through usually unorthodox ways.
Going for a ride on hand-crafted buggies on the sand at Sea View beach, for example.
It was a thrill to be driven by my son for the first time in my life, as my firstborn drove her father in another buggy. We had a lovely, squeal-filled race!
Such a milestone moment. Sigh.
The drop-tower at The Place was another such thrilling experience (it’s not for the faint-hearted! Don’t do it on a full stomach).
One day, I hope to camp out under the stars in the emerald-green Kashmir valley with my children, insha’Allah.
Life’s too short!
Better Alone, Fulfilled & Productive, Than a Superficial Socialite With an Average Life
You might have gotten the message by now that I am done with apologizing, explaining and justifying my decisions to a social system that is quick to condemn and slow to accept anyone who challenges the status quo.
I have too much to do, and life is passing by too fast.
I am different, so be it. Please accept it.
Unschooling my children turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened, but as much if not more so for me, than for them.
I have learned so much as a parent, and as a Muslim, since I started out on this journey.
With the Qur’an and sunnah as my guide, I realized that most of the pressures that not just children, but also we — as adults — face in society nowadays, are not obligations. That there are so many alternative routes to living productively and happily; to attaining fruition and success; to scaling new heights of growth as an individual.
And I realized that, though it is alright for the majority to seek out their roles in life and to achieve their personal definition of success through the customary and socially acceptable routes of formal schooling, degree education, stalemate marriages, and corporate jobs,– that it is also perfectly acceptable for an individual, especially a Muslim, to choose to do thatparticular kind of work/occupation in life which fulfills them the most, and to do it their way, as long as they are not doing anything to displease their Creator whilst pursuing their dreams.
For old-school, archaic-type parents who stick rigidly to outdated ideas and follow the advice of foolish and insincere people when making major decisions regarding their children’s future, instead of critically thinking about things in the light of the Qur’an, I have a few words of advice:
☞ Eventually, your child will live in a world, as an adult, where learning to acquire new skills and knowledge will be a vital component of success. If they won’t be able to quickly learn new things, they will probably find it tough to succeed.
I mean, if you are 45 years old right now, you probably remember the typewriter, and the shorthand (written language) that all secretaries had to learn as a vital job skill back in the 60’s-70’s, right? In those days, typewriting and shorthand were considered two essentials for any office job. This was even before computers, photo-copiers, and printers entered the scene.
And now? What exactly are the skills needed by a professional today, once they enter the globally-amalgamated, incessantly virtually-interconnected workplace?
With office walls crumbling away in face of digitization, can you even begin to imagine the kind of technology, devices, and skills that someone who is a 10-year-old boy/girl today, will probably need to have as a professional, once he or she is 35-45 years old?
With camera-ridden glasses and drones already a thing, we can only let our imaginations run wild when we envision the kind of dynamic future that awaits our children, 2-3 decades down the road, insha’Allah.
☞ Stick to your old-school thoughts and procedures all you want, but remember that the only thing that will be able to save your child from loss — both in this world and the Hereafter, — is the inextinguishable light and guidance of the Qur’an.
Having their core belief set (aqeedah) correct and firmly in place, entrenched imperishably in their psyche, heart, and moral conscience, and unaffected by trials and calamities (such as the Dajjal, for example) is more important for a child today, than whether they are writing English in cursive yet, or if their Urdu writing is still illegible at age 10.
If your child is already 10 years old, and the deep, reflective study of and daily close contact with the Qur’an — based on a pace and dosage that your child is comfortable with — is not part of your vision for their education yet, know that you are missing the very basic ingredient of the foundation of a Muslim’s success.
And just between you and me, I think that Urdu script (text) writing is a dying skill, and so is cursive handwriting — both are skills fast becoming redundant.
Debatable and sad, yes, but true? Probably.
Even the waiters at some local chai dhaba style restaurants are now taking orders on tablet devices!
You can ask your father or grandfather what he last wrote with his own hand in Urdu, and you’ll get the picture.
Even our Urdu-medium-educated elders have probably not written Urdu in a very long time, unless they teach the language, or have Urdu-medium students.
Lastly, if a neurosurgeon can write a prescription for his patient in a handwriting that makes a stranger wonder if the words were written by a child, then so can my 9-year-old!
☞ As an adult, your child will have access to multiple tools and technologies that will enable him or her to learn new things at a very fast pace, almost instantly (including handwriting — no kidding!). So, do not worry if your child has not yet mastered a skill that can be easily and quickly acquired later on, in their adult lives, through technological devices.
Worry a lot, however, if your child is using these devices right now (with your approval) — at a very young age — for engaging in time-wasting, useless, and futile pastimes, such as videos, games, and films.
Woe to all those parents who allow a device to become their child’s babysitter, even for 10 minutes!
☞ Stop using your children for social leverage and prestige! This really gets on my nerves. No wonder everyone thinks I am nuts for actually hiding my children’s achievements and accolades from others.
When you shower more love and approval on your child for doing something that saves your social face and gives you a boost of prestige in front of your relatives, neighbors, and colleagues, what message are you giving your child?
That your love and support is selfish & conditional, based on how good your child makes you look? That you will be nice and loving to them as long as they do things that will get you praise and recognition in society?
Is this how shallow a parent’s love and support is supposed to be?
What about when, by a certain age, your child (especially a daughter) has not been married, or another (especially a son) has not been gainfully employed at an impressive job designation, — and “people” (oh, the all-important people) are beginning to ask you questions about these supposedly “delayed” milestones, that are making you feel embarrassed and uncomfortable? What do you do then?
You get emotionally cold and aloof, don’t you, and start to put pressure on your child, right?
“Shaadi karo!” (“Get married already!”)
“Job dhoondo!” (“Find a job!”)
“Promotion hui?” (“Did you get promoted yet?”)
“(Aik aur) Bacha paida karo!” (“Have a(nother) baby!”)
“First position lao, taakay hum mithai baantain!” (“Get first position in class, so that we can distribute sweets to others!”)
“Khud ko kuch banao. Humain sub kay saamnay zaleel mut karo!” (“Establish yourself as something! Don’t humiliate us in front of others.”)
“Apni ye choti si gaari to change karo, hamari naak mut katwao!” (“At least change this small car of yours! Stop embarrassing us.”)
“Apnay ghar ka kuch karo.” (“Do something about moving into a bigger home.”)
This is the taunting, disapproving, and pressurizing way to get our children to boost our own personal social prestige, isn’t it?
And we do this by questioning the decree of Allah, which might be taking its sweet time in coming, and by not being satisfied with the rate at which our progeny is making us shine in front of the already fickle world?
This is what we should do, right, instead of working humbly together with our children to grow and succeed together, — with sincere love and compassion?
This is why I am glad that we — as a family — have chosen a parenting model that abolishes the “social prestige” factor of culturally acceptable parenting, right from the start.
The one that pressurizes parents to have the right number of children, who have the right looks, the right educational degrees, the right marriages, the right jobs, the right homes, and the right cars, so that they can have the right kind of ego-boosting, bragging conversations with their peers over cups of tea and oily chicken biryani’s.
Learn to be polite but tight-lipped and firm with people when they ask you too many questions about your child’s progress and achievements, and do not give in to social pressure, because this will make your children grow up to also become people-pleasing slaves of the societal wave, going where ever the wind takes them.
And while you’re at it, stop bragging about your children’s achievements to make yourself look good. Analyze your intentions and keep them in check. Your job is to do your best to raise them well in order to please Allah, Who gave you these children in the first place; not to attain old age benefits/insurance, social leverage/prestige, or brownie points worth bragging about to give yourself an ego-boost.
☞ I am not available to give a full explanation of what my chosen homeschooling model is all about, at any impromptu time of the day, or in the midst of other situations.
At this point, after years of studying online literature and trial-and-error practical experience, I have read scores of articles online, and reflected upon many real-life situations (past and present) in the light of the Qur’an, in order to be able to unschool my children the way I am today. And I am still learning, growing, changing, adapting my style.
Many sincere and hopeful sisters think that it will take just one email or in-person meeting for me to explain to them what unschooling is all about. That just cannot happen. It is a very deep subject, requiring sincere study. Besides, the greatest hidden gem about unschooling is that it brings results according to each set of parents’ unique skills and talents.
