Bionic Women: 6 years post Spinal op


bent_but_not_broken__scoliosis_awareness__by_grimmlinggoddess_dadm022-pre

 

Yesterday was Scoliosis Awareness Day. Scoliosis, for those who aren’t aware is a spinal condition which means the spine abnormally curves into an S or a C shape. I got my Scoliosis “corrected” 6 years ago, meaning two titanium metal rods were drilled into my spine, forcing the spine to realign itself overnight. As you can imagine, the pain was at times unbearable, and I depended on morphine a lot for the first few days. Having major spinal surgery was probably one of the most difficult things I endured, from having to learn how to walk again, take the stairs and even walk in a straight line. I remember often feeling angry post op. It was my final year of A levels and an important one but it meant missing four months of school to recover at home. 6 years on, I’m so glad to have met my hospital partner Martha who is always so comforting when I’m having a bad day because of the back pain. Nothing is as reassuring as having someone who lives with your very condition. Below, Martha has written a beautiful post about her Scoliosis journey which I’m sharing, hoping that it benefits anyone who deals with any sort of pain, be it physical or mental.

“I met my dear friend Chaimaa after my surgery. I remember being pretty out of it as it was the first time I had been on general anaesthetic. I had come out of the High Dependency Unit after a day of staring at a ceiling with a T.V. on it (thought it was cool, but was way too out of it to watch anything). My family were being very positive and supportive at the time, I specifically remember my sister singing the Nando’s song at 1am on the first night, which was a fantastic distraction strategy. After moving to the Adolescent Unit, I was sipping on a juice carton, and on a lot of drugs when my mum returned to my hospital bed with Chaimaa and her mum. I remember being bombarded with questions but just sort of casually saying ‘yeaaaaaaaah it’s going to be FINE’. I think it was the drugs, but it’s true, it was going to be fine.

The week inside the hospital following the surgery was one of the hardest challenges I’ve had to face so far. You can’t ever really be prepared for major spinal surgery, and the things that you didn’t think much of before such as walking, turning in bed, getting into bed, even sitting down would suddenly take a lot of effort. But I got there, in a new uncomfortable and rather awkward way, but pretty damn courageously for a 16-year old. I haven’t been the same way since my surgery, it’s been an experience of accepting a new normal. A new way to move, a new way to bend, and new way to see things, like the invisibility of some conditions.

Scoliosis is not always invisible and I have seen some examples of where it definitely isn’t. However, it was for me and still appears that way now. I only discovered I had two large curves in my spine through trying a dress for prom. It was a question of an unevenness of my shoulder blades which led to a very quick process of seeing physiotherapists, doctors, surgeons, taking MRI’s and X-rays and figuring out that what I had was pretty major and in need of an urgent correction. This was a lot to take at that age but there was little time to really digest it all. Not having surgery within the couple of months could mean a further and unpredictable growth of my spine and instead a need for two surgeries, not one. So, by September, at the start of my sixth form years, at almost 6 years ago, I had no choice but to take a chance and hope for the best.

Over the years, I have noticed that within the scoliosis community there is some stigma around spinal fusion surgery for scoliosis. In some cases, it is argued that there are ways to avoid it, and others that it is not always necessary. Some of these arguments have legitimacy, but in my own personal experience, due to the timing, surgery was my safest option. I’m definitely thankful to have the treatment I had within the time period, and under the NHS with the greatest care I could have asked for. This is not a treatment all are lucky enough to have across the world. Surgery might be the last resort, but for some, it’s absolutely a saving grace.

So, with greater awareness of scoliosis, a condition that is quite common but not always a risk, this should be a condition that, for many like me, should be able to recognised and caught early enough to explore a variety of treatments. It can certainly be a scary thing, but it’s so worth it to encourage anyone around you to be aware of the possibility of having scoliosis. There are not currently any tests or mandatory screenings for scoliosis, but a simple way of checking for the possibility is the ‘Adams forward bend’ test. Look that up if you are curious!

Experiencing scoliosis and still living with it (surgery has not completely corrected my spine!) comes with further challenges, mentally and physically, and will probably affect me for life. But with a supportive network of people around me and a determination to be able to manage it in a healthy way, I know I’ll be okay. Meeting Chaimaa is a big part of my surgery experience and afterwards, we still kept in touch.Having someone who has gone through a similar journey to you is so powerful. We are always curious about our conditions and sometimes angry, impatient and sad about it, but mostly we are proud of our new normal.”

-Martha Babbs

Advertisements

Sabr- Have We Forgotten It’s Importance?


Sabr is an Arabic word which translates as “Patience”. But Sabr means much more than just patience. Sabr is endurance, forbearance, steadfastness, perseverance. Sabr is something we often ask Allah for, especially when we face hardships in life. We’re frequently reminded, in the Quran of the virtues and beauty of sabr. Of “صبر جميل” a beautiful patience.

But is patience really beautiful? How can patience be beautiful when the very essence of patience entails enduring tough times?

The beauty of patience lies within enduring calamities whilst striving to normalise your life and carry on as if things are okay. To live life whilst being beautifully patient is a treasure. It’s a characteristic embodied by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions. It’s a characteristic that all the prophets had held very closely. Had it not been for their beautiful patience, they would never have been victorious.

Let’s start off with this fact. Sabr and beautiful patience does NOT mean suffering in silence. Enduring whilst failing to try and seek help for your situation is not what beautiful patience is. We often hear of people in living horrible circumstances being told to simply ‘have sabr and carry on’. To be patient and carry on asking Allah for a way out. And whilst we must never stop asking Allah for guidance, He (swt) has gifted us with the ability to act. Islam is not a passive religion. God does not want us to be passive people. He (swt) does not change a condition of people without effort from the people first’. I was once speaking to a sister who mentioned that she was enduring an abusive marriage and seeking help from her community who in turn were telling her to “have sabr”. But I cannot stress how wrong that is. No one should have to suffer in silence and we as fellow human beings should try our best to facilitate aid in any way shape or form to fellow brothers and sisters in Islam. There’s a beautiful Hadith narrated by Muslim whereby our beloved Prophet Mohammed (swt) told his people:

“Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”

Now, back to the beauty of Sabr. Sabr is when, regardless of how harsh life gets, you remember wholeheartedly that Allah has beautiful things in store for you. Sabr is when, regardless of how horrible you feel internally, you never inflict or let this affect how you treat others. The final verses of Surah Al-Baqarah state:

“God does not burden a soul with more than it can endure”

This which may be questioned by us when we’re tested. We may feel that nothing is as traumatic or difficult as our situation, or that nothing can compare to it. But God truly tests His servants according to what they can endure. As a friend once put it, “He always gives the right pressure”. For example, someone enduring cancer may have never been able to endure losing a loved one in a car accident. Likewise, someone battling the horrible consequences of losing their loved one in an accident may have never been able to endure dealing with a terminal illness. Both of these trials are equally as difficult, tough and extremely testing, but God knows the exact limits of each and every one of you and will only give you what you can take. After all, He is closer to us than our very own jugular vein.’

