Monday, July 6, 2015

Book Review- Brick Walls

I began reading this book with the intention of reading it casually over some time, but this was not to be. I was immediately hooked at the first story already, and subsequent stories easily managed to maintain my interest, keeping me intrigued and unable to wait to read more.

The book is a collection of short fictional stories set in Pakistan. Each story documents a different sort of struggle, but with the struggle comes perseverance, endurance and eventual triumph. I have always had a strong belief that important social and political issues can be conveyed effectively through literature, and Saadia Faruqi proves this belief to be right in ‘Brick Walls’. Through the stories in this book, the social, political and economic climate of Pakistan is vividly portrayed giving the reader a much deeper understanding and awareness of the dynamics that are present in a country like Pakistan.

The main characters in each story are multi-dimensional and I enjoyed how their emotions and conflicts were explored. It reminded me of the intensity that is the human experience.

Coming from a developing country myself, I could identify with the central themes of poverty and inequality, crime and corruption and abuse of power. The thing that stood out for me though, was that social, economic and even political barriers cannot hold back the human spirit.  Faruqi managed to show that things like morality, kindness, selflessness, ambition and perseverance are not restricted to those who are in power, and thus although the world is rife with inequalities, the odds can be beaten and overcome. I particularly like how she portrayed this in a story entitled ‘Making the Team’ about a little girl who desperately wants to play cricket with the boys in her community. This story was one of my favourites because it manages to successfully focus on power roles and bias in a non-conventional manner.

What was evident throughout the book were the themes of love and hope. The author seems to have a deep love and identification to Pakistan and the hope that she has for the people of this country is clear. Hope prevails in each story, and the potential for change and growth is a constant reminder. After reading this book, I have being made to understand Pakistan and the people of Pakistan in a different manner. There may be many issues to deal with in this country (as is the case in all countries), but as long as there are people who are willing to make a difference, no matter how small, the hope for a better future will continue to prevail.

In the end I am left with the distinct feeling that it is those people who work silently in the shadows to give of themselves, their wealth and their time to bring about positive change, who are the real heroes and role models of the world. Saadia Faruqi has illustrated this beautifully in this gripping collection of short stories.

Image from here 

Read more about the author and her work here  -

Get a sneak peek of the book here

What’s right in the world?

There are many things wrong with the world today, we all know this, we incessantly tend to focus on all that is wrong. The news reminds us daily of all that is wrong, there seems to be no running away from the myriad of things that are wrong in this world, but let’s forget that for today, even if it is only for a short while, instead, let us look at what is right in this world!

Yes, there is the flipside to every coin, and just because we don’t often turn the coin around, it doesn’t mean that the other side ceases to exist. In fact, the more we look for things that are right, the more we will begin to see it, all around us, everywhere.

Take for instance the hardworking team of aid workers when a natural disaster strikes. People who work relentlessly just to save other people’s lives when they could have been sitting back comfortably.

What about those people who stand up for injustice, even if it costs them their reputation, their jobs and more.

Then there are those simple occurrences, like the stranger who offers some kind words, or the person who wants to help ease the burden when there is nothing in it for them, or the lady in the queue who happily allows you to go before her, or the cashier in the supermarket who advices you to buy the product that is on special because you will gain more.  

What about the mother who treats her children with love and kindness, endlessly sacrificing so that her family is happy? What about good friends who share in each other’s burdens and worries? What about the concern that a community feels when something happens to one of its members? 

Of course I cannot forget what I think is the biggest thing that is right in this world, and that is the worship of The One True Lord. Without the awareness and worship of the Creator, everything in the world would be wrong. Now I know there are people who blame religion for all that is wrong in the world, but I obviously disagree with that assertion. For me, personally, being able to develop a connection with Almighty Allah has been the biggest positive thing in my life and this is what has made me more intent on becoming a better person. This is also what has made it easier for me to seek out the good in life in general and in other people. So it definitely goes down as the biggest thing that is right in the world!

May Almighty Allah guide us to always focus on the positive instead of the negative!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

In Tribute to a Great Woman

 Wednesday 24th June 2015 was a sad day for my family and I. This was the day my grandmother passed away. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah), she was fortunate to pass away in the most Blessed month of Ramadhaan, and she was peaceful at her home, in her own bed. But naturally, her passing has left an open gap in our lives and we will miss her dearly.

My grandmother has left behind a legacy though, she did not do big things in her life, she was not famous, nor popular outside of her community, but her legacy is an important one, this is why I needed to share it.

At 85 years old my grandmother had obviously lived a full life. Don’t be mistaken, it was a life of trials and tribulations. Despite this though, she was always smiling, always happy and always ready to make the next person smile. She forgave easily and never held grudges and she had this talent for making every individual feel special. She genuinely cared about the well-being of others. For many of us, we will remember her jolliness, she loved telling jokes and singing old songs and rhymes. Most of all, she was always positive about everything, she didn’t dwell on problems, or become depressed, in fact she seemed to have mastered positive psychology long before the discipline was even established.

My earliest memories that stand out was when she would stay over with us and I would pray salaah next to her as a young child. I remember her reprimanding me for jumping off the prayer mat quickly, and she would tell me to sit a little while longer and make a small duaa (prayer).  And still at the age of 85, she was concerned about praying her salaah, she would get up in the early morning hours to make sure she performs her Fajr salaah, even in the cold, on Fridays she would stress out from early on in the morning to make sure that she had bathed and got ready for prayers early, she was fortunate enough to understand the importance of salaah, even when she became confused about what she needed to be reciting, and I wish that if I ever reach that age, I too will follow this example.

My grandmother's zest for life was remarkable, even when she was old and sick she looked forward to seeing people and socializing. She always wanted to look her best, and would always add some bling to her outfits. I remember when she was in hospital in Makkah a few years ago, she asked us to bring her eye pencil and joked that she didn't want to look like a sick chicken. I used to laugh at the fact that her social life was much more exciting than mine, and undoubtedly, my dressing and appearance was way too simple in comparison to hers. A woman full of life and joy, this was my grandmother. 

My grandmother has passed away, but her strength and positivity will live on, and the example she set as a strong an independent Muslim woman will not be forgotten.

I pray that Allah Almighty grants her the highest stages of Jannah (Paradise) and that she is in peace! Ameen. 

Image from here