So, really, you cannot even hope to bring about exactly the same results in your children, which another unschooling family has been able to do, in theirs.
This is an exclusive path that is largely uncertain, illuminating itself as you traverse it, and although the uncertainty does make a parent intermittently go through “Oh my God! What am I doing?” moments of self-doubt and apprehension, the unexpected and exponential rewards are more than enough to compensate.
This post will go on and on, if I do not stop now. I have still got a lot more to say (can you believe it?) but I will leave it here. I’ve ranted enough.
Time for one of those catnap snoozes that I mentioned above.
Ramadan came and went like a whirlwind. A beautiful whirlwind of blessings and worship; swoons and sighs; soul-stirring Qur’an recitation; parched throats and lovely cold water that slid down those throats at sundown; lovely community taraweeh spirit; and calculations and disbursements of charity.
It is gone. And like this time every year, it leaves me quite sad at seeing it go. Like every year, I feel like I could have done more.
Anyhow, may Allah accept all our worship, and grant us another, even better, Ramadan. Ameen.
I want to talk about change now. Personal change. For starters, I have not even begun to adjust fully yet, to how quickly time is beginning to fly for me since the past some years.
The days, weeks, months, and years just seem to whiz by for me now. Furthermore, my self, my thinking, my routine, my occupation, and my whole life has undergone an enormous change since a couple of years.
For most of my contacts, I seem to have disappeared somewhere. I am quiet. I am busier. And I am definitely more private. I do not share much details about myself, my life, or my children, the way I naively used to in the past. Nor do I socialize much with people now.
I do not know why this has happened, but I do know that I like it a lot. I have silently entered a category of people who are scarce in society, and I will not name what that category is. 🙂 But I love solitude, and I know that as my children grow older, my solitude will only increase, insha’Allah.
Another thing that has happened to me is that I now have this extreme intolerance for any and all kinds of negativity. It was building up since some years, but now, this intolerance has reached its pinnacle. I shun negative talk, negative things, and negative people like the plague, perhaps more. They no longer have any place in my life, my time, or my company.
Now, my only response to ‘breaking’ news, sad events, and horrible happenings around the world is: dua, dua, prayers, more dua, turning more to Allah, reciting more Qur’an, being more grateful for the well being in my own life, and then continuing to do positive work.
Allah has also granted me immense barakah in my time and efforts, in this phase in my life. Perhaps it is because I am fast approaching age 40 (and looking forward to it! Not just yet, though, because I will turn 38 later this year), because the Qur’an mentions the age of 40 as the age of “maturity”.
Also, I have been told in the past by more mature people that, at age 40, one’s mental maturity is complete and it is at this age that one begins to work really hard to practically pursue their goals in life, for which it took them the past 40 years to prepare for and mature. As you might already be aware, it was at age 40 that the Prophets were granted Prophethood by Allah.
I know that naysayers will find something wrong with my life choices, even if they knew the details about how exactly I spend my time. So I will let their ignorance be their bliss. Like I said, they have no place in my time or in my routine any more.
So now, let’s discuss more about what’s up with my work. My Ramadan this past month was largely spent in completing my new book project; besides the usual, all-day-long, worship routine that the blessed month involves, that is.
This project literally took up almost all of my conscious, non-distracted waking hours. And because it was a project about the Qur’an, I cracked down a little harder on myself to give my all to it, more and better than all my previous, other books.
Alhamdulillah, here is the book cover, below:
This book is especially close to my heart, because, like I said, it is about the Qur’an — the book that changed my life; that changed me, that brought so much joy and blessings in my existence.
I cannot even begin to thank Allah enough for guiding me and enabling me to write, edit, and compile this book!
Innumerable prostrations to Him would not be enough, to express my gratefulness for His benevolence! Even the cover design is my own. That Qur’an pictured on the cover? It is the personal mushaf (book) that I recite from, in my own room. So you can see, this project was/is quite personal. I had been working on it since May, earlier this year.
This book comprises of almost all my past articles about the Qur’an — it will, insha’Allah, motivate and guide readers about how to study the Qur’an, ponder upon it, and get closer to Allah by engaging more closely with it, throughout their lives. It is available on Amazon and on the Createspace e-store (and will be on Kindle too, insha’Allah).
I recently realized that I did not give an introduction about my last book here, on this blog, in a post. So, here it is:
I published this book 3 months ago, in April 2016. This easy-to-read, concise book guides readers about how they can morally train their young children in order to make them grow up to become righteous, practicing, conscientious Muslim adults, insha’Allah.
It talks about many important issues that can help them successfully raise righteous children, such as identifying early signs of success, knowing the leadership mistakes that they should try to avoid, how to help their children safeguard prayers; how they should respect their teenagers’ privacy, and how they can train them to handle various aspects of practical adult life, such as marriage and running a household. It is going to be a beneficial guidebook not just for parents, but also for teachers, kids’ caregivers, trainers, and youth mentors, insha’Allah.
To my Pakistan-based readership, I would like to apologize for the fact that my books are not yet available in the country for them to purchase — yet.
Insha’Allah, one day they will be, if all goes as planned. And Allah is the best of planners and helpers.
Have a Great Eid!
I hope and pray that your Eid is a joyous and blessed one. Please refrain from overeating and binging; do not delay (much less miss) any of your daily prayers. Do not mingle freely with the opposite gender at the Eid parties. And do try to hold on to your good Ramadan habits e.g. wake up for and pray tahajjud (trust me, your body will still be attuned to the sehri/suhoor wake-up times, so capitalize on that), and try to recite a page or two of the Qur’an every day.
Last but not least, keep in mind that — local cultural customs aside, — no specific Eid celebrations have been mandated in Islam, besides giving Fitr charity, attending the early morning Eid prayer and sermon, reciting takbeers (Allah’s greatness), and the singing of nasheeds and decent poetry by little children.
Each family can (and should be allowed to) decide themselves, how to spend/enjoy their Eid holidays in a permissible manner.
How would the men like to spend their Eid days cooking a meal, laying the table, clearing up, and then washing a pile of dishes every three hours, every year on Eid? I think all Muslim men should try to spend such an Eid once in their lives, to see how much they like it. 🙂 It will make them appreciate womenfolk more.
So make this Eid easier for your mothers, grandmothers, wives, and daughters-in-law as well. Let them, also, enjoy a break. Take them out and let them enjoy a “hands-free” Eid too.
Go for a picnic, a boat ride, a camel ride, a horse ride, or a barbecue/camping outing. Go to the beach and soak your feet in the waves; build a sand castle; have an ice cream. Go climb a tree at a park. Ditch the TV and tablet games. Instead, play a “target” game like darts, carom, or mini golf.
You get the idea. Have some halal fun in which everyone enjoys themselves. 🙂
And my advice for our local Pakistani’s,: please refrain from lambasting and criticizing your country and it’s government for at least one day i.e. on Eid day, when you get together to meet and eat. Ditch the chronic negativity and try to talk about positive things when you do the cultural round of visiting far-flung relatives in their homes, and partaking from their cake-and-mithai-loaded tea-trolleys.
When you feel like complaining about how bad your country and its future prospects are for you, pause for a second, look down at your plate full of at least 4 kinds of food, at your lovely new branded clothes, your good health and safety, your healthy parents and your children, and your nice car parked outside, and then, try to force yourself to say positive, gratitude-laced things from your mouth, instead of discussing the latest bombings, shootings, and killings.
Believe me, it is doable. All it takes is some shukr (gratitude), positive thinking, wisdom, and willpower.
May Allah accept all our good deeds, and grant us steadfastness upon higher ranks of faith and righteous actions. Ameen.
Many, if not most of us, try to ‘get it right’ in life. We want the right mix of blessings, experiences, relationships, and possessions, which will grant us a happy life in this world and the next.
Yet, the delusive nature of the life of this world sometimes make us live through it like blind people, who have physical eyes that see things, but hearts that do not. We believe our perception of things to be their reality, and the apparent, superficial appearances of people, events, facts, happenings, and other entities, to be their actual truth.
So what is it that makes some of us see things as they are?
Why do some of us “get it right” in life in almost all areas, whereas others stumble through life akin to random balls on a snooker table: changing direction with each collision, going where ever the next push from another ball takes them?
