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.

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Cairo is Dying

is life worth the carnage in the street?

the corner where the children played

drips with blood, black with gore.

Broken glass and broken hearts

This is not the country of your father,

that kills its men and women and babies.

this is not the language of your mother,

that screams in rage, in hate, in oppression,

Here, they target your religion.

Your politics. These brothers you may have

served or salaam-ed?

You can no longer call them your own.

The ones on the rooftops,

in the street,

in the crowd,

the ones sending you to your grave,

peering through their crosshairs.

Nesha Usmani

Eid

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Eid Mubarak!

Another Ramadan has passed us by, and while we are so grateful, Alhamdulillah, we pray that inshAllah Allah will give us another one.

Today, with a house spilling over with food, guests, laughter, and conversation (Alhamdulillah), I reflected on how much has changed in the last few years. How diverse our group of friends has become and how much we’ve changed ourselves, as people, as Muslims.

You know, it wasn’t so long ago that our Ramadans were spent with members of our Pakistani and Indian community. Iftars were every evening, almost, at Uncle and Auntie so and so’s house. On Eid, we’d go house-hopping at every one of our Pakistani/Indian friend’s houses, ending up in food comas with the girls I grew up with.

It wasn’t a bad thing by any means! In fact in many ways, I miss it.

But you grow up. You meet new people. You change. Your families change.

In the past three years or so, our Iftars have evolved. Now we rarely host Iftars at our home. Instead, we have community Iftars at our mosque, supporting the message and goal of our New Muslim Support Network. And through that we’ve adopted a diverse array of new friends into our inner circle. From your Caucasian revert to your African-American revert to your Indonesian immigrant. Your new sister from Ethiopia. Your brother who studied Islam and went against his family in his reversion. Your sheikh from the Phillippines, a revert himself, and his wife and their children. The whole, beautiful family that reverted to Islam. The sister who can’t catch a break because she’s juggling a job and kids and a husband who cares nothing for her. Or the sister without a husband who holds fast to her deen tighter than she holds on to you as she hugs you.

And…I think.

Alhamdulillah…SubhanAllah. Where was I when you needed me?

…I’m no scholar or religious leader.

But one thing I do know is that Islam is not a religion of feasts and celebrations. That’s not what Islam teaches us.

It’s the rope that binds us all together, and in the words of my favorite sheikh, it requires everything from you.

It takes your language. It incapacitates culture. It blinds you to race and social status. It turns your house into a home, makes it welcoming for all who enter. Turns your meal for two into a meal for three. Your meal for three into a meal for four. When it opens your eyes, it turns your idea into work. Your work into hard work. Your hard work into success. All by the mercy of Allah, SWT.

It turns your tears of laughter into tears of humility. Tears of awe of the mercy and power of Allah.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m so ashamed when people come into my parents home and they’re so happy to be there and compliment the house and the decor.

And I smile and think subhanAllah. I had nothing to do with this! This is not my idea. All this came from GOD!

I just reply, “Alhamdulillah,” and to the kids I say, scoldingly, “Say mashAllah!

It’s such an amazing thing. To look outside my window and see soo many people of different backgrounds and stories walking to my front door. I can’t help but think how badly we need them. How badly we need them for Allah’s sake.

SubhanAllah.

I’m begging you. InshAllah, the next Eid, if your family doesn’t do this already, invite members of your Muslim community that are reverts, immigrants, or just new to the community. Let them enrich your life with their experiences and the rewards that Allah will give you in including them in your festivities.

We get stuck in this rut of Arabs and Arabs. Pakistanis and Pakistanis. Indians and Indians. African Americans and African Americans. Whites and whites. Reverts and reverts. Or reverts and their pet cats.

Islam is not this! Ramadan is not this! Eid should NEVER be this!

Tear those walls down, man.

Ok, I’m done ranting 🙂

Assalamu Alaikum.

 

 

 

“A Life Changing Reminder” – Mejed Mahmoud

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lKVYxlksCk

“Allahumma innaka Afuwwun, tuhibbul Afwa, fa’fu ‘annee.”

*rough* translation (the meaning of Afuw (pardon) is complex and has great depth, Allahu Akbar):

“O’ Allah, You are The Pardoner, You love to pardon, so pardon me.”

May Allah have afuw on us all, May Allah have afuw on us all, May Allah have afuw on us all, Ameen.

And May Allah reward my mother for sharing this video with me, Ameen.