And remember, most of our lives are not ones of pure bliss. After all, this is the Dunya, right? Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, told us that the ‘dunya is a prison to the believer‘. May our trials and tribulations be a source through which we can exercise sabr and pave the way for the expiation of our sins.

‘It’s not easy to wake up every day thinking positively.’

Sabr is tough. Even the prophets cried out “when is the help of Allah coming down”, even the prophets got tired of their afflictions, to which Allah replied to them “help is near”. The truth is, I won’t sugar coat sabr. It’s not easy to wake up every day thinking positively. Again, a beautiful Hadith that is one of my favourites states that « الدُعاء مُخ العِبادة” which translates as “Dua is the essence of worship”. “مُخٌ” literally refers to the brain, in Arabic. And as we know, the brain forms a vital part of our body, just like dua should be forming a core part of our worship.

Sometimes, and I speak from experience, we truly give up on the power of dua. Or we hastily make a dua and it’s merely being said but not from the heart. This can happen when one endures a trial for a lengthy period of time, and it feels like nothing will ever ameliorate their situation. Or that they’ll have to endure it for the rest of their life.

‘We give up on the power of dua. Never let your hearts harden.’

Sometimes, and I speak from experience, we truly give up on the power of dua. Or we hastily make a dua and it’s merely being said but not from the heart. This can happen when one endures a trial for a lengthy period of time, and it feels like nothing will ever ameliorate their situation. Or that they’ll have to endure it for the rest of their life.

My advice would be to never let your hearts harden. Never give up on God, never let go of His rope. In fact, even writing this piece comes as a reminder to myself first and foremost. Never lose hope that one day, your pain will be alleviated. One of Shaytan’s beloved tricks is to remind you that Allah swt is not rewarding you properly for all your prayers and of course his intention is to make you internalise this and eventually give up on prayers.

‘It’s okay to break, truly.’

But isn’t there so much tranquility and beauty in making dua? In begging Him for relief, for redemption, in asking Him to take away our pain. We’ve all felt the sweetness of being truly present in the moment when making dua to Allah, and it’s a very uplifting one. May it come back, May we feel it again.

Sabr is to keep on going. To keep on enduring, to know that being strong is the only option. Sabr is to drag yourself to your prayers even when you truly can’t be bothered to pray. Sabr is to think well of Allah during hardships. Sabr is to try to ignore that terrible thought from Shaytan that tells you that nothing will ever help your situation, that your life will always be at a negative standstill. That your sick child won’t get better, that your mother will remain unwell forever, that you’ll never find a job you love, that you’ll never find true happiness, that you’ll never get over a trauma in your life. These are all some examples of trials that people have to deal with at one point of their lives. And no one is perfect. It’s okay to break, truly.

‘Once you fall, you have no choice but to pick yourself right back again. ‘

But know this. Once you fall, you have no choice but to pick yourself right back again. And trust me, you will fall, many times. You will fall in your everyday life from dealing with your job to your family to health, it’s never ending. But I tell you to keep going, not because it doesn’t hurt but because you have no other choice. To stop going is to die.

In the end, God tells us that Sabr is beautiful because Sabr is worth all the good that comes with it. And remember, Sabr is to always be kinder than how your feel. That’s when you’ll truly embody beautiful patience.

Long Live…


CMGg2g0UsAAvhoc.jpg-largeI’ve always sympathised with the plight of the Palestinian people. As a Muslim, I hold Al Quds dear to me because of its religious significance and as a human I am disgusted by the oppression and threat Palestine is under. No doubt that all humans with a conscience are. I am however not Palestinian, so have never felt that pain of being unable to walk free in your land, and being deprived of the opportunity to travel the country, in and out without subjugation to ill treatment, or being restricted to pray in Masjid al Aqsa, or roam around Jerusalem (the capital city) whenever you want. The injustice of being treated as a second class citizen in your own land.

It frustrates me that Gaza is literally an open air prison. It angers me that families living on opposite sides are only connected through social media because of the difficulty of travelling around Palestine. But myself, like many others can only sympathise, not empathise because I’ve never walked in their shoes. So I’ll leave it to my fellow Palestinian friends to express those feelings and instead of speaking for them, I’ll be an attentive listener to their stories. What I would like to express and reiterate about Palestinians is this. These people were never victims in need of aid but in fact occupied people in need of their freedom.

I, like many others, have always been quite vocal about my support for the liberation of Palestine. For my A level History class one of my modules was on Irish history. We studied about the history of constitutional and revolutionary Irish nationalism. In 1921 the Irish war of independence ended with Ireland becoming a free state and self-governing body with dominion status (some part of it) I always remember finding myself  drawing parallels between the struggles of the Palestinian and the Irish people. When we learned that the Irish gained independence, I remember hoping that someday this will be  the case of Palestine. It’s actually quite funny because my teacher eventually stopped picking me to answer questions at one point because whenever she asked questions I would always relate them back to Palestine which had nothing to do with the syllabus so obviously it became a bit problematic because I wasn’t contributing to course content.

But still, we should never be silenced or remain neutral in a situation where remaining neutral means siding with the oppressor. We shouldn’t stay silenced to oppression, wherever it is in the world. Martin Luther King said that injustice in one place was a threat to justice everywhere in the world. Whether it’s the plight of the Palestinians, or the Black Lives Matter movement, or the case of war torn countries like Syria, Yemen, Rohingya etc, we have to side with the truth.