What is that one blessing that surpasses most others in goodness and benefit?
What is the Real “Wealth”?
In the Qur’an, Allah refers to material wealth (such as money) as “Al Khair“, which is an Arabic word that means, in other contexts, “the good”.
However, while mentioning wisdom (hikmah) in the Qur’an, Allah uses the word khair with another (descriptive) word attached to it: “khairan katheera“: a good that is abundant.
So anyone can see which kind of khair, or “good”, is more and better. Most of us consider material wealth as the greatest worldly blessing we can ever have. But Allah calls wisdom a wealth that is more abundant.
So what exactly is wisdom? It has been defined as:
وَضْعُ الشَىْءِ فِى مَوْضِعِهِ
Putting something in its place
I did not remember the exact source of this definition, but a reader on LinkedIn informed me that it is actually from the book منازل السائرین, authored by ابو اسماعیل الانصاری الھروی and that Ibn Qayyim al Jawzi has written it’s sharh (explanation) with the name: مدارج السالکین بین منازل ایاک نعبد و ایاک نستعین.
I got this quote in a class when I was studying at Al-Huda, and it was taught to us students by Dr Farhat Hashmi herself. I memorized it immediately, and have benefited greatly from the application of this definition of wisdom in my practical life, all praises to Allah.
Below, I am going to list down the main areas and aspects of our lives in which the use of wisdom brings benefit to a Muslim. Basically, wisdom is all about balance — about achieving that desired optimum balance which will bring about the best possible results and outcomes in a given situation.
However, this requires key identification of certain aspects of situations, people, events, and things beforehand. One needs to gauge things right in order to decide how to best proceed to handle them efficiently and successfully.
A wise person is able to identify the things in life, at any point in time, which have a higher priority than others. They also then strive to give them their proper due, simultaneously moving the lesser important things a bit further below down their list of important priorities.
E.g. at younger ages, the priority for most human beings is the acquisition of knowledge, education, skills, and manners (and not necessarily in that order), whether they pursue the acquisition of these for getting guided towards Allah, or purely for worldly benefits — that is a personal choice. At an older age, priorities shift to establishing careers and nurturing families. Still later, priorities shift to worship and giving back to the community. It varies.
Each one of us has unique circumstances, and we have varying priorities based on them. The wise ones among us give priorities at any particular stage in life, to the right things. And in order to be able to do that, they must be wise enough to identify what is more important and pivotal, based on the right benchmark.
E.g. when a family member falls sick, going out together on a picnic falls very low in priority for the others until the sick person recovers completely; but if the weather is great and everyone is free on a day off or the weekend, then going on a picnic moves up in the priority list. Circumstances and situations determine the priority of a particular thing.
I have made it known many times that, since my children were born, parenting them is the top priority in my life, after the worship of Allah and acting upon Islam. I know only too well how quickly the first decade or so of their lives will pass, and it is during this time that the foundation of their faith will be laid, which in turn will determine their future success, as adults — both in this life and the next, insha’Allah. I desire to capitalize on this time before they hit puberty by dedicating myself as their sole mentor, teacher, and caregiver during this period. This is my choice, and I know that it is very different from the choices made by most other mothers.
Sadly, I have been challenged often for this choice by many sincere Muslims (especially those who raised their own progeny with the aid of hired help, in joint family setups, or in the traditional schooling systems, and therefore, — find it challenging to see a valid alternative to the cultural model of raising children), and all I can say to them is: we all make our choices based on our personal perceptions, circumstances, and beliefs. Just the way I try to respect your choices (even if I do not agree with them), and admit that perchance you are much wiser than me, you can try to extend the same respect to me in return. 🙂 Like I said at the start of this post, each one of us has unique circumstances in life.
I know that, a little later on in life (if I live to see the day), my priorities will most probably change again. Motherhood will entail a different, more advisory role, and a different set of responsibilities. And I look forward to the opening up of new avenues of working in the path of Allah when that time arrives, insha’Allah.
Just the knowledge of the constant nature of this change in the priorities of life fuels my thirst for more wisdom and guidance from Allah.
It is exciting to await the unknown, to imagine the unseen.
“Getting it just right” in any stage in life also greatly involves timing. How, you might wonder? 🙂
Well, you might have all it takes to achieve a certain goal, but if you take action for it at the wrong time, you will not be able to achieve it.
For example, — and this I observe a lot among sincere and well-intentioned peer mothers, whether they are homeschooling, or sending their children to school, — giving a child the right dose (more on dosages below ⤋) of the right kind of parental guidance or physical blessing, at the wrong time, will yield zero (if not negative) results.
Giving the child something before time, when they are not physically, emotionally or mentally able to digest or benefit from it, is bound to backfire and cause more harm than good.
I will give a very simple example: let’s suppose a mother feeds a newborn baby mashed banana instead of breast-milk. This is 9 months too early/appropriate in time, and hence, not beneficial at all. However, after only 9 months, it becomes one of the best things that the same baby can be given to eat, as some of their teeth have emerged and they have begun to chew on all and sundry that they can get their hands on. So, mashed banana it is. 🙂
The timing of the beneficial dose or input has to be right. And it takes wisdom to identify when the time is right for what.
And this time varies according to each individual, although there exist specific age-ranges for the expected achievement of most human milestones, but exceptions are always there.
Even if the timing is perfectly right for doing a certain thing in life, which happens to be a high priority at that particular stage, — e.g. the practical, universally relevant task of imparting children basic reading and writing skills, — if the dosage of the input needed at each incidence of instruction and teaching is not right, the activity and long-term project will not be able to achieve optimum fruition.
For example, if a parent chooses to hire a highly-skilled tutor for teaching their 12-year-old-child how to read and write a new language, and this tutor teaches the child daily for 2-3 hours at a stretch, without taking any breaks; and further, in this daily tuition session, he or she imparts the child knowledge that is too advanced in technicality and rules for the child to be able to grasp at age 12, — then, can you guess what will happen?
Yup,– the child won’t be able to learn the language at all due to the dosage of each instruction session being too much, too high, and too intense for their young mind to grasp.
In fact, despite the big hole that these tuition sessions will create in the parents’ pockets, and the harmful delusion that the latter will end up harboring about their child viz. that he or she is too ‘dumb’ or low in intelligence to be able to learn a new language, — perhaps the worst outcome of this whole endeavor will be the way it will permanently dissuade and discourage the child from ever wanting to learn that language ever again, even as an adult, ahead in life, thinking that it is “too difficult” for them to master.
The real obstacle to success and fruition in the above fictional situation, despite the presence of good intentions, love, and nobleness of purpose, will be the lack of wisdom used by the parents in imparting knowledge to their child.
The dosage of something good, if it exceeds limits of moderation, can be harmful and detrimental to the recipient, be it food, medicine, or even something as spiritually superior as sincere religious preaching.
“Getting it just right” in life, therefore, involves using just the right level and amount of dosage needed to bring about the desired positive outcome.
Imagine a doctor who is about to administer just the right amount of dose, of just the right medicine, to a patient who is receiving it at just the right time in their illness.
Of course, giving this medicine is a high-priority task at this particular stage of their illness, so all the aforementioned components of wisdom have been already ticked in this situation, namely: priority, timing, and dosage of medicine — all of them being ‘just right’.
Now, the only thing left is to properly administer the medicine to the patient.
At this point, if the doctor gives the patient a medicinal syrup that is supposed to be taken orally, intravenously instead (i.e. it is injected into the patient’s bloodstream using a syringe), then the entire procedure will fail miserably, and cure will not be attained.
This is because the doctor chose the wrong method of giving the medicine to the patient, even if all the other requirements were being met.
The same applies to the way we use wisdom (or a lack thereof) to handle all our aspects of life.
Wisdom allows a person to use the correct methodology in any given situation, depending upon the people and circumstances involved in it, at the right time, using the right dosage of beneficial goodness, and when that particular task is a high priority in life — in order to achieve the best results and success.
Other Indicators of Wisdom
Organization and management are the hallmarks of wise people. Those endowed with wisdom are highly organized in the way they manage everything in their life. They have certain other qualities as well, which indicate their wisdom.
