Salaam lovely readers!
Keef halkum? Izayakum? Comment allez-vous tous?
How are you all?
I can’t believe it has been six weeks since we last chatted! Well, at least since I last had this one way conversation with you all, haha! I truly hope that you have all been having a wonderful winter and holiday season wherever you are in the world.
While I was unable to write in December due to my health, I turned my focus to family. I took the time to be cozy at home, drink lots of tea, read, catch up with extended family and cousins, and just enjoy the bit of cold weather that blew through San Diego.
It’s truly incredible how time just moves at a pace that we don’t always acknowledge. Blink We’re welcoming in a new year.
I have never found the new year and all its celebrations to be anything special. I don’t make resolutions or set goals for myself come January 1st. It’s because I try to live by the following words on a daily basis:
“Live in this world as if you were going to live forever; prepare for the next world (Hereafter) as if you were going to die tomorrow.”
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
To be honest, I consider my birthday to be my new year. One more year that I have been blessed to be alive. One more year that I have succeeded in getting through difficult times and salvaging some of my sanity. I remember writing in one of my previous posts that I prefer to set goals for myself on my birthday.
This year is different.
2013 brought changes that I have not experienced or dealt with in years. The amount of, for lack of better words, challenges that the past year hurled at me was incomparable to any other year of my life. While I did hit many milestones, such as completing my first novel and sending it out into the world as well as graduating with my MFA (which may or may not be the last degree I decide to attain), I also dealt with devastating news and obstacles in 2013 that I look forward to leaving behind.
“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”
The reality is that while I hated being in certain situations the past year, I considered them to be a blessing from God. Everything I went through forced me to re-evaluate my life through new lenses and come out a changed person. I full-heartedly believe that everything happens for a reason. Everything that happens in our life is put there to strengthen us and bring us better understanding on how to change ourselves and our lives for the better. There’s nothing stronger than having faith that everything bad will and does pass. Just as the sun will surely rise in the morning and the moon will come out to bring us light in the darkness of night, good does exist. Having that tawakul, trust, in Allah swt brings me through every day.
Remember how much I love making lists? I decided to make a list of goals, aspirations, dreams, and whatever else you want to call them for this new year and years to come, inshaAllah. These are my personal promises to myself – from strengthening my religious faith to basically everything else I prioritize in my life – and I welcome anyone to take.
This new year and my future will no doubt bring me memories to cherish, adventures to take, and demons to battle. I say, BRING IT ON!
Waves to ride (because life is a series of long waves to surf through):
1. Find a blessing that has been given to me, daily.
Every single day that I wake up breathing, in a warm bed, with a roof over my head and four walls, food in the kitchen, and a family I sometimes take for granted is a day that I have been immensely blessed. AlhamduliAllah. AlhamduliAllah. AlhamduliAllah! (Yes, I’m all about that three for Sunnah life. ;])
2. Read or listen to Quran daily.
The words of Allah swt brings the most ultimate form of peace and serenity to my heart. I rely too often on just the recitations I make during prayer to be my daily dosage of Quran. I admit to myself that this is one of the lowest forms of imaan, faith. I regret every day that I skip picking up the Quran, even if just for a minute to push away any sadness I’ve experienced during the day.
Find your state of peace and motivation to constantly rejuvenate your heart.
3. Practice the importance of Salaat on time!
AlhamduliAllah, I’m not one to miss prayer and I go great lengths to pray on time. I know it can be easy to choose to combine prayers or tell yourself, “I’ll pray when I get home. God is merciful,” just because you’re out or don’t want to make ablution, wudu. I’ve fallen into the same trap, all too easily.
Honestly, no excuse is worth missing prayer. More than that, there’s no excuse to rush prayer for the One who is in control of whatever we’re rushing for. Recognize the beauty of being ordered to take a break five times a day.
