Sunday, November 18, 2007

Measure of a Man

Martin Luther King once said, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." On the other hand, Sidney Poitier explains that his father always said that the true measure of a man was how well he provided for his children. When I ponder on the quotes of these two great men, I am reminded of how privileged I am to have someone who measures up to both these standards.. my grandfather, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Bin Mohd Zain.

When I was a child, he was like Santa Claus to me. Every time my birthday comes near, he would prop me on his lap and gently ask me what my heart desired. From garden swings, tricycles and toys to my first walkman, chopper bicycles and holidays abroad. Although he was the only family member that I know who was affluent, I never felt a need or a want for anything. He made sure that I had a little taste or experience of luxury and opulence. After my parents' divorce, he took it upon himself to be there for my brothers and I. We were never his responsibility. And there are some quarters who would add that we are not his heir. Yet, his loving concern and care for us is so astounding. I wonder sometimes what goes on his mind, what he is thinking of when he looks at me.

He believed in my intelligence way before it showed on my academic achievement records. He thought nothing of coughing up the bucks to sponsor my studies in private colleges when I failed to meet the requirements of the more established universities. Even after I flunked my first A Levels, he didn't give up hope. He pulled all the contacts and cables that he had and sent me to Swansea for a second try at A Levels. He even sent me on a 'gap year' holiday in Europe because he believes that the best university to learn from is the university of Life!

He believed I was going to fulfill his dreams for me to become a lawyer, following his footsteps. He was devastated when I dropped out of my law studies. Yet, he swelled with pride when I financed my own education in Counseling Psychology at a local university. It took a while for him to understand that I can never be him. I can only be me. As disappointing I may have been for him, he continued to love and support me. And now, he proudly introduces me to his friends as his granddaughter who is a counseling psychologist. He truly motivates me to go as far as I can.

I've seen him rise from the ashes of failures. I've seen him work hard to see his own dreams come true. He lives passionately and he does this with dignity, integrity and self-respect. Where others, myself included, fail to see any reason for him to care and love for me; he does. He sees me as who I really am. I can never make him proud of me. Why? Because he already is. He was proud of me long before I found my self-worth.

He may be a stubborn man to some. I choose to see it as his determination. He is loving in his ways, sincere in his actions and inspiring in his achievements. These are all the reasons why I truly believe that my grandfather is right up there, with Dr. King and Mr. Poitier.

May Allah bless you always, Wan. I love you.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Grey Wisdom

"First do no harm, easier said than done. We can take all the oaths in the world, but the fact is, most of us do harm all the time. Sometimes even when we're trying to help, we do more harm than good. And then the guilt rears its ugly head. What you do with that guilt is up to you. We're left with a choice. Either let the guilt throw you back into the behavior that got you into trouble in the first place, or learn from the guilt and do your best to move on."

-by Dr Meredith Grey, from Grey's Anatomy

The more I watch this series and get dished with these kind of pearls of wisdom, the more I feel like the writers of this series are watching my every move and listening into my every thought from a very remote location... like Jim Carrey's character in Truman, lah.... Paranoia? Or just simply guilt?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

To Be The Best

A few years ago, my meandering mind got hit by a bolt of thundering idea. I wanted to be the best in something. However, I was gobsmacked by the echoing question that ensued, "Be the best? In what?"

Lets see now.... I tried law, but dropped out of law school. Tried interior design, but the competition was too impossible for my humanitarian aquarian nature. I did become a professional singer but my perfectionism prevented me from being satisfied with my voice and performances. Now I am a counseling psychologist and I have yet a long way towards becoming a leading figure in this field.

At this point of muse, I found myself stuck in a quagmire. If I were to wriggle myself further into this puzzle, I know I will sink in deeper into a self inflicted despair. I know I score an average B- in being a wife to my husband and mother to my girls (This is my critical and judgmental self speaking here...). Where else, how else can I excel?

People say that a healthy competition is good. But then again, I never really believed in measuring myself by other people's yardsticks. So, how did I land myself in this predicament? Why do I need to be the best in something?

Honestly, that bolt of thundering idea came about just a few years before I turned 40. I guess I must have looked at my life and wondered where had it all gone to. What have I got to show for the years that I have lived? What achievements have I got to be proud of?

Which brings me to my latest light bulb moment. I can never be the best in something if I am opposed to measuring myself to others. Everyone is unique in their own way and its unfair to compare anyone with anybody. So, I have decided to be the best ME that I can be. After all, I do have the corner market on being me. Not even the paper dolls can impersonate me!

So, fake Johana Joharis... Move aside! Here is the real McCoy!! Ain't nothing but the real thang, baby. That's what I am. The best Me. As for the specs, well... Let my life say it all. Just watch. I'll show you. However, a word of warning... don't try being anyone else but yourself. because if you do, you'll fail. We can only be ourselves.

Note To Self: Make Peace

"The commitment to morality, or non-harming, is a source of tremendous strength, because it helps free the mind from the remorse of having done unwholesome actions. Freedom from remorse leads to happiness. Happiness leads to concentration. Concentration brings wisdom. And wisdom is the source of peace and freedom in our lives."

- by Joseph Goldstein, in A Heart Full of Peace.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

People Are Not Loving And Loyal All The Time

Some people act dishonestly; some lie; some are hypocritical. part of growing up psychologically and spiritually is noticing all this but without censure or retaliation. We do not willingly allow others to be dishonest or hurtful toward us if we can prevent it. If they are, we ask for amends. If all we do fails, we let go. If those we respect as teachers or models turn out to be hypocrites in their personal lives, that does not diminish the legitimacy of their teaching. An adult knows that the teachings are the teacher. The person who teaches is only a mouthpiece, and a piece is hardly ever perfect. I appreciate the ferry ride even when the ferryman proves to be a rascal.

Sometimes people keep their promises and sometimes they do not. Sometimes people love us loyally and faithfully, even unconditionally. Sometimes they hate, reject, abandon or betray us. An adult has learned to take all this in stride. We feel the pain, but it does not devastate or destabilize us. We receive love with openness and appreciation. We receive loyalty with gratitude. We handle betrayal with the strength we gained from our psychological work. We let go of retaliation and act with compassion thanks to our spiritual practices. We do not want to be so strongly affected by what others do that we lose our own ability to love, which is all that matters to us now.

Our spiritual practice of loving-kindness toward all beings helps us join this tougher skin to a tender heart. This is how hurts help us find our own potential for unconditional love and unconditional compassion. People do things that injure us, but later we realize that was how they pushed us through a gate in ourselves that we never guesses was there. The hurt we felt was the sensation of being pushed.