I thought I would try to list some of the others below as well, so that the readers of this blog can get a holistic picture of what wisdom entails in real life:
Orderliness: Like the Arabic definition of wisdom that I quoted above suggests, wise people put everything in its proper place. And this becomes apparent in the way they arrange their things neatly, in order. A wise person’s room, home, and workspace is rarely ever in disarray.
Minimalism: Wise people attempt to de-clutter their spaces and minds regularly of unwanted and unnecessary things. Consequently, their possessions are just enough to cover their basic needs. They do not aim for opulence, pomp, show, or excess.
Regularity and consistency: Their routines and thoughts are also quite organized and well-managed. Nothing is hotchpotch or disorderly. Erratic and random thought and behavior is non-existent in their dictionary.
Cool and collected: Wise people never over-react to a stimulus or throw a melodramatic fit, unless the situation reaches a crisis level and demands such an extreme reaction. They are notable for their discretion and calm demeanor in even the most distressing situations. That being said, when the situation demands aggression, they deliver.
Quiet and observant: Needless to say, wise people do not talk much, unless requested to (e.g. they talk more than usual only if they are asked to answer a question in detail, or requested to deliver a formal lecture). They do not respond to critics and haters. They do not engage in arguments, abuse, curses, and hate speech.
Calm and un-rushed: Wise people do not show haste, klutziness and impatience. They are not abrupt and loud when doing things e.g. sneezing, coughing, banging doors, or handling objects. They do not make loud noises to disturb others when going about their work.
Picky about company: Wise people have a high level of intolerance to negative talk and the company of ignorant fools. They prefer solitude over bad company. Consequently, they scrupulously avoid people who chronically whine, complain, crib, and lament their fate.
Between stinginess and waste: Last but not least, wise people use their blessings, faculties and possessions in the most appropriate manner, to get the results and benefits that are ‘just right’. They never let something beneficial go to waste, nor do they overuse it to such an extent that it gets spoiled and out-of-order.
Conclusion: Ask Allah for Wisdom
I am asked, “How do you do it?” — be it writing, unschooling, and everything else. It perhaps appears to onlookers as if I have somehow magically “got it all together”.
First of all, the truth is that I do not. I am far from perfect. I have problems and shortcomings, just like everyone else. The only difference is that I do not believe in whining about them in front of anyone who is willing to lend an ear (or dig for dirt ;)), nor do I like airing my laundry in public. My anxieties and worries are reserved for pouring out before Allah during worship, not before His creation.
Secondly, if anything seems to works out well in my life as a result of multitasking and ‘bringing it all together’ to run like a smoothly oiled machine, then that is purely because Allah has guided me to benefit from wisdom, perchance I have been endowed with any wisdom at all.
It is only the benevolence of Allah upon me that any wisdom has made its way into my life, and that is just because I asked Him for it. Reciting the Qur’an over the years, and reflecting upon it, allowed me to value wisdom as a truly great blessing, which resulted in my asking Allah to grant it to me too.
In particular, I recite the dua below, which is found in the Qur’an, a lot:
“O my Lord! Endow me with the ability to judge [between right and wrong], and make me one with the righteous ones,” [26:83]
This is the dua of Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام, in which the word حُكْمًا has been described, by Ibn Abbas in Tafsir ibn Kathir, simply, as “knowledge”. I love this dua because I love the two things that are mentioned in it: knowledge and righteous company.
Reflecting upon the Qur’an reveals that other Prophets were also granted this special kind of knowledge, or sound judgment, or wisdom (حُكم or حِكمَة) from Allah, and this knowledge/ability to judge has been mentioned separately from the prophethood (النُّبُوَّةَ) and the scripture or revelation (الْكِتَابَ) that they were given.
This means that wisdom, sound judgment, and the ability to see things as they really are, and to do things according to the most appropriate methodology and in the optimum amount, is one of the greatest blessings that an individual can ever possess.
Also, the good news is that Allah can grant it to even those people who are not Prophets, such as Luqman the Wise man.
So, I would like to end with this advice for you: ask Allah to grant you wisdom, sound judgment, and the ability to see things as they are. Ask Him to enable you to give priority to the right things at any particular time in life.
For surely, wisdom is one the greatest blessings that anyone can possess in the life of this world!
Abu Hurairah narrated that he heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ saying:
“For one of you to go out early to gather firewood and carry it on his back, so that he can give charity from it and be free of need from the people, is better for him than to ask from a man, who may give to him, or refuse.
Indeed, the upper hand (giving) is more virtuous than the lower hand (receiving), and begin with (those who are) your dependents.” [Jami Tirmidhi, also reported by Sahih Al Bukhari]
Without doubt, because the Prophet ﷺ himself said it, the giving hand is better than the receiving one.
And although we believe in the truth of this as Muslims, because of the above hadith, my personal life experiences have also corroborated this fact for me practically, to the point that I now ask Allah for this blessing — that of always having the upper hand in the life of this world — even more.
However, it is often presumed that the people who have the upper/giving hand in life, have it easier in almost every other way, than those who receive. I used to think so too.
There is almost nothing negative that one can ever say about giving, is there?
Even those people who do not believe in God, and who give to others without any intention and hope of receiving rewards for their giving in the Afterlife (perhaps, because they do not believe in an afterlife at all), usually like and enjoy contributing to society through willful charity and voluntary welfare work, — such as, e.g. by promoting/supporting humanitarian causes by contributing to them through their services, skills, fame, or money — simply because of the spiritual and emotional ‘high’ that it gives them.
Everyone feels good after helping someone else. Everyone.
This is because the human soul has been naturally “wired” to give to back, to help the underprivileged, to do good to those who are less fortunate, especially once the soul starts to get overpowered by the feeling that it have been blessed with a lot.
“Shukr” or gratitude for blessings comes naturally to all human beings, and it results in their giving generously to others.
In a nutshell, there are mostly 3 causes that spur someone on to give, regardless of their faith:
(i) When they feel guilty about consistently disobeying, displeasing or undermining God in the way they are living their lives (even if they claim to not believe in Him), or when they have done something vile, or wronged someone else, and feel really bad about it.
(ii) When they feel overwhelmed with the recognition of just how greatly and to what enormous extent they have been blessed, as compared to others (this feeling overpowers them especially strongly whenever they hear of a calamity striking others, and the resulting suffering of the latter), and
(iii) a combination of the above two feelings.
Everyone who is blessed, therefore, loves “giving back” at some point or the other in their lives.
It results in the feeling of immense spiritual fulfillment, tranquility, and satisfaction, almost like a high. It also chases away – for a while – the two nagging feelings (or their combination) that I have listed in points 1 and 2 above.
But, is living the life of a “giver” always as great as it sounds?
Is “having it all” really the idyllic way of life?
The greatest challenge of giving generously in the way of Allah, is to not let it get to your head.
The solution for the disease of the heart called ri’aa or riya (the Arabic word used to describe the love of having your righteous deeds seen by others, and to have yourself admired for your piety) is, simply put, to give charity so secretly that no one else, — not a single other soul, — gets to know about it, sees it, or finds out.
This is, to say the very least, not at all easy.
Nevertheless, if people with giving hands attempt to conceal their giving for the right reasons, sometimes, they face far greater problems than just the issue of how to successfully avoid going public with their charity.
You see, in order to find the people who are truly deserving of their charity, a giving person has to seek them out — undercover.
And, in order to seek them out without being duped by the innumerable charlatans who pretend to be deserving of their charity around them, they have to conceal the fact that they are givers.
And how does one go about doing that?
Viz. how does one not let people catch on to the fact that they are generous givers?
Chucking the labels
Majority of us dream of acquiring all those blessings in life that will garner us comfort, ease, happiness, prestige, and honor.
We all also know that each of these blessings usually comes — at least nowadays — attached with equally (if not more) desirable brand tags and labels. Consequently, we spend the better part of our lives in pursuit of these labels.
As an aside, my eyes have really been opened to how effective the modern-day marketing strategies are, in lampooning potential customers since they are in the cradle, i.e. from infancy.
Babies & toddlers begin to recognize logos and symbols pretty quickly after birth, and also the experiences, textures, tastes, feelings, and sounds associated with them, long before they learn how to read letters and words.
