On Hearts

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On a good morning I will wake up feeling full. My three fajr alarms will have worked, I wake up thankful, I remember the words one should recite upon waking up: “All praise is for God, who gave us life after having taken it from us, and to Him is our return.” I remember my Purpose.

But in usual Children of Adam fashion, I quickly forget. As a woman, I worry constantly about who I have to be today. When I am getting dressed, when I look in the mirror, my reflection is never really my own because I see myself through everybody else’s eyes.

When my thoughts should be going to how I am going to reveal myself today and dig up all the parts of me I’ve been suppressing like my laugh, or my mind, or my thighs, or the dark circles under my eyes, or or or…I wonder who will stare too long at my imperfections, who will think my pants are too tight, will my skirt be too Muslim, who will my Hijab be too bright for, who will my shirt be too short for? Who am I becoming and for who?  I start to self-edit, and like any good editing it results in a lot of erasing.

As a woman, as a muslim woman,  I have to be so many things for so many people and it is draining, exhausting and spiritually damaging. I wasn’t created for anyone, to please anyone, not you, not Ahmed from Calculus, not Auntie from the Masjid, not even Becky with the good hair. None of them. But  yet I wake up feeling like I am expected to be some flower. I have to be beautiful, and soft, I have to remove all the thorns that nobody likes, I build up fences around my garden and just when I start to grow, I’m picked. Somebody must take ownership over you. To bloom on your own is questionable, maybe even unimaginable. It’s not enough to be what they wanted you to be, it can’t belong to you, you’re a woman. Imagine always having to be the flower? I can’t anymore.

The only way I’ve learned to stop the cycle is to remember that one day I will have to meet my Lord with nothing but what I carried in my heart. In Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom, Ibn Arabi compares our souls to the moon. What ever light it possesses is not its own, it only reflects the light of God. Just like the moon, our souls can become eclipsed when the Earth covers them, or when we become too concerned with Earthly matters. So you see I am not your flower? I am not even of this Earth.

My heart, despite being so close to me had become so foreign. Eclipsed. Its language is spoken mainly in silence, and I was constantly yelling.  I am thankful for having to have travelled where I did to learn its language. If like me you’ve been yelling at your heart, repeat after me:

God is Sufficient for me

God is Sufficient for me

God is Sufficient for me

Dhikr/remembrance on a daily basis has become so important to me. In a culture that is constantly whispering at me in the background to be the flower, I have to remind myself that I am the moon. I cannot say that I wake up everyday feeling perfectly content, there is a paradise for that, but I can say that I am getting to know my heart again despite having confused it for something that consumes light, when it was only ever meant to reflect.

On Time

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From a very young age we begin to divide our lives into milestones. Education, independence, jobs, relationships, it all feels like a big conveyor belt and if you don’t keep up, you’ll get left behind. So instead of just living, we find ourselves anxiously trying to get to the next thing. Even when we’re not ready, we go for fear of missing out, for fear of looking like a failure, for the sake of meeting some socially constructed deadline. The worst part is that when we get there, we find out that the conveyor belt doesn’t just stop and say “hey thanks for running with me, you’re all good now,” no. The conveyor belt just gets faster, we get tired, we forget why we got on the belt, we stop enjoying anything anymore because of course all that matters now is learning how to stay on. The conveyor belt is exhausting.

And yet at the same time (pun intended), we get brief moments of relief from the belt. I’ve found these moments mainly in nature, playing with a child, writing a poem, or just doing what I truly love. I can’t explain what happens to time in those moments, it’s not that it disappears, it’s that I stop planning for the future and start enjoying the present. This presence concept is something I constantly struggle with, because if you know me you’ll know I’m sort of a space cadet. Yes, I may be in front of you eating ice cream, but I’m also probably thinking about a deadline two weeks from now that I have no current control over, but yet I am praying for answers at the bottom of my cone. I lose the enjoyment of the ice cream, you lose the enjoyment of my usual hilarity and obnoxious laughter, and just like that we both lose.

So, what to do? How do we start being here? Being present, wanting to do more and be more without being consumed by the belt? You’ve just spent all of 40 seconds reading this assuming I have answers I’m sure. Well, plot twist, I don’t.