We may distinguish two kinds of hurt: intentional and consequent. Intentional hurt happens when people leave us in a cruel and thoughtless way. This leads us to feel sorrow, and in spiritual consciousness, we feel this pain without plan to retaliate. Consequent hurt happens as the natural and inevitable result of events and reasonable choices. For example, our partner ends out relationship in a kind and respectful way. We both tried our best but the relationship was not meant to be. We feel hurt, but this is consequent hurt, not intentional hurt, and it leads to grief and moving on.

Sometimes we hurt others. If we do so intentionally, we experience guilt, the built-in signal that helps us know that it is time to make amends. If hurt happens as a result of a legitimate choice, such as leaving an unhealthy relationship, we do not blame ourselves. We find ways to leave with kindliness, not acrimony, and we remain available to share in our partner's grieving for however long that may be appropriate.

When others do not acknowledge us or they snub, reject or ignore us, it is perfectly natural to feel hurt, since we are made of penetrable stuff. We should allow ourselves to feel the hurt rather than run from it, If we feel the hurt more intensely than seems to fit the bill, we may want to examine ourselves and ask if our ego has reared its demanding head. If so, we can look at our FACE in the mirror and say:

Fear: I am afraid that I will not survive if everyone does not love me, and this is how I am a source of suffering to myself
Attachment: I am attached to a very specific version of what I am owed, and this is how I am a source of suffering to myself.
Control: I need to control others' reactions to me, and this is how I am a source of suffering to myself.
Entitlement: I believe I am entitled to love and loyalty from everyone and insist on it, and this is how I am a source of suffering to myself.

I am letting go of fear by showing more love and finding excitement in life's challenges.
I am letting go of attachment to my version of how others should act and I accept the given of life that not everyone will be lovin, truthful, honest, caring, or loyal to me all the time.
I am letting go of control and let others love or dislike me as they choose.
I am letting go of my insistence that I be loved and respected by everyone, and choose to focus instead on being loving and respectful toward everyone I meet. That is what matters to me now.
I am always aware that I also am not loving and loyal all the time and I am working on that.

- Excerpt from The Five Things We Cannot Change... and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them by David Richo.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My 42nd Ramadhan

Ramadhan is here again. I welcome it with anticipation and hope. If history was to repeat itself, I'll be on a roller coaster ride again. And by the looks of it's first few days, I believe that the tickets for that ride has already been snapped up by other people. Alhamdulillah...

In an email sent to me by an old friend, the definition of Ramadhan was made clear to me. It literally means "panas terik" or very hot. This literal meaning brings many thoughts to mind. It can mean a tremendous test or ordeal, a torment, torture, burden.... or whatever else. But Ramadhan also has many benefits. Apart from the obvious detoxification process and the 'break' from Iblis's tempting whispers, Ramadhan comes with many of God's mercy. In one of it's nights, there is one night that is better than 1000 months, all obligatory prayers are multiplied by 70, a month where patience is rewarded with heaven, many opportunities to earn good merits, a month of God's mercy and forgiveness.

"During the month of Ramadan, believers busy themselves seeking Allah’s mercy, forgiveness, and protection from Hellfire. This is the month for renewing our commitment and re-establishing our relationship with our Creator. It is the spring season for goodness and virtues when righteousness blossoms throughout the Muslim communities. "If we combine all the blessings of the other eleven months, they would not add up to the blessings of Ramadan," said the great scholar and reformer Shaikh Ahmed Farooqi (Mujaddad Alif Thani). It offers every Muslim an opportunity to strengthen his Iman, purify his heart and soul, and to remove the evil effects of the sins committed by him." - by Khalid Baig

If last Ramadhan, for me personally, was a time of trials and temptations, this time around, I believe, its a time of forgiveness and cleansing of the soul through "kifarah." Many things that has happened lately made me believe this. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, God is cleansing me of my past sins and transgressions.

Dari 'Aisyah r.a., isteri Nabi s.a.w. katanya: Rasullullah s.a.w. bersabda: "Setiap kali orang Islam mendapat malapetaka, Allah mengampuni dosanya karena malapetaka itu, bahkan yang disebabkan oleh terkena duri." - Sahih Bukhari dan Muslim.

I am grateful to Allah that He has chosen to keep me off the roller coaster ride this time around.
I am grateful to Allah that everything is temporary and that we as human beings have been created by Him as very forgetful creatures.
I am grateful to Allah for all the prayers and pleas that have been heard with His patience, considered with His mercy and granted with His love.
I am grateful that He has finally allowed me to feel remorse and the pain of guilt so that I can repent wholeheartedly.
I am grateful that He has bestowed upon me the ability, reasons and remembrance to feel gratitude.

Having said that, my fervent wish is still to go back home... where my heart is... where I had found peace of mind, heart and soul. Ya Allah, please allow me to return to Mekkah. I long to be back in the safety of Your Masjidil Haraam.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Meet Joe Black

Meet Joe Black, the 10 year old BMW that my beloved husband bought for me about a few weeks after our return from umrah. I'm so proud to be an owner of this car. It has its own personality and eccentricities. About two weeks into driving my beemer, I was caught in a speed trap along the Sprint Highway, on my way to campus. I was issued a speeding ticket by a very polite and friendly police officer. It made my day for two reasons:

1. I have never been caught for speeding before in my 24 years of driving experience.

2. I was cited for driving 20 kph above the speed limit, in my very own BMW!!

Thank you, Yang for making another dream of mine come true. Not in 10 lifetimes would I ever dream of owning a BMW. But most of all, the part that I appreciate most about this BMW is that it is a loving gift from my beloved husband. Because although I may appear to be a hard shelled person by some quarters, I am actually a very sentimental person to my very core.

I dubbed this car Joe Black to reflect my personal and public image. It is an extension of my self espression. It is still in dark blue colour but we hope to respray it black pretty soon, insya Allah. Alhamdulillah. I seek Allah's assistance and protection to make sure I remain humble and grateful, always. Amiin.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Evolution of Me

Funny how the nicest of people who say that they are understanding and very tolerant of others are closet social bigots and a bunch of insincere and judgemental lot! But before I elaborate on that (or rather vent out my frustrations), let me start from the beginning...

My earliest memories on my sense of dressing brings to mind my kindy days. There was a lovely floral dress with smocking stitch on its front, made by nenek that I use to love. I would wear it to kindy every chance I get because it made me feel nice and pretty. Another favourite ensemble was a red cat sleeved jersey top and a purple bell bottomed pants. My mom use to cringe everytime I wore the latter. She said people just simply don't wear clashing colours. That was back then.