Companies and businesses sure know how to cash in on this symbol/logo recognition and retention of young human minds. So if they want a die-hard customer who will recognize their products anywhere, instantly, 15 years (or even less) down the road, and drop everything to rush off with their pocket money or salary in hand at the mere hint of the words, “sale” or “launch”, then they will have to ensure that the babies and toddlers today get to not just hang out often inside their shops and stores without reproach, but that they are also able to recognize their logos immediately as soon as their eyes fall upon them on ads anywhere.
Anyhow, that is how a customer gets hitched to products nowadays: by associating happiness, pleasurable experiences, and social prestige with the acquisition of brands, tags, and labels.
What is sad is, how subtly and subconsciously this happens. And not just how we end up desiring to be seen in certain labels from top to bottom for our own selves, but also how we “measure up” a person, when we meet them, on the basis of what tags and labels appear on their persona.
So why am I going on about brands, labels, and price tags when talking about giving? Well, because in the world of the givers i.e. those who have been blessed with plenty and surplus provision in this worldly life, the pursuit of labels and the “measuring up” of others on the basis of the “tags” they have upon their persona, is the norm.
From what they wear and carry, to which vehicle they drive around in, to where they live (zip code) and how big the dwelling is, to what they eat (or not); what rank/designation they are at in their workplace, to which institution they or their family members attend(ed), — the social circles and ethos of the “giving communities” in this world (a.k.a the rich) thrive upon and burst to the seams with labels, tags, and brand-names.
It is a world where all members are running in a rat race to one-up and get ahead of the rest; where they are constantly measured up for what they own, possess, and show off. It is so sad and unavoidable, that it gets tiring and sometimes disconcerting to the hilt.
Anyhow, like I said above, givers should try to just chuck the labels sometimes, even though it is unavoidable because of the social circles that they belong to, in order to go “undercover” among the common masses, and seek out the truly deserving needy people to give their charity to, without being seen, heard, or recognized; in order to give in a way that no one else finds out about it.
In the process of chucking the labels and downplaying their wealth in order to remain incognito, they have to also make sure that they try to strike a critical balance — that of staying humble, down-to-earth, and approachable for the common masses, whilst acquiring, using, appreciating, and cherishing (i.e. not denying, wasting, or undermining) the favors and blessings of Allah that they have been granted in this world.
This is because, sometimes Allah gives more to the “givers”, so that His blessings can reach the needy people on earth through them, allowing them to earn rewards for giving.
Personally, I find the rat race and lust for labels among the well-off circles of society exhaustingly off-putting and tiresome. The scenario never changes. Here is how it roughly goes:
(i) You meet someone. You are scanned top-to-toe (for the presence of new blessings).
(ii) The mental/visual ‘detector’ pings as soon as a new acquisition is spotted, and the eyes fix on it for some seconds.
(iii) Then the inquiry starts:
“Where did you get that?”
“Is that a _____ handbag?! Did you get it on sale?”
“A new phablet? Were you promoted at work?”
(iv) Then comes the personal “saving face” story: the person who detected the acquisition launches into a talk about how and when they last got the same (or similar) blessing.
(v) A resolve to compete and one-up is set in motion inside their heart viz. “Time for me to get that too”.
Why can we all not buy something without being eyed for it, and being questioned about its price tag? Why can we not partake from a luxury that we can afford without being envied and judged by the “have’s” & “have-not’s”, alike?
When we see a new blessing on someone, why can’t we just be happy for them, congratulate them for it, and most importantly, make dua for them to be blessed in it? Here is what we should say as soon as we spot a new blessing on someone, and/or henceforth think about their having it:
بَارَكَ اللهُ فِيهِ
Why, instead, do we allow ourselves to feel bad about not having that blessing? About not being able to afford it?
The only way to avoid the above-described scanning and inquiry sessions by others, is for someone who possesses many blessings, but desires to keep them protected from harm by Allah, and wants for themselves to remain secret, incognito “givers” who are approachable by the masses, — is for them to walk around looking like any average layperson, downplaying their success, and hiding their blessings from people as much as possible.
This is also an effective measure that is required to ward off the ill effects of destructive envy and the admiring/adoring eye.
“Seek the help for the success or victory of your needs by being quiet.
For verily, everything that has a blessing in it is envied.” [Al-Tabarani, Sahih Al-Jami’]
And although thus going incognito and keeping a low profile (like I described above) has its benefits, it should not be allowed to lead to denying Allah’s favors and blessings upon one’s self, because:
“When Allah bestows a blessing upon a person, He loves the effect of His blessing to be seen on His slave.”
[Madarij Al Salikeen]
Choices, choices, — yet, so hard to choose.
It takes immense wisdom and discretion to strike the optimum, delicate balance between the two polarized scenarios: opulent showing off, and down-to-earth humility.
Identifying the “Gold Diggers”
Finally, like I said, those who have “the upper hand” in giving charity and helping others, understandably attract innumerable charlatans i.e. people pretending to like them and befriending them just to gain some kind of benefit.
Who does not love someone who has it all? Everyone loves them, don’t they?
However, just the way Prophet Muhammad ﷺ started experiencing problems once Islam started to gain momentum in Madinah, from an emerging group of people who were pretending to be Muslims just in order to gain the socioeconomic benefits that Islam had begun to offer, so do givers today attract hypocrites and insincere friends the minute their success and possessions begin to become apparent to the world.
And it is not easy to identify the insincere people in one’s circle viz. those being chummy and nice towards you only because they want some benefit from you.
It is even more difficult to do this, because the sincerity of others whom you know in life, and the cordiality of their attidue towards you, tends to change with time and circumstance.
E.g. a person in your extended family with whom your relationship was extremely toxic and difficult during the first 20 years of your life, could change and become a true well-wisher once you become older, based on the changes in their personality, life circumstances (afflictions and calamities can really make people humble), or their level of religiosity, that happen over time.
In this regard, it is prudent to remain cautious without becoming paranoid.
One should always remember the wise words of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ when making anyone, whether they are from within their family or outside, their close friend (خَلِيل):
“A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.” [Abu Dawud]
My ‘giving back’: two new books
As an afterthought to my analysis of the dynamics of becoming a giver with the “upper hand” in life, when it comes to da’wah (calling others towards Islam), one needs to give back to the world publicly instead of secretly.
In lieu of such “giving back”, I have been really busy the past few months.
New projects have been taking up much of my time, but I am not saying this as a complain, only as a fact. I am actually very grateful to Allah that He has kept me busy in other beneficial work besides my main “life project”, which still remains to be the character-building of my 3 children.
All praises to Allah, like I mentioned in a previous post, He guided me to compile my online articles in book form, so that they can be available worldwide in the form of paper and digital books.
This is actually very important, because having all your content scattered around on the Internet is one thing (albeit a good one), but for it to be available in readable form in the physical world, is another.
I would like to update my readers about two new books that are also now available on Amazon.com.
This is a guidebook about the sacred journeys of Hajj and Umrah. It is not an Islamic jurisprudential (fiqh) guide, per se, but it outlines the method of performing Hajj and Umrah in simple layman’s terms.
This book explains to readers the many practical aspects that reflect the innate wisdom behind the physical rituals, and the lessons imparted when someone undertakes these sacred pilgrimage journeys.
It helps readers connect the dots by relating pilgrimage rites and rituals to the monotheistic message of Islam, by recalling how the bases of these lie in the events that happened in the life of Prophet Ibrahim and his family members.
Readers will be able to know what to bring away with them after they return from Hajj and/or Umrah, insha’Allah.
This book is especially close to my heart, because, well, it seems to be all about me. 🙂
And that’s not just because it has my silhouette upon the cover photograph, pictured standing in front of the glass windows of Ocean Tower, looking out over an aerial view of South Karachi, heh.
This book is close to my heart, simply because I have been immensely liberated and empowered myself, as a Muslim woman, ever since I came towards Islam and started to practice this Deen, all praises to Allah, 16 years ago.Each passing year has empowered me more than the last one.
True empowerment, for a Muslim woman, comes from Islam — but only when she takes it as her core belief system and her way of life, far above and beyond the cultural and ritualistic level at which it is mostly practiced around her, in Muslim society.
Empowerment involves and results from taking a firm stand — even before the elders among one’s family and other authority figures, such as a husband or an employer (for those who are working) — for what is right in the light of Islam, but it is important for this stand to be taken on the basis of sincerity, and according to the rulings of Islam for Allah’s Divine aide to come for the Muslim woman.
