In The Dark, I See The Spark!

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In the dark, silent nights,

The pillow absorbs the warm tears that roll down my eyes.

The aches are still apparent.

The agony which tears apart every inch of my soul.

The memory of letting you down several times.

The hurt of giving priority to those other than you.

The burning feeling of cheating you.

The fear of becoming a hardened one.

The anguish of being lost and alone.

The shiver of spell bound heedlessness.

The denial of standing in front of you one day.

The nervousness of being accountable.

The pit in stomach when hear of your justice and anger.

The forgetfulness of daily obligatory prayers.

I cry and become restless for wasting one more day.

In dark, silent nights,

The pillow absorbs the warm tears that roll down my eyes.

I sob out of love for you Ya Rabbi.

I ask, I ask for Jannah like a stubborn child.

In the dark, silent nights,

I long for your pleasure.

I pray for steadfastness.

In the dark, silent nights,

The hope is still high-

As your blessing is more observant.

Waving Goodbye to Disney

The Old Walt Disney Castle LogoMariam experienced a dilemma, after going through the most popular Disney videos: Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, Tangled and the like. Her daughter Hannah was a die-heart fan of the Disney movies. She was soon out of her ocean of thoughts, as she caught a glimpse of Hannah, who was flying with happiness after receiving a gift from her aunt – a dress that resembled the one worn by Cinderella, her favourite Disney character.

“Happily Ever After is Only in Jannah.” This expression, which she had recently read in an Islamic book, was banging on her level of consciousness and unconsciousness unceasingly.

“What am I teaching my girl? Am I myself pushing her in the world of deception and fiction? Will it not create a rift between the real and false? Would it not create a dissonance?” A series of questions flowed into her mind adding volume to her vulnerability.

Hannah, wearing that pretty Cinderella dress, was enjoying her meal with father, and for the first time, she did not seem to gain her mother’s warm look and praise.

“Daddy, see how pretty this dress is,” she was bouncing with delight.

Am I myself pushing her in the world of deception and fiction? Will it not create a rift between the real and false?

“My girl is the prettiest girl in the world!” Danial was overwhelmed to see her. “And she is fairer than snow white. And one day her prince will come and take her away from us to her palace, where there will be dwarves to serve my girl.”

“….and I will live happily ever after with my prince,” added Hannah.

Mariam used to be part of these discussions. She was the one who would always uplift and praise her daughter, show her hopeful dreams and a bright happy future ahead with her husband-to-be. It is a fact that mothers start to reflect on their daughter’s wedding the day they are born. They hope and pray for the unsurpassed, super perfect soul mate for their daughters.

After putting her daughter to sleep, she thought of sharing her recent thoughts with Danial. She tried her level best to phrase her words in such a way that they wouldn’t sound judgemental and cynical. “Dani, don’t you think we are communicating ample details of Disney stories to Mariam and thus leading her expectations to rise to a level of unmet fulfilments about her future marriage and husband?” she asked with a concerned look.

A widespread smile touched his lips. He said, “She is just seven years old; she does not know all this. It is just a story. Come on, you cannot be serious about it.” His statement caused her jaw to drop down in shock. Regaining composure, she said: “It is a serious matter. We are instilling falsehood in her perception and pushing her into the world of deception. We are making her believe that after getting married with her prince, she will have a happy life.”

“Do you remember Hijab, who was studying psychology?” she exclaimed anxiously.

He raised his eyebrow and paused for a while, as if he was sorting out her name from his long term memory. “Oh yes! That weird lady!” he exclaimed, with an outburst of laughter. He knew it very well that Mariam is very touchy about her friends, especially that one. He just wanted to make the situation lighter. But it did not make any change.

Ignoring his prank, she continued: “The other day, she was telling me about the subliminal cues these cartoons depict. She quoted that one cartoon named Lion King which was about a lion named Simba. According to a research, the wind that caused Simba’s hair to move had a message in disguise. With naked eye one cannot see, but mind being the master piece can absorb the meaning without any deliberate effort. When the wind was seen in slow motion, the word ‘sex’ was written.” She looked so stunned and worried communicating all this.

This information caught Danial’s attention, too. “Are you sure about it?” he exclaimed.

“She said so. Allah (swt) knows best. But we cannot deny the fact that cartoon nowadays are full of filth and sexuality. Apart from the ‘happily after notion’, they are also giving some really dangerous and unacceptable messages, which are gradually seeping into our culture and becoming a part of our norms.”

“And yes, how can we ignore that birthday party incident that took place in school, where kids kissed on lips after cake cutting ceremony. According to them, they were dating, and the Disney movies end by this kissing scene. We are making it so absorbent.”

“Hmm-mm,” he sighed. Lost in his thoughts, he uttered: “The discussion has reminded me of my mother. She used to say that this world is a prison for a believer. Life in this world will be full of pain, sorrows and tests, but the later life will be eternal, loaded with happiness, ease, laughter and tranquillity. It is we, who decide, which life to be treasured. If we keep our focus here then we are at a total loss as we are sacrificing permanent peace for temporary peace. We are so involved in this world’s deception that we don’t even consider the righteousness of our thoughts and actions, of our intention and preferences.”