During my teens, there were a few pieces of apparels that I would wear religiously too; an olive green ribbed dungarees, to name one. I use to cut long t-shirts till they bare my navel, and wear them with self-made distressed denims. During college years, I'd be dressed mostly in baseball shirts and cap (with pink panther on it) and my ankle high canvas boots with pink flourescent socks. My hair was worn long, very curly and coloured light brown. When my career as an entertainer took center stage, my show outfits would mainly consist of garments made of black velvet with gold touches. Hence the beginning of my love affair with the colour black.

When I turned 30 and became a mother of two beautiful girls, my image changed yet again. I started wearing the hijab, but still remained in bright colours. That only lasted for less than two years. I then started to dress all in black because I felt that the bright colours drew too much attention to my garments instead of my personality. Its been almost 10 years now that I have been clad in black....most of the time.

Throughout my vogue journey, I remained the same. I am still me. I wear hijab so that it would be convenient for me to pray, no need to tote a bag filled with telekong. All I need is a pair of clean socks and I'm ready to say my gratitude to Allah. I wear black because I am already married and therefore have no need to draw any attention to myself. I love the black jubah and I wear it everyday because it allows me to take myself out of the fashion "market" where people dress according to what is in trend...and makes them feel good. My feel good factor lies in my state of mind, and not in what is fashionable in haute couture magazines. I also find that I get the respect that I feel I deserve as a wife, from other men, when they lower their gazes because my black hijab cautions them that I am not someone they can fool around with.

Which brings me to another part of this topic... I'll let my readers lable what it is... I haven't found the word for it yet.

My earliest memory that somehow defined who I am, was during my first week in primary 1. While entering the school hall, I overheard some people saying, "Itu anak Johari Salleh!" And I thought to myself, "So... That's who I am to the world? Does having my own name matter? Does having my own personality matter to these people? Would they be interested to get to know me for who I am individually or would they just prefer to lable me as the daughter of a famous symphonic maestro?"

Things got worse when I began my singing career. It doesn't matter how well I sang. It didn't matter that my career was different from my dad's (I am a vocalist. He is a musician!) People just saw me as "Anak Johari Salleh" and that irks me until today. Mind you, I am proud of being my father's daughter. But I am also proud of being my mother's daughter and she doesn't get enough credit for it... And the worst part of this all is that the general public just assume that they KNOW me just because they know who my father is. They think THEY KNOW ME just because they've read some fiction about me written in some tabloid newspapers and media gossip magazines.

People assume that just because I am an entertainer, I have no values and no religious upbringing. People assume that just because my father is a musician, I can play all types of musical instruments and read music. People assume that the person I am when I am perfoming and entertaining on stage is the same person in private. These people are confused. They don't like to be defined by what they do professionally and yet they judge others that very same way.

Fortunately for me, I have many, many very good people in my life. I believe what goes around, comes around. I have had some of my friends report to me how some people who think they know me say, "Apa?! You ingat Johana tu baik sangat ke? Just because she wears a black hijab and all...?! I know her lah...She is not as good and nice as what you think!" And the best part of this is that, this person who actually made these exclamations is not even close to being in the inner circle of my life! Imagine that! There are also some people who are almost green with envy due to their perceptions as to how lucky I am. After all, in their eyes, I seem to have it all. Looks, intelligence, wit, talent, wonderful husband, beautiful and smart and talented children....whatever! Dear God! They're near ready to hang themselves out of pure agony of jealousy! Yeah, sure! My life is a real bed of roses. No problems, no challenges. Just smooth sailing along the way.... And after all, the audacity of turning out alright although I rose from the ruins of a broken home, right? I should be in the dumps, somewhere; lying broken and unloved.

But, the thing is, I am still here. I am fine. I am more than fine. I have a very long list of things that I am grateful for in my gratitude journal. Life sucks, I'm sure... But not for me. I ain't complainin' one bit!

So, here's the bottom line:

1. I wear black because I am no longer available for the taking. I'm married.
2. Cloth i.e; my black hijab has nothing to do with my sprituality and faith. It just provides convenience for me to perform my solat because I hate to be bothered with toting telekong everywhere I go. And please don't even dare to suggest wearing those telekongs in public suraus. They stink! If it smells bad, it ain't clean, ok?
3. Nobody knows me best, except Allah. Not my parents, not my siblings, not my relatives. Noone. Na da. (What my husband and my soul sister knows is none of anybody's business, ok?) Even I am still clueless of myself sometimes. So please lah... jangan nak berangan, lah.... You wanna be famous? Teringin nak jadi bintang popular? Go ahead. Been there, done that, was that. Tak heran dah laaa... Here's a friendly word of advice: The grass is always greener on the other side...Because you don't have to mow it, water it, weed it. Its greener simply because its problems and responsibilities are not yours. If they were, you won't want it, you won't be grateful for it... Like how you're not grateful for what you have now, lah.... Wait till God takes all His blessings away from you. Baru padan muka...

So, get with the program, sistah! Your envy is showing its head. And, dang....its uuuuuugly!

If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters.

"Unfortunately, nothing is permanent in this world, including problems."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On Being A Sister

When I was 2 and a half years old, my little brother Eri was born. He was my first friend. I swore to myself that I was gonna really protect and take care of him. By the time my second brother Nahar was born, I was already 9 years old and was already able to help my mom in caring for his physical needs, like making his milk and changing his diapers. I was already 17 when my other brother Awie, from my father's second marriage, was born. My little sisters Yanie and Elli arrived when I turned 19 and 29, respectively.

Along the way, I came across a few other people whom I have taken close to heart as my adopted siblings, like Amran, Osh, Tish, Taj, Yusran, Luqman, Laton, Azareen, Zairin and many others. When they call me kakak, that endearment is sincerely felt in my heart. Most of these people also call my mom Mak or Mak Aan.

I take my role as a sister very seriously. I'm grateful that my husband understands this and embrace these people into his life with open arms. These people come to me whenever they have any challenges or when they need a sounding board. Some just come to my house just to hang around so that they can be themselves, when sometimes even their families prove to be not understanding.

Being a sister is not easy. My relationship with my biological brothers, Eri and Nahar, has changed. Things were different between us when we were still in our mother's care. Sibling rivalry was never an issue, but differences in characters and personalities often result in misunderstandings and rows. Alhamdulillah, these disagreements and misunderstandings were short lived. As we evolved and grew into adulthood, gotten married and now each have our own little families, we look at each other differently.

Being a sister is not easy. I have to strike a balance in protecting them from harm and from themselves, and at the same time giving them enough freedom and elbow room to learn from their mistakes. It makes my heart swell with pride to see them excel and become who they were designed to be by Allah. It pains me when I see them struggle with their inner demons and the external forces that has the potential to ruin them for good.

