Tuesday, December 30, 2014

“Diary of a Guji Girl” and What I think we should be discussing

Like many people I have been an avid reader of the blog ‘Diary of a Guji Girl’. Initially I was interested in reading the blog because of the huge hype that surrounded it, eventually though I found this to be an educational experience for me in many ways. So a few weeks ago I was delighted to have finally received my copy of the book based on the blog, and I set aside an evening just for reading this.( I must say as a side note that holding the book in my hands was so much better than reading the blog). Nonetheless, the book has marked the end of this story and like all stories I find myself at odds, there is closure, which is always a good thing, but for me the lessons derived from this story is far more important and it surpasses all the hype, the popularity and everything else that has come with this.

I admire the author Qaanitah Hunter for boldly discussing issues that no one else dare speak about, and I love that she has made such good use of satire and humour, there’s this nagging part of me though, a part that tells me that perhaps people didn’t take the messages from the book exactly in the way it was intended, that the characters were “glorified” by readers in ways that should not have happened and that the reflection of our society as portrayed in the story has not been concerning enough for people. Perhaps it’s just me over analysing things again, I don’t know, but in any case, I decided to mention the lessons that I have learnt and what I think we should be discussing after reading this story.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, the very basic summary is that this is a story of a first year university student, Amina, who leaves her home in the small town of Newcastle to come to the big and sometimes very unfriendly city of Johannesburg. On the way she meets new people, has different experiences, but it is mainly Amina’s obsessive quest for marriage that forms the basis of this story, and it is her “relationship” with the typical messed up, unstable, but very good looking, rich and popular guy that forms the central focus.

The biggest lesson that I derived from this blog/book is also the scariest one so I’ll begin with that. While reading this it dawned on me that the biggest threat to the religion of Islam in South Africa is cultural heritage. Now, before people jump down my throat, please allow me to explain. Diary of a Guji Girl has very perfectly depicted how Muslims in South African Indian society hold on strongly to their cultural heritage. This in its own is not an issue, but it becomes an issue when it is at the expense of the way in which Islam is practised. The problem of cultural heritage surpassing Islamic teachings is so evident in the story, for instance when Amina judges her Cousin Ayesha’s future husband because he is not from the same cultural background. Besides this very overt depiction of what I am talking about, the characters in the story all tend to hold on to cultural practices like it’s the law. There is no questioning the relevance of these practices and very often cultural practices surpass religious ones and people are judged when they decide to choose religious practices over cultural ones.

The reason for this being scary or worrying is that when people place more importance on their cultural heritage than anything else, this can cause division, racism and prejudice and it can be a huge hindrance to Islamic unity. I see this too often in the society in which we live, and coming from a mixed cultural background, I myself have been a recipient of the prejudice I allude to, and so reading about it in Diary of a Guji Girl just brought home this issue so aptly. But the scariest part of it all is that people don’t stop to think about the negative impact this may have and instead remain insistent that their particular culture is “the way things should be”. I personally think that Diary of a Guji Girl was an attempt to change this type of thinking, showing in a very satirical manner that maybe the way we have been thinking all the years is not always the right way. Whether readers actually took this message seriously however is another story.

The other issue that stood out for me was the overly obsessive pursuance of marriage. Now, I am not at all disputing the importance of marriage. Islam definitely does place emphasis on marriage and even regards it as “half of faith”. However, in this overly obsessive quest for marriage, we seem to have forgotten the true purpose of marriage in itself. Marriage is supposed to be a means to the end, not an end in itself. This Hollywood style search for happily ever after, (or in this case, the happily ever after in the smart Houghton house with the good looking, rich and popular man) can only lead to trouble. As Muslims the only happily ever after that we are supposed to be pursuing is the one we are promised in the Hereafter. If marriage is not going to make us better Muslims who are constantly trying to improve ourselves in our striving to reach closeness to Allah Almighty, then this means is not a very positive means to the ultimate end, now is it? With this crazy obsessive search for the perfect man and seemingly perfect life, it’s no wonder people get divorced so easily these days. May Allah guide and protect us all!

