Desperate Purple

I finished the day with yearning,

Wished the day stretched further,

The violent orange glow and

desperate purples of the sky screaming, reaching

for another breath as the night yawned awake

and smoored the fires of day.

I remember, my head against the pillow,

my hands reaching to clasp some far-off dream.

So content in sleep, so self-absorbed in wakefulness

So conscious somewhere in between.

I remember myself so vividly.

As vivid as the excuses I made for problems I should not have had,

As vivid as the pure emotion that drove my decisions from day to dark.

I loved my beauty, whatever of it I owned, I loved my mind, for it was vast and filled with


I loved the small blooms of wisdom that grew there, that I would pick and share with others.

And so I am unclear, uncertain as to why

this dark, thick fog has descended.

Settled neatly between my confidence and optimism,

Smothering with its full weight upon what defines me.

What I could have been.

Nesha Usmani

April 23, 2015


Keeping Promises to Myself

Since I was a child, I feel like I have been analyzing the people around me, comparing them to the state of their families, neighbors, cities, and the rest of the world. I’ve wondered why people talk so much, why some see little beyond the center of their vision, not even glancing at the peripheral.

I know the value of friends – I do, I really, really do. I have turned from an introvert, to an extrovert, to an introvert again through years of schooling and friends that have all had varying degrees of influence.

And I have interacted with them in various different ways, too. Sometimes being overly nice to compensate for not fitting in, and sometimes shutting myself out; too afraid to talk to anyone for fear of humiliating myself or feeling awkward, ugly, fat, stupid, conservative, liberal…what have you.

As is obvious, there are very few people in this Dunya I can truly relax and be myself around.

Maybe once I thought myself as someone who could cope with many friends, someone who loved people and could get along with anyone. Allah adjusted this for me. Gave me those I thought I could trust and showed me they could break me in half with barely any effort. He gave me those that love me unconditionally, and showed me that I could inflict the same harm upon them, sometimes obliterating their trust in me. Sometimes taking me out of their heart.

I realized the importance of silence in the face of empty words that take up space and offer no benefit. Is that not the nature of the worst of people, the worst of habits, even the worst of foods?

They fill up the space, but at best they offer nothing else. At worst, they metastasize like a malignant tumor and poison the things around them. They squeeze into the seats reserved for better things. Things that reciprocate and last, things that make an impact. And when the time comes for you to make the better choice, to choose Salah over sleep, or carrots over cookies, or wisdom over gossip, it has become habit. You are used to choosing the poison; the consequences diminished by the opiate force of routine.

Promises to Myself.

I cannot count on any number of fingers or toes the amount of promises I have broken for lack of respect for myself. Maybe for lack of self-esteem. Maybe motivation. Or maybe simply the habit of speaking words that carry no weight. Empty shells pretending to mean something.

How can we value someone else if we do not value ourselves? How can we keep a promise to another human being, but easily break promises to our own selves?

Maybe a broken promise to someone else will be forgiven. But broken promises to oneself usually go unrecognized, unpunished. They turn into the norm and we inflict harm upon ourselves quietly but steadily. The broken promise turning into addiction, abuse, sickness, lack of motivation, lack of esteem….the list goes on.

No mobile app or diary will amount to the loss of potential when we betray ourselves.

But maybe in silent reflection and quiet determination, in the meditation of self, we can find ourselves again. Sift through the loud, chaotic debris of the lives we lead, and just make one, quiet promise. One to keep.


Assalamu Alaikum wa-rahmatullahi-wa-barakatu

I’m in my last week of winter break; my next semester begins in 10 days. I regret that I haven’t been posting much, but sometimes, you just don’t have the words.

Alhamdulillah, I’ve done pretty well academic wise in my first semester of grad school in the very busy and chaotic city of Chicago. Has it changed me? Oh, yes. I’ve realized how important my family is. How much it sucks being away from home, even though I’m the heart-stopping old age of 25. I just…love being home with my parents and siblings, and I pray inshAllah that this love I have for a homelife only benefits me as I get [even] older.

Living on my own has not afforded me the confidence, curiosity, and ambitious swagger that I see in other people. Often, I find myself retreating, wanting to surround myself with familiarity. Maybe it’s the cold. Maybe it’s the endless expanse of concrete mountains, anxious cars, and gluttonous consumption. Maybe I just fear being lost in a city of millions. Or is it all a heavy cloak of denial and excuses, simply not wanting to venture out, simply because I fear loneliness and rejection?

Once, a very long time ago, I wrote a letter to an Islamic scholar. In this letter I revealed my deepest insecurities, fears, and emotions, and begged for answers, for help, for guidance. Why had my well of friends run suddenly dry, when I could remember a time when making friends was as easy as saying ‘hello’? Why did others have so much more than me, why can’t I be more like them?