What I have come to realise is that being a sister is not a popularity contest. It doesn't matter to me if the advise I dole out to them when they ask for it may not be something that they wanted to hear. But I have to do whatever is best for them, although it may be a bitter pill of reality. Good friends don't get in your way unless you're on your way down. Sisters do the same. Attached to that is unconditional acceptance and love. I don't have to like the choices they make. I just love them the way they are. Because God does.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How to Be Realistic About Love

"Most people ask more from relationships than relationships can deliver. For many of us, they're the last refuge for redemption, the place we go to be saved. We come across people who are happily married, and it's like a mystery - a rather wonderful mystery. Why? Because it's unusual. To be realistic, one has to acknowledge that a committed relationship, even a good one, involves a great deal of frustration and hinges on how well you can bear that frustration. And, honestly, whether we find a good relationship has a lot to do with luck." - ADAM PHILLIPS, author of Monogamy.

At the beginning of my marriage, I thought I was realistic about love. But after 17 years have passed, I realise that my expectations of marriage and everything it entails were as realistic as the happy endings in Mills & Boons books and fairy tales' happily ever afters. I use to throw such a tantrum whenever my husband forgets our 'meeting anniversaries'. We even had a big fight once just because he forgot to buy me a Valentine's Day card! Pathetic, right?

I'd like to blame Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and every story I have ever read that ended with the two lovers being passionately in love with each other. It didn't just stop there! I also expected my husband and I to be so into each other every second of every minute, every minute of every hour, every hour of every day, every day of every week, every week of every month, every month of every year....for all eternity! Everytime we broke into a fight, I would feel so unloved and thought that the relationship was doomed to end.

Where did all these beliefs come from? Did they really come from reading fairy tales and Mills & Boons romance novels? How did I come to believe that those strappingly handsome heroes with those sexy sirens on the covers of romance novels had anything to do with reality? After all, these books were not found, and can never be found on the shelves of Non-Fiction books.

When I first laid my eyes on the quote above by Adam Phillips, I felt tickled pink! I found myself chuckling. His words rang true... How did I manage to handle the frustrations during the 17 years of marriage? I guess a lot had to do with what I was telling myself in my head regarding what was happening around me when the frustrations were felt. I mean, if I want to be happy, I can't allow any negative beliefs to creep into my head and poison my thoughts. It'll be like imbibing a little poison every day... a slow but certain death would ensue.

Yet, it is still a wonderful mystery to see us last this long and by the looks of it, we will be together a lot longer than I thought we would. Alhamdulillah. God has proven some of my thoughts to be wrong. And as for the luck bit of the quote, I still don't believe in it. But then again, that's what I say today... Tomorrow is another day. Now, that is being realistic.... right?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Welcome To Coffee With Kak Joe

Salaam and greetings to all my faithful subscribers,

Seeing that Coffee With Kakak has somehow turned out to be personal in nature and full of anecdotes, instead of the initial plan of making it as an outreach for my private counseling practice, I have decided to create another specifically designed for professional purposes. And since that old blog was created for me by someone else, I didn't have the control to manage or edit it's settings whenever I see fit.

For those who have been enjoying my entries at the old blogspot, I'd be honoured if you would continue to do so here at this new blogspot, as I have no intention whatsoever to stifle my creative writing urges and will persist in making entries here whenever the impulse or inspiration moves me to do so.

However, for those who would like to learn more about mental health or would like to seek assistance in dealing with life's harder challenges, please visit the link below:

MY Confidential

I believe it is not premature for me to thank everyone who has been reading my blog entries faithfully over the past few years. By sharing my life's trials and tribulations, I pray that someone somewhere had learnt something that I might have missed myself. By making these entries whenever I am going through difficult moments, I am left feeling quite fulfilled and never quite by myself.

Being an Aquarian Dragon that I am, I often feel compelled to somehow save the world. I know I cannot save everyone but I know I can save someone, insya Allah. And that'll do.

To those who have just entered Coffee With Kak Joe, thank you for adding me to your favourite tabs. And to those who are about to click on the link to MY Confidential, I greet you with a great big WELCOME!!

Peace be upon the world!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Best Wedding Gift

On 7th of July 2007, my beloved pet brother, Ahmad Fairuz aka Osh married my soul sister, Azuar aka Wa in a simple but emotionally moving ceremony in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail mosque. Although my husband and I have already gotten them a small wedding gift, as an afterthought, I want to bestow upon them the Last Sermon of Prophet Mohammed as their north star, the beacon of light that will guide them through the challenging times that may lie ahead for them in the journey called Marriage.

The Prophet Mohammed's Last Sermon

"O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.

"O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that he will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn 'Abd'al Muttalib (the Prophet's uncle) be waived.

"Every right arising out of homicide in pre-islamic days is henceforth waived and the first such right that i waive is that arising from the murder of Rabiah ibn al Harithibn.

"O People, the unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calender in order to make permissible that which Allah forbade, and to forbid that which Allah has made permissible. With Allah the months are twelve in number. Four of them are holy, three of these are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumada and Shaban.

"Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope of that he will be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

"O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right, then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste. O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadhan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.

"All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white - except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware: do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

"O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me, and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand my words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur'an and my Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray.

"All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed Your message to Your people."

- This sermon was delivered on the Ninth Day of Dhul-Hijjah 10 A.H. in the 'Uranah valley of Mount Arafat' in Mecca.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hari Friendship Sedunia

Friendship... is not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.
- Muhammad Ali

The real test of friendship is: can you literally do nothing with the other person? Can you enjoy those moments of life that are utterly simple?
- Eugene Kennedy

True friends stab you in the front.
- Oscar Wilde

A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.
- Arnold H. Glasow

You can always tell a real friend: when you've made a fool of yourself he doesn't feel you've done a permanent job.
- Laurence J. Peter

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.
- Aristotle

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is not so much our friends' help that helps us, as the confidence of their help.
- Epicurus

A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.
- Elbert Hubbard

It takes a long time to grow an old friend.
- John Leonard

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.
- C. S. Lewis

If it's very painful for you to criticize your friends - you're safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that's the time to hold your tongue.
- Alice Duer Miller

She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It's good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.
- Toni Morrison

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

"Purification of the Heart"- Last But Not Least...

"If you desire to live such that your religion is safe and your portion is full and your honor is sound, guard your tongue and never mention another's faults remembering that you yourself have faults and others have tongues."