The last issue that I’ll mention here is the materialistic nature of people. As the protagonist in the story, Amina’s materialistic nature actually becomes so annoying that at some points you want to smack some sense into her. This is more evident in the blog posts than it is in the book, but nonetheless, it highlights the fact that many of us have lost the plot and we have become selfish and self-absorbed. I don’t know how other people feel, but for me spending R2000 rand on one shopping trip on nothing other than clothes is absurd. I love that the author made an attempt to bring Amina back to reality and make her realise that life is about responsibility and not being wasteful, and of course about sharing with others as well if you can afford to do so.

There is so much more that I can say about this story, so much more details to discuss about the issues brought about in it, that’s why I was disappointed when all people could focus on was the “love story”. Naturally this brought up a whole lot of other questions for me. Why do people love Moe and Amina together? What is it about the attraction of ‘good girls’ to the ‘bad boy’? Is life really all about finding love? What are our ideas of love even based on? Should young women really be putting themselves out there and doing whatever they can to secure a good marriage prospect? How much will parents overlook and give in so that their daughters end up marrying a good man? Is society’s viewpoint really that important? Has money and status really become so important to us that we are willing to compromise on our Islamic values? …

Yes, it is evident that there is much more that I can discuss about this story, but the story has ended so perhaps I should end my thoughts here as well. I would love to hear other thoughts on this though, perhaps someone else has good answers to all my many questions.

Image 1 from here 
Image 2 from here  
Image 3 from here

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stupid old stereotypes and inspiring Muslim women

I’ve long since given up the need to refute common stereotypes about Muslim women. Of course I’ve always known that these stereotypes were nothing short of ridiculous. I’ve said this numerous times, and will say it again, Muslim women can never be stereotyped and categorized into one general whole. Nonetheless, I’ve recently come into contact with Muslim women involved in so many different projects that it reminded me that stereotypes are undoubtedly a sign of stupid thinking. So I thought I’d just share with you some of the projects that Muslim women in my community have recently begun.

My favourite project is the recent development of a Book club, cleverly named “Book Bytes”, this book club ensures that Muslim women (and women from other faiths who would like to join) come together and discuss their favourite reads and encourage each other to read new and different books. I have not previously been exposed to so many women who love reading to the extent that I do and I must say that I am impressed. This proved to me that intellectual thought and intelligence is vivid and thriving amongst Muslim women and contrary to a common stereotype, there are women out there who would prefer to buy books over shoes any day!

Last month some time I was invited to speak at a support group. This group called, H4U (Here for You) has been established by two very ambitious, bold and outgoing Muslim women who have the intention of improving the community in which they live. I left that meeting feeling so impressed and inspired by all that I had heard. It’s always a beautiful thing to witness or hear about the growth in someone else. It reminds me of the vast human potential that we have and how anyone is able to accomplish whatever they want to.

As part of this support group these women are involved in a variety of projects, including drug 
counselling and support, and counselling and assistance for many other issues. They’ve also set out to do youth upliftment and a kiddie’s recreational programme. Honestly I know how much time and effort it takes to arrange all these activities and projects and I really admire these women for their selflessness.

Then, just recently I was put in touch with a dynamic group of Muslim sisters, most of whom had converted to Islam fairly recently. I can’t tell you how impressive these women are. Masha Allah! The genuine love and care that they have for one another and the support that they constantly offer each other has left me in awe. I pray that their bonds are strengthened.

These are just a few of my most recent encounters with amazing Muslim women. I have had many others, and I am certain that there will be many more. For this reason, I now have resorted to smiling silently or simply dismissing the relentless stereotypes of Muslim women. If anyone is stupid enough to believe and follow these stereotypes, then all I can say is that there’s a major problem with them and there’s not much else I can do about that.


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The release date for "You Are Beautiful" (Mindworks Publishing) is November 28, 2014. However, you can be ahead of the crowd by pre-ordering your copy of the book now.  When you pre-order your book, you will receive an autographed copy from the author.

This book will make a wonderful gift for loved ones with children or your local school library. The ideal age for this children's book is 9 - 12 (grades 3 - 6).  Click the link below to pre-order "You Are Beautiful"  


​Thank you in advance for your support.

Wahid and His Special Friend

Motivated by a driving need of diversity in many of the genres of books, particularly for children, as well as her love for writing, Abdusamad’s first book, “Wahid and His Special Friend” (Authorhouse Publishing), is a cute rhyming book that is a quick read for children ages 0 – 7.