In the same breath that we say “Free Palestine,” we must resist any other injustice in this world. And it hurts that so much of it exists in 2017. It hurts that history taught us nothing and we’re witnessing the same mistakes being made. It’s 2017 and we’re witnessing the usage of Chemical weapons killing beautiful, innocent babies. Babies who would have grown up to have a chance in life. Babies who didn’t choose to be born into war torn land. Chemical weapons which  killed Aya and Ahmed. The blonde babies that we saw plastered all over the internet earlier on this year.

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling complacent as privileged people. Don’t become desensitised to people’s struggles. Our privilege is that we can sleep at night in sound silence knowing that we will probably wake up tomorrow (by the will of God) and have a new, fresh start. We live in a world where water isn’t even guaranteed everywhere, don’t forget the plight of the people who don’t have access to basic water.

And don’t forget that in a different time and space it could’ve been us going through these things.

Long live Palestine, long live those who fight for their freedom and liberation from tyranny.

All That I Am Or Hope To Be


A few reflections on the past year. Feel free to read or skip as you like.

26th March, 2:58 am

Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different. Perspective changes our outlook on life. Often when face trials, particularly of hardship, our perspective on life changes as a result. We start appreciating and savoring every moment. Everything that used to make us laugh becomes ten times funnier than how it used to be. We start appreciating the people we love even more. Little acts of kindness start to speak volumes. Our emotions become heightened. When we experience an emotion like happiness, we feel it ten times more than how we would’ve felt happy before hardship. That is because when we have seen hard days, we appreciate that nothing in life is permanent. We suddenly become accustomed to making the most of the good times, because we recognize that our gifts from God are but temporary ones, and they can evidently be taken away from us in a blink of an eye. We stop living life as if we’ll be here permanently. We recognise that all that is supposedly ours is actually on loan to us. It never belonged to us to begin with. Inna lillah wa inna illayhi raji’oun

Over the past year, someone very dear to me started somewhat suffering from a form of affliction; the world suddenly became a very ugly place. Thanks to the power of duas (prayers) that initial feeling of being enveloped in a bubble of despair disappeared as it soon became clear that this was the wrong and impractical attitude to adopt. A wise person by the name Al-Fadl ibn Sahl said: “There is a blessing in calamity that the wise man should not ignore, for it erases sins, gives one the opportunity to attain the reward for patience, dispels negligence, reminds one of blessings at the time of health, calls one to repent and encourages one to give to charity. It was here on obvious that the only way to deal with hardship was with strong will, patience and Husn Al Dhun Billah (thinking good thoughts of Allah). I remember speaking to one of my favorite speakers about my situation at the end of one of his lectures. He told me that patience must immediately be adopted when calamity strikes as in fact sabr is fardh (incumbent upon the individual) also mentioning that gratitude and being content with God’s degree is sunnah. An act adopted by the beloved prophet, Mohammed (SAS) I took his advice about the sabr but found it tough to be grateful.

 

With the passing of time, a small sense of gratitude evolved, in the form of coming to terms with the situation and realizing that one must normalize it if they want to get on with a “normal” life. One must NOT be in denial but normalising life was key. After all, it wasn’t worth wasting such a valuable lesson that had come from God. It was suddenly okay that my life was planned out differently to my friends. It was fine that I hadn’t revised much for my final exams and it was okay that I couldn’t join my friends on holidays and it was not that deep in the end that I couldn’t join my classmates on what was supposed to be my year abroad, learning the language that I was pursuing my degree in. I was at ease that God would replace all these sacrifices with better things. Perhaps that ease and sense of reassurance came from my mother’s duas (prayers). Regardless of how much we plan and how long we spend mapping out our journeys in life, God is the sole, Ultimate planner and it’s always up to Him to navigate these adventures for us. Perhaps the one reason we get very sad when life doesn’t go according to plan is because we live life as if we are the masters of our own destiny, forgetting about tawakul (trusting in God’s plan)

Oh, and just a small note about one of my exams. In one of my modules, Classical Arabic literature, I hadn’t revised enough for the amount of questions that were going to be asked in the exam paper. I remember spending a few hours on the Saturday before the exam with some friends studying a specific text from the course and turning to my friend, laughing at how much I was going to “flop” the exam. Come exam day, of course my content knowledge was despicable, but that ONE topic that we thoroughly revised as a group came up. The second question was a poem. I actually ended up getting the meaning of the poem completely wrong, misinterpreting the question but somehow, perhaps God temporarily blinded the examiner when he got onto reading my answer, I did not “flop” that module in the end. Alhamdulillah. Shout out to the friends who shared their notes with me and forced me to stop panicking and just “bang it out” in the little time I had.

The small sense of gratitude soon turned to contentment. The problems never went away but God made each day bearable and doable. Come October time, I suddenly realized that no one around me was exempt from the Quranic verse in Surah Al-Ankabut “Do men think that they will be left alone saying “We believe” and that they will not be tested?” Nearly everyone I was speaking to seemed to have some sort of issue going on. I realised that everyone in life gets the right amount of pressure they can handle. Here are some stories that have managed to inspire me in the past year and undoubtedly will inspire you too; from people I personally know and from stories I happened to read.