Watch your eye. Should it ever reveal to you the faults of others, say to it, "Oh my eye, other people have eyes too." - Final page of Purification of the Heart.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Its Been A Week But...

Its been a week since my return from heaven on earth. Most of my family members have recovered from bouts of cold and flu but we're still coughing badly. The normal medications that doctors dole out don't seem to work its miracles anymore. Maybe its the weather.

Its been a week since I left my heart in Mekkah. Everything back in Malaysia seem alien to me now. I pine to return to Mekkah. I miss the sight of the Kaabah. I miss the peace of mind and tranquility of my soul. Indeed, I feel different. Maybe I have changed.

Its been a week and I still have trouble getting back into the daily momentum of life in Kuala Lumpur. I don't feel the sense of belonging that I use to feel. I don't know how long these feelings are going to persist. I don't pray that I will return to normalcy if it means I become forgetful of why I am here in the first place, if it means that I will lose the forgiveness that I have sought and received for all the transgressions and diseases of my heart.

Its been a week but already I just wanna go home...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Anxious and nervous. These feelings accompanied my departure from KLIA to Jeddah. Upon arrival, we boarded a bus bound for Madinah. That ride lasted a little over 5 hours. Medina Hilton greeted us with a luxurious accomodation and Masjid Nabawi was beautiful and cooling. Raudhah was a taste of Paradise. However, my heart was still ill at ease.

After a few days in Madinah, we departed for Mekkah. Being in ihram was not as difficult as expected. The trip to Mekkah from Madinah was another gruelling 5 hours. We arrived in Mekkah, the main destination of my soul, just after maghrib. We rested for while and had dinner. After isya', we walked excitedly to Masjidil Haram to perform our umrah. My heart was pounding in my ears. But the moment I laid my eyes on Kaabah, my heart felt calm and at peace. My thoughts exclaimed, "Oh! Its not as big as I thought it would be!" But, masya Allah! It was a sight to behold and would stay etched in my memory forever.

For once in my life, I felt peace and serenity. No thoughts of Malaysia or my family back there. No worries. No problems. Nothing. Just peace..... I felt His forgiveness and love. I felt cleansed of all my sins and transgressions. I felt blessed and welcomed. I'm where I'm supposed to be. The description of how I really felt there is beyond words. There's not a word in the english dictionary that would do justice to the experience of being there, praying in front of the Kaabah, touching it and smelling its beautiful attar. My hours there were centered around the prayer times. Kaabah, the center of the universe.

I dreaded the day of our departure for our return to Malaysia. Tawaf wida' was accompanied with a stream of tears and a breaking heart. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay in the womb of His security and love. I felt as if I was already in Jannah but now I have to leave. My breaking heart, my breaking heart. The pain and agony was too excruciating.

People say that home is where the heart is. Since I was born, I have always referred to Malaysia as my home. But, even when we were welcomed home by my loving parents and siblings and family, even after I had tasted again home cooked meals, even after I entered the threshold of my house and unpacked and slept again on my favourite four posted teak bed; I am still not home. I've left my heart in Mekkah. That's where my home is from now on. Henceforth, my sole purpose is to find means and ways to go home. Because home is where the heart is.

"Ya Allah, rumah ini rumahMu, aku ini hambaMu, anak dari hambaMu juga anak hambaMu yang perempuan. Engkau telah membawa aku dalam hal yang Engkau sendiri mudahkan untukku sehingga Engkau jalankan aku di negeriMu ini dan Engkau telah menyampaikan aku dengan niqmatMu jua sehingga Engkau menolong aku untuk menunaikan ibadat umrah. Kalau Engkau redha padaku maka tambah-tambahkanlah keredhaan itu padaku. Jika tidak maka dari sekarang sebelum aku jauh dari rumahMu ini. Sekarang sudah waktunya aku hendak pulang. Jika Engkau izinkan aku dengan tidak menukar sesuatu dengan ZatMu ataupun rumahMu, bukan benci padaMu dan tidak pula benci pada rumahMu.

"Ya Allah, bekalilah aku ini dengan afiat pada tubuhku, tetap menjaga agamaku, baikkanlah kepulanganku dan berilah aku taat setia padaMu selama-lamanya, selagi Engkau membiarkan aku hidup dan kumpulkanlah bagiku kebaikan dunia dan akhirat. Sesungguhnya Engkau Maha Kuasa atas segala sesuatu.

"Ya Allah, janganlah jadikan masaku ini masa terakhir bagiku dengan rumahMu. Jika sekiranya Engkau jadikan masa ini terakhir bagiku, maka gantikanlah syurga untukku dengan rahmatMu wahai Tuhan Yang Maha Pengasih lebih dari segenap yang pengasih. Amin. Terimalah doa kami wahai Tuhan sekalian alam."

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Letter to my Heart

My dear Heart,

You have been a witness to the strength of the soul and the weakness of my body. You have endured pain and agony in my search for love and undying loyalty. You have cried a river of tears for my trials and tribulations. You have calmed my thoughts and allayed my fears by filling yourself with love for Him. You have never disappointed me when I needed unconditional acceptance or sincerity. You have always stood by me and felt what I needed to feel.

In return, I shall take you to a place where many have found peace and tranquility, love and forgiveness, faith and compassion. Together, we shall embark on a journey to a place we have never been before. I promise to be there for you, as you have done for me all throughout my existence. Truly, when Allah put you in my chest, He gave me love, He gave me life. Through you, I feel. Through you, I live.

To feel pain, love and suffering is to know that one is alive. So, be grateful for everything while you can. Syukur dalam syukur.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Silencing My Heart

My mom never fails to remind me what a talkative and inquisitive child I once was. Always asking questions like,"Why is the sky blue, Mak?" and "Where does the music come from in movies where the actors are singing, Ayah?" I guess it was part of my learning process, to be curious and to learn from those who know more.

I also remember speaking my mind quite often, which usually got me into trouble with my mom. One vivid memory is of one when I was barely 8 years old, telling Anita Sarawak what I thought of her performance on one television entertainment program that her dance movements were weird looking and that I didn't like it. Imagine my parent's red faces, apologising profusely to the star performer on their child's inappropriate remarks. From that experience, I learned tact and discretion.... NOT! Until today, I still put my foot in my mouth from time to time. However, I never mean to purposely offend anyone. I guess it boils down the science of speed of sound. Its slower than the speed of light....bulb moments.

A very wise and old man once told me to be sincere in everything I say and do. Now, at the ripe old age of 42, I realise that it is easier to shut up when you hear your thoughts so loudly spoken in your own ears. But, how do I make my heart shut up?! Yes, my heart is capable of saying things too. And although I may not utter those thoughts out loud, I am uncomfortable with some of the things that crosses my heart. Because when my feelings not represented by my words and actions, I don't feel sincere.