Click on the link below to purchase your copy.



About the Author

Robyn Z. Abdusamad was raised in Chocowininty, North Carolina.  While in college, her love for writing would lead her to work as copy editor for the university’s year book, publish articles in the NC A&T Registar and the Greensboro News & Record.  She graduated from NC A&T with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Communication and Public Relations and accepted a job offer in Atlanta, GA as a Marketing Coordinator for CIGNA Healthcare.  After several years in GA, the company downsized forcing Robyn to return home to NC where she found a job working for National Multiple Sclerosis Society as a Community Events Manager and Editor. She later returned to her alma mater as an Assistant Director of Annual Giving and further developed her public relations and fund raising skills. She also found herself working in the Greensboro Public school system as a Site Director for their after-school program. That experience coupled with raising young children is what first peaked her interest in writing children’s books.

While enjoying her career she continued to write and eventually returned to school and completed her Master’s degree in Public Administration from National University.  Once she became a wife and a mother she became serious about writing children’s books—ultimately writing five books (two of which are published). Currently Robyn and her family reside in Texas-Dallas Fort Worth area. In addition to her freelance writing, she also works as a public relations consultant.  Her hobbies include spending quality time with her husband and their three children, traveling, reading, writing and volunteering in the community.


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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Interview with an author

Masha Allah, there are so many amazing women out there who are using their talents in a positive and productive way. I have had the privilege of coming across one such woman, sister Robyn Abdusamad, who is an author of children's books with a difference. Here's my interview with her, I hope that you find it as inspiring and interesting as I have. 


1.    Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

     I am from North Carolina but my family recently relocated to Texas, the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  I am a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University with a Bachelor in Communications/ Public Relations and a Masters in Public Administration from National University.  I have over 10 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. I’ve also worked in the secondary school system in North Carolina. Right now, I am a stay at home mom.   In my spare time I enjoy volunteering in my community, traveling, shopping, and connecting with family and friends.

2.    Is this your first book? If not, what other books have you written and what were those about?

In 2013 I published my first book “Wahid and His Special Friend” (Authorhouse).  It is a cute rhyming book that is a quick read for children ages 0 – 7.  Rhyming is essential for children to comprehend and play with language.  It not only tells a great story but has great illustrations and great rhymes with a hint of mystery.  “You Are Beautiful” is my second book in my line of children books.   It is about two sisters who learn a meaningful lesson about ethnic diversity as well as the importance of compassion and unity. 

3.    What inspired you to write children’s books?

Being a mother who wanted to make sure that my children developed a love of reading introduced me to the world of children’s literature. As I began to purchase books for my kids, I noticed a lack of books that focused on the needs of Muslim children. So that void in the market is what inspired me to try my hand at children’s books.  So, with the support of family and friends, I took that leap.

4.    Your latest book, “You are Beautiful” is due for release this November, this looks like a very interesting book, please tell us a little bit about this book?

Yes. It is scheduled to be released November 28.  “You Are Beautiful” (Mindworks, 2014) is about two sisters who are saddened by a racial comment made by some of their peers.  It is a heartfelt and inspirational lesson that teaches young children how they can embrace diversity with knowledge and kindness. 

5.    What was your motivation for writing this book?

My motivation for this book stemmed from the injustices we all witness in society today. Additionally, when I worked in the school system I was able to observe, firsthand, the bias that children demonstrated toward each other. So my purpose with this book, I hope, is to give parents a way to engage their children in conversations about diversity, racism and other forms of bias.  As the late Maya Angelou once said, “When we know better, we do better.”

6.    It seems that your books are aimed at dealing with important social issues, do you see your writing as a form of social activism? Also, do you believe that writing has the ability to bring about real change?

Not all of my books have a social activist theme; however, “You Are Beautiful” could be seen as such because the storyline is about overcoming intolerance and embracing diversity.  As a writer I don’t set out to be a social commentator. But as a parent and educator, it is essential to educate our children about racism, prejudice, and respect for others.   Many parents may feel uncomfortable when discussing race with their children, but considering the racial climate of America, it is a much needed conversation. Children are keenly aware of racial background and differences in (color) and when we do not openly talk about it with our children, it becomes an issue that goes ignored for generations.  Part of having good character is to not pre-judge people.  As far as my writing bringing about real change, I think my writing coupled with the dialog that I mentioned earlier can help effect change in our communities.