There is the story of an inspirational woman whose husband was martyred in the Rabaa massacre. She is currently a mother and an author of a book in reflection of love and the loss of her beloved spouse. There’s a boy whose mother died just as he was nearing his final year of university. He wrote about his experience, mentioning, “everyday was a battle. Every morning he was going to war. Going to university everyday, scrawling to do some work, being away from the one person who pushed him like no other.” His mother. These words hit home. Regardless of his situation, he got a first in his degree and did exactly what his mother wanted from him. There’s also my friend who endures her own personal affliction and at the same time looks after her tired mother who is undergoing chemotherapy. There’s a brother who recently lost his father to a terminal illness but remains steadfast in the face of adversity. There’s a woman I recently read about who endured torture in war filled Syria but has since established life elsewhere with her children. She dedicates her life to them and I have no doubt that they will grow up to make their strong mother proud. There’s my beloved cousin who suffers from type 1 diabetes. As a result of having to prick her fingers more than five times a day to check her blood sugar levels, they hurt and she often can’t hold her pen from the pain. Regardless, she is currently the first member of my extended family working towards her PhD. She taught herself how to fluently speak four languages and she’s currently travelling the world. There’s my beautiful neighbor who lost her mother when she was only 12 years old to a sudden brain hemorrhage. I still remember her phone call at 5am in the morning repeating that her mum’s heart stopped beating. The last time I saw her mother was a few hours before her death, when she came with her daughter, visiting us and bearing a gift for my mother, Pakistani mangoes. She came dressed in her wedding dress, a beautiful white, embellished Shalwaar Kameez. I remember laughing. “Aunty, why on earth are you dressed in your wedding dress” I thought. She departed this world in the following hours in the same color, white; the only difference was the material. She was now enshrouded in a white, cotton cloth. Her daughter never cried in the janazah. She has since transformed that pain into ambition, now working towards attaining A*s in her A levels and on her way to achieving her dream of studying Medicine. There’s my dear friend who suffers insomnia at night due to the battles she faces in life but still manages to come into university, striving towards finishing her Masters degree. There’s my friend who lives away from  family, pursuing work in a different city. Though I tell her off for pushing herself too hard, her work ethos inspires me. There’s a friend who is the most generous, kindest, selfless girl I know who is always there to lend a helping hand and tells me she loves me at least 5 times a day. She doesn’t care if she sounds moist because to her, one day we will all die and it won’t matter if we sound moist. Lol. There’s a friend’s mother who is a full time carer for her autistic son. There’s a woman I met at a two day conference recently. We got talking on the first day and I asked her if she has any kids  and she said “yes, one boy and one girl” but when I went out to have lunch with her on the second day, she looked at me and said “you asked me whether I had any kids and I said I have two, but I actually had three, one was severely disabled and was the joy of my life but now she has gone back to Allah”. There’s my Arabic teacher who lost his mother, aunt and sister within the space of a month and though he was entitled to take time off work, didn’t want to take off in the middle of the term and leave his students hanging. He was determined to teach us the content. He is full of thanks to Allah. His patience is beyond me. There’s a friend who I randomly asked how she was the other day and in return she never responded much, just started tearing up. I hope she knows that God sees her and hears her prayers regardless of what her pain might be. There’s my aunty back in Morocco who is a single mother, living with her son, 17 and daughter, 21. My male cousin stresses her out, as he’s the class clown, always getting told off. She sends me weekly voicenotes whenever he does anything stupid because she knows how much he makes me laugh and knows that I generally find most things funny. She inspires me because regardless of how tough life gets for her, she always finds a way of lightening up the mood with her stories. There are doctors currently on the ground in Syria delivering aid to people who have suffered chemical attacks. They are weak and physically tired but are carrying on. There’s my hilarious friend whose physical health isn’t the best and is always complaining about her stomach pains yet she still travels from country to country, striving to help make a difference through working in refugee camps. I always tell her that she’s lost it but nothing I ever say will deter her from doing what she loves to do.

And finally, there is my mother, who regardless of her daily struggles, has managed to teach me all there is to know about patience, compassion, love, endurance, faith and kindness. She has taught me to be forgiving and reminds me to always make peace, even if you’re in the right, and even if it means having your ego a tad hurt. “Utruki alkhalq, ila Al Khaaliq”

Leave the creation, to the Creator, is the response she has always given us. Whenever my mother reads Surah Al Baqarah, and reaches the ayah “Verily, the help of Allah is near” she repeats it three times and always calls me to repeat it with her. Her strength is beyond me, and though at times I struggle to fathom how one could possibly have endurance levels as high as she does, she is my biggest inspiration in life for remaining steadfast, for her contentment in God’s decree.

My mother is the type of woman who has never hurt anyone with a single word. My friends all love her to bits. She’s the type of woman who if a friend was to come over, she wouldn’t let them leave without gifting them with a present. She’s the type of woman who once made me physically remove one of my favourite bracelets just because we were outside and she had met my friend and wanted to give it to her since she couldn’t gift her with anything else. I still miss that bracelet till this day.

My mothers name is Latifa, which comes from the word kindness, lutf, in Arabic. Mama epitomises this word.

She carries with her a positivity and certain level of happiness and mirth that ceases to exist in my home without her.

She recently went to Ummrah, wearing white as Moroccan women culturally opt out for this colour when they perform the holy pilgrimage. I told her to wear her black shoes instead because they were more comfortable but she gave me the look and told me to stop disrupting her colour scheme.

Mother’s day should not be annually marked, but instead is a day celebrated every day. With this, I end by asking God to heal the broken hearts of fellow people who have lost their mothers/ fathers. I pray that the hole inside them is filled with something special and beautiful. I ask God to reunite them with their parents in everlasting paradise where they will undoubtedly get to wear gold bracelets and fine green garments of silk, reclining on beautiful thrones, where underneath them, will flow beautiful rivers. There, they will never have to live with any pain and quite frankly; any memory of it will have been erased.

I ask that Allah preserves our mothers. May He look after them and make their difficult affairs easier. If they are sick, may He restore to them the sweetness of health and may He replace their sadness and mental/physical pain with happiness and turn their tears into smiles. May they live to see their children prosper in life and may they live to feel proud of us. May we succeed in serving them well, to the utmost best of our ability, though this can and only will ever be a fraction of what they did and currently do for us.

All that I am and all that I hope to be, I owe to my beautiful mother.

IMG_2697

 

A letter to God


Dear Allah,

I know that everything is in your hands, and I know that You are in control of it all. I know that with hardship comes ease and I know that dua is a form of worship. I am using it and I am begging with all my might and I am not in a state of despair because that is not the state of a believer. My dua is repeated everyday, at every opportunity. I know with full conviction that You haven’t forgotten me, because You told me that You are near, and I know that You haven’t ignored my request because You are all hearing, all knowing, capable of all things, aware of the world of the seen and the unseen. I don’t know when my dua will be accepted, and I don’t know how, and at times it seems that there’s no hope, but this is not the case, because Allah, you are aware of what’s best for me. Only You are aware when it’s the right time for everything. Nothing on this earth happens without your knowledge. Even a leaf would fall from a random tree and You’ll be aware of it. Let alone the state of your slaves. Let alone the state of our hearts.