Take it from a girl who’s always attracting attention with her hijab and way of dress. I do struggle with finding places to pray, but always realize how easy it is and how calming it makes my heart feel once I’ve completed it. Allah swt has made purifying ourselves easy. When there isn’t water, there are other means in which to make wudu. You don’t wear hijab? No worries, carry something to cover up with in your purse or car. There are so many options for us. All my non-hijabi friends do it. As for prayer, I’ve prayed in alley ways, behind pillars of busy business buildings, fitting rooms, middle of school quads, between library book rows, parking lots, empty sidewalks, and most recently a corner of a Starbucks because I didn’t want to leave my stuff unattended. Sure, by the end of my prayer, that entire area of Starbucks was deadly silent, but everyone went back to their activities once I stood up, brushed myself off, and went back writing. Trust me, everyone has always seen something more perplexing.
There’s no excuse to slack off in the pillars of our deen. Forget yoga. Who gives up a few minutes of pure clarity and rest only five times a day? Stop complaining you don’t have any time to relax and find time.
4. Take care of my health!
I know I disappeared for the end of last year. I was battling an upper respiratory infection and a bronchitis style cough throughout December. I hate to say this, but I was forced to bring my intense cough into the new year. The cough was strong enough to cause strain in my muscles and a bit of bruising to the bottom of my left rib-cage. I’m still struggling with the pain. Be it known that I absolutely hate pain killers. Fun times.
Looking back, I don’t know what words to use to describe the pain. I say this having had knee surgery at a young age, among other minor surgeries. At one point during the end of last year, I fell during prayer and couldn’t get off the ground because pain shot through my bones like they were glass being shattered with fire. I was constrained in the form of sujood, prostration, with nothing but dua’, supplication, and tears to get me through the moments. For several days, I spent long hours in bed, unable to move or do anything but think of how on a whole, I was far from the situation my brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, like Syrian refugees, who were literally freezing to death under non-existent shelters. I watched the death toll go up daily. Drained of all energy, I had to admit to myself that I was an idiot for not taking advantage of the healthcare that is available to me. A few trips to the doctor and medicine slowly brought me back to life.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve neglected my health and ignored the signs, convincing myself that I had more important matters. My doctor can attest to the fact that I am a very healthy person, but when I need to slow down and take it easy, my health is something I push aside and take for granted too often.
“Take advantage of five before five: your youth before your senility; your health before your sickness; your wealth before your poverty; your leisure before your occupation; and, your life before your death.”
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
5. Slow down. Breath. Enjoy life.
I’ve written far too much about this in previous posts. It seems that I constantly need this reminder. If I can go back, particularity to my days of being a student at UCSD, I would tell myself to step back and slow down. Just take in the beauty that surrounded me, even at my lowest moments of human failures. Living by my life motto: InshaAllah Kheir. Just breathe…
6. Express how much I LOVE my body.
7. Choose my words carefully.
Words hold an incredible amount of power. One word has the potential to harm someone, similarly to the consequence of one small act of insincerity.
I’m checking myself before anyone else. I believe it’s important for me to gage the situation I’m in and the people I’m speaking to. I am in no way saying that you should wear different masks around people. I believe the key is to be sincere in the way we interact with anyone. Yes, I speak different to my best friend than I do to my other close friends. You all know by now that I am a very sarcastic person, but I also believe there’s a time to joke around and a time to be serious. There’s often a fine line between these two states. Not everyone understands or appreciates sarcasm and I’ve learned the hard way that I need to be careful. In an age where sadly a lot of our interactions happen online, it’s even more pertinent to consider what we put out into the world.
Ali, may Allah be pleased with him
Careful with your words and remember that you should never give anyone else authority to harm you with words and make you feel powerless. You are in control of your own thoughts and how you choose to see yourself.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
8. Be kind and smile to everyone I meet, especially in the face of my enemy.
Absolutely no one’s hate and ignorance should have the authority or power to dictate my life. I have chosen to live with Islam as my way of life and hijabas my way of dress. I will always face discrimination in too many forms to even go into in this post. I’ve learned to let it roll off my shoulders. This isn’t to say that I ignore it or turn a blind eye. I do recognize it face forward, but choose to react in the way that causes harm to no one, whether it be to educate the one who tries to harm me or understand that all I can do is walk away.
“Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.”