7.    Who is this book aimed at? (Which age group?)

The age group is for ages 8 – 12 (grades 3 – 6). This is a children’s book so it is written for them as well as parents and teachers of any race, ethnic group, gender and religion that embraces diversity. 

8.    Where can this book be purchased?

This book can be purchased at Amazon.com in paperback and kindle format.  Pre-orders are being taken now through my publisher at www.mindworksbooks.com you can receive a signed copy of the book when you pre-order it.

9.    Please share with us some of the ideas you have for upcoming books?

Currently I am working on two other children’s books; I have completed the drafts for “Zaynab’s Enchanted Scarf” and “Zakiyyah’s Flower Garden”.  Once they are published, I plan to write a book about balancing marriage and relationships. 

10. I’ll leave the final question open, please share some words of wisdom with us, anything you’d like to share.

Well, the one thing that comes to mind is the importance of surrounding yourself with people who are positive and uplifting.  Also, be supportive of those who are doing good things in our communities and treat others the way you would want to be treated.  Get to know people outside of your comfort zone despite the color of their skin because that could be the one person who enhances your life.  Keep peace in your life and know that Allah (swt) is always watching.

Jazak Allah Khayr to sister Robyn for this interview. I would recommend that you get a copy of Robyn's latest book as well as her previous one. This seems like a Must-have for every children's library. 

To Sister Robyn, I wish you all the best for the future, May Allah keep you in peace always!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The meaning of True Sisterhood

On Saturday I had an amazing day, Alhamdulilllah (All Praise is for Allah). We hosted a ladies workshop. Through the mercy of Allah, I learnt far more than I could ever teach and the experience left me feeling humbled and in awe of the perfect system of Allah and the beauty of Islam.

The group of ladies that attended was diverse and multi-cultural and naturally this meant that we got to hear a variety of experiences. I can’t tell you how beautiful it was to hear sisters talk about Muslim sisterhood and how they feel they belong. The cherry on the top for me was when a sister who reverted two years ago said that she loves us all for the pleasure of Allah and she spoke about how Islam has changed her life and how amazing it is for her to be part of the Muslim sisterhood.

Now let’s not paint a perfect picture here, because there is no such thing as the perfect picture, flaws are always inevitable and mistakes are going to be made without a doubt. It was saddening to hear some sisters speak about their negative experiences when greeting other Muslim sisters with the greeting of peace, As-salaamu alaykum, these experiences including being ignored and snubbed.

The negativities will exist of course, people are human and we are thus prone to weakness, but we need to have reminders such as these, reminders of how Allah Almighty actually intended it to be, because this will clarify our understanding when things are flawed or imperfect, it is our human error and weakness and by no means is it a reflection of Islam or how Allah intended things to be. If we understand our wrongs then only can we change it.

This all got me thinking about the true meaning of sisterhood in Islam. You see although I am a born Muslim, I wasn’t always a part of this Muslim sisterhood that I speak of. There was a time when I felt very far removed from Muslim sisters. Coming from a different cultural background from majority of the people I grew up with and went to school with naturally made me somewhat of an outsider. We shared the same religion, but unfortunately many people tend to mix culture up with religion and when I was growing up people tended to connect more on the basis of culture than religion. So since I couldn’t identify with girls on a cultural basis, this obviously made me averse to the Muslim girls around me, feeling that I was and never would be the same as them.

I recall when I began wearing hijab, one of my biggest issues was that I didn’t want to be the same as all the other Muslim women. My reasoning was that I had never fitted in with them and I disagreed with their way of seeing things in so many ways, so I didn’t want to be seen by others as the same as them. I laugh now at how I made an attempt to wear my hijab differently to how everyone else was wearing it, just so that I didn’t seem the same.

Allah had a different plan for me though, of course a better plan. Somehow through my field of work I was pushed in to working with Muslim women, and finally Allah allowed me to meet amazing sisters who valued themselves based on the religion of Islam and not on the culture they came from. Whereas before I always felt unable to connect with other women, now I began to find it easy, and this was simply only because we had common ground and a common goal and intention and that was Islam and reaching closeness to Allah Almighty.

SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah), over the years I have been blessed to connect with many women in this way, purely for the pleasure of Allah and I have formed bonds with women in a way that I never thought was possible. I have experienced real love between sisters, not blood sisters, sisters in Faith. So this is why it moves me so much to have experiences like I did on Saturday. This is why I feel honoured to be present when a Muslim sister who has met other sisters for the first time is able to openly proclaim her love for them. I feel humbled, because Allah Almighty has allowed me to understand the true meaning of sisterhood and I know that I can connect with any sister when our vision and mission is the pleasure of Allah Almighty.

My reminder on Saturday was that Islam is not about culture, people have cultures, that’s what gives order and understanding to their everyday practices, but Islam surpasses cultural beliefs and when Muslim sisters get together, they should be able to connect with each other on a real level, heart to heart, soul to soul, all working and striving to earn Allah’s pleasure. This is sisterhood, the bonds that have been forged by none other than the Ultimate Creator. We can look beyond everything else and feel mutual love and care, we can cry with one another and laugh with one another, we can feel at home and like we belong even though we’ve only just met. We can listen to each other’s stories with patience and understanding and genuinely care for each other. This is true sisterhood and the beauty of it, the reality of it is that Allah Almighty’s pleasure is central to it. We have no need to backbite or slander each other, nor do we have the need to compete or show who is better. We understand that in the eyes of Allah we are all equal and if we truly love Allah then we will easily love each other. SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah) over and over for allowing us to experience this true sisterhood and my prayer is that Allah allows the bonds of true sisterhood to be strengthened so that all Muslim sisters can identify with each other as one and we can stand together when we really need to do so.

May Allah Almighty guide me and forgive me and always give me the ability to see the truth wherever it exists.

Image 1 from here 

Image 2 from here

Monday, October 13, 2014

The best decision making skill ever

Have you ever been at a place in your life when you have to make an important decision and the outcome could go either way? I’m sure all of you know those moments, moments when you wish you paid more attention to decision making skills; Moments when you know that following your whims and desires just won’t do it; Moments when other people may give you advice till they are blue in the face, but you know in the end that you are going to have to decide by yourself, and the decisions you make is something that you will have to live with.

It sounds very daunting, doesn’t it? - Just the thought of having to make major life changing decisions is sometimes enough to make me want to lock myself up. But then I remember that I don’t have to do that, because I am not alone, I am never alone and I will never be alone. I have my Creator, and Allah is there all the time to guide us and help us on our life path, but we have to seek that guidance and ask for that assistance. SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah), one way of seeking out guidance when decisions need to be made is through the prayer of Istikhaarah.

I can’t express my love for this prayer properly. It makes me feel like nothing in the world matters, everything is easy, and things will go the right way because I have asked of Allah. Of course, the right way may not be understood by me at the time, but I know that in time I will understand that the outcomes of my decisions have always been right, even when it didn’t make sense. This is only because I have been given the best decision making tool in existence.

I can tell you that there are many different ways of making decisions. In my field of work we’ve been teaching decision making tools and skills for ages, we start doing this from the time children are young. Yet, still it seems that people remember very little of this, they find it boring and unnecessary, and most times people only become interested in learning decision making tools after they've already made many bad decisions.

So I have a confession to make, I have never really used the different decision making skills out there, mainly because I have never believed that it was okay for me to make important decisions based only on my limited knowledge and experience. Relying on the One who knows the past, the present and the future just makes so much more sense to me. Not only does Allah Almighty know about all events in the world, Allah also knows every single person in the world, better than they even know themselves. Bearing this in mind, isn't beautiful to have Allah Almighty assist you in making decisions.

Perhaps I need to share exactly what the Istikhaarah prayer is at this point. Basically you perform salaah and then make the following prayer thereafter and trust that Allah will guide your heart towards the correct decision:

O Allah, I ask You the good through Your knowledge and I ask You to grant me ability through Your power, and beg (your favour) out of Your infinite bounty. For surely, You have power and I have none. You know all and I know not. You are the Great Knower of all things. O Allah, if, in Your knowledge, this matter be good for my faith, for my livelihood and for the consequences of my affairs, then ordain it for me and make it easy for me and bless me therein. But if, in Your Knowledge, this matter be bad for my faith, for my livelihood and for the consequences of my affairs, then turn it away from me and turn me away from it and ordain for me the good wherever it be and cause me to be pleased therewith.

