4/28/2017 – general updates, ponderations

It’s April 28, 2017. I know I don’t need to iterate that, since it’s probably everywhere on the screen, but it’s glaring at me. I have only published twice in the last year, and less than 10 in the last two.

I miss blogging. I miss writing. I miss having more time to myself. But a lot has changed in such a short amount of time.

One minute, I’m grabbing a coffee on my way to class, thinking about graduation and getting excited for my wedding. The next, I’m grabbing a coffee so I can handle the day alone with my 7 month old little girl; my husband at his job in D.C.

I think about frames of mind quite a bit, how your daily experience shapes who you are and how you perceive everything around you.

I see the busybody grad student and think, “I wish I could go back there, so many dreams! So many possibilities.”

Now two years later I see her at the grocery store, baby in one arm and a shopping basket in the other. I see that she’s there during work hours and unbeknownst to everyone around, she actually does have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree. But maybe that’s not obvious with her mismatched hijab, trousers, over-sized blouse and casual Nikes. Oh, and bouncing, relentless baby.

But I don’t give myself enough credit. I’m taking care of three, sometimes four or five other people. I cook, I clean. I tolerate. I’m not just a holder of proofs of education. I carried a baby for 9 months, often painfully and in sickness. I had that baby cut out of me unexpectedly one night, but she was still perfect. All 5 pounds, 8 oz of her. She is still perfect, even though her mother might not be.

I went through post-partum depression. A battle I still fight peripherally with anti-depressants and a variety of obsessions (oh, there have been plenty…lipstick, crochet, and iced coffee).

I take pains not to let my daughter look at screens so much, but hilariously, I’m always surrounded by them myself. Imagine telling your child to be quiet and look away, while you desperately seek escapism through your Instagram feed. Try telling your mother and father in law not to let the baby watch Television, while you plan to catch up on a Netflix show later on. Go on, laugh at me trying to cling to my habits and motherhood at once, I’ve done it. Then I’ve shrugged helplessly and continued on.

It’s a mad juggle, honestly. You can cook a perfect meal, do the dishes, some cleaning, and do laundry later. Or you can do laundry now, make a somewhat decent supper, do the dishes, and save the rest for later. You can sleep when the baby sleeps, or you can use that time to do something for yourself. You can go to bed early and be energized for whatever life has for you the next day, InshAllah, or you can watch a movie with your husband. But you can’t really compromise on being a mother.

That’s 24/7, 365 glorious, exhausting, completely incredible days of the year, InshAllah.

 

 

 

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A Graduate Student in Chicago – First Impressions

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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,

Nesha

 

 

Fasting in Ramadan; Answering the Question ‘Why?’

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Assalaamu Alaikum & Ramadan Kareem

I think every Muslim blogger at some point has a ‘why do Muslims fast’ post. So I’m just fulfilling my duty, but in a different way. I won’t go into the hows’ and the whens’ and the whats’. My question is posed to myself…why do I fast? Is it habit? After so many years of practicing Islam and taking part in Ramadan? Have I lost the reasoning or have I never noticed until now?

I’ve made so many mistakes this year, subhanAllah. So many errors and misjudgements. May Allah forgive me,  Ameen. But I have also grown closer to Islam. Alhamdulillah. There was a time in my life not very long ago that the mention of seeking Islamic knowledge would give me anxiety and a sense of severe insecurity.  One of the biggest blessings Allah has ever given me, as far as I can understand, is the ability to move beyond this problem, and connect me to my Deen emotionally and mentally, which, Alhamdulillah, is now connecting me to my Deen physically. Allahu Akbar!

If you practice Islam then you are familiar with the Dunya vs Akhira conflict. How do we find balance in getting what we want in Dunya as well as in the Afterlife? This is a crucial concept in Islam. In declaring your belief in Allah (SWT), Master of the Day of Judgement, Lord of the Worlds, and Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) as Messenger of Allah. you MUST place your entire trust in Allah and you MUST relinquish your grip on this world, and everything that distracts you from seeing your true purpose. Live in this world as a traveler or stranger! (Quote from the Prophet (PBUH) as narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar).

Does that mean we cannot achieve success in this world? Does that mean we cannot pursue our worldly dreams of become a doctor, engineer, a famous writer or artist?  Allah does not want us to be miserable and lazy in this world. In my opinion, all this means is that whatever you do, do for Allah. Whatever you pursue, make sure the cause is halal, and the intention is pure and for Allah’s sake. If Allah gives you success in this world, give back with your duty. Your zakat. Your salah. Your nafl and sunnah. Your belief and your time. And most importantly, do not make your success your home. Do not make your gifts from Allah into attachments that will take you away from Allah (because they will).

So…let’s cycle back to our original topic. How does all of this relate to the Holy month of Ramadan?  How does this relate to refraining from food, water, sexual activity, rude behavior and wasting time, as well as refraining from negativity, such as anger, impatience, and ignorance? In other words, why do we, as Muslims, do this, and not something else?

I’m not a scholar. Nor do I have extensive knowledge, but based on what I do know, a thought sort of  hit me square in the face the other day. And it wasn’t from the angle of Dunya. It was from the angle of Jannah. From what I know of Jannah, it is our true home. Our real existence that is promised to us should we succeed in our duties in this life. It is a place with no death, hunger, disease, poverty, anger, jealousy, or injustice. The things that are harmful here are not harmful there, such as wine and excess (you won’t become greedy). The things that distracted us won’t distract us there, rather they will be gifts for us made even more pleasing. such as the love, beauty, and intimacy of our spouses.

In Ramadan, we let go of the Dunya’s version of all these things (and what a poor version it is, when you look at Jannah). Allah is testing you with hunger, thirst, desire, control over your actions and emotions, how you treat your fellow Muslim, your spouses, your children. He, Allahu Akbar, is asking you what you want. Do you want this world and its food that does not satisfy? Its wealth that will lead you astray, that you cannot take with you when you die? Do you want this world, where the objects of your love, desire and affection are never guaranteed to stay, no matter how much you love them?

Or do you want JANNAH? Where our problems cease to exist. Where our greatest mercy from Allah (SWT) becomes our home.

Will you fast in a manner that counts the minutes until the next Iftar? Or will you take advantage of the hours and use them to supplicate, thank, worship, repent, and humble yourself, seeking knowledge and forgiveness from your Lord? Will you be impatient with those around you, your friends and family? Or will you love them and cherish them, and even improve your relations with them for the sake of Allah (SWT)?

Know that Allah is your Master. Only He can correct your affairs. And this is why we let go of Dunya, in the month and hours that Allah has prescribed, in a kind of annual dosage, that, Alhamdulillah, if we live to see it and use it correctly, we reap rewards innumerable,  are brought closer to Allah, and pulled further from Dunya, inshAllah.

We fast to regain sight of the blessings already given to us. We fast to remove ourselves from Dunya and to show Allah that despite our empty stomachs, our greater fear is an empty Emaan. An empty spot in Jannah where we could be, and the fiery realm where we might be. We fast to take advantage of every salah, taraweeh, and every moment  to worship, thank, repent, and supplicate to Allah. Allah, without Whom, we’d be nothing, could be nothing, and with Whom, could have everything He deems best for us. All we need to do is ask sincerely, with a heart full of Emaan. SubhanAllah!

Allahu Akbar.

If I’ve said anything wrong, please correct me, inshAllah.

And Allah knows best.

May Allah give you a Ramadan filled with ease, mercy, rewards, and opportunities to gain His infinite reward.  May Allah correct your affairs for you, and bring you closer to Him. Ameen