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
No one is superior over another. Arrogance is a trap all of us fall through and it is one that we must continue to struggle against. Life is much too short to even think that way. I know that social media makes it easier for us to judge, but also remember that every single thing that is posted online is made with a deliberate intention in mind. Sometimes, all we see are the best or worst in people’s lives and it is never our place to judge when we are unable to ever step into anyone’s lives but our own. Live by the words we hear over and over, treat others as you would like to be treated.
“Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.”
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him
9. Surround myself with only good vibes!
Good vibes = supportive family and friends that I trust and sincerely love me.
People aren’t always going to stay in your life. I’m not referring to losing someone through death. We lose people for different reasons in our life. I have trust issues and I have learned sometimes it’s just best for my well-being to cut off the baggage. Dwelling on the people I have lost in the past does me no good. I know who I need and who I will always be there for in my life. I don’t let go of people I love easily. I do my best to keep in touch and check in, but sometimes that effort and energy is met with silence. Eventually, you just know it’s time to let go.
Ali, may Allah be pleased with him
I have friends that I used to trust with my deepest of secrets that now only contact me when they need something from me. I have other friends I never in a million years thought we would be close and yet I now trust with my life and know I will always be able to go to them when I’m feeling my worst. I have friends who I can go months with out speaking or years without seeing, but when we do find time to say hello or check in, it’s like no time has passed at all. You can feel that genuine love and care they have for you.
All these types of relationships are needed. Every person comes into our life for a reason. As for me, every person I have ever cared for in any form will never be forgotten, but I know when it’s time to move on.
“I still love the people I’ve loved, even if I cross the street to avoid them.”
10. Forgive, but never forget.
Life is just too short and too beautiful to hold on to hate. This is a subject I can speak to for pages, so I’ll leave you with the following quotes:
“Forgive but do not forget. You want to benefit from the experience by holding onto the memory, and you want to let go of your pain by forgiving.”
Dr. Marwa Azab
“Resentment is like ingesting poison and expecting the other person to die.”
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.”
11. NEVER compare myself to others.
Success does not have one, two, or even just three definitions. It has infinite forms. What is good for someone else, may be harmful to me, and vice versa. Define your own success, achievements, aspirations, goals, and dreams on your own term to the beat of your happiness.
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
It’s easy to compare our happiness with others based on the narrow view that they give us of their lives. So easy to feel a sense of jealousy for what we don’t have and forget all that we do have. The successful person is able to step back from what they think they want and actually look at how much they already have. Recognize your blessings.
“The grass may be greener on the other side. But you can always water yours and work on it to develop into a splendid garden. Mere wishes and whims will get you nowhere. Purpose, hard work and the courage to be patient are always the needed ingredients to life.”
Ismahan Warfa (who also happens to be a very dear friend of mine.)
12. Chase knowledge for as long as I am alive.
Trying to imagine the amount of information that is floating around us, everywhere… is just… MIND BLOWING! This goal speaks for itself.
“‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored’.”
As a Muslim, knowledge is the key to life.
“Acquire knowledge. It enables its possessor to distinguish right from wrong; it lights the way to Heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless, it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament amongst friends; and an armour against enemies.”
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)
13. Be the best person I can be.
I read a book recently where the main character asked herself, “Imagine you’ve been asked to write your own obituary. What would it say?”
As a Muslim, my main destination in this journey of life is Janaah, heaven. To enter, I must face everything I have done in my life. I must face Allah swt, where nothing is hidden. How do I want to face my Lord?
What kind of person do any of us want to be remembered by our loved ones and the rest of the world. Every single one of us will leave a mark, some sort of change, on this Earth. What will it be?
Ali, may Allah be pleased with him
14. DO NOT SETTLE
I’ve written to this belief of mine many times and I will continue to write about it. I don’t believe in settling. I believe everything happens for a reason and at the perfect timing. I choose to live life without putting all my energy into one area or goal I hope to reach in my life.
I don’t believe in settling in any situation in my life, but more often others always correlate “settling” as having to do with love and marriage. In this case, I absolutely will never settle. Period.
This goes out to every girl who was told there’s only one road that must be taken in life and that at a certain age we “expire” if we haven’t settled down and started a family early on in life.
“Don’t settle for someone because it’s easy, because they’ve come ready-made, because they already love you. There’s more to life than what’s simple and convenient and available. There’s struggling, striving, and hold out the silly, inane, naïve hope that maybe something perfect exists after all. And when you find something perfect, if you find someone perfect, they wont be an ideal, of course, because no one is without their flaws. But there is bound to be someone who will be right for you in that moment, they will be what you’re looking for… Don’t settle for someone just because it’s time you made a choice, and they just happened to be there all along. A person’s heart isn’t a consolation prize. Don’t settle for them because they’ve been there all along. No one deserves secondhand love.”
For my Muslim brothers and sisters out there, if marriage is half our deen, then we really shouldn’t settle. I want someone who will not only wake me up for Fajr, but also strives to want to be with me in Janaah and motivates me to do the same. Don’t expect me to settle for anything else.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
15. Don’t forget family.
I’m blessed with family that loves and supports me. I will always put them first, no exceptions.
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
Truly take the time to appreciate and learn from the people you call family. Enjoy their presence, stories, and wisdom gained from years of experience.
My mom’s side of the family had an unplanned min-reunion this past winter. It was only three days, but the memories made in those days were quite possibly the best memories I have ever had of my family. While we spent our mornings enjoying the outdoors in what we call winter in San Diego, every night, there was a dinner party to attend. The first night was at my parents’ house and the other two were taken on by my mom’s brothers. There was amazing home cooked authentic Palestinian meals and all the little ones running around enjoying their innocence. Every night ended with the entire family – my grandmother, aunts, uncles, and the cousins – packed into the family room sharing stories, telling jokes, playing games, and just enjoying each other’s presence with the added delight of endless tea, coffee, sweets, and whatever else was edible in the house because that’s how we Arabs hold dinner parties. There is no end to delicious food or laughter. It is the best feeling in the world to just be surrounded by people who love you for all the same crazy quirks they share with you. Be aware of the blessings of having family, guardians, and loved ones.
16. Remember that the past will always stay there, in the past.
Telling myself that I will make peace with my past is easy. Following through with it is another issue. Letting our past dictate our present and our future does us no good.
The past will never change and we must take our experiences and push forward. With what little control we have over our past, we need to realize that we have control over our present that changes our future. Always continue to move forward.
“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
17. Stop overthinking!
I remember writing an entire post on this.
It’s okay not to know everything and it’s okay to just slow down and rest. Not everything is worth our time and thoughts. The key is learning what is worth our energy and efforts.
Stop worrying about things you can not change! Let beauty pull you in and shield yourself of all evil.
“Run my dear, from anything that may not strengthen your precious budding wings.
Run like hell my dear, from anyone likely to put a sharp knife Into the sacred, tender vision of your beautiful heart.”
Write like no one will read it. When you think you’re finished writing… step back, take a break, and then write some more.
“A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.”
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
This is slightly different than chasing knowledge. I wish I could post every single quote I have ever fallen in love with when referring to books.
“I believe in the magic of books. I believe that during certain periods in our lives we are drawn to particular books—whether it’s strolling down the aisles of a bookshop with no idea whatsoever of what it is that we want to read and suddenly finding the most perfect, most wonderfully suitable book staring us right in the face. Unblinking. Or a chance meeting with a stranger or friend who recommends a book we would never ordinarily reach for. Books have the ability to find their own way into our lives.”
I’ll stop at 20. It’s such a wholesome number. Frankly, it’s almost ten at night and it’s time to leave this coffee shop and go home to food!
I chose to make this list for myself, in no particular order, not for the new year specifically, but to be followed and expanded upon for future days and years to come. With the exception of this year, I agree with Anaïs Nin.
“I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.”
I’m happy with the life God has planned for me, even with all the battles I face, and patiently look forward to all the beauty that will come my way.
Happy New Year, my dear readers!
May this year bring you beautiful memories, exciting adventures, wonderful reading, and incredible writing!!