Isn’t this the most beautiful prayer? This just so perfectly encapsulates the reality of our lives. It is only Allah who is the Great Knower, and only Allah who knows what is best for us! SubhanAllah!

I don’t know what I would do without this prayer. I can imagine myself being totally at a loss, confused and uncertain, never knowing if I have made the right decision and possibly always wondering what would have happened if I had chosen differently.

Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah) I am so thankful for this blessing of Istikhaarah.

If this prayer is too long, there are other shorter ones that we can make and Insha Allah we will still receive correct guidance. One beautiful one that I recently learnt of was shared by a fellow blogging sister, you can read about this here.

What I have learnt is that the major decisions in life should never be made hastily. We need to take time out for reflection and prayer before we decide on things. In the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) the Companions would ask for Allah’s guidance for all matters, both big and small, so this reminds us that decisions made without thinking, contemplating and of course praying for guidance, is nothing but a lazy way out of things, and this usually results in regret, amongst many other things.

May Allah always guide us in all our decisions and help us to make full use of the bounties Allah has given us.

Image 1 from here 
Image 2 from here 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

In its heyday

While driving the other day a particular building caught my gaze once again, as it always does when I drive that route. It’s an old building, dilapidated and empty, but you can see right away that it must have been beautiful in its heyday. My instinct was to stop the car and explore this intriguing structure, but that would've been madness since I was alone, in quite a “dodgy” area of Johannesburg.

couldn't stop thinking about this building though as I continued driving. I could easily conjure up an image of something regal, a prestigious place; a place where the rich and fancy may have come together for socializing. Or it could have been a luxurious apartment building, the top floor windows looked as if it once boasted the finest penthouses. That was a time when the city would've been in its prime, now this building is a mere echo of what it probably once was, a skeleton, empty and ignored in the busy city street.

Although this building may seem completely useless though, which in all practicality it really is. For me it serves as a reminder; a vivid depiction of what our lives are destined to become. We are now in our prime, full of life and energy, but soon this will end, and we will be forgotten and ignored by many as our once beautiful bodies become dust in the grave.

I may be sounding rather morbid here, but this is reality. Just like a part of the city disintegrates and the buildings lose its value while better and more modern buildings in another part of the city gain prestige, so is it with us. The cycle of life continuous and none of us have a choice. We live, we die, other people are born, they live and they die, and that is just life.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to make the best of this very short life that I have. I do not want to be a loser one day, when I am old and unable to do anything good I don’t want to lament the fact that I could’ve and should’ve done more. The small things are precious. We cannot waste our time working for this world and forgetting that we need to be working towards the hereafter. Our deeds in this world can mean something, if we focus it on the Hereafter. If we do everything with Allah in mind and if our aim is to gain Allah’s pleasure in all that we do, then our lives will not be in vain and one day perhaps we will leave behind a legacy of our own, no matter how small or unpopular that may be.

I guess what strikes me the most is that you can be beautiful, fancy, attractive, glamorous and all those things, but one day all that will be lost and no one will remember it, it will be a mere echo, just like the old building. But you can be very unlike the old building if your character shines, because then, you would have touched lives, and the glamour and beauty of someone’s character will continue to shine and will always be useful as well as remembered.

May Almighty Allah guide us all and help us to always see the truth and reality of this passing life!

Image from here

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Inherent peace in simplicity

I've had such a beautiful morning Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah). It brought much needed peace and calm to my muddled up mind. For the past few days my mind has been filled with thoughts. I've wasted too much time thinking and over-thinking, to the point where I felt exhausted. And then this morning I got my reminder, the teachings of Islam filled my heart with peace and cleared my mind making me realize what I often tend to forget, that life doesn't have to be complicated at all.

I've always thought that the most beautiful thing about Islam is its simplicity. The basic simplicity that is so in-sync with human nature. Today I was reminded of this. One of the participants in our workshop mentioned that it’s beautiful to see a group of such diverse ladies being able to interact so easily. Her words were that; “we are all the same!” SubhanAllah (Glory Be to Allah), despite the different backgrounds, age gaps and cultural differences, we are indeed all the same! The thing that brings us together is our shared faith, as sisters in Islam it doesn't matter what your cultural background is, what your family status is, how much money you have or how little, all that matters is our common worship for Allah. It’s simple really, so very simple that I can’t help but feel deeply moved.