Mariam was at ease now. It is an immense blessing, when both partners are on the same page.

We are so involved in this world’s deception that we don’t even consider the righteousness of our thoughts and actions, of our intention and preferences.

“So what can we do now? I mean, since we have induced so much love for Disney world in Hannah’s heart – how to detox it?” she asked him.

He said: “It will be difficult, but nothing is impossible, if we really intend to do it. First of all, together we should supplicate. Repent for our mistake and beg for Allah’s (swt) aid.”

“Divert her interest to such other activities as baking, for example,” Mariam added her suggestion. “Yes, this sounds good. In addition to this, we can talk to her about Jannah, its gardens and eternal life and will try to shift her idea of happiness to it. And make her greedy to do good deeds, in order to acquire Jannah,” he added. “Most importantly, we should tell her stories about the lives of Asiya (ra) and prophet Noah (as), who, despite their piety and spirituality, ended up getting bad spouses, which became a source of pain, not pleasure. This will make her realize that marriage is not all about ‘happily ever after’; likewise, that your goodness will not guarantee you the pleasures of life in this world.”

She concluded by saying: “So true! It is our trial period. Our real home is Jannah, and its pleasure and happiness should be our sole aim. In this world, bad things can happen with good people, too. This all has brought the negligence in us towards reality.

As the clock struck two at night, they finally retired to bed, having discussed their vision and formed a firm strategy to follow with the help of Allah (swt).

The Wow-Woman in You

wowWhat do we love the most in winter? Blankets, of course!

There must be a good reason for stepping out of the bed early on a Sunday morning and going all the way to the IBA main campus. However, I managed to go, as I had to attend a workshop about “Finding the Wow-Woman in You” – who wouldn’t want to attend an event that sounded so good?

In the workshop, five speakers gave talks on various topics related to women: the worth of a Muslim woman, Islamic perspective on woman’s career, stories of female companions (ra) and self-esteem issues in young girls. The actual workshop activities were carried out by a renowned former business journalist and sustainability consultant Khadijah Balkhi.

Following description is based upon the lessons that I learnt from her speech and the activities she conducted with us. Her session really helped me in analyzing myself from different perspectives. I hope it becomes beneficial for those sisters who could not attend the workshop. (Note: This is not a transcript of her speech.)

Activity 1:

  • Who is the ‘Wow-Woman’ in your life?
  • Mention three of her characteristics, which inspired you the most. Remember – three is just a number; you can go up to a hundred and above.

This will give you a clear idea about your understanding of a successful and influential woman, while also making a pathway for you to become one yourself. But what if you aren’t inspired by anyone? Well, that’s a problem in itself! Try to stay in the company of people, who are at a higher level than you religiously, and who can inspire you towards an Islamic lifestyle.

After this, she shared her experience of returning to the original practices of Islam, which meant that wearing Hijab became more important than conducting training sessions for hundreds of men. She continued saying that one cannot do everything in life, implying that we are always required to make certain choices in order to become the Wow-Woman.

Here, ‘wow’ symbolizes a state, where a woman is so close to Allah (swt) that we perceive her as ‘wow’.

Here, ‘wow’ symbolizes a state, where a woman is so close to Allah (swt) that we perceive her as ‘wow’. However, before working to get the Qurb of Allah (swt), it is important for us to identify the barriers, which are taking us away from His love and care. For instance, in case of Ms. Balkhi, it was her career, which she later chose to give up for the sake of Deen. It does not mean that every Muslim woman should quit her job; rather, it only means that if your job or your dream is based upon the violation of Allah’s (swt) Deen, then there is certainly no good in it. She further clarified that everyone has a different situation, and, therefore, a woman has to evaluate her career choices critically, so that she can pursue her passions, while remaining close to Allah (swt).

“Don’t feel the pressure to do things, which you aren’t required to do!”

Similarly, on the other side, Allah (swt) has blessed women with unmatched intellect and knowledge, so why use them for His disobedience?

This led us to another activity.

Activity 2:

  • List down things, which are holding you back from His Deen.
  • List down number of ways, which you can use to tune them.

Subsequently, Ms. Balkhi shared her valuable insight on Nafi – negation or canceling out something. Negation is important, because technically we can focus only on one thing, and our focus of attention should be on nothing else but the pleasure of Allah (swt). This helps us in developing clear values and preferences for the rest of our lives.

Make a mental note of things-to-do and things-not-to-do. Once this is done, aim to become a Wow-Woman. For achieving it, we need to make heavy investments in our environment, which is as simple as moving into gatherings which are filled with the Dhikr of Allah (swt) and the presence of His loving slaves. This will significantly help us in bringing out the best of ourselves, Insha’Allah.

Activity 3:

  • List down things which you think are positive in your life.
  • List down your wow-factors from an Islamic perspective.

Ms. Balkhi concluded her speech with a wonderful advice, which relieved my heart and truly became a source of inspiration for me. She said to do away with the useless messages of society (false ideologies, peer pressure, family traditions, social expectations, etc.), so that you are able to see yourself clearly and spend time with people, who help you in exploring yourself. Most importantly, pray for your guidance and remember that you can have Deen + career; however, at times, you have to choose one of them – so be ready for making the right choice, whenever required.