This book attempts to deliver an important message to its readers: how Islam liberates and empowers a Muslim woman, through her submission to Allah and her unflinching subservience to Him, which should be at a level that is far over and above her subservience to any other created being (including her husband or parents!).
I hope and pray that those who purchase both these books will benefit from them, insha’Allah.
For my younger female readers, especially, I would like to recommend the second book above, as a definite must-read.
If you purchase any of my books and find them helpful (or not), do try to leave an honest review under them on Amazon.com (which could be either negative, positive, or balanced — I value and appreciate constructive feedback that is respectfully worded).
I would like to end this post by acknowledging to all my social connections that I have been really MIA (missing in action) since some months. Life is all about change, and I have decided to stop being apologetic about my work.
Allah has placed immense fulfillment for me in what I do. He has also given me more to do over the past few years. I also know that as my age increases, aspects of my life will change in ways that are unavoidable, so I should try to capitalize on my current phase in life to the full, before it passes by.
This means that, if you do not see me often, I will probably not apologize to you for it anymore. Let me explain this with the help of an analogy:
Try to recall any businessman, doctor, or other professional person among your relatives or in your social circle, who is in the age range of 35-50, and is married with children. How often do you see them? Are you able to easily get hold of them for a meeting? How much free time do they have? Do they always attend every late-night dinner, wedding, or outing? And lastly, do they apologize to you for not being able to attend your invitation or event, or for not being able to give time to you or to other people because of their work/professional commitments?
Well, I have decided to take my work as, if not more, seriously as these professionals do. And I request you to please do the same in return to me: please respect me for my choice of work, and for my schedule. Even if you think that what I do is not as important or serious as what a doctor or businessman does, please just respect me for my choices. 🙂
With each passing week and month, my children are growing up, and their needs are also evolving and growing day by day, masha’Allah. Even though we unschool, we still have a lot to do, and there are many things to get done.
I work full-time from home (as an Islamic writer/counselor) but that is not even my primary occupation. We have a 3-student workplace and mentoring/training/coaching center at our residence which has no official work hours (viz. after which the children are told to leave and go home), but rather, which runs round-the-clock.
So, you see, all praises to Allah, there is a lot to get done during the day (and night). Since the past 3 years, time seems to fly by like lightning for me. I really do not know where my days or weeks go. And yet, I am fully aware that this phase of my life will pass by very quickly too (it sure seems to be doing so, already), and that one day I will not be in my thirties or forties any more, but instead, will be much older and perhaps not as productive (I seek refuge with Allah from the idleness, weakness, and other negative things associated with old age). This is to say, if I live that long, that is.
I know for sure that the children who are occupying me so much today will not be there around me one day, and I know this because I see older couples around me, and I observe how idle/free they are, even though they might be having several children and grandchildren.
It is a fact of life. Time goes on. Things change. People change. Circumstances change. And routines also change.
So let us all strike while the iron is hot.
I think that I should — or rather, we all should — capitalize on the time we have right now, and on our current abilities, skills, strengths and talents, before the optimum window of opportunity that the current phase of our life has to offer to us, to achieve what we can, passes us by and is gone for good.
With that, I will sign off now. Till next time, insha’Allah. 🙂
Pain: all of us dread it. It would probably not be too far-fetched a claim to say that no one in their right mind would ever want to experience any kind of pain, at least willingly, in life.
We all dream of living a life sans pain of any kind. We wish it were smooth sailing always.
That being said, pain is a part of life. It has been decreed by Allah to come into our lives time and again at different stages and stepping stones, sometimes by surprise, sometimes with full expectation, and in different grades and forms.
Sometimes the pain is physical; sometimes, it is emotional; and sometimes, it is mental/psychological. At other times, it is a combination of all three – the worst kind!
There are so many different kinds of pain that we endure during the journey of our lives: such as the pain of sacrifice, the pain of separation, the pain of forbearance, the pain of regret, the pain of loss, the pain of rejection, and the pain of illness and injury, to name a few.
The good news? There are many angles to the way pain can be perceived, especially once we realize the fact that it is actually good for us, if we put on the lens that allows us to see that good that pain brings.
New Beginnings & Blessings
Whether it is a 6-to-10-year-old child burning with fever because a molar tooth is breaking out through their gums, a young executive overworked to the point of burnout just before they receive a surprise promotion at work; a birthing mother screaming in agony as her baby’s head crowns; a youngster feeling a deep pit in their stomach as they wake up for the last time in their parents’ home on the morning of the day they will move out for the first time in their life; an aspiring businessperson investing all of their hard-earned savings as capital in their startup; or an athlete/fitness aficionado feeling every muscle in their body ache as they finish their last lap/round — pain, many a time, heralds the arrival of a new blessing, milestone, level of success, or achievement.
Many a time, enduring excruciating pain means that one is just about to receive a big blessing or good fortune.
The rope is stretched to the maximum just before it breaks and all the tension is lost.
So whenever you feel that you are enduring too much pain in life, recall that you might be inching very close, with each passing day, to that final moment of relief – of receiving a coveted form of good, or a fortune.
Growth and Bloom
Life is in a constant state of change.
We progress from one phase in life to the next with time, but the transition from one phase to another is usually painful.
Some transitions are upgrades, and not just in the material sense. I mean more so in the form of personal and spiritual growth and ascension, in that the person becomes more productive, worthy, beneficial towards others, and successful in their endeavors as a result of enduring the pain of transition.
They also increase in rank and honor, both in this world (viz. rising in the eyes of people) and in the next (being upgraded in the books of Allah as a more righteous and beloved slave/believer).
How is this different from the point above? Well, above I explained how pain precedes the acquisition of a worldly blessing, whereas here, I am pointing out the fact that the endurance of pain (of any kind) over a period of time, leads to personal growth and success – of the person, as an individual. Their worth and qualities improve and increase.
So if you are experiencing hardship, trials, difficulties, or any kind of pain, know that if you endure them with faith, patience, and forbearance, using them to bring you closer to Allah, you will emerge from this phase a much more honorable, better and righteous person.
Sort of like the sumptuous cake or succulent whole-roasted bird that emerges from a scorching oven after an hour of being subjected to severe, concentrated heat in a closed environment.
Personal growth and success is just not possible without experiencing pain!
Strength & Resilience
If it won’t kill you, it will make you stronger.
Strength of any kind needs pain to be acquired. Whether it is spiritual or physical in nature, a person who possesses any degree of strength and resilience is the one who has endured much pain first, in order to get it.
This applies not just to people, but also to organizations, companies, and movements. Anything worthwhile that you see standing tall and strong today, took months if not years of painful toil to get erected and made to stand firm.
So do you want to one day become a stronger person? Stronger in faith, spirituality, knowledge, personality, emotion, and belief? Capable of facing, enduring, and overcoming even bigger challenges than you already have?
If so, then be grateful for the pain that Allah has decreed for you to experience up till today. And resolve that, if any pain comes your way later on in life, you will face it and try to overcome it with grit.
Because only then will you become stronger.
Insight, Foresight, & Wisdom
Last, but definitely not the least in the list of the positives of pain, is one of the blessings that the Qur’an has described as abundant “khair” (good):
“He gives wisdom unto whom He wills, and he unto whom wisdom is given, he truly has received abundant good. But none remember except men of understanding.” – 2:269
Many if not most people traipse through life without really understanding or fully deciphering its realities and subtleties. Few make the connections between cause and effect. Many repeat their past mistakes, give up too soon, and fail to get out of ruts that they are stuck in.
Few achieve the growth and resilience that endurance of pain can allow a person to achieve, for the simple reason that they give up too soon and become hopeless about being able to turn their life around for the better, and about attaining higher ranks of personal achievement and success.
Wisdom is indeed one of the best things that a person can be blessed with. So, what exactly is wisdom, and what is its relationship to pain?
Well, according to my personal experience, wisdom is the ability to see things, people, events, happenings, and everything else in life – as they are. To give each thing the priority that it deserves. To be able to correlate causes to effects, and actions to outcomes. To be able to learn lessons in a way that you do not repeat your mistakes. To keenly observe the world and to be able to see why things happen the way they do.