I will be leaving for Mekkah in a few days from today and I worry for the state of my heart. I need it to shut up and be pure. I need it to be focused on my ibadah and be sincerely accepting towards everything and everyone, regardless of circumstances and the choices made by people around me. Alhamdulillah, I stumbled upon a chapter in a book entitled "Purification of the Heart" and since it helped me, I thought it wise to share this wisdom with everyone who has the same challenges as I.

"Ibn Atai'illah said, "If you're aware of your humility, then you are arrogant." But scholars say the following, "If you are not like the real people, at least mimic them." It is better to simulate humility than to be an outright arrogant man. Imam Ghazali says, "If one wishes to master calligraphy, then he must go to a master calligrapher and repeat what he does."

"Imam 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani once said, "All the doors to God are crowded except for one: the door of humility and humbleness." Having humbleness is one of the secrets of success, although it is hard on the soul. It is said, "Among the most noble things of this world is a rich man who is humble." - Excerpt from chapter on Boasting & Arrogance from Purification of the Heart by Hamza Yusuf.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Anatomy of Love

Before I met my husband, when my friends asked me what kind of a man would I consider marrying, I actually spelt out a list of criteria. He has to be tall, lean, fair skinned, moustached, wavy haired, bespectacled, malay but not melayu, has a good sense of humour but knows when to be serious, experienced but ready to settle down and be loyal to me, speaks good english, not necessarily highly educated but is intelligent and resourceful, spontaneous but careful, knows how to have fun but also capable of focusing on important issues. When my friends heard this, they actually said, "Mana ada orang macam tu kat dunia ni?! You are asking for the perfect man. He doesn't exist!" I replied, "Kalau macam tu, I tak kawin pun tak pe!"

I reckon the reason why I felt as though I have met my husband before when we first laid eyes on each other, was because of this profile. Also, I have always believed in the concept of soulmates. Allah AlMighty had said that He had created every creation of His in pairs and that each has their own predestined mate. Funny, how this concept has recently been supported by an article in a magazine Psychology Today. Here's an excerpt of an article written by Helen Fisher, Ph.D entitiled The Laws Of Chemistry:

"Among the myriad forces that sculpt our romantic choices is what I call your "love map," an unconscious list of qualities you begin to build in childhood. Your mother's wit and way with words; your father's interest in politics and tennis; what your siblings like and hate; the values of your friends and teachers; what you see on television. All your childhood (and adult) experiences shape and reshape your template of the ideal romantic partner.

"By the teenage years, each of us has constructed an idiosyncratic catalog of traits, values, aptitudes, and mannerisms that appeal to us. Then, when the timing is right and we meet a person who registers on our love map, a cascade of brain chemicals is triggered that tells us with euphoric certainty that we have found the one."

The One, is who I mean by soulmate. This concept became the foundation of my belief system and I preached and freely shared this point of view shamelessly with anyone who was willing to listen. However, one day, during my 7th year of marriage, I woke up one morning and felt nothing but disdain towards my husband. However, to imagine not being his wife was enough to break my heart! I felt utterly confused! Why was I feeling this way? It would have been easier on the heart if I could easily walk away from him. But somehow, I couldn't. Helen Fisher explained further in her article when she went on to say:

"But I have come to believe that there's more to mate choice than your childhood, your background, your values, and your degree of good looks. These variables act in tandem with a silent partner: your biology. What sparked my thinking on this was a classic study now commonly known as the sweaty T-shirt experiment.

"Women are unconsciously attracted to men with a different immune system; they do it by smell. If you are attracted to someone whose immune system is different from yours, why wouldn't you also be attracted to those with other genetic differences? Mates with distinctly different genetic profiles would produce more genetically varied young."

Somehow, around October 2006, I stumbled upon the smellmate concept and when I read the above passage, I was glad that I wasn't going out of my head after all! I've realised that the reason why I couldn't walk away from my husband was because he smelt right! This smell concept also proved that my brothers were not good for me as a mate. They smell foul to me. But only to me! Because they sure smell good to their respective wives! One has 2 children and my youngest brother has 4 children to boot! They definitely smell good to their wives!

"Perhaps mate choice operates like a funnel. First you see a potential partner and size him or her up - physically. Too big, too little, too old, too young, too pink, too green, too messy, too neat. If they make the cut, then you talk. A bad accent, a dumb remark, a tastelesss joke, a touch of arrogance, or some other idiosyncrasy may nip the budding romance. But if this stranger comes from your background, is of the right age, shares your level of intelligence and education, appears humorous and socially adept, has your values, fits within your love map, and the timing is right, you proceed. In these ways, similarity regularly reigns.

"Then comes your needs, psychological and physical. Many exchange good looks for money or rank. We are often attracted to those who mask our flaws and accentuate our better parts. Roles are important, too. As you size up him or her, you ponder whether you'd be comfortable as the wife of this college professor or the husband of that cafe singer. as you weigh the myriad social factors, I suspect that unconscious biological mechanisms are subtly pulling you toward those who complement you genetically.

However, how do you explain the many couples of soulmates that I have met who still have misunderstandings towards one another? Helen Fisher explains: "Perhaps some of the ubiquitous marital friction stems from the need to choose our partners suitable for producing and raising babies - but not altogether understandable as companions."

There you have it! The explanation of the anatomy of love. But there is one crucial thing that I want to share with everyone as to why I chose to marry my husband. There was this one time, before we got married, that I was upset about something that made me cry. He lovingly caught a drop of my falling tear with his finger. That simple but loving act made me feel something I had never felt before.... I felt PRECIOUS! That was when I thought, "I'm never gonna let this man go. I'm his forever."

17 years of marriage and counting. And believe me when I say this: Yes. It does get better with age. Just like wine and cheese. The sex, the love, the understanding, the communication.... the works!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bali High

Last week, I had the pleasure of holidaying in Bali with my family. Although I have seen enough of Bali through Astro's Travel and Adventure channel. I wanted to see, touch, feel and experience the whole thing myself.

By the time we landed, we had missed the sunset. We were already bone tired from the 3 hour flight and the hassles of logistics prior to our arrival in KLIA. We were hungry, sticky and really in need of a warm shower and a good night's sleep. We were greeted by Pak Wayan, a local who works for Nusa Dua Resort & Spa. En route to our hotel, the local scenario was a blur. Our tummies were growling out of hunger and thirst. Yes, we were served a meal on flight, but there's something about being on a holiday that makes you feel hungry all the time, no matter how often or how much we ate. Just thinking about that made me dread the diet that I have to be on just to shed off whatever I had gained on the trip.