But I do know that I want to get off the conveyor belt. I want to walk the dirt roads a little more. I’ll bring my compass (my values, my morals, my love for Him) and I’ll pray I am headed in the right direction. There will be signs for me, and I will heed them. There will be bumps, trips, falls, and I will heal from them. There will be beautiful views and then there will be clouds and rain but I’ll keep walking. This new path might might feel just as hard to keep up with as the conveyor belt, but the difference will be my direction, my Purpose. Will I get lost? Sure. In fact I hope so.

I want to dedicate more of my life to the places, and people, and projects where I get lost but find what I’ve been missing on that stupid belt that kept me running but staying in one place.* Can’t wait to see what I find.

 

*I low key hope I have put treadmills out of business after this, always hated them. fun facts: It’s 1 hour past my bed time, you spent 1-2 minutes of your life on this (thank you), and I will be 20 minutes late for work tomorrow (see point #1). Regret nothing.

 

VALENTINE’S CARDS FOR THE ENVIRONMENTALIST IN YOUR LIFE

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You know the one, they not-so-silently judge you with your plastic water bottle, they think transit is cool, you can guarantee their fruit is organic, and you’ll never be able to shut them up once they start talking about the exciting world of recycling.

  1. For that ride or die kinda love

CARPOOL

2.  For the love that’s so wrong it’s almost right

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3. For the love you won’t let go to….waste.

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4. The forbidden love only you know about.

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5. The one who’s FLY AF.

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6. For the love that you just can’t get enough of

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7. For the truth you can’t deny anymore

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8. For the love that keeps you guessing

HEART

9. And finally…for the one you’re sure is the one.

last stop.

Keep your love sustainable everyone, you only have one heart after all.

Close enough

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We are so lucky,

that in His unrelenting Mercy, even when the world feels so far apart, the distance somehow makes our hearts grow closer.

Close as your forehead when it hits the floor in prayer, and you make dua for someone else’s suffering first. Those prayers are the only weapons I’ve ever known.

Close enough that your body aches when theirs is attacked, because He created us as one.

And you’re not a doctor, so you can’t heal all the pain but you can be a band-aid when they need you to be, and a crutch when they don’t want you to be, because sometimes limping forward is the only way to learn to run again.

Their stories bring you to tears, even if you’ve never met, because they say some souls have already been introduced, we’re just bumping into each other again here.

Maybe that’s why the strangers have always felt so familiar.

My dad tells me that if I looked in his heart, I would find a place just for me right at the bottom. I always used to joke and ask why I wasn’t higher up, but now I think I get it.

 It must be for times like these.

When all they want is for us to close up, I’m content knowing there’s always more room in my heart for the people I’ve never met, the strangers, the ones too far to hug tonight maybe, but always close enough to love.

Dear Hoda

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Hiiiiiiii Hoda,

You’re going back to school! You’re starting your first week, and you should be excited, happy, dreams should all still feel possible, and you should not be stressed out yet. You’re not allowed, I forbid it! I know you really really wanted me to write a, and I quote, “post about going back to school, how to get back into the swing of things, that’s islamic, but not just islamic, like motivational too,” so I will try my best. I just want to add the disclaimer that I cried in a cubicle before a finance midterm while eating a vanilla dip donut because I was sure I was just going to use the “always pick C” strategy…but now you know and I am going to write this for you anyways

  1. The Intention
     Remember the way dad would sit us on the dinner table before school starts, and ask us what our intentions are? Baba always kept it real and would (not so) secretly judge us because of how much time we’d spend picking our first day of school outfits, but he always had made sure we were still looking at the big picture. “Remember you’re going back to school to seek knowledge, to excel, and to do your best in everything.” You’re here to learn for His sake, but that encompasses so much, so sit down with yourself, and write down what you want to accomplish this year. Now, because you are a human you will probably forget those things in about a week, so you’re going to put that list somewhere you can look at often, and then you’re going to keep renewing your intentions to get to those things even if you mess up. Aiight? Aiight. I don’t want to be that cheesy quote person, but let’s be realllll, I am definitely that cheesy quote person so remember “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” and it all starts when you set your intentions.