Stars

Night does not come,

There is no star that radiates

darkness.

The window to the universe

is simply left open by a departing sun.

But the soft pink tips of night

do seem like an approaching guest.

The stars, so enticing, so rich and lush

in their seemingly infinite abundance, subhanAllah.

I wonder what they hide and what they distract from.

If Paradise is a few miles or a few dimensions above them.

If their size is a thousand times the earth or one-tenth of it.

How my heart still beats as they collide, explode, freeze and melt.

How I sink my nails into the dunya as galaxies swirl into the hungry maws of

holes in the universe.

How, no matter how severe the calamities are in the heavens,

the emptiness of the stomach feels more severe.

And all that my Lord creates, changes, and destroys

He does with the knowledge of the unseen,

which is always for the best.

But the chaos of the stars and planets combined cannot compare

to the chaos of the heart.

The sin and the greed.

The heedlessness and ignorance.

Impatience. Cruelty. Ego.

The fragility in decision making is terrifying.

And I think of the day my heart stops. And the Day all of this ends.

I hope I am not the only one who thinks like this,

like the greatest calamity is not any natural occurrence.

No. No burning star, no deadly meteor. No mysterious black void.

But the emptying of the heart in favor of the filling of hands.

The drop of an anchor in dunya; choosing this minuscule ball of water in space,

instead of waiting for something purer, unseen, un-defiled by shaitan

and the empty hearts of men.

Nesha Usmani

7/21/2013

Awrite, mate?

Bismilllahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Assalamu Alaikum!

I’ve been with my family here in Scotland for almost two weeks now, and so far it has been a beautiful experience, not without the normal twinges of homesickness and worry, of course.

We are approaching Ramadan with breakneck speed, subhanAllah. Just around a week to go, and the fasts here in the UK are very long. Fajr is at 3am and Maghrib isn’t until 10pm, subhanAllah. Many rewards to be received, inshAllah, with a well-mannered and lengthy fast.

In terms of a Muslim community, Scotland hasn’t offered what I’m used to. and I miss it very much. But what it lacks in that regard, it makes up for with convenience. I’ve never seen so many halal restaurants in one area in my life, mashAllah.

The scenery is another bonus. Today I prayed Dhuhr in a beautiful botanical garden, and yesterday, just an hour from my family’s home, we marvelled at beautiful lakes (lochs), mountains, and valleys. SubhanAllah. The dense forests and looming mountains make me feel at peace when the chaos of the city gets too much. I’ve also found out more things about myself. My fear of heights and climbing CAN be conquered, alhamdulillah. I climbed cliffs, and went to the top of Arthur’s Seat without feeling like hugging the ground. That might not seem like a lot but for someone who gets queasy jumping out of the back door of a school bus for a fire drill..it’s saying something.

The accents here range from pleasant to painful. The slang is amusing, and by far my favorite phrase is ‘Ah, mate, that’s mingin’!’

It just means, ‘Aw, dude, that’s disgusting.’

Also, not sure if I like UK television. And the best food I’ve had thus far here has been prepared by my wonderful aunt, mashAllah, who is not only a loving and gracious hostess, but also a fabulous cook, mashAllah.

Alhamdulillah. I just pray that Allah makes the rest of my trip easy, fun, and beneficial, and keep me away from heartaches, and make my worries disappear, Ameen.

This Thursday I’m off to London, inshAllah, and won’t be back in Scotland until the 10th, inshAllah. So, make du’a that everything goes well. 🙂

Assalamu Alaikum!

4AM Arguing.

you say you know what I feel

and yet, your silences suggest otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not “all about me”,

But even you can’t deny the difference

between a two sentence (or ten sentence) text

and looking at each other.

I do wonder if you think I’m not one,

but two people.

How I wish you knew the weight of

what I’ve chosen to leave behind,

Before you, not for you.

For God, and the sake of my soul.

I have expressed to you,

the weight of my heart,

and the fire of my hope,

I have given it to you,

that you cannot deny.

It could be everything, you know.

It could be more than enough.

And I hate when you say things

that make me feel like you’re settling,

when other times, I know, or at least I think,

that you feel like you’ve struck gold.

I’m a tall order and sometimes I just feel like

I’m getting taller (to you).

But all these things might feel different

with your hand in mine.

Who knows? Only God.

I hope you know how much

I want you to stay.

Volim te.

Nesha Usmani