The response, at the time, did nothing for me. In very kind words, I was told, in a nutshell, to say Alhamdulillah, because I had more time to reflect on Allah, and more time to improve myself as a Muslimah, without the distraction of an active social life. Now, these words reverberate with force of an earthquake. I no longer have an excuse. Perhaps, my loneliness and insecurities will always be a part of me. Perhaps, they are there to remind me that I cannot depend upon what I see, who I love, where I sleep. It’s all simply creation, it’s all from Allah. Whether I’m lonely or not, depressed or not, whether I have 50 insecurities or only 1, it’s the same. The importance and need to be grateful and conscious of Allah never decreases. In fact, it increases in both directions. Whether you have a lot or a little, be grateful, because in everything there is a test. In everything there is mercy, and in everything there is a reminder.

In the past, the words of the Qur’an have never had much of an impact for me. Yes, I read the translation as well as the Arabic, but apart from a somber, emotional recitation, I did not feel the weight of the words. Recently, alhamdulillah, that has changed. I won’t go into detail, since it is quite personal, but I feel a strength and a might from the Qur’an, from Allah, that I didn’t know was possible, Allahu Akbar. I still need to work on my dedication to certain important tasks, but Alhamdulillah for the knowledge that has been revealed to me, and May Allah increase the Ummah in Taqwa and Imaan, and bestow mercy upon us, Ameen.

This life can be the biggest trap. It can ensnare you in its hamster-wheel pursuit of wealth, property, possessions, status, and title. Balance your means of survival with a means for Jannah, and break your daily routines with salah filled with as much khushoo you can muster. You will feel a peace that will sink your sorrows, and blow away loneliness with love.

It’s not easy. It’s not easy being 25 and unmarried. It’s not easy being 28, married, and pregnant. It’s not easy being 35, married, with two kids and another on the way. It’s not easy being 45 with four kids and not a lot in the bank. It’s not easy being 50 and experiencing health problems, and watching your husband go through some of his own. It’s a deeper pain to have never been married at all.

But each life experience is customized by your decisions and the Qadr of Allah. Each experience can be a way to torment, or it can frame your path to Jannah. Everyone talks about arrogance, greed, deception, and ostentation as major character flaws in a Muslim..but one of the most least talked about and most dangerous?


Why? Because you’re crippling yourself. You’re removing any chance you have to see the mercy, generosity, opportunity, and love Allah has for you in one swift stroke. You tell yourself you can’t. So you don’t. You tell yourself you don’t have time. So you don’t. You tell yourself you’re not worth it. So you become worthless. You tell yourself no one likes you. So you become a person no one likes, simply by not trying. You tell yourself you’re better off on your own. So you become lonely, resentful. You let your grudges and your fears pile on top of each other, repeatedly, like a winter snowstorm, until you’re suffocating yourself. And it’s too late. You’re in the throes of depression. It’s easier to cry than to believe there’s hope, an answer, and it requires an effort on your part. It requires submission and a will to change.

Self-pity is an insidious quicksand. I firmly believe it is the gateway to become worse things.

What you want and what you need are two different things.

They can both come to fruition, and often its a result of your patience and belief in Allah’s infinite Mercy and Wisdom that can make the path smooth and the walk shorter and less tiring than you expected.

Until next time,


A Graduate Student in Chicago – First Impressions


Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Assalamu alaikum!

Last week, my parents and I stuffed the car full of my belongings and drove around 6 hours to Chicago. I’m beginning my Masters of Public Health program at a university here and so far it’s been more than a little overwhelming. 

Some of you who have been following my blog for the past couple of years know that I’ve spent 6 months in Indonesia, where I learned the language and taught ESL at an elementary school. I wish I could say that my experience in Indonesia (the fourth most populated country in the world) was more difficult than adapting to life in Chicago (the third most populated city in the US), but so far; I can’t.

The American way of life is so fast paced, competitive, and largely chaotic. It’s easy to forget that most of the world does not operate as Americans do. My time in Indonesia was much less stressful.

Worries like finding a job to help pay for tuition, paying rent, studying, practicums, and getting to class on time are amplified by the late summer heat, the traffic, the light, sound, and air pollution, and of course, urban safety concerns. 

It’s only been a few days, but I’m trying to mentally prepare myself to deal with all of these things. I’m sure I’m exaggerating. Thousands of people have been in my situation and adapted, conquered their environments over time. I’m sure I will, too, inshAllah.

My biggest worry though, is prioritization. My religion is the most important thing to me, and for the past year, I’ve been blessed enough to not have to worry about too much interference. Now, my day starts with a 30-45 minute commute, and the return journey can sometimes be longer than that.

As Muslims, the 5 daily prayers are crucial in maintaining religious identity. There are people who adhere to the 5 prayers, and there are those who don’t. I like to be of those who do, and inshAllah, I’ll continue adhering and improving.

Right now, my main concerns are staying attached to my deen (Islam and its practice), staying ahead in my classes, and finding a job. May Allah grant me ease and success in all these things, Ameen.