2. Undefined Paths
Things are not going to make that much sense going forward. In grade 12, after I told my guidance counsellor I wanted to open a restaurant, he laughed and said “with your marks, you’re going to see all the job offers from banks and forget that dream.” Let’s all take a second to L O L at how wrong he was, because LORD KNOWS I don’t belong in a bank, but also let’s lol at the tears I wept in accounting, and all the summer bank internships I applied to anyways and got rejected from (the best rejections of my life). I definitely tried to squeeze myself through paths I didn’t fit in, but I don’t regret it at all because if I didn’t realize I hated accounting, I might not have realized how much I loved my sustainability courses, and how much I loved working in/with the community.

So please remember that you are allowed to try things, and hate them, and change your mind. You are allowed to start heading down a road, but take the exit that leads you to the better place. Rejections are 100% your frienemy, they seem terrible while you’re there, but they almost always push you towards opportunities you didn’t even know existed. All my random hippie electives that I thought made no sense together, turned into a minor in sustainability (which literally didn’t exist until my 5th year, talk about good timing).

So no I don’t know where you’re headed Hoda, whether you’ll get an internship, go into accounting, become a finance guru, become an entrepreneur, or follow your real calling which is professionally bullying me, but I know you’re going to be amazing when you get there. Keep asking for advice, but at the end of the day you gotta do what feels good for you, and unfortunately you can usually only do that by messing up first (but I hear the donuts are good when you get there).

3. I don’t have a number three. 

Yeah, this is awkward. I know it’s sunnah and everything but I’m drawing a blank. What I am trying to say is, if I find out from mama and baba that you were in anyway nervous/stressed during your first week of school…I will drive all the way back from Mississauga in rush hour traffic to give you a hug, and then beat you up. All your problems seem so huge right now, but trust me you will look back and they will look like nothing. So put on your fabuuuuu #OOTD and kill em girl.

Don’t think I forgot though, obligatory islamic reminder, remember your duaas!

“Oh my lord increase me in Knowledge”

“O Allah , I hope for Your mercy . Do not leave me to myself even for the blinking of an eye (i.e. a moment) . Correct all of my affairs for me . There is none worthy of worship but You”

“O Allaah, I take refuge in You from anxiety and sorrow, weakness and laziness, miserliness and cowardice, the burden of debts and from being over powered by men.”

Rest assured He is by your side every step of the way. Goodluck Hooders (I put my embarrassing nickname on the internet, so you do too.)

How long is a month?

How long is a

How long is a month?

I recently read a book named Night train to Lisbon and this is what the author asked. It’s a misleading question because of course a month is 30 days, sometimes 31 (don’t even get me started on the pesky February). It’s even more misleading because it seems that some months fly by seeming very short, while others  drag on feeling very long.

I thought about this question in terms of Ramadan. How long was this month? In Ramadan every minute feels like a valuable asset, a moment to be used to worship, remember, practice, and better ourselves. Whether it’s 17 hours of fasting, the breaking of the fast with duas and those 3 dates (#sunnah), or praying 21 rakaats at night; for this month we are always in a state of worship.

Many of us will donate more this month than we do all year, and outside of abstaining from food and drink, will also abstain from the other habits we see to be displeasing to God. We will change our routines, try to create better habits, and in the process come out of this month better than how we went into it. But aside from all the personal and dietary changes, there are rewards within it that make it one of the most valuable months of the year.

  1. Clean Slate 

Abu Huraira narrated that Allah’s Messenger said : “Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.” [Bukhari]

One month and a good intention to forgive years of sin? One month to rule them all for sure.

2. Reward for fasting is with Him

“Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving ten times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High said, ‘Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.’ for the fasting person there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk.” [al-Bukhari]

Endless rewards, and you don’t even need to have good smelling breath? Deal.

3. Muslim Math 

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: Whosoever tries drawing nearer to Allah by performing any virtuous deed in this month, for him shall be such reward as if he had performed a farḍ (obligatory observance) in any other time of the year. And whoever performs a farḍ for him shall be the reward of seventy farḍ in any other time of the year” [Ibn Khuzaymah & Bayhaqi].

Imagine multiplying your 5 prayers for all 30 days by 70 (Seriously imagine it because I’m totally not calculating that:p)

But wait there’s more!

4. Supplications are answered 

`Abdullah Ibn `Amr Ibn al-`Aas also reported that the Messenger of Allah (Peace Be Upon Him), said: “Indeed there is for the fasting person, when he breaks his fast, a supplication which is not rejected”. [Ibn Majah, al-Hakim and others; Sahih]

Make a wish, any wish🙂

5. A night better than 1000 months

 We know that within this month there is one night within the last 10 nights which is “khayrun ‘min alf shahr.” Better than 1000 months.