Wisdom allows a person to prevent major catastrophes, and to breeze through the mundane trivialities of life, by recognizing the easier options and going for them, thereby saving oodles of effort and time from being wasted on less important matters.
Wisdom grants a person tremendous insight and foresight, both. Insight is the ability to clearly see right through every matter, down to its lowest depths. And foresight is the ability to predict the nature of future (long term) outcomes of the actions that are being done today, in the present.
Lastly, and very importantly, wisdom allows a person to see other people as they really are. It sounds very simple written down, but in reality, being able to see people without anything blinding you is a great blessing indeed. It is very difficult for hypocritical, shallow, and insincere people to deceive, manipulate, or fool a wise person in order to achieve their own motives.
This is because wise people are granted a special kind of ‘eye’ by Allah, which allows them to detect, screen (sort of like a scanning security camera or device) and remove the insincere people from their lives, thus remaining unaffected by their vileness and ulterior motives. Removing the negative influence of such insincere people from their lives, in turn, leaves them more time and positive energy to pursue those beneficial pastimes in life that will actually impact them in the best manner in the Hereafter.
Now, for the relationship between pain and wisdom. Well, what I have seen is that enduring pain & hardships grants a person wisdom because any kind of suffering, if it is endured with hope, sincerity, good faith, and trust in Allah, – despite all the odds – leads to the acquisition of a special kind of deep, insightful, and beneficial knowledge regarding the practicalities of life and human behavior that makes living, learning, and handling challenges, so much easier and fruitful for the person. You just begin to see things – everything – as they are. The veils of prejudice, blindness, and ignorance are permanently removed.
It is like, passing each threshold of pain opens the door to a deeper level of wisdom.
A point comes in the life of a believer when he or she is actually grateful to Allah even for the pain He sends their way, because they know how much good it brings.
Yet, pain is something from which we all should seek refuge with Allah. However, if He does decree pain for us, we should nevertheless be happy about the fact that, besides cleansing us of our sins and raising our ranks in the Hereafter, this pain will definitely bring us some credible and worthy worldly blessings as well – provided we endure it with faith, sincerity, patience (sabr), goodwill, hope, and trust in Allah’s will & decree.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the Qur’an has documented how almost all the Prophets of Allah endured different kinds and varying levels of pain, especially that of social persecution, which is a special kind of pain that most of us hardly ever experience in life.
It is very interesting, how time brings about change and growth.
I find it almost incredible to believe that there was a time – less than a decade ago – when I used to hope and pray that certain magazines and newspapers (both local and international) would accept my articles for publishing.
Well, alhamdulillah, things happened, and Allah blessed my ‘pen’.
I grew and evolved as a writer over time (after having started off as a mere blogger), to the point that, now I actually find it difficult to write magazine articles, because of the changes that came about over the years in, both, my writing style as well as my trains of thoughts and mental ability to perform reflective analyses. So I have all but completely moved on from magazine writing.
Anyhow, over the 9 years spanning my writing career (which started in 2006), and after having transitioned a few times from writing for one publication to the next, I realized that quite a few of my articles were lying outdated somewhere online, on the worldwide web, perhaps buried under the sands of time. They were no longer current, yet definitely relevant.
To be a little more statistically exact, they numbered more than 300, although I still do not know the exact number (even though I have tried to count them all).
Yikes! That’s a lot of original content to be scatted around, isn’t it?
Anyhow, so I started to think about what I could do to consolidate all my past articles that lay scattered around the web, most of them on OnIslam, so that they could still be accessible and useful to readers.
Encouraged by an idea given to me by a reader (my dua’s for them, because if this endeavor is granted fruition, success and barakah (blessings) from Allah, then it will be such a great ongoing charity in their name), I decided to republish my past articles in chunks that centered around a shared theme, as paperback and digital eBooks on Amazon.
And before anyone wonders, yes I did sort out the issue of copyrights. 🙂
You see, it is quite one thing to read an article online, on your desktop computer, laptop or smartphone, and quite another to own it and other related articles in the form of a real paperback book, which you can read at your chosen pace and leisure, and later on store it in your library, or place it on your bedside table or desk at home, or carry it around in your handbag.
You can even gift such a book to someone whom you think will like it and benefit from it.
We all know that physical books are so much easier to access and consult for references, especially for those who are not tech savvy and who prefer not to use Google to find answers 24/7.
So anyhow, this year, with the help of Allah and after careful planning, I was able to republish some of my past articles as 4 books on Amazon.
Below in this post, I will give more details regarding these books. But before I commence, I want to discuss a few points:
This self-publishing project is not a money-making venture for me. Like I said, I wanted my piled-up past articles to be available as books, and hence I started this endeavor. I ask Allah to grant it fruition and to accept it from me.
But, please, do not start drooling with greed or turning green with envy as soon as you click on the links below and spot the US$ or other foreign currency signs next to my book titles (this request is especially for my fellow Pakistani’s, whose love and greed for foreign exchange is undeniable). I simply chose to use an available tool to make my past curated content available on another, new, international platform, accessible to book buyers around the globe. That is it.
The details of the “how” of this whole project are all available at CreateSpace, – the free self-publishing platform owned by Amazon that I used, – which allows anyone, and I do mean anyone, to publish their writing (or photographs) in the form of a book, quite easily. You can click here and here to find out more about how to use Createspace.
Please do not ask me how many copies I have sold, how much money I have made, and how the money reaches me. I dislike being asked personal questions about money.
I have done all the work on this project myself. I did not hire any editors or other individuals to help me self-publish these 4 books. I am not saying this to boast, but rather, to inform everyone how incredibly easy it is nowadays to do things like this, given the free online tools available at one’s disposal.
For those of my readers who were wondering where I’d ‘disappeared’ to, now you know what project was keeping me particularly busy this year. Since I do not enjoy editing (and since it doesn’t come as easily and naturally to me as writing), I had to work quite hard on compiling, editing and proofreading these books. Whew.
Now, on to the details of the four books.
Are You Ready for Ramadan? Make it Your Best One Yet!
This is a concise guide book about preparing for Ramadan, based on many of my past articles about this holy month.
It aims to help readers make the most of the blessed month, by brushing up on their knowledge of it before it arrives.
It also provides tips about the practical issues and challenges that every Muslim faces during Ramadan, such as time management, optimizing worship, managing small children, giving charity, and maintaining productivity.
Buy this easy-to-peruse book if you want to prepare yourself for benefiting as much as you can from Ramadan.
Ramadan is just over 6 months away, so get your hands on this book if you can, before then. 🙂
A Little About Muhammad ﷺ
By the grace and guidance of Allah alone, I had quite a few articles about Prophet Muhammad ﷺ piled up. The result: a book about him, aptly colored green.
This concise book covers his beautiful character and actions, gleaning lessons for our own lives. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a man who held many roles during his life: that of husband, father, leader, mentor, trainer, friend, judge and teacher.
In all of these roles, his innate qualities of humility, compassion, justice and mercy towards others shone through, becoming instantly apparent to even the most apathetic observer.
This concise book aims to highlight his inspiring actions and statements during select incidents in his life, and the wisdom on which they were based.
Like I said at the start of this post, it is amazing how time brings about change, but you know what else is also amazing?
How some events and milestones end up happening in your life, despite your not planning them at all.
Becoming a marriage counselor of sorts is one such thing that happened in my life after I began writing from home, a year or so into my own marriage.
I had never planned to go down this route. Nor do I think I am particularly qualified to give others advice about marriage.
Anyhow, the articles that I penned about marriage in Islam just kept coming over the years. It was the topic that my editors requested most often of me, especially once my first book got published by IIPH, which was also about Muslim marriage.
So I collected all my articles that were on the topic of being single in the Muslim world, which mostly discussed the associated challenges, and gave advice about how to overcome them, to both Muslim singles as well as their parents.
And along came my third book! 🙂
Here is its official description:
Marriage is considered the foundation of all relationships. Most Muslims ardently desire to get married, sooner or later in life.
As the years pass without a single Muslim finding the right person to tie the knot with, pressure from society and the increasing worry of their parents compound their own growing anxiety about the future.
If you are a single Muslim, or the parent of one, you should buy this book in order to benefit from practical tips and advice about how to handle this trying phase of your life: the harrowing search for that elusive, ideal life partner.