Some things don’t make sense initially but after a while I can see the wisdom in certain cases, so thank you Allah for informing me that perhaps I’ll sometimes hate a thing but it’s better for me, and perhaps sometimes I’ll love a thing but it won’t be good for me. Thank you for paving every way for me, thank you for elevating me through the Quran, thank you for listening to every complaint of mine. It’s weird Allah, humans tend to dislike beggars. People who beg, people who plead, people who hold their two hands out in front of another creation, we tend to avoid them. But you Allah, you love it when we hold our two hands and nag and plead and cry and beg and ask time after time. You love those who ask. This is because you are Allah. Al Walee, our Protector. Dear Allah, You told me in the opening chapter of Your book that you are Raheem and you emphasized this by telling me that You are Rahman and I repeat these words every day when I pray because the reality of humans is that we forget Your mercy, but by Your will I won’t forget. Allah, when at times situations get hard I remind myself of what you have told me and this suffices. You have told me that you do not burden a soul with more than it can bear. I know that hardships are a must as You have promised that every slave of yours must be tried with something. This world isn’t the worst of places and all thanks to You Allah I am getting by. There are days when I feel happy, days where I laugh non stop and days where I feel as if life couldn’t get more amazing. This is all from You. But there are also days when feelings of sadness are there. This is also from You. Sadness does not mean that my faith is weak, and it doesn’t mean that You are no longer with me. It doesn’t mean that my imaan is low and it doesn’t mean that I am being impatient. It’s simply a testament to your promise. Your promise to me that You will try your slaves with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but yet Allah, you reminded our beloved prophet to give good tidings to us, those who are patient. Now I could not initially fathom this because good tidings are usually given in happy times, whereas the state of patience usually means one is suffering in a particular situation. But patience is all I have Allah. Patience is the only option one has when all else has failed. Patience is the only thing I’m holding on to.

Thank you Allah for teaching me about our beloved Prophets, the first people who will enter your eternal home. The righteous people who through their patience, have reaped the rewards which has landed them eternal happiness. Thank you Allah for teaching me that regardless of their prophethood, they were still humans who were touched by poverty and hardship and they too were shaken until they cried out “When is the help of Allah”? Above all Allah, thank you for teaching me that your nasr, your help, is near. With every dua, with every tear, with every request, it may not be answered there and then but it WILL be answered. And when you answer it, it will come at the best possible time for me. Thank you for teaching me the greatest lesson through this state of patience, that life is but a test, that it is passing, that how we choose to respond to situations eventually shapes our characters. Thank you for humbling me, for strengthening me, for providing for me even when I was ungrateful, unworthy of your gifts. Above all, thank you for finding me when I was lost.

The Reality Of Our Heart: Syria


The reality of the Syrian civil war that’s been going on for four years is one of catastrophe, disappointment and inhumanity.

My feelings towards the image of the drowned child include disgust. Not only disgusted that this angel’s life ended so tragically, but more so disgusted at the reaction of the public towards this image that’s being circulated. 1. I can almost guarantee you that this story wouldn’t have recieved half the media attention and shares it’s gotten if it wasn’t for this image. 2. I find it extremely dehumanising that we aren’t coming to terms with the gruelling reality that these people are living under, unless we’re given a picture to show us. This is a slightly random comparison but this photo almost reminds me of World War 1 where people who stayed at home and didn’t fight in the war, didn’t know the extent of human degradation and brutality that soldiers faced in the trenches, simply because they weren’t there. I guess the people who stayed at home were obviously brainwashed due to the propaganda and glorification of the war itself in the beginning so it’s not completely their fault as they were sold lies, but with our current situation we know 100% what’s occurring in Syria. Four years down the line, the situation is reaching new peaks of calamity everyday.

I’m against sharing these images because a. If that was a baby in my family, I wouldn’t want their dignity being jeopardised with a photo of them dead by the shore. 2. Without realising, we’re constantly becoming more and more desensitised to the reality of these poor people with these images being shared around the Internet. Kind of like what happened in 2013 where babies were chemically gassed in Syria, or similar to how a year ago, children’s limbs were being blown off in the Gaza war. We felt sadness, we felt disgusted, we shared some images and moved on.

Now I’m not naive, I know that behind this chaos, there lies immense political tension, that only God knows what the solution to is, but I’m deeply saddened by the reality of us humans. We’ve reached a time where the only time you’d catch us sharing stories about tragedies is when it’s a photo that includes a baby dead by the shore.

I shared the story of the Syrian baby with my family without showing them any pictures. After this, everyone starting praying for the Syrians and then carried on with life shortly after. A few hours later I read a man’s status regarding the image of this child and how it reminded him about once when he lost his child, also drowning. Everyone was shaken by this story in my family, like I said without the photos but for some reason the pain of this man who shared the status on also having lost a child resonated even more with me. Now, of course many of us haven’t dealt with that same pain but I feel this is the type of pain we should be embracing when remembering these people in prayer. Truly empathising with them and sincerely praying for them. Placing yourselves in their shoes as they say. I’m not saying stop your lives and cry 24 hours a day, but I feel we really need to wake up to what’s going on in the world, without waiting for the evidence through photos.

In terms of how we can help, at this moment I’m clueless. It’s a big political mess, which I believe only God has the power to untie but empathy comes in many forms. Be it through prayer, charity, thinking of these people or just simply acknowledging the blessings you’ve been given and thanking God for them.

Most days, I really feel helpless about what we as people can do to help. The only thing that makes me smile when remembering these victims is that they will hopefully live like Kings and Queens in the next life.

We’re lucky. We are so lucky that we’re able to get up each day without worrying that we don’t have anything to eat, or worrying that we might not live another day to see our family members, or worrying that we’ll have to get on a boat and flee as the sea is much more safer than the land we reside in.