When we reached Nusa Dua, we were almost crawling to our room from fatigue. The resort was so huge that it felt like a good kilometer to reach our rooms. But the view from our verandah made the long walk worth its while. It was simply breath taking.

We spent the next day touring Ubud with Pak Wayan. He urged us to haggle the prices of good we wanted to buy, something I hate to do because I am just bad at bargaining. Lissa has somehow gotten a hang of it. She even takes it to a tearful level! Yes, she would be willing to get teary eyed just to get the price she wants. That woman really knows how to shop! JC and I were just plain confused with the currency exchange.... everything was priced thousands of rupiahs.... My husband had stopped counting how many times I whipped out my mobile phone just to use the calculator. Finally, I decided to just resort to the best calculator of beloved husband. I ended up asking him, "How much is this in Ringgit, Yang?" I lost count how many times he rolled his eyeballs everytime I ask him that question. I'm still laughing out loud now, as I am typing this in, because it was so funny!

On our third day there, my husband and I indulged ourselves to a spa treatment. The experience was just like the ones I have been seeing on Astro! As seen on TV stuff! It was romantic because they put us in a room together and although we were in the room with each other, we hardly spoke to one another because we were made speechless by the fantastic massage! Magic fingers.... those girls had magic fingers....

On our departure day, we managed to squeeze Kuta before going to the airport. But by that time, I was already homesick and missing the KL smog. How pathetic is that! I couldn't wait to leave Bali.

One thing I've learned from this trip, just as I had from my short Penang holiday a few moons ago, home is where the heart is. Right, wa...?

Monday, April 9, 2007

Blast from the Past

Lately, I have been keeping in touch with a group of people that I once knew while I was living in Swansea, Wales; back in 1984. And yesterday, I had the great pleasure of meeting up with them again at a reunion kindly organised by one of them.

It felt wonderful seeing them again after 22 years had lapsed and it was amazing to see how we are now in comparison to who we were back then. Most of us hasn't changed in looks nor character, gotten married and bared a few children (some more than others), almost all of us have established ourselves professionally. But the best part of all is how the friendship has remained the same as if we had never been apart!

The ones that came were the Upland girls: Isya, Liza, Nab (Jenna) and Eda. And then there were also the Bourneville Terrace Tenants: Kadir, Pau, Ameer, Asman, Abu, Roy.....and me! (Sorry guys, memang I sedar I ada ter-miss out someone...) And, of course, Zai who eventually married Kadir.

At the end of the gathering, as everyone was helping out to clean up the remnants of the BBQ and distributing some take away food, one of the girls were commenting how nice it would be if we could all meet up more often. But the ever wise Kadir, one of those who once lived in No.4 Bourneville Terrrace, said "Tak boleh jumpa selalu. nanti jadi menyampah pulak!" Hahahahahaaaaa. He's right. After all, there has to be some wisdom behind the phrase "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

Tapi, mana lah tau.... To some people, "Out of sight, out of mind" applies more aptly for them. Hey, tak kisah lah.... Whatever floats your boats, babe! Happy Reunion, Fellow Swanseans!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Earth WInd & Fire: Elements of LIFE

They first entered my life when I was 12 years old. Their music would be playing continuously in my bedroom while I was doing my homework, just lolling about on my bed, writing an entry in my diary, crying of a heart that was broken, or jumping around with joy at something that made my life looked hopeful.

The influence of their funky rhythm, soulful riffs and heartfelt lyrics touched my life in so many little ways but somehow they mean a big deal to me even 20 years later. That is also how long I had to wait to finally get to see them perform live for the first time in my life! When my soul sister smsed a few months ago to tell me about their concert in KL, I couldn't believe my blurring eyesight! FINALLY!, I thought. I felt my breath left my lungs for a while, I broke into cold sweat, my heart was racing..... I was EXCITED!!

Last Friday 6th of April, was a hectic day for me. With a project presentation scheduled in the morning, a counseling session with a client planned in the afternoon, and a meeting with my consultant company in late afternoon, I was feeling swamped. I was beginning to feel drained out of energy and I was worried that I would be feeling a tad too "old" to be going for this concert that I have been waiting for the whole of my life.

However, determined as I was to enjoy myself with my husband and friends that night, after finishing off all the things I was suppose to do, I rushed home to grab some zzzz's to recharge my flailing energy. After an hour's sleep, I was ready. I dressed appropriately, knowing fully well that I wasn't gonna be able to just stand there like a statue when they play their hit songs.

While in the car with my husband and my soul sister, we were worried that we would be feeling out of place as we had quit the clubbing scene for more than 15 years already. Insaf, diri kita ni dah tak setahun jagung lagi lah kan.... However, we were relieved to see the others who also came for the concert. I met some familiar faces, fellow musicians, old school friends...... and wait a minute.....! Are those my uncles and aunties there, walking in the hall looking a tad lost? Yeah!!! It's them alright! I was not made to feel out of place either with my hijab and all. There were many ladies wearing hijab with their balding hubbies bearing paunches and all. And the best fact of all.... I was NOT the OLDEST one there! I could've easily been considered one of the juniors there that night! Seronoknya.... Terasa muda semula!!

When Earth WInd & Fire opened their show with "In The Stone", I felt like as if I was in seventh heaven. Bottom line: I screamed with excitement and pure joy everytime they played my favourite song of theirs.... which are basically ALL of their songs. They didn't disappoint me at all. Boogie Wonderland, Serpentine Fire, September, After The Love Has Gone, Let's Groove, Fantasy...... all the lagu wajib! They were just stupendous! When I looked around me, I could see almost everyone was singing along and dancing to the music like as if there was no one else there! And I thought I was the only one yang dah lupa diri.... This group and their music has touched so many lives!! What a sight! What a Joy!

A short note to EWF: You guys made the 30 years wait all worth my while. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Displeasure with Blame

An excerpt from the book entitled “Purification of the Heart – Signs, Symptoms, and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart.” By Hamza Yusuf.

“Poem Verses 150-54
Displeasure with blame is a well-known disease of the heart. Concern with people’s opinions and desiring their praise and displeasure at their criticisms are a barrier from achieving the station of excellence in worship. Overcoming that barrier is through the realization that there is no benefit or harm unless it comes from God, the Possessor of all dominion, Exalted and Majestic is He.

Furthermore, what is prohibited from this disease is what leads to the prohibited, just as Imam al-Ghazali has elaborated.

The perfection of sincerity is that you do not give notice to any praise or blame that emanates from people.”