Besides this however, what struck a chord with me is the simplicity of the rules of Islam. Rules about marriage, divorce and even custody of children have all been made clear, and it isn't complicated, not at all. But the prerequisite for understanding this is that we have knowledge, correct knowledge about the rulings of Islam. Once we have this knowledge, we will gain understanding of how Allah Most Glorious wants to make our lives as easy as possible. The rules of Islam suit human needs, and the ultimate peace that we are supposed to gain from this religion is evident when we understand this.

The sister who we invited to talk today made a very valid point. She said that we have incorporated cultural baggage into Islam and through this things have become complicated. I agree with her wholeheartedly. Since my family comes from a mixed cultural background, culture so to speak, has never been a deciding factor in my life, instead I was taught to always turn to the teachings of the Glorious Quraan and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This was simple enough for me, but it created a problem, it meant that I never fitted in properly anywhere. Being surrounded by people who cling to cultural dogma meant that I was an outcast. Culture means so much to some people that it sometimes even surpasses religion and people begin to believe that their cultural practices make them better than others.

Unfortunately, what I’m talking about here has been experienced by many people who have reverted to Islam as well and it makes me angry, because in our need to hold on to old cultural practices we tend to blemish the teachings of Islam making it seem complicated, when in fact it is so very simple.

Islam is a religion for ALL MANKIND. This means that the rulings of Islam and the practices surpass all or any culture. Everything should come second after the practice of Islam and this is why as the sister mentioned, a group of extremely diverse Muslim sisters can come together in unity and peace, and get along really well. This is what results whenever Islam is put at the forefront, before everything else.

Besides all this, Islam emphasizes that people should live in simplicity as well. I can tell you from my own experience that deciding to let go of extravagant things and live a more simple life causes such immense peace in your life. Getting rid of the unnecessary material things in life brings calm into your home and your life. The clutter of material possessions that we pride ourselves on collecting results in our hearts and minds becoming cluttered and our peace is taken away. Try getting rid of material things and you will understand what I mean. The less you have in life, the more peaceful you will become. This is the beauty of Islam, the true simplicity. Look back at the legacy of Islam and you will find that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived in simplicity, he (pbuh) wore simple clothes, lived in a simple home, ate simple food… and this is the Most Beloved person to Allah Almighty, the Highest in Ranks. 

The more simplicity we have in our lives, the happier we will be. I get frustrated trying to get this through to people. We need to be simple, live simply, dress simply, eat simply, then we will be in coherence with Islam, and we will find the peace that is inherent to this beautiful religion. And if we have trouble doing this, perhaps we need to remind ourselves of what and who we really are.

 Think about it, can the servants of Allah really lay claim to anything else besides simplicity? 

May Allah Almighty guide me first and give guidance to us all. In sha Allah, Ameen! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

The changes within me

I just finished reading a book that I studied in College many years ago. Back then I loved the book and named it as one of my favourites, understandably then, I was eager to re-read this book after all this time, excited to once again re-experience the love I had once developed for this work.  I read the book, and then I found myself wondering why I had loved it so much in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a beautifully written book, I can still connect to its messages, messages of destructive colonial power, of bonds of family and love being shaken, of choices and betrayal. These messages are still profound, but the awe I remember experiencing so long ago has somehow been lost.

Perhaps it’s the continuous discussions of the very same topics that has allowed the initial passion to wane, perhaps it’s the fact that I have been exposed to so many more things over these years. More importantly though, I think it’s because I have changed so much, without even realizing the extent of my inner changes and what I have become.

I look back at myself as an eager student, ready and willing to soak up the knowledge that a University has to offer you, excitedly perusing course booklets for options of what to study. Learning seemed like an adventure, an eye opener to so much that there is out there. And now, I can’t help but feel cynical and the very institution I once saw as a gateway to knowledge has in a way come to represent a sort of stifling for me.