My heart bleeds for the baby that lay by the shore, gone to God, may his soul be at rest. May his parents be granted access to Jannah. May we live to witness the revival of security and safety in these peoples lands. May they one day smile again and be reconnected to their culture, their home, and their families. May we live to see Syria’s freedom. Of course not only Syria, but the many countries that you all already know about.

Morocco break


Being born, raised and living in the West, a place where technology consumes most people, I often find it extremely difficult to put my phone down or log off social media. At the age of 18, I believe that technology, i.e my phone, laptop, and other devices consumes me to the extent that they stop me achieving other things in the day like focusing more on religious affairs or even worldy matters like reading an interesting novel, creative writing etc. Student life has also resulted in me being more active on social media. I hardly find time to visit old friends so I often find myself being lucky enough to be able to stay connected with them through the Internet.

The Internet is a beautiful platform which works beyond our measures, allowing us to accomplish many things, both academically and also personally. However, like I mentioned, it often becomes almost impossible to spend time doing other things when one becomes so consumed by the online world. You are annoyed by something, write a Tweet, you eat something nice, Instagram a picture, spend time with friends, upload a photo on Facebook, catch your brother dancing in his room on his ones, upload it to your Snapchat story. Don’t get me wrong, none of these things are terrible to do, especially the latter, however sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by how human beings have become so intoxicated by the online world that we’d prefer to stay connected to the Internet, watching Netflix instead of maybe taking a walk outside.

A few days ago, I caught a plane to Morocco, my country where I thought I’d take the opportunity to de-stress before exams and also spend time with my grandparents and family here. I also made the decision (which was extremely difficult no matter how insignificant it seems) to disconnect from the online world and see if I could manage a few days with limited access to the Internet. As much as I miss Tweeting or staying connected to what’s happening around the world, I feel a certain liberation in giving up the Internet for a while. It has not only given me the opportunity to take in the more important things in life like spending time with loved ones but has also limited my procrastination levels and resulted in doing things I love. Only when I didn’t have internet access, did I truly realise how consumed I was by it. Many young people find it extremely difficult to function adequately without roaming the Internet and often even when there is absolutely no reason to use it, they’d still pick up their phone, refresh their Twitter and Facebook accounts and end up watching the most random YouTube videos. I once heard my friend say how she was so bored one day, that she ended up watching YouTube clips of couple tags. As sad as this seems, being bored+ YouTube is an interesting combination. The Internet really does this to you, as hilarious as it seems, it can cause you to spend an entire day, accomplishing absolutely nothing beneficial.

One of my best friends, who avoids being consumed by the Internet always tells me that the only reason why people constantly show everyone what they’re up to through social media like Facebook, Twitter etc. is because they want to express to the world that they “exist”. A few days ago I would’ve told her to be quiet and let me be, but you know what, you’re right. Yes, she’s probably reading this post. Instead of showing everyone that we exist through constantly posting everything, we could do that but also remember to live in the moment and appreciate it.

Although the times in London and Morocco are the exact same, my grandparents refused to add an hour when it changed because “we don’t work and don’t attend school” so technically according to their household, instead of waking up at 11am, I’m only waking up at 10am, which proved convenient. Whilst here and enjoying the limited internet life, I thought I’d start reading a book called “Purification Of The Heart” which essentially identifies the diseases in the human heart, the reason why humans are prone to these diseases and most importantly how to treat them. Reading through chapters of how to defeat things so prone to the human like ostentation, blameworthy modesty, fear and envy, I realised how important it is to constantly remind ourselves of how limited our time on this earth is.

Essentially, we are put in this world to prepare for the next, to seek the pleasure of God through our deeds, actions and conduct. We are walking up a steep hill and trying to reach the absolute peak. Some of us will reach the peak and some won’t. In order to reach the peak, we must strive. Strive as in try our absolute hardest to prepare for the next world in this world. Ok. Either what I have just said has touched your heart and been felt by you spiritually and you are fathoming my words, or you are finding it rather difficult to decipher my metaphorical language. Either way, keep this in mind. Life overwhelmingly has become about the public display of affection, “showing off” our friendships, loved ones, loved things which again is something I find myself engaging in online which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, however too much of it is indeed intoxicating and gains you nothing but less time. We must strive to use our time more wisely, to spend it in Ibadah (worship of God) with loved ones, enjoying books which not only will benefit you academically( lol, who even enjoys academic books?) *shoutout to all my Law student friends who carry 10,000 paged books which will benefit you with absolutely nothing* but books that will benefit your spiritual self and “broaden your horizons”. Seriously, read, there’s a reason why God made it the first word in the Quran “iqrah”.

Our focus now should be to observe, learn, and equip ourselves with as much knowledge possible, spiritual and otherwise.

Another way to spend your time wisely is by travelling. Start locally, visit a park which you’ve never been to, travel outside your city for a day or two. Then ultimately, as you save money, invest in other places. Keep a diary, write how you feel, even taking a few minutes every other day to express your accomplishments and achievements through daily life is a good way to invest your time in. Now, as much as I really want to say exercise and hope that exercise is also embedded into your routine, I know how extremely lazy some of us are when it comes to moving around. I wanted to keep this post realistic and full of achievable goals so exercise and healthy eating will not be mentioned 🙂

Finally, I leave you with some notes I took after attending one of Mohammed Zeyara’s talks. Another guy I always go on about, only because he’s also young and has already accomplished lots, mashAllah. Another is from a conversation I had with my grandma earlier today. So please read this part, even though it’s personal for me and what I’d like to achieve in my life, however I’m sure it may benefit you too:

Note to self: Allah knows the reality of every human being. We may put on facades to impress people. Our ummah can’t afford this. It’s important to look deep inside and discover who you are. There’s a story to be told and new adventures to be explored. Travel and hike within the depths of your own soul and look within the depths of you. Remove obstacles that keep you from understanding you. Read. Use time wisely. Prepare yourself to look nice for Allah and your meeting with Him.

Conversations with grandma:

“My daughter, we came into this world, alone, naked. We leave this world, alone, naked, with absolutely nothing leaving with us but our deeds and actions”. Wise words meema.

-By Chaimaa Elazrak

The Legacy Of Our Three Heroes: Deah, Yusor, Razan.