“Blame is not something that we would naturally embrace. It runs against human nature to love it. But the problem is when the fear of blame is coupled with the urgent desire for praise and approval by others, which is often the case. Being concerned with “creation’s opinion” places a barrier between a person and the station of ihsan, excellence in worship. This is considered a disease because the result is guiding one’s actions in deference to the praise of people or in an attempt to avoid their blame or disapproval, irrespective of the integrity and soundness of ones actions.”

“Sidi Ahmad al-Zarruq once said, the truth has the power to penetrate the hearts of people – even those whose hearts have a seal. Humanity has the right to have witnesses living among them, those who are willing to defend the truth no matter how unpopular it may be.”

“The Prophet (s.a.w) said to Ibn ‘Abbas, “Be mindful of God, and God will protect you. Be mindful of God, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of God. If you seek help, seek help from God. Know that if the whole nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. And if the whole nation were to gather together to harm you, it would harm you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried.”

“There is room for diplomacy and discretion, particularly of knowing when it is best to say the truth. This discretion, however, is not informed by the fear of blame, but rather by clarity regarding one’s objectives. Wisdom is completely different from seeking the approbation of others. The Prophet (s.a.w) said that it is the highest form of struggle (jihad) to speak the truth in the face of a tyrant.”

“Doing something for the sake of God is the manifestation of strong faith. Whether someone praises you or not is entirely inconsequential.”

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Negative Thoughts

An excerpt from the book entitled “Purification of the Heart – Signs, Symptoms, and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart.” By Hamza Yusuf.

“Poem Verses 121-24
Some assumptions are not permissible, such as holding a bad opinion about someone who manifests righteous behavior.

This means that your heart is convinced and you have judged him based on your heart’s suspicions without proof that warrants such an assumption.

There is nothing wrong with having doubts about someone or having a bad opinion of him if it based on sound reasoning and is not arbitrary.

Thus our bad opinion of some profligate whose actions indicate his (corruption) is not prohibited.”

“Scholars have been advised that one should have even beware of forming conclusions based on the bad appearances of people, for it could be that God veils their goodness from others.

“But having a bad opinion of someone without a cause is considered a malady of the heart: “O you who believe, avoid suspicion, for some suspicion is sinful (Quran, 49:12). The Prophet s.a.w. said, “Beware of a bad opinion because it is the most false of speech.” If someone says to you that a given person is bad, ask for proof. Without proof it is tantamount to a lie. Shari’a is based on proof and not conjecture.

“Having doubts about people is different from decidedly judging them negatively. Concluding a bad opinion in the presence of ample evidence is common sense. But when people repent, they should not have their past held against them. There is a hadith that says, “There are two things that no believer has been given anything better: a good opinion of God and a good opinion of the servants of God.”

“Even if something unpleasant occurs, there is good in it.”

Friday, February 23, 2007

Level 42

How time flies when you're having fun.....

I still remember the time when I was 5 years old. Things were so simple then. My needs were simple, my life was elementary and my only problem was to make sure I didn't step on my mother's toes. There were no worries about aging, looks or waist line. The only relationship issue I had back then was my constant bickering with my little brother. I wanted to play house and he insisted that playing with toy guns was more fun. When I turned 15, I joined the school police cadet and got the opportunity to learn using M16 and real guns. Way cool! My brother was right. Definitely more fun than playing the domestic goddess role.

Last night, in one of our late night chats, my soul sister and I discussed at length the aging process and how much we are terrified of growing old. When we were in our 20's, we didn't even think about the impending 40's that was inevitable. But now that we are in our 40's, we have nightmares as to how we will be when we turn 60! Definitely scarier than a Korean horror movie with that wretched woman crawling down the stairs!

Men often moan and say, "What is it with women? They worry too much about things when they should be living life to the fullest." But I bet you these men DO have these worries too..... only difference is they fret about their performance and stamina. Maybe they have bigger denial problems than they would care to admit.

Having turned 40 two years ago was not as big a deal as I thought it would be. But eversince I turned 42, my level of empathy and understanding for those who struggle with issues relating to aging has increased tremendously. I'm sure that I don't even need to mention that this understanding would include issues related to matters of the heart. And I don't mean any of those pertaining to the organic heart but more of the emotional nature of it.

Being a counselor since 1994 has exposed me to a wide range of problems, including marital challenges. Of late, the cases that have turned up in my private practice has been mainly about betrayal and infidelity. I'd like to believe that my maturity and own personal experience is enhanced everyday through my counseling sessions. I learn from my clients and they in return learn from me.

Hence, my soul sister and I both agree that it is indeed refreshing to sit and chat for hours with the older generation because not only can we learn a lot from their life experiences but also being in their presence makes us appreciate out youth...while we still have it. After all, isn't youth a matter of perspective? ..... Ping! Elevator going up!!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I wasn't laughing then, but now I am...

As anyone who follows this blog can see, it has been more than a month since my last entry. Although it would be easier for me to just blame it on laziness or lack of inspiration, my conscience is screaming out to be heard. So, here we go again...

To describe the past months of my life as an adventure, would be an understatement. Those to whom I have had the courage to share my inner thoughts and feelings can testify that it has been, indeed, a very scary experience. To be made to understand the true meaning of the expression "a change of heart" is no where near a predictable roller coaster ride. One moment you may have indifference in your heart, and the next minute you are thrown into a tailspin of emotional upheavals. Truly, Allah has our hearts in His All Mighty hands.

My soul sister had just come home from performing her haj. Before she left, she asked me if there was a prayer I wanted her to say on my behalf. I didn't have to tell her what I needed. She knew instinctively what to ask for me. And she did. Now, I am all the more convinced that Allah actually listens! Almost all of my inner wishes have been granted, alhamdulillah. I am back to my normal self now.

Having been the control freak most of my life, losing control of my emotions was not funny.... at all! I couldn't make myself feel what I wanted to feel, and couldn't make myself unfeel what I didn't want to feel. My only regret throughout all of this is my decision to share my experiences and inner feelings with people whom I thought could handle it. I have been made to realise that most people tend to take things too personally.... even when it isn't about them. It was about me and me alone! So, while I was going through the emotional motions, they were also caught up in the ups and downs. Poor souls... I should have just shut my trap!

Anyway, its all in the past now. I have learnt that everything is a mental state of mind and emotional state of heart. Everything is interpreted according to these conditions. Mild as it may sound, it is far from that. Ask anyone who is in the throes of being in love or going through the agony of having lost the feeling of love for someone they ought to love. Love can be so fragile and sturdy at the same time. Funny how love is.... I wasn't laughing then, but now I am...

But is it really over...?