And so far, Allah has given me ease in every step (I bet you were hoping I’d find the light). My campus, although a bit of commute, is easy to get to. My classes are all in the same building, in the same room. My roommate, alhamdulillah, is Muslim. My apartment is in one of the safest locations in Chicago, with great shopping and restaurants just walking distance. I have relatives nearby who I can stay with on the weekends, and the career services department at my school has been very helpful and encouraging. Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah.

This blog began as a means to document life changes. Since its inception, I’ve graduated from college, volunteered abroad, had some quarter-life and spiritual crises, was blessed beyond words, had some health scares (which I did not blog about), visited the UK, and have now safely arrived in Chicago, ready for another adventure. May Allah make it easy, beneficial, and accept it in my favor, Ameen. 

I hope to regularly talk about my life here. How does a short little Muslimah navigate this huge city? InshAllah we’ll find out, and inshAllah, I can come back and say I was silly to be so stressed. InshAllah Allah has the back of every believer juggling deen, studies, and urban life, ameen.

Until next time, inshAllah,




Tiny Changes

Tonight, while cooking dinner at the end of a very long day, I went to my Pandora app on my phone and tapped one of my custom radio stations.

But, while chopping vegetables, I realized that I wasn’t feeling all that great about Bruce Springsteen as I used to.

In fact, on the way to the animal shelter a few days ago, another artist I used to like was, at that moment, causing me a great deal of ache in my head  (see what I did there?) the sound was echoing weirdly and it just fhjghrjkh gw hoijdsijfhdbjh.

Tonight, what I actually wanted to listen to was a series on Muhammad (Peace be upon him), whilst dicing up the celery and stripping the chicken of the fat.

Now, before you go all crazy and tell me, “now, Nesha, things like that are not meant to be used as background noise…tsk tsk tsk”

I know. It wasn’t! I was listening, I promise.

I also listened to it on the way home from the animal shelter today, and I became very emotional whilst listening to the revelations about Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)  that are actually mentioned in the Bible! Citing the sources and Bibles as well!


The amount of information I don’t know, the knowledge I didn’t try to pursue until know has become overwhelming to me. How could I not know about the similarities between Musa (AS) and Muhammad (SAW)? How could I not have ever slaked my curiosity about the Prophet’s (PBUH) wives (RA)?? Why did I never contemplate the reason for all of the Prophets (peace and blessings be upon them) being shepherds of sheep, and not of, say, horses? Why sheep? Why goats? Why them? The significance of the word “IQRA”, what it meant to Rasulullah (SAW), and what it means for us, and why it’s different from his. The mathematical proof of Rasulullah’s (SAW) revelations…and his beautiful mind and love for his Ummah.

His acceptance of gifts over charity (concerning himself , Peace be upon him).

The building and rebuilding (5 times!) of the Ka’bah.

Muhammad (SAW)’s ancestry. His parents! SubhanAllah.

The information I’ve learned and digested so far…just…wow. SubhanAllah. I don’t know that I’ve ever appreciated my religion and ALL of the Prophets (PBUthem) as much as I do now. The history is just so intense and incredible.

haha, I definitely don’t remember Sunday school being as interesting and awe-inspiring. It brings me to my knees in wonder and amazement, and praise to Allah (SWT).  Allahu Akbar.

It also makes me realize how much more there is to learn. May Allah make it easy, fulfilling and beneficial, Ameen!

The next few months are going to be umm….crazy.

In a day, or two, my sister’s coming home FINALLY. InshAllah.

Next weekend something awesome is going to happen, inshAllah.  Or at least I hope. InshAllah.

After that I’m apartment hunting in Chicago inshAllah ….because I’m going to grad school there, inshAllah!!!

And then in mid-June, I’m off to Scotland to visit family and absorb the accent and come back skinny and Scottish. Or atleast skinny, inshAllah.

InshAllah, at the endish of August I’ll be moving to Chicago.

And then will proceed to lose all sanity and social life to classes like “Biostatistics” and “epidemiology.”


In between all these titanic sized events I’m going to continue, inshAllah, to learn more about Islam and also try to improve myself. Also try to figure out why my body is conspiring against me.

Either it does not realize that exercise and diet = weight loss, or it’s just completely insubordinate. Doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, inshAllah, we’ll see what’s going on there.

On a side note, if I have any lady readers out there (yes, you, o’pretty one), I have a gift for you.

2 tbsp greek yogurt

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp lemon juice

combine in a bowl. Smoosh on your face.


***please keep in mind that turmeric is a rather hyper shade of yellow. It will leave a yellow tinge. To remove this, put boiling water into a large bowl, and cover the bowl with a large towel. Duck your head beneath the towel and let the steam rise against your face in 10-15 second intervals, gently using the towel to exfoliate in an upwards-rubbing-motion in between intervals. repeat until water is cooled or you’ve had enough, OR, just wash your face with a gentle cleanser and use a make-up removing wipe to clear up the rest.***

you’re welcome 🙂