“Indeed We have revealed it (Qur’an) in the night of Decree. And what will explain to you what the night of Decree is? The night of Decree is better than than a thousand months. Therein descends the Angels and the Spirit (Jibreel) by Allah’s permission, on every errand: (they say) “peace” (continuously) till the rise of Morning!” (97:1-5)

One night, in one month, greater than a 1000 months? One night where each of our good deeds will be as if we did them for 1000 months? I don’t think the author of my book was ready for this.

I’ve barely even touched on some of the bigger rewards of Ramadan but I know enough to say that this month is one of the most important ones of the year. We are already 4 days in and it’s clear that though we thought 17 hours of fasting would be impossible, we are shown that with Him we are capable of much much much more.

So how long is a month Mr. Pascal Mercier (The author of that book)? It seems even he wasn’t sure because he goes on to say that “The question I had wanted to ask was completely different. What does it depend on when we have experienced a month as a fulfilled time, our time, instead of a time that has passed us by, which we only suffered, that ran through our fingers, so that it seems to us like a lost, past time, and we’re not sad because it’s past, but because we couldn’t do anything with it?”

 His question was never really about how long a month is, but rather what can you do for yourself within the time of a month? The opportunities available for us all in this month are obvious if we seek them out. I pray that we all continue to use this month to its full potential and reap every single blessing  to make sure it’s a fulfilled time, our time, and not one that we just let pass by🙂 How long will you make this month?

Running as a Metaphor.

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3km
The stages of running.

I would just like to start by saying that I really, truthfully, wanted to name this post “Running Through The Six with my Woes” but decided everyone would judge me and I also didn’t want Drake running through The Six trying to sue me. But now you know.

Two weeks ago I ran in my first ever half-marathon and through the process I learned a few things I wanted to share. I didn’t accomplish any big feat by running 21 km; the truth is anyone can run it with a little dedication, willpower and support. I have a funny obsession with metaphors, so do read everything below with a philosophical, life-changing, rumi poem type lens.

1. The first 3 km are the hardest.

Sounds counterintuitive right? You would assume that at the beginning you have all the energy,  and all the willpower right? Hah! There’s a huge mental game in the first 3km and it’s the hardest part. Your brain wants you to stop way before your body is ready so it keeps telling you how tired you are, how uncomfortable it is when your breathing gets heavier, and how easy it is to stop. This is the hardest part to get through but once you get out of it your brain starts to realize that you’re not giving up that easily. We have a natural tendency to want to avoid the different, the uncomfortable and the new but “bear a little more and just a little more remains.”

2.  You can’t avoid pain, only manage it. 

There is no way to go far distances trying to avoid pain. Nobody starts training for a half-marathon thinking how pain free and wonderful this is going to be. Trying to avoid pain is to stop moving altogether. When I started training, if I ran anything more than 5 km I would get terrible pain in my right knee. This would have been a good excuse to stop training and call it a night but instead I learned to manage it. I found out why my knee was in pain to begin with (weak leg muscles and poor stretching) and then started doing leg training twice a week and incorporating yoga/stretching at the end of all my workouts. Pain isn’t a signal to stop, it’s a signal to do something differently. When you learn to manage the pain, recognize it, feel it, but continue anyways, the results are usually worth it. I won’t pretend the knee pain went away right away, because Lord knows it took months, but by the time I ran the 21km I had no knee pain. I couldn’t avoid it, only manage it.

3. Pace yourself. 

My sister Youmna gave me probably the best advice I have ever received the night before my run when I was most nervous. I ran 12 km the week before but had terrible muscle spasms that I had never experienced before and didn’t know what to expect the next day. She said, “If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, roll. Just keep moving.” It’s true! Just keep moving. My goal was to finish the race in 2 hours and 15 minutes, but alhamdulillah I finished it in 2 hours and 10 minutes. That number means nothing to the person who finished first at 1 hour and 7 minutes (seriously that happened) but to me it meant everything! Life is not a race with anyone but yourself. Set goals with yourself, break your own records, just keep moving.🙂

If you’re thinking about starting to run, or nervous about starting something new don’t get discouraged when the energy runs out early and the pain starts to set in, just pace yourself and keep moving.