The fourth book that I self-published this year is for Muslim newlyweds. It talks about the challenges they face, especially the ones who hail from the South Asian a.k.a desi community.
This is officially my third book about Muslim marriage! I had quite a few articles piled up regarding the challenges faced by Muslim couples during the first one or two years of their marriage, so I decided to publish them as this book.
This book is meant to help the younger married couples anywhere in the world stand up on their own feet after marriage. It is preceded by my first book, “Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage” (the one with the prominent red rose on its cover), and “The Single Muslim”, which has advice for young single Muslims who are ardently seeking spouses for themselves.
Here is the official description:
It is a well-known and accepted fact that the first few years of marriage are pivotal in establishing and strengthening its foundation.
The first years are also the most delicate and difficult, because making unintentional but grave mistakes in this time period can impart irreparable damage to the relationship.
This book is going to be a beneficial read for every Muslim newlywed out there, who sincerely wants to make their marriage work.
Success: a lot is said, written, and taught today about how to achieve it in life. For most if not all human beings, becoming successful in life is a top priority.
But before I begin talking about it too, first I would like to wonder out loud what exactly success means to each of us, in practical terms.
For most people, I think, the benchmarks of success hover around two main factors: (i) the acquisition of material wealth through one’s chosen profession, and (ii) unabated popularity among people (friends, family, colleagues, and the rest of the world – the order of these changing according to the stage in life).
Now that we got that brief and no-brainer definition of success out of the way, let us talk about the 4 childhood signs that are indicative of success, according to my experience.
As always, I will try to refer to the Qur’an, because that is the Book that I consult whenever I reflect upon anything in life, and because I consider it my primary source of guidance from Allah.
But before I list these 4 indicators of success down for you, please keep in mind that when I say ‘childhood’, I mean the age range of 0 to 15-18 – the number of years it takes for a human being to reach the threshold of adulthood.
The child runs with glee towards the tree in the park, jumps onto its trunk, grabs at the lower branches and starts to climb enthusiastically. The concerned parent is close on the heels of him or her, anxiously looking up and warning them about the dangers of falling off accidentally from too high up in the tree. After a few minutes of watching the child hang precariously from branches and scratch their palms and shins on the sharp bark, the parent climbs up the tree too, grabs the protesting and struggling child, and forces them off the tree.
Five minutes later, as that parent turns their back for a couple of minutes to tend to a toddler, the same child is back up on the same tree, a big grin of glee on their flushed face as they climb back up to try and reach the tallest branch. Goal in mind: try to hang off a sturdy branch and jump down on the ground.
Surprising, isn’t it? How can the behavior of a child who consistently defies adults’ authority, be the indicator of their future success? Is not a ‘good’ child supposed to always do as they are told?
We are taught, and we almost always blindly believe, that only those children are “good”, who are incessantly obedient and servile. They never challenge authority, much less defy it. They never raise their voice, nor do they ever disagree with what older people say, do, or tell them to do. They never break the rules, cross the line, or ‘get into trouble’.
Well, guess what? Children who defy authority actually indicate that they possess courage, ‘guts’ and grit, even though their negative behavior often causes offense and disarray for adults. I am not talking about predominant juvenile delinquency and crime here. I am only talking about when a child refuses to be incessantly servile and obedient, about everything that they are told to do, 24/7.
If your child speaks their mind, goes ahead and does what they think is right, and crosses the line at times, these are actually good signs, indicating their innate self-confidence, creativity, and courage.
Even though it means that sometimes things will break, fears will mount, tempers will be lost, things will go awry, and plans will have to be changed, the story of the young Prophet Ibrahim in the Qur’an, who defied his society’s elders and refused to worship man-made idols as a young boy, proves that such spunky children go on to become courageous and successful leaders as adults — as long as what they are rebelling against involves transgression of Allah’s laws, or moral/ethical wrongdoing.
The word used to refer to the young Ibrahim in the above (linked) verse of the Qur’an: فَتًى – is the singular form of the same word used to refer to the companions of the caveفِتْيَةٌ – who also rebelled against their society in order to preserve their monotheistic faith. Click here for a detailed definition of this Arabic word.
Being Bullied by Peers
Most of us have lingering bad memories from our childhoods that involve other children laughing at us at school or in our neighborhood, or having bullied us in any other way e.g. by calling us names, or mocking us, or harassing us.
Although bullying is not something desirable or positive, and it undoubtedly casts a lasting impact on a child’s psyche, sometimes it brings about positive results.
How? Well, a bullied child becomes stronger over time, and the anger inside him or her, sometimes becomes positively channelized to motivate them to strive to prove their bullies wrong, by working harder to succeed in life.
I was called the “L” word at school quite openly by a few liberal-minded, fake-American-accent-toting burghers (who are now, surprise surprise, living and working in the West. Thank you, LinkedIn) because I was a studious nerd.
Anyhow, Allah has blessed me with a photographic memory, which allows me to recall names and identities when I come across a photograph. A cursory perusal of LinkedIn has hitherto repeatedly proved my ambivalent hypothesis true: bullied children almost always go on to surpass their bullying peers in both, professional as well as personal success, as adults (of age 30+).
Karma? 🙂 I prefer to call it Allah’s worldly reward for patiently enduring hardship. The mills do grind very slowly, but eventually, it’s the bullied children who revel in the joy of delivering this silent but so blatantly obvious comeuppance to their past antagonists.
No one even knows the site of the pit of fire that was collectively built for burning a young and recalcitrant Ibrahim alive, do they? Yet, millions today throw pebbles every year, at the site where he once did – thousands of years ago.
Challenging the Status Quo
Spunk, creativity, innovation, and intelligence is apparent whenever a child verbally or physically challenges the status quo viz. the current way of doing things.
Of course, at the face of it, it will look like he or she is being difficult and/or disobedient, especially if they go to school. A child gets severely reprimanded in school for not doing what the teacher tells them to do, when and how it is supposed to be done.
Anyhow, how is this behavior – challenging the status quo – different from the one I’ve described above – i.e. defying authority? Well, it is different because it involves a child willingly doing something differently than how he or she sees adults doing it, without actually defying their orders or being disobedient.
Going against the status quo at a young age, when everyone older than you is almost always telling you what to do and how to do it, requires immense self-confidence and courage. It involves not getting deterred by the fear of what people will say or do as a reaction to your being different from them in looks, actions, words, or beliefs.
Basically, children who are strong, creative, and gifted, yet who refuse to become two-faced, apologetic “people-pleasers” are challenging the status quo. And this indicates that they will succeed in the future, because they already possess one of the greatest qualities of leadership.
Every positive revolutionary change that has ever come about in human history was a result of someone having the guts to challenge the prevalent status quo; to be different; to ignore the criticism of naysayers; to believe in themselves and their dreams; and to go ahead and just do it. Their way.
As the Qur’an says, this is actually a trait of those believers who strive in the way of Allah:
“…And fearing not the blame of any blamer. Such is the grace of Allah which He gives unto whom He will.” [5:54]
Scoring Low or Average Academic Grades
Last but not least, and I will keep this one short: children who do not qualify by a wide margin to be geniuses or whizzes according to the standardized grading systems used in schools, more often than not, turn out to become quite successful as adults, once they are allowed to pursue their natural talents and interests.
You can go on and quote to me long lists of so-called ‘geniuses’ and achievers in human history, and how they graduated with great grades/GPA’s and advanced degrees from the world’s finest schools, but what is true is that the role played by educational degrees and institutions in determining the personal and professional success of a person is greatly overrated.
Even if a high academic-achieving child turns out to be very successful in life 2 decades later, there is more often than not some other factor, besides their academic grades at school, which facilitated their success. Just take a look at how closely their professional occupation in middle age is connected to the subjects that they studied at school. You just might be surprised!
What I’ve noticed in my life is that children who did astoundingly well at school up till age 18 i.e. they held consistently impeccable academic records, end up standing – 2 or more decades later – at more or less the same if not a tad lesser level of personal and professional success than the children who barely passed, or perhaps even occasionally failed, their tests and exams.
Whether you like it or not. It is true for most cases.
So there you have it: my analysis of the 4 indicators of a child’s future success, as an adult above age 30.
Let me know if you have any ideas to share?
And before you go, please vote in the poll below. Jazakum Allah khair.