How do I explain this in an understandable manner? It just somehow feels like there’s so much out there, way too much for us to be directed to think in a certain way. The books we have been assigned to read, the knowledge we have been taught, and information we have been given, is only a small fraction of what is out there, and who has chosen what we should read, learn and study? How has it been determined what’s important and what’s not? On what basis do some theories, thoughts or books become the foundation of learning? I have come to question the things I once thought was the cornerstone of knowledge. I have been forced to open my eyes and search my own mind to make choices that are important, not because someone else says they are. My conclusion is that Thought shouldn’t be limited to what is popular, sometimes the “worst-seller” makes the best read.  Sometimes the theories they don’t teach you are the ones that are the most useful and applicable. Sometimes the way of thinking that is regarded as “backward”, “irrelevant” or even “obsolete” are the ones that hold the answers you seek.

I also find myself facing a dilemma, which has become more real each day. For me, reading or learning about the wrongs in the world is not enough. It seems like inactivity or even cowardice, to read or even write about all the wrongs, and yet there is no action. Speaking isn’t good enough, discussions, conferences, debates, what does all this really achieve? People are still suffering, we don’t have to go far to see the suffering. So much is said and done in the name of freedom, and yet freedom remains elusive to so many.

Wars are continuing to rage on, in so many parts of the world. Children are still growing up parentless, women are still being left to fend for themselves. The injustice in the world still persists. Reading about it may make us wiser, but I’m wondering what is the point of wisdom without any action?

After reading the book I mentioned, I couldn’t help but feel like people have been speaking and writing about the injustice in the world for years and years, and still so many eyes remain closed, still so many people insist in mimicking their very oppressors, still so many people give up themselves and their cultures to become something that they are not.

Perhaps the change needs to begin with each of us individually. Perhaps injustice and oppression will only be fought when we change the way we think, and then turn that into real action. Perhaps we need to go out there and help the poor in a more productive manner, or teach children and adults who do not have the luxury of knowledge, it doesn’t matter what we do; even a small action will make a difference. I’m not sure what my course of action will be, but I am quite certain that I am tired of reading about the same things over and over, and not doing much about it.

Image from here 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Eid that took us by surprise

I hope that you all had a fulfilling and blessed month of Ramadhaan (May Allah Almighty accept all our efforts). And I also hope that you had a beautiful day of Eid. Let me tell you a little about my Eid.

We were really all expecting to fast for thirty days instead of twenty nine this year. Many people including the experts were adamant that the new moon would be too young and we would not be able to site it in South Africa. We were so convinced that Eid would be on Tuesday that when the announcement was made that the moon was sited briefly and thus Eid will be on Monday, many of us were taken completely off guard. Not only had we not bid a final farewell to the month of Ramadhaan, we also had Eid preparations that we were still planning on doing. What resulted was a bit of a scuffle as many women hurried to complete their Eid preparation in time for the unexpected day of Eid.

Alhamdulillah, Eid came and went and I am sure that it was a joyous day for everyone, despite the previous evening’s hurriedness. As we tried to see what to do first on the night before Eid, my mother pointed out something crucial which was so relevant. She said, you see, just like that, at the end of our lives, we will wish that we had one more day.

And this statement is so profound when you actually think about it. Just like we hurried to do whatever we could at the last minute before Eid, so too will we hurriedly try to do what we can before we meet our Lord. Just like we were not ready to bid Ramadhaan farewell, so too will we be reluctant to bid farewell to this world when our time comes. Just like we felt that the Eid announcement was unexpected, so too will the announcement of our death be unexpected. If this isn’t a perfect reminder to us then I don’t know what is.

But here’s the important difference- the day of Eid was still a success, even if we hadn’t managed to prepare all the foods we wanted, or to get all the Eid goodies that we had hoped to get, but the day of reckoning will not be a success if we hadn’t manage to prepare appropriately (may Allah save us from destruction on that day and accept us amongst the true Believers, Inshaa-Allah Ameen!)

So this reminds us once again that our preparation for things in this world should be nothing in comparison to our preparation for the Hereafter. We should not spend our lives preparing for various things in this world, while forgetting to prepare for what is still to come. When we put things into perspective, nothing in this temporary world is a big deal, because everything passes. And this is contrary to the Hereafter, where things will last forever.  

May Almighty Allah guide us all and save us from futile pursuits and may we be granted success in the hereafter and in this world Inshaa-Allah!

Image from here