If anyone knows me, they know how positive I am as a person. Rarely do I get angry or annoyed as I believe that negative thoughts shape your life and I strive to lead a positive life instead. For that reason, I try to control my thoughts. However at times when examining the world, it’s hard to avoid this simple fact: hatred fuels so many people. Often in life, we get annoyed, agitated, and sometimes our emotions get the better of us. We may cry, shout, fight, you name it. We’re human. Humans are weak.

These past few days I’ve been so angry at the world. You must have heard about the brutal massacre of the three Muslim, American students in their apartment. Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19 were shot in the head by a sad man who let his disgusting, prejudice thoughts manifest into actions and chose to murder these beautiful souls in cold blood. Also, Deah and Yusor just recently got married a little more than a month ago. In fact a few hours before her death, Yusor changed her profile picture on Facebook to one of herself and her father dancing at her wedding.These 3 beautiful souls were effortlessly beautiful in every way. Deah, I’ve shared a video to give you a taste of the light and positivity this beautiful brother shed into the world. And his bride, Yusor, this queen recently travelled to Kilis, Turkey to assist in dental relief. She would have actually started at UNC School of Dentistry in August this year. And Razan, 19. A 1st year Architecture student. This girl, who is one year older than me could have been me, could’ve been my friend, could’ve been you. She was known for her incredible, artistic talents. What frightens and saddens me the most is the reality of this incident. I believe that every single life matters, no matter if it’s a Palestinian boy being burned alive by an Israeli soldier in Gaza, or a black man being murdered without a valid reason by a police officer in America, or a child leaving the world due to absolute poverty which results in him or her not having enough food to nourish their little bodies in Somalia. Race, religion, none of these things should matter when mourning the dead. However, what touched my heart the most about the lives of the three heroes is how relatable their lives were. Three Muslims living in the West, minding their own business, and doing nothing but ameliorating this world. This, this is what infuriates and frustrates me the most. The fact that they strived so hard to make a change. Days before his death, Deah tweeted at how ‘freaking annoying it is when people say kill all Muslims or kill all Jews’ as this kind of behaviour creates nothing more but more animosity. To think that a few days later he was shot due to animosity is what pains me the most.

Between the three heroes, they shared many accomplishments, they didn’t only exist in this world, but in their short life span, these three heroes lived. They tasted the wonders of this world and emanated these wonders back into their community. I found myself smiling when researching their stories. They inspire me so much. Ok. Back to reality. As I mentioned, they were shot at by a disgusting man. One who was blinded and fuelled by his own negativity and hate. One who was unable to integrate freely with people who weren’t like him. A fearful man. A murderer. The sad, awful reality is that the victims, the bride and groom and their bridesmaid were shot at for being Muslim. They were ruthlessly murdered for their beliefs and in my eyes, the most saddest part of their story is how there exists almost 0 media coverage of this brutal, incident. If it hadn’t been for social media being used as a weapon to share this story, I probably wouldn’t have even found out about it. What frustrates me the most is how the shooters wife has apparently stated that her husbands actions “highlights the importance of access to mental health care services.” Amidst my frustration, I managed to divert my thoughts by viewing one video made by Deah and thought to myself ‘these three martyrs are in a state of immense happiness right now’. They are in Allah’s hands. The way they lived portrays my Islam. Let me emphasise this point again. The way Deah, Yusor and Razan lived, as people emitting positivity in the world is representative of Islam. Their acts of kindness and humanity is what Islam is all about. Their actions is what the prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) lived his life telling us to do. The prophet stated that “the dead person is followed by three: his family, his wealth and his actions. Two of them return and only one remains.” It is evident which one has remained for these three. Their beautiful manners which led to amazing actions will not only set the precedent for more youth to get involved in truly living and not only existing in this world, but will also never be forgotten by the almighty Allah. Your actions shape you and undoubtedly theirs have had an immense impact on most of us already. Also, maybe, just maybe if we forget about the way they were killed for a minute, we can focus on what they have left behind for us, the audience. To me, I have gained three new role models. Part of me feels like it’s now my duty to continue leading a life portraying Islam for what it really is. For Deah, for Yusor and for Razan. Lest we forget these three. A fellow friend texted me this yesterday night after we stayed up talking about how infuriating the situation was.”When we forget the dead, when we erase them from our memories and our hearts, that’s when they really die. As long as we keep remembering them and the amazing work they did, they will stay alive.”

My fellow sisters and brothers. As Muslims, it’s difficult and tiresome to put up with the constant battle of trying to prove our innocence to ignorant people. I know that most of you who are Muslim are sick of being apologetic and tired of having to constantly prove that ‘Islam is not a religion that promotes terrorism’. But let me tell you, that actions truly do speak louder than words. A few weeks ago I met up with Mohammed Zeyara, a fellow brother who like the three heroes, strives to make this world a better place. I asked him ‘how do we as Muslims make a difference in a world that views Islam so negatively’ and from that he reiterated that it was all in our ‘beautiful manners’. With our manners and with our actions, we too can fade the hate that exists in the world. Like I said, I believe in Allah and Allah truly does work in miraculous ways. His miraculous ways will not always be comprehensible as after all He is the Creator, the almighty Allah and we are nothing but humans. Nonetheless I’m content in the way He works. I’m content and I put my whole trust in Him. And you should too. We don’t know why God specifically took Deah, Yusor and Razan. We don’t know why God tests thousands of Palestinians enduring a hate filled occupation. Finally, we don’t know why people like Craig, the man who shot the three victims exist. But what we do know is that right now, you and me, we’re alive, breathing and we are well. You, who is reading this post right now is 60% luckier than 80% of people in this world because you have Internet (I did not make this up) and so use the tools you have around you to make a difference. You really are unique. Don’t think that for a minute God has forgotten you. When you feel that your good actions aren’t being appreciated by people, erase that thought immediately. After all, they are just people, and ultimately we work for God, so remember that all your amazing efforts will be viewed by God, no matter how small or large they are. You are blessed with life so savour each second and as they say in Arabic ‘tawakul ala Allah’ I’ll let you use your blessing (the Internet) to find out what that means. Remember that the world can be harsh but it’s up to you to make it work for you. A few days ago, despite the tragic loss of the three heroes, they managed to make the world work for them. Their impact has left a mark on us all.
إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ
To God we belong and to him we shall return
Deah, Yusor, Razan, to the highest levels of heaven inshAllah.
By Chaimaa Elazrak

Reflections


We live in a society where we’re constantly reminded to speak well, work hard, and strive to be the best possible version of ourselves. We are also taught to reflect on our lives and aim to make the best use of every single day. Yet, we all know that sometimes life throws obstacles in our way and reflecting on yourself isn’t as easy anymore. Self-exploration, self-reformation and self-assessment become phrases used as sentence fillers.

I started university this year and have really enjoyed my course so far. Apart from the horrid 9am starts, I’ve met amazing people who are so fun and beautiful to be around. My relationship with my friends has included lots of laughter, banter, the occasional heated political debates and more banter. As much as I love having these things in life (who doesn’t like to laugh?) Occasionally, I have moments where I feel like something is missing from the picture.

Lets expand. Usually, it’s rare for me to spend my day without thinking about the hereafter. As a Muslim, I believe that this world is temporary and that eternity lies with the creator, God. From a young age my mum has taught me to constantly remind myself of Allah and how important He is in our lives. As I grew older, I found out the importance of prayer and how crucial it was for Muslims to take out time, 5 times a day, in order to thank our creator and remember Him. By praying, at designated times, we instantly remind ourselves of his presence. If Allah has given us life, family and endless valuable things, then surely remembering Him 5 times a day is the least we could do. Praying has always been my tool to shut out everything else and just focus on my lord.

Back to expanding on the issue of that missing something. Yesterday, after I finished my maghrib prayer (4th prayer of the day) I remember waiting for another sister to finish her prayer before we’d leave together to go back to the library. As I sat beside her, waiting for her to finish, I watched the way she prayed, her passion, her focus and 100% concentration levels amazed me. Sometimes when we pray, it’s so easy to lose focus and concentration due to having other worldly matters on your mind. As humans, it’s so hard to stop our thoughts. In fact, statistically about 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day cross our mind. That’s about 35-48 per minute. It happens, it’s natural and a human instinct to have thoughts cross your mind whilst praying, like ‘I have to finish my essay’ or ‘I don’t have enough time to finish my assignment’ but there and then, seeing this fellow Muslim pray, it reminded me of how important it is to let go and let God when praying.

As she finished her prayers and we walked back, I recall her telling me that everyday she asks herself “If I died, right here and now, would I be happy to meet Allah like this?” And she plans her days according to this question. She reminded me that despite any obstacle we face in life, God has the answer. After all, is it not God who put this issue in our lives in the first place? Then surely he holds the answers. By living a life purely for the sake of God, I witnessed how this sister lived at peace and serenity. I never felt inspired by anyone like this. I felt her words, her love, her passion and her appreciation for God.

Those 20 minutes that I spent with her, reminded me that it is so easy to get caught up in everything and anything. When we are faced with issues, our first, subconscious reaction is to block everything else out and work on tackling them, however we should constantly remind ourselves that no matter what we face, it should never interfere with our relationship with God. One needs to spend more time reflecting and less time dwelling .Our society has become intoxicated with public appearance and how we should speak and who to impress but this humble sister taught me that as long as I was impressing my creator, everything else will fall into place naturally. As long as I have God in my heart, what’s the point of getting worked up over triviality?

I wrote this post as a reminder that sometimes, the most smallest things, can have the biggest impact on your life. They force you to think and reflect. I end with a few tips:
-Speak less and listen more
– Instead of dwelling on insignificant matters, spend your time exploring the more important things in life.
– take at least 20 minutes out of your day to pause and reflect on the more important things in life.
– spend your time wisely. Time is of the essence (cliche, I know, but worth thinking about)

When Ramadan coincides with the flu…


Forgive me for taking ages to upload a blogpost. I think my last post was before I had an operation last year. So let’s say 9 months? Something like that. This year has been filled with constant studying, procrastinating, and complaining that A-levels were going to be the “end of me” but thankfully I made it through to summer. Now that exams are over, there’s nothing much to do apart from sleep but as a Muslim, I’m observing Ramadan this month…

So It’s Ramadan here in London (and everywhere else). Ramadan is an annual, holy month for Muslim people all over the world. This is a special time where we have to fast everyday for a month from sunrise to sunset (I know you’re thinking umm “Why starve yourself?”) but honestly it’s not as dangerous as you think. In fact fasting has been practised by Muslims for centuries (since the start of Islam) and it actually has many benefits for you. Firstly by fasting and experiencing hunger and thirst, one sympathises with less fortunate people, people with little to eat and drink. Abstaining yourself from food and water is hard, no lie but by doing it you learn to be more patient. Now patience as you fellow humans may know is very hard at times. To me, Ramadan is a time where “spiritual cleansing” can be performed. A time which allows you to spiritually connect with God and realise how fortunate you are. See, it’s all part of a cyclic nature whereby you connect more with God, increase your patience levels or decrease your “stress levels”, and overall feel the beauty of this holy month. It really is beautiful, now to you non-Muslims I may appear to be on cloud nine because of the fasting but Ramadan is really beautiful and is probably my favourite month every year because it brings serenity.

Now, unfortunately, a month which was initially supposed to be full of praying and “spiritual cleansing” has been interrupted by an ugly flu which has attacked my immune system, leaving me in bed 24/7 unable to speak, eat, drink (duh I’m supposed to be fasting) or function normally. Now this is how I developed the flu..so my older brother caught it off my mum who caught it off my younger brother who caught it off his friend(what a pest) now you witness the human domino effect of the flu. Anyway, what was initially supposed to be a blog post about Ramadan has turned into a flu rant. What a beautiful paradox from the “spiritual cleansing” talk. On a serious note, stay healthy this Ramadan, there’s a few weeks left so make use of it by:

1. Not getting the flu

2. Drinking lots and lots and lots of water

3. Trying your best to do more, i.e praying, reading the Quran, smiling, being kind and ofcourse “spiritually cleansing” yourself.

P.S I will continue to blog regularly now 🙂

Previous Older Entries

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,093 other